Archive for December, 2009

Here Comes The Pitch!

December 23, 2009

No, I’m not talking baseball.  I’m talking the pitch, as in ideas, as in pitching companies.  I’m gonna slow pitch you on this one.  We’ll start with an analogy…You plop down in front of the tube to watch Letterman because Robin Williams is the guest star tonight.  But the interview is, in fact, less interview and more improv comedy.  Why? Because Williams just dominates the stage with his wit and personality.  And you’re just left there laughing hysterically until your gut hurts, and all the while, you’re in awe wondering just how fast that guy’s mind works.  I mean, his mind has got to be going Warp Factor 5!Jason Calacanis is a veritable Robin Williams on his show This Week in Startups (search #TWiST on Twitter), bar none the best podcast I’ve ever run across.  The guy, like Williams, brings the wit and personality AND the knowledge!


A snapshot from the jihad against Keiretsu Forum (Episode 23)

His mind is racing at a mile a minute answering callers with startup questions, reviewing pitches from would-be entrepreneurs a la Shark Tank, and discussing the ventures of his wide range of amazing guests.  He’s not just some tech industry pundit talking a big game but never having done anything.  He walks the walk as well, having setup several successful companies, the latest being Mahalo.  But he brings an acute awareness of the tech industry and is as forward-thinking as they come.  But what’s more is that he hasn’t lost the entrepreneurial edge, that hunger for success.  He brings that same fire in the bellies of all entrepreneurs to his show.  And for me personally, that is what’s most admirable about him.  He hasn’t forgotten his roots.And just as he would probably coach any startup to simply just start and learn as you go, his show has progressed in just the first few episodes from a decent, perhaps “Take it or leave it” podcast, to a “Can’t Miss” weekly production.  The cast and crew is just as amazing.  From the soft-spoken Tyler, Jason’s right-hand man, and who has the air of E.F. Hutton.  You remember, when E.F. Hutton speaks, people listen.  And Lon, the affable and ever-more famous news anchor who knows how to ask the right questions to get the best out of the guest and Jason.With 33 shows in the can, there’s well over 70 hours of entrepreneurial insight.  And for anyone who has any interest in running a business, whether their own company or not, I highly recommend you check out each and every one.  You get more than just the typical successes and failures run down.  The various segments of show include:

  • Ask Jason: A few callers ring in with questions related to his/her startup or career in startups.  And Jason responds with off-the-cuff advice.  Nothing predetermined.
  • Shark Tank: (my personal favorite)  Someone calls in to run their pitch by Jason like the TV show, “Shark Tank” (abysmal as it is).  Jason and his guest will then rate the pitch, give some insight and pointers, and then discuss the startup idea to give the caller feedback, homework, and in some cases, if the pitch is really great and the business plan sound, Jason has even invested in the companies.  What other podcast does that?!
  • Interview: The guest of each show is usually a startup CEO, but not always.  There have been authors, coaches, angel investors, etc.  But everyone has their experience in and around startups.  The advice and learnings you can garner from this segment alone would be worth a weekly fee.
  • The News: Typically with Lon Harris as the new anchor, this segment is like Cranky Geeks, but better.  I love John Dvorak to death, but Jason and his guest, and Tyler and Lon often dig deeper into the issues, discussing the implications of company decisions, predicting success and failure.

These four segments are very unscripted and can turn into a variety of interesting topics. Hence, the show can run a little long for the short-attention span crowd (sometimes in excess of two hours), but for anyone out there even only half-serious about starting their own company (present company included), TWiST is 700MB of weekly podcast goodness delivered straight to your iTunes that you just won’t want to miss!  Or, if you really enjoy seeing live streaming footage, you can pop over to USTREAM each Friday for the show and participate in the other excellent part of the TWiST community, the loyal minions in the chatroom.So go check out TWiST.  I can’t recommend it highly enough (this pitch is my best effort!). If you do decide to take the plunge, then you may check out Startup Recap, a nice companion sight started by Scott Simko, one of the shows most loyal followers.  It’s a nice little overview site and you can find a blurb on each episode to help you get a feel for the quality of the content the show brings.And last but not least, and maybe the most invaluable part of the show is the sponsors.  We are encouraged to thank the sponsors of the show by Jason on many occasions.  It may seem like overkill, at first.  But when you compare it with watching television, you watch shows you really like but could give a rat’s ass about the commercial sponsors.  You don’t feel they have any direct connection with the success of the show you are watching.  In the case of TWiST, Jason clues us in to the very direct impact that his sponsors have on its success.  Never one to take all the glory, he gives credit where it’s due.  And so, let me give a shout out to the shows sponsors… DNAmail, PowerVPS, USTREAM, WebSpy, and most recently, Bing!  A sincere “Thank You” for helping to sponsor this most amazing show!So, with that, waste no more time with my atrocious content.  Spend your time wisely, and go check out This Week in Startups.And one special request to Jason Calacanis…  you do a pretty amazing Christopher Walken impression!  You do it all the time on This Week in Tech with leo laporte.  After 33 episodes of TWiST, I haven’t heard one Walken impression yet!  The show doesn’t need gimmicks, it’s just too good.  But the Brooklyn hustler impression comes out all the time… Where’s the Walken?!

More Food Items

December 19, 2009

Man, the goodness of home-cooked meals! I will miss my good lunches now that I’m back to work. But I suppose dinners will be even thy much better! Love you Mamma!


Free Coke!

December 19, 2009

So I started working at Coca-Cola this week. Kind of ironic since I gave up soda just two months ago. I guess that plan is going out the window!

They have all the Coke products available for free, in cans or from the fountain. You gotta admit, that’s pretty sweet. And if sweet isn’t your thing, they even have TAB! Blech!!


Fortune Cookie

December 18, 2009

My mother went to eat at an asian restaurant a few months ago.  And she brought me home a fortune cookie.  My fortune cookie fortune from September 17, 2009…

Fortune Cookie

My mother was happy to read this!  She wrote the date on the back of the fortune and posted it up on the refrigerator.   We have been patient.  We deserved some good things.  For the past two years, I’ve been trying to bootstrap a business.  I haven’t worked.  I have had virtually no income.  And I have been under a mountain of debt the entire time, half of it following me from a previously failed business (my candy machine business).

It was a wild ride during these three months!!!  A lot of things in my life (and my mother’s) have gone from bad to good during these three months!

1) My mother finally got her inheritance over a year after the death of her sister.  And not a moment too soon, because she had finally run out of her retirement funds, which is totally my fault.

2) Due to #1 happening, I was able to settle over $60K of outstanding debt with my creditors.  I have mixed feelings on this.  On the one hand, I feel responsible for my debt.  All I wanted was for my creditors to give me some time to get on my feet with a new job, or my business to finally generate some income.  They were not very interested in postponing payment any longer than they had already.  So they move the debt into collections and resolve to take a loss on the funds they loaned me.  So, in effect, I am one of the contributors to this economic mess we are in.  Obviously, I am not alone, and my debts pale in comparison to those of others.  Nevertheless, I feel responsible for my debt.

So I worked within the constraints of my creditors to pay off whatever I could.  Granted, I had to rob Peter to pay Paul (I borrowed money from my mother, yet again).  I suppose it’s better than bankruptcy where I would have paid absolutely nothing, except to a bankruptcy attorney.  So I feel better about that at least.

The greatest feeling, though, is to finally be out from under that staggering amount of debt.  And I vow to never abuse my credit again.  I probably won’t be credit worthy for the next seven years anyway.  But as I recently read, it is better to fear debt, then to fear credit worthiness.  =]

3) ScheduleWise keeps picking up customers!  We got our first customer on Thanksgiving day!  Woo Hoo!  The pressure comes off of you when you get your first customer is tremendous.  It’s like you can finally breathe again because your new customer has just validated your sense of purpose.  And with that one, the proverbial floodgates are opening.  We’ve had so much interest since then.  And we have three new customers since!

4) I finally completed my application to the Navy Reserves.  I have always wanted to join the service, and so I finally applied with Navy Intelligence.  I had a great interview this past week, but am keeping my expectations low because the program is very competitive.  If I don’t get in, well, at least I know I put my best foot forward.

5) I have been applying for work for various positions for some time now.  Nothing has panned out.  And I’ve had only one interview with Roper Hospital in Charleston.  Well, thanks to my sister-in-law, Carmen, for putting me in touch with a recruiter, I managed to get an interview with Coca-Cola.  Originally, they considered me over-qualified and didn’t want to interview me, but my recruiter convinced them.  After the interview, they hired me right away (well, within a week)!  And I was supposed to start in mid-January.  But I think the icing on the cake regarding my fortune cookie, was that I started this new job exactly on December 17!

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

So good things were definitely in store for me.  I have had almost a complete reversal of fortune.  And as I sit and reflect, I can look at this fortune and say, “Bah humbug!”  But I put so much thought into how wonderful it would be if good things did happen.  And to my surprise, they did!  And it really feels wonderful!

P.S.  Now I know you’re wondering about those lottery numbers!  Yes, I did play them.  And no, I didn’t win.

Time Machine to the Rescue!

December 16, 2009

So my inner dork continues to surface.  Most Mac users that I know do not really give a hoot about Time Machine.  And to be honest, it isn’t the quintessential backup system for your computer.  Use Silverkeeper or Carbon-Copy Cloner for that.  But, what Time Machine is insanely good at is restoring files that you casually deleted in the not so distant past.

Today, I’m sitting there thinking about some notes that I had written down on my old phone, my Palm Treo.  I remember deleting everything off of the phone, but keeping my files on my computer so when I needed to access them, I’d have them.  Only thing is, the filetypes are proprietary to the Palm software.  So you can read bits and pieces with your basic text editor,  but there is a bunch of gobbledy-gook in between.  For some reason, I thought it was a good idea to delete the Palm software some time ago.

Now, I still have the installation CD, but what a hassle that would be.  Enter Time Machine.

All I had to do was “go back in time” through a number of saved instances of my harddrive over the past year until I was able to locate the Palm Desktop software.  Click the Restore button and Presto!  I now have the fully working software reinstalled on my computer and have access to all my old memos and everything else I needed.

The interface to Time Machine is slick.  I’ve used it before to relocate pictures I had deleted.  But today’s adventure really saved me a some time.  So a big thanks to the engineers who designed this.  It’s amazing!

Now, if they can only get it to be the ONLY backup system you’ll ever need, I’ll be an even happier fanboy.

I’m a little bit dorky…

December 16, 2009

And I’m a little bit rock-n-roll!   Tonight, I finally finally figured out a long-standing problem on my website.

I’ve had a transparent GIF for my website’s logo for the longest time, but just it looked oh so crappy.  It had a little pixelated edge around the lettering.  With no users, this really wasn’t a pressing problem.  It always looked OK with most light colored backgrounds, but once I put it on a darker background, the crappiness was apparent.

I’ve grappled with this for a while, but since I don’t have Photoshop and don’t have any software to play with these images, I just left this one for a later date.  Well, today was that later date.

I ran across a site that talked about Vector Images.  I’ve known about the SVG image formats, but I didn’t realize you could use them on the web.  I did, in fact, have some vector images of my logos.  But it never seemed like a good idea to use them because they are so large.  But on this particular site, touting the benefits of vector images, all the images on this particular site were saved as PNG files.  Bingo!

So now, how could I save my files as PNG?   Enter Quicksilver.  This is the kind of thing it does best (see the screenshot below).  I just selected the file in its original SVG format, chose Save Image in Format… in the action pane, and then typed PNG in the third pane.  Voilà!

Quicksilver Screenshot

I realize for those of you who don’t use Macs and Quicksilver, this means absolutely nothing to you.  But for me, it was a nice little epiphany to fix a long-standing problem on my website.  Now let’s see if my one user, Gary, who is my business partner, will notice the difference.  I doubt it…  But at least I know!

Giovanni’s First Communion

December 14, 2009

It was a splendid day. Giovanni is becoming a fine young man.

He better not get taller than me, though.


Eggplant Parmigiano

December 14, 2009

Fun in the kitchen. Mamma does the prep and cooking, and I do the documenting. =]


Kye Girls and Their Hubbies

December 14, 2009

Ho made a trip from Singapore during Thanksgiving. So it was nice to be the fifth wheel.

The sixth wheel, as you can see, crashed out. Too much cerveza, I think.

And the seventh wheel is tucked under the table in Ho’s belly!


A Mad Christmas

December 14, 2009

Mamma got one if her Christmas gifts early. She was surprised!