Saturday, 10 June 2017

09:49 – It was 53.7F (12C) when I took Colin out around 0630 this morning, bright and breezy. Lately, between the time I get up and when Barbara gets up, the outside temperature increases by roughly 20F (11C). It’s already up to 73F (22C). This morning, Barbara is headed outside to plant day lilies of along both sides of the driveway.

Barbara’s sister, Frances, quit her job yesterday. She simply couldn’t take the work environment any more. Like nearly all large organizations, her former employer treats its employees like interchangeable pegs. I told Barbara it reminded me of her 20 years ago, when the library system just got to be too much for her. The stress level was incredibly high and I kept encouraging her just to quit, just as Al has been encouraging Frances to quit. Stress kills, and the effects on Frances now and Barbara then were obvious to those close to her. Like Barbara then, Frances’s mindset was to hold on until retirement. I told Barbara then that she might not live to retire if she stayed with the library system for another 20 years. For Frances, it’d have been more like 10 years, but even that was too much to bear.

So Frances is now devoting full time to looking for another job, ideally with a small local company rather than a corporate behemoth. I mentioned to Barbara last night that I’d been convinced for decades that the secret was to work for yourself. She said she’d mentioned that to Frances, but that wasn’t an option for many reasons.

As I’ve said before, there are two types of people when it comes to making a living. When one type, by far the most common, loses or quits a job, their first thought is to go out and start looking for another job. The first thought of the other type is to go into business for themselves.

The first type worry about security, and consider working for someone else to be more secure than working for themselves. The second type recognize that there is no security in working for someone else, and there hasn’t been for decades. I’m obviously in that latter group, but I recognize that not everyone is.

And going into business for yourself isn’t the risk that it once was. Nowadays, with the Internet, you can go into business incrementally, building a business on eBay or Amazon. I talk to people all the time who’ve done this. Many of them treat their businesses as part-time jobs that they work in addition to their full-time jobs. They may work part-time on their businesses for months or even years, but eventually most of them end up quitting their day jobs and devoting full time to their own businesses.

For example, in our first full month of selling science kits, we had only $1,100 in gross revenue and a hugely negative cash flow. But within a couple of years that business was generating a middle-class income.

I’m convinced that there are two tricks to starting a successful business. First, you need a unique product, whether it’s merchandise or a service. If you’re selling something generic, it’s a race to the bottom and you’ll eventually end up selling your product for just slightly more than it costs to produce. Second, you want to sell on the Internet to customers all over the country. That isolates you from local economic problems. Even if things are bad locally, you can continue to sell to customers elsewhere, which isn’t an option if you have a local brick-and-mortar business.

Actually, there’s a third trick. Always be looking for new potential revenue streams, whether related to your business or not. That’s related to the entrepreneurial mindset. In the past when we’ve had a slow period, Barbara would sometimes worry that people had just stopped buying science kits. My response was always that things would pick up, which they always do, but even if they didn’t that wouldn’t be a problem because I’d just start doing something else to make money.

So, I’d encourage Frances to continue looking for a new job, but while she’s doing that I’d also encourage her to start thinking about starting her own business. Maybe spend an hour or two every day and more on weekends building her business and then just see what happens. Worst case, it won’t go anywhere. If that happens, she can try Plan B. But best case, she’d find her own business growing, eventually to the point where she could quit her day job and work full-time for herself.

We’re back at a decent stocking level on the small chemistry kits. Yesterday, we made up 24 regulated and 13 unregulated chemical bags for the full chemistry kits, which were the limiting quantities for the bottled chemicals we had on hand. We’ll use those today to get 13 additional full chemistry kits built. The next task to to build 40 regulated chemical bags and 20 unregulated chemical bags for biology kits, with those numbers again determined by limiting quantities of one or more bottled chemicals per bag.

We’re about a third of the way through the month, and kit sales revenues are already more than 100% of June 2016, with total YTD revenues running slightly ahead of last year’s.

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45 Responses to Saturday, 10 June 2017

  1. DadCooks says:

    Once again, wise counseling from @RBT and @nick is a fine example.

  2. OFD says:

    Congrats to Frances for doing the right thing; I’m at least as bad; I hung on for month after month, year after year, sending out resumes, doing phone and F2F interviews, studying for certifications, etc., and got nowhere. And for what? So I could go back to working 45-65 hours a week slaving like a navvy and doing the work daily of 2-3 people, while being on-call with the pager every month and on weekends and holidays, and working for assholes who treat me like shit? With the bennies being cut back every year, fighting the bastards for overtime pay, and of course, the daily commutes, anywhere from half an hour to two hours in my various jobs over the years. Each way.

    So it’s only recently that I decided to forget about going that route anymore and get cracking on my own thing. If it brings in a few extra bucks a month, great. If, in time, it brings in more, even better. I just can’t have my wife carrying 3/4 of the load anymore. I hope to know more on Monday, but even if the VA turns down financing my “career transition,” I’ll go ahead with it anyway.

  3. Eugen (Romania) says:

    “The 25 Best Films of the 21st Century… So Far”
    https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/06/09/movies/the-25-best-films-of-the-21st-century.html

    And New York Times places in this new top a Romanian film on position 5: “The Death of Mr. Lazarescu”. It’s a black comedy that NY Times describes it very well as “weirdly funny”. Yes it’s good, I recommend it. In fact, I’m going to find it on net and see it again now.

  4. DadCooks says:

    Not news to me and this story makes things appear better than they really are (I wish I didn’t have the inside knowledge and contacts that I do). Most telling is the fact that not enough people can get the required security clearances, and that is after the requirements have been drastically reduced. Ho-hum this if you dare, but we are in BIG TROUBLE.

    https://foxtrotalpha.jalopnik.com/the-u-s-navy-is-screwed-1795662679

    Borders – Language – Culture

  5. OFD says:

    We need our sea lanes secured, ditto airspace. Bring the ground troops home to secure the landmass. Mission complete. Whatever it takes. No more foreign misadventures so as to keep us in a state of permanent war, like Orwell wrote about.

    Hey Texans:

    https://twitter.com/BasedStickMan_/status/873609452485607425

  6. MrAtoz says:

    R.I.P Adam West. Kapow!!!

  7. OFD says:

    Never met Adam West but Julie Newmar did a promo visit to the shopping mall’s cinema when I was a teenage usher there. Normally I would have been blown away but I was nonplussed by how small she was. And it was kind of weird seeing her just be-bopping around like a regular citizen and having a smoke outside the building. Another kid’s dream life shattered…

    …and checking just now I see she was/is 5’11.” OK. But I was a tall gangly kid then, probably close to the height I am now and about 160 pitiful pounds.

    Off to get Mrs. OFD at Burlap International Airport in a few minutes, returning from the City of Brotherly Love, which she does not much care for.

  8. Robert Bruce Thompson says:

    I still think of 5’11” as small.

  9. nick flandrey says:

    Not on women…
    n

  10. Robert Bruce Thompson says:

    Even then. Something smaller than I am is “small”; something bigger than I is “big”.

  11. SteveF says:

    What about a 5’4″, 380# Wallyhog, RBT? Smaller or bigger? A foot shorter than you but much assier. Er, more massive.

  12. medium wave says:

    Those of you of an intellectual bent considering a mid-life (or even later) career change might do well to take a gander at these two books by an author who made the leap from the liberal arts to STEM:

    Mindshift: Break Through Obstacles to Learning and Discover Your Hidden Potential

    A Mind for Numbers: How to Excel at Math and Science (Even If You Flunked Algebra)

    Oakley’s Wikipedia bio.

  13. Greg Norton says:

    Most telling is the fact that not enough people can get the required security clearances, and that is after the requirements have been drastically reduced. Ho-hum this if you dare, but we are in BIG TROUBLE.

    My only professional job in the Northwest was based on my ability to pass a background check and produce clean urine on demand. My technical skills were secondary to being able to obtain the clearance to board miliary aircraft to install/debug the company’s software, something their regular development staff could not accomplish.

  14. nick flandrey says:

    I’ve been in similar situations.

    n

  15. lynn says:

    Second, you want to sell on the Internet to customers all over the country.

    Second, you want to sell on the Internet to customers all over the WORLD.

    Fixed that for ya.

    40% of my sales are outside the USA. We are currently working on closing a seven figure sale outside the USA. This is a software product that I created and introduced 20 years ago by repackaging our existing software product.

    Man, I am old.

  16. Greg Norton says:

    Never met Adam West but Julie Newmar did a promo visit to the shopping mall’s cinema when I was a teenage usher there. Normally I would have been blown away but I was nonplussed by how small she was. And it was kind of weird seeing her just be-bopping around like a regular citizen and having a smoke outside the building. Another kid’s dream life shattered…

    I read somewhere that Julie Newmar possesses a genius level IQ and has done well in CA real estate. Impressive, but not “Catwoman”.

    In one of those “life imitates art” moments, my wife sat down next to Fred Armisen at the Genius Bar at the Portland Apple Store. It wasn’t until he started talking that my wife realized that she was living a “Portlandia” sketch for real.

    I see Robert Rodriguez occasionally at our local HEB. I try not to be disappointed that he doesn’t zoom into the parking lot in the car from “Death Proof” with Rose McGowan in the passenger seat.

    I swear Rodriguez had Kevin Smith with him last time, however, just a couple of months ago. I’m such a huge fan of both that I just kept walking, scared I couldn’t string together a coherent sentence to ask for autographs.

  17. CowboySlim says:

    @lynn:

    “40% of my sales are outside the USA. We are currently working on closing a seven figure sale outside the USA. This is a software product that I created and introduced 20 years ago by repackaging our existing software product.”

    I would love to have a link to that product.

  18. CowboySlim says:

    Allow me to add that much of my 45 year career at Douglas Aircraft, McDonnell Douglas Aircraft and Boeing Aircraft was working with and producing software regarding thermodynamics and heat transfer.

  19. Greg Norton says:

    Man, I am old.

    I don’t *feel* old, but I definitely got the age discrimination thing on the West Coast.

    I just finished a CS Masters with a 4.0 GPA. I am a much better student than I was 30 years ago.

  20. lynn says:

    Man, I am old.

    I cut two 37.5 inch 2″x6″ this afternoon with a hand miter saw and nailed them in place with about 18 nails for the header on the new door that I cut into the back of the garage three years ago. Man, I am old. One hour of real work and I am done for the day. There are guys that do this 50 or 60 times a day.

    EDIT: Wow, that is a heck on a run on sentence.

  21. lynn says:

    I would love to have a link to that product.

    https://www.winsim.com/link2ws.html

    I’ve been working on this software in one way or another from 1975 to 1981 and 1989 to now. Like I said, I’m getting old.

  22. lynn says:

    I just finished a CS Masters with a 4.0 GPA. I am a much better student than I was 30 years ago.

    Congrats ! I feel that I would still be a terrible student. I was accepted to TAMU’s engineering grad school based on my GRE score in 1982 but did not go. I had just gotten married and decided to get a job so we could eat and have a roof over our heads.

  23. lynn says:

    Allow me to add that much of my 45 year career at Douglas Aircraft, McDonnell Douglas Aircraft and Boeing Aircraft was working with and producing software regarding thermodynamics and heat transfer.

    Cool ! I am no great thermo expert, I walk on the shoulders of the giants who built this business. I am pretty good in getting things to work though.

  24. OFD says:

    “I just finished a CS Masters with a 4.0 GPA. I am a much better student than I was 30 years ago.”

    Congratulations, Mr. Greg; that is fucking awesome, dude!

  25. ech says:

    I see Robert Rodriguez occasionally at our local HEB. I try not to be disappointed that he doesn’t zoom into the parking lot in the car from “Death Proof” with Rose McGowan in the passenger seat.

    That car and some others from his films and TV show are on the lot at Austin Studios under a carport.

    I swear Rodriguez had Kevin Smith with him last time, however, just a couple of months ago. I’m such a huge fan of both that I just kept walking, scared I couldn’t string together a coherent sentence to ask for autographs.

    May well have been. From what my brother said, a number of directors dropped by the set of Alita: Battle Angel to see the sets (I saw many, covered by an NDA, they were damn impressive) and to see how the new 3D camera system worked. The system is fast enough that they can lay a low polygon count digital costume over the characters. In real time. In 3D.

  26. ech says:

    Oh, and the most famous person I’ve met was Neil Armstrong.

  27. pcb_duffer says:

    I was told that it would take a minimum of 2 years and many thousands of dollars for me to get a security clearance. I’m on the experienced side of 50, never had any sort of security clearance, and have drawn paychecks from exactly two places, both run by members of my immediate family. Ergo, any potential employer is going to drop me like a bad habit rather than actually employ me. And 99% of the decent CS type jobs in this area demand a Secret or better clearance, all contractors w/ the various military bases here.

  28. pcb_duffer says:

    [snip] Oh, and the most famous person I’ve met was Neil Armstrong. [snip]

    There’s a well known (to serious golfers, at least) club in Houston known as Champion’s Club. It was founded by Jimmy Demaret (now decasesd) & Jack Burke, Jr. (now aged 94). An observer once noted that five members of the club had won PGA Championships – one of the major tournaments in golf, and a really big deal. Burke replied that four of the members had walked on the moon.

  29. OFD says:

    Most famous person I’ve met would probably be Patrick J. Buchanan, along with his wife and ‘Nam vet brother. Also William F. Buckley, Jr. And General William Westmoreland.

    I’ve also met the E-Street Band (w/o Bruce or Clarence), Eddie Money, and Buster Poindexter. Wife has met Keef Richards, Howard Dean, and Bernie Sanders.

    Nobody lately, though, which is fine with me.

    Pax vobiscum, fratres

    Stay alert, watch yer six and quit jumping to look at squirrels.

  30. Gavin says:

    While I’ve met numerous Canadian celebrities, including Svend Robinson, our first openly gay Member of Parliament, the most famous person would be Jean Stapleton (yes, Edith herself!) in Ottawa, Ontario in 1988 or ’89 at the Ottawa airport. I don’t recall why she was there, except that it was theatre related, but I do recall she was an exceptionally gracious woman. A very pleasant encounter.

  31. Greg Norton says:

    Congrats ! I feel that I would still be a terrible student. I was accepted to TAMU’s engineering grad school based on my GRE score in 1982 but did not go. I had just gotten married and decided to get a job so we could eat and have a roof over our heads.

    You would do well. I worked with CS grad students who, early on, couldn’t explain the difference between the output of a text editor and a file produced by Microsoft Word.

    Part of the reason I’m not now working for the department is that I don’t buy into the groupthink regarding the percentage of students the program accepts just to keep the international tuition checks flowing.

  32. Greg Norton says:

    May well have been. From what my brother said, a number of directors dropped by the set of Alita: Battle Angel to see the sets (I saw many, covered by an NDA, they were damn impressive) and to see how the new 3D camera system worked.

    Could have also been a consulting gig. When he isn’t smoking weed, few people write/direct one-on-one dialogue better than Kevin Smith.

  33. MrAtoz says:

    I walked past Wolf Blitzer at the PinHeadagon. Does that count as famous?

    I shook hands with W, MrsAtoz had a 15 minute sitdown with him at the WH. I think I posted here at met Hugh O’Brien. MrsAtoz is friends with Cheech Marin and Edward James Olmos, but they never write or call.

  34. nick flandrey says:

    One of the nicest famous people I ever worked with was Buddy Epson. Truly a gentleman of the old school, and a real trouper (in the theatre sense.)

    On the obnoxious side, Salt n Peppa. Especially the thin one, with her fake-ass french accent.

    Met and worked with lots of famous and semi-famous. Mostly B list or former A listers.

    One astronaut. One (now) Former Commandant of the Marine Corp. Some others.

    n

  35. Robert Bruce Thompson says:

    I’ve met a lot of celebrities in passing, but the only ones I’ve spent much time talking with were Ansel Adams (several hours, sitting by ourselves at an exhibit in Cleveland back in the 70’s) and Vincent Price (several hours when I was in college and was the only one who showed up). And of course many, many authors whose names most readers would recognize. Oh, and I spent half an hour or so with a small group of people talking with Alistair Cooke, again in college.

  36. Robert Bruce Thompson says:

    Oh, and of course through Jerry Pournelle, I know everyone on earth with just one Bacon degree of separation.

    https://www.ttgnet.com/daynotes/2004/2004-26.html#Tuesday

  37. Miles_Teg says:

    Does Frances’ former employer care? Were they acting deliberately?

    My brother’s former employer has effectively fired a number of people, some who richly deserved it, some who didn’t. But they’ve employed a number of bean counters who are effectively incompetent.

    My situation wasn’t that bad but I’m glad to be out. Fortunately, I don’t need to find another job, which at 59 wouldn’t be easy.

  38. Dave says:

    Given Bob’s discussion of starting your own business. I just saw this YouTube video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=stD9RycSXiU

  39. OFD says:

    …I just saw this YouTube video…”

    Thanks, Mr. Dave; downloaded to watch later; wife snoring down the hall here.

  40. Dave says:

    I posted a link to a YouTube video by Gary Vaynerchuk that I thought was good. Everyone has to start somewhere. Here’s the very first video he ever posted to YouTube. The entire Wine Library TV channel where he posted that first video has 980 videos with about four million views. The video I linked yesterday is nine years newer and has over one million views.

    My point is that while his video may have sold some wine for the family’s wine store. It also provided the opportunity for Gary to learn how to make videos, and for him to become one of the big names in using social media to promote business.

  41. Miles_Teg says:

    How do you download Youtube stuff? It stopped working for me several years ago?

  42. MrAtoz says:

    There are several downloaders I’ve used. 4K Video Downloader is free, but I’m an Apple guy. I don’t know if there is a Win/iX version. It works fine.

  43. Gavin says:

    There is a Windows version of 4K Video Downloader, and it has worked well for me so far.

  44. SteveF says:

    Firefox plugin “Download YouTube Videos as MP4”. Works on most YouTube videos, but some are flagged or protected somehow so they can’t be pulled down. That hits very seldom for anything I want. More often for music videos that Princess Precious Punk wants to put on a Kindle Fire.

    (My Kindle Fire, that would be. Good thing I put the 64GB memory card in, as there are tens of GB of kid-oriented music vids, MineCraft walk-throughs, tutorials on customizing your Littlest Pet Shop pets, and a bunch of other dreck. On the plus side, she’s happy when we’re in the car for hours; our kin are rather dispersed across the Northeast.)

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