Friday, September 15, 2017

Sign Up for My New New Newsletter!

I'm starting a new weekly email newsletter in which I'll write summaries of and my thoughts on the best stuff I've read in the past week. I'll mostly write about nonfiction books, but sometimes I'll include my musings on excellent works of fiction, long-form articles, or even podcasts, YouTube videos, or documentaries. In short, I'll include whatever I find to be so valuable, educational, and life changing that I think everyone should read it immediately too.

Your Video Game Will Fail

In July I wrote my least popular Metafocus article yet, an explanation of the Unit Economics of making an educational video game. Granted, learning to crunch the numbers of a business opportunity isn't everyone's cup of tea, especially educators. I won't write another article on Unit Economics for the column anytime soon.

Still, I'm quite proud of the piece. I'm certain it's the only piece of its kind anywhere, online or off. Perhaps a few entrepreneurs out there will find it useful.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

SXSW 2018 Panel Picker Submissions

Here's Jenn's and my geeky and fun SXSW Panel Picker submission for a project we call Bird Feeder 3000.

Bird Feeder 3000: 3D Print a VR/AI/IoT Bird Feeder
http://panelpicker.sxsw.com/vote/75106

Watch the video, create a SXSW account if you haven't already, and then upvote us! Votes from the public help us get selected to speak at SXSW 2018. The voting period is from Monday, August 7, 2017 to Friday, August 25, 2017. Feel free to pass it along too.

We both submitted to be speakers at SXSW Edu as well. The voting period for SXSW Edu is the same as above. Here are our SXSW Edu submission links.

Pandora's Headset: The Ethics of VR in Education
http://panelpicker.sxsw.com/vote/75305

Letters to a Young AI: Be an Ethical Educator
http://panelpicker.sxsw.com/vote/75047

Thanks a ton!

Friday, July 28, 2017

Enough Is Enough

I am doing enough. I am enough. It doesn't matter whether others see and agree with that. I see it and know it, and that is enough. I meditated just now (Wednesday evening, July 26, 2017) and realized the anxiety that has vexed my health for so long comes largely from not feeling like I'm doing enough, that I could be doing more, that I'm personally not enough. So not true.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

You Say You Want a(n Educational) Revolution

The April Metafocus column explores the limitations of VR in the classroom, parodying a lesson plan for a virtual field trip to a farm. It's more lighthearted than my other Metafocus pieces. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did writing it.

Metafocus: You Say You Want a(n Educational) Revolution

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Interview with Maria Johnson of UT Dallas Virtual Reality Social Cognition Training Department

My latest Metafocus column is an interview with Maria Johnson of the UT Dallas Virtual Reality Social Cognition Training Department. They're doing cool work using VR for cognitive development, with a focus on children with autism, ADHD, and other social learning differences.

Metafocus: Interview with Maria Johnson of UT Dallas Virtual Reality Social Cognition Training Department

Enjoy!

Monday, March 13, 2017

How Serendipity Works


SXSW is a serendipity accelerator.

Serendipity works in direct proportion to the clarity of your goals/plans/intentions, the force of the actions you've been taking recently, and the heat of your passion. If you aren't clear, aren't taking action, and aren't passionate about your goals, then serendipity doesn't work. In fact, neither does creation. This was the single most important lesson I came to SXSW to remember and get clear about. SXSW itself is a place to accelerate this whole process, though it works just as well in our regular lives.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Serendipity > FOMO: How to Plan for SXSW

Last week, a friend asked me how I approach my SXSW planning. There's so much to see and do, it's like all of college crammed into 10 days (or 14 days, if you do SXSWedu too, like I do). Sessions, speakers, networking, networking events, mentoring, hands on maker sessions, multiple trade show floors, music, film, art, video games, national display houses, parties, dancing late at night, pitch events, VC meetups, eco meetups, tech meetups of every type imaginable, educational scavenger hunts, book signings... attendees can't experience more than 1-2% of all the amazing stuff that badges provide access to. Planning your days can be daunting. Moreover, the website isn't great and the app is buggy, ironically enough, and you can't get your hands on the event catalog until registration the day before. However SXSW itself is such a life-changing and world-changing conference that it's well worth putting up with any sub-par SXSW technologies.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Revisionist Me

In the 2000s, I built several businesses--all within the mortgage and real estate industries--and bought several commercial rental properties in Colorado. I was worth millions... on paper at least. In 2007-2008, the American mortgage and real estate markets tanked. In 2009, I filed a personal Chapter 7 bankruptcy, lost everything, and applied to grad school. Those are the basic facts of the story of my late-20s to mid-30s. How I've told this story has evolved quite a bit, becoming a story of its own.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Books Every Entrepreneur Should Read at Least Twice

I teach a course in entrepreneurship fundamentals, and I also work with many small businesses and startups as a management consultant and executive coach. I frequently recommend must-read business books to my students and clients. These entrepreneurs desperately need to absorb the books' lessons given the chronic and common problems they're each facing in their own businesses. 

The list below is the best of the best. I'm including the list here so I can easily refer my students and clients to one list instead of haphazardly referring books as I remember them. If hundreds of my students and clients will benefit from this list, other entrepreneurs may benefit as well.

Unit Economics: Cost Types and the Stages of Business Growth

As I've written before, start-ups should use variable costs whenever possible, growth stage companies should shift to using fixed period costs as revenues stabilize, and mature companies with lots of cash on the balance sheet should invest in primary sunk investments. But why is this true?

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Unit Economics: Lifetime Value and Customer Acquisition Cost

Another common way to think of Unit Economics (i.e. instead of the method I've described in my prior posts) is to use Customer Lifetime Value (i.e. the Gross Profit of all purchases made by an average customer over the lifetime of the customer's relationship with your company) instead of Price, and to use Customer Acquisition Cost (i.e. how much you spend in marketing and sales efforts to acquire one customer) instead of Variable Costs. This method is often used for subscription services such as Netflix and tech start-ups, partly because software does not have any variable cost except Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC).

Friday, February 10, 2017

Everything I Know Is Wrong

Everything I know is wrong. 

Why is it wrong? Because everything humans now know will likely be proven wrong, mostly wrong, or at very least woefully incomplete and misguided. Fast forward 50, 500, or 5000 years, assuming we humans don't render ourselves extinct by then, what will historians, archaeologists, and anthropologists of that era see

Monday, January 30, 2017

Gesamtkunstwerk and More

Here are my December and January columns to Metafocus, my monthly column about VR and gaming in the eLearning space for Learning Solutions Magazine. January's exploration of Gesamtkunstwerk is especially interesting.

December 2016
Metafocus: Best Practices for Designing VR Corporate Training Experiences and Games

January 2017
Metafocus: Gesamtkunstwerk VR Games in eLearning

Sunday, December 18, 2016

The Law of Zero Sum Learning

When we are young, if we put our heart and soul into becoming excellent at something, that comes with a cost of not learning something else. At age 15, 20, or 25, if we become a star athlete, we simply do not have the hours available in our day, week, month, or year to also become a star musician. If we master the guitar, violin, and six other instruments, we probably are not simultaneously attending med school. If we become a surgeon by age 30, we probably didn't also write the world's next great novel or win gold in the Olympics.

Learning the Five Leverages

As a young man, I decided that if I were to make a difference in the world, and I don't mean a small difference, but put a real dent in the world in some positive way, then I'd need leverage. The world is too big and its momentum too strong for one person to create much lasting change without leverage.

I also realized that five kinds of leverage have much more power than any other in today's world: communication, technology, entrepreneurship, capital, and politics.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Opportunity Funnel for the Soul

Hope is a virtue... to have it, we must work at it.
- Mary Berry quoting her father, Wendell Berry

Entrepreneurship is hard. It sometimes destroys lives and livelihoods. This is precisely its greatest value, the best argument for doing it.

I'm not saying that failure builds character or any such trite nonsense, though it probably does do plenty of that. What I mean is a little more nuanced.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Metafocus: It's Alive!

I just started writing a monthly column for Learning Solutions Magazine. I call the column Metafocus, and it's all about VR, AR, MR, and games in the eLearning field. My first piece came out today, an overview of virtual and mixed reality in eLearning. Check it out:

Friday, September 23, 2016

Unit Economics Explained - Part 6: Summary

Unit Economics are the most important quantitative tool for opportunity analysis. Having even read this chapter, you’re in the company of an elite group of savvy entrepreneurs and investors who actually understand the basics of Unit Economics. Reading about it, however, is not enough.

Unit Economics Explained - Part 5: Common Mistakes

Even though basic Unit Economics and the four formulas are simple, novices often make mistakes when calculating Unit Economics. Here are a few of the most common mistakes people make:

Don’t Confuse the Types of Costs. 

Many entrepreneurs don’t understand Unit Economics or even how much it costs to make their products simply because they confuse the various costs, often lumping them together. This creates confusion in the best case scenario, and in the worst case, causes entrepreneurs to go bankrupt without understanding how it happened. Here are some common examples of how costs could end up being miscategorized.

Unit Economics Explained - Part 4: Advanced Unit Economics

The Unit Econonics in some businesses can be quite complicated. Airlines and schools are good examples. Airlines must understand how many tickets they must sell to Break Even, but each plane has limited numbers of seats. Therefore, the airlines must also understand how to Break Even on each individual flight. However, each route – with Austin to Denver being one route and Austin to Des Moines being another route – has limited flights that can be taken each day, so they must understand the Unit Economics of each route.

Unit Economics Explained - Part 3: The Formulas

Unit Economics are calculated using four separate formulas that build upon each other and use the various cost totals as detailed in Unit Economics Explained - Part 2: Units and Costs. The first formula calculates Contribution. Once you calculate Contribution, then you can calculate Break Even, then Pre-Tax Cash Flow, and lastly Payout. Below, we'll dig into each formula and run through an example business's Unit Economics from start to finish.

Unit Economics Explained - Part 2: Units and Costs

Units 

When calculating Unit Economics, you must first decide what unit you will use as your base unit for the calculations. If you’re a pizza restaurant, you could run the Unit Economics based on one slice of pizza as your unit, or one whole pizza. You could also consider one new customer as a unit, one customer visit, one table, one restaurant location, or even one whole city that you’re thinking of opening locations in. It’s not a bad idea to

Unit Economics Explained - Part 1: Why Unit Ecomics Matter

The single best tool for analyzing a potential entrepreneurial or investment opportunity is Unit Economics. Unit Economics answer three basic questions, perhaps the three most important questions to ask when analyzing a new opportunity: 
  1. Break Even – How many units must you sell in order to pay your monthly overhead? 
  2. Pre-tax Cash Flow – How much profit is this business likely to make every month? 
  3. Payout – How long will it take to recoup the up-front capital investment? 
There are plenty of other financial questions you could, and should ask, but many are more relevant to more established businesses. Other questions require different tools. 

Why These Three Questions?  

If Break Even is too high, then it’ll be hard to get the business off the ground, and the business will be at risk from

Monday, December 29, 2014

Bonnie and Clyde (a short story)

Where are my socks? I can’t find them. Where are they? I can’t find my socks. Somebody please help me find my socks.

Are you serious? Who cares about your damn socks. We’ve got to get you outta here. Your Aunt has been looking for you.

I need my socks. Where are they? Do you have my socks?

Joey… they’re gone. You know this. Everything is gone. Your house, Mom and Dad, your sister Sarah, half the city. There’s nothing left for us here. You’re coming with us, and we’ve got to go. Now.

Oh Melody (a short story)

The light filtered through the low clouds green and sharp, a pea green twilight in the afternoon. The air humid, still, and heavy. No birds or bugs or animals to be found. Too quiet. Everything feels tense and foreboding. No one should get dumped on a wicked-looking day like this. I do love her. I just don’t know if I’m in love with her anymore. Is it too late to go back? Have all our years earned me that? Is that even fair to her?

Sirens in my dreams sing to me. Come to our beds. We are warm and wet and breathy. We will take you down tonight.

No. They are real. Emergency sirens.

Melody! I have to get to Melody. I have to tell her things. I have to.

Fireside Moon (a short story)

“C’mon Edie, it’s time for Fireside. Hurry up! I don’t want to be late.”

“Oh, douse your rockets, Sophia. I’m coming already. The Elders mostly do this for us anyway. They’ll wait until we’re all there. After all, it’s your turn for a story tonight, and you’re just anxious to impress you-know-who.”

“Well, then hurry up for my sake. I still want a good spot close to the pit.”

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Last Chili Pequin

The last chili pequin died today. It’s a tiny shriveled up mess in the dirt. Is it OK to cry about a dumb little plant?

Saturday, September 1, 2012

I, Art-Whole

I just got home from an all day yoga/breathing/raw food/meditation/dance retreat, led by the wonderful Maya Papaya. A wonderful experience from start to finish, especially because of all the kind, creative people present. I hope I stay friends with at least some of them, if not all. And the food! Oh, the food. I need to learn to cook like Maya. Who knew raw, vegan meals could be so complex and delicious?

At the beginning, we all shared a word or seed that we were working on internally (mine was balance), and near the end we all shared insights we received from the event, assuming we had something worthy of sharing. Some pretty awesome moments came out of this sharing, but one thing struck me as somewhat...off.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Busy, Lazy, and Neglectful

Several of my friends and family have asked what I'm growing in my plot in the community garden next door to my house, if I've harvested and eaten anything yet, and why my garden looks different from most.

Austin Is the Deliciousist

Christiana, a fellow gardener in the quaint little community garden right next door to my house in the Clarksville neighborhood of Austin, took these wonderful photos of my strawberries the other day...before she even knew me! We met in the garden two days ago, she sent me the pics yesterday, I watered her plot today, and Saturday we're headed to a local gardening store.

Sustainable food communities FTW!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Sparky's Life Lesson #587

A couple weeks ago, my best friend, Peter, and I had some items to discuss regarding our gluten-free cleanse business, so we headed down to the Lustre Pearl, a rad Austin bar that's feels like a cross between a British pub and a barbecue in your cool friend's big backyard.

We found a table out back on the patio, since it was a nice evening. We were done within a half hour, but didn't quite feel like going home, so we stuck around to chat and enjoy the night air.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Unremarkable Me

I’m not remarkable. Not lately anyway, and certainly not at Acton. I’m not the top student in grades, top third at best. My team didn’t win the sales challenge nor any of the Operations course simulations. I won’t likely be the teachers’ selection for Student of the Year or whatever they call it. My business wasn’t selected by my classmates for the opportunity pitch project. Perhaps my most lasting impression on the program itself will be my recommendation of Po Bronson's What Should I Do with My Life, which was added to the Life of Meaning course reading list, or, more dubiously, my all-time top scores in several of the Pre-Mat simulation games. Big whoop.

Monday, January 31, 2011

The World's Worst Vegan

I once named one of my former real estate holding companies Squirrels in the Attic LLC. I had bought a triplex with several dozen squirrels living in the attic, and then they managed to come back again in even larger numbers on two subsequent occasions. The rival squirrel families fought bloody battles inside all the walls every day at dawn, which I thought was hysterical, but my tenants, not so much.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Difference Between Broke and Poor

I spent the first half of 2010 living and traveling in South America, largely in Buenos Aires. Most of that time, I had no money. As in, I often had to stretch 10 Argentine pesos (about US $2.50) out for a week or two at a crack. I frequently walked five or ten miles across the city to get home for lack of a single peso (i.e. a US quarter) for bus or subway fare. I even went without meals of any kind for two to three days on more than one occasion. Yep, I was that broke. However...

Saturday, August 7, 2010

How to Win at Connect Four

Today I and five other Acton MBA classmates volunteered to spend time hanging out with old folks in a rehab nursing home (i.e. old people who are sick or recently had major surgery). Specifically, we helped in the Alzheimer’s and dementia ward.

I’m really behind on my homework this weekend, and was up way too late studying last night. The “smart” thing to do would have been to sleep in a bit and tackle my homework all day. Plus, I’m usually more moved by environmental causes than social causes. That snooze button looked soooo inviting. I went anyway, because I knew at a gut level that this was important too, possibly more important than any single homework assignment ever could be. Important to me, to the residents, and to my classmates. I went, and I was right.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Superman Lives in Iowa

I just read an incredibly inspiring Des Moines Register article about my best friend John Craun's dad, also named John Craun. The man is 63 and, even though he only discovered the sport ten or twelve years ago, has literally become one of the world's best endurance kayakers, as well as possibly the world's finest custom kayak-maker.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Highly Leveraged Food

Below is a link to an excellent Grist.org article comparing GMOs to mortgage-backed-securities. Quite a compelling argument for anyone at all interested in, say, eating.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Monster Attack!

Earlier tonight, I heard a bunch of insane banging and crashing in the hallway, followed by my flatmate, Jordan, shouting, "AAAAA! Ohmygod! There's a monster! Matt! Matt! AAAAAAAAAA!!!"

Friday, February 26, 2010

Conquering the Devil's Throat

Most people visit the natural wonders of the world and just take and take and take. What can this park do for me? Not me. I give back.

A couple weeks ago, I traveled up north to Las Cataratas, aka IguazĂș Falls, the world's biggest and most impressive waterfalls (depending on whom you ask), with a beautiful French woman named Sophie.

Foamy New World

A few days after I moved here to Buenos Aires, my brand new, extra-special, make-you-live-forever electric toothbrush broke. I hadn't brushed my teeth in a couple days, and I had a date. So, on the way to the date, I stopped at a kiosco (one of the ubiquitous, itty-bitty convenience stores found on every block) and bought a toothbrush.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

You Load 16 Tons and What Do You Get?

Another day older and deeper in debt. "Tennessee" Earnie Ford would probably agree with an article I just read in the US News and World Report about a study of how losing your job, having your job security threatened, or even having a secure but bad job can increase your stress and consequently decrease your lifespan. Kind of ties in with my prior post. Here's the link:

Dancing the Night (and My Health) Away

Last weekend, I had friends in town, and we ended up staying up late Thursday, Friday, and Saturday night. We had a lot of fun, but it also ran down my batteries quite a bit. Add that to my already stressed out state, and, natch, I came down with a cold this week. I chalk this up as more anecdotal evidence supporting my theory that both stress and insufficient sleep weaken the immune system and, thus, age us faster.

Balls, Bones, and Bullets

Last night, I had two really disturbing dreams. In the first, I dreamt that I was diagnosed with testicular cancer and leukemia. A double whammy. I had to make the decision as to whether I would start chemo right away or wait a month or two and give all my alternative health methodologies and theories a try. You know, walk the walk and all that. Then I woke up and had to pee.

Puppy Power

Blog consolidation: I write other blogs with some interesting posts that fit this blog's themes. In the interest of simplifying my life and providing better and more consistent to my readers. I'm combining all my blogs here. This and the next few posts are oldies but goodies from my other sites.

I almost died on Wednesday. Well, not completely died, as in all the way dead, but I did get really worried that maybe I was about to die. I told you in the first post that I'd share some colossal failures, so here's the story.

My Eyes Will Smolder

Blog consolidation: I write other blogs with some interesting posts that fit this blog's themes. In the interest of simplifying my life and providing better and more consistent content to my readers, I'm combining all my blogs here. This and the next few posts are oldies but goodies from my other sites.

Just watched Twilight tonight, and finished the book yesterday. Yes, it's annoying and not that well-written. Yes, it's pretty un-feminist. Yes, it's addicting like crack, or as Edward Cullen would say "my own personal brand of heroin." Anyway, my review of the book and movie is not the point of this post. I'd rather examine the central question of the series, and the question most Twilight readers/viewers come to, which is: would you become a vampire?

I'm kind of torn. On the one hand, I'd get to live forever (as long as another vampire doesn't tear off my head and set me on fire). On the other hand, I don't like being cold. The thought of not having a heartbeat really creeps me out. I like my heartbeat. I also wouldn't want to have to eat that much meat, even if I could abstain from human blood and be a "vegetarian" vampire and just eat animals, like Edward and the gang do, though I could deal if I had to. Plus, as you've probably gathered if you know me at all, I don't believe I need to be a mythical creature in order to live forever. I'm convinced I can do that on my own.

So, is "no" my final answer? No, actually, it isn't. I would become a vampire, because of all the superpowers. Being that strong, fast, invincible, infinitely attractive, and psychic sounds pretty rad. A vampire's liiiiffffeee fooooorrrrr mmmeeeeeeeee.

False Idol

If humanity does not opt for integrity we are through completely. It is absolutely touch and go. Each one of us could make the difference.
-Buckminster Fuller

I had an interesting day. I lost one hero, got to chat with another, and rethought my whole life story.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Pursuit of Happiness

I have a Kindle. I love my Kindle. I buy and read books on it all the time. It's completely changing the way I even think about reading, which is big, especially coming from me, a full-time writer and English Lit major.

That said, I'm very unhappy with my Kindle at this exact moment.

Roots

I have a theory: most anyone who leaves their hometown eventually comes full circle and finds, creates, or, at minimum, yearns for the best parts of what they had growing up, often with a slight twist. City kids return to cities, but live in better neighborhoods. Suburban kids find a nice quiet suburb to live in, perhaps near the mountains or ocean or a more interesting city. Hippie kids from California move to Boulder. Hippie kids from Boulder move to California. Nomads buy a new camel. And small town kids return to small towns, but ones near their favorite cities to get their occasional urban culture fix. Apparently, I'm no different.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Wormholes: The Hidden Danger of Buying Local


I found a fold in the fabric of space-time today.

Go see this movie

Fantstic Mr. Fox

It's one of the best films I've seen in years. This enjoyable Grist review gave me a whole new perspective on it, specifically from a locavore/foodie's slant. Plus, who doesn't love Roald Dahl?

http://www.grist.org/article/2010-01-21-why-you-should-go-see-fantastic-mr.-fox/

Friday, November 13, 2009

Cheeseburger!

Earlier today I walked through the Key Bank parking lot right next door to my house, and I noticed a small stone memorial historical marker with some words etched into the top. Turns out the cheeseburger was invented...AT MY HOUSE!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

This Little Piggy Ran Barefoot Hundreds of Miles to Market

Just read a fascinating New York Times article about how humans evolved as excellent barefoot distance runners.

The conventional logic is that humans are physically inferior to most wild animals and that it's our advanced brains and community organization that helped us thrive. That never felt like the whole picture to me, especially given how harshly competitive survival can be in nature.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Most Important Letter I've Ever Written

"I prayed for twenty years but received no answer until I prayed with my legs."
-Frederick Douglass

Dear friends, family, and readers of my blog,

I recently read a fantastic but terrifying Grist.org article (and subsequent letter found near the bottom of the comment section) by Adam D. Sacks. Here is the link: The Absent Heart of the Great Climate Affair.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Damage Control

In the interest of unwinding any of the depression or despair my previous post may have caused, here's a quote from my hero:

We did not come to fear the future. We came here to shape it. I still believe we can act even when it's hard. I still believe--I still believe that we can act when it's hard. I still believe we can replace acrimony with civility, and gridlock with progress. I still believe we can do great things, and that here and now we will meet history's test.
Because that's who we are. That is our calling. That is our character.

-Barack Obama, Health Care Reform Speech to Congress, 9/9/09

Friday, September 4, 2009

Hold onto Your Hats and Glasses Folks...

"It's only after we've lost everything that we're free to do anything." -Tyler Durden

So this is what climate change looks like. Orange and eerie. Ash from California wildfires, greatly exacerbated due to longer, hotter dry seasons and unprecedented droughts, has drifted into Colorado's atmosphere. The sky is yellowish-orange; the sun, hazy orange; the sunset, spectacular and orange; the moon, an uncanny, big orange pumpkin, all night long.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Walden Lives

I just read a fantastic Jonathan Hiskes article in Grist.com on Henry David Thoreau and climate change and felt compelled to respond.

Like Hiskes, I too am just about to finish rereading Walden at the moment, first time in years. I noticed Thoreau's stunt aspect as well, but I'm reminded also of a bigger philosophy to his experiment that has less to do with environmentalism, economics, and book deals, and more to do with a personal philosophy on living.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Universal Mind at Work?

Seems as though the great (and I don't mean that sarcastically, he's one of my heroes) Thomas Friedman has been thinking along the same lines as my previous post. His most recent New York Times column discusses The Great Disruption of 2008 in both the economy and the environment, and how we (as in, the human race) have begun to move from basing global economic growth on the one-time-use of one-time-mining of resources to creating renewable resource flows for cradle-to-cradle closed-loop products.

In other words, we're knocking down the blocks that comprised the old ideas and economic structures so we can rebuild our society and economy in more sustainable ways. He's even optimistic about our ability to rebuild before the environment and economy are too far gone. If he's got hope, and if Obama's got hope, then I can have hope.

Here's the link to his article: The Inflection Is Near?

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Forget the Phoenix and Butterfly, I've Got a New Metaphor

Last night, I had a conversation with a really wise old woman named Carol. The discussion eventually turned to the economy. Carol told me a story of how she used to teach young children. The little boys in her class would inevitably end up at the back of the room playing with the building blocks. They'd build elaborate structures (or not, depending on the creative faculties of the child), and then knock them down in a loud clatter. Sometimes a flying block would hit a child in the face, maybe even hurting him, and he'd cry for a bit, but ultimately, the hurt would stop. More importantly though, they needed to knock down their creations in order to build something new and better and keep learning. Carol made the analogy that that's what's happening in our economy right now. I hope she's right.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Life Improvement Project

I went for a nice walk with a friend through the neighborhood this evening, as we so often do. We noticed that a Victorian house just a couple blocks down was about halfway through a big renovation job. The owners appeared to be doubling the square footage and overall footprint of the house, no doubt also doubling the value as well. Good for them, I thought.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Bee Wars: A New Hope

The bees were in trouble. I don't mean bees as a species, though that's also true. I mean my bees. Our bees. The bees in the beehive my roommate Jennie and I bought just three weeks ago. I heard Jennie shout from the yard. I ran outside to see what was wrong. About fifteen or twenty wasps were attacking the hive, stinging the bees to death, hauling them away for food, and trying to sneak inside the hive. I didn't know what to do about it.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

What I Love Most about Cities

Cities are always best at dawn and dusk. There's something softer and less imposing about a row of skyscrapers when they're mostly empty and the sky reflects blue and grey and orange off their shiny skin. Seeing a skyline just before the sun comes up or just after it goes down is like receiving a warm, spontaneous hug from your belligerent teenage child. That moment of vulnerability helps me remember why I love cities so much. There's so much innocence, so much potential wrapped up in those moments that I instantly forgive all the pollution, the traffic, the lack of green, and the daily, frenzied scramble to make a buck. Sometimes I just want to take the whole city right into my arms and cry.

Monday, June 2, 2008

The Economics of Man-Eating Lizards

My roommate, Jennie, and I popped out for a short run to nearby Jefferson Park and back last Saturday morning. We were headed down to Colorado Springs for her cousin's wedding later in the day, and we knew if we wanted some exercise, it would have to be first thing or nothing at all. The run part of our morning paused for intermission when we reached the park, as we sprawled out in the lush grass and clover for some high-powered relaxing. It's hard to resist the shade of big ol' trees like the ones in Jefferson Park on a just-warmer-than-crisp morning when you know the rest of the day, heck, the rest of every day for the next four months, is going to be scorching hot.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

My Bucolic Frolic: a Country Kid Goes Home

A couple weekends ago, I went back to my hometown in rural Iowa for my step-brother's wedding. Since I'd be in town for two or three days, I wanted to drive out and see the old house where I grew up. My dad, now deceased, built it himself. It's a pretty special place, really, at least to me. I only expected that I'd get to take a quick drive by, barely stopping a minute before I freaked out the current owners, but I lucked out.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Hang in There, Little Bees

Whoa. A report just came out that said the rate of bee Colony Collapse Disorder (AKA beehive collapse, AKA bee deaths) increased by 36% last year. More than 20% of hives have been dying off every year in recent years, and the death rate in 2007 was around 30%. In healthy, sustainable environments and bee populations, the number of hives that die are evenly replaced with new ones, resulting in a 0% net loss or gain in hives. Bees are our main pollinators. Without them, we don't have food.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

From an Email to John

John,

Thanks for reading my blog post! It certainly describes where I've been at lately. Kinda dark, honestly. I'm trying to elevate things, but it's hard these days. Every time I turn around, I read about bees dying, bats dying, salmon dying, polar bears dying, pine forests dying, icecaps melting, worldwide food shortages, increasing food costs here at home, storm intensity increasing, jet streams shifting poleward, songbirds getting wiped out, and on and on. It really scares me. I'm really beginning to wonder if we're a lot closer to total environmental collapse than many people would like to admit. I mean, several of these species are keystone species. That means that we can't survive too well without them.

Hot Sun and Black-Winged Angels

Today I witnessed a miracle.

It all started about four days ago when Jennie, my roommate, flew to Northern California to see family for a long weekend. She texted and called me probably 20 times since then, raving about how beautiful and green it is there right now… and about how beautiful and green Northern California always is. But especially this time of year. So verdant and lush, all the new flowers and bees and springtime sex in the air. This is something we don’t have so much of in Colorado, and I miss it.