Monthly Archives: August 2004

I find it very difficult

I find it very difficult to go through this election season, especially since I have a first-time
voter living with me, and I can’t for the life of me justify the kinds of messages we are
hearing on TV. How should I tell her to vote? And why? What are the major issues? Who
even knows anymore. Even the economy (stupid) and the war have taken a back seat to
pure misanthropy.

We have gone well beyond “going negative;” I think we’re going crazy. It doesn’t matter
which “side” you are on, the main undercurrent is disrespect for anyone else’s opinions
and thoughts.

If I really believed these ads represented the views of my countrymen and colleagues, I’d
probably get a bottle of Scotch and a bottle of sleeping pills, check into the Ritz and pull a
Marilyn Monroe. If, as a society, we are merely vituperative and finger-pointing — without
even being especially creative about it — why was our country founded?

Think back a couple of hundred years, those of you with long memories or good
educations. Our country was founded on principles of freedom. Especially freedom of
speech and religion.

Recently, Stealthmode acquired a client, (http://, that was founded by free speech advocates to provide a forum
for anyone to post an opinion, have it found by a search engine, and find others of like (or
opposite) mind. takes web publishing to its logical extreme to provide the simplest
option for people to post what they want to say. It costs no time or money to use or learn
– people can simply type and post and their opinions become available to the world. It is
almost too simple. was founded by advocates of free speech to allow everyone to be
heard. Until recently, it has had no marketing. Topics include anything people might have
an opinion about – politics, products, personalities, companies, celebrities, controversies,
movies, music, movements,sports, shows, scandals, web sites, and even weather.

Each opinion posted becomes its own web page, which is then made available to search
engine sites such as Google, Yahoo, MSN, and AOL so other people searching for
information about a topic can
find and read those opinions. The motto is: “You post it here. We make
available for the whole world to see.” I actually expected most of the postings to be the
frustrated ramblings of extremists, carrying the assaults from the mainstream media
further right or left.

However, what’s most revealing about the people who have somehow found the site (and
why I have hope) is that the political comments posted are amazingly positive. Ordinary
people sign on and say something proactive. Left to their “safest” freedom of expression,
most of these people are not nasty or negative (however, I will say that the site currently
skews heavily Democratic). What does this say about the population as a whole? Perhaps
the campaign doesn’t reflect its mood.

I guess this restores my faith in the Internet as a medium that transcends the filters
blocking our freedom of speech: the spin doctors and handlers, the media, the special
interest groups. Over 77% of the opinions posted to the site as of now are Democratic, but
I hope that will change . Even Libertarian-oriented opinions are well represented (15%).
Pro-Republican opinions constitute the bulk of the remaining 8%. This may mean
Democrats are more Internet-savvy, or that Republicans will comment after the
Convention. Since the site isn’t really for market research or politics per se, it probably
won’t be subjected to over-analysis.

The site does, however, have the power to make me feel better about my fellow man. He’s
a pretty good guy (or girl) after all. As you would think, there are many opinions
expressing dissatisfaction with all
sides and with the political process in general. One opinion <
opinion/507050.html> puts
a unique spin on the choices in the upcoming election by saying:”Save the Country, Vote
Democrat. Save the World, Vote Republican. Does anyone remember when it used to be
the exact opposite?”

In an age of increasingly polarized debates and negative campaigning, I’m somewhat
cheered by the fact that some people can still find a way to express their opinions
positively, in support of a candidate or cause, instead of just taking an “anti-” or negative
position toward the other side.

But is just a small ripple on a sea of propaganda. Surfing those waves
has made me seasick, by and large. Hold on to your lunch for the next 60 days.

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I’ve been blogging for almost

I’ve been blogging for almost three years. Before that, I had my email list (which still exists). Although I use Blogger, I also post to Blogit, Always On, and anywhere else that will have me. I’ve come to the conclusion that writing is one of those old paradigm skills that has made it into the 21st century without losing its relevance. It’s still good to know how to write. Writers have a certain modicum of power, even though they are the lowest paid people in Hollywood.

It is also still good to know how to read. I’ve always felt I could learn to do anything by reading: I taught myself to sew from magazine articles, and how to cook from Julia Child’s cookbooks. I have also taught myself to plumb and wire from books, and now I’m learning about driveways. Along the way, I’ve learned about Buddhism, chaos theory, and nutrition. Reading is power. That’s why adults take literacy classes.

In case you haven’t figured it out, I’m working my way through the traditional 3 “Rs” here to ascertain whether they are all still relevant. The need for reading and writing have always seemed obvious to me, but until recently I thought ‘rithmatic (yes, it’s the third “R”) had been replaced by the calculator and the computer. When all the debates about letting kids use calculators in school came about, I sided with the “let them eat calculators” folks. And when touch screen software programs replaced the need to make change in retail stores I applauded. I laughed when Fran Lebowitz said algrebra does not exist in adult life.

But I am wrong. Early math skills are as important as the others. And that’s because the third “R” is actually Reasoning.

This year I bought my foster daughter a new car. (Remember, she dropped out of school after 8th grade, and paid no attention after 3rd grade when her family fell apart.) In the first two months, she put 4000 miles on it, and I hit the roof. I explained to her that the car had a 10-year or 100 thousand mile warranty, and that at the rate she was going, she was going to drive 24,000 miles in the first year and not have a warranty by the end of year 4. I thought she understood.

A month or so later, I drove her car and discovered she had 7500 miles on it. Now she was on track for 30,000 miles a year! I hit the roof again. (My head hurts from all this hitting of the roof). Then I sat her down and tried to talk to her about it. I know she doesn’t know her multiplication tables, but I had never really thought through the consequences of that –outside of causing her to fail the GED exam.

When we started to talk I realized she had no way to extrapolate from the mileage currently on the car to the mileage that would be on it in the future, because she had never been taught the thought process of multiplying. This horrified me, because her incapacity to multiply and divide, and her inability to grasp the concepts behind those activities, will cost her both dollars and misery in later life.

No calculator or computer can replace the need to reason mathematically. Sorry it took me so long to get here (where every primary grade teacher has been forever), but I’ve been distracted for the past thirty years by the march of technology. For a while there, I guess I forgot about real life.

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I have made my annual

I have made my annual pilgrimage to northern California to get my dogs out of the heat and visit with my daughters, both of whom escaped to the Bay Area for higher paying jobs than Phoenix had to offer–which led to my efforts to develop Phoenix’s entrepreneurial community.

My office up here is a Starbucks, either in Pacifica or in Half Moon Bay, where I can spend the day with my laptop doing the same work I would be doing in Arizona.

And I am not alone. Half Moon Bay is about 45 minutes from San Francisco (without fog) and about the same distance from San Mateo and the rest of Silicon Valley. Most people here do not commute to the “City.” They do what I do — they work out of their homes or the local Sbux. What I’ve discovered is that there are two types of “workers.” Type A, let’s call them, are stressed out, time-constrained office or blue collar workers who report somewhere at about 8 AM, stay there all day, and juggle the demands of “real life” on weekends or after 5. Or, if they are bold, on the office computer. These workers are losing their high paying jobs to outsourcing.

The other half, Type B, get up and walk their dogs, do their Tai Chi, or watch CNBC. They log on to the Internet, return email, hop on and off conference calls, and run their errands in the middle of the morning. They may or may not be self-employed.
They don’t seem to be hurting for money. The entry level home price here is nearly $600k, and as one realtor told me yestday “the bottom holds up real well.” Meaning the price of your home does not go down if you are in an entry level home.

These people continue to live a high quality life blocks from the beach despite the fact that the Bay Area has lost over 200,000 jobs in the past years. And, as we are reminded all the time by critics of outsourcing, those jobs are not coming back. Many people believe the hegemony of Silicon Valley is over. And yet, real estate prices here on the Coast continue to rise. And they rise in Arizona as well.

So what is really happening?

The idea of “work” is changing. No longer do we have to go somewhere to work. We don’t have to aggregate people at job sites. People can work anywhere, any time, any time zone. They may not refer to what they do as a “job.” The most common reference is to consultants. Everyone’s a consultant.

But really we are Fast Company’s Free Agents — members of ad hoc teams. We come together for specific projects, and then disband. We hire each other as vendors and suppliers. We re-combine endlessly like particles in quantum physics. And we are the wave of the future.

Outsourcing or not, there aren’t going to be “jobs” in the future. Even the people who report somewhere at 8 AM to make coffee or mow lawns will not have jobs in the old sense of the word. They, too, will be on ad hoc teams: they will mow the lawn on an as-needed basis or work at Starbucks for no more than 25 hours a week.

In this sense, we are moving toward a totally entrepreneurial society. We will all be responsible for ourselves, for our own economic viability.

As someone who has done this almost all her life and who trains others to do it, I’m not afraid of this. I can open a business at the drop of a hat and make enough to survive. But I can understand how, if you grew up expecting someone else to take the responsibility for your well-being, you could be scared to death of the new paradigm.

That’s why I went to Kansas City last summer to the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, whose mission is to encourage self-sufficiency through entrepreneurship, and became certified as a Fasttrac program administrator. Not just to foster technology companies. Not just to advise the elite who are after venture capital. But to create self-sufficient human beings who can survive the vicissitudes of life — including outsourcing.

(This is my annual pitch for Fasttrac, which begins again in September. For information on how to become a part of the new, economically self-sufficient society, sign up at In Arizona, look for Stealthmode Partners as your provider. And if you’re a vet, go to, where you can receive a hefty subsidy).

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If you missed last week,

If you missed last week, I�m remodeling a 1955 house. Because it was so neglected, it was a long time before I did anything to the house that I could actually see. But I�m at the point where I can see the fruits of my efforts, and I�m ready to share information. All you need is one of these houses to teach you all the lessons, but if you are only going to apply them to your own home, it�s nice to know them in advance. So here�s the �rest of the story.�

First everybody crawled around the attic for a week, installing the new air conditioning, running CATV, stereo speaker and Ethernet cables, and re-wiring outlets, bringing a fifty-year-old electrical system up to current day code. I wanted to put the same structured wiring in this historic home that is being offered in new homes, because I figured any buyer would want it. And once you are in the attic, you might as well do everything you can all at once. So I had the high voltage consultant and the low voltage consultant. The walls are now crammed full of cables and wires; the house could probably be turned into a data center. But if the buyer wants speakers on the bedroom ceiling (or any other media device), the infrastructure is there.

The rewiring taught me some interesting lessons about electricity. I had always assumed that all modern outlets were grounded, and I was going to ground everything in the house, but the electrician told me that 1) grounding isn’t really necessary for lights and switches and 2) outlets with grounds allow increased electrical pollution to enter the house, aggravating all kinds of potential illnesses from asthma to diabetes. He sent me to a site called, which also convinced me to have my existing home’s pollution levels checked. There�s also a site for radio wave sickness.

I’m not sure I believed all the stuff about electrical pollution, but how would I feel if someone bought my house and got sick? And what about the fact that I’m a licensed real estate agent and could probably be sued? So I’ve got the pollution levels of both houses down to acceptable levels; I bet I’m the first person in the neighborhood to do that. However, the electrician tells me that the AMA is supposed to come out with a big article on radio wave pollution in October (just as everyone is adopting RFID technologies). He says all this illness started in the �70s, when radio waves became much more prominent in our lives.

Another lesson worth sharing: get three bids on every job. The first air conditioning company bid $5200. The second one bid $3800. The third one did the job for $3000. Same unit, same job. Had I not been using OPM, I probably would have accepted the first bidder, but my “investor” is an attorney, although also my daughter, and I felt compelled to stay on budget.

That was true for all aspects of the remodel. You can, for example, buy surplus paint and tile from a place on the west side of Phoenix where homebuilders cash in their unused supplies. This gives you the latest trendy colors and finishes, at about a third of the price of Home Depot. At 86 cents a foot, tile is actually the same price as carpet. And carpet is also all over the map: I ended up paying $600 for three bedrooms of carpet, padding, and installation.

But I still love Home Depot, although I�m also hooked on this idea of not paying retail. I got a contractor�s card after spending days walking up and down the aisles looking for things like screws and thresholds. A contractor�s card not only gives you a $10,000 line of credit, but it also enables you to fax your order in to the store and let someone else walk around finding stuff. And it gives you professional discounts. So now I guess I�ve changed careers again inadvertently.

By the end of the week, this remodel will be complete, and I�ve already listed the house on, the for sale by owner site. This is another experiment. It�s listing #69761, so I�m not exactly the first person to do this. And did I stay on budget? Not on your life. I�m over by $4000. Pray that the house sells. And don�t tell my daughter.

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