Sunday, 29 April 2012

The "Bubble" and What's Really Going on with Startups

Today's New York Times declares that there an investment "bubble" in Silicon Valley being concealed by venture capitalists, and that it's so out of control that startups are being told not to generate revenue for fear of disrupting their fantasy valuations (link).

I think the article is about 1/3 correct and 2/3 nuts.  Yes, some startup valuations do seem amazingly high.  No, there isn't some grand conspiracy, and there isn't necessarily a bubble. 

This is an important issue for the mobile tech world because mobile startups are a huge part of the so-called bubble.  If you're working in a mobile startup, or thinking about doing one, you need to understand what's happening.  Here's my take:

I've spent more than a year pitching the startup I'm working in, Zekira, to VCs and angels in Silicon Valley.  I've met with scores of them, taken them to breakfast and coffee, and had long philosophical conversations with them about our company in particular and startups in general.  I have friends and former co-workers who now work in the VC and angel world.  I've also spent a huge amount of time networking with other entrepreneurs, successful and otherwise, and the conversation always turns to the fund-raising process.  So while I don't claim to be the world's greatest expert on startup funding, I do have a pretty good ringside seat.  Here's my list of venture funding myths and realities as they relate to the Times article:

Myth 1.  Venture capitalists and angels are in the business of creating new technology products.  Not true, and in this respect the article is right.  Many people who work as VCs and angels are passionate about technology and love to be personally involved with new tech products.  They give great, enthusiastic advice.  But their business is to create companies they can sell.  Period.  They don't get paid until a company either gets acquired or goes public, so their focus is on creating companies that they can sell to someone for a markup.

There's nothing new about this.  Venture capital has always worked this way.

Myth 2.  We are in another tech bubble "worse" than 1999 (in the words of the article).  In the late 1990s, valuations of all tech companies, startups and otherwise, were wildly over-optimistic.  This situation made it easy for VCs to take new tech companies public at a much earlier stage, and at a higher value, than was possible previously.  As one VC explained to me at the time, "there's market demand for companies that are much less mature than those we launched in the past, so we're going to fulfill that demand."

Because the entire stock market was involved, and because immature companies were offered in IPOs, the retirement fund of every American was put at risk.  That's not the situation today.  The market valuations of existing tech companies are not wildly out of whack (a point made well here).  The startups being sold without revenue are almost all being peddled to other tech companies, not to the public.  Facebook and Google and some other big firms have decided that they need to buy consumer internet and mobile companies with rapidly growing audiences.  Competition between them has driven up the valuation of those companies.

Are the valuations inappropriate?  I don't know, but Facebook and Google and the rest are big and successful and presumably know what they're doing.  They can also afford to lose the money they're spending.  So even if there is a bubble, at this point I don't think is is even remotely the sort of economic threat it was in the late 1990s.

As for the VCs' role in this, they're just doing what they always do, fulfilling the demand for a particular type of company.

Myth 3.  Startups are being told not to make revenue because that will disrupt their valuations. 

Oh, please.

The reality is that there are at least two tracks of startup activity, which I will label trendy and traditional.  The trendy startups are web and mobile services hoping to be acquired by the big web players.  For those companies, the source of their valuation is the number of users they attract and the rate at which they grow.  Revenue is irrelevant because Facebook and friends aren't buying revenue, they are buying market position.

In a trendy startup, making revenue is a problem because it distracts you from the goal of growing the audience.  The VCs are right to tell companies to disregard it.

But the traditional startups are treated very differently.  In those companies, the VCs are looking for a strong team, good product, and proven revenue.  In fact, the problem is not that companies are being told not to make revenue, it's that even angels are often demanding that companies have a customer base and substantial revenue streams before they'll make an investment.  In other words, the investors don't act like the stereotype of early-stage people who fund a cool idea, they act more like banks.

From my perspective, it looks like most of the big VCs are investing in a mix of trendy and traditional startups.  Among the angels there seem to be different circles, some specializing in trendy startups and some specializing in traditional ones.  But the trendy startup scene gets almost all the public attention.  It's what drives the startup weblogs, it drives the big drinking parties, it brings people out to the conferences, and it generates most of the press coverage for spectacular acquisitions.

You often see news articles focus on the trendy startups as if they're the only thing happening in venture capital.  That's exactly what the Times article did.

The trendy startup scene is entertainment, spending a weekend in Vegas without the long drive across the desert.  Like gambling, the attraction of trendy startups is that you might get wildly rich for a small investment of money and time.  Also like gambling, you'll probably lose your shirt. 

Is that a bad thing?  Only if you bet money and time that you can't afford to lose.

The danger to the public (and to the economy as a whole) will be if and when trendy startups start to be offered up in IPOs.  If that happens, it will be very important for all of us, the New York Times included, to raise an alarm very loudly.  But that's not the situation we're in today.  Calling today's situation a bubble is crying wolf, because it may cause people not to pay attention when there really is a problem in the future.

Friday, 27 April 2012


Longfellow spurs me onward:
 "Let us then be up and doing,
  with a heart for any fate;
  Still achieving, still pursuing;
  Learn to labor and to wait."
Take my morning walk---survey my scene--ask what is calling to me.
Walk to this valley---see houses widely scattered---why do people live so far apart?  Consider going out there to find out.

Decide instead to hook up and drive 50 miles to this fascinating place.

Believe it or not, people (and coyotes) are living out there among those giant rocks.

You can drive into them. I settle in for a few days.

They are a wonderland of secret nooks and crevices.

This guy has found his hideaway---lives in that campershell---protected from the heat by aluminum bubblewrap. Never saw him emerge---went looking elsewhere for a story.

Ahh yes!  There's my guy---resting in the shade on a lawnchair.
I learn that he has lived in his car for years---stays in this county--summer and winter.  I eventually got a look inside---he has not even bothered to engineer it for comfort. (remove 3 seats and platform in a comfortable foam bed etc)
Meet "Bill" the focus of this entry.  With some careful and patient inquiry, he told me his story:  A
 college graduate in agricultural science---worked some years---then lost his job---and lost heart.  He marshaled his savings and resources---calculated he could subsist indefinitely if he reduced his expenses to about $200 a month.  He did so---and has done so for many years.  His pleasures are reading and animal watching.  He left next morning to go watch turkeys.

RANDY RUMINATES:   Oh sweet people--this was a disturbing interview:  In some respects I am looking into a mirror---for that is essentially my strategy.  AND YET---AND YET--there is something terribly wrong,( I think,) in this radical retreat from humanity. Something essential is missing in his strategy:  HE DOES NOT INTEND TO DO THE WORLD ANY GOOD. He is turned inward--focused on survival and not thrival. I say it is not enough just to do no harm.

RANDY RANTS:  Self reflective consciousness is so miraculous a gift that it demands to be put to use.  I believe everyone on this planet owes something to the rest of creation---To be up and doing in some way to further the creative process.
Imagine someone giving you a billion dollars and you chose to do nothing with it.  That is the staggering ingratitude of any human who's been given the miracle of self awareness and does nothing with it.

UPDATE ON THE QUEST-FOR-COMMUNITY CARAVAN:  We are enjoying ourselves on a cool mountaintop inventing ourselves as a community and moving to a new location Monday.    

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Apple is Not Sony

I'm not sure what I disagree with more, Forrester Research's glib prediction that Apple will be the next Sony (link), or the assumption that it's even possible to predict something that complicated.  Let me start with the second issue.

The longer I've been in the tech industry, the more I've come to realize that predictions about it are usually worthless. 

Leave aside the big failed dreams like nuclear-powered aircraft (link) and the transatlantic train tunnel (link).  Even products that seem relatively straightforward can be very hard to predict.  The industry thought tablets and e-books were imminent for at least a decade before someone got them right, and we're still waiting for micro fuel cells and flexible screens.

There are so many moving parts in the industry, and success depends on so many tiny details of execution, that it's basically impossible to predict even things that look, in retrospect, like they were inevitable.

If it's that hard to predict the fate of individual technologies that have been studied for decades, imagine the difficulty of predicting the fate of an entire company made up of thousands of people and numerous product lines.  What you can do is predict what could happen, and even take a guess at the odds.  We've all been collectively doing that lately with RIM and Nokia.  But even to make that kind of prediction you need to look at companies' management, products, customer base, financial status, and technologies, plus do an assessment of its competitors.  Forrester did none of that for Apple.  Instead it drew a simple little equation, based on sociological theory:  Apple was led by a charismatic founder, as was Sony.  After Sony lost its charismatic founder, the company declined.  Apple has now lost its charismatic founder, so it'll decline too.

Forrester is an excellent research firm, and I have huge respect for its quantitative market research.  But in this case I'm not buying its prediction, for a couple of reasons:

First, although it's accurate to say that Sony declined after the loss of Akio Morita, it's not clear that the company's decline was caused solely or even primarily by the loss of Morita.  Here's a chart from Yahoo Finance of Sony's stock price since 1985:

The red arrow marks 1994, the year when Morita stepped down after suffering a stroke.  Ignore the ridiculous spike in the middle caused by the Japanese economic bubble; the important point is that at its peak in 2007, 13 years after Morita left the company, Sony's stock price was double what it was when he left.  The PlayStation, Sony's most vibrant tech product today, was started under Morita but is generally credited to Ken Kutaragi and his sponsor Norio Ohga, the man who succeeded Morita.

I have no doubt at all that Akio Morita was central to the building of Sony.  But I think its decline stems from a lot more than just his departure.

In a similar vein, I am not at all persuaded that the success of Apple under Steve Jobs can be credited entirely to his presence.  I worked there for almost all the time he was gone, and Apple without Steve had a lot of strengths -- a strong engineering team, a strong product management culture, great industrial designers and artists and marketing gurus, and a beloved brand with fanatical users.  What the company didn't have, I think, was leadership capable of making all those strengths mesh.  Some of Apple's work was wonderful (the Macintosh II and the PowerBook computers come to mind), and some of it was completely forgettable.  Management was not able to get the company consistently united around a single set of long-term goals.  Instead the company lurched from initiative to initiative, some of them pushed by outside consultants, many underfunded or contradictory.  Apple's culture of passive resistance, created in part by Steve Jobs himself during his first time at the company, made the problems worse.

What Jobs brought to Apple when he returned, more than anything else, was focus.  He committed Apple to a relatively narrow set of initiatives, and made sure everyone in the company got behind them.  That let Apple's existing strengths shine through to the market.  Jobs was able to rescue Apple because it was only partially broken.

Forrester's article depicts Apple under Jobs as a company of followers who waited to be given their marching orders from on high.  That theory sounds reasonable if you don't know anyone who works at Apple, but I do.  The folks I know there are team players, but by no means are they passive followers.  I think the real risk is not that Apple without Jobs will drift, but that it may revert to its old bad habits.  Will the company's management team continue to work together, or will it fall into passive resistance?  Can Tim Cook enforce discipline without alienating the big talents (and big egos) scattered throughout the company?  Do the managers themselves recognize the need to cooperate in order to keep Apple on top?

Forrester can't know the answer to that question.  Neither do I.  Yes, at some point Apple will decline; nothing lasts forever.  But unless somebody develops the ability to read minds, we can't predict when Apple will come apart.  And in the tech industry, if you don't know when, you don't know anything.


If you'll forgive me for a brief commercial message, I wanted to let you know that we just de-cloaked Zekira, the software project that I've been working on for more than a year.  Zekira is an app that helps you recall the context around any bit of information in your life -- a name, meeting, file, etc.  You use it to answer questions like "how do I know this person?" and "what's the context for this meeting?"

Zekira runs on Mac and Windows, and is in early beta.  It's aimed at busy professionals who are overloaded with more computer information than they can keep track of.  The more that you save old files, messages, and contacts, the more Zekira can do for you. 

You can learn more about Zekira at our crowdfunding site:   In exchange for a donation to the project, we're offering everything from beta access to Zekira to a unique "first-come, first-served" opportunity to place display advertising in Mobile Opportunity.


DRIFTING IS WONDERFUL FUN---moving in a general direction without a specific destination or time constraints---  Not knowing where you will sleep or what will attract your attention. Here, I'm drifting towards NM.
Boonie and I decide to camp in this vacant lot in Douglas, Az. Next morning he's up and away to the boondocks for which he is named.
I am drawn to this formidable steel wall only a hundred yards away that separates us from Mexico.
Can you see it stretching into the distance---a 14 foot barrier that no one could accidently stray across.
It is here in Douglas that long drug smuggling tunnels have been dug.  You can see the broad cleared area on the US side to discourage such tunnels.
The entire length of the wall is dragged often by an  apparatus to create this smooth dusty surface that will show the footprints of anyone crossing it.  Can you see the tracks I made?
Leaving town, I cross the flat plain that the US paid Mexico 10 million dollars for. (The Gadsden Purchase) We needed it to facilitate an east/west railroad. read about it:
(thanks Diana for the info)

I travel this long and lonely road---meeting no cars--Then far out in the desert I see this border patrol truck perched on a hillside.  I park my rig just beneath him off the highway, to eat lunch, hoping he will come down to investigate.  He (or she) didn't.
Further on I pause at this significant spot.  Right out there, at the base of those mountains---Geronimo surrendered.  A brave Lieutenant did the negotiating.
 Look up this spot on a map and you will see that it is a lonely patch of New Mexico.  A tiny town, Rodeo, is just ahead.

I pass through it and down more lonesome highway.  Ahead are two ghost towns---Steins and Shakespeare---but I've already reported on them in a previous blog.
I call it a night at a familiar spot from last year in Lordsberg.---after a brief $100 pause at the DMV to renew my truck tags for 2 years. (a bargain)
Next day,  headed for Deming, NM, a fierce and scary dust storm buffeted me.  I quickly got off the Interstate, waiting it out in a field.
When I got to Deming, it resumed---in fact it blustered all night.  I humkered close against a Kmart wall and slept well.
Then went here for a few days--hiking and coordinating various aspects of the QUEST-FOR-COMMUNITY CARAVAN.

RANDY PHILOSOPHIZES ABOUT DRIFTING:  Few ever experience the ecstasy of pure drifting.  One must have his INCOMPLETES stabilized----his roadway clear of debris---fears under control---living gear adequate---senses alert.
Here is a summary of a real-life drifter---perhaps the greatest the world has ever seen: Ibn Battuta --from Morocco.

QUEST FOR COMMUNITY CARAVAN UPDATE. We are off to a terrific start---Our scout and pathfinder Boonie located a cool and perfect spot atop a 6,500 ft mountain with 360 degree view----AND good cellphone and internet reception.  We meet once or twice a day to hike and discuss. Will brief you on our consensus in a future blog. 

Thursday, 19 April 2012



There it is---Bisbee, Az.  We agree to park our rigs here and walk the town together.

A mined-out copper pit---the origional reason for the town.

A great evil occurred here in 1917  that shocked the nation and led to the modification of our laws and I encourage my right wing and Libertarian friends to read about it,  and  ponder the issue of corporate greed and arrogance and ask themselves about the proper role of government and the media.

Lotta steps home---a fairly common situation here.
When the mine closed down---artist and counterculture people moved in. They are still here---with a layer of rich folks attracted to the "juice" such folks generate.

The Peace wall----It's been my experience, that hippies know very little about peace---they talk a good game but squabble endlessly among themselves.

Seemingly, the town's only grocery store.  We went in and found philosophical quotes on the wall.
An aging hippy playing haky sack by himself---dazzling the little girl and us with his skill.
This guy and his friends have "claimed" a vacant lot and built an interesting "bark park" for dogs.
Murals are everywhere.  Jungians could find archtypes in this one.

Here is a homeowner's artistic request that you not pee on his wall.
Boonie leads through winding streets to the very end of town---this canyon's edge.  We learned that homeless folks live in tents out there.
Can you read that?  Says BISBEE BICYCLE BROTHEL.
RANDY PHILOSOPHIZES: Yes! Two is far more fun---than one--in my opinion. We found it fascinating that one saw dramatically different things than the other. Boonie would ooh and ahh at the architecture while I was fascinated by the social structure. Much to his chagrin, I engaged a regular looking guy for a story ---he gave it--(wife ran off with another guy--they live nearby--he's trying to cope)---gave us real estate info about prices etc---THEN---THEN--Suddenly got loud and religious.
Boonie showed me a new thing:  HE INSTANTLY WALKED AWAY---it stunned the guy and me--I muttered an exit line and hurried to catch up.  Boonie's explanation for his behavior is a classic---you can read it in the comment section of his blog about our Bisbee Visit.
I was moved to poetry by the incident:


Boonie and I met a religious guy
on the streets of Bisbee town
Who started a sermon 'bout liberals and vermin;
said all of em should be drowned!

But my friend Boonie won't tolerate loonies
(and I won't forget this day)
In a New York minute, he'd reached his limit
and suddenly walked away.
We camped another night together---then--true to his boondocking name---boonie drifted away into the boondocks--- deep into the Chiricahua mountains.  I'm hoping he reappears somewhere in New Mexico to flavor our Quest-for-community caravan.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

The Two Faces of RIM

At the risk of turning this weblog into the "BlackBerry channel," I wanted to add a couple of additional thoughts to my post on Research in Motion's recent earnings and strategy announcement (link).  There was an interesting divergence in the press and analyst comments about Thorsten Heins' statement that RIM would refocus on enterprise customers.  Commentators in the US and Canada generally responded to it fairly well, while those in Europe and other parts of the world were a lot more negative.

I think that's because there are really two BlackBerry customer bases, one in North America, and one in the rest of the world.  I wrote about this a year and a half ago (link), but I didn't think about how it related to RIM's earnings situation, and neither did a lot of other people.

To summarize, in North America, where RIM first came to prominence, its products tend to be seen as business tools.  They were first adopted by businesspeople who had a strong need for up-to-the-minute communication, including Wall Street traders and government officials.  As a result, RIM's image and core customer base in North America has always focused on business professionals.  The reality was more mixed; RIM did reach some non-professional users in North America, aided by operator marketing campaigns that included a memorable T-Mobile TV ad that praised the benefits of a BlackBerry flip phone designed to prevent "butt-dialing" (link).  But the most popular smartphones for non-business consumers in North America tended to be the Sidekick, and later iPhone and various Android models.

The situation was different in the rest of the world.  BlackBerry came to market there later, and people in many countries were not as enamored of real-time e-mail as they were in the US and Canada.  In those countries, BlackBerry generally caught on as a low-cost youth messaging phone, aided by RIM's BlackBerry Instant Messenger service, which lets consumers see when their texts have been read.  The relatively low parts cost of a BlackBerry compared to other smartphones also helped RIM reach consumer-friendly price points.  In some countries, BlackBerry established a strong network effect among young people.  If everyone else in your social group has BlackBerry Messenger, you'll be completely left out if you don't use it as well.

As in North America, there are exceptions.  You can find business users of the BlackBerry anywhere in the world.  But I think it's fair to say that the average person in North America tends to see BlackBerry as a professional business product, while the average person in the rest of the world tends to see BlackBerry as a youth consumer product.

This explains the differing reactions to RIM's announcement.  Observers in North America (including me) tended to view it as a long overdue refocusing on RIM's first and most loyal customers.  Observers in other parts of the world tended to view it as a thick-headed betrayal of RIM's fastest-growing customer group.

Some of the reactions outside North America were very acerbic.  My favorite came from Andrew Orlowski of the Register (link), who noted the irony that RIM had made its announcement "with the English rioting season fast approaching."  Yes, he was that upset.

So which group is right?  I think they both are; it just depends on which face of RIM you see around you.  Both sides of RIM have a core of loyal customers, but both sides also have risks.  In North America, I think business users are largely saturated with smartphones, and this is where RIM's business has been losing the most share.  On the other hand, these customers produce the highest gross margins when happy, and they are not being targeted heavily by other smartphone companies.  In the rest of the world, RIM's base is younger and growing faster than its North American business base, but it's hard to picture BB Messenger competing successfully in the long term against social messaging through sites like Facebook.  RIM might be able to maintain BBM as a standard by licensing it to other phone companies, but that would destroy the differentiation of the company's hardware, leaving it to compete on raw price against Android licensees like Samsung and China, Inc.  I'd rather walk on razor blades.

So I can easily make a case for focusing on either one market or the other, with the idea being that if you work very hard you can at least hang onto part of your current base, giving you a foundation to grow from in the future.  But it's not clear that RIM is ready to make that sort of apocalyptic choice.  Instead, it sounds a lot like a company that wants to ride two horses at once.

A small group of observers said Heins' comments about enterprise had been taken out of context, and that it was important to listen to all of RIM's conference call, something that many people apparently didn't do at the time (including me, I am ashamed to say).   So I went back and reviewed the full transcript of RIM's call (link), and here's what I think I read:

"We plan to refocus on the enterprise business and capitalize on our leading position in this segment." 

RIM did definitely say that it's re-dedicating itself to serving enterprise customers.  But I am not clear on whether that means serving IT managers or individual business users (or both).  As I mentioned in my previous post, that is a big difference.  Individual business-oriented users are a segment; they will not go away.  And anyone who thinks those users all want to play games and listen to music on their smartphones is out of touch with reality.  But IT as a major channel for smartphone sales is waning.  Although focusing on IT might be a good tactic to preserve some short-term revenue, it's not a long-term strategy for the whole company.

"Other products competing in the bring-your-own-device segment is to create a compelling consumer offering. We believe that BlackBerry cannot succeed if we try to be everybody's darling and all things to all people. Therefore, we plan to build on our strengths to go after targeted consumer segments, and we will seek strong partnerships to deliver those consumer features and content that are not central to the BlackBerry valuable position, for example, media consumption applications."

So RIM did say that it's backing away from some investments on the consumer side.  But that does not mean it is abandoning its young users.  I think Heins is hinting that RIM will focus on messaging phones and use software licensing to give those phones media playback and gaming features.  Outsourcing is a typical tactic that tech companies use when in financial trouble.  Sometimes outsourcing actually does save you money, and sometimes you find that licensing and integrating the third party software costs you about the same as building it yourself.  So I don't know how well that will work out for RIM, but it doesn't necessarily mean they are dumping the consumer market.

"Another key area where we will be making significant change is in our services business. Here, I'm referring specifically to the consumer-oriented, value-added services business that we have attempted to build over the past 2.5 years through numerous various acquisitions....The heavy ongoing investment required to continue this initiative does not make sense given RIM's current market position and our relative strength. As a result, we will be looking at ways to scale back these activities and refocus resources on developing an integrated services offering that leverages RIM's strength, such as BBM, security and manageability."

This is the place where Heins definitely signaled cuts.  It sounds ominous for Gist and Tungle and the other mobile web startups RIM bought in the last couple of years.  I hope they're not all being thrown out, since I believe they could help to differentiate RIM's products, but recent acquisitions are often at risk in corporate restructurings because they are not viewed as part of the "core product offering."  (Just look at what happened to Palm.)  Besides, they do not usually have big revenue forecasts attached to them, so they can be cut without forcing a drop in the corporate earnings forecast.

Reading RIM's comments closely, it sounds like they're saying they want to preserve both their business user base in North America and their youth messaging base in the rest of the world.  That's sensible from a revenue preservation standpoint, but it means that RIM will continue to be serving two masters with very different needs.  Compare that to Apple, which basically makes one smartphone at a time.  It will be hard to cut a lot of engineering cost at RIM, and it will be very difficult to create products that please both North America and the rest of the world, especially if RIM tries to add some significant new differentiators.  Features that please its North American core are not likely to also please the international market, and price points that would be acceptable in North America will likely be too high for the rest of the world.  The danger is that RIM will be like an army fighting on two fronts, with its forces below critical mass on both sides.

For RIM, this is yet another layer of challenge and uncertainty on top of what was already a very challenging situation.  Although customers may be glad to hear that RIM's not abandoning either group, to me the two faces of RIM make its situation even more daunting.

Monday, 16 April 2012


ONE DAY I DON MY MEXICAN SOMBRERO---go ask Glenn to walk with me to a tiny lake I've spotted in the distance.

Out there about a mile!

Boonie will go also--so like  three characters from the Wizard of Oz--we set out---little suspecting the adventure that lay ahead of us.

Our happy dog---Coffee girl---leaping in the grass like a wolf pouncing on prey.

This mysterious couple stood waiting in our path.  I said "Hi, I'm Randy" (extending my hand)
He took it and surprised us by saying: "Yes, I know"---and (turning to my companions) said: "And you must be Glenn and you must be Boonie.  We read your blogs." 

AND THEN----AND THEN---A half dozen more strangers drove up to greet us.  Turns out, they are all writers in some form or fashion from  Patagonia who deciphered our whereabouts from the picts on our blogs-----and decided to visit us and share a picnic with us.  My cup runneth over---here in the middle of nowhere hobnobing with our "kind".  Did you know that Patagonia is a  Mecca for artist and writers. (The brad Pitt Movie---Legends of the Fall) was written here.)
The big guy seated is George and the Lady to the left is Salli---collaborators on a fascinating quest to interview America's Writers. check it out: .
Back home, I  look out my door and congratulate myself on cyber friends---who--on occasion--magically--materialize!

Next day, Glenn and I have a long philosophical talk----Can't remember the topic---just that it was satisfying

Here's one concrete consequence, however:  He made a flag and announced that when it was flying, he was open to interaction.  This to allay our extreme reluctance to disturb his composing---a simple but effective solution which illustrates a profound distinction between MORAL and TECHNICAL solutions to problems. A moral solution seeks compliance by moral suasion.  A technical solution seeks compliance by reconfiguring the situation.  I'm a big fan of technical solutions. 

Next evening we  head for the lake again.

And find it---small but important for local wildlife.  Lots of animal tracks around it---one cougar.

Next day---Boonie and I leave --(separately) agreeing to meet in Sierra Vista.  I pause to photograph this rare sight---a real cowboy camp. He was nearby--rounding up cattle.

Gave a lift to Shin (pronounced sheen) from Tokyo, Japan.  He was completing a long hike:

This one---The Arizona Trail. have a look and be impressed.

RANDY PHILOSOPHIZES:  Going public with your life---e.g. blogging, etc---of course--has ups and downs.  I unhesitatingly declare my experiences--on balance--to be positive.  This one especially positive.  My readers help me grow---whatever they say.  And on occasion being recognized by strangers is a rush.  The bloggers I admire most are those who dig deep to report their feelings---high and low and who dare to live their highest aspirations.  Like these two: