Jul 6

Remote Idea

Posted by Simon

At a hotel I stayed at in North Carolina they had a “Clean Remote” for the TV.

Apparently there are enough people in the world who worry about germs on remote controls to make this product feasible.  It reminded me of when remotes were new and the hotels bolted them down to keep them from being stolen.

“Lets stay at the Blank Hotel they have a clean remote.”

What an amazing world we live in.

Jul 2

Google News

Posted by Simon

“If it isn’t on the first page of Google search results,

it doesn’t exist.”

See my idea for Facebook Search

Jun 13

Ore Cart III

Posted by Simon

I may have to start an ore cart factory in order to get one for my yard.

Here I am posing with the one up at Henninger Flats.  It may become the prototype for the factory.  My brother Matt in the UK who is in the railway equipment business has found some wheels in a yard in the rural UK.  We aren’t sure how we are going to get them to the USA yet.  They don’t look like carry-on luggage.

There is lots to do but an ore cart will be a great addition to the garden.  And the perfect place to display all of the rocks and minerals I have brought home from various trips over the last 30 or 40 years.  They are currently stored in many large cartons in the garage.

May 27

Ore Cart II

Posted by Simon

I want an ore cart to display my rock samples and I saw one in Las Vegas and blogged about it.  My feeble efforts to find one or get one made were fruitless and I had pretty much given it up as another one of those wild ideas I have that come to naught.  Then on a hike to Henninger Flats last weekend I saw an ore cart.

In fact two ore carts:

They were part of a display about mining in the San Gabriel Mountains in the 19th and 20th centuries.  The thing I learned is that the wheel assemblies (trucks) are a separate piece from the cart.  I’m back to dreaming about ore carts.

Apr 15

The Marshmallow Test

Posted by Simon

The1972 Stanford Marshmallow Test has been in the news lately.  It has been 40 years since 600 preschoolers first participated in this test of deferred gratification.  The tests and the subsequent followups are important because they are relevant to the national debate about saving, home ownership and education expense.

The experiment worked like this: “The children were led into a room, empty of distractions, where a treat of their choice was placed by a chair.  The children could eat the marshmallow, the researchers said, but if they waited for fifteen minutes without giving in to the temptation, they would be rewarded with a second marshmallow.”  A third of the children held out for the second treat.

Follow-up studies have shown that there is an unexpected correlation between the results of the marshmallow test, and the success of the children many years later.  The children who could defer gratification for fifteen minutes ended up with more successful lives by almost any measure.

So self-restraint and deferred gratification are important to the success of individuals.  How about for countries?  I would say yes and so are the lenders to European countries.

The lesson also applies to saving, home ownership and education. These three, used to be symbols of middle class success.  They were what people with self-restraint who were willing to defer gratification used to earn as a reward.  Now the government is trying to give the reward to everyone.  And as a result we get the housing crisis and the coming student debt crisis. See my earlier story Degrees and Sneakers

The Marshmallow Test and it followups show the link between the cultural expectations of the people and the way government operates.  Arguing about how to lower the deficit is a fools game until we all start exercising a little self-restraint and accepting a little more deferred gratification.

Thanks to Arthur Brooks of the American Enterprise Institute for an article in the WSJ were I first heard about the Marshmallow Test.

Apr 11

New Phone

Posted by Simon

Things change.  This little change will have big repercussions.

In a remarkable coincidence my old iPhone was dying and going out of contract at the same time.  So I took the easiest path and stopped by the AT&T store nearby and bought the new iPhone 4S.  I was able to transfer my information and upgrade my apps with no difficulty and for a few weeks I really didn’t use the new phone any differently.

“Oh what a tangled web”

But I had SERI in my pocket and I saw the little microphone at the bottom of the memo and email pages so last week I gave it a try.  Conclusion: The new transcription program built into the 4S is incredibly good.

I have been trying to be able to dictate into a machine and have it type a transcript for more than a decade and all of the programs I ever tried were crap.  Now here on my phone is one that works. It means less typing and faster communications.  It also means more messages sent in haste without reflection.  Isn’t technology grand.

Walter Mossberg wrote about it today in his Wall Street Journal article.


The WSJ is difficult to read if your not a subscriber.  So try both links or do a Google search  if you’re interested.

More importantly see if your phone has speech transcription technology and give it a try.  This btw is another argument for Starbucks to get together with Apple and/or Android and bring the Genius Bar to the Coffee Bar.  To make this kind of change people are going to need a little hands on instruction.


Mar 21

Four Seconds

Posted by Simon

When someone comes to your website you have four seconds to make then feel:

  • like they are in the right place.
  • like they want to know more.
  • good
  • entertained
  • angry

Feel Something

But you only have four seconds to make a person feel something that will cause then to stay.  A web site is more than a billboard but less than a TV commercial.

This important data came from Tom Reynolds the principal of Reynolds Group who spoke to my Federation Networking Breakfast Group last month.  Tom specializes in “Internet Business Strategy” which is an evolving and very interesting field.

Mar 14

Goodbye Britannica

Posted by Simon

This is a sad week for those of us who grew up loving books.  The Encyclopedia Britannica is no longer going to be printed.  News story here  It will continue as an online source and try to compete with Google and Wikipedia, and it might, but this is the end of the printed collection of information.

So moving on what will be next to go?  All of it.  The age of print is over.  The presses, libraries, bookstores and publishers as we know them are all doomed within a generation.  Just like Kodak film was doomed when digital photography was invented.  They can’t be saved.  Digital books will keep the format alive for a few generations but even that is doomed.  I know you don’t like to hear this but the printed book is as over as the livery stable in 1912.  There is nothing you can do about it.

If young people want entertainment they will watch a show on their iPads.  If they want information they will Google.  And if they want to understand a subject they will use new interactive formats that combine documentary film with feedback loops, illustrations, charts and source material.

The technology of movable type created the printed book which shaped the way we learn about the world.  But it doesn’t have to be that way.  The Medieval world was shaped by the scribe.  Access to information was limited and a society developed that favored those who could read and write.  Now because of printing almost everyone can read and write.  So what.  The future will create amazing new ways of doing what books have done for the last 500 or so years.

My advise if you are in the printing business:  Sell your presses! Now!  Let someone else go down with the ship.  However all is not lost. And here again the analogy to the beginning of the automobile era is instructive.  The end of the livery stable was also the beginning of the age of the mechanic,the auto dealer, the macadam road builder and lot more.  And so it will be in this era.  The book, like the horse, will be gone but as costs goes down the need for the new forms of entertainment and information will increase.  What a wonderful time to be in the new media.

Encyclopedia Britannica RIP you served us well.


Feb 22

Cancun Mexico

Posted by Simon

I have been to Cancun three times. The first was about thirty years ago with Nurit. The second was about fifteen years ago with Lillian and this year with Howard and Aty.


The changes have been remarkable. Both physically and in the nature of the experience. The first time we came there were just a few hotels on the beautiful beach. Now all ten miles of beach are lined with hotels, condos and private homes and it is still beautiful.

But the biggest and most encouraging change has been in the nature of the service. The workers here have changed from acting like wage slaves resentful of the rich outsiders to really helpful, caring, friendly people. All of them seem to be focused on quaking sure that the tourist economy keeps working. For example they have hundreds of busses that allow you to go anywhere from town to the end of the tourist zone for about a dollar. The drivers happily take any kind of money and make change. In LA or London if the driver had cash like that around he would be robbed hourly. In the flea market the hustlers tell lies and hawk crap just like before but they no longer physically confront you. And in the “all inclusive” hotel where we are staying everybody from the pool waiter to the room cleaner is trying really hard to speak English and make you happy.


It appear that an entire people have had a change of attitude. They are working communally to keep the tourism business going and it happened in a little more than a generation. This is really good news for the world. Angry, distrustful people don’t have to stay angry and distrustful.

Jan 20

The Cell Phone Dilemma

Posted by Simon

Being in the present is difficult with your cell phone constantly urging you to be somewhere else.  Now someone in New York has invented an idea that gives answering your phone during a shared meal consequences.

The Phone Stack

Basically when you sit down you put your phone in the stack.  The first person to pick up their phone from the stack during dinner picks up the check.

Read the article

Good Idea!