Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Weblog 2017-01-18

Jacob T. Levy: "The Party Declines"

Another Niskanen Center blog post examines how the weakness of party structures enabled the rise of Trump, even as strong partisanship in the electorate made it unlikely that Republican voters would cross party lines once he was nominated.

In other words, while we can easily imagine smarter, earlier, and braver action by party elites that would have changed the outcome, suggesting that the party might not have been organizationally impotent, the party elites managed things so haplessly in part because they were organizationally weak and didn’t have tools they were confident in.

In the medium-to-long term, restoring a robust democracy in America will crucially require rebuilding a functioning, rational Republican party.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Weblog 2017-01-17

Jerry Taylor at the Niskanen Center blog argues "The Case for (or Against) Scott Pruitt"

Or at least, that's what it says in the headline and lede; he actually has very little to say about Pruitt himself. Instead, he blames Al Gore and Naomi Klein for spooking conservatives into denying climate change with talk of changing "the very foundation of our civilization" and ending capitalism. He continues by advocating a carbon tax as "the ideal policy response" and argues that a Republican-controlled government is perfectly placed to implement it. I can't help but wonder how he still has any faith in Republicans to do the rational thing.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Weblog 2017-01-13

New York Times interview with Peter Thiel

Thiel alternates between boasting of his own rationality and displaying the most blatant epistemic bias. Some of his responses are downright Trumpian, consisting of a series of insinuating questions capped with a coy "I don't know" — the only thing missing is "many people are saying...". Referring to Merrick Garland by his first name strikes an odd note too. Overall the interview is frustratingly superficial, with a whole series of provocative statements by Thiel left unexamined. Lack of corruption is "boring"? I guess that's one problem we won't have to worry about under the new administration.

Tiago Forte on "Bending the Curves of Productivity"

"But we lack a framework for how individual employees can use small batch sizes to their advantage. [...] We need to change our conception of what we are producing, from final deliverables to what I will call 'intermediate packets.'"

The idea reveals another angle on this "weblogging" experiment — if I write these entries with the intention of creating "intermediate packets", perhaps my web browsing can become part of a productive routine rather than mostly a waste of time and vehicle of procrastination. After all, the point of my online reading was always supposed to be to acquire useful knowledge and not just diversion.

A mini-project I've been working on this week is to distill a Global Market Analysis document I did for a prospect a while back into a template I can use to quickly generate similar documents for other potential clients. But the process has been tortuous, with tangents into studying the documentation on software that's only peripherally related — OmniOutliner, to be specific. The market analysis document is built in Apple's Pages, incorporating a few charts made in Excel, and I could probably reach the objective of creating the template without using OmniOutliner at all, or only using its most basic capabilities. But I also have a background objective of learning to use my key software tools more effectively, so I'm taking the time to dive into the manual even if it delays completion of the template project. Does the "importance" of learning OmniOutliner in-depth really outweigh the "urgency" of completing the market analysis template? (And since the main document is in Pages, should I be learning to do the charts in Numbers instead of Excel?) For that matter, it's quite possible that I'm putting way too much time into building sales tools like the Global Market Analyses I'll be building from the template instead of just getting out there and meeting with prospects. I'm not sure — but in Forte's conceptual framework I can think of "proficiency in OmniOutliner" as an "intermediate packet" with future application beyond the template project.

Forte writes:
So what is required to make this new approach a reality? It requires us to get much, much better at packaging our work mid-stream. Here’s what makes it difficult: we can’t afford to do this packaging during the project, because every spare moment is needed to race toward the deadline. And we can’t do it after the project ends, because by then we’re already off to the next one. No, this packaging has to be embedded into the actual way we work moment to moment, so that it doesn’t take any extra time whatsoever.
And he concludes with some thoughts on note-taking apps as "the next frontier of productivity" that relate nicely to the Zettelkasten approach that I hope to return to in future blog posts.

Umair Haque briefly notes why cutting health care is not just inhumane, but also precisely the wrong policy prescription for America today.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Weblog 2017-01-12

Among other things I'm hoping that "weblogging" will help me resist my bad habit of wasting half the day following endless Internet rabbit trails. But I'm also hoping it will help me capture and retain information from my casual reading that is valuable.

Added to my to-read list:

Niklas Goeke summarizes Simple Rules* on his reading blog Four Minute Books. "Simple Rules shows you how to navigate our incredibly complex world by learning the structure of and coming up with your own set of easy, clear-cut rules to follow for the most various situations in life."

*Yes, it's an affiliate link. Buy ten copies for each of your friends! Make me rich!

Seeing patterns

Pattern-finding (forming heuristics) and meta-pattern-finding is just what humans do. It works more often than not (otherwise it would never have evolved), but it fails often enough to get us in trouble. And then we form heuristics about heuristic failure. And so on, turtles all the way down....

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

New year's resolution: reconnect with civic life

Last night I listened in on the second weekly conference call of Indivisible Austin, an anti-Trump political group. Those who know me will hardly be surprised that I'm no fan of that blowhard from Celebrity Apprentice who thinks he and he alone can make America great again. The election result triggered a strong desire to re-engage with my community, and to become a more active citizen in the national community. I'm beginning to explore ways to do that.

There's part of me that still suspects that, despite the more disreputable members of Trump's entourage and his bull-in-a-china-shop style of communicating, some of the panic over the impending inauguration may be a bit overblown. What's objectionable about El Cheeto may yet turn out to be more a matter of style than substance. But I'm willing to risk a little embarrassment if the Trump administration turns out less bad than it seems, if it means that if worse comes to worst I can be part of mitigating the damage during the disaster and, hopefully, helping rebuild once it's over.

Much more on this in the days and weeks to come....

Monday, October 10, 2016

An experiment

The word "blog" is derived from "weblog". The original blogs, back when the Internet was still steam-powered, consisted simply of a stream of notes and comments about whatever the author happened to be reading on the web. As a way of rebooting my sadly atrophied writing habit, I'd like to experiment here with reviving that form. Whether I end up producing anything out of it that's actually worth reading is secondary. One thing I anticipate is that many of the pages/posts/articles I read simply won't be worth commenting on, even for the sake of this experiment. (I originally expected to have at least a couple of links in this first post, for example, but really, I didn't find anything this morning that was worth the trouble.) And if they're not worth sharing, how much of my time are they worth to read in the first place? I'm pretty sure I'll end up motivated to spend less time browsing. At the same time, though, there really is good stuff out there, and I'm nowhere near ready to give up my Internet jones cold-turkey. As so often, the challenge is to separate the wheat from the chaff, the signal from the noise. Given that I'm already starting from RSS feeds and Twitter streams that I've at some point opted to follow, I'm not really sure yet how to approach that.

So if I indeed don't produce anything that's itself worth reading here, am I contributing to the problem? Since I'm pretty sure I've never written with enough consistency (never mind talent or insight) to build anything like a "readership", that's not something I'm going to worry about for now.

Saturday, July 04, 2015

In business!

Stationery, postcard, presentation kit — I'm in business!

Saturday, December 06, 2014

Script Debugger developer shares thinking on $199 price tag

I've been writing AppleScript since before OS X was around, but I've never been able to bring myself to drop $199 on Script Debugger, the acknowledged gold standard of AppleScript code editors that enables users to "explore, edit, debug, and deploy" scripts. In his latest blog post, the developer Mark Alldritt shares his thinking on pricing for the application. Mark writes:

I see Script Debugger as a tool that makes professional developers money by saving them a lot of time. Those that really need Script Debugger know it and would pay much more because of this simple equation. In fact, if I had more courage I would raise the price even further.

It's highly unlikely that I'll ever be a "professional" AppleScript developer. It may be that I'll ultimately recover my investment of time in scripting by streamlining some of my business processes, but any net savings are extremely indirect and nearly impossible to measure. Clearly I'm not one of those who "really need" Script Debugger. I'm more of a hobbyist and enthusiast who might "want" it enough to pay $50 or so. Mark's strategy leaves stingy old penny-pinchers like me out in the cold.

Of course, a couple hundred bucks really isn't that much in the grand scheme of things. Perhaps someday I'll draw a lucky Community Chest card and decide to splurge. Until then, I suppose I'll just keep gazing enviously over at my "pro" scripting brethren.

Sunday, December 08, 2013

Working on the Swift Passage Trading Master Action Plan (MAP)

The Master Action Plan (MAP) — the process of bringing Swift Passage Trading to life — has been formulated in rough draft, and the project has moved from a "Formulation" to a "Concentration" operating state. I'll continue to refine the MAP as I go on, but the focus now is on execution. My commitment is to make progress on the MAP every working day. This is my "job" now, even though I'm not yet making a living at it.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

August Bootstrap B2B: Beyond Cost-Plus: Pricing Your Products on Markets Old & New

This month's B2B Subgroup meeting will be led by Christopher Hastings.

Other than adding up their own costs and adding a % margin on top of that, most businesses have little knowledge of how to price their products. We are going to look at a few of the best tricks and tips for developing your pricing model for your business. Whether you are trying to build a SAS subscription model or running a retail store and fighting prices on commodities, we'll identify some of the key considerations to know when pricing your products.

Our presenter Christopher Hastings has studied at both the Acton School of Business and the London School of Economics, building expertise in both entrepreneurship and international development. He is the founder of two startups, one focused on providing CPAs with the tools they need to counsel entrepreneurs (including on topics of pricing) and the other focused on location analysis for economic development. Despite having written textbook chapters on entrepreneurship and run budgets of 150MM+ supply chain projects, he is never happier than when working one on one with entrepreneurs to improve their businesses.

Twitter: @HastingsCJ

Date: August 23, 7:00 p.m.

Business Success Center
Chase Bank Tower
7600 Burnet Rd.
Austin, TX 78757

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

July Bootstrap B2B: "Smarketing"

Fernando Labastida will lead this month's Bootstrap B2B meeting.

Topic: "Smarketing: How to market an international company in the US on a shoestring"

When: Monday, July 26, 2010 7:00 PM

Where: Business Success Center
Chase Bank Tower 7600 Burnet Rd.
Austin, TX 78757

By use of white papers, case studies, press releases, blogging and social media, small international companies can implement the "Smarketing" methodology to enter the U.S. market: a hybrid of sales and marketing, in order to penetrate the fortresses corporate decision-makers set up to protect themselves from sales people, create buzz, and generate sales.

Fernando Labastida specializes in providing content marketing services for Latin American software companies wanting to penetrate the U.S. market. He's been a sales and marketing professional for the last 20 years, having worked for several Austin start-ups, including Powered, Vignette and Sunset Direct.
Twitter: @flabastida

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Valerie's first drive


Prickly Pear


Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Notes from Prague

Found a notebook with some notes from my visit to Prague a couple of years ago that I'm not sure I ever transcribed anywhere. I don't know if this really has any value, but I don't feel like just throwing it away...

So far most of the old hangouts in Prague that I've gone back to have been disappointing. Radost at noon on a Sunday would have had a line out the door in the old days. Zvonařka is overpriced and has no personality. Domažlická Jizba was good, albeit on the expensive side. Austria seems to have gone upscale, as has U Vejvodů — I haven't actually eaten at either one yet. The Budweis place down from my old office is long-gone. Demínka was OK.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Ike water line, Galveston

Hurricane Ike water line, Galveston

Ike water line, Galveston

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Starting to like the Business Roundtable

I'm starting to like the Business Roundtable. Last month the CEOs' club published a report demanding action on climate change and promoting renewable energy; today they came out in favor of healthcare reform. Of course they still represent the corporate interest — the energy report also promotes nuclear power and "clean coal", and the healthcare report is decidedly lukewarm about the public option (never mind single-payer), but still, what a contrast to the (coincidentally, mostly Republican) obscurantists and obstructionists on the board of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.