Saturday, September 16, 2006

God Bless Weird Al

The nerdcore revolution is ON, and Weird Al, bless his freaky heart, is already rolling:

First in my class there at MIT
Got skills, I'm a champion at D&D
MC Escher, that's my favorite MC
Keep your 40, I'll just have an Earl Grey tea
My rims never spin - to the contrary
You'll find that they're quite stationary
All of my action figures are cherry
Stephen Hawking's in my library
My MySpace page is all totally pimped out
Got people beggin' for my Top 8 spaces
Yo, I know pi to a thousand places
Ain't got no grills, but I still wear braces
I order all of my sandwiches with mayonnaise
I'm a whiz at Minesweeper, I could play for days
Once you see my sweet moves, you're gonna stay amazed
My fingers movin' so fast, I'll set the place ablaze
There's no killer app I haven't run
At Pascal, well, I'm number one
Do vector calculus just for fun
I ain't got a gat but I got a soldering gun
"Happy Days" is my favorite theme song
I could sure kick your butt in a game of ping pong
I'll ace any trivia quiz you bring on
I'm fluent in JavaScript as well as Klingon...

Perhaps the world will finally be receptive to my old buddy Larry Walker and his Silicon Valley law firm gangsta rap...

Friday, September 15, 2006

Living and Dying in America

Dr. Christopher Murray of the Harvard School of Public Health has just released a study that shows that the life expectancy of Americans varies wildly depending on geography, race, and socioeconomic status:

Murray analyzed mortality data between 1982 and 2001 by county, race, gender and income. He found some distinct groupings that he named the "eight Americas:"

Asian-Americans, average per capita income of $21,566, have a life expectancy of 84.9 years.

Northland low-income rural whites, $17,758, 79 years.

Middle America (mostly white), $24,640, 77.9 years.

Low income whites in Appalachia, Mississippi Valley, $16,390, 75 years.

Western American Indians, $10,029, 72.7 years.

Black Middle America, $15,412, 72.9 years.

Southern low-income rural blacks, $10,463, 71.2 years.

High-risk urban blacks, $14,800, 71.1 years.

The differences are stark and astounding. I would speculate that most people have some intuitive sense of their likely lifespan, and act accordingly. If I'm likely to live to be 85 or 90, I'll probably save like a madman. If I'm convinced that I'll die by the time I hit 70, it would be irrational to do so.

9 Books

At Jackie Danicki's behest, here are 9 books from my life:

1. A book that changed your life.

"Why We Do What We Do" by Edward Deci. It's the subject of what's still probably my most popular blog post ( If greed and hubris are diseases, living in Silicon Valley is like giving myself daily injections of typhoid, and reading this book is like taking antibiotics.

2. A book you’ve read more than once.

"The Great Brain" by J. D. Fitzgerald. A great children's book, and one which helped fuel my lifelong admiration for dirty rotten scoundrels with redeeming qualities.

3. A book you’d want on a desert island.

"The Worst Case Scenario Handbook."

4. A book that made you giddy.

"Act One" by Moss Hart. An incredible book for anyone who has tried to write a book or start a company. You must read this book.

5. A book you wish you had written.

"The Happiness Hypothesis" by Jonathan Haidt. I'm a huge fan of the emerging field and positive psychology, and this is the best book in that field.

6. A book that wracked you with sobs.

You know, I try to avoid sadness whenever I can. I do remember being very sad after reading "Where The Red Fern Grows." I didn't even bother trying to read "Old Yeller." Any time a dog dies, I fall to pieces.

7. A book you wish had never been written.

Any book that features mutilation. Gives me the willies. I have an insane phobia of maiming.

8. A book you are currently reading.

"Authentic Happiness" by Martin Seligman. An uplifting work of staggering genius, and I actually mean that.

9. A book you’ve been meaning to read.

"Success Built To Last" by Jerry Pooras. It just came out, and I'm eagerly awaiting the copy I ordered on Tuesday.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Ponytail Power

When I describe what my company does, I'm fond of invoking the mythical ponytailed IT guy.

As it turns out, he's not so mythical.

In this link-baiting press release from Exchange host Intermedia.NET (brilliant marketing tactic, by the way), the following stereotypes are now officially proven:
  • IT types are 34% more likely to sport a ponytail
  • Black jeans are 63% more popular among IT types than other workers
  • IT people are “twice as likely” to wear heavy metal t-shirts
  • IT workers are 32% less likely to wear clean clothes every day of the week than business managers
Of course, these are just prejudiced stereotypes. As Austin Powers' dad remarked, "There are only two kinds of people in this world that I hate: The prejudiced, and the Dutch." (apologies to my Dutch readers!)

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

How To Manage Outsourced Software Development

If you're considering outsourcing your software development, get your ass over to my buddy Dave Feinleib's blog and check out this post and his slides.

I've already written about Dave in the past, and my admiration for him continues to grow. I wish all VCs were as hands on (Dave actually builds his own Web 2.0 businesses--for kicks--so he can better understand potential investments).

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Quote of the Day: Alain de Botton

"Blessed with riches and possibilities far beyond anything imagined by ancestors who tilled the unpredictable soil of medieval Europe, modern populations have nonetheless shown a remarkable capacity to feel that neither who they are nor what they have is quite enough."

Tip o' the hat to O'Reilly Radar for pointing to this.

There are two ways entrepreneurs can take this; we can either figure out ways to sell into this anxiety, or we can find ways to relieve it. Which path will you choose?

Monday, September 11, 2006

Dems To Middle Class: Drop Dead

In my continuing quest to provide this nation's major political parties with unsolicited advice that they'll simply ignore, I'd like to draw the Democratic Party's attention to the following article in the National Review.

It summarizes some of the arguments made by Anne Kim and Jim Kessler, who are moderate Democrats and members of Third Way, a new organization dedicated to helping Democrats appeal to moderate and conservative voters.

I'll simply quote the two key paragraphs:

How does the Democratic message fall flat? Kim and Kessler count the ways. The public doesn’t buy heedless pessimism; 80 percent believe it is “still possible to start out poor in this country, work hard and become rich.” It prefers opportunity over economic security; only about a quarter of Americans say that they prefer a low-income, high-security job. It doesn’t like corporation-bashing; only 27 percent say big business is the biggest threat to America’s future, compared with 61 percent who say big government is.

Programmatically, Democrats essentially offer the middle class a nullity. Kim and Kessler run through the greatest hits of Democratic policy. The average family income for Pell Grant recipients is $19,460. Head Start is for poor children. A married family of four can make a maximum of only $37,263 to still be eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit (to the tune of $1). Only 2.7 percent of American workers make the minimum wage, and half of them are under age 25. Giving health care to the uninsured affects only 15.7 percent of Americans, and many of them aren’t middle class.

Bottom line: Many Republican policies and programs are similarly narrow in their scope (albeit at the other end of the income curve). But issues like family values and tax cuts affect everyone, and the Republicans do a great job of hammering on them. There's an old expression that people vote with their pocketbooks. If only 2.7% of American workers are affected by the minimum wage, why try to make that an electoral issue?