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May 28, 2003

Another step.

Often times, events in our lives can be momentous and anti-climactic at the same time. I am leaving for Shasta soon. As it turns out, Shasta will be my first REAL mountaineering trip where the goal is to summit a big mountain. As I look back on how long it took me to get here, this is a big event. It doesn't feel as big as I thought it would, however, because of all the things I've had to do to get here. Many of the things were equally as challenging. I started top-rope rock climbing 4 years ago (I think). Even then, I knew this is where I wanted to be. Mountaineering. There were MANY MANY steps that had to happen in order to get here. Moving to Mammoth was one of the biggest, of course. It has enabled me to train in the mountains constantly. From top-rope rock climbing, to leading multi-pitch trad climbs, ice climbing, winter travel and camping, crevasse rescue and avalanche training. Not that all of those things particularly were necessary, but in my case, they got me here.

Of course, Shasta isn't an end either. Its just another step. Denali is looming. I still need to take many steps before taking my first step on that mountain and even if and when Denali is done. That too will be another step.

Posted by wonko at 10:24 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Shasta: Down to the wire.

My goal was to get the Kittredge server up at P3 with the essentials running on it. Unfortunately, I doubt I'll make that goal. Its just too risky to set it up then run off immediately where it could break and I wouldn't be around to fix it.

Our roommates are leaving this weekend, and our new roommates are moving in this weekend. Unfortunately, its all gonna happen on Sunday while I'm gone. There's a TON to do and very little I can actually do before I leave. But I need to get as much done as possible to help Sarah. Everyone is either moving in, our or up on Sunday, so it will be a nightmare.

Right now I'm going through my gear. Making sure I have everything I need and getting it up tuned up and ready. I'm a little bit nervous, just because we leave tomorrow and there's much to do.

To add to the stress, I have to wait for the cable guy tomorrow, who's supposed to be here before 10am. We're leaving at 12, so its imperative they get here on time, which is definitely a risk.

I'm leaving for shasta tomorrow at 12 no matter what. So in that sense, I know it will all work out.

Posted by wonko at 09:21 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 26, 2003

Biking in Yosemite

The North-East entrance to Yosemite is the Tioga Pass. Through it, you enter Tuolumne Meadows and eventually Yosemite Valley. The pass is at 10,000' and tends to close earlier and open late, due to snow. It is supposed to open next week and it is 'mostly' plowed. Before it opens, we decided to drive to the gate and bike in. Yosemite, for anyone who has ever been there, is usually a zoo unless you go far back country. Lots of cars and tourists. Being in Tuolumne before it opens was magical. Very beautiful and no one was there. You're not even allowed to bring bikes into Yosemite, but since it was a holiday before it opens, there were no rangers there to enforce it. We went in about 12 miles losing 1700' of elevation. Of course, we had to climb back up that 1700' in 12 miles on the way back.

I still can't believe I live here, where I have the opportunity to do these types of things. The rivers were raging and the snow was still everywhere. Its one thing to go to the gym and get on the stationary bike, its another to ride in one of the most beautiful places on earth.

From Tioga Pass back to the 395 is 8 or 9 miles of downhill road (Hwy 120). We decided it would be fun to bike, so we took turns. Derek biked down as I drove and then halfway down we switched. The computer on my bike said I got up to 51 mph. Very fun.

Click here for the pictures.

Posted by wonko at 08:34 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

May 23, 2003

Culture starts at the top...

In business, we say that a companies culture starts at the top. If the top of the company is greedy and dishonest, then thats how the company will act... even the employees that have never met 'the top'. This is true of most cultures be it government or social. There are software community cultures as well. Like the Open Source community, the Mac community and of course the Windows community. What made me think of this?
I went to the Windows edition of Version Tracker where they list when any piece of Windows software is released or updated. I couldn't help but notice these on the main page of recent updates. HTML Guard, East-Tec Eraser 2003 4.0, Spy Guardian Pro 2.02 , and @WinSpy 2.0. Except for the first one, they are all security programs of different types. Certainly, the Mac and Unix community have applications like this. However, what caught my eye was how many there were in the recent updates at any given time. Looking at the list above, it reflects two aspects of the community. Windows is inherently insecure by itself and requires 3rd party tools to attempt to shore things up. Secondly, the windows community of software developers has a different set of ideals concerning software etiquette and value. I'll explain.

The first app HTML Guard tries to prevent people from Viewing Source on a page of your website and copying that source, thereby protecting your IP (intellectual property). I doubt a program like this exists for the Mac. Why? Firstly, Mac and Linux people (for the most part) don't believe in that method of security. We call it Security through Obscurity. Try and hide the details so they can't get them or find a weakness. Secondly, the idea that you'd try and stop people from 'copying' the source code to your website is a foreign concept to Mac and Linux users. First of all, its impossible. Secondly something has been posted to your 'public' website, its out there. People can naturally copy, paste, republish and do whatever they want. If they republish it against your wishes, its up to you to find them and stop them. You can't prevent them from copying it. Back to the security through obscurity part, for the most part people who'd use this tool are trying to prevent people from stealing some bit of script like javascript, dhtml or css code. The idea that some little snippit of javascript published publicly on some web page being intellectual property is also a foreign concept to 'us'.

Then there's the spyware protection tools. Spyware is an application which was installed, usually without your knowledge or against your will, by a piece of software you CHOSE to install. These spyware programs do various things from report back to their source information about you or force you to see ads. This is not a virus or trojan, its a piece of software that the windows community sees as valid. To the other software communities, spyware, like SPAM, should be illegal.

My point? In a community who's 'top' lobbies for the rights of those who send unsolicited email, and tries to protect its software by hiding the details from everyone, the prevalence of software such as those above are less of a surprise.


Posted by wonko at 04:16 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

"Where is fancy bread?"

"In the heart or in the head?"
-Willy Wonka

It looks like after over 10 years, they are finally remaking Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, one of my favorite movies of all time. It was one of my first DVDs. Some people think that my handle Wonko comes from Willy Wonka, but it actually comes from The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galexy (So Long and Thanks for all the Fish). But it might as well have. Tim Burton will direct it, but no one knows who will be the star. Gamera and I had a chat about just that. Here are some of our ideas. Some are mine, some are his. Some are bad (most are bad), some are good. First here are the really bad funny ideas.

Jackie Chan
Jim Carey
Antonio Banderas
Kianu Reaves
Robert Deniro
Van Dam

Now the good ones:
Mike Meyers
Ewen McGregor
Christopher Walken
Val Kilmer (one of my favorite picks. You know, Real Genius Val.)

But finally an actor we both agreed on. Our first choice is!!!
Johnny Depp (Gamera's idea).

Any other suggestions?

Posted by wonko at 03:54 PM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

Wonko + Technology = sleeplessness

I have a problem with focus. I have always had a problem with focus. Its not that I can't focus on any one thing, its that I get too focused on one thing. In this case, its the Kittredge Intranet (for lack of a better term). Its coming along well, and is gonna be even better then I or any of them expect. Certainly, I've done larger projects, but I've never done a project this large, alone, from start to finish. Its a monumental task, which explains why its so tough just keeping it all in my head. I've got to network the physical office, get all the machines online and talking to each other, while at the same time secure the office from intrusion and each other. Then I'm setting up a single machine that will be the webservers for both Kittredge and P3. It will also do DNS, have a customer database, and have lots of virtual mail accounts.

For the mail I've decided to make it easy to administer and use, so I'll have web based user administration as well as give the users the ability to check and manage their mail over the web. Plus I'm adding spam and virus filtering to the mail server.

Anyway, I've been up late every night, getting up early every day. Its tough. I hope I finish some day. It doesn't help that its memorial day weekend, so they scheduled me tons of hours at the shop itself. Its 2am and I have to get up at 7am tomorrow to be at work at 8. I'll get off at 6 and get right back on the computer. The problem is, I'm always so close to that next solution to the current problem. Its difficult to put it down. Oh well. Off to sleep.

Posted by wonko at 02:13 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

May 19, 2003

Time to get serious about training! (Rock Chute? Check.)

Ok, how many times have I said that. But this time I mean it. We leave for Shasta next Thursday and I still do not feel in tip-top cardio shape! I've started going to the gym and doing more cardio though, so maybe I'll be ok.

Today, Bruce and I mountain biked for about 12 miles of varied terrain.

Yesterday Brandon and I hiked the Sherwins and did Rock Chute. I'd always wanted to do such a challenging line! Here are the pics.

Posted by wonko at 11:39 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

May 17, 2003

Grrr!! Computer make Adam MAAD!!

For work, I'm setting up this uber-server that will have mail, webmail, mailing lists, dns, our public websites, some databases, our intranet, etc... Given all these applications, I thought it would be easier to centralize user management with LDAP. I spent 4 hours wrestling with why everything but pam_ldap wouldn't work. Mind you, getting LDAP to work with TLS and SSL was tough, but no where near as painful as trying to make the system use LDAP for its users, passwords and groups.

I knew everything was installed ok because all the other LDAP applications worked. I just kept editing my /etc/openldap/ldap.conf file with different permutations to try and figure out what it was. Early on I found that RedHat comes with a GUI tool to edit that file, but since it doesn't give you many options I didn't bother with it. 5 hours later, I decided to look at it again. To my surprise it hadn't picked up my new values. Bells started going off. I looked around and sure enough there was an /etc/ldap.conf!!!! I had been editing the wrong file for 5 hours! You may think that sounds dumb, but in my search for answers I consulted every guide, HOWTO, FAQ, and forum I could find. ALL of them talked about the ldap.conf in /etc/openldap/. Thank you RedHat. Thank you for arbitrarily moving the file and not telling anyone or documenting it. I'll be sure to return the favor.

Still, I enjoy doing this type of work, especially when I can begin right, ensuring easier management down the road.

Posted by wonko at 10:20 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

May 14, 2003

Parliament on Spam

Thanks to Gefilte for this one.

UK Parliament on Spam.

Posted by wonko at 03:44 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Technology fails me again.

I ordered a product online last night... and once again I held my breath as it asked me for my shipping address. You see, Mammoth Lakes does not have home delivery. Its actually the largest population town in the country WITHOUT home delivery. As a consequence, I ONLY have a PO Box. I can not get mail delivered to a home address, but I HAVE to use that PO Box as my billing address since thats the address on the card. In the cases where I HAVE to ship UPS, because that is the only option given, I have to give a physical address. I usually give Rite-Aid where Sarah works. Its never easy though.

The problem arises when a company WILL ONLY SHIP to addresses listed on the credit card. I called the company I had ordered from and explained my dilemma. They told me I had to call my credit card company and have the additional shipping address (rite-aid) added to the card. They went as far as to say it would be easy, people have two addresses on cards all the time. I told him the new address and assured him I would immediately do that, so they could run the card and ship the product. I called Wells Fargo (who never tells you how to actually speak to a person), and asked them to do just that, add the second address. They refused saying they could only have one address per card. I explained my dilemma, I live in a town that ONLY has PO Boxes, so I occasionally use my wife's work to ship to. She recommend I change my address on the card to Rite-Aid. I tried explaining that I do not get mail at rite-aid, just occasional shipments. She stood her ground. I asked what people in my situation do? She again stated I could permanently change my address. I again stated that was not an option. We went around like this for some time before I gave up.

We'll see if I get my product.

Posted by wonko at 09:55 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

May 13, 2003

The downward spiral: Happiness in 30 days or your money back!

Prologue: I started writing this entry over a month ago. I'm finally ready to post it now that the groundwork has been lain. So here goes.

I started reading Green Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson over a year ago. I quickly read the beginning, but by the middle, it was getting slow and terse (though not uninteresting). This, and the corresponding high volume of change in my life happening simultaneously, stalled my reading of the book to 1 page per week or so. Finally, I got into it heavily as it got interesting, and finished it.

As it happens, it seems that waiting to finish it was the right thing to do, as my perspective on a lot of the issues it covers have changed and solidified. Reading it now gives it whole new meaning to me. It's helped me consolidate some of the ideas I had previously been thinking of separately. I haven't come up with answers yet though. It is ironic however that the bookmark I was using is a Midnight Special bookmark, which is also where I bought the trilogy. This has deep meaning, as even Midnight Special finally succumbed to progress and was forced off the 3rd St. Promenade. They are looking for a new home, but have yet to find one.

These books give the reader the ability to consider issues on such large scales, giving one new perspective on OUR current issues. The book portrays a theoretical future, based on assumptions about our current course as human kind not changing what appears to be our current ideological priorities. Seeing our current direction taken to its ultimate extreme helps amplify its problems. It seems that the world is on this bizarre circular path where the oppressors are fully supported by the oppressed, like some sort of global Stockholm Syndrome. I don't know if its always been this way, or just in modern times, but it is beginning to seem obvious to me that it is easy for corporations, governments and lobbies to control 'the masses'. The promise of some happy, worry-free, materialistic life, seems to keep people blindly believing almost anything, even if, in the end, it is detrimental to them. People view it as short-term sacrifice for long-term gain, which coincidentally never comes for most.

Then I see this and this article, about Nike, which totally confirms my beliefs. Its about how Nike is appealing to the Supreme Court a case they LOST, claiming "Nike's defense of labour conditions in its factories represents false advertising." In other words, a U.S. court of law agreed that Nike DID have poor labour conditions in its factories, and lied about it to the media. What's almost more disturbing is that Nike is not arguing with the claim that they have poor labour conditions overseas, they are just asserting it is their first amendment right to lie about such things.
First of all, why isn't this big news again? Oh yeah, the 'War.' Or is it? This began long before the war started. It's more because corporations have become adept at PR, and in many ways, the 'objective news' IS just another outlet for their PR efforts.

I spoke to Won and Tom J. (some of my co-workers) about this today. Won argued that the problem was that most people had no soul and were too dumb to realize it. He blamed social pressures to get married and raise children, leading the 'normal life', as the cause of our current materialism. Tom and I disagreed. First of all, I have to believe there are those out there, more intelligent than myself, who are going down this false path to enlightenment. I argued that programming from a young age can lead to people who fully support the notion that material gains can bring happiness, never living among people who disagree, thus never knowing they may be wrong. Kids can be taught anything, and as long as those around them support those beliefs, they will go on believing it, regardless of whether it is true or not. Won argued that if you asked the average American on the street what they are really passionate about, what they really cared about, their heads would explode from the stress of reality. I countered that most Americans see the choice in front of them, and choose the wrong path, knowingly. If I were to try and convince a high-paid lawyer, for example, that my way of life, which puts happiness above money, is the right way, he would not listen. He already thinks my life is insane. How will I continue to make more and more money? Where will I find the money for nice things for my family? What will I do about retirement? These questions justify his materialistic life.

Going back to the apparent, infinitely cyclical nature of our current society. A year ago, while at a Mariot Hotel in Oakland, CA waiting for Sarah to finish her board exams, I had a thought about how it appeared capitalism worked. I just went searching through my blog to see if I had written about it anywhere, but apparently I haven't. The closest I came, was this entry. Basically, I believe that capitalism, in its purest form, creates, perpetuates, and further polarizes economic classes. The rich DO get richer and the poor DO get poorer, though it isn't always so obvious. My insight came as an illustration. Rich builds a widget (for arguments sake, this is probably a luxury item, like a car). It costs Rich $1 to make. He, through creative advertising, convinces middle class Joe (here-for referred to as Joe) that Joe needs this widget. How does he convince him that? Rich explains that if Joe had this widget, Joe would be more like Rich, which is what Joe is already convinced he needs to be. Joe takes the bait. He buys the widget for $2. Once enough Joe's have been convinced that buying this widget will help them, Rich is able to raise the price to $3. Of course, Rich is also able to lower his manufacturing costs due to the high volume, making the widget for $.50. So, while Joe believes by buying these widgets he is getting closer to Rich, he is actually distancing himself. Worse still, as Rich gets richer, products and services which Rich buys will get more expensive as those above Rich play the same game. Joe happens to ALSO be a consumer of many of these products and services. By making Rich richer, he makes the things he buys more expensive, thus making him relatively poorer. Is there a flaw in this logic? It appears to me to work this way.

While in LA, listening to talk radio, which I miss greatly. I caught a program on NPR where they were interviewing a British author named Niall Ferguson who recently wrote a book called 'Empire: The Rise and Demise of the British World Order and the Lessons for Global Power'. They mostly talked about how that topic relates to America today. At one point a UCLA History Professor called in to disagree with the authors stipulation that despite the humanitarian disaster of British imperialism, most continents are better off for it. The UCLA Prof asserted that there were many successful governments in Africa before the brits came and there is no reason to believe they wouldn't be in a better place today if it weren't for the wars, revolutions and death that British Imperialism brought. The book author countered by asking if the Prof really believed that the citizens of Africa would really have a higher GDP today, if the Zulu empire was still around. At this point, the Prof obviously had the same thought I did. He began, before being cut off by commercial, to explain that he used a different criteria when analyzing whether they'd be better off and his criteria had more to do with people than economics.

This short discussion exemplified my observations that most Americans (capitalists) equate how well off one is by the amount of economic freedom they have. Given this criteria it is easy to see how America helped the rest of the world by not only showing them that they could never be happy without money, Nike shoes, Levi pants, nice cars, etc... but also agreeing to become economic partners with their countries through imports and exports, helping them create large corporations and further polarizing those countries economic classes. For example, while on a holistic level we all agree that the fall of the eastern block was a good thing. Many of the individual citizens in those countries are far worse off now than before. It wasn't until we pointed out to them that money was in fact the measure of well-offness that they became poor (lower class), even though we had always labeled them that way before. They were never told. They lived their lives with what they had not realizing that they needed Nike shoes in order to be happy. Luckily, we fixed that.

Much of this can be traced back to the industrial revolution. There was a time when most towns were self-sufficient. There was no viable way to attain the necessary daily needs from outside the town in any reliable manner, so they maintained this self sufficiency out of necessity. They grew the foods they needed, built the things they needed, made the products they needed, etc... Along came the industrial revolution and the idea of small scale import/export. I say small scale because large scale import/export trade had been going on for a while between nations. All of a sudden, a farmer in a small town, who provided many different crops that the town needed, came to realize that he could grow one high profit crop instead of many low profit crops and send them off to the city in bulk. This would give him enough money to buy all the necessities he could not provide for himself, as well as giving him money left over. (Money for what anyway? He was already self sufficient). Ahh, but greed has its price. Now these people and towns were no longer self-sufficient. Instead they had to individually make enough money to buy the things they previously provided for themselves. While on the surface the idea that they would end up with more money NOT being self sufficient was plausible, we can observe now how it was flawed. The economies of scale afforded to larger operations soon forced these farmers (and other trade workers) to compete by lowering their prices, maybe even using cheaper materials. Soon, not only did they not have all this excess money they thought they would, now they couldn't even provide for themselves in the way they had before. This happened all over the world in any nation that capitalism gained a foothold. Yes, GDP went up, but in many areas, quality of life went down.

One question I have to ask myself is, why, once it was obvious that not being self sufficient might be actually harder than the former, why didn't people do something about it? Maybe by attempting to become self sufficient again, as individuals and towns? I think the answer is because by that point, we were thoroughly convinced that the American Dream (which by this point had changed from owning property, to being wealthy enough not to worry about money) was attainable to any American with a little elbow grease and sacrifice. Indeed, people still believe this today. News flash: most Americans will never be in a position to not have to worry endlessly about money. Most American's will never be wealthy, or even well-off financially. However, some recent polls suggest the average American is not so aware of their predicament. In this article we see that 41% of Americans believe they will be in the top 1% at some point in their lives. So it appears the system worked, as long as people believe THEY can be rich, they will support their own oppression. The most blatant example I have, is Amway. When I was 16 I went to a friend of mine's house whose parents were in Amway and wanted to talk to us about it. Beyond the chilling notion that they were marketing to 16 year olds, they told us that a key Amway ideal was that you had to act rich in order to become rich. You needed to dress nicely in an expensive suit, drive a nice car, etc.. That's because the people around you will trust you more, think you are more reputable, if you appear wealthy. Heck, if YOU made it, you must know what you're doing. If you look rich, you can convince others to join Amway. This being so important makes sense since the real money behind Amway isn't selling products, its selling Amway. This is capitalism unfiltered and at its purest. Convince people they can attain what you've attained and they will follow you.

Obviously, I'm making many gross generalizations about capitalists. In reality, there are many small business owners who believe in capitalism as a way to provide for their families without taking advantage of others. They believe in making money, without compromising their integrity. This may even be a majority of 'small' business owners (though I doubt it). However, most small businesses fail within the first 5 years, and the number is actually increasing. We see it every day, huge conglomerates leverage their larger buying power to put small businesses our of business. How many companies in how many fields were put out of business by Wall-Mart. In the past decade we've seen unprecedented consolidation between the largest of corporations, further distancing the large businesses from the small. In a previous blog entry, I cited other examples of how large companies can leverage their sheer size to destroy their smaller competitors. Its naive to think products live or die on their quality.

Here's a great article encouraging higher taxes for the poor, in order to make it fair for rich people.

So where is this all heading. We live in a world that is becoming more and more greedy, self-centered, and materialistic. I tried rationalizing that people are becoming more self-centered because they really DO see how bad it is and believing there is nothing they can do to change it, they make the best of their lives, regardless of how it affects others. But simple observation seems to contradict this view. People AREN'T acting like we're on the downward spiral. If so, they'd be trying to have a lot more fun. No, its almost worse, they believe we are actually making 'progress' as a society by clinging to these materialistic values. People actually believe being well off, monetarily, and ones general well-being are synonymous. As before, I believe it will take some huge event (probably some sort of catastrophe), to enable real change. Until then, I'm going to keep preaching and having as good a time as I can in the time I have.

Posted by wonko at 10:18 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Steve's Graduation: How Mel Gibson graduated in 2 minutes.

I attended Steve's graduation at Loyola Marimount University (LMU) in LA this weekend. Like all graduations, it was a long, boring affair. The big surprise of the day was when they gave out an honorary doctorate to Mell Gibson for giving the graduation speech. I was astounded, they announced him as exemplifying the ideologies and teachings of the school, a Catholic school I might add. They then went on to list, as, I can only guess, his qualifications, his accomplishments as an actor, such as staring in such blockbusters as Chicken Run (not joking). I immediately look at my wife, who EARNED her doctorate. I was thinking, "why did you labor through school so many years when you could have just been famous.

His speech was disjointed and rambling. It didn't seem to have any central point or message. I was left with no lasting words of wisdom. I'm not sure he ever graduated from high school. Where is this world coming too anyway?

Posted by wonko at 12:53 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Where Cnation went wrong: lessons in business.

While in LA I had a chance to talk to my friend Matt, whom I started and finished Cnation, my last company, with. I'm going to write a brief history of Cnation in another entry in case you don't know. We were young and naive and this was our first foray into the business world, much less running one. In hindsight, we didn't do such a bad job for our first business. Obviously we didn't do everything right or Cnation might still be around. I'm also writing an entry on what I got out of the Cnation experience, but thats another matter. I know this may be a sensitive topic for those who worked at or invested in Cnation, but I think its behind everyone at this point.

Of the things we did right, the respect for our employees was our biggest achievement. We really cared for them and wanted each of them to be as successful as possible. We did not have an us and them mentality as in most companies. Whether the company would still be here if we had not made the mistakes we made is debatable. I personally do not think it would. All of our competitors went out of business the same time we did. There was such a panic in the industry, I really don't know what could have saved it. Plus, most of our clients were dot-coms, who coincidentally went out of business at the same time the web shops did. :)

We did make a couple very expensive mistakes however. The biggest single mistake was by far hiring Steve. Its not that he personally cost us a lot of money (though he did), as much as the ramifications of the decisions he made during his tenure. I think other businesses can learn from these mistakes. OUR first mistake with Steve was trusting him as much as we did. As the owners we should have scrutinized his actions more, but we blindly believed he was doing what was best for everyone. He certainly lobbied enough to keep us out of his affairs, which should have been our first sign.

By the end of '99 we had a large amount of cash on hand. What was done with that cash was a huge mistake. We DID need to move if we were going to grow. At the time we had no way of knowing the industry was on the brink of disaster. Our plan from the beginning was to NOT spend all of our earnings on the move, but only a portion of it. We also had parameters on how much we thought we should spend each month on Rent. Without our knowledge or consent, that all changed. Indeed, we didn't know by how much we'd blown through our money on the move until after Steve had left. Between Steve's $60,000 wall of shame, all of his late architectural and construction changes, and the rent which was over double what we had expected, all of our profit from '99 was gone before we could count it.

What should have we done with that money? Firstly we should have paid off any debt we had. Secondly, we should have put some away. Thirdly we should have distributed some of that money to shareholders. Unfortunately, the real losers were the founders. When it was all said and done, it was the founders who were left with massive amounts of debt. I believe our employees were paid well and with only a few exceptions, not asked to take pay cuts or forgo paychecks for any length of time. Meanwhile I'm left with six digit debt. I won't completely blame that on Cnation. Sarah and I probably could have spent less during that time, but we were hardly big spenders. Our only large indulgent purchase was our car and even then it wasn't that insane given our income. Our rent was not insane and we did not take vacations or purchase other insane luxuries. A lot of our personal debt came from helping the company when it needed it. Like paying for the $1000 social hours personally when the company couldn't.

Which brings me to my next point. I do not think people, or new companies understand the cost of the varying forms of debt. We didn't. In many instances, it is necessary for a company to borrow money. One just needs to realize the consequences of the varying FORMS of debt. For one, I don't think a company should ever force its founders, officers, or employees into debt. By force I mean borrow money from them above their means. If a founder wants to invest in the company thats one thing, but if he/she does it on debt himself its just too dangerous. Along the same vein, secured loans or LOC are never a good idea. Things would definitely be different today, even if the company had still folded, if it had helped get the founders out of the debt it had created.

Our first president, David Simon, used to say that the top priority of a public company is to increase shareholder value and that the top priority of any private company was to decrease tax liability. It seems overly simplistic, but there's a lot of truth in it. In '99 we were trying to sell Cnation. Steve thought that showing a large profit on our '99 tax return would help us out. It also broke that cardinal rule stated earlier. A small company should never feel guilty for avoiding taxes in mostly legal ways. Remember, the largest corporations in America pay little to no taxes. In some instances, the government ends up owing them money. It was worse for Cnation as an LLC because technically, it was the responsibility of the shareholders to pay that debt. By reporting a large profit on our taxes, I (and the other founders) ended up with 5 digit tax debt, on top of the taxes we already paid. I am still paying off my '99 taxes to this day. Any purchasing company would have understood there being two books, one for taxes, and one for acquisitions. Without explanation, they would have understood why we showed small gains, or even a loss on our taxes, but claimed to have a large profit.

Finally, and most controversially, the issue of what we did with our employees as we ran out of income. We felt a tremendous amount of loyalty towards our employees and were very hesitant to lay any of them off. We believed that keeping them as long as we could was in their best interest. I now doubt whether this was true. After getting laid off, almost all that tried have gotten better paying jobs. In order to keep paying their normal salaries, we had to delay paying payroll tax. As it turned out, this delay became indefinite. The cost of this decision is not even totally known yet. One could easily argue that we had to keep people as long as we could to make us more attractive to a buyer, and who knows.

Like in all things, it was no one thing, but rather a chain of events. If we had had more money we would have paid our payroll tax. If we had distributed money, we probably still would have gone out of business when we did, but at least everyone would be in better shape. There are a hundred permutations. One things for sure, its not enough to come up with an idea and start a business. A friend of mine who is just graduating from business school wants to believe it is.

In the final analysis, I'm sure I'm much more business savvy given my ability to look back on Cnation's rights and wrongs. Yet, I'm STILL not sure how to be successful in business. There is still so much out of your control, and so many companies who you'll compete against who'll cheat to win (and they will)... It might also be that I'm just jaded from my Cnation experience. Only time will tell.

Posted by wonko at 12:46 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

May 11, 2003

Old Cartoons

Watching old cartoons you realize just how egotistical Americans have always been.

Its obvious that given what we know today, these cartoons would never be allowed to be shown to children. It's just humorous today to see what we were teaching our children through cartoons back then. It seems so innocuous until you ask yourself why they covered some of the themes they did in the first place. Cartoons about how beautiful the giant redwood forrest is and how by cutting its elderly trees down we can make nice neighborhoods with big houses. Does that come up by accident? I'm not talking about animated cigarette commercials with Fred Flinstones. These were cartoons on saturday morning. Its actually humorous seeing our depiction of other peoples like Native Americans (Indians), orientals, hispanic, etc... Humorous in its complete lack of political correctness.

TV is very influential. We do not want to admit that because by admitting the TV is influential, we are admitting WE are gullible. But, if a good majority of us watch TV and think they can never be 'had', we are probably fooling ourselves. If a majority of us WERE NOT taken in by TV ads and the like, they wouldn't make them as dishonest as they do.

Posted by wonko at 09:08 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

May 09, 2003

Another Perfect Day

May 9, 2003 Today was definitely one of the best days of the year. I was SUPPOSED to have a meeting at P3 with my bosses at 12pm. I went to the gym with Sarah and Bruce at 5:30am, got back at 7:30, ate, picked up Rusty and Jimbo and hit the hill, expecting to only ride until 11:30. When we got there, it was obvious a lot of fresh snow had fallen the night before. The top of the hill (the real sweetness) hadn't opened yet and a large line was growing at the gondola at mid-chalets for a chance at first tracks on the top. We decided it wasn't worth it to wait in line so we took laps on the lower gondola, which was running. At around 10:30 we got on the lower gondi, just before we reached mid-chalets they decided to open the top. So even though we had not waited in line at all, we were the 4th chair up, something unheard of. Indeed, as we went through mid-chalets, we passed a bunch of Rusty and Jim's friends who had been waiting in line since 8am. I called work to inquire :) about the meeting. Won told me he still hadn't heard anything. After getting to the top we got first tracks down Monuments and headed to the lower gandi for another lap. By this time, 11:30, this would be my last lap, unless a miracle happened. I called work again, they still hadn't heard anything, so I called the big boss, Tom.

Me - So Tom, I was just calling to ask about this meeting today?
Tom - Where are you? Me - I'm on the gondi. Tom - How are the conditions? Me - The top just popped. Its amazing! Tom - Sounds like you should ride, don't worry about the meeting. Take a run for me.

And there was much rejoicing. We ended up getting laps on scooter pie/White Bark Bowl, and the backside until 3pm. Dropped Rigley's (a 10' rock drop) again. Launched off the cornice over Santiago Bowl. Ripped through the trees under 14.

I told Rusty the other day about how, when I get a little sketched because of the terrain, I just sing James Bond music in my head and it pulls me together. He dug it so much he kept telling the various people we met up with. We all kept singing various theme songs on the gondi each lap.

Another great day!

Posted by wonko at 11:52 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Work, play, snow and LA.

I'm on my way to LA. Having Sarah drive makes me updating my blog much safer. I haven't been as active in my blog lately, but I've got some excuses if you're interested. First of all... the snow. I took a picture I meant to post, but then forgot. I'll post it when I get back. Needless to say, its been snowing like crazy in Mammoth for the past couple weeks. Seemingly getting stronger as the Summer gets closer. There's as much, if not more snow on the mountain than our best day in december. The 18' sign at the top of the mountain is completely covered. Given the conditions, I'm confident you'd do what I've done... ride like mad, all the time! Which is precisely what I've been doing, thanks for the suggestion. I've been having some of my best snowboarding days, not to mention meeting lots of great interesting people. I've mostly been riding with Rusty and Won, though I did get to ride with Jimbo today, who, besides being similar in some ways to Rusty, is definitely someone I can have fun with. Riding powder is an amazing feeling. Its so fluid, natural, and yet unnatural. I've begun taking natural hits (jumps) and drops. What an amazing feeling to be flying through the air in a giant stick, only to land softly and ride off at mach speed. I'm lucky to have met a couple guys who know the mountain well and have been able to show me all the best spots that no one goes or knows about.

But it hasn't all been play. My boss, Tom, and I have been meaning to meet for weeks about what I'm gonna do this summer. We finally met and I'm happy to say they're gonna do everything I say, without question. First of all, they're gonna pay me double what I make now for the computer work I do. Plus, I can make my own hours (read, play during the day, work at night... such was my bosses suggestion). I'll be setting up networks at Kittredge and P3 and linking them together via a VPN. I'm in charge of buying all the hardware and setting up all the software. They were so anxious to get started they took my recommendation and bought the Dell server I wanted that very next day. I'm in charge of taking over the website and email from whoever they currently have it with and setting up everyone with email, creating useful, inter-office email lists, etc... I'm excited about the work and the amount of freedom I'll have in it. I'm sensitive to their cost issues, but will make sure and get this done right. So this summer, I'll be working much less in the stores (maybe 1 or 2 days a week) and more on the computer stuff, which is more than fine with me. Next winter, they'll have me in the store more again, but hopefully, even then I'll be able to work puter stuff one day a week at home. As it is I'll only be working 3-4 days a week this summer, but making more than I do in the Winter.

Shasta is coming on quick and I've got lots of training to do. All of this snow, and its associated snowboarding has really cut into my training. I was expecting (though not really hoping) it would stop snowboarding so I could focus on training, but it hasn't. I'm putting training first, going to the gym and making the sacrifice riding AFTER training, which isn't much of a sacrifice above the soreness and pain in my body from doing double duty. Tonight, I can barely walk, but its all good.

Posted by wonko at 11:51 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 05, 2003

New RSS Feed

For those of you that use NetNewsWire, or another RSS newsreader, I changed my RDF template to include comments. You will probably need to unsubscribe and re-subscribe to see the changes. You can get the feed here.

Posted by wonko at 07:49 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

May 02, 2003

Of all the financial wizards, it was Rusty that figured it out.

A lot of people put a lot of mental effort into figuring out how the system works and trying to beat it, but It was Rusty that figured it out. Who is this Rusty you ask? Some high powered financial analyst in Manhattan? A veritable captain of industry? Nope, he's none of these. He lives right here in Mammoth Lakes and doesn't work very hard. During this winter, he was bar-tending at Little Eagle a two or three days a week and managing at Angels Restaurant two nights a week. He usually gets 5 or more days a week to snowboard. So what did he figure out? He's achieved what few 'experts' and business leaders have... financial independence. He has no debt, and money in the bank for rainy days. He doesn't work a lot, but he ALWAYS puts money aside, never spends as much as he makes. He starts simple low interest funds like taking all the singles he got in tips in a given day and putting them in a jar. He's found he can make an extra $500-$1000 per month by putting away little bits of money like that. He does not worry about where the money for rent will come from.

So what's his secret? Does he work really hard to make extra money? I wish I could say that was true. He has a good work ethic such that when he's AT work he works hard, but he doesn't work all that much. This summer he's gonna work his two days a week managing Angels, where he doesn't get paid all that much, and thats it! He's just working 2 days a week and still doing better financially than most LA bigshots! The trick is, he has VERY few financial commitments, and does not spend near what he makes. It takes BOTH of the above to be as successful as Rusty. Even if you spend less than you make, if you have a lot of monthly commitments, it only takes one or two dry months to find yourself in debt, increasing your monthly commitments. Eventually you will be in a hole you can't dig yourself out of. Indeed, many 'successful' people in the mid-90s who seemed to have it together as they were making a lot, but spending less, they lost it all when the well dried up and they still had to make their high monthly car, boat, house, etc... payments. On the flip side, if you do not have many financial commitments, but don't spend less than you make, it will catch up with you and you will find yourself in debt, with lots of monthly commitments.

In this way Rusty reminds me a lot of this guy I knew in high school named Jamie. We used to play hackie sack before, during and after school. I always had to go to his place because he didn't have a car. One day I asked him why he didn't have a car. He responded, "If I wanted a car, I'd have to get a job to pay for that car, and then I'd only be using the car as a means to get to work so I could earn enough to pay for the car." Even at 16 I knew he was on to something. He'd figured it out long before I had. I didn't really figure it out until I was 25!

Rusty is very frugal. Its not that he doesn't spend money, its that he only spends money on things that matter. He doesn't spend money on expensive food, or going out, or drinking. He goes on trips, saves money so he doesn't have to work as much, has a nice snowboard. He lives meager, but he's one of the happiest guys I know. He enjoys life, is good to the people around him, does not have an attitude, and almost never has money problems. A lot of the people who have lived in Mammoth for a while get kinda bitter. Bitter that they can't make more money, that they are surrounding by rich people who flaunt their money, that they have to snowboard with 'amateurs' who are new to town and not as good as them. Rusty does not seem bitter about any of this. He just enjoys life, people and riding.

Yup, he figured it out. Hopefully, in time, Sarah and I will find ourselves in a similar position. The most important thing is that we've recognized where we want to be, and we've begun the journey getting there.

Posted by wonko at 12:04 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

P3 Online!!!

They just installed high speed DSL at P3 where I work, and I must say, I'm happy as a clam! Now I can be more productive than ever before... at least with my personal stuff. :)

Posted by wonko at 10:53 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 01, 2003

A new product you simple can't live without! Isn't that amazing!

A good friend of mine told me recently about a product called Coral Calcium he was thinking of buying. He'd seen an infomercial for it and it looked really good to him. Of course, I'm a skeptic, so I wrote it off. This morning he called me to tell me the 'show' was on TV and I should watch it. I caught the tail end of it, but was not impressed. First of all, it was one of those infomercials that claims to be a 'show' where on guy is interviewing another. In this case it was Kevin Trudeau interviewing Dr. Robert Barefoot about Coral Calcium. I've seen Kevin before doing the Mega-Memory commercials, the math commercials etc... I could just tell from the words they were using they were stretching the truth. After the show my friend called me back and told me again how interested he was. I told him I would do him a favor and look it up on the net to see if I could find anything about it. Of course I did, and it was mostly bad. Coral Calcium is HUGE right now. Lycos even did a report on how much searches for Coral Calcium have gone up in the last couple months. Its becoming the latest health fad. If you search for Coral Calcium, the first couple pages will be for people selling it or extolling its virtues. I'm sure this is not an accident (ie, Google Washing). If you look harder, however, there's plenty of information exposing this fad as a hoax.

In my search to expose this fad, I found a good number of great references for researching these types of claims and commercials. With the accessibility of information the Internet facilitates, no one should be caught off guard by these types of claims. So, for your reference I'm including a number of links to sites where you too can become informed.

Posted by wonko at 02:30 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack