Dec 31, 2007

Expiring Domains - Want them?

At one point in the long past (4 years ago?), I had the great idea of starting an dhtml'ish todo list service. I created some stuff that kinda worked, but never marketed it and never spent much time on it. I registered what I thought was a cute domain for this (and the plural):



I still own both domains, but they expire in March. I don't have much interest in renewing, but I would prefer for them not to end up in the terminal state of a spammy parked domain. If you, reader, are interested in these domains for non-nefarious purposes, even if you aren't sure you'll ever do much with them, drop me an email at ttebgunh@tznvy.pbz (rot13 encoded) and I'll give them to someone for "free" (really the cost of transferring, but basically free). In the off chance that I get more than one email, if you describe your plan for using them I'll pick the best one.

I'll wait at least 1 week from this post before selecting anyone, so you've got a little time. I'll update this post here (and reply to anyone who is interested) when they are gone.

Dec 26, 2007

Renewable Energy Disruptive Technologies

Back from lots of travel where my network bandwith is bounded only by what AT&T is willing to offer me, instead of slow but wonderful iphone connectivity, I'm naturally in a bit of a hole catching up with all that the internet has to offer.

I just saw an engaging blog post by Paul Tyma titled Unlike some other industries like film photography, Your business model called; its leaving (and its not coming back). He's picking on the music industry a little by pointing out the natural order of events for an industry in the throes of a technical disruption. Basically if you have a cash-cow that is being threatened by distruptive technology, many times you take your massive quantities of cash and try to prevent the disruption. This often involves the government and laws, sometimes by buying up the disruptive competitors and killing them off, or maybe through false advertising. He uses the poignant example of the recording industry trying to slow the demise of their industry by the digital age through legal action. He then goes on to drive home the point that this applies to absolutely every industry and if you are young it probably applies to the job you have right now during your lifetime.

He's right of course, I've seen it. Tag-Board was my cash-cow for a time because it was hard to create a web application that would scale easily, work well in a host of browsers, allow push-pull communication, etc. Now everyone knows how to create web apps, there are much better frameworks out there that scale far more easily, and push-pull browser communication exists in technologies from your web email, flash, phones, etc. I would be surprised if in 5 years the tools didn't exist to let anyone couldn't create a completely scalable implementation of tag-board in 30 minutes for free. Things like Amazon's Elastic Computing and competitors are working in that direction now.

Some industries encourage the dominant player to change with the times, for example: AT&T moving from selling land lines to cell phones. For other industries the dominant technology is so much more profitable than the disruptive technology that industry leaders who push towards the disruptive technology will see a faster loss of profits in the short term than they would see by trying to defend the dominant technology through legal and political systems. Companies in these industries don't evolve, they fight hard to keep the status quo. The recording industry seems like an example of this second world. There is no obvious business model in the disruptive music industry that will support companies the size of the RIAA.

Of course the industry I'm thinking about alot these days is Renewable Energy. Thesis: I think that the dominant industry (fossil fuels) and the disruptive renewable energy industry are similar to the RIAA and the digital industry in the sense that one will not evolve into another. The short-term profit loss is too large. Let me give some data to support that claim.

  • Exxon-Mobil is the world's 2nd largest company (after Walmart, it was #1 last year) and the world's single most profitable company. #3, #4, #7, #9, and #10 are all fossil fuel companies. The remainder of the top 10 (#5, #6, #8) are all automobile manufacturers. [Fortune Global 500]

  • Exxon Mobil has 22.2 billion barrels of oil in proven reserves [Businessweek
    ]. Crude is roughly $100 USD / barrel [Crude Price], which means their reserves are worth 2.22 trillion $USD. Their market cap is only $500 Billion reflecting the extraction costs of the crude. If energy could be produced for the equivalent of $90/barrel (10% less), Exxon Mobil's reserves would (overnight) be worth 200 Billion less. BP, Chevron, etc are the same deal but they have smaller reserves.

  • Several *nations*, including the United States own large Crude Oil reserves which actually provide treasury money. The same analysis as applied to Exxon can be applied to them

  • "During the first three quarters of 2007, Venture Capitalists poured $2.6 billion into clean tech startups, compared to $1.8 billion for all of 2006, and a mere $533 million in 2005." [TechCrunch]. Clean Tech now counts for 10% of all venture capital investment. Internet technology accounts for 15%. I'd bet the crossover point will be reached in 2008. There is alot of investment moeny going into renewable energy.

If the US passes even light carbon taxes, the renewable energy industry will probably surge in market cap overnight. Right now, renewable energy still costs more than non-renewable, but carbon taxes (or cap/trade) would change the ratio instantly. That is what the VC's are betting on. If this happens, Exxon Mobil will similarly lose billions of dollars off their market cap. That means if Exxon Mobil can slow that progress even by a few years at the cost of a billion dollars in lobbying, it is a steal for them. By embracing clean tech, they will sink like a rock. That leaves a big gaping hole for new companies to fill the gap, and there aren't any really huge leaders at this point. The technology is still new, but breakthroughs are coming. If someone produces renewable energy at scale for cheaper than non-renewable (without government help), then they are going to win big. Hence Google's RE<C effort.

I am excited about this industry. In my humble opinion it will be the disruptive technology that is the "Next Big Thing" like the internet was. Alot of venture capitalists would agree with me.

Obligatory Wedding Post

So, as of Dec 14th, I'm now a married man. Cristin and I got married in the Valley of Fire Park, Nevada around sunset. There are some photos Cristin took here. If you want access to the professional shots, drop me an email and I'll send you the info. I wanted to offer a small link to the wedding company that put this all together. It was a pretty stress-free event, all the details were left in their hands and it turned out well. Everyone attending agreed that the event was very well organized.

Death Valley, the Forgotten Park

The day after my wedding, Cristin, I and our respective wedding parties, took a day trip to Death Valley National Park. This was December 15th. We had also visited the park on Jan 1st of the same year. Both times the weather was quite comfortable 65-76 degree range. It is quite pleasant in the winter, supposedly the record high was 88 for December.

Death Valley is a place of extremes:

  1. The highest temperature in the US of 134 degrees was recorded here.

  2. A ground temperature of 201 degrees was recorded here (remember, water boils as 212).

  3. Its basin is the lowest point in North America, at 282 feet below sea level. See my photo of GPS above showing it's altitude estimate of -293.

  4. Visible from the lowest point, the highest point tops out at 11,049 feet above sea level. There was snow on this peak when I was there.

  5. Largest park in continental US: 3.4 million acres, 5 times the size of Yosemite.

  6. The darkest night sky of any national park in the United States.

In this sense it is (in my humble opinion) one of the most unique locations in the world, definitely in the United States. Yet, both times I've been there, it didn't seem popular. The small parking lots at the most accessible, touristy, spots in the park were nowhere near full even mid-day. People appeared absent. This was starkly contrasted to my trip to Yosemite 2 months earlier where everywhere in the park, people were swarming, parking was impossible to find, etc. Hence, I'm dubbing Death Valley the "Forgotten Park" from my small sample size. I only have theories why this might be true, no answers:
  • It has a reputation for being uncomfortable, hot and dry. This is certainly true in the summer.

  • The closest large city is Las Vegas, which is 2-3 hours away and has other nearby attractions such as the Hoover Dam, Valley of Fire, and the biggest tourist attraction of them all the Grand Canyon.

  • It isn't "scenic" in the sense of large mountains and colorful vegetation. Basically, the vegetation is sorely lacking

Why do you think Death Valley is "Forgotten"? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

Dec 12, 2007

iPhone Geocaching

I bought an iphone not that long ago, and it seems to me that the one application that is begging to be written is a GeoCaching website specifically optimized for iphones. I know the iphone doesn't have GPS, but alot of GPS don't have internet connections or data/memory for showing the rest of the geocache data. It would save me from having to tote around my Axim which has lately stopped working so well. :(

Update 08/11/2008:
It seems lately that this topic is getting alot more attention. Somehow this blog post is #1 on google for the term [iphone geocaching] and I'm seeing alot of traffic for this term. There are still no good solutions as best as I can tell. I'm pretty interested in watching this space though, so I've created a knol to follow all of the current options. I'll keep the knol updated with any changes, so if you are interested bookmark or visit iPhone Geocaching on Knol.

Dec 5, 2007

Worlds Hardest Easy Geometry Problem

OK, this annoying problem wasted a half hour of my life. I thought it was going to be reasonably easy. I wasn't able to solve it. Even after both hints, and several pages of drawings later (see the most recent one above). I can easily solve it using classical trig, but not basic geometry. Ugh. Must not give up...