Five Points – 9

Paying for estimates & bids —

I pay for estimates and bids.  Rob Knox first turned me on to the idea and it has proven to be an extremely valuable practice, whether doing home repairs or working toward building a new piece of software.

Contractors (plumbers to graphic designers to software developers) have to submit multiple bids before landing a gig that makes sense.  They know that every bid they submit will not be accepted.  Sometimes the ratio is pretty high (10 or 20 or more bids before finally getting hired), if the contractor doesn’t have a deep/old book of business that elicits trust.  Inasmuch, they can not afford to spend a lot of time on your estimate, because there is a good chance they will not get the job and this work is basically free.  They also don’t want to just give you all the details of what they would do, as that what they get paid to do.

Instead of inviting folks to bid for free, I suggest paying them for the time.

This does a few things:

– They treat it as work.  Regardless of whether or not they get the job, they are being compensated for their time.  This causes folks to give the task the attention a regular job would.
– You get a true estimate.  As a result of being paid a nominal fee, in my experience, a contractor will spend much more time preparing the bid and offer much more detail and color as to what they propose.
– You get to test drive working together.  A first date is requisite before getting married in my orbit.  I like to do a small project just to see if expectations are aligned and to see the way in which a contractor and I are going to get on before jumping off a cliff and awarding them the whole shebang.

An example might be to offer a $100 to a general contractor to prepare a bid for a home addition or a software developer to prepare a bid to develop an app.

Doing this with a handful of suitable providers, making them aware of the process, for each bid has yielded incredible results.

The World’s Oldest Companies –

My time horizon for work and life gets longer the older I get.  In other words, I am keen on taking longer to build things that I know will ultimately last longer.  In that spirit, much of what I do for work involves putting systems and processes in place that are perennial and not  necessarily trending and short lived.

I found this list of companies to be fascinating –

What I would give to be a fly on the wall during one of their board meetings and learn what sort of tactics they employ to build organization that last centuries.

How many boards are in that tree? –

I have lots of trees on my property and recently went down the rabbit hole to determine if I could mill enough lumber to build a few things.

Turns out there is an equation for that and its called Doyles Log Scale.

Humans are going to Mars – 

I find it completely amazing that humans have robots currently roaming the dusty surface of Mars, collecting samples and recording data, to prepare for our eventual occupation.

To be able to bring up high definition 360 degree views (in virtual reality) on my smart phone of a planet 33.9 million miles away is mind numbing.

My SciFi brain thinks of what it will be like in 300 years.  Of course, the first inhabitants will likely be scientist and astronauts and engineers.  But then they will procreate.  And their children and their children will too.  And the population will grow and cities will form.  And before long, there will be factions that aren’t scientists and astronauts and engineers, rather, folks that are interested in other things.  They might be rebels and anarchists and freedom fighters seeking independence…not so different than those brave souls of the New World (America’s) in the 1600 and 1700’s. This story could go in a lot of directions…

And I remember when my dad bought a 14.4kb modem and I was so excited a think I peed myself a little.

What’s on Netflix or Amazon Prime that is awesome? – 

A clever person created a movie database site that combines Rotten Tomatoes, IMDb, Letterboxd and Metacritic scores, with Netflix and Amazon Prime availability.  And it is awesome.

Is there anyone I should know in Nashville?

Everyday I am becoming more settled into my home and community in Nashville.  I am really enjoying it.

However, I long for a familiar face and connections with like minded folks.

If you know of anyone that is clever, entrepreneurial, wild, smart, fun, kind, and that you enjoy spending time with, I’d love to meet them.

Please do share my contact information such that we can hook up.

A friend of yours is a friend of mine.


For what it is worth, I’m having an open house pot luck dinner bon fire full moon thing next Wednesday (January 31st) that friends and friends of friends are invited to.  It should be a bunch of hippies being hippies making music.


January 31st is the full moon. It’s actually a Super Blue Blood moon, of which hasn’t been witnessed in 150 years.

3pm – folks are welcome to come round

4:30 – paper boat race in the creek.  Boats are made from a piece of paper and must carry one pebble across the finish line to win 🙂

6:30 – pot luck dinner is served

After dinner

I have lots of materials (wax, scents, wicks, and jars) for everyone to make candles.  I have horse shoes, cornhole, and badminton for a bit of yard sport fun.

Music, stories, and bon fire until 10 or is a school night 🙂

This is a leave no trace (no litter), kind, and respectful gathering of friends.  The forest around my home is a quiet and beautiful place.  I intend to keep it that way.  Your help in making sure the earth and my neighbors are honored and respected is absolutely essential.

I can’t wait to share good food and a laugh with you and yours.  Sending lots of love from the snowy forest.

Five Points – 8

Grow with Google —

I get asked about how one might get started in working in technology pretty frequently.

More often than not, I advise for someone to build something.  Scratch your own itch and develop a solution to a problem that you are having.  However, it’s not lost on me that that could be daunting to the novice or someone without a burning inclination to just go figure things out.  It certainly is a bit to nebulous for most to bet their livelihood on.

Google IT Support Professional Certificate is a solid alternative for folks with little or no professional IT experience to dive in, with a bright light at the end of a relatively short tunnel.

The course is subsidized by Google and costs $49/month (Full financial assistance is also available to those who qualify).  It can be completed in 8 months.  IT Support salaries start north of $50,000.  And a ton of these jobs are remote, meaning you work from home or where ever you happen to be that has an internet connect.

I think that is pretty cool. 

Advice for Entrepreneurs –

First Round Review Posts lots of round ups with collections of in depth articles on how to run a company.  This collection of curated advice for founders and those that wish to be is great:

Y Combinator asked their network for advice for first time founders.  There are some solid gold nuggets in there: 

What Is Bitcoin and why should I care? –

Bitcoin has flown into the world’s collective focus over the last few years, much in part to the amount of money folks have made as a result of trading the asset.  However, what has yet to fully take off is the facility to use the asset to exchange value (i.e buy something).  That second bit is changing.  What’s more, the underlying technology, the blockchain, is fueling innovation all over the park.

This article from the New York Times offers an in depth overview of the technology, how it works, and why you may want to consider understanding it a bit better.  Spoiler:  It’s very likely to play a big role in the way many technologies will evolve in the near future.

Amazon is considering Nashville – 

I wrote last week about my desire for Amazon to consider Nashville for their second Headquarters.

Looks like they are:

The New York Times published an interesting take on who will win and why:

What’s on the radio – 

I listen to this type of music most often when I’m writing, coding, and doing research.  I can’t listen to music with lyrics as my mind will follow them.  And I really like the tempo and high notes of this particular track.

Diascries – Anemone

William is really loving the cold weather here in Tennessee and so am I.

Five Points – 7

Groundwater and Regolith of Fairview, TN —

The deep freeze that hit the US over the last few weeks has had me play hour by hour water input v output musical chairs.  My home gets it’s water from a spring on the property, which gravity feeds a 500 gallon cistern, which is finally pumped into the house.  After fixing the busted pipes as a result of the freeze, I had to be sure to keep the faucets running in the house to insure they didn’t freeze again, however it had to be less water output than what was being fed from the spring into the cistern, such that the pump wouldn’t burn up.  Of course, the spring rate would be changing, as more ice built up around it.  It was a delightful game that spanned all hours of the day and night for right at 12 days.

My curiosity of rates and source and contents led me to a fascinating study from the United States Department of the Interior, Tennessee Department of Conservation, and the City of Fairview.

Nuggets like this are all over the study:

The Warsaw Formation caps the hills and ridges in the Fairview area. In some places the thickness of weathered and unweathered Warsaw is as much as 120 feet. Almost everywhere, it is partly or completely weathered to dense clay regolith (soil and weathered rock) with angular blocks of porous limestone or dolomite composed of fossil fragments replaced by silica. The regolith is yellowish to reddish brown. Where unweathered, the Warsaw Formation occurs in thick beds and is limestone or limestone partly replaced with quartz which is composed of sand-sized fragments of fossils. The unweathered rock is light gray.

What was Black Beard reading? – 

Being from North Carolina and having an obsession with the sea, one wouldn’t need to be Sherlock Holmes to figure out that I might be keen on Blackbeard.  A few years ago scientists found his ship, The Queen Anne’s Revenge, and have been studying it to learn more about the period and man himself.

Inside one of the cannons they found paper scraps completely preserved, which is remarkable, given they’d been underwater for over 300 years.  One may presume that this paper came from a book the pirate enjoyed at some time.

Casting a $20 Million Mirror [VIDEO] –

The Giant Magellan Telescope will be the world’s largest when complete.  Learning how the mirrors are cast is pretty cool.

Amazon should seriously consider Nashville – is considering a second headquarters outside Seattle.  I think they should choose Nashville, TN.  I frowned when I didn’t us on this short list –

Dear Jeff and the rest of my friends working hard over at Amazon, please give Nashville a solid look when considering H2.

Listed below are a few of the reasons why I believe Greater Nashville should be at the top of your list.

– Low cost of living compared to the rest of the country
– Central geographic location, weighted for population density on the east coast
– Weather in central Tennessee allows for more flights than any other region in the country, which is why FedEx is headquartered in Memphis, making it the busiest freight airport in the world
– Given FedEx is so close, the staff and logistics foundation are already well in place to support Amazon
– Nashville is easily one of the most cultural cities in the South (i.e. music)
– Tennessee is the 4th fastest growing states in the union
– No state personal income tax for employees, meaning Amazon staff will receive more pay at less expense to the company

Feel free to call me if you have any questions or if I can help at all.




What’s on the radio – 

There is something spellbinding about a beautiful Spanish woman singing like a bird..

Bebe – Siempre me quedará

Five Points – 6 —

“Writing worth listening to” and “Listen to the world’s best journalism anytime, anywhere.” are their tag lines.  Speakers and narrators read compelling articles and news such that you can listen on the go.  It’s curated to the left, investigative, and science/fact based.

Download it at your favorite app store or visit

Where do champagne bubbles come from? – 

Learn about the science that results in champagne bubbles.  Have something to say when it gets awkward at the next cocktail party.

Hat tip to Dustin Boyer for the article

How Atlassian Built a $10B Growth Engine –

I read a lot of business development and marketing material to see if there are ways I can implement those lessons into my own practices.

Engineering business growth into a business is an ultimate goal, whereby marketing happens as a result of use of the product or service.  A couple classics:

– Hotmail – In the footer of every email that got sent was a link to invite new users to signup
– Groupon – Buyers of a Groupon are incentivized to share their deal with hopes that it will ‘tip’ and be awarded to themselves

Another viable channel to grow a business is via acquisition of complimentary companies that have baked in marketing components.

The founders Atlassian bootstrapped the company for the first 9 years, staying lean and giving folks what they wanted in exchange for money (key point there..).  After proving a successful model they raised money to buy additional companies with excellent results.

I also really appreciate the idea of building a business that is a ’50 year business’.  Rene (my business partner) and I joke that our exit strategy is death, which is true in many respects.  The longer we go along, the more I look through a lens of building a company that will survive me.

Here is Atlassian’s story:

LPT: Use an infrared thermometer to check for drafts around windows, doors, electrical outlets, it doubles as a quick cooking thermometer. They cost under $20.  – 

From the article:

Got one last year, was surprised at how cheap and effective it is.

Our house is relatively new yet the downstairs gets frigid, my wife mentioned that the windows felt drafty yet they were solidly shut. We used this and found very slight cracks in the caulking that were letting cold air in. After using it to find all the weak spots and recaulking along with fixing some door insulation and closing a flue the house is much more comfortable.

Bonus: you can aim it at pans/foods and tell temps within a few degrees (surface only of course).

Double bonus: Aim it at your SO and say you found something hot.

You can get them on Amazon shipped right to you and the batteries last forever, enjoy!

With this old creaky house this thing just let me know that the caulk gun and I are about to get cozy.

The Ultimate Ground Speed Check – Tales from the Blackbird – 

My dad first took me flying on my 15th birthday, which I did every year on the same day into my twenties.  Raleigh East Airport was a municipal airport for the farmers and crop dusters about 40 minutes from where I grew up.  We’d hire a lesson for $80 or so, and take up a Cessna 172 Skyhawk for an hour or two.  I picked up the habit again a few years ago and was pleased when the pilot gave me a thumbs up from my control of the bird on my 40th.  I don’t have a license or anything, that would take more concentrated effort.  But you can believe I’d sure try to land anything I was in, should the need arise.  I’ve often thought about what the Wright brothers saw in flight that no one else had…how maniacal they must’ve been, relative to literally everyone else on the planet.

In any case, I love flying airplanes.  And I love learning about the systems and physics and protocols and perspective that all come from guiding a machine that weighs more than air, through the air.

Here is an awesome tale about the SR71 Blackbird from Brian Shul’s book, Sled Driver: Flying the World’s Fastest Jet

There were a lot of things we couldn’t do in an SR-71, but we were the fastest guys on the block and loved reminding our fellow aviators of this fact. People often asked us if, because of this fact, it was fun to fly the jet. Fun would not be the first word I would use to describe flying this plane. Intense, maybe. Even cerebral. But there was one day in our Sled experience when we would have to say that it was pure fun to be the fastest guys out there, at least for a moment.

It occurred when Walt and I were flying our final training sortie. We needed 100 hours in the jet to complete our training and attain Mission Ready status. Somewhere over Colorado we had passed the century mark. We had made the turn in Arizona and the jet was performing flawlessly. My gauges were wired in the front seat and we were starting to feel pretty good about ourselves, not only because we would soon be flying real missions but because we had gained a great deal of confidence in the plane in the past ten months. Ripping across the barren deserts 80,000 feet below us, I could already see the coast of California from the Arizona border. I was, finally, after many humbling months of simulators and study, ahead of the jet.

I was beginning to feel a bit sorry for Walter in the back seat. There he was, with no really good view of the incredible sights before us, tasked with monitoring four different radios. This was good practice for him for when we began flying real missions, when a priority transmission from headquarters could be vital. It had been difficult, too, for me to relinquish control of the radios, as during my entire flying career I had controlled my own transmissions. But it was part of the division of duties in this plane and I had adjusted to it. I still insisted on talking on the radio while we were on the ground, however. Walt was so good at many things, but he couldn’t match my expertise at sounding smooth on the radios, a skill that had been honed sharply with years in fighter squadrons where the slightest radio miscue was grounds for beheading. He understood that and allowed me that luxury.

Just to get a sense of what Walt had to contend with, I pulled the radio toggle switches and monitored the frequencies along with him. The predominant radio chatter was from Los Angeles Center, far below us, controlling daily traffic in their sector. While they had us on their scope (albeit briefly), we were in uncontrolled airspace and normally would not talk to them unless we needed to descend into their airspace.

We listened as the shaky voice of a lone Cessna pilot asked Center for a readout of his ground speed. Center replied: “November Charlie 175, I’m showing you at ninety knots on the ground.”

Now the thing to understand about Center controllers, was that whether they were talking to a rookie pilot in a Cessna, or to Air Force One, they always spoke in the exact same, calm, deep, professional, tone that made one feel important. I referred to it as the ” Houston Center voice.” I have always felt that after years of seeing documentaries on this country’s space program and listening to the calm and distinct voice of the Houston controllers, that all other controllers since then wanted to sound like that, and that they basically did. And it didn’t matter what sector of the country we would be flying in, it always seemed like the same guy was talking. Over the years that tone of voice had become somewhat of a comforting sound to pilots everywhere. Conversely, over the years, pilots always wanted to ensure that, when transmitting, they sounded like Chuck Yeager, or at least like John Wayne. Better to die than sound bad on the radios.

Just moments after the Cessna’s inquiry, a Twin Beech piped up on frequency, in a rather superior tone, asking for his ground speed. “I have you at one hundred and twenty-five knots of ground speed.” Boy, I thought, the Beechcraft really must think he is dazzling his Cessna brethren. Then out of the blue, a navy F-18 pilot out of NAS Lemoore came up on frequency. You knew right away it was a Navy jock because he sounded very cool on the radios. “Center, Dusty 52 ground speed check”. Before Center could reply, I’m thinking to myself, hey, Dusty 52 has a ground speed indicator in that million-dollar cockpit, so why is he asking Center for a readout? Then I got it, ol’ Dusty here is making sure that every bug smasher from Mount Whitney to the Mojave knows what true speed is. He’s the fastest dude in the valley today, and he just wants everyone to know how much fun he is having in his new Hornet. And the reply, always with that same, calm, voice, with more distinct alliteration than emotion: “Dusty 52, Center, we have you at 620 on the ground.”

And I thought to myself, is this a ripe situation, or what? As my hand instinctively reached for the mic button, I had to remind myself that Walt was in control of the radios. Still, I thought, it must be done – in mere seconds we’ll be out of the sector and the opportunity will be lost. That Hornet must die, and die now. I thought about all of our Sim training and how important it was that we developed well as a crew and knew that to jump in on the radios now would destroy the integrity of all that we had worked toward becoming. I was torn.

Somewhere, 13 miles above Arizona, there was a pilot screaming inside his space helmet. Then, I heard it. The click of the mic button from the back seat. That was the very moment that I knew Walter and I had become a crew. Very professionally, and with no emotion, Walter spoke: “Los Angeles Center, Aspen 20, can you give us a ground speed check?” There was no hesitation, and the replay came as if was an everyday request. “Aspen 20, I show you at one thousand eight hundred and forty-two knots, across the ground.”

I think it was the forty-two knots that I liked the best, so accurate and proud was Center to deliver that information without hesitation, and you just knew he was smiling. But the precise point at which I knew that Walt and I were going to be really good friends for a long time was when he keyed the mic once again to say, in his most fighter-pilot-like voice: “Ah, Center, much thanks, we’re showing closer to nineteen hundred on the money.”

For a moment Walter was a god. And we finally heard a little crack in the armor of the Houston Center voice, when L.A.came back with, “Roger that Aspen, Your equipment is probably more accurate than ours. You boys have a good one.”

It all had lasted for just moments, but in that short, memorable sprint across the southwest, the Navy had been flamed, all mortal airplanes on freq were forced to bow before the King of Speed, and more importantly, Walter and I had crossed the threshold of being a crew. A fine day’s work. We never heard another transmission on that frequency all the way to the coast.

For just one day, it truly was fun being the fastest guys out there.

Happy New Year and stay warm out there!!!  It’s so exciting these days, no?  It just seems like opportunity is everywhere.  Let’s get after it.