Friday, October 03, 2003

The Time Machine

Do you ever think back to what the world was like BIB (before the Internet boom)?

In another year, I'll be heading to my 10th year reunion at Stanford. 10 years ago, I was living in Okada House in the Wilbur dorm complex. While I had email, which I used religiously, I had to go to the dorm computer cluster to access my Unix-based elm account.

Ah yes, the good old days of the command line interface!

There was no such thing as the Web as a mass medium. Mark Andreessen was still a roly-poly grad student at UIUC, probably happily munching Doritos while playing Castle Wolfenstein 3D.

If you wanted to find something out, you had to go to a library and look it up in a bunch of dusty books.

If you wanted the news, you had to turn on a TV and wait for the story in which you were interested to come along.

If you wanted to hold a party, you had to either send out paper invitations, or spend a day on the phone.

Only doctors and drug dealers had cell phones.

Your primary means of communication was to, gasp, actually talk with people.

Thank God we live in modern times! The frightening thing, of course, is that this was just 10 years ago. What will our lives be like 10 years from today?

Thursday, October 02, 2003

One final note on the ladder theory--while I never developed my own thoughts to such a systematic extent, I have provided advice to many women (including the lovely poetess--I just love saying that word--Camille Dungy) on how to attract men, with some success:

1. Men divide women into two categories: Those that they think are attractive and want to sleep with, and those that are not attractive enough to sleep with. (Note that Dallas' Ladder Theory adds several additional refinements, such as women that you would only sleep with while drunk, and women that you would only sleep with while drunk and would deny having slept with afterwards. These are definitely there, but not as relevant in terms of what most women want from a man.)

2. As a woman, your status with a man depends on the peak attractiveness that you achieve in his mind. This is similar to the "forward progress" rule in football. As an example, I once lived in the same dormitory complex as Oscar-winning actress Jennifer Connelly. Jennifer often came to the dining hall fresh from a long run, covered in sweat, with her hair plastered in a fairly unattractive fashion. This did not prevent men from swarming over her, since their conception of her attractiveness was based on her performance in The Rocketeer.

3. Once you convince a man that you are a romantic possibility, it's hard to lose that status.

4. Your attractiveness is subject to many conditional modifiers. For example, a man is more likely to find you attractive if you have engaged in strenuous and/or dangerous physical activity together. This is a well-known scientific effect, and helps explain why firemen are so popular with the ladies.

Based on these principles, my advice was simple: If you're interested in a man, make sure that he sees you in a situation where you look your best, so that he puts you on the "romantic possibility" list. Then, arrange a situation in which several conditional modifiers apply, like running across a frozen lake, where there is danger, exertion, and a good chance of ending up horizontal on top of each other.

I'm proud to say that my pupils put this advice to good use.

What Women Want

Thanks to Pud and his excellent Ask Pud Web site, I ran across Dallas Lynn's "Ladder Theory," which carefully analyzes how men and women have different criteria for attraction.

While I could go on at length about the rigor of Dallas' analysis, I'll simply recommend that you go to the source. Suffice it to say that many men I know would do well to heed Dallas' advice. Be forewarned, the site uses the "F-word" quite a bit, but always accurately.

Wednesday, October 01, 2003

I was speaking with a friend today who was reluctant to ask for a much-deserved freebie. "I grew up poor," she said, "and I always lived in fear that people would find out how poor my family was. So I didn't want to ask for things."

My wife also grew up in a not-wealthy family, and is similarly reluctant to make waves.

On the other hand, I grew up as a child of (relative) privilege, and I never hesitate to ask for freebies. In fact, I often tell telemarketers, "I'm a cheap bastard, so I never buy anything." I sign up for all those free children's book clubs, and then cancel and keep the free gift.

I think it's quite ironic that those who most deserve our praise and admiration are reluctant to ask for favors, while those (like me) who have already gotten all the breaks expect and ask for the world.

Maybe I should hold selfishness seminars for those of modest means!

Tuesday, September 30, 2003

What's Your Number?

I met the team over at RedCoil today. They're a bunch of savvy veterans ("Over 70 years of executive experience," notes their Web site) who are onto an interesting market in the security space.

The interesting question is, why are a bunch of guys with so much experience and plenty of their own money are still working long hours in a subleased office by a trailer park?

The answer, of course, is that it's *fun* to work with smart people, make a difference, and oh yeah, make even more money. I work with folks every day who have more than enough money never to work again, yet they still work longer hours than I do. This may have something to do with the fact that they no longer have to pick up their kids from day care every day, but it's still impressive.

When I was at my first job with folks like Matt Josefowicz, us youngsters often asked ourselves "What's your number?" That is, how much money would you have to make before you'd retire. The assumption was that once you had, say, $10 million, you'd stop working your ass off. This discussion was prompted by one of us receiving an email from our ultimate boss, David Shaw (net worth at the time: an estimated $500 million), which he had written at 2 AM on a Saturday morning.

Obviously, not all of the wealthy continue to work--witness the career of heiress and quasi-celeb Paris Hilton. But most of the entrepreneurial set do. Dave Filo at Yahoo! is still known to sleep under his desk.

Is the entrepreneurial life more fun than the traditional means of gaining wealth? Are we just more driven to achieve? Who knows! But I'd love the opportunity to find out what I'd do after I made my first $20 million.
Beam you a drink, sailor?

Techdirt has linked to this article about an entrepreneur who has built a touch-screen/kiosk version of my Bluetooth dating concept.

Again, if any of you loyal readers out there is interested, I can point you to a Bluetooth company that swears that this could be done very easily!

Monday, September 29, 2003

I Know It When I See It

A new set of studies shows that, surprise surprise, Internet pornography is still going strong. In fact, there are now 260 million pages of pornography available on the Web.

In contrast, the Library of Congress contains a paltry 18 million books. I guess we have our priorities straight (or queer or bi, as the case may be)!

July alone say the addition of 28 million pages of porn. Meanwhile, another source estimates that 1/8 of all Web sites and 1/4 of all search engine requests are pornographic in nature. 2.5 billion pornographic emails go out every day, or an average of four for every Internet user in the world.

Chris Wu, Director of Yahoo! Mobile, reports that 1/2 of all searches conducted from mobile phones are pornographic in nature.

Yet as disturbing as all of these trends are, perhaps the most disturbing is that the average "session time" for a visit to a pornographic Web site was just under 5 minutes. I tell you, sometimes this stuff just writes itself!

Sunday, September 28, 2003

The Governator

While Arnie may not have a lot of political experience, those who dismiss him as a lightweight would be well-advised to pick up a copy of Studs Terkel's American Dreams: Lost and Found.

Not only is Terkel a genius and American Dreams his masterwork, the book contains a short oral history from a little-known bodybuilder named Arnold Schwarzenegger. At the time, he was still trapped in the insular, muscle-bound world of bodybuilding. Yet when you read what he told Terkel, you can see that he had already planned to become a superstar. The remarkable thing is how closely Arnie's achievements mirror the plans he told to Terkel, over 25 years ago.

I would never bet against someone with that kind of determination and savvy. While he has had his stumbles (Planet Hollywood, anyone?), Arnie has never failed to achieve what he set out to do.
Size Doesn't Matter--Oh Wait, Yes It Does

The Economist reports that people with larger than average cranial capacity (i.e. big heads) are five times less likely than people with small heads to experience mental degradation as they age.

Finally, I have a good response when people say that I have a swelled head!
Hail Caesar!

I've been reading Michael Grant's The Twelve Caesars, a history of the first 12 Roman Emperors, starting with Julius Caesar.

One of Grant's observations is the old saw that power corrupts. Figures such as Nero and Vitellius used the resources of the Empire to satisfy their own personal desires (which could be pretty deviant at times!). It's not hard to jump from Vitellius' absurdly expensive feasts to Dennis Koslowski's $10,000 umbrella holders. In fact, it's easy to see that human nature and psychology hasn't changed in 2000 years. Scrub off the Latin names, and it's hard to tell that Grant isn't talking about modern-day politics.

More useful, at least in my mind, are the patterns that emerge in terms of the emperors' rise and fall. Each emperor attained the purple by cultivating a power base, generally the army or Praetorian Guard. Those that survived maintained their power base and reached out to other influencers like the Senate. The less successful, like the unfortunate Galba, who lasted less than a year after replacing Nero, neglected their power base and were quickly deposed. In Galba's case, he made the suicidal move of breaking a promise to pay bonuses to the Praetorian Guard that had brough him to power.

We may live in a different time, and my goals (making the various projects I'm involved with more successful) may be more modest that ruling a globe-spanning empire, but all of the same lessons apply.