Archive for September 2013

Thoughts On Startups, Braintree and Paypal

Last week Paypal bought a company in Chicago called Braintree. They make software that processes credit card payments. They guys at Braintree are smart (on some levels), but also a bunch of arrogant jerks. I am sure they will fit right in.

I once attended a presentation by a Braintree big shot. It was either the founder or the CEO. He said that he has spent all his career in startups. He also said he would rather hire someone who is young and smart than  than a middle-aged developer who has spent all their career at an insurance company. I was pretty shocked that someone would admit to age bias in public. I was also struck by the Startup Psychosis this guy had. See, according to people with Startup Psychosis, those corporate people are just not flexible in their thinking, especially corporate people who want to transition to a startup environment. But if you have been in startups your whole career, by definition you have agile thinking! Really, you do! Tell yourself that, because that is what makes it true!

It seems strange to me that people in the startup culture all think the same, talk the same, all read the same books, yet they all tell themselves they aren’t conformists like people who work in government or corporations. I still say that governments and corporations are more likely to produce goods and services that people actually care about.

I kind of hate it when people say they just want to hire smart people and do not care about what your experience is. Whenever I talk to those people, I always get told that they want someone with 5 years of X and so-many years of Y. I don’t claim to be the smartest person in the world, but I am smarter than some of the people at these “we-just-want-smart-people” firms. Maybe some of the people I interview with don’t like me. If you don’t like me, just say so, I won’t be offended. If you don’t like me, I probably don’t like you either.

I think that part of it is that a lot of people who say “we just want smart people” might believe what they say, but don’t realize that they might not want what they think they want. Also, I think some firms want younger guys because a younger guy will work longer hours because he doesn’t realize he doesn’t have to let some jerk walk all over him.

I attended a technology meetup at Braintree, and some young punk (with an Apple laptop, of course) said he did not understand why they had an Android API. After all, he said, “Everybody has an iPhone.” I told him I did not have a smart phone, and there are a LOT of people with Android phones.  I said, “Maybe everybody you know has an iPhone. That’s not the same thing.” He seemed offended, but frankly he deserved it. If you think you are a smart person, and you also think that everyone is like you, then you are not that smart.

It is interesting that they sold out to Paypal. A lot of people do not trust Paypal. One of the reasons some firms use Braintree is: They are not Paypal. That reason just went away. I predict a lot of people will look at alternatives. I doubt I will ever see the agreement, but for now Paypal is saying they will not get involved with Braintree. If the guys at Paypal and Braintree think anyone believes that, they are idiots. If Paypal is not going to muck with Braintree, then why did they buy it? And if Paypal changes their mind, Braintree can’t say no. If they think they can, their definition of “ownership” is different than everybody else’s on the planet.

If the CEO thinks that Java developers at insurance companies can’t change their stripes but Paypal can, then he might have more flexibility in his thinking than I gave him credit for. Or he’s just sucking up to his new masters.

This transaction exemplifies one of the fallacies of capitalism: That anything that happens in the private sector benefits all involved parties. Paypal gets some good technology. The big shots at Braintree get to cash out. The users of Braintree just lost their main reason for using Braintree in the first place. This transaction is wonderful for all those VCs and big shots who have spent all their lives in startups, but it is not good for the customers. Telling your customers to hope people they don’t trust won’t change their minds is not a good long-term plan for your customers.

If I know that some people use Braintree simply because it’s not Paypal, then I have a hard time believing the guys at Braintree were not aware of that. Yet they sold to Paypal anyway.

Enjoy your money, guys. Nobody will ever trust you again.

Image from Reddit, assumed allowed under Fair Use

Cleaning House

The main purpose of this site is just to give me a place to express myself, even though there is rarely anybody reading.

I have a job, and I try to stay current in my field, so posting here is not always a priority. But sometimes this site can cause me a bit of stress. I start thinking of things to post, or I keep having a train of thought on a topic, and I tell myself for the 10,000th time I should write it down and get on with things.

I have a few text files on my laptop that I use to keep notes, ideas and links. And over time they build up and get a bit chaotic. I may just occasionally go through and post links and short thoughts on the topics when I feel that the files are getting too big. I doubt that I will do this on a regular schedule.

Image from Wikipedia, assumed allowed under Fair Use

Star Trek And Evolution

Star Trek has a history of touching on social issues. One of them is religion.

Although it is fiction, and deals with technology that may never exist and aliens who look a lot like humans, sometimes it does express a skeptical/scientific view on things.

There is a quote about evolution in the Enterprise episode “Dear Doctor” that I liked:

Evolution is more than a theory. It is a fundamental scientific principle.

Phlox, to Archer

Interesting that Memory Alpha has a page on evolution. Here is a quote from that page:

Ronald D. Moore commented: “Trek […] accepts evolution as a believable and valid theory. Gene himself felt this very strongly and although we do try to embrace many points of view and many beliefs, there are some matters on which we do make our feelings known. That said, I also think that anyone within the Trek universe who espoused a “creationist” or similar view as to the origins of life would find their beliefs respected — “respected” being fundamentally different than “believed.” (AOL chat, 1997)

I don’t know if Gene Roddenberry actually said these quotes, but his page on Wikiquotes has quite a few about religion. Here are two that I like:

  • I condemn false prophets, I condemn the effort to take away the power of rational decision, to drain people of their free will
  • We must question the story logic of having an all-knowing all-powerful God, who creates faulty Humans, and then blames them for his own mistakes.

Image from Memory Alpha, copyright owned by CBS, assumed allowed under Fair Use.

The Queen Of Useless Technology

The “Technology Is Useless” theme has a couple of major sub-points: Most of what is going on in the technology space is not as innovative as many people think (especially the people doing it) and it is not being directed towards serious problems our society is facing.

Part of the cause of these is that a lot of people in the technology/startup world are not as smart as they think they are, and many of them live in a bubble. Maybe it is impossible to be a human and not live in a bubble. But if you are really so smart, you should at least be aware of it. I do not mean living in an economic bubble, but more in the sense of living in an echo chamber, and associating with people who think the same way you do.

Technology is pretty male-dominated. It may be impossible to declare a King of Useless Technology. But I may have found the Queen: Danielle Morrill. At this time, her blog has a picture of San Francisco at the top of every page.

Her tagline is “I can see the future, because I live in it today.”  What sort of future do you live in? Do you get electricity from a fusion reactor? Do you have an electric car with a range of 500 miles? Are your goods shipped in a cargo vessel that is powered by a nuclear reactor instead of diesel? That is the sort of future we need to working towards. Not going on and on about startups over and over again.

She also says “I’ve received most of my education in business working for my father’s finance consulting company, Reliant Consulting & Research, from the time I was 12 years old.” Finance consulting is another example of uselessness. How many people do you need to hire to refer people to Vanguard?

Now she runs some company called Mattermark. It  “Provides Powerful Tools for Researching Startups”.

So it’s a startup about startups. Is it a bubble within a bubble, or a bubble around the bubble?

She closed a prior startup she ran because she did not want to become a “zombie startup“, which she defines as “startups out there who are still ‘operating’ but might as well not be”.

More startups fit that definition than you think.

Image from Wikipedia, assumed allowed under Fair Use

Google And Innovation

I read an article recently that people should stop complaining about Google since they give people a lot of good free services, and they are one of the most innovative companies out there.

This article is relevant to the “Technology Is Useless” theme because it has a couple of interesting points about innovation. It mentions the self-driving car and Google Glass. I have no interest in Google Glass, but it is sure different than a lot of things out there. It points out that most of the startups are pretty derivative: “Foursquare for fitness enthusiasts,” “Instagram for poets” etc.

“It’s ${pre-existing startup} for ${some demographic niche}.” To a certain degree, there is nothing wrong with that. But let’s not call that innovation. Don’t expect people to be excited. Do not assume that you should be taken seriously simply because you are a startup. If someone were to ask me what I thought of a company described as “Instagram for poets”, my response would be: There is an “Instagram for poets”. It’s called “Instagram”.

On the other hand, the “Chevron of Deuterium” would be interesting.

Image from Wikimedia, assumed allowed under Fair Use



Tumblr Ladies

I will start a list of Tumblr sites with pix of fit ladies.

More sites to look at:

Tumblr sites: – not many pix – plays a song – good stuff – good stuff – possible defunct, has some good stuff – good stuff – possibly defunct – good stuff – good stuff – possibly defunct – up through Oct 2011


Added stuff on 2014-01-21_00.16.01

Image from Google Search, assumed allowed under Fair Use

Thoughts on the Star Trek Videos

I watched a couple of episodes at the Star Trek site.

One nice change is they are not playing commercials during the commercial breaks. I hope this does not cause them to lose income and eventually take the videos offline again.

I also noticed only Enterprise is in widescreen format. The other series look more primitive. Perhaps the fact that the older series are starting to look a bit dated might be part of the impetus for a new incarnation of Star Trek.

I think they should have put Troi in the standard uniform from the very beginning. She looked good in it. I think towards the end of Deep Space Nine Kira also wore a standard Starfleet uniform. I think that should be standard for all women.

Image from Memory Alpha, copyright owned by CBS, assumed allowed under Fair Use.

Star Trek Videos Are Back Online

It looks like most of the videos are back up at the Star Trek site.

I noticed a couple of days ago that I could watch an episode. I waited a couple of days and tried again. Last night I watched an episode of The Next Generation. It turns out there are a few episodes of The Next Generation that I have not seen.

I have not seen any articles online saying that CBS and Time Warner solved their dispute. I did not do a search for any. I found out about the freeze because articles about the dispute showed up all over. I assumed that articles about any resolution would filter throughout the web, but that did not happen.

So thanks to CBS and Time Warner for working things out. Group hug, everybody.

I might go to Boise, Idaho in a few weeks for my job. Perhaps I will watch some of the episodes I have not seen while I am there. I might not have access to a car while I am there, so I will need something to do. Although, I think I would prefer to drive.

Anyway, I can hold off on the Netflix subscription for a little while longer.

Image from Memory Alpha, copyright owned by CBS, assumed allowed under Fair Use.

Thoughts On Syria, Protest and Unintended Consequences

I saw a few posts on Business Insider about military members saying the USA should not intervene in Syria. (See the posts herehere, and here.)

I have also seen a few articles online from conservatives saying we should be careful because intervening could have “unintended consequences.” Some of the same commentators saying we are moving too fast on Syria are the same people saying that Obama did not act quickly enough in Libya.

Should active duty military be speaking out on policy? Can I yell at them that they are not “real Americans”, just as some people yelled at me at anti-war protests during the Bush administration? Yes, there could be unintended consequences. News flash: Every policy could have unintended consequences, whether it is pushed by someone you voted for or not.

A lot of people did not want to hear about any potential negative results from attacking Iraq. I guess a lot of people thought the Iraqis would buy mega-mansions, fill them with big screen TVs, and drive SUVs to mega-churches. Sectarian conflict, providing practice for al-Queda and a stronger Iran were considered impossible. And woe to anyone who was not on board.

It seems like a LOT of people only see potential downsides to military intervention when we have a Democrat in the White House. It seems okay to openly defy a Democratic president, as Colin Powell did over gays in the military.

I am sure there is always debate in the military over every policy all the time. Why is it that it only seems to become public when we have a Democratic president? Why do so many people turn their brains off and just obey when we have a Republican president?

In one of the posts, there is a photo of a soldier saying they do not want to fight for “Obama’s al-Queda rebels”. You guys had no problem fighting for Bush’s Shiite thugs (many of whom got support from Iran), so why is this an issue now? Another says he did not sign up to die for corporations. I am guessing he was not in the military when Bush and Cheney were running things.

Image from Wikipedia, assumed allowed under Fair Use

2013-08 Dividend Income Report

It is time for the dividend income report for August, 2013.

The dividend income for the month was $305.11. The income for 2013 up through the end of August was $1978.40. There was a semi-annual dividend from Vodafone this month. Without Vodafone, the income was $249.23. In May, 2013, the income was $242.65.

In 2012, the income for August was $316.04 with Vodafone, and $262.87 without Vodaphone. The income for 2012 up through the end of August was $2110.57.

It looks like Verizon will be buying the 45% of Verizon Wireless that Vodafone owns from Vodafone. So far I do not know what Vodaphone will do with the money that it will get from the deal (if it happens). The choices are a special dividend, or to reinvest in the company.

Here are the stocks:

  • AT&T: $25.45
  • WGL Holdings Inc: $13.12
  • ABM Industries Inc: $8.05
  • Lowe’s Cos Inc: $9.40
  • Vodafone: $55.88
  • Clorox Co: $37.66
  • Air Products & Chemicals Inc: $10.72
  • Abbott Laboratories: $7.35
  • Colgate-Palmolive: $35.61
  • Hormel Foods Corp: $7.89
  • Northwest Natural Gas Co: $24.67
  • Procter & Gamble: $32.84
  • Texas Instruments: $14.70
  • Eaton Corporation: $21.77

Image from Wikimedia