May 29th, 2006

Schlock Captain Quidnunc

Levers big enough to move the world, fulcrums and places to set them.

It's been awhile since I've written. There has been so much that has happened. Very often I am too busy to write, and very often I am uninspired to write. I'm not really sure why the mood takes me to do so, or where it goes when I am not under its influence. In so many ways I am such a dilletante. Sometimes, this bothers me, but most of the time it doesn't, as it doesn't right now. I suppose that it doesn't right now, because I have not been much the dilletante lately. McGuffin has been proceeding apace, although we are still somewhat distant from proving that it works. Another point of progress has been that Robert's other big idea, dubbed "Trigger" by the official describer, documentor and giver-of-names (that would be me), has been filed with the Patent Office. We have yet to market the thing, but I suspect that our efforts could prove very lucrative indeed, if we handle the issue correctly. We're still trying to figure that out. I have been involved in lots of work. When Robert first approached me to join this project, I never envisioned getting involved so deeply. It has been one of those things that my Dear Ex termed my "Bobsessions" for the past three or four years of my life now. Sometimes it's hard to think about devoting myself to something like this for so long. I still don't know if this thing is going to pay off or not.

I do know that things have opened up on the project. We have been dealing, for the last month or so with one of the most dynamic personalities in Silicon Valley. He is the founder and CEO of one of the defining companies of that culture. Robert and I put McGuffin in front of him and he is interested to know whether or not it can fulfill its potential. He's offered us equipment and space to work in his establishment and we have been working with him to set up operations at his location. As shocking as the information would be to the benighted souls of this country who have no inkling of how capitalism works, he has not called his assistance an investment, although he has not been shy about calling our attention to the value of the advice and information he has offered us and has demanded nothing from us, other than that we dilligently put our ideas to the test and allow him to participate in designing experiments and acquiring the materials and expertise to pull them off. At this point in the game, he really just wants to know if our hypotheses hold water. Apparently, he and some of his acquaintances have given this issue some thought and he is convinced that this area of inquiry is worth the expenditure of a modest amount of resources to determine if there is anything in it worth pursuing. He knows that there is plenty of time to discuss investment and control of the company after we get McGuffin working. At that time, we will need much more capital and expertise and he is confident in his ability to pesuade us that he is the proper person to offer such things to our enterprise at that time. Given what Robert and I had previously known of him, it would not be inaccurate to say that both of us had early on fantasized what a help his know-how would be, and he has done nothing to diminish our expectations -- quite the opposite, in fact.

I knew a bit about the guy before having met him. He's portrayed in the press as a tough, no-nonsense, accomplishment driven individual who is not shy about sharing his philosophies or his methods nor is he uncertain of his own rectitude. I've always admired that characteristic in people. What is amusing to me is what he is like in person. He's surprisingly approachable, providing that you are not wasting his time with baloney. He does not suffer fools kindly, but seems to be benevolently disposed to persons who are serious about realistic and useful ideas. He's a lot friendlier than many people who have heard of him would suppose. He's confident, scrupulously honest, knowledgeably opinionated, and very forceful -- if you're going to disagree with him, you'd better have your facts straight and have you're ducks in line. It's not that he's rude or overbearing, far from it, but he acts when he knows the facts are on his side of the table. He lays them out and then backs away to let the other party come to the logical decision. He doesn't debate, so much as make an airtight case and then wait patiently for the other person to see the his point of view. It's fascinating to watch. I saw him turn around the president of another company inside of five minutes, after the other fellow was prepared to be obstinant on a particular point (at least that was my assessment). He didn't twist arms and he didn't debate -- he just laid out the facts in a straightforward and clear manner and stood back, waiting for the other guy to reach the obvious conclusion. We were in a meeting with some very high-power people from three different companies at the time. It was an interesting experience. This was a group of individuals with whom I would have never imagined being in the same room only a year ago. We are fortunate to have this opportunity. If/when McGuffin gets off the ground we will need expertise of the sort represented by these individuals in order to have any chance of commercializing it. McGuffin is definitely not the kind of technology upon which people with an untested set of management skills such as ours should be cutting our teeth.
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Montecristo Captain Quixote

Conquering the unexplored jungle that was my front yard.

It was a beautiful sunny day today, as is typical for the late Northern California spring. The sky was host to a few white cumulus clouds and the temperature reached about 80° F, which is good weather for yard work. I came inside at around 6:00. Since noon I have been attacking my atrocious front yard. It was horribly overgrown and I have been neglecting it. I cleaned up quite a lot of it, but there is still much that could be done to it. I filled my yard waste bin. It's too bad they picked up yard waste this morning and I missed it. I should have done this yesterday. I guess I will have to whip the yard into shape in installments. I cut the grass and did the trimming and cut back the bushes growing along the sidewalk. I still have a large patch of golden poppies growing around/on the treestump in my yard, and I still don't have any idea what to do with them. They're so neat, it seems a shame to cut them, especially since it would only expose an old bare rotting treestump anyway, but I'm not sure how to get the other weeds out of them so that they will look really nice. At any rate, the improvements may cause the neighbors to begin to suspect that a civilized man lives here again, or at least the yard will stop giving any Viet Nam vets who drive past nasty flashbacks. The muscles in my arms are a tad sore, and a little shaky. I picked up some sun, but I don't think I burned any. My genetics is rather sun-resistant, for a white guy. I don't burn easily, and hardly ever badly, when I do. I am dotted here and there with little grass and weed flakes and snippets. I smell of sweat and chlorophyll and gasoline.

Actually, I surprised myself. Since the Thursday before last I have been suffering from what I suspected was a pinched nerve in my back. My back has "gone out on me" about three times in my life before. Usually it is some sort of sprain originating in the lower right quadrant which leaves me flat on my back for two or three days, and it hurts when I move. This time it was different. This time, whenever I have been standing or lying flat on my back, I get pain in that region which runs down my right leg, feeling like someone is trying to twist my leg off. As a result, over the past week and a half, I haven't gotten lots of sleep. I haven't been able to lie on my back at all. I sleep for about four or five hours curled on my side and then it gets too much to stand, so I have to get up and sit at my desk for awhile. Strangely enough, sitting upright is the most comfortable position for me lately. Fortunately, it seems to be getting a lot better in the last couple of days. I managed to go out and work myself silly in the yard today without it bothering me and without the necessity of limping around. I suspect that it's gone, and good riddance.

There's something good about being tired after putting in a day of physical labor. It's a satisfying kind of feeling, pitting oneself against the forces of entropy. I look at my yard and get a sense, in a small way to be sure, that I have pushed back the jungle and broadened the frontiers of civilized space. Perhaps I will sleep the sleep of the righteous tonight. That would be nice, as it's back to work tomorrow.