Monthly Archives: December 2005

My friends Ed and Lindsey

My friends Ed and Lindsey Salatka, whom I visited in Shanghai, wrote their friends a Christmas letter. It’s good enough to repeat:

Life in Shanghai

Shanghai is absolutely enormous, the scale of which you can�t even imagine. I live here and I can�t even imagine it! AND, it�s not even the largest city in China. The largest city is Chongqing, or as Westerners know it, Chung King, home of Noodles in a Can. Mmmm. In Shanghai, there are something like 100,000 expats, which is a lot! But on some days and in some areas, you wonder if you are the only Westerner here because you don�t see another fair head sticking above the crowd, or another big butt walk past, and the locals point and whisper as if you are the first fair head they have ever seen. Back to the big butt, it is the reason for learning one of my first key Chinese phrases. When walking into a clothing store where a saleslady is inevitably shoving a pair of pants in my face to try on, I say, �Bu keyi. Da de meiguo pigu!� or �CANNOT! Check out my big American Butt!� And no, I haven�t gained any weight. I just don�t weigh 90 lbs like the average Chinese gal who goes to the same store. So in China, they usually don�t carry my size, because I am a Chinese XXXL, which as Bart pointed out, makes us sound not only huge but both huge AND stuttering when we ask for something, because XXXL is �Te Te Te Da Hao,� translation, �Special, Special, Special Big Size�. So I am Special Big in China. And if I were hung up on this, I would just need to leave, because people, this could not possibly fit on my What To Care About List!

Our home

The housing options here are amazing. The rents range from $200 a month for someplace scary to $12,000 a month for something nice and big with heated floors and other fabulous amenities. The choice is up to you, and your wallet of course. A lot of people we know are on company housing packages, and they usually pay between $5,000 to $8,000 per month. For rent! This sounded like sheer madness to us, so we opted for something better than scary but nowhere near heated floors.

We live in a tiny apartment in a high-rise building in the middle of the old French Concession, just across the street from the American consulate and a stone�s throw from O�Malley�s, the Irish pub with a playground. Genius exists! So now you know how Ed became O�Ed. Anyway, our building has a beautiful outdoor pool for the summer and a heated indoor pool for the winter, an amazing gym complete with squash courts for Ed, a massive rock climbing wall for Mia, and a posh spa area for moi. It took us a while to take full advantage, but now we are into our groove and it is fabulous! The neighborhood tennis courts are a block away and you�ll find me there twice a week, although at the moment that requires donning a space suit. People, it is COLD. I mean, I am always cold anyway, but Ed�s face went numb today and I still can�t feel my fingers while typing. Which brings me back to our tiny apartment, and why it is closer to the scary end of the housing spectrum. No insulation. Zero. Zip. If you stand next to a window, you feel wind. You can see your breathe in the bathrooms. I wear my jacket inside ALL DAY LONG. When I have to take it off, I count to 3, chuck it, and run and dive under the fattest down comforter you have ever seen. It�s called survival.

Transportation

Cars, shmars. We schwinn it! My bike is actually not a schwinn. It is a Giant Hunter One, but would you have known it by name? I haven�t Schwinned it as a real mode of transport since I had an actual Schwinn, which would mean grade school, when I Schwinned everywhere. But I�m back in the saddle with the wind, albeit polluted, in my hair, smile on my face, ringing my bell, saying, �Rang yi rang!� (translation- Get out of my way!) to all I see. Clearing the way is in everyone�s best interest of course. No one wants to be clipped by a big-butted Westerner on a Schwinn.

The French Concession part of Shanghai where we live is small, lovely, and has nice Schwinn lanes. We have a little cage-like seat on the back of my Schwinn for Mia, and she LOVES it, even now when her cold little face must feel like concrete. I stuff her in there every morning, drop her at school, and Schwinn around town to get my errands done. When Schwinning is not an option because we are leaving our comfort zone or it is raining (which doesn�t stop O�Ed!), we take the dreaded taxi. Dreaded because of the traffic, dreaded because I have to speak Mandarin and the drivers pretend not to understand me, dreaded because they drive as if they are blind and there is a swarm of bees in their pants and a brick strapped to their right foot. DREADED! They drive on the same side of the street as the US. Or rather, they are supposed to. And I have yet to see a seat belt. Oh how I love to Schwinn!

Mia�s school is a very small international school for 2-6 year olds just around the corner from our house. It is fabulous and she loves it, although enough to justify that it costs more per year than my entire four years of college, and she�s three? That I don�t know, but I try not to think about it.

We are having a great time living here. It is stimulating, interesting, exciting, busy, fun, and amazing, but we have our days. I mean, it is CHINA. The smells, the spitting, the other bodily functions that I won�t list, the constant haggling. Nobody talks, THEY YELL! EVERYONE touches Mia. Last week, Ed went into a convenience store to buy a Coke. He put the Coke on the counter to pay. The cashier grabbed the bottle, thwacked a cockroach that had just come onto the counter with it, and put the bottle, complete with munched cockroach stuck to it, down in front of Ed and said, �3 kuai,� as if he were still going to BUY that coke and DRINK it. A similar thing had happened to me the week before. I went into a different convenience store to buy a bottle of water. When I put it down in front of the cashier, she had her pointy finger completely buried in her nose. She then pulled her finger out of her nose, grabbed my bottle of water WITH THE SAME HAND, swiped it over the scanner, and said �2 kuai.� You have GOT to be kidding. I would rather drink the water from the polluted Huang Pu River that can�t even sustain FISH. A new phrase I must learn is, �That is the FOULEST thing EVER!� But actually, it wouldn�t have made a difference. For the most part, the locals could not care less about being foul. It�s like me being triple XL. Her booger on my water does not make her What To Care About List. And although it certainly makes my list, I can�t say I blame her. She lives in Shanghai with no escape clause, makes less in a month than I spend every day, and I can�t even imagine her living conditions. Is she worried about being foul? She has bigger fish to fry, although none from the local river�

In case you think it is all nasty all the time, rest assured it is not. Here are the things I love about China: 100 ninety year olds doing Tai Chi in the park every morning. The same ninety year olds ball room dancing in the same park every night. Wonderful smells, like the men selling fresh chestnuts from their rickshaws on the street corners, or the hot delicious 5 cent dumplings on the opposite corner. Eating those dumplings. Walking past a street musician playing an instrument you�ve never seen. Hearing Mia yell, �NI HAO!� to everyone she passes, and �BU YAO!� if they try to touch her. A huge bouquet of beautiful flowers for a dollar. Men playing chess with sticks and leaves on the street corners. Marching men in big green uniforms winking and smiling as they file past Mia. Even the insane taxi drivers wear white gloves and drink tea, making you wonder if they lead a civilized normal life when they step out of their Formula One Car.

One Thing is For Sure

Life in the Pearl of the Orient is BUSY and never stops, which is why my updates are less frequent. So much to do! So much to see! So many clothes to have tailor-made! I feel like we lived on a sleepy tropical island in another life, because our time in Bali was so incredibly different in every way from our experience here. Different good and different bad, but in truth, I would not change a thing about either experience. We love that we get the opportunity to live around the world. Just don�t ask me to repeat that statement when there is a booger on my water!

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It’s Going to be a Happy New Year for Entrepreneurs

Four years ago, I was listening to NPR and I heard a program underwritten by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, which referred to itself as “the foundation of entrepreneurship.” I had never heard of Ewing Marion Kauffman or his foundation, even though Stealthmode Partners (www.stealthmode.com) was heavily engaged in fostering entrepreneurship and referred to itself as either “the entrepreneur’s advocate” or “scaffolding for startups.”

my usual nosy manner, I went to the Foundation’s website, Kauffman.org, and scanned the programs. Among the internships for students, the college programs, and the grants to organizations, I saw the Fasttrac programs, the only ones targeted at the entrepreneur him/herself. Fasttrac teaches people how to be successful as entrepreneurs, covering every issue involved in running a business and providing connections to community resources.(www.fasttrac.org) Wondering who dispensed this largesse in Arizona, I picked up the phone to call.

And that is how I became involved with the Foundation and its magnificent efforts to create self-sufficiency through entrepreneurship.

First, I found that no one offered the Fasttrac programs in Arizona, so Ed and I went to Kansas City and became trained, and Stealthmode became the southwest headquarters for these programs, which include everything from a half day seminar “Listening to Your Business” to a full on mentoring program called “Fasttrac Tech” that helps get new technology to market.

We began offering two of the programs, Fasttrac New Venture and Fasttrac Planning, and have put over 120 entrepreneurs through these programs with the help of the City of Phoenix, Merrill Lynch, Rogers and Theobald, the Business Journal, and this year, Ribomed.

About the same time I got involved in Kauffman’s activities, the Foundation itself began to change. It got more interested in high growth businesses, and reformulated all its giving guidelines and internal activities accordingly.

Two years ago, it formed the Angel Capital Association, an association of Angel Capital networks. That association has morphed into an industry association for Angel Capital Groups, and is committed to best practices and networking. Some of the goals of the Angel Capital Association are to co-invest with other members of the network, to share best practices, and obviously to maximize the return on the investments of angels.

Obviously the biggest goal is to get more resources into startups, using angels as the vehicles. But if the unwary, uneducated, but well-meaning angels lose their investments, as many did before 2001, they will go away and never come back. So now Kauffman is also committed to making the angels successful.

A research and education group, the Capital Angel Education Foundation, has also emerged to work alongside the ACA. This program will help teach people with money and interest in entrepreneurship how to form an angel group and how to evaluate investments.

Kauffman also reformulated all its programs, from New Venture, which has become focussed on starting a business, and Planning, which has become “Growing Your Business” to the new Fasttrac Tech Venture, which is entirely for businesses with protectable intellectual property, new technology, and the ability to generate high paying jobs if successful.

So for us the New Year is going to be very exciting. Stealthmode’s goal is to participate in these programs to the max, explore where they can help our entrepreneurs, and spread the best of the programs from Arizona, where I live, to California, where I visit and see just as great a need. We are in the process of forming a not-for-profit, the Opportunity Through Entrepreneurship Foundation, to participate more closely with some of our partners, including the City of Phoenix.

From Kauffman, look for more exciting news to come. And from us, look for Fasttrac Tech and the spread of entrepreneurship and success. Look for me to travel more and report about how people support themselves and their families around the world, chiefly through my work with the Foundation for Global Leadership (www.foundationforgloballeadership.org)

Naturally, if you want to collaborate or partner with us to help us, our arms are open–no pride of ownership here, this is a worldwide effort to build sustainable economies through entrepreneurship. We need all the help we can get. Happy New Year!

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California Chistmas

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Christmas is for the Dogs

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Holiday Musings in the Fog

It’s almost Christmas. On the area of the Pacific Coast Highway where I live during vacations, there are high surf warnings, thunderstorm watches, and floods. The Christmas tree is up, the fireplace is lit, the dogs are asleep on the rugs. The stockings are hung, although they are still empty; the gifts are wrapped and under the tree. Master “P”, a cat who thinks he’s a dog, plays with the ornaments.

There isn’t any snow, but otherwise it feels very much like Christmas — lots of traffic and inclement weather, drunk drivers tailgating my car on wet, foggy roads, and short tempers.

But both my adult children are home, and our little family, people and animals, is more intact than it has been for a long time. That’s all I need to feel Christmas.

Having been all over the world this year — Africa, Jamaica, China, India, and Thailand in addition to California, Mexico, Boston, and Arizona — I probably have more perspective than usual about what’s important. My votes: health and love are the most important things in life.

So why did I bother watching Barbara Walters’ special on “Heaven: Where is it and How do We Get There?” Probably because I have always admired Barbara’s ability to ask the BIG question: “So if someone doesn’t accept Jesus he can’t go to heaven?” “So it’s all right to kill people to get to heaven?” She intrepidly asks these questions of leaders from all the great religions for two hours.

But set side by side, all these beliefs begin to sound like something out of Jon Stewart’s parody “This Week in God.” As you watch her travelling the world in her expensive outfits, you wonder “How can these different beliefs ALL be true, right, or correct?” The babel of conflicting beliefs is like the sound of Rob Corrdry’s God Machine.

Religious beliefs seem to have done more to divide and separate the world than to unify it, and that’s the part I still can’t make sense of. We all seem to have the best intentions, yet when we get down to it, we refuse to accept each other’s common humanity. We introduce democracy to Iraq, and one Muslim sect rises immediately to dominance. We stand by while “ethnic cleansing” goes on in Darfur. Even in Dharamsala, disciples of the Dalai Lama turn to violence.

After about an hour, I turned off the Barbara Walters special, trading it for the local news. Barbara didn’t have any more answers than I do, and she wasn’t getting any.

But as we approach Christmas, I would like to share my own idea of heaven, and of how we get there:
For me, heaven is respect for other people, their differences, strengths, and weaknesses. It’s seeing and learning as much as I can about what makes them tick, and why they think the way they do. It’s knowing that everyone has something to teach me. And I’m already here. Heaven for me is the here and now.

You don’t have to share my belief. You can even think I’m nuts. But do me a favor: don’t blow me up just to get yourself to Heaven.

A very happy holiday to all of you and your families. I am always grateful for you, the people who think it’s worth your valuable time to keep in touch with me.
Looking ahead to next year, Fasttrac Tech begins 1/3 and you can call me if you are interested in being part of it. For details, go to http://www.fasttrac.org and search for Stealthmode.

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Here’s something we don’t like

Here’s something we don’t like to think about: at some time in our lives we
will all be customers of the health care industry. And yes, much as we like
to think of nuns running hospitals and Marcus Welby making house calls,
health care is an industry, becoming more so every day. In Arizona alone, health care is a $30 billion industry in which everyone wants to increase revenue and decrease costs. The problem is that somebody’s cost is somebody else’s revenue. And if you are a patient, somebody’s cost containment is your decreased access to care. Health care is an industry that is putting out a luxury, high end product very few of us are able to afford.

And that’s beginning to piss us off. Part of the problem is that although health care is a bona fide industry, it’s also one in which 85% of hospitals are still “non profit” and close to 60% of the entire health care product is financed by public revenues. That’s because although health care operates on margin just like any other industry, there is also the competing demand of its mission. Market discipline and market models applied to health care often conflict with the traditional mission of keeping everyone alive and well for as long as possible.

Everybody wants unfettered access to health care and the latest technology.
Consumer demand is going to increase in the next decades, and that is either
going to usher in the new world of personalized medicine or break the
system.

Nobody wants to pay more. Nobody wants to lose, but there is little
agreement about the best division of labor between the public and private
sector. The biggest dilemma is that, when polled, Americans say they want universal health care, but they’d rather shift costs behind the scenes than participate in a socialized system that would mean higher taxes and government subsidies. This means health insurance costs go up for the insured, and companies like General Motors are threatened with bankruptcy.

Last week I went to the St.Luke’s Health Initiatives Forecast, and here’s the sad truth:

Employer-based insurance will continue its gradual erosion.
Public insurance will continue to increase (ACCHHS)
The uninsured will continue to increase relative to population growth and
will remain at 19% of the population
Costs will continue to rise
Consumers will have to pay an increased share of their health care costs
Insurance premiums are costing up to 20% of take home pay.
While there is huge demand for hospital care in Maricopa County, hospitals
deliver hundreds of millions of dollars in uncompensated care. That’s not
only charity care, but insured people who can’t afford to pay their portion
of the bill for a catastrophic illness. Long term, the future for hospitals
is problematic.

Salaries, for the first time in a while, are up for physicians. But only for
certain specialties. There has been a gradual decline in primary care
physicians that mirrors almost exactly what is seen in other industries as
they mature: what used to be done by highly trained people (physicians) is
now delivered by less trained people (nurse practitioners, physician
assistants). Primary care is now delivered mostly by physician extenders.
And people entering medical college today are interested in a “balanced
lifestyle” rather than the total dedication to service of previous
generations. Many physicians take part-time employment and salaries instead
of going to into practice for themselves, especially in rural areas.

Health plans are experiencing declining margins and are under pressure to
consolidate. In order to survive, they will have to get into the information
business and out of the insurance business — they will have to become
experts in disease management to contain the costs of the 10% of the
population that takes up 70% of the health care dollar.

This will involve more collaboration and trust to develop databases. The
technology exists to automate most of health care, but it’s limited by the
concepts of ownership. Who owns aggregated health care data?

Arizona citizens believe that employer-based health care isn’t viable long
term, and that everyone should be insured and no one should get a free ride. A lot of these beliefs are paradoxical.

These trends are all part of the continuing industrialization of health
care. It’s a product we don’t like mass-produced, but can’t afford as a luxury. Now what?

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California Office

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