Friday, June 29, 2007

51 weeks

I only have one more week in my year of turning 50. I am trying to figure out if the dividing of our age into decades is an artificial construct, or if we can learn something from these divisions in our lives. I am not deep enough to quote Rilke or something from Gail Sheehy’s books, so I will have to make do with my own pitiful observations.

I have been trying to remember back on earlier, significant birthdays. I sort of remember the first time I had a two digit birthday. That would have been in 1967 (obviously) and I probably celebrated it in Franklin, LA. But in all honesty I cannot recall anything beyond that. Did it make a difference? Certainly not.

The next significant (though not round) birthday would have been my 16th. That is when I took the driver’s test (and passed on the first go). I can remember the test, I can’t remember anything after that.

In Wisconsin when I was a youth, the drinking age was 18. So of course my 18th should have been memorable. I remember going out to dinner with my folks, but that is about it. No, I didn’t get drunk, it was just a nice meal where I had my first legal beer that I shared with my father.

I turned 20 while living in Illinois. I don’t remember that birthday at all. There is probably a good reason for that. There was not too much to do there, so we didn’t do much.

I turned 30 in Houston, right after I first moved to the Houston Heights. I think it was not celebrated, as we would have been poor because the house was a stretch, and we also had another house that had to be rented out. (That first house in the Heights was purchased for $112,000. You can’t buy dirt for that now)

40 I remember quite well. I spent the day alone trying to have an existential crisis. But mainly what I had was a nap.

And that brings us to 50. The search for meaning in the numbers has turned out to be fruitless. How about a search for meaning in the decades?

When I was a child, I acted as a child. No need to go into that.

In my 20s I got out of college and went to work. I held three jobs – Exxon Minerals and Exxon Synthetics as a Mining Engineer, David P Cook and Associates as a Customer Support Rep, and Terra-Mar as a, well, whatever it is I did there. (Sales, Development, Management). I was still optimistic enough about the world to believe that it was rational.

I was wrong about the rational part.

In my 30s I worked. This is where I really “grew up” professionally. I had a short year at Terra-Mar, and then I worked for Landmark Graphics in Houston, Caracas, and Singapore. That was a good run. I turned 40 just after that deal was done. I would venture that I learned more and worked harder in my 30s than in my 40s.

My 40s have been a pretty good decade. I worked for Bell Geospace, initially as the VP of Sales, then the Chief Operating Officer, and finally as CEO and took them though a Chapter 11 Bankruptcy. After that I goofed off for a couple of years. Then I took a job with Input/Output as a Business Unit Manager. Now I am the CEO of OpenSpirit Corp as well as a Director for PGS.

So what did I learn?

  1. You are not always right
  2. The world is not rational
  3. The US is as close to a meritocracy as you will find
  4. Houston, TX will give you all the opportunities you need to pursue your dreams
  5. It is better to be lucky than smart
  6. Fortune favors the prepared mind (Louis Pasteur) or
  7. The harder I work, the luckier I get (Satchel Paige)
  8. Most importantly: Grab a hold of the one you love and never, ever let go.

My dream of sitting on my front porch thinking great thoughts get closer and farther everyday.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Good short article about what VCs want

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Mathilde, meet Hippolyte

The History of Dog Domestication

Tuesday, June 26, 2007


We have little rolling dumpsters here in Houston. The city picks them up with one man trucks.

We have one rolling dumpster, and Silvia, who lives in our garage apartment has one as well.

We seldom fill up even ONE dumpster, but today we had two at the curb.

Someone stole one of our dumpsters!

How low can you possibly go to steal someone’s dumpster?

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Picasa Web Albums

I have posted many more photos at our Picasa Web Album. You can see them by clicking on the Picasa Web Album link to the right--->

V, The Movie

Ellie May, did you see the Cement Pond???

Friday, June 22, 2007

Lisbon Pastries

This is a little out of order, but this is a photo of some of the pastries that Lisbon is famous for. We would eat these every morning.

They have a custard filling, and a very flaky crust.


I don't think we had a bad meal in Lisbon. Big places, small places, expensive or cheap. They are all good.
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Paris - The V

We woke up at about 4:15 from a night of fitful sleep. I am not sure why neither of us had a good night’s sleep. Doreen usually sleeps like a soldier after a night patrol. But I seldom seem to be able to get through the night without waking up at least once.

But we had our breakfast treats and our coffee and grabbed a cab (waiting at the airport at 5:30!) to head to the airport.

One of the things we had to do the night before was to offload much of our luggage. You need to understand this: We do not travel light. It doesn’t help that I had to work for five days, but we had to visit three cities (one of them twice) and make do with what we carried. So on our outbound trip we had one suitcase that was 23 Kilos, and one that was 21. The limit is 20k per person. Continental doesn’t mind as we were flying biz, but Air France was not happy. I am not sure how we got away with it from Paris to London, but as I said earlier, we got nicked for £63 from London to Lisbon. So we were determined to NOT hit that limit again.

We unpacked an offloaded a bunch of stuff to our carry-ons (now how silly is that? The stuff was still in the plane. Just a different part of the plane) and made them VERY heavy. But instead of weighing in at about 47 (our London weight) we hit 37 Kilos. We paid for it as we walked, though.

The Lisbon airport was very nice. They zipped us through all the formalities and even let us use the lounge without a hitch. Probably not well trained.

We got to Paris and had no real problems getting our luggage or a cab. (traffic was terrible on the outbound side, as it is the biggest Arms Trader’s convention in the world going on here right now – the Air Exposition) As we got close to our hotel, the roads just stopped.

Now, you need to understand that we are staying at a hotel that is way out of our class. Both money and culturally, we just don’t stay at places like the George V. So we were sort of expecting some troubles when we arrived. Oh, we are paying for the hotel with miles. We have more miles than I think we will ever use.

So we finally got to the hotel and had a €58 cab bill for what should have been a €42 cab ride. I was not happy. Then when we walked in the hotel, there were Arabs and security men everywhere. The front desk told us that the new French President (Sarkozy) had asked them to close the hotel and house an Arab delegation to the arms show. Oh, I thought. We get kicked out like the zchlubs we are. He said that they tried to get in touch with us so that they could move us to another hotel. We were unreachable.

So he said, as it is only one night, they would find us a room. And by the way, could he buy us a drink while we waited? Doreen made sure we got the upgrade we used the miles for and he said that was not going to be a problem.

We had a very nice vintage (1999) rose champagne, and then decided to go for a walk. We were told our room, a suite, would be available in about 20 minutes. We said fine and walked out to find a light lunch.

We bought a couple of small quiches and a half bottle of Bordeaux and had a picnic down by the Seine. We wandered around the new Quay Branly museum of native peoples (we didn’t go in) and slowly made our way back.

When we got back to the hotel we were told our room was ready. Room 627. That meant nothing to us, but it should have.

This room is at least 1,500 square feet. We have a powder room, and enormous bedroom (with a sitting area) a huge bathroom, a walk-in closet, a living room, a small dining area, and a work desk as well.

All I can say is, Thank you Sarkozy and the Arab delegation!

Thursday, June 21, 2007

quay branly w tour eiffle

more quay


Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Santa Justa Elevator

We visted the top of this Elevator last evening. It was built by a contemporary of Eiffel (of Tower fame) It was really nice, but I could not even think about where I was. My fear of heights would make me woozy each time I thought about my actual location.

There is a cafe on top, and we had a beer up there. It was an hour or so before sunset and the shadows started sweeping across the city. It was very nice.

Last evening we ate at a fancy place called Olivier's Cafe. The food and service were great.

We have not had a bad meal here in Lisbon.
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Walking Around Lisbon

Yesterday we walked around without the camera. Today we made up for that (more later)

The most interesting things that happened yesterday were that we saw a submarine heading down the river, we negotiated for tiles at the Thieves’ Market, and we saw a guy get caught on the train without a ticket.

Seeing a submarine is always an interesting thing. They sort of exude a malevolence that you don’t see in other ships. They exist only to attack from beneath, you cannot couch their activities in a defensive sense. So it was interesting to see it heading out to sea.

We walked and walked yesterday. Up to the Moorish Castle in the city (though we tried to take one of the Trams. The infamous 28). It was a nice walk, and you really got the sense of what a medieval city must look like. Around the castle there had been no renovation, so you got to see all the little higgly piggly streets in their full glory (we saw similar streets today in Sintra)

We ultimately reached the Thieves’ Market – or Flea Market. It was mostly junk. Doreen had been wanting an old tile, so we found one that she liked. The woman was asking €20, which I felt was outrageous. She kept telling us it was from the 17th century, as if that really mattered to me.

She ultimately dropped the price to €15, but I still thought that was too high. We looked at another tile that she said we could have for €4. I said I would give her €15 for the two of them. Oh the caterwauling! You would have thought I was stealing her first born son! She brought her friends over from the other booth. They commiserated, and I held firm. She stated saying how lucky I was to have such a beautiful wife, and how she needed beautiful things, like this 17th century tile. I agreed, and said that she would have them for €15.

More caterwauling and going on, but she finally said that she would do it for Doreen, not for me. She said I was cheap. But my wife deserved these tiles. We all walked away happy – she kissed Doreen good bye on both cheeks.

Finally we saw a poor man get busted on the tram (Tram 15). The trams cost €1.30 for a one way ride. They are more or less an honor system. You have to validate your ticket (we would get a day pass for €3.35) at these little machines, and occasionally a guy from CARRIS would come in and check. One of these fellows got on our tram and he checked our tickets, which flashed green (no problem). When he had his back turned, a scruffy looking fellow tried to get off the train at the next stop. The Enforcer saw him, and told the driver to lock the doors. He went back and caught the guy, and fined him €78 ON THE SPOT!!! The poor bum had to gather money from other passengers, all of whom felt sorry for him.

We felt sorry for him, too. But we didn’t give him any money. That was just because he didn’t ask.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Not believing Fernando


Here I am, being skeptical of Fernando's response.
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Chatting with Fernando Pessoa


Here I am, making a point to Fernando. He is the biggest poet to come out of Lisbon since Riberiera.
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Monday, June 18, 2007

Grilled Sardines


The more we travel, the more our travels are about food. So it is no surprise that we seek out local dishes and try to find something unusual where ever we go.

This is the end result of some grilled sardines. They were great. They have very rich flavor and should be accompanied by a dry white Portugese wine.

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Sunday, June 17, 2007

Doreen and Vasco de Gama


Here is Doreen holding hands with Vasco de Gama. (in Lisbon museums, they encourage you to touch the displays)

Doreen's Godchild is named after Vasco. Well, about 475 years after Vasco!
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Better photo of the Palace

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Check this out, too:

Bad Travel Days.

Sometimes when you travel, it just all goes wrong. And not wrong as in delayed or canceled flights (though that happens with horrible regularity as well) but wrong as in that is seems that the entire travel industry is populated by angry old people telling you to get off their lawn. They are the ones who hold the ball, and they just don’t want to share.

Yesterday we got to Heathrow airport in good time, and get to the Air France (avoid at all costs, by the way) to check it. It seems to be going well except for the fact they simply will not give us the exit row on the Paris – Lisbon leg. (I am 6’6” tall. If you want to see what it feels like for me to fly, go to a first grade classroom – one with those little desks with the attached chair and desk that opens to reveal pencils and books and such. Cram yourself into that desk. Then sit there for three hours while someone yells at you not to get up). OK, I though, we can try to get the exit row in Paris.

Then the real joy of the adventure started. “You are overweight” I was told. Now, I know I can lose a few pounds, but… “You will owe £63.50 for excess baggage” I am elite, I replied. “Not here, you are not”. I was not happy.

We paid, and went through security (zip, zip. Not a problem there. My congratulations to the English Security System) and got to the waiting room. Fun times again. We go to the elite lounge (I am a member of the Continental Airlines lounge) and are refused entry. With a smile. “That card does not work, sir. I am sorry” I doubted that.

But, thank goodness for the Italians! We went to the Alitalia lounge and were greeted by a confused, but friendly woman who let us in gladly.

Now we are relaxing in Lisbon. Seems like a nice place.

Looking South


This is a view from our apartment in Lisbon. This is the Presidential Palace. We are right across the street.

The apartment is in Belem. It is to the west of Lisbon proper, but on a tram line.

Entering Portugal seems to be like entering a South American country. I will write more from my real computer later. this is still a mobile blog

Friday, June 15, 2007

Greenwich, England

The two domes are part of the Royal Navy College. It was designed by Christopher Wren. Up and to the right, out of sight of this photo is the Royal Observatory of Greenwich. Home of the Prime Meridian and Time. (GMT or UTM)

Tonight we walked past the observatory to see the green laser that is broadcast along the Prime Meridian from the top of the observatory. Quite a sight. Eastern and Western hemispheres at our feet
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Thursday, June 14, 2007

This is why I am in London

This is our booth at a trade show

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

test takers

this is a big room with a bunch of people taking some sort of test

Sunday, June 10, 2007

leaving Paris

We are packing and getting ready to head to London (and work)

Days in Paris

We have spent a couple od days in Paris doing little more than walking about and sightseeing.

We had a nice dinner at the Atelier of Master Albert, and lunch at the Fromagerie 31.

Night before last we ate at our old favorite, Le Fou d'Enface. The Fou himself, however, was not there.

Today we had treats (cheese and sausage) for lunch and will have dinner at the Atelier de Joel Robuchon.

We are all over attics on this trip

Friday, June 08, 2007

view from apartment

That is the Panteon.

For the first time in I don't know how long, we cannot attach to someone's wireless. (that is known as wardriving)

So I have to moble blog from my phone.

just landed in Paris

Thursday, June 07, 2007

finally on the plane

We are having a drink and waiting for takeoff!

In the airport

Here we are, waiting for the plane.

Travels for Two Weeks

We will be traveling for the next couple of weeks. We are leaving for Paris this evening (luckily for us, nephew Quinn is taking us to the airport and picking us up!) for three days. Then I have a convention to attend in London (EAGE), and finally a week of real vacation in Lisbon.

This is a lot of to-ing and fro-ing for such a short time, but it is what we will be doing.

I hope to post while on the road.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

The rest of the office

I have a little side table in my office as well. Now, doesn't that look nice?
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New Offices

We will be moving our offices this weekend. I will be out of town (a convention in London and then some vacation in Paris and Lisbon) Here is a photo of my new office.

This is the cleanest this office will ever be - there is only one piece of paper on it!
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Sunday, June 03, 2007

I had nothing to do on this hot afternoon

We had a slow day today, and relaxed before our upcoming two week trip to Europe for work and play.

I cooked some Spinach Roman Style and Oven Roasted Chicken (reg req) for dinner. Great stuff! We had a Louis Latour Chassagne Montrachet to go with it which made for a great meal.

During diner, I had put on an old Tom Waits disc – A Foreign Affair. That has one of my favorite songs from that era by the same name. Here is a verse:

Planes and trains and boats and busses.

Characteristically, invoke a common attitude of blue.

Unless you have a suitcase, a ticket and a passport,

And the cargo that they're carrying is You.

So we started talking about how music reminds you of earlier times. We ended up talking about Rod Stewart, and how his verses, particularly from Every Picture Tells a Story reminded me of my senior year in High School and my older brother Mark. Here is an example:

I had nothing to do on this hot afternoon
but to settle down and write you a line
I've been meaning to phone you but from Minnesota
hell it's been a very long time
You wear it well
A little old fashioned but that's all right

Well I suppose you're thinking I bet he's sinking
or he wouldn't get in touch with me
Oh I ain't begging or losing my head
I sure do want you to know that you wear it well
There ain't a lady in the land so fine

Remember them basement parties, your brother's karate
the all day rock and roll shows
Them homesick blues and radical views
haven't left a mark on you, you wear it well
A little out of time but I don't mind

But I ain't forgetting that you were once mine
but I blew it without even tryin'
Now I'm eatin' my heart out
tryin' to get a letter through

Since you've been gone it's hard to carry on
I'm gonna write about the birthday gown that I bought in town
when you sat down and cried on the stairs
You knew it did not cost the earth, but for what it's worth
You made me feel a millionaire and you wear it well
Madame Onassis got nothing on you

Anyway, my coffee's cold and I'm getting told
that I gotta get back to work
So when the sun goes low and you're home all alone
think of me and try not to laugh and I wear it well
I don't object if you call collect
'cos I ain't forgetting that you were once mine
but I blew it without even tryin'
Now I'm eatin' my heart out tryin' to get back to you

After all the years I hope it's the same address
Since you've been gone it's hard to carry on

Ah, but I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now

Last Harvest

I love reading books about other people’s jobs, especially if they are well written and you learn something. Soul of a New Machine by Tracy Kidder comes to mind. Bonfire of the Vanities and A Man in Full by Tom Wolfe. Liar’s Poker and Moneyball by Michael Lewis. Of course, so does Moby Dick, Lord Jim, and The rise and fall of Cesar Birotteau.

Today I just finished Last Harvest by Witold Rybczynski. It is about the development of a subdivision in rural Pennsylvania. I like his books (I have read several) and his style. He goes into great detail about real estate development, and makes it interesting. With all the hoopla about the real estate bubble it is interesting to read about the people who make the properties.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Four Years

Today is my fourth anniversary as CEO of my company. It is hard to believe that it has been this long – it feels like just yesterday that I started here. But things have certainly changed.

When I joined, the company had about 22 people total. One office, and the previous year the company had sales of about $1.7 million, and a loss of about $1.6 million. This year, we have four offices around the world, close to 50 people (I think we hit the 50 mark next week), will sell about $12 million this year, and have been turning a profit for three years.

Of course, I don’t take all the credit for that (I will take some) as we have a great team of people here. As with every company, it has its ups and downs (back a couple of years ago I worried about making payroll. Now I worry about hiring enough people) and we are still a couple of years away from being a home run success. But I am pleased with what we have done. No, I am proud of what we have done.

There is still a lot of work to be done, and we are growing into the company that will be able to solve a lot more problems. But it has been a good four years.

A very good four years.

Vote Caging: Where is the outrage?