Trading up.

In my industry, demand is quite elastic. There are wild swings in the amount of tooling companies are willing to buy. In bad times, the demand almost dries up. You need cash reserves to weather the bad times. In good times, demand explodes.

We’re in the good times right now.

It’s a nice problem to have, but it is a problem. We can’t expand the business to meet the demand as quickly as the demand builds. If we do, we end up with massive debt load that leaves us vulnerable to the next (inevitable) downturn. So we grow slowly. This isn’t like software firms, where VCs throw vast quantities of money at unknown properties.

The banks understand our valuation quite well. And we have to pry the money from their lifeless hands. There are no reams of money being thrown at the manufacturing sector, unless you go to China or India. They haven’t yet decided they can run an economy on music downloads and Facebook. They don’t think that’s a great idea.

All that to say we can’t just buy a bunch of machines and hire a bunch of people. We can’t. So we grow slowly, at a measured pace.

And we start pissing off our customers. We’re giving them longer and longer delivery times. During the bad times they take it for granted that we can turn tools around in a decent amount of time. The boom years roll around and… no such luck.

This is a good thing. We can afford to piss of a certain segment of our customer base. We can afford to tell them “no”. We can even afford to tell them “go somewhere else”. Mind you, all the tooling houses will be saying the same thing.

During the boom times, there’s an entire segment of the industry sliding around, looking for a better suppliers. We need to trade up.

We shove our least-loved into someone else’s arms and go after the good fruit. See ya. Good riddance.

It’s also a great time to trade up in business strategy. To clear our minds and grab some focus. We no longer need to do whatever comes our way. We can chase volume, if that’s what we want. We can concentrate on making better tools, for more money, with fewer people, for clients we want to work with, and retire, well-monied, to our respective cottages. Nothing wrong with that.

Google Reader Shared Items 2011-04-24

  • Roll cloud spotted over Toronto

    Roll Cloud TorontoA rare roll cloud was spotted over Toronto yesterday evening. We don't normally post about weather — unless it’s extreme — but given how spooky-looking these things are, I'll break that rule. Formed by downdrafts associated with thunderstorms, these clouds detach from those around them and appear to "roll" slowly around a horizontal axis. Although they look like tornadoes turned horizontal, they're not actually dangerous (nor will they suddenly turn vertical).

    Nevertheless, they’re damn cool looking. That is all.

    Roll Cloud Toronto

    Update (April 24th):

    Here are some very cool photos from Billybee57 on Flickr, who caught the cloud just as it arrived at Toronto’s skyline.

    Roll Cloud TorontoRoll Cloud TorontoPhotos one and two by dieburg401 and Jim Bartlett, respectively.

2011-04-24: Tweet Beat

  • I didn't realise how much FASTER Firefox 4 is… until I had to us FF3 on a Window 2000 box. #
  • That one time, I helped this guy, and he keeps calling me. #
  • Why would you turn that osnap off? It just doesn't make sense! #
  • I'm in Toronto, listening to an indie station from Atlanta. This is truly a golden age. #
  • I can't tell you how many times I forget the difference between "effect" and "affect". #
  • Y U NO HAVE TOOL DONE!?!? #
  • Good morning, Twitters. #
  • I'm hustlin'. #
  • There are some things money can't buy. For everything else, there's bittorrent. #
  • There are some things you can't download. For everything else, there's Bittorrent. #
  • Herd immunity, people! Don't fuck with it! #
  • I kind of want a Kindle. #
  • My goodness, that is an UGLY UGLY CHILD. Perhaps a paper bag with eyeholes is in order. #
  • More coffee. More power. #
  • I can't find this tool. Incredibly frustrating. #
  • Found the tool. Still incredibly frustrated. #
  • Anybody who has a MobileMe account should be laughed at and teased until they cry. #
  • We're at a point with HDTV were convenience matters more than marginal quality improvements. DVD still wins for that. #
  • CDs weren't replaced by a newer, better CD format. They were replaced by downloads. We can look forward to this for movies too. #
  • Yeah, that's right, I can talk about theology AND laugh at a RAGEFACE in the same 10 minutes. LIKE A BOSS. #
  • So yeah, I'm getting me one of them Kindle doohickies. #fb #
  • Internet > Calibre > Dropbox > Aldiko. Very easy way to access my books… anywhere. #
  • Tax return was just deposited! Yay! #
  • Calibre auto-syncs to the Kindle. How nice is that? I just formatted & sent my entire collection to it. #
  • Fixing metadata is very frustrating and very satisfying. #
  • Man, this takes me back. Changing nameservers and whatnot. #
  • Laura and I just had a long talk about church and stuff. Not sure what we're going to do about our current situation. #
  • That does NOT smell good. Oy. #
  • I see the innovative spirit of America, that great machine of commerce, slowly grinding to a halt. So much sand in the gears. #
  • We have GOT to get away from calling housing an investment and trying to get everyone into a house. It's economic suicide. #
  • Episodes is really really funny. #
  • I keep looking at the price of Kindle ebooks and thinking "that's way too much". #
  • Why should I pay approximately the same amount for a product that has had most the associated costs removed? #
  • And that's why we don't say things when we think them. #
  • Dear Obama, Let's say Manning broke the law of the land. How does it follow that we should treat him like shit, pre-trial? GAH. #
  • Photo: http://tumblr.com/xho28m5afd #
  • Photo: http://tumblr.com/xho28m5us0 #

Google Reader Shared Items 2011-04-23

  • Interview in which Russell Brand is clever, likable, and well-spoken

    Shared by DanielDeboer

    Watch this. I identify with this guy. You think he’s something, but he’s something else.

    I’m not a huge Russell Brand fan (I’m don’t dislike him either, but most of his media came out after my daughter was born and I essentially embarked upon a half-decade adult TV and movie fast), but this is a remarkable interview. Brand gets some tough questions from the interviewer, and while he gets excited and even rants a little, he is consistently cogent, intelligent, and well-spoken. This is practically a master class in how to talk about celebrity while being a celebrity without sounding like a knob.

    Russell Brand On Newsnight [Full Interview]

    (via Reddit)


  • Found Next To The Irony Section

    (Bookstore | Albuquerque, NM, USA)

    Customer: “I need to find [diet and exercise book].”

    (I go and look up the book for her.)

    Me: “Alright, it looks like it will be in our wellness section. Let’s head over there and grab it.”

    Customer: “You go get it. I’m tired.”

  • Quote #8262
    <sile> all i know about america i know from popular media :S
    <Palomides> sile: likewise for most americans

    ++ |

Google Reader Shared Items 2011-04-22

  • How to Make the Perfect Cup of Coffee

    If you, like me, consider coffee something close to the Eighth Wonder of the World, you might want to keep reading.

    I was recently in Seattle and had the pleasure of sharing a meal with the author Neal Stephenson, a lovely man who’s also a part-time inventor at Intellectual Ventures. (He has worked on, inter alia, I.V.’s hurricane-busting device.) As delicious as the food was, it was nearly eclipsed by the coffee Neal served afterward. He made it in a French press, which is how I make coffee at home. But it tasted far superior. I’m not the kind of person who typically asks for recipes — especially for coffee. But in this case, I did.

    Turns out that Neal picked up his coffee technique from Chris Young, the acclaimed Fat Duck chef (and food scientist/writer) whom Nathan Myhrvold brought on board at I.V. to create Modernist Cuisine, the landmark cookbook featured in our twopart podcast “Waiter, There’s a Physicist in My Soup!”

    Photo: iStockphoto

    Chris was good enough to send along his coffee recipe, which I’ll reproduce below. I’ve started to make coffee in this fashion and, while the placebo effect may be polluting my reality — I haven’t done any blind tastings, nor much experimentation yet — I have to say that the coffee is amazing. One key step  is to “skim” the grounds from the top of the coffee before plunging. This is a weirdly satisfying thing to do, especially when you let the grounds “bloom” in the press pot, as described. (It also makes cleaning the French press easier in the long run.) So if you’ve got the energy, desire and resources to try to make the perfect cup of coffee at home, take a look. Experiment. Let us know how it works out. Thanks to Neal, Chris, and the assorted forefathers of the technique.

    French Press Coffee, by Chris Young:

    Neal tells me that you’re interested in further details of the French press coffee technique that he uses. I can’t claim the technique is mine; I learned it from my friend James Hoffmann. James is a former World Barista Champion and has a wonderful blog covering all things coffee. James has a great video of the technique here.

    I’m fairly certain that James learned of the technique from another World Barista Champion, Tim Wendelboe from Norway.

    Here is the basic theory of the technique as I understand it:

    1. The brewing ratio is critical. So using a scale to weigh the grounds and the water will make a remarkable difference to the consistency of your coffee. I like 70g of grounds per liter of water. My press pot will hold about 700g if water, so usage 49/50g of grounds to the hot water.

    2. Grind size matters. For French press, the coffee should be ground coarse and have a uniform particle distribution (actually the distribution is trimodal, but that’s a tangent). Only burr grinders can achieve this. If you don’t have a decent burr grinder, have your beans ground for French Press by a reputable coffee shop. (BTW, I recently looked at good burr grinders for home use and can highly recommend the Baratza virtuoso preciso. A bit pricey, but really the only decent one IMO at an almost affordable price point.)

    3. Keep the brewing time consistent. I use 4 minutes for the grind size I use and will adjust the brewing ratio to find the ideal strength for my cup of coffee. Grind size, brewing ratio, and brewing time all interact, so adjusting only the brewing ratio helps me from getting confused when I’m dialing things in for a new batch of beans.

    4. I will usually not cover the press during the steeping. I like to allow the grounds to “bloom” as much as possible. Anything that prevents this tends to yield an uneven extraction from the cake of coffee.

    5.  Skimming makes an amazing difference. I was shocked just how big this difference was when I first tried it, but it makes sense. The basic French Press design allows a lot of the “fines” from the coffee to pass through the plunged screen. These fines continue to steep in the coffee, resulting in very over extracted coffee with a bitter taste and a muddy mouthfeel. By skimming the cake of swollen grounds before plunging, you’re throwing out a lot of these fines, so you end up with less overextraction and a cleaner mouthfeel.

  • Why “Church” In Suburbia

    Shared by DanielDeboer

    Could not be more on the nose. The best preaching, the best worship, the best programs… if people go to church and don’t feel like they’re part of the family, if they feel isolated or whatever, you have a problem.

    I was talking with my friend Steve the other day and he brought up an interesting thought. What would draw someone to church in American Suburbia (this certainly applies to other contexts, but mine is suburbia so that colors lots of my conversations).

    Now, before you go giving me all of your “holy” answers that people are drawn to your church because of Jesus and love and all of that, let me clarify the original thought. When you ask many people in suburbia what drew them to a particular local church over another, their answer usually falls into one of three categories: 1) the kids program, 2) the preaching and/or 3) the music. Yes, many people in in suburbia choose a local church based on personal preference, but let’s think about what draws people.

    The kids program is understandable. Suburbanites want the best for their kids, even if it means raising their kids to expect to be catered to and entertained, even while learning about God. I have lots of thoughts about suburban church kids programs but not right now; it’s the music and the preaching that I want to think about today.

    Let’s be honest, many people are drawn to certain local churches because of the music and the preaching. But let’s be honest, I don’t need a local church to get great music or preaching. With the rise in technology, I can access some of the world’s best bible teachers any time I want. I can listen to men like Mark Driscoll, Matt Chandler, John Piper, Tim Chester and (even though he’s still a holdout who charges for his sermons) Tim Keller (please don’t use the comment section to air your beefs with any of the names I just mentioned, that’s really not the point). In other words, I can, at any time, listen to a sermon that’s probably “better” than any local preacher around me. Any time I want.

    Or, consider the music. Many of our local churches are all singing the same songs so I guess, it comes down to some as a question of “band preference” or ambiance. But, why should I go listen to your band when I can listen to Hillsong do the very song you’re covering? “The live atmosphere,” you might say, but I can put on a live Hillsong DVD, crank up my surround sound system, fill my living room with my kids and get a live experience. Or better, yet, I’ll go see Hillsong’s live movie in the theater. Or better still, I’ll go see them when they tour with Chris Tomlin on the mega-worship tour experience!

    Despite my cynicism, I understand the draw of preaching and music, I just think we need to think a little more below the surface. If I have access to the world’s best music/preaching at any time I want, is it really the preaching/music that draws me to a local church? Well, sort of. After all, why don’t we just video in the world’s best preachers and musicians while we all get together on a Sunday morning? Yes, I know about “video venues,” but this is not the norm and I think there are good reasons.

    The music and the preaching become different in the context of a local gospel-centered community committed to living together as part of God’s family on mission, sent to serve the world and continually learn to walk in His ways. The music takes on a different light when we sing it with people we are experiencing life with. The preaching takes on a different light when it is directed to us and our specific context, our struggles, our victories, our community.

    Though we might have access to the world’s best preaching/music any time we want, the Christian life is not meant to be a solitary existence. The point (at least part of the point) of the music and preaching is not just to equip the individual but the community.

    But how often do we hear people say that they were drawn to a local church family precisely because they lived together as family? Maybe this should be our focus? Maybe we should concentrate on laying down our own preferences and rights for the sake of others. Maybe we should know enough about the person sitting across the aisle from us to weep with them when they weep? Maybe we should know their name first? Maybe, if we strive to build true gospel-centered community, the music and the preaching will come alive in ways we never otherwise expected, because really, it’s not about our preferences in the first place.

  • April 22, 2011

    Today is my 2,222nd comic. You’ll have to wait 1,111 days for another day like today. Also, tomorrow: 18 panel EXTRAVAGANZA.


E-books are too expensive.

I’ve got a Kindle now. It’s a great device, and I really like it. It’s a lot easier to read a Malazan Book of the Fallen of it, as opposed to trying to hold up 700 – 1000 pages of book. It’s quite nice.

But ebooks are too expensive. They really are. I mean, there are free ebooks, and low-priced ones, but they’re not really anything I want to read. For the most part.

The ones I want to read are priced (maybe) a bit cheaper than physical editions.

But why? Why would I pay more to buy a product where the most costly part of the product’s production had been removed? It’s electronic. The wasteful, inefficient, expensive process of actually printing, binding, distributing, and selling of the book has been removed. That process must count as at least 75% of the cost of a traditional book. So for a paperback, I should be paying anywhere from $1 – $2 by my reckoning. This is what I consider to be a fair price. For a new release book, maybe up to $5.

That’s where I’ll stop. If you expect me to pay more than that, you’re crazy. I’m not made of money. I’ve bought only a very few books in the last couple of year because I’m not made of money. And here comes this revolutionary new book selling and distribution system that drives the cost of selling and delivering a book down to approximately zero (I know it’s not, but it’s close, especially if you think of Kindle books as loss leaders), and Amazon expects me to pay approximately the same amount as a hard copy.

I’ll say it again: That’s crazy.

Google Reader Shared Items 2011-04-21

Google Reader Shared Items 2011-04-20

  • Pandas watch a sneezing baby human on Youtube – 22 Words
  • Homemade upright bass banjo – 22 Words
  • Look At The Left One, Look At The Right One. Your Mind Is Now Blown.

    Look At The Left One, Look At The Right One. Your Mind Is Now Blown. Gif - Look At The Left One, Look At The Right One. Your Mind Is Now Blown.

    Tagged: art, gifs, loop, mindwarp

    Submitted by:

    apollogesus

    submitting a LOL that makes it to the homepageVoting 1000 TimesAdding 25 Friends

  • Did Apple Really “Steal” Their iPhone Design From Samsung? [Pot, Meet Kettle]

    This image has no alt text

    Take a look at this picture. Take a good look at it. On the right? an iPhone. (I’m not sure which revision, really.They all look the same to me.) On the left? Well that’s a little fellow from Samsung known as the Samsung F700. The image alleges that the phone was announced in 2006 and released in February 2007, but only the latter is fact. The iPhone was announced and released in 2007.

    So that begs the question: who’s really stealing from who? (If you didn’t know, Samsung is being sued by Apple for the Galaxy S’ resemblance to the iPhone.) Samsung clearly had something going with this design way before they thought up the Samsung Galaxy S and before we even knew of the iPhone’s existence. And the user interface isn’t looking too much different form iOS, either. (If we’re just talking about grid-based layouts.)

    The answer: no one is stealing from anyone. Apple didn’t invent icons, nor did they invent the grid in which they sit. They didn’t invent the rectangle. They didn’t invent the touchscreen. They surely didn’t invent the nice looking button sitting at the bottom. And last, but not least, they didn’t invent phones.

    And all of the same applies to Samsung and any other OEM. This image should serve as a good reminder that with innovation comes imitation. A standard is always set and manufacturers will always look to meet or surpass that standard. Apple can’t go around suing everybody because their phone was the first one that looks like it to be successful. Fall back, Apple – you really have no case here. [Thanks, Suriv!]

    PS: Feel free to use this as ammunition in your court battles, Samsung – we’re on your side.

    [Note]: Yes, we’ve seen the debunk article at Apple Insider. Even if Samsung did release the F700 a month after Apple showed the iPhone, it takes months for a design of any product to be finalized. Unless Samsung had some insiders at Apple leaking design information and documents, then it’s not right to say that the F700 copied the iPhone.

  • Who was this Rube Goldberg guy, anyway?

    Shared by DanielDeboer

    Weird. I had always assumed this guy actually made something.

    Writing the last post, it occurred to me that I had no idea who Rube Goldberg, the actual person, was. Turns out, he was an artist who drew cartoons parodying the machines-can-fix-anything philosophy of early 20th-century America. Pressured into an engineering degree by his father, Goldberg designed sewer systems for the city of San Francisco before quitting to become a cartoonist. As far as I can tell, he never built any of the machines that were named after him, just drew them (luckily for the city of San Francisco). But his legacy continues to inspire engineers to explore their artistic sides. Read a short bio or check out the official Rube Goldberg website.


  • Quote #8254
    <Velociraptors> arnie could run for president – and on the day skynet does its thing. Not suspicious, no, not at all. http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2011/04/20/3196315.htm
    <logic> He should paint himself silver before he starts his presidential run.
    <logic> That'll get him votes for sure.
    <logic> and if people say "You're no Barack Obama!" He can just say "Fine. I'll be black." And repaint himself!

    ++ |

  • April 20, 2011

    POW. Posted some mightily dorky stuff in the fan club today.

  • Heaven
    If you've never had sex, this is what it feels like. Complete with the brief feeling of satisfaction, followed by ennui, followed by getting bored and trying to make it happen again.

Some advice.

If there’s one thing I want to leave you with, it’s this: Don’t waste your life.

Don’t waste your life worrying about wasting it. Do, and be happy.

If you enjoyed that moment you wasted… well, it wasn’t wasted, after all.