Showing posts from August, 2007

It’s Alive! Start-ups and Old Monster Movies

In the movie Frankenstein, based on Mary Shelley’s novel, Dr. Frankenstein attempts to create human life by sewing together disparate body parts. Only, none of it works until there is an electric storm, whose lightning bolt gives off the spark of life. Parallels can be found in the quest to build a successful startup, and in the relation between the surgical systems approach and what I’ll call, for a lack of better terminology, “the spark.”

A systems person wants neither drama, nor surprises. Skilled professionals in the start-up business optimize, customize (and improvise) a foundation of systems that worked well for them in the past--whether in sales structure, HR, finance, executive recruitment tactics, R&D, marketing etc. To make those systems work they look for teams with proven track records in the field. And, with a bit of luck, all this may be imbued with the spark—that rare zeitgeisty combination of the right idea, the right people, the right time.

A company could be a perf…

Techno-Fetichisme: the Podcast

Techno-Fetichisme 1 & 2: House and Techno

Ok on a different note, I would like to introduce, Techno-Fetichisme, the podcast. Both first issues, TF1 and TF2 are about 25 minutes long. I use Ableton Live as the mixing software although works are studio mixes. I mix stuff from 20 years ago with techno from yesterday or "Bacalao" like the spaniards used to call the music coming out of the UK and the little Baleric islands of Eivissa and Majorca as if it was fresh fish.

Back to Mac

Oh, and now is the time to admit it: I went back to mac. I am publishing the podcast on What can I say? Those who know me will understand. The new imacs are really sick and I can't wait to get mine touch enabled with one of those glass screens like on the iPhone. Look at me, I am pitiful. I guess seeing all the guys at the laptop battle, performing with Live on macs, without glitches was enough for me to change my mind. The mind is not so strong and the flesh is weaker. I am loving it…

24 Hour Party People

Nathalie has been nagging me for some time to recommend the movie "24hour party people".

It is the story of Tony Wilson, who founded the mythical label "Factory Records" in the 80's (Joy Division, New Order, Happy Mondays). His club in Manchester, callled the "Hacienda" helped spur the birth of acid house and the subsequent electronic music revolution.

The story plot always reminded me of JBoss, in a way. It could have been the way people got attracted to the same energy, the same project. It felt right. As they show in the movie, it may have been just 10 guys listening to the yet unknown "Sex Pistols" in a mostly empty room, it didn't matter, they knew they were part of something special.

The part that always haunted me at JBoss was the sobering lessons about copyright and how not to build a business around it. "The artist has the right to fuck off!" was a contract clause written in blood and beer on a pub napkin framed in their …

PR and the Girl

One of the fringe benefits of co-founding a company is giving yourself any job title you want. By the time the company was big enough to hire other people to do things like setting up trainings, billing/accounts payable, legal review et al., I had settled on Director of Communications.

While the only thing I've ever been able to convince anybody to pay me for in my professional life has been writing, my interviewing experiences, when we first moved to the San Francisco Bay area in 1997, convinced me that PR was not for me.

The founder of one boutique tech agency asked me a series of validating questions along the lines of “Do you have many friends,” and, as I became progressively more self-conscious, she concluded “it’s obvious you are very ill-at-ease”--a doubtful prognosis, I imagine, of my ability to handle journalists.

My other interview was with a manager for a white shoe, pre-March 2000 “We-only-work-for-equity-thank-you-very-much,” plus enough retainer to keep its female staff…

Superbad, the kings of pounding vag'

Not that these two clowns need any plug since they are number one at the box office, beating Bourne, but if you haven't seen it, treat yourself and go see it.

I went a first time with JBoss friends on the day it came out. I saw it again with Nathalie yesterday, and she liked it. It doubles nicely as a date movie! So go. You have no excuses.

If you liked Knocked Up (Bill is there :) and/or Harold and Kumar go to Whitecastle (I was there) and even, if you haven't seen any of the two, just go see it this is outrageously funny. Be ready for out of control teen sex humor along the lines of the girl: "I am soooo wet!" the boy: "Yes, they said that would happen in Health class".


Risky Business

Since I have retired from "real" life, apart from taking care of the kids in the evenings, one of my main interests has become keeping up with what is going on in the financial markets and the economy. Nathalie got me subscriptions to the "Financial Times" every day and "Barron's" on the weekends. It is kind of my homework.

So right now, guys in the financial world are complaining about an "information overload". Yup, that is right, our friends in the financial markets are looking forward to a week of vacation, after a very tumultuous month of August, to "make sense of it all and catch up on reading" as one journalist put it. Basically no one seems to really know what the fuck is going on and where it will all end up.

So where it beging is the implosion of the sub-prime debt markets. Turns out $250B of $10T is at risk in subprime mortgage loans or 2.5% of the total amount. So a fraction of people cannot pay their mortgage. They d…

You Better Shape Up!

As my children returned to school last week, I felt the need to share some advice with my sister whose oldest child just started kindergarten: “Don’t be fooled about that homework your daughter comes home with. It’s not her homework, it’s your homework."

I don’t know if it was the eighties or just my parents, but they had a very laissez-faire approach to homework and grades. As long as my sister and I didn’t dip below B-/C+, the typical response to a lackluster grade on our report cards was “Did you try?” Or “Did you do your best?” to which we inevitably answered “Yes, I sure did,” translated to “I sure did try real hard to open that book,” and “I did the best I could considering I didn’t open it…”

Never having had real homework until third grade myself, and not having bothered to do any of it until fourth or fifth grade, having children in a school program where they feel the need to send you two or three email updates a day, where each of my children comes home with a notebook fo…

Disciplina Praesidium Civitatis

When the ghosts come out to taunt you and dance a jig on your tombstone, hopefully you’re not there. There was a time, in the words of Hunter S. Thompson, when it felt wrong and on a good day you could get paid to be wrong. Manifest Destiny was on your side. These days, it’s like re-watching Raiders of the Lost Ark. Somewhere, along the way, after all the excitement and adventure, the Ark of the Covenant got lost. They tagged it for inventory and wheeled it off for storage in some anonymous government warehouse. And that’s when it hits you. The bureaucrats and accountants have won. You’ve grown up and they’ve won.

It’s like going back to one of your favorite haunts from the past and finding it under new management. They’ve redecorated, something to do with a cultural revolution or the curious ascendance of Shelob, but, damn it all, nobody knows where a bunch of high-altitude aerials of the San Francisco Bay and salt flats shot by a descendant of Mirabeau Buonaparte Lamar, one-time Pres…

Laptop Battles

The other day I went to a local Atlanta electronic music event. Nathalie brought to my attention this ad in a local newspaper for a monday night "Laptop Battle". She mentioned "you should go! check out the scene". I jumped on the occasion to officially party on a monday night and second to really see what people were using as hardware and software combinations for music production.

So I went there. It was a sketchy part of downtown, a bar called "Lenny's" but it was reasonably packed, for a monday night that is. I have always like weekdays to go out and party. People who actually make the effort to go out on a Monday night are usually pretty deep into both the music and the scene.

The event was sponsored by Ableton, the maker of the popular production/DJ software called "Live". This was basically a meeting of the Atlanta Ableton User Group. It kind of feels like a Java User Group except the girls are very good looking.

So that settled…

Remember, I don't give a shit.

I almost missed this letter from our homeboy, Cameron Purdy, representing for the big O. Cami wants to let us know how busy and important he is over at Genius Camp, where everybody is "top-notch."

Cameron, I had forgetten about you and I don't recall ever formally meeting. Do me a favor, if we are going to continue being pen pals, leave my kids out of this. I don't know you, you freak.

And, while you're at it, please address me as Doctor Fleury, and no, that's not my DJ name. I didn't suffer through ten years of differential equations to be talking on a first name basis with some random honky.

Oh wait, I get it. The reference to my family is meant as a put-down, now that I am home with them. No I don't currently miss the glamorous life in the fast lane, as you describe it--jetting around talking to "very important" customers, telling them how "incredibly successful" they are going to be with my software. I used to do that BEFORE …

Grammar was her downfall

I was not so shocked, shocked to learn that Forbes editor, Dan Lyons, onetime voice in the outcry against anonymous blogging tactics, went from a defensive treatise against the Dark Arts to dabbling in them. Apparently, CEO blogs containing such compelling insights as "...coaslesce your unstructured data with our modular design for business processes based on a service-oriented parkitecture," inspired Mr. Lyons to take up the voice of Fake Steve Jobs.

As others have pointed out, Mr. Lyons' official "Floating Point" and his FSJ jollies blog coverage of Open Source were quite consistent. He sought to disabuse his readers of any illusions they might harbor on the topic. The salient aspects of the movement--licenses, products, business models--did not interest him so much. Why would they? If Open Source is successful, it would all be controlled by IBM anyway. As FSJ, adding "freetards" to the "long-hairs" and "sandal brigade" repertory …

Biology news

Two new and cool resuts in biology, both of them covered in Nature.

Swapping DNA.
The genome of one bacterium has been successfully replaced with that of a different bacterium, transforming one species into another. This development is a harbinger of whole-genome engineering for practical ends.

Researchers at the Craig Venter institute have filed an application for a patent that covers 400 genes that represent "the strict minimum set of genes necessary for cell life". Their research in bacteria has proven that you can take the DNA from one species and transport it to another species cell with positive results.

For many computer guys this is close to an operating system, or rather, if you do have that level of portability between applications, an API standardization ala Java. This means that many of the mechanisms needed by the cell for its proper functioning seem to be shared between species, a commons of life mechanisms as it were.

Since this issue of Nature comes with a 50…

To British Air With Love

"The rule is jam tomorrow and jam yesterday, but never jam today," Lewis Carroll.

Along with certain beliefs in human dignity, the innate fairness and logic of authority, and the inalienable rights of the individual, my middle class American cultural baggage imbued childhood memories of air travel (to visit my grandparents in the seventies) with a spirit of excitement and anticipation. My mother would dress my sister and me in our better clothes (athletic shoes, sweatsuits and shorts were not expected to make an appearance outside sporting venues) and make it clear that unless we wished to forgo a thousand delights and indulgences of childhood, under no circumstances were we to humiliate her with a display of anything less than our best manners. Although we always flew coach, the airplane felt like a privileged and highly civil means of transportation.

That era fades into a distant memory against today's backdrop of the airport of the future, a venue that manages to combin…

Dan Lyons is the fake persona of Fake Steve Jobs, and not the other way around

Too cool. Apparently the New York Times has outed one of my favorite bloggers, Fake Steve Jobs. I have speculated in the past that Fake Steve Jobs was a black PR operation out of Apple. Well it seems I was far off the mark.

FSJ is Dan Lyons from Forbes. Whoodathought? When I met him, he struck me as a complete asshole, full of himself and completely devoid of any sense of humor. I like his "fake persona" better than the one I briefly encountered.

To be honest, he did a hatchet job on JBoss and particularly me, when IBM announced they were coming after us with Geronimo in 2005. He also wrote about my former boss, Matthew Szulik, about a year ago, caracterizing RHT as a, cough-cough, glorified bannana republic. Forbes and Lyons, in particular, are known to be particularly hostile to OSS and the small guy, whose swift demise they delight in predicting.

In contrast, FSJ was equally gleeful in his attacks on and mockery of the big players. Anonymity fueled the genius of FSJ'…