Juneteenth – We Must Remember History to Not Repeat It.

We must remember our fellow American’s EARNED it. And by “it” I am not speaking of their “freedom”. The Constitution makes clear that Freedom is “God Given” and “Inalienable.”

Juneteenth was not the day that ended slavery. It was the day they learned that a wrong had been righted, and the truth had been withheld. Another lie to slowed the healing of America.

“My people have a country of their own to go to if they choose… Africa… but, this America belongs to them just as much as it does to any of the white race… in some ways even more so, because they gave the sweat of their brow and their blood in slavery so that many parts of America could become prosperous and recognized in the world. ”

Josephiner Baker

– Josephiner Baker, legendary entertainer and activist

Quote Source: https://www.becauseofthemwecan.com/blogs/culture/juneteenth-10-powerful-quotes-to-remember-on-freedom-day

I believe in the power of freedom, in the power of truth, and in standing in solidarity with black Americans who to this day do not enjoy freedoms and laws that protect all of us. But are still enforced and applied unjustly and unevenly.

The next equivalent of Juneteenth in America, I predict, will be the day when White people get the news. When white people understand the news. News of what is already written, news of what is already the law of the land. We just have to acknowledge our equality and acknowledge we are far stronger as one nation.

Image source: https://commons.m.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:JosephineBaker1964NL.jpg#mw-jump-to-license

Image description from wikimedia:

English: Josephine Baker and her 10 adopted children in a tour boat (President John F. Kennedy) in Amsterdam (the Netherlands), 4 October 1964Date4 October 1964SourceGaHetNa (Nationaal Archief NL)916-9642AuthorHugo van Gelderen (ANEFO)

Lighting is the new Power Suit – Home Lighting for Zoom Conference Calls

When suddenly we are all on video chat much more than ever before, lighting becomes a big deal. When meeting with the boss or a client you typically want to look your best, which in the past meant wearing your “power suit” – the clothes you felt made you look your best!

In the age of Agile Meetings daily and constant Zoom meetings, you are probably “seeing” clients and your boss more than ever! So you want to look your best. The secret is pretty simple: lighting. And it doesn’t have to be expensive.

I’m no model, but for me, this is the basic goal.

Without any lighting hacks, I look like this (taken same day, same time, just without the bouncing light.

Would you want to work with this guy? He looks brooding!?
It’s just the harsh direct light from the window and the low quality camera on the laptop.

This is the concept of what we are trying to achieve. A *cheap* studio lighting setup using as many existing props as we can. Awareness of your lighting and placing a book in the coffee shop window to reflect light up for those early video conference in SOMA can make all of the difference. For now, let’s just look at your home “work spot”. This is the goal along with a few obstacles.

TOP VIEW: Our lighting goal to achieve decent video lighting in the age of COVID19 and Zoom.

For me, this is what I had to start out with. And how I managed to put together a solution using just one “flood light” reflecting off the ceiling and other readily available lighting sources, and hiding all of the actual junk that lives in my workshop/office/cave. And I have most of it out of frame even in this photo – suffice it to say I need to clean the place.

I’m not saying either photo is great, but the top photo is definitely the winner out of the two. Especially when you consider that the screen capture was taken in my workshop/office chaos, I don’t think this is a bad, non-cluttered result.

Live result – white balanced, somewhat even lighting, and definitely more reflective of the fact that I was truly listening to someone speak. The image more closely reflects the respect I was giving, and that the speaker, deserved.

While mine is attached to a studio tripod, it could just as easily be attached to the wall or a chair, whatever, as long as you can point it UP so it bounces off the ceiling and walls.

Can lighting for $8 bucks with a clamp. FLOOD light pointed up.

So there is your “can” light with the clip and the flood reflector. Now to bounce a light off of the ceiling. I’d recommend LED first and foremost. Energy efficient and MUCH COOLER. Lighting in a studio can get very hot. You want the equivalent of at least 75 watts to 100 watts. Plus most LED is much cooler and most are frosted and that is part of the goal, diffused softer lighting.

If the can light is 10 bucks, say the LED flood light is 10 bucks, you have gone from zero to being an active participant in the ZOOM meetings!

It’s a power suit. If you think lighting isn’t complementing your appearance, talk to a photographer because it just means the lighting isn’t set up properly. Or google it. But I promise you don’t need a $1000 ring light or something.

Bonus: minor details you might have missed.

  1. FILL the frame. The exception is when more than one person is on one camera. But generally “filling he frame” is the right way to go given the small size of the image in a grid display for everyone else.
  2. Keep the background simple. It can distract people and also slows down the transmission rate.
  3. Have a good “fall back photo” for those long meetings when you do need to go grab a glass of water. Just don’t ever let a green circle with your initials show up in your place. It’s unprofessional and tells everyone you don’t care AT ALL.
  4. On my chair, I use an old jacket bunched up to give me lumbar support so I sit up straight.
  5. It’s OK to get two lights and use one as a fill on one side, just use a lower power light (100 watt on the right, maybe 40 watt on the left. Although in that case I’d use a 120 watt bulb and a better reflector to save energy and keep the room cooler.
  6. Everyone’s head will reflect light. It’s OK to use makeup, even for you guys, depending on the importance of the call. I also sometimes use a napkin or a tissue over the light (ONLY LED LIGHTS TO AVOID FIRES!) But ya, just a little diffusion. Bring the light up closer and then diffuse it more with a white cloth/tissue/paper/something. Or physically move the light back and let the distance diffuse it.

Pro tip: Drink warm water. Cold water can give you frog throat. And use a good quality microphone. Don’t get a $10 headset at walgreens. Spend the money on a good headset or your voice will sound tiny and nobody can hear you.

Happy Zooming!

Coronavirus DIY Facemask Test

diy protective mask for coronovirus

In Houston the Coronavirus (COVID-19) response has been quite aggressive. And as the third largest metro area in the US, it should be. I get it. Mostly we are quarantined in place except for grocery store runs and emergency needs. (And we can walk the dog, but that’s about it.)

The paper section in the Walgreens across the street looks like this

Walgreens paper goods in Houston

This led to research on what we could do and turned up two interesting pieces of knowledge about the coronavirus.

A) How long is the coronavirus contagious or viable by surface. As in how long can it be there and still infect you?

  1. plastic = 3 days
  2. Stainless Steel = 3 days
  3. Cardboard = 1 day
  4. Copper = 4 hours
  5. Airborne = 3 hours

They don’t mention wood, which maybe varies by paint, varnish, etc.

Copper is the winner. Cardboard three times better than stainless steel is bizarre as well.

Source: https://apple.news/ATWmOdE4STTmvJCBdURGDTQ

Next up, if you can’t get a mask for when you do go out, how do other materials compare to a medical mask?

Clean vacuum cleaner bags were a close second to surgical masks, but in the end they conclude you can barely breath through them so use two cotton “tea towels.”

Two Cotton Tea Towels are best after a real mask.

Thus began an insomnia driven test to try and create a coronavirus diy mask from a tea towel with no power tools. It started like this:

The real mask before photo

Then the build process using paper as my makeshift mold.

My materials.

The Ghirardelli chocolate and wine are a tip of the hat to my friends in San Francisco on complete lockdown. Those aren’t technically necessary to make the DIY coronavirus mask, although they do help.

Gave myself extra room
Rough initial stencil
Evolution of mask into 3D space with tale

In the above photo the template is overlapping and kind of mushed into the real mask so I could get an idea of the shape of the masks. They are not circular because your face isn’t a flat circle either.

Initial stencil with original mask on top for comparison
Applied to the fabric, then used the fabric to make the second layer via singer iron-on stick tape. You could use pins

Then a whole bunch of adjustments and cuts happened at the fabric level during hand sewing. The SINGER iron stick is a temporary way to hold fabric together, but definitely not strong enough to be a permanent join. But it’ll hold it together long enough for you to stitch it up.

Rough cut comparison of the diy coronavirus mask and the original.

The straps on my version are the edges of the towel because I didn’t have any elastic bands that long, and if people in countries with limited supplies available, the straps seemed more realistic.

A truly rustic looking diy coronavirus mask

It’s hard to tell in the photo above but between the two layers there is a small wire bent to the approximate shape of the bridge of my nose just like the more flexible one that comes on the real masks.

And the final result

My advice? Buy it if you can.

It looks amateurish, I look ridiculous, but it’s waaaaay better than taking the BARTT in SF and wondering if the person coughing is giving you an infection.

Update: I received some questions about what I used for the metal “nose bridge” so I’m adding further details.

For me (easier way below) I go by autozone at the end of a rainy day and pull the broken / discarded windshield wiper blades. If you rip them apart there are two thin, but very sturdy, pieces of metal attached to the rubber part. (they make great tension wrenches.) mine looks like this when sewn in place in between the two layers of the cotton kitchen towel.

DIY Coronavirus Face Mask Nose Bridge

Easier alternative: bend paperclips like this:

For Comparison, Paper Clips vs. Scraps from Wipers
Bend the paper lips twice. This is step 1, then twist.
Overlay the paperclip nose bridge to the length you want
Wrap paperclips in tape to avoid sharp edges.
Wrap them in tape and cut off excess tape
Bend to shape. Actually much easier than my original

Pro tip: when I do a DIY project like this I usually hand sew them using dental floss. Yes “Dental Floss” because it’s always around and stronger than most threads.

CoronaVirus – Markets Move on Emotion not Fundamentals

Now we see fears and the reality of coronavirus hitting the markets hard.


I’ve said it before, so this is repetition, but worth repeating. Stock markets move on emotion much more than the fundamentals. Companies are overvalued because there are more people with more money in pensions and the money has to go somewhere.

Stock Market Movement with Coronavirus Last two weeks

Source: https://www.msn.com/en-us/money/markets

I also highly recommend this informative thread on twitter regarding research on coronavirus so we can all hopefully keep it in perspective. It’s linked with more detail on my linkedin at https://www.linkedin.com/feed/update/urn:li:activity:6641792800314675200/

Cryptocurrency – What it Means for Central Banks, Companies and Associations – Presentation for LACCNYC

Cryptocurrency Global Impact

We all know what cyrpto currency assets are at this point, but to correlate current events with the role of International Central Banks and International Trade is indeed complex. This presentation was for the Luxembourg American Chamber of Commerce in New York City. It does assume a baseline understanding of international finance and the role of Central Banks, Securities and International Trade.

Some highlight slides followed by the embedded presentation from slideshare. Note: these are NOT all of the slides from the presentation, so be sure to view the embedded presentation on cryptocurrency on linkedin.

Title slide on Cryptocurrency for companies, associations and the impact on central banks and international finance
How to finance wars 101 – the conspiracy of paper and Ron Paul’s take on the correlations

An excellent read on this topic is the conspiracy of paper.

The following slide is CRITICAL to understand the differences between how Central Banks functions versus how Cryptocurrency functions. Although people are working on options that reduce the all-or-nothing nature of the change. (see slidedeck for more)

Central Banks versus Cryptocurrency – a line by line comparison. Focus on the “Monetary Policy” part.

OK, WHAT IS CRYPTOCURRENCY?! Speak English Please!? This is the way I try to explain cryptocurrency in plain language so that normal people can understand it. This is the simplified explanation of cryptocurrency:

Think of crypto in 3 parts, just like a library book you check it out (object), sign the slip (ledger) and agree to return it by Friday (the smart contract).

Where does cryptocurrency come from and why should I care anyway? Let’s start with the “who makes this stuff?” question. Because that is the important part. It’s all about CONTROL.

Crypto – “Proof of Work” (I did stuff that was hard) or “Proof of Stake” (I’m Mr. Big so I give you paper money, like the Federal Reserve bank.)

The above slides highlight some of the critical slides in the presentation on slideshare on cryptocurrency as presented to LACC-NYC by Ed Schipul. The presentation, with some sensitive slides redacted, is embedded below.

You can access the CryptoCurrency Presentation directly on slideshare at https://www.slideshare.net/eschipul/cryptocurrency-lacceschipul

Note: This was sponsored by Tendenci – The Open Source AMS (Association Management Software) and the Luxembourg American Chamber of Commerce of New York City is a Tendenci client. The presentation was done at no cost for LACCNYC and I did not, and the company did not receive any compensation. I just like economics, associations, and crypto in addition to my various other interests. (Although to be fair, I have made some $$ from crypto trading from studying patterns in publicly available data sets. I mean, why learn ML/AI if you can’t use it a bit….)

Ed Schipul on linkedin.

When the dollar’s primacy dwindles the US hegemony ends

From the article, (and I believe we are already there):

“A major blunder would be pushing too hard with financial punishments, and incentivizing Moscow and Beijing to bypass the U.S. trade and monetary order.

When the dollar’s primacy materially dwindles, that will be game over in the balance of power with the East.”

Source: https://www.axios.com/russia-china-security-threat-69567dd1-b618-4ef4-8852-4f09bb432327.html

If people don’t realize cryptocurrency “payment channels” (basically like a purchase order between merchants – settled up later but pre-approved) is a threat to the petrodollar, they are mistaken. The USD is nothing more than what we would call “proof of stake” in the crypto world. The Fed is the issuer, the stake.

Energy traded based on a proof of stake crypto currency pinned to the future value of a fiat currency in, say 30 days, via a smart contract could replace the influence of the US at a global level – I believe you are mistaken.

Bitcoin Lightning Network – Off Book Blockchain Trusted Transactions

lightning network for bitcoin

Short version: Lightning Network for Bitcoin is a good thing that makes it more economically viable as a real currency for merchants. But it does not come without consequences.

Long version: In programming, simple is good. To understand the Bitcoin Lightning network you first need to get a grasp of cryptocurrencies. I like simple so here goes:

  1. You are working at a retail store selling engagement rings.
  2. As a jeweler you “check” out a diamond from the store safe to show to a customer.
  3. Your customer will either buy it, or give it back.
    1. If they give it back, you return it to the safe. You write “returned to safe” on a clipboard next to the vault.
    2. If they buy it you write “sold” on that clipboard.

BOOM, now you understand cryptocurrency!

You’ve got a diamond and a clipboard. That’s it.

So how does something so simple become so complex? Well, because us geeks can’t use normal words. So let’s focus on human-speak.

Accountability – In crypto, there is something called a blockchain. The blockchain is just a ledger. That’s it. It’s a clipboard saying who has the diamond.

Value – Scarcity. Diamonds are rare. Or, with crypto, it’s a big math puzzle that limits how fast those objects can be created.

Cypto Analogy: Diamonds and Clip-Boards

Mining for diamonds. They are scarce. People like them.

is the same as

Calculating the next value of PI, a really big math problem that takes time. Scarcity. **

As Crypto Currency is to Diamonds, BlockChain is to Clip-Boards.

That’s really it. That’s the whole thing. Any value in that object is purely in the mind of humans. So why so much ado about nothing?

Well, Bitcoin comes along and provides both scarcity (big difficult math problem) and tracking (blockchain ledger) and allows them to be done anonymously.

Then bitcoin got popular. We found a funny thing happened on the way to mass adoption. (musical rendition). IT IS SLOW!

Yup, to be blunt – transactions are slow as heck. And the user interface is full of jargon from people like me who speak in some other language. And to be fair it does get technical. Ignore that for now.

Possible Solutions to Cryptocurrency Transaction Bottlenecks

The Bitcoin Lightning Network release. It’s kind of a big deal. It might just make BTC “do-able” for micro-payments again.

Example: You can’t buy your “$7-super-misto-double-shot-of-espresso” from Starbucks with bitcoin if you have to pay coinbase a usurious $30 transaction fee.

Thus, the BTC Lightning Network matters. Innovation is incremental. First the Internet, then the web.

Grigory Marshalko, worked for the F.S.B. (Blockchain focus)

From the article: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/29/technology/blockchain-iso-russian-spies.html

SAN FRANCISCO — Last year, representatives of 25 countries met in Tokyo to work on setting international standards for the blockchain, the technology that was introduced by the virtual currency Bitcoin and has ignited intense interest in corporate and government circles.

Some of the technologists at the meeting of the International Standards Organization were surprised when they learned that the head of the Russian delegation, Grigory Marshalko, worked for the F.S.B., the intelligence agency that is the successor to the K.G.B.

They were even more surprised when they asked the F.S.B. agent why the Russians were devoting such resources to the blockchain standards.

“Look, the internet belongs to the Americans — but blockchain will belong to us,” he said, according to one delegate who was there. The Russian added that two other members of his country’s four-person delegation to the conference also worked for the F.S.B.

FCC Repeals Net Neutrality because … WHY?

The FCC has repealed Net Neutrality as pressured by Congress and the President. Just … wtf?

HOWEVER: Note: Congress just passed a tax law nobody really understands. And economists have no idea if the projections are in any way realistic. They literally do NOT know what will happen, just that they lowered corporate taxes and eliminated the health care mandate. I’ll get back to that topic.

To distract all of us, in obvious post-dystopian style, they repealed NetNeutrality. Hence everyone who cares about equality and has a voice is now distracting everyone from the tax bill which reduces equality further. #awesome

From the NYT on the repeal of Net Neutrality by Ajit Pai of the FCC


Here are …. well at least as many as they can figure out, the congressmen who voted for it and just how much money they were paid to do it.


Net Neutrality works like this.

You go to the gym. You pay for a gym membership. The gym is a business and it’s gotta pay the bills. I’m cool with that. When you lift, there is etiquette..  but basically we all share the same machines or weights. Sometimes we have to wait in the same line if the gym is busy. That’s life.

Now…. imagine going to the gym in an alternate universe without Net Neutrality. It works like this:

Or…. if you are poor. Or small. Or different. You can only use the first three machines and you have to wait to do it.

If you are middle class, you get to use the first 6 machines but you also have to wait,just not as long.

BONUS ROUND! – If you are in Government or RICH you get to use all 500 machines at the gym with no wait.

The site https://www.battleforthenet.com/ describes it like this;

Cable companies are famous for high prices and poor service. Several rank as the most hated companies in America. Now, they’re lobbying the FCC and Congress to end net neutrality. Why? It’s simple: if they win the power to slow sites down, they can bully any site into paying millions to escape the “slow lane.” This would amount to a tax on every sector of the American economy. Every site would cost more, since they’d all have to pay big cable. Worse, it would extinguish the startups and independent voices who can’t afford to pay. If we lose net neutrality, the Internet will never be the same.

They literally just broke the Internet. #WTF

I’m speechless. Excuse the pun. But feel free to google a few terms.

And the tech sector should realize it’s own values: if Apple doesn’t think it’s worth a few Billion Dollars of repatriated earnings to defend Net Neutrality and support the EFF, if Zuckerberg doesn’t buy his own congressmen, if Microsoft doesn’t use it’s leverage to defend free speech, then Silicon Valley needs to accept that WE ARE PART OF THE PROBLEM.

WSJ Data on Financial Decline since 2016 Election

Make no mistake, say “pro business” and then create “market uncertainty” and you get a LOT less job creation. Wall Street Journal last weekend. Data is data. Constrict capital and people like me can’t create jobs even if we want to.

Drop in Liquidity for Business 2017
post election drop in cash flow

The headline? It’s incorrect. Ask anyone – what happens when people lose access to capital? #duh

Sci-Hub.io – the Pirate Bay of Academic Research. Theft or not?

Sci-Hub.io free academic papers

I recently posted a link on facebook to Sci-Hub.io. Known as the Pirate Bay of the science world created 2011 by neuroscientist Alexandra Elbakyan. jstor-intrinic-motivationAfter posting the article link to FB there was one single response. A response that seemed to imply the pirate site was childish theft. That it was an “I want everything for free” attitude. It’s hard to argue otherwise.  Us and our first world problems.

  1. Theft? Yes. – Yes I agree that the current economic structure in academics does in fact technically make this theft. So hey, Professor Elbakyan is having an American Tea Party in St. Petersberg.
  2. Further I believe it is our current economic structure that is broken. Oh, and that JSTOR is run by boneheads who couldn’t solve a problem creatively if their lives depended on it. As we say in programming – “garbage in, garbage out.”

Screen Shot 2016-02-15 at 6.43.31 PM

Taken from a behavioral perspective, if you recall, before the itunes store made buying songs easy, everyone downloaded them for free. Before the kindle made downloading books electronically cheap and convenient, everyone downloaded them for free. Make it convenient or someone else will make it really convenient!

First, what is sci-hub.io ? From the article “Researcher illegally shares millions of science papers free online to spread knowledge” by FIONA MACDONALD:

A researcher in Russia has made more than 48 million journal articles – almost every single peer-reviewed paper every published – freely available online. And she’s now refusing to shut the site down, despite a court injunction and a lawsuit from Elsevier, one of the world’s biggest publishers.

For those of you who aren’t already using it, the site in question is Sci-Hub, and it’s sort of like a Pirate Bay of the science world. It was established in 2011 by neuroscientist Alexandra Elbakyan, who was frustrated that she couldn’t afford to access the articles needed for her research…

Maybe I had a knee jerk reaction of vindication seeing this research become freely available after the tragedy of Aaron Schwartz’ suicide in 2013 from overzealous persecution for accessing JSTOR documents from the MIT network.  I’m seriously wondering if JSTOR is trying to make sure Martin Shkreli quits dominating the “evil capitalist stories” the media likes to write.

And to be clear, I walk the talk. Our company’s product is Tendenci – the Open Source Membership Management Software (on github too) and most of my photography is creative commons attribution

Creative Commons Capital Photo by eschipul
Creative Commons Capital Photo by eschipul

as seen used in this publication below fully within copyright laws with attribution. We can play nicely together.

CC by Ca

JSTOR’s purpose after all is to;

JSTOR was founded to be a shared digital archive serving the scholarly community. We understand the value of the scholarship and other material on the platform and that the future accessibility of this content is essential. Libraries around the world rely on us and contribute Archive Capital Fees to JSTOR for preservation activities.

To understand a Russian academics perspective, this data I found on the Internet for free, says that the overall average monthly income in Russia in 2005 was a NET total of $263 per month. Now that $25 JSTOR article for which the author was paid nothing by JSTOR is 10% of that Russian student’s monthly income.

That kind of changes your perspective a bit, huh?

I can and do understand why people would immediately view sci-hub.io as theft. Except for academics this just isn’t a black and white issue. There are a few differences.

I can’t afford to pay $45 for every research paper I want to read knowing the research was funded by federal grants, underwritten by the University and the authors were not compensated.

Why not bring the economics down to the level of the app store?

How does JSTOR add value if they don’t pay the authors and didn’t write the content? Their answer is “peer review and legitimacy,” but those can now be conveyed on the internet. Aren’t there other solutions?

Why can’t we sign a peer review article with a blockchain?  It’s not just jstor but modern academics that haven’t kept up. Being a non-profit doesn’t mean you get to ignore everything that is going on with economics via externalities.

I’ll leave those thoughts for y’all to ponder. As for me I discovered a fully legal work around for when I wanted an academic article years ago. And here it is:

JSTOR pricing for an article free in other places on the net.
JSTOR pricing for an article free in other places on the net.

How to get 95% of the academic articles you want on the Internet for free with google.

Problem: writing a research paper for a national PR Magazine on “Intrinsic Motivation and Extrinsic Incentives”. Solution:

  1. Search google scholar. https://scholar.google.com/ – Yes google scholar and NOT google. This will lead you to academic research on the subject for sale at some relatively high price on a site like jstor. This was my search Intrinsic Motivation and Extrinsic Incentives http://bit.ly/1Od1fRR
  2. COPY a large amount of text from the abstract or the preview they show you on overview page on JSTOR (or any of the academic pay-or-no-knowledge-for-you sites,) Highlight it.  Copy it verbatim.
  3. Now go back to www.google.com (not google scholar, but regular google this time.)
  4. Paste that monster block of text into google.com and odds are you will find a link to a PDF version of the article on someone’s server available for free.
  5. That led me to about 5 links to academic servers with the full pdf available for download at no cost. Example:

And the bottom line is the TOPIC I was interested in in a peer reviewed science journal as recent at 2014 was downloaded within 5 minutes. It takes me longer to print it than find it. Not that sci-hub.io probably couldn’t do it even faster. And that is a good thing for the globe. Now back to reading….

… In our study area, despite the potential of infestation of opportunistic behaviors by workers, a fixed wage (FW) contract has been dominant for rice planting since the 1960s. To account for this puzzle of a seemingly-inefficient contractual arrangement, we adopt a hybrid experimental method of framed field experiments by randomly assigning three distinct labor contracts, i.e., FW, individual piece rate (IPR), and group piece rate (GPR) contracts and artefactual filed experiments to elicit social preference parameters. Through the analyses of individual workers’ performance data from framed field experiments and data on social preferences elicited by artefactual field experiments, Three main empirical findings emerge. First……

Life can be complex. But I got what I wanted, I didn’t use it because after scanning it it wasn’t the article I was looking for. It sent unused, I didn’t pay for it, but I also threw it away, but mainly I acquired it and came to that decision faster than I could have typed in my credit card number to buy it from JSTOR.

Incentives and Social Preference
Incentives and Social Preference

In this case the economics didn’t match the need. I solved it for myself, and sci-hub is apparently solving it for millions. Open our minds and find a better optimum solution. We can and should do this.

things changed between triple crowns

The digital divide is not only between the digital natives and the elders, between the digitally enhanced and the not, between the glassholes and the blind, but also over time. There is a time we cannot imagine anymore and those from the past could not imagine accurately the future. Hence our (my?) love of Steampunk, historical visions of the future (past).


The big divide occurred when a third “item to be carried at all times” was introduced, an idea that I cannot properly attribute as it has sunk into our consciousness so deeply the origin is now a mystery.  The third item? The first two “items to be carried at all times” being (1) something of value (cash) and (2) a method of accessing something of value (key, credit card, secret code). Every human has had these two on their person at all times without fail since the great leap forward, to quote Guns, Germs and Steel.

Within 25 years it has changed entirely. Now we all have a third item. (3) Our communicator from Star Trek. We all carry a mobile device.

More importantly, these devices don’t just facilitate communication; they change how we interact at a systemic experiential level. We didn’t just watch American Pharoah (sic) win the Triple Crown, we recorded every second of American Pharoah trotting around Belmont Park. Because…

“If you don’t have a pic, it didn’t happen.” – anonymous

Further irony? Here in meta-meta-meta-land, I took a picture of the HD TV of people taking video and pictures as American Pharoah’s victorious Triple Crown bid was broadcast into my living room. Then combined it with an image from google image search on my mobile device while waiting at a restaurant. To capture the right image I used a Tivo (now a generic word like Kleenex) to rewind and jump forward prior to the start of the race for half of this cell-phone-crowd-picture I first posted on Instagram.

Here is to history and a wonderful victory for American Pharoah winning the triple crown after a 17 year drought. And here is to the amazing human which adapts and evolves in front of our eyes in real time. We don’t have hover-boards, but the revolution is here and indeed it will be televised; on periscope.tv.

Now get out there and record something and post it to prove it happened and let your devices consume you. Because that is the future. It’s your destiny kid.

Car Dealership Franchise Contracts are Socialist Monopolies. Duh.

Order Button

Order Button
Order button on the Tesla Motors Web Site
Car Dealership Franchise Agreements are Government Sponsored Monopolies. Oh please. Stop that 2k tax per car per family. Yes, I said it. For that matter so is the NFL, the NBA, the NHL, etc…. so let’s just call a Spade a Spade. (And speaking of “Spades“, while not a gambler myself, the last time I checked the casino industry was more open to competition than car dealerships. Go figure.)

If you want to save about 2k per car purchase – check the link on car dealership monopolies … It’s about time the monopoly of dealerships was seriously threatened with…. um….. CAPITALISM. FREEDOM. APPLE PIE. THE AMERICAN WAY. So why do we have socialized / monopoly car franchises? History and cronyism my friends. No. Other. Reason.

Free Enterprise is a good thing folks. I recognize the need for regulation (the tragedy of the commons) to protect our commons (no Benzene in the rivers for example – that’s a good regulation.)

But can’t we let competition keep up with technology? Why can’t I buy a car direct from the manufacturer? Name one rational reason besides protectionist laws from the stone age? (with apologies to my friends who might still be at UCS or ReyRey).

I work on the Internet. The speed of innovation is so radically fast and the threats to your business model are constant. And our business is 17 years old because WE ADAPT. Yes, people who can’t adapt that fast leave the company, but…. you know, it’s called competition for a reason. Adapt or die unfortunately.

So it will be interesting to see which manufacturer invalidates all of it’s franchise agreements with the dealerships first by allowing direct sales. Because whoever does it first, those dealerships will sell the MOST cars.

Yes, at first the dealers will be upset, and then, it’ll be alright. Everythings gonna be alright. And dealers know they make most of their profit from Parts and Service anyway. (OK, and Used Cars & F&I but we can’t fix it all at once I guess.)


Irish too often spurn Diaspora advice?

Via Irish Central

“I think Irish people, generally, are a little wary of emigrants. Emigration is so much part of Irish life. We speak very well of people who go away and do well. But we get a little concerned when those people come back and tell us how things could have been done better. As Richard Harris tells Tom Berenger in [the film version of] The Field, “Go home, Yank. Go home.“ There’s an element of that in Irish life. And I think official Ireland ““ and by that I mean not the agencies but Dublin, be it government or public sector ““ is struggling to figure out the next leg of this Diaspora thing.”

He stated there was a European bias in Ireland that militated against the American Irish contribution.

“Official Ireland is very European focused. They’ve been working as part of the ECC and then the EU since 1973. This may sound politically incorrect, but the vast majority of the Irish Diaspora that can have any influence on the situation is in the United States, and to some degree in the U.K. So you’ve got a bit of a challenge in that you’ve got public sector, European-focused official Ireland trying to figure out what to do about private sector, U.S.-based ex-pats, and official Ireland seems to me a lot more focused on how to control this as distinct from how to enable it.”

Speaking about the Diaspora initiative launched by the government he stated “I think the Irish agencies abroad have for many years been very effective at leveraging the Diaspora ““ long before we even called it the Diaspora. They’ve always been thoughtful, smart and creative at figuring out ways that they can use relationships to help Irish companies, to find investment for Ireland.

how to buy a used car in 2012 ish


But if I don’t hit publish it will just sit there forever. so you get a half baked version. Sorry.


On buying a car, a few notes from a guy who used to teach dealerships how to use their computer system to maximize profit. There are some honest dealers out there. When you are buying used this number goes down significantly. So this is mostly about buying a used car and focused on the younger reader who might not have experience buying cars.

How car dealerships make money:

First note that dealerships make money and move money between four boxes to maximize profit.

  1. Sale of the new car versus the dealers cost.
  2. Buying your trade-in vehicle and selling it on the used car lot for more
  3. Financing your vehicle (bank offers 5%, dealer charges 6.5% so they profit 1.5% on the financing)
  4. Insurance and after market options. (extended warranties, rims, upgraded sound system, etc).

If the goal is to make $3k on the sale, they really don’t care if they sell it to you below invoice price as long as they make it up in one of the other three areas. Hence cutting deals like “OK, I’ll get you to 5.5% interest, which is below myst cost (white lie here) if you will promise to purchase one of the warranties which are a great deal regardless.” etc….

How car dealerships lose money:

In defense of the car guys, people are trying to rob them constantly. From stealing cars. Car jackings on a test drive. Porters swapping out RIMS on a new Tahoe with similar but cheaper rims. Used car guys paying their wholesaler too much for used cars and taking a kick back because they know they are leaving in a month. The guy who paints the emblems gold with “14 carat gold” is really using gold pain that will fleck off in six months and the dealer has to pay for it again. The finance companies changing how they loan money for the dealer to have cars on their lot (called floor-plans). Manufacturers playing favorites and giving the “hot car of the year” to one dealer more than another out of favoritism. People kiting checks. Etc… In other words, it is a rough and street smart type of business and they have to be a little rough just to survive.

So yes, I’m asking that you have a little bit of sympathy for the plight of the car dealers of the world.

That said, let’s have some sympathy for you too and talk about the best way to navigate through the used car buying process, shall we?


Have your insurance already. If you qualify, I really like  USAA if at ALL possible for insurance. Switching away would be penny wise and pound foolish (just gonna have to trust the old man on this one.) If you must, raise your deductible, but stay with USAA. USAA is the ONLY customer owned insurance company I know of.  They don’t try to be the cheapest, but they are usually competitive. And even if you are paying more it is worth it to not get hosed.

In the world of insurance, I ask you “how can that duck advertise so much?” and  “Where does the lizard get all that money to advertise?” The caveman? The hands people? All of them. They can advertise that much because they make it difficult to get your claims paid. Or by just not paying claims.

Back to your trip to the dealership. You will need a copy of your insurance and your driver’s license to test drive a car. They will either photocopy or take your driver’s license during the test drive. Don’t get mad. The problem is people would go in for test drives and steal the cars. Or worse, the sales person might be car jacked and injured. They have a right to protect themselves and their employees so don’t give the dealer a hard time about photocopying your license. It’s for their safety.

Oh, and they also add you to their system for follow up calls while you are out on your test drive. Such is life. But they are loaning you a big expensive machine so some collateral seems fair to me.

Getting a Car Note:

BE PRE-APPROVED for your loan before you walk on the lot. Period.

Call or go online and apply to be pre-approved for a car loan. This is step 1. Allow a couple days for this to go through. State your income  correctly  as they will ask for your last two or three paycheck stubs (see last email to get the intuit link). If your compensation varies due to commission or bonuses bring last year’s W-2. If last year’s W-2 is higher use that. If you just got a raise, bring your recent paycheck stubs as those will calculate to your new pay rate.

Your next goal is to pick a car and get a fair drive out cash price without showing any other cards yet (cards being trade-ins, warranties, add-on rims, etc…)

Credit checks. As few as possible.

Credit checks are bad for your credit (oh the irony).  The the dealer will eventually run your credit to determine if you actually work at said company because they want to beat your preapproved rate. But don’t allow this until you have a final “cash” price for the vehicle.  Think of a credit check like an X-ray. One isn’t such a bad deal. But if you had to get 50 xrays in one day you’d turn into the green hulk dude.

The risk to your credit is if three dealerships all pull your credit then it hurts your credit rating because it looks like you are trying to buy three cars and over extend yourself. Then nobody is going to give you a good deal or take you seriously. When  preapproved for your car note you can tell the dealer specifically to NOT run your credit until you have picked out a car and  negotiated the final sale price. Your goal is to negotiate a  cash drive out price  without letting the dealer look at your trade in or pull your credit rating.

Note: this is probably where you will get your first “Turn Over.” This simply means the sales person brings in a new face who tells you the exact same thing because psychology tells us that we are likely to do it if a new voice says the same thing. Expect this. And it will be a very very like-able Finance and Insurance professional who makes Brangelina look like they work community theater. Or the opposite – the folks type who gosh shucks just wants to take care of you. They’ll ask about your dog while they are printing forms and they will always have a picture of their family facing the customer. Think about it. Most of us have pictures of our family on our desk that face US. Hmmmmm.

As for credit checks, I should mention one possible exception here for luxury car buyers or industrial buyers (like F350s or Fleet Vans). If you are looking at a used BMW it doesn’t hurt for the dealer to see that the Mercedes dealership pulled your credit yesterday. But stop there.

The dealer will  not  want to negotiate a final sale price before running your credit as that tells them how much he might be able to make on the back end (finance and insurance). Stick to your guns. THEN and only then can they run your credit to see if they can do a better deal than USAA. And some credit unions can. But you have the upper hand by being preapproved.

You will probably have had a second turn over at this point. Three very likeable folks “on your side just trying to help you.” And they actually are trying to help you. They just want to make the most possible money doing it because that is how they eat and provide for their families. But the really good ones? They aren’t worried about feeding their families, they are trying to maximize profit because it is how they keep score. Competition drives them.

On credit ratings – few people actually lie about their credit ratings so a seasoned car guy will respond to “my credit it perfect” and leave it alone because usually when folks say that, they are telling the truth. On the other hand, don’t lie. If you have some bumps run your own credit report BEFORE going to the dealership and give them a copy with an explanation. Sure they’ll have to run their own, but they will match and you have established trust. And avoided an extra credit pull until you are ready.

At this point you have your insurance and you are preapproved. Yea! Next:

The Trade In.

When you arrive on the lot one of the first things they will ask is if you have a trade in “so we can have the guys in the back appraise it.” You can risk it, or just say “no, I’m giving that to my friend.” Then after you negotiate a cash price for the car you can say “you know, just for grins, what would you give me for my car?”  Be sure to spend $100 having it detailed (not washed, I said DETAILED) before going to the dealer. It should be spotless if you want the best price. It might not work, but having a filthy car definitely won’t work.

And don’t be dishonest to them either. If you know it has a bad oil leak, don’t just fill it up and wipe off the excess right before having it appraised. That makes you, well, let’s call it what it is. You would be at a minimum a liar and an attempted thief. This happens to dealers a LOT and then whoever buys the car beats them up for selling them a lemon when their mechanic had no way of knowing it leaked oil after long road trips. How could they? Only the person trading the car in knows that. Don’t fix it, but tell them because their cost to repair it is significantly less than yours and they will appreciate your honesty. And that just might get you a better deal (yes really.)

Despite my advice above I usually just detail my trade-in and let them appraise it right away. I tell them I have no more than one hour to be on the dealers lot and I stick to it and leave no matter what. I might come back, but I leave in one hour no matter what. And I also make sure that I know the trade in price and private sale price from Edmunds. If you aren’t sure what options your car has sometimes you can look that up by VIN number.

The dealer will come back with a offer for your trade in which you can cross check with the trade in value on  http://www.edmunds.com/  If they are close to the trade in value I usually trade it in because selling a car is a pain. And it involves inviting strangers to your house from Craig’s list which sucks. But hey, if they low-ball you on the trade in push back. And if that doesn’t work then just say “nah, I’ll sell it myself on a consignment lot.” You won’t get quite as much as trade in, but more than the low ball offer they throw at you. And they will probably throw low because they are not used to anyone negotiating the cash price before anything else.

Choice of Vehicle:

Buy a reliable make of car that is popular. Popular cars means more of them wind up in the junk yards over time which means you can usually find used parts. Hence a Toyota Camry, Ford F-150 or Honda Civic are all good options. A Delorean on the other hand would be a terrible idea as used flux capacitors are rare. Very rare.

I am partial to Hondas and Mercedes personally. Although Mercedes is expensive to repair, they last forever. I haven’t had a car payment in three years.

Finding your car. Be picky? Pay the price.

Now to find the car. You need to  buy a car with four seats  as two seater cars have higher insurance. Red and Yellow cars have higher insurance. Tan cars are invisible and unsafe in my opinion as people pull out in front of you. So that leaves the other colors like Maroon, Silver, Black, White, etc…. Sorry kid – it’s a used car. It takes you from point A to point B. Period. You can’t pick a color so much as avoid those three “bad” colors – Red, Yellow, (expensive) and Tan (invisible – lots of accidents.) if you are trying to get the best deal.

This morning we looked up a 2005 Toyota Camry and the dealer has it listed at $9,991 + Tax Title and License (figure another 1k)


Then we flipped it around and I said “hey, if I were trading this car in what is this 2005 Toyota Camry worth?” This generates three prices.

  1. Wholesale/Trade-in (selling to a wholesaler or an auction house),
  2. Private Party (person to person sale) or
  3. Dealer Retail.

In this case those numbers are:  http://www.edmunds.com/toyota/camry/2005/tmv-appraise-results.html

Have the numbers before you get to the dealership and have the iphone ready to look up prices. Or a regular phone to text your friend the VIN number so they can be at their computer and do the lookup for you. In this case Edmunds tells us the the dealer probably paid about 5k for the car. And they should probably be selling it at $6,500 but will likely list at $7,500 to give themselves a bigger buffer.

Customized True Market Value  Prices

Trade-In Private Party Dealer Retail
National Base Price $6,455 $7,429 $8,528
Optional Equipment $0 $0 $0
Color Adjustment  –  Red $10 $11 $13
Regional Adjustment  –  for Zip Code 77002 $3 $4 $4
Mileage Adjustment  –  100,000 miles $-177 $-177 $-177
Condition Adjustment  –  Average $-1,458 $-1,646 $-1,834
Total $4,833 $5,621 $6,534

OK, so now we know the dealer is asking 10k for a car he paid $4833 for. Even if you negotiate them down 3k, they are still going to make 2K and talk you into some protection policy ($900), ask you to pay for extras they “already installed on the car” like VIN etching on the windows or gold paint on the front hood ornament ($450) and underbody protection ($300). Refuse all of these. All. Tell them your brother is a mechanic (one of mine is) and leave off the part about him living in Florida.

These prices are dated, but the cost to the dealer for the “warranty insurance” is probably $150, the VIN etching is just a scam, but cost is maybe $100 to the dealer and gold paint on the hood ornament probably cost them $50 to $100. Same for pin-stripes.

Other thoughts

1) USAA – If you are preapproved  for a loan you have the upper hand. And it is probably better to just say you don’t have a trade in car. That just gives them another variable to mess with you. Being preapproved by USAA is key.

2) Have print outs in your hand for at minimum of three (3) of the type of car you want to purchase. Also have print outs of the trade in value. It is OK to pay dealer retail, that is about a 1k profit and that is fair for what they go through. But getting hit up for 5k extra puts you “upside down” on the car and you can never sell it. Then it dies and you are making car payments on a car that doesn’t exist.

3) They will not want to talk “interest rate” but rather “payment.” Then they will say you are saving $50 a month on your payments when in fact USAA approved you for a 4 year loan and they just moved you to a six year loan and didn’t tell you.

4) Extended warranties. Don’t buy it. If you really want one you can buy them on the Internet for a fraction of what the dealer will want to sell it to you for.

5) Don’t worry about location. A dealer in Dallas has zero chance of selling you a car, right? So if a Dallas car dealer has an old car on his lot and it costs $250 to have it shipped, that dealer would settle for a lower margin Internet deal gladly. Thus frequently the best priced cars are from alternate cities. If you are in Houston call down to Rosenberg and check their prices.

6) Dealers hate old cars on their lot because they are paying interest (it’s called “Floorplanning”. When I traded in a Tahoe and bought a Honda Civic I literally walked up to the first salesperson I saw and said “show me the three oldest four door Honda civics on your lot regardless of color. And I have exactly one hour before I need to leave.” I bought the second oldest and it was a pretty quick car deal.

7) On a used car it is common practice for you to take it to your own mechanic and pay them $50 to look over the car and tell you if they see anything wrong with it. You yourself can look for stuff like “orange peel” paint jobs which means body work. Bolts under the hood that are not painted (the fender was replaced – new cars paint it all at once.)

8) CarFax is cheesy as hell, http://www.carfax.com/entry.cfx but it does give you the history of the car. When we bought used we usually did pay to get the history of the car (although back then you had to mail off for it). We bought a lemon that the salesman said was “the dealer’s wife’s car” when in fact it was a lease car out of Florida that never worked right and leaked on you when it rained. We made such a stink they took it back.

9) Used cars in the South are worth more than used cars from the Northeast. This is because of salt to remove snow and ice from the roads in the North which causes cars in the northeast to rust faster. Not as much of an issue these days, but still. On the flip side buying a pickup truck from  North of the Mason Dixon  line will be cheaper than buying one in Texas. Thus a lot of dealers will buy wholesale pickup trucks at auction in the North and have them shipped to the south. That $500 shipping cost is small compared to the 2k bump in price the vehicle will get, and you won’t know the history (see Carfax above).

7) New cars have something called “Hold Back.” which is basically a kick back of 1k to the dealer. So if you ask to see the invoice, which you are free to ask, they will show you that they paid 26k. They say “But you gotta give us a little!?” so you agree to $500 over invoice. So they are up 1.5k and send you to F&I (Finance and Insurance) and work you for the “pre-added accessorie, the interest rate spread, the extended warranty that doesn’t cover anything, etc.

Back to the beginning. Four buckets. Sale price. Trade in. Financing. And add-ons. If you can negotiate those individually you will do better. If you try to negotiate them all at once, it’s like trying to win against a carny. The game is rigged in their favor.

Your goal is to get a fair deal. Be civilized. Give them some margin because the dealership is a business too, but don’t let them charge you 10k for a car they paid 5k for because you will be upside down on your car note forever. Negotiate for a fair deal.

being on track with your life

(This is a cross post. Please comment on “being on track with your life” on the chron blog here.)

From a post on CNN about an unemployed iReporter:

“I’m still fortunate to have a roof over my head and make do with what I can but I miss having a decent job and being on track with my life.” – sbeasia

I don’t mean to sound jaded, but does “being on track with my life” qualify as expectation or entitlement? I hear that from many people, frequently they are employed but have some other expectation. They can’t articulate WHERE they are “supposed” to be. But they can complain they aren’t “there” and look at you  solve it. Solve what?

Here’s the thing. Lament the loss of a job and work hard to find or create a new one. The CNN ireporter sbeasia is clearly doing that. But “being on track with my life” is an illusion. You might as well say “keeping up with the Joneses.” YOU CAN’T.

Reality is all of us with very rare exception are bumbling along and making due with circumstances. None of us are “on track with our life” as far as I can tell. And the few I have seen accomplish all of their “goals” are generally  dissatisfied  and hungry still. And someone somewhere is still richer, has a better job, has a beautiful house, has 2.5 kids, drives a Ferrari. Someone somewhere is more “on track with their life” because as humans our perception of what we want is always more than what we have.

I am not “on track with my life” and I’m OK with that. I’m in Texas because the Army stationed my Dad in San Antonio years ago. They left and I stayed. I went to a school mostly to play an obscure sport. I’m in Houston because I met a girl at school who was from Houston and we moved down here after college. That is all just bouncing around based on circumstance.

houston tunnels - curve in the roadI didn’t even intend to start a company. That was sort of an accident as well. Yes really. Oh, and the reality of running a company is NOTHING like the perception. Inspector Clouseau is one of my heroes because he embraces this reality. From wikipedia:

Regardless of his rather limited ability, he successfully solves his cases and finds the correct culprits, even if this success is achieved entirely by accident. As such, he is even promoted to Chief Inspector over the course of the series, and is regarded by many other characters who presumably have not met him as  France‘s greatest detective; those characters he actually encounters, nevertheless, are quick to realise his incompetence and limitations. He is immensely  egocentric  and pompous; despite his many failings, he is seemingly convinced that he is a brilliant police officer destined to succeed and rise through the ranks of the  Sûrete.”

That is completely me. If I solve a case half the time it’s just by luck. Or as the Inspector would say, “I knew that” after the house fell down around him. “That is not my dog” indeed!

None of us are entitled to a particular station in life any more than Clouseau was entitled to be a Chief Inspector. If you achieve some perceived “station”, or get lucky and win lotto, then good for you. But you aren’t entitled to it. And EVERYONE feels like they “aren’t far enough along.” Particularly during the Great Recession. You are not alone, although that doesn’t help much. Changing the toxic internal dialog however just might help.

The problem isn’t that things are tight and you need to cut back on cable and get a roommate. Or that you aren’t “on track with your life” and can’t afford $60 a month for cigarettes or a $500 car payment. The problem is entitlement. And it’s worse than that because it is entitlement  that will forever be unrequited. It is entitlement to a carrot on a stick that will ALWAYS be held out in front of us.

I am definitely not “on track with my life” but at least I realize that is society creating false expectations. But I still work Saturday’s. Clouseau might not have the right theory, but he is present and solves the case anyway. So be present.

If you are thinking “I’m not on track with my  life” then go create something. And quit letting Mother Culture tell you how you should act and where you should “be”.

“(Mother Culture) is not a real entity, just as Mother Nature isn’t. I believe that’s why he chose the name. Mother culture refers to the voice in your head that tells you how to think and act ‘normal’ in your society. It is TV ads and movies and fairy tales and laws and school lessions that all are based on the same underlying values. It is reinforced by everybody around you buying into the program without ever really knowing there is a program.

Mother culture is a subtle influence and much of it is not explicitly said. It is a bias on how you observe the world, the tint in your ski goggles when the world looks slightly yellow.

You aren’t a puppet. You are a free man. And freedom doesn’t look like the beautiful people on TV. You aren’t at your “proper” “station in life” because it is an illusion. Be present.

(This is a cross post. Please comment on “being on track with your life” on the chron blog here.)

14 years and a big year at that

This is a cross post. Please comment on the original post on the official Schipul Web Design Company Blog here.

September 1, 2011 is the 14th anniversary of starting the company. 14 years. Considering I was unable to hold a single job for more than 2 years before this (if you exclude teaching on and off at a gym in college) this is impressive for me to stay focused for 14 years. But my job has changed. Years ago I realized that the company had grown to the point that I, me personally, was no longer the one building web sites. Rather my job transformed into growing people. And I enjoy and try very hard to surround myself with brilliant, hard working people with positive attitudes. Turns out they make great employees and they challenge me to grow at the same time.

14 is kind of an  awkward  age. I think if you are married there isn’t even a recommended gift from  de beers  given it isn’t a multiple of 5. (Wait. Sheesh, I just looked it up. 14 years is traditionally  ivory? What the heck? Do NOT send me any ivory people. Really. Elephants look better with their tusks IMHO.)

And this is my second blog post on  blog.schipul.com. I have submitted other posts, but as I was reminded when I mentioned to  Katie  that I was writing this post, apparently “snark” isn’t appropriate on blog.schipul.com.  I must reserve that for my own blog or the Chron. Thus my previous posts were rejected by Katie for official publication. Hopefully this one makes the cut!

Back to the 14 year thing. Obviously I am incredibly grateful to my family and friends who helped me start the business. There truly is no such thing as a self-made-man, woman, entrepreneur, whatever. We ALL get a TON of help in both sweat equity, money, advice, support and every other type of help imaginable. Nobody can do it alone. The media likes to tell the story of a modern day  Galt  charging forward solo against the odds. It doesn’t work that way. It takes a network of support to start a business. And I had that network 14 years ago and I still have it now. And as I have said many times, the biggest supporter I have ever had is my wife Rachel. If Rachel had not gone back to work in 1997 when I quit my job the company wouldn’t exist at all.

In the early days, huge thanks to Paul Bieniawski, Scott Pederson and Javier Avellan as well. Starting a company is like moving apartments when you are young; everyone says they are your friend, but suddenly they are busy and can’t help on that particular Saturday. Rachel, Paul, Scott and Javier freed up the time to help me and were truly paid in pizza and beer (yes really). Our first server was built on the floor of Scott’s kitchen using left over alpha hardware and a case, motherboard and CPU purchased on  Harwin. (Tip for future entrepreneurs – NEVER use “alpha” hardware. Uuuugh, that server was rough. But it got the job done.)

Employees – the team – the heart of the company. I appreciate  Jennifer, Rodney, Aaron, Jenny, Katie, Eloy, Kerry, Lyndia and the entire team. We definitely would NOT be celebrating 14 years without all of them. And that’s not even listing some of our former employees who made huge contributions, helped the company move forward and then went on to follow their own path. Their impact was felt and moved the ship forward. And a special shout out to Ellen M, my very first employee, who is awesome despite having gone to t.u.

Clients  – we are here to serve our clients and without clients we wouldn’t exist. Saying thank you to our clients, letting them know we understand we work for them, and that we appreciate them, can’t be repeated often enough. So if you are a client reading this –  THANK YOU!

I have a lot of history of the company to write. Forgive me if I am missing something and I’ll try to get it all organized by the time we hit 15 years.

So if I didn’t write a blog post at year 10, if I didn’t write one at year 11, 12 or 13, why now?  Because 2011 is different for us.  We have not had a year this transformative in the company’s history since 2001 when we shut down network consulting services and started programming codebase (now called Tendenci.) In fact our theme this year is  “Go Big or Go Home”  which I borrowed from Aaron’s team goals. That Aaron is a wise man.

“Go Big or Go Home” is definitely not a typical theme for a conservative businessman running a company during a recession. But in 2011 we effectively “doubled down” as they say.  Instead of running from a recession, we charged into it and reinvested while cutting costs and reinventing our products. Go big or go home in 2011 means this year we:

  1. Tendenci  – Finished the rewrite of Tendenci version 5 on the Amazon server cloud. The rewrite started in January of 2009 and we had a few clients moved onto the new version in 2010. But only in 2011 has our dedicated team of programmers started to really build the recurring revenue and functionality to rival Tendenci 4. I can’t speak highly enough of the team. Writing software ALWAYS takes longer than you want and costs more. That has been the case for us with the rewrite of Tendenci. But it IS done and live on client sites like  Discovery Green  in and ThinkLA. We look forward to converting our other 400 clients to the latest version over the next few years.
  2.  SchipulCon 2011!  – We had our first  Tendenci user conference  in 2007. We tried to do it again in 2008 but  Hurricane Ike  had other ideas and instead  we cancelled and had a giant party. I know, a dot-com kind of thing to do, but if you remember the time after Ike we all needed a bit of healing and beer heals.  In  2009  we renamed it  SchipulCon  and had a great event at our long time client the  Houston Zoo. Well, you guessed it, we are DOING IT AGAIN! Please check out our speakers and register for  SchipulCon October 6,7, 2011  at client  Norris Conference Center at CityCentre  in Houston.
  3. Silicon Valley  – we opened an office in Silicon Valley in March of this year led by  April Kyle. We are learning to speak Californian and finding they aren’t so different from us! West coaster? Give us at call in the valley at  408-430-3137!
  4. Business Processes  – kind of boring to talk about, but we have completely reengineered our internal processes from accounting procedures to better utilization of  SugarCRM  and switching  time tracking  and moving our email to the cloud. It hasn’t been completely smooth, but it is building a foundation for us to continue our growth unimpeded. Thank you to the team for moving with the cheese in 2011 as we grow! And it helps our clients by improving our efficiency which allows us to reinvest in YOU!
  5. Tendenci self-signup  – by the end of 2011 smaller organizations will be able to self signup for a much lower cost Tendenci site for their organization. We have lowered our costs by moving into the cloud and we are passing those savings on to our clients to enable more and more small associations to take advantage of our technology at an affordable price.  (Special shout-out to former employee  Glenbot  who has moved on to a VC backed firm. Without Glen’s contributions to Tendenci 5 over the last few years we wouldn’t be this close. Thanks Glen. I appreciate the beautiful code dude.)

And to our competitors who told our clients we had “stagnated” and had “stopped updating Tendenci,” … um…. ooops, meet T5 baby! Rockin the cloud for a bigger and better future. Two and a half years of serious double-down and rebuilding was hard to endure, but we are near the finish line to the ultimate benefit of our clients.

And the team has done all of that in the  fourth year of a recession.  Call us crazy, but we figured there would never be a good time to do any of these changes, so why not do them all at once?  Why not Go Big or Go Home in 2011?!  And we are doing it. And I couldn’t be more proud of our employees or more grateful to our clients and everyone who has helped us not only this year, but every year for the last 14 years.

Please join us for  SchipulCon  and get some brain candy. We are here to serve you. We are reinvesting to serve you better. And as always, we are appreciative of Houston and the community and friends that have supported us for so long.  Thank you!


This is a cross post. Please comment on the original post on the official Schipul Web Design Company Blog here.

those who remain determined “mouse-avores“ starve

“IV. At the same time, living systems adapt themselves to changes in their environment they learn, grow, develop, evolve. When the mouse population in a region suddenly declines because of an epidemic, the predators who adapt to a new prey survive; those who remain determined snake bit“mouse-avores“ starve. Life events affect us and change us, and we can see these changes reflected in the nevertheless familiar faces of our friends. The ability of living systems to adapt and self-organize allows them to defy the second law of thermodynamics, which insists that everything runs down and returns to a state of disorganization and homogeneity. Not so for living systems! They continuously reorganize themselves into ever more complex patterns and interrelationships.”

Molly Young Brown, Patterns, Flows and Interrelationships