Giving

I just completed my 89 year old uncles income taxes (2 weeks later than promised) and am humbled by the amount of money he gives to charities that matter to him. And he does that on an income that is less than we pay in rent every year. He splits a box of Kraft dinner over multiple meals so he can afford to do this. Often a meal is a biscuit and tea. Selflessness like this is rare in our world today.


“Heavy production pressure”

I like Michael Turton’s take …

In Normal Accidents, Charles Perrow’s classic analysis of technological systems and the accidents they foster, Perrow observes that “when we have interactive systems that are tightly coupled, it is ‘normal’ for them to have this kind of accident, even though it is infrequent.” Such accidents are an “inherent property” of technological systems, and we have them because our industrial society is full of tightly coupled, interactive systems with great potential for catastrophe.

Here in Taiwan the omnipresence of tightly coupled systems — systems in which a failure in one leads to failure in another — operating in an atmosphere of intense production pressures and a lax safety culture has caused me to reflect often on Perrow’s insights. Everywhere you look, you see normal accidents.

Notes from central Taiwan: Taiwan’s normalized accidents


True Fans

I read this essay years ago and am rereading it after being reintroduced to it via an email list subscription. While the thesis of the essay feels true to me, getting these numbers of fans is harder than creating the work worth paying for. Time, patience, grit and luck are all required.

To be a successful creator you don’t need millions. You don’t need millions of dollars or millions of customers, millions of clients or millions of fans. To make a living as a craftsperson, photographer, musician, designer, author, animator, app maker, entrepreneur, or inventor you need only thousands of true fans.

A true fan is defined as a fan that will buy anything you produce. These diehard fans will drive 200 miles to see you sing; they will buy the hardback and paperback and audible versions of your book; they will purchase your next figurine sight unseen; they will pay for the “best-of” DVD version of your free youtube channel; they will come to your chef’s table once a month. If you have roughly a thousand of true fans like this (also known as super fans), you can make a living — if you are content to make a living but not a fortune.

1,000 True Fans


I’ve got a cold

This is only notable because I can’t recall having anything close to resembling a cold or flu since the pandemic started, and for the simple fact that somehow despite following all protocols, I still managed to catch a virus. I suspect, at some point I touched my face prior to washing my hands, likely at the gym.

I slept poorly over the weekend which may explain why I am exhibiting symptoms – which are mild, but being a male, they feel exaggerated and I am left wondering how I will get anything done today.


Liberty requires sacrifice

Not just America, but Canada and much of the West.

The pandemic has illuminated a set of imbalances in American society. The most profound among them is the growing disharmony between the individual and the community.

In recent decades many Americans have conflated liberty with selfishness, adopting the notion that freedoms are self-sustaining, that liberty is a birthright that no longer requires sacrifice or collective action. They denigrated the institutions and traditions that yielded our freedoms in the first place and serve as the connective tissue holding the nation together. These attitudes are societal comorbidities, and when the pandemic hit, the results were tragic. Despite having just 4% of the world’s population (and nearly 30% of the world’s wealth) America suffered 25% of reported covid-19 infections and 20% of its deaths.

Scott Galloway on recasting American individualism and institutions


HK Disney, 2007

In 2007 Catriona and I flew to Hong Kong, and after I finished my business at the TECO office, spent a day at Disneyland. We had a perfect day and all the pictures I have are of her smiling and me a ball of sweat – the temperatures were likely over 35°C. I was at that time extremely over protective of her, and had a fear that she would wander off on her own, never to be seen again. Hence I had her wear that foolish card around her neck with all her personal info. in 2 languages.


福州肉包

The kids love these meat filled steamed buns purchased at the grocery at the corner of Belvedere and Mt. Edward Rd, across from the Physio clinic. Steamed buns of various types were a staple of their elementary and middle school lives, and though not as good as fresh they are a nice treat, and provide a dose of nostalgia. During my short period of time living in 福州 (Fuzhou), they were a frequent addition to the meagre breakfasts that were available at the company cafeteria.


Taxes

My mood today matches the weather outside. Gray, cold, and slushy.

Sheryl prepared her taxes a couple weeks ago and the prognosis was poor. I’ve been procrastinating completing mine because I know too, that mine will also be grim. In the most challenging economic environment we have ever faced we will end up owing the government money this year. We applied for no business funding, nor received pandemic relief. We fall in the cracks for just about every available program – we pay cash for dental and the egregiously expensive eye exams. Thankfully, we don’t pay to visit the doctor. We don’t desire help, and are used to being self-sufficient, but the Islands extreme taxation, low salaries, and high cost of living makes cutting a cheque to the federal government painful to say the least.


Sometimes it takes time …

.. or in my case too much time.

In 2018 I was sitting in perhaps one of the worlds great cafés drinking tasty coffee and working on an app called Sleep Tight Stories. An app that would get finished, but sucked, and then transformed itself into one of the worlds most popular podcasts in its niche.

I never could revisit that code, in part because I no longer could understand what I wrote, and because it’s nigh impossible to find someone locally willing to write in Swift (on the cheap). Also, I’ve been working 7 days a week on something else.

Now that I have a few days a week to devote to creating new products, it’s time to revisit that bad code, write a tech. spec, and find someone online to help write the parts I will never be able to do alone.


Meat

When naming this business they really got to the point. Certainly not to be confused with a vegetarian restaurant, Meat offered Roma Cuisine in a secluded alley off the Main Street near the East Gate of Hsinchu.


Wither Startup Zone

Recent changes at the Startup Zone prompted me to jot down my thoughts on the changes, which then became a too long to read article, and now a still too lengthy TLDR bullet point post.

  • While not without it’s faults, the Startup Zone has provided tremendous value for me (and others) during the time I have been a resident company. Weekly stand-ups, coffee chats, workshops, access to an incredible breadth of advisors, social events, water cooler talk, and the accelerator program are just a sample of what I participated in.
  • While modelled after other programs, Startup Zone’s focus on small local business’s makes it unique; nowhere else could I participate in a meeting with a freelance designer, material scientist, dog trainer, Saas company CEO, fitness trainer and someone developing products for cancer survivors.
  • There is no other place on PEI where a remote worker, entrepreneur, or fledging business owner can simply congregate. No other government organization as willing to help get you started and support the ongoing development of your business.
  • Startup Zone CEO, who was "from away", left to return to Halifax to raise his family. The fact that this was an abrupt transition speaks volumes. The marketing and events coordinator left shortly afterwards, as has the office admin. This leaves the running of the space to an overworked temporary operations manager who is filling in for a maternity leave.
  • A new CEO, a local hire, has been selected but won’t start until sometime in November which in the real world means the organization is without leadership for a year, or more. An inexperienced local entrepreneur-in-residence has been hired for an unadvertised position.
  • This is turning out to be a fine case study in how a tone deaf board can run to the ground a valuable community resource.
  • It’s also a case study in how not to change leadership.
  • What little communication there has been has been cold, opaque and without an ounce of empathy.

Anyone who has worked in any kind of corporate environment for a period of time has seen leadership come and go. I’ve witnessed many of these transitions, and this is perhaps one of the worst I have ever seen (no communication, no knowledge transfer etc. etc.). It reflects very poorly on the board and it’s a shame that the community that has benefited so much from this resource, and Islanders in general, may not be able to rely upon the Startup Zone in the future.