Three Years In – How is it Going?!

Dinner at Harry's by the River in Singapore

Dinner at Harry’s by the River in Singapore

It’s been three years since I strapped on my parachute, gave notice at IBM, and “stepped off the cliff” – So how is it going?

Well, in the interim, there was a lot of stress. We blew through almost all of our retirement savings. We sold our house. We downsized. We made business mistakes. That is, we made MAJOR business mistakes. We had our life views and assumptions on all sorts of things turned on their head and re-scrambled.

That having been said, I am sitting here writing this blog post at the bar of the Park Regis hotel in Singapore. I am working 28-days-on/28-days-off in Singapore helping a major shipyard with the complex software systems integration involved in putting together a state-of-the-art, highly-automated, jackup oil rig destined for the North Sea. The work is cutting edge. I am using SysML to make a model of the system-of-systems in question. The shipyard staff is young and enthusiastic.

I have basically solved all the problems that were driving me nuts at IBM.

  1. I have my own company.
  2. I am doing cutting edge development of real products with a future.
  3. I am flying business class again.
  4. I am doing business in Asia. That is, I am doing useful business in Asia and having fun doing it.
  5. I am starting to build a personal brand. I will be speaking at Codegeneration 2014 at Cambridge University in April
  6. The road in front of me is blossoming with opportunity.
  7. I am controlling my own destiny.

The personal side is great too:

  1. We sold our house. That was traumatic. I felt absolutely miserable last year as my lovely wife Tomoko spent Mother’s Day scrubbing and cleaning the house so we could hand it over to the buyer. However, the move forced us to dump huge amounts of physical baggage and we are now reveling in the new lightweight, apartment lifestyle.
  2. On the bright side, sharing the business with Tomoko has been wonderful – a real shared adventure. It keeps us both sharp.
  3. The evening before I departed on the current trip, I took delivery on a brand-new Chevy Volt. We rent a little single-car garage in our apartment complex and it has an electrical outlet. It will charge slowly since we will have it on the most conservative 110 volt charging mode, but the outlook is that I will rarely need to buy gas for the vehicle. So now, I get to explore the amazing amount of electronic control built into the thing. The best feature is that you can remote-start it from your iPhone so that it is all cooled down by the time you get to it in the parking lot. HIn blazing hot Texas, I expect that one feature to be worth the money to buy the car.
  4. For Christmas, we bought ourselves a large, state-of-the-art Samsung Smart TV. It connects directly to the internet and we are now watching all kinds of silly Japanese comedy and crime dramas on

Has it been worth it? Absolutely!

What I would say is that anyone who:

  • finds themselves working for an employer that pours a constant stream of negative messaging on them
  • anyone who is a little older but still feels like they have value to contribute – even though their employer is giving them a constant stream of feedback about being a useless, over-the-hill, overhead expense
  • anyone who is flying 27 hour flights crammed into economy class so some fat cat executives can show off to Wall Street
  • anyone who finds themselves working for a set of executives that have lost the will to develop good products
  • anyone who finds themselves dragging themselves to an office with the atmosphere of a morgue
  • anyone who finds themselves being stampeded into a quota sales position because the fat cats would rather milk numbers than develop competitive valuable products
  • anyone who finds themselves working for the pale shadow of what was once a great company

To those people I would say: “Don’t sit there riding the conveyor belt to your grave, waiting for the inevitable layoff notice”
Take some risk. Branch out. Give it your best. Be terrified. Be frustrated. Be exhilarated. Live life rather than watching it flow by.

Step off the Cliff.

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Art Night EAST 2013

Tomoko and Dave at Delta Millworks

Tomoko and Dave at Delta Millworks

Friday’s entertainment was Austin Art Night EAST 2013 by Art Alliance Austin.

This is the third “Art Night” event that we have attended. The other two were in the center of Austin. While all of the events are fun, this one is interesting in that East Austin is where the art actually gets created. The central Austin tour consists of galleries, that is: sales outlets. Artists generally can’t afford the rent in the central part of Austin. The studios are in East Austin.

The basic format of the event is about three hours in the evening that is a shuttle bus tour. Each studio shows its art, restaurants provide appetizers (advertising) and various beverage distributors provide liquid refreshments.

Although all the Art Night events attract a wide range of ages, there was a subtle difference between the central and EAST versions and that was the clothing. The central version has a sort of cocktail party vibe: lots of high heels, cocktail dresses and generally festive attire. The EAST version heads more in the “Keep Austin Weird” direction. My blue blazer was perfect for the central Austin event, but was distinctly overdressed for the Austin EAST event. Next year I will break out the linen coat, a more colorful necktie, and perhaps make a few other adjustments.

Tomoko At Big Medium

Tomoko At Big Medium

The recommended first stop was Big Medium because it had the largest parking lot. At Big Medium they had a table with a list of people who had purchased tickets online. They checked your name and gave you a wristband.

Big Medium is a large facility with a lot of different artists. We spent a bit of time with one ceramic artist who produces sets of handmade plates for restaurants. They were gorgeous. This studio earned our first “After we become millionaires, we will be back” rating for the evening. (Currently, to the extent that we need anything in the kitchen it is made of plastic and purchased at Walgreens).

Dave Samples at Eden East

Dave Samples at Eden East

The first pleasant surprise of the tour was that location (2) wasn’t a restaurant at all, but rather a very interesting restaurant called Eden East. This restaurant is closely associated with the Springdale Farm and serves a variety of Texas local produce and meat.

They had a trailer setup with samples of appetizers which were outstanding. Some guests rushed through gobbling one after the other. I took it more slowly, stepping away to enjoy one at a time. Coming back for the fourth sample, I had a chance to talk with one of the young chefs. It is a very interesting restaurant, open only on Friday and Saturday. It has a fixed menu and reservations are required. The menu changes every week. As we know from talking with other chefs, this sort of restaurant design is ideal for chefs, as one of the biggest challenges for chefs is the sheer boredom of making the same thing several thousand times in a row.

Tomoko Makes Smores at Eden East

Tomoko Makes Smores at Eden East

In addition to the great appetizers, Eden east had a wonderful beverage: a hot toddy made of “Devils Cut” Bourbon, lemon grass tea, and orange juice. The evening was cool and this beverage hit the spot. They also had chocolate, graham crackers, and marshmallows at the end of the appetizer line. Smores are not a particularly Japanese cuisine item, but Tomoko put three children through girl scouts and boy scouts. She knew exactly what to do with the ingredients. These provided a wonderful warm, sweet snack as we waited for the shuttle bus. That shuttle bus ended up getting delayed slightly as one of two elder men on the bus wandered off to get another hot toddy.

As the shuttle pulled up to the next location, I was thrilled to see that it was a mill works. That is, the definition of “art” for the EAST night is much more expansive than the definition for the central night. That is, the central night focuses on galleries which compels a definition of art as “stuff that hangs on walls”. The EAST night includes mill works, which expands the focus to include fine handmade woodwork – very exciting for me since I have dabbled in this art myself.

Delta Millworks

Delta Millworks

The two elder gentleman mentioned earlier were likewise excited since one of them had come regularly to the Delta Millworks in the 1960s to get framing timber for houses. Apparently, he was a hired hand at the time.

Delta Millworks had a disk jockey, a spray paint artist, and a counter serving hand-made/tailored margaritas. They also had appetizers from the Buenos Aires Cafe.

We spent a lot of time talking to a young man who runs Deep Fried Design He had a beautiful dining table that he had re-milled from the bed of a delivery truck. It was made of red and white oak and he had disassembled it, re-milled the wood, and reassembled it into a dining table. This was our second “After We Become Millionaires” award for the evening.

Milled Tabletop at Fort Tillery

Milled Tabletop at Fort Tillery

Next stop: Fort Tillery

Another mill works and general artist creative space, Fort Tillery housed Michael Yates Design. We spent quite a bit of time talking to Michael Yates and admiring his elegant walnut chairs. He is trained in architecture and is an obsessive designer. As he showed us, he basically makes his own walnut plywood by laminating thin layers of shaved walnut using a vacuum press to make the exact shapes he needs for his chairs. They are extremely elegant. His work won our third “When We Become Millionaires” award for the evening. Unfortunately, we forgot to take a picture of his work – the milled tabletop shown is from another artist.

Tomoko and Jules Buck Jones at MASS Gallery

Tomoko and Jules Buck Jones at MASS Gallery

The final stop on the Art Night tour was MASS Gallery. The particular art on display was the works of two artists who were channeling Picasso. Not my first choice in artistic styles. I respect Picasso because he dedicated the first part of his career to achieving a fine mastery of classical techniques before he went abstract. Nevertheless, the super-abstract style just does not float my boat so to speak. Nevertheless, this stop was fun because Tomoko ran into one of her instructors from the University of Texas Studio Art program who is one of the people who runs the studio.

Checking Out the Classic Cars at the Afterparty

Checking Out the Classic Cars at the Afterparty

With that, it was back to the “After Party” at the Getaway Motor Club It was a lot of fun, with a live band, music, pizza, and drinks. I had quite a bit of fun with another guy speculating whether this vehicle – which was displaying a pristine 1962 Texas registration sticker – had actually been rolled into a warehouse in 1962….

It was a great evening! We plan to keep participating (with some wardrobe adjustments on my part) and encourage our friends to participate as well!

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2013 IBM Uptown Classic 10K Race

Tye and Tomoko at 7AM

Tye and Tomoko at 7AM

Catching up on my reporting. Last Sunday we continued in our family tradition of running the IBM Uptown Classic 10K in Austin. Tye and I ran the 10K race and Tomoko ran the 5K race. Here we see Tye and Tomoko bright and full of energy at 7AM. Since the roads close at 7AM, we always get up early and make sure we arrive at IBM by around 6:50AM. On the way over, Tye – who is definitely NOT an early morning type of guy – told us that he was going to nap in the minivan until the race. However, once we actually got there, he was overcome by the general spirit of the occasion and did not nap after all. At any rate, I am not an early morning person either and slept fitfully the night before. Once we got there, I jogged slowly around the parking lot warming up.

Tye Brings it In in Under an Hour

Tye Brings it In in Under an Hour

Actually, I wasn’t expecting a stellar performance. After the usual winter colds and allergies, in May we went to Annapolis where I proceeded to get really, really sick. That put me out of commission for more than a month, right at the time of year that I would normally be getting back into shape. During the rest of the summer, we had the usual “global warming” weather here in Austin that made it difficult to do anything more ambitious than plod around the lake slowly. That combined with frequent trips to Houston (part of my new professional focus on the oil industry) meant that I was not expecting to set the course on fire.

Tye was likewise not expecting a stellar time either. He dedicated most of his workout time this year to further enhancing his upper body strength. He didn’t do too much cardio work. Nevertheless, he was able to finish the race in 58 minutes.

Dave Brings it In in One Hour 18 Min

Dave Brings it In in One Hour 18 Min

We were actually staggered at the start. I jogged around in circles to loosen up as much as possible. As the start approached, I made my way to the back of the crowd that was lined up. I did not see Tye and Tomoko at that point. Once the starting gun sounded, it took me almost four minutes to shuffle forward to the starting line.

That did not matter because we all had RFID tags snapped into the laces of our running shoes. The starting gun time did not matter at all. It was the “chip time” measured by your foot crossing the starting line going out and the finish line coming in that established your rank.

Tye and Dave Just After the Race

Tye and Dave Just After the Race

Knowing that I was not going to set any world records, I just jogged a solid pace – at least for me. That is not to say I slacked off, I ran as hard as my body could. However, the course is very hilly and I could not manage much more than tortoise pace going up any of the hills. On the downhill segments I stretched out a little. The last two miles I picked up the pace a bit and passed a bunch of people.

As we neared the 5K mark, I almost caught up to Tomoko. She had obviously been closer to the starting line in the crowd. I hear the announcer calling out her name as she crossed her 5K finish line. At that point, I would have gladly stopped running and taken her for a Martini, but I still had another 5K to run.

Modest Snack After the Run

Modest Snack After the Run

Interestingly enough, however, in my age category (200 to 225 years old) I came in 66 out of 66. That is, even though I passed plenty of younger people near the finish line, I was dead last in my age category. In other words, in my senior age category, only extremely intense and competitive men bother to participate. The fat guys who sort of waddle around the course give up by the time they are 40 at the oldest.

After the run, we went back to our apartment (only about 5 minutes from IBM) showered up and then proceeded to the Cathedral of Texas Breakfast Culture (Jim’s Coffee Shop) and had a modest snack. I had the Arugula, Quinoa, and Acai Berry Salad….

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Little River-Academy vs Cameron Yoe

Little River-Academy takes the field after half-time at Cameron Yoe High School on Friday, 4 October 2013. Despite a valiant fight by the much smaller Little River-Academy, Cameron Yoe – the defending Class 2A Division 1 state champions – went on to win 41 to 10.

Class 2A indicates a high school with 200 to 429 students. Texas splits all the classes (1A is the smallest, 5A is the largest) into two divisions at all levels for championships. See Texas Football Classes and Divisions

Dave and Tomoko with Snacks

Dave and Tomoko with Snacks

Tomoko and our son Ryan (who played varsity football in High School) have been discussing a trip to see a real “Friday Night Lights” type of high school football game for years. This year, Tomoko and I got around to following through on the vision. After some discussion, we picked Cameron Yoe High School, the defending Class 2A, Division 1 state champions. We looked at their schedule and picked their October 4th game against Little River-Academy because that would be a home game at Cameron Yoe high school and it would also be the “homecoming” game – quite significant in a small Texas community like Cameron.

The Frito Pie Was Delicious

The Frito Pie Was Delicious

Food is an important part of the Texas high school football experience. Of course we had hotdogs…which were consumed in seconds. However, hotdogs are not particularly a Texas food. The quintessential Texas football food is “Frito Pie”. This delicacy consists of:

  • A layer of Fritos corn chips…
  • Covered with a layer of chili…
  • Covered in a layer of fluorescent cheese sauce.

Those with lactose intolerance need not be concerned by the cheese sauce. No cow is involved. The cheese sauce is made in Sugarland, Texas by Nalco Champion, the premier supplier of engineered fluids to the oil industry.

The game was at Cameron Yoe high school in Cameron, Texas. The Cameron “Yoemen” faced off against the Academy High School “bumblebees” We ended up sitting on the visitor side (Academy High School) because the home side stands were full. The visitor side was actually great. We had front-row seats on the 40 yard line – we were never able to get that close to the action in all the years our son Ryan played football at McNeil High School in Austin.

 Cameron Yoe Homecoming Court and Fathers

Cameron Yoe Homecoming Court and Fathers

One of the advantages of our visitor side seat is that we were able to get a really up-close view of the homecoming court and their fathers coming onto the field. That is, they came on from the North endzone, walked right past us, and lined up at the 50-yard line. They then turned toward the home side and waited. As they were announced, they walked one-by-one across the field toward the home side. After they were all on the home side, the election of the “homecoming queen” was announced and she was crowned. This year’s homecoming queen was a very talented young woman who was the president of the student council and participated in a long list of other activities as well.

Cameron Yoe Football Players in the Band at Half-Time

Cameron Yoe Football Players in the Band at Half-Time

We were also interested to see the number of players who rushed switched roles and played with the band at half-time. Cameron Yoe had four football players and four cheerleaders playing in the band at halftime. While this sort of multi-tasking does occur even at the larger high schools, it is quite common at the smaller high schools and is kind of fun. If you look carefully at the picture at the left, you will see that two of the drummers are actually in football uniforms.

The last thing that Tomoko found really impressive is that Cameron Yoe had a row of seats reserved for alumni of the class of 1963!

By the way, four our Japanese readers, Tomoko reported on the game as well ==> 日本語版

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Media on a Diet, Cutting the Cable

RCA Antenna on Top of TV

RCA Antenna on Top of TV

We are pretty much done the scaling down process of selling our house and restructuring our life in an apartment – and we are loving it! The absence of maintenance headaches is a delight. Sunday morning cleaning lasts 20 minutes. It is heaven!

The other project we have been working on in parallel is putting the glutinous media service providers on a diet. In this post I will discuss a current hot topic – Cutting the Cable.

Once we made the decision to move to an apartment we also discussed what we wanted to do about Cable TV. Ten years ago we used to really enjoy cable TV. There was a lot of interesting content on cable TV. However, in the last 10 years, Nancy Debuc – CEO of the Arts and Entertainment network – has made it her mission to lobotomize all the “content” channels on Cable TV, one after another. “History Channel?” oh…I’m sorry, we meant: “Idiotic Reality TV Channel” Almost everything that was interesting 10 years ago is now mind-numbing drivel.

So, when we moved to our new apartment, we decided to purchase internet-only service – no Cable TV. Even though Time Warner Cable advertises internet-only service, they clearly do something to their sales representatives to give them a strong visceral aversion to selling it. I suspect they keep track of all the customers who choose to purchase internet service without purchasing Cable TV service and do something really unpleasant to the sales representative that handled the call. Needless to say, I had to be extremely assertive with the sales representative to get internet-only service and she was distinctly unenthusiastic.

Digital Broadcast TV Configuration

Digital Broadcast TV Configuration

The next problem was figuring out what it would take to get our prehistoric, large, cathode ray tube television set adapted to receive broadcast television service. It took considerable study and the product descriptions were not entirely helpful. Basically, there are three levels of difficulty:

  1. Flat Screen TV and Rooftop Antenna - You have it made in the shade. Your flat screen TV almost certainly has a digital TV tuner built-in. Just plug in the cable from your rooftop antenna and you are good to go.
  2. Old TV and Rooftop Antenna - Plug the cable from your rooftop antenna into a digital converter box and plug the converter box into your old TV.
  3. Old TV in an Apartment - This was our situation. You need a high-tech antenna that sits on top of you old clunker television. In theory you can just plug this antenna into your digital converter box. In practice, the signal strength inside your apartment is so low that you also need a radio frequency amplifier. Fortunately, a good antenna will come with exactly such a radio frequency amplifier.

For the antenna we chose the “RCA ANT1450BR Multi-Directional Amplified Digital Flat Antenna (Black)” which cost $19.99 from Amazon. While I don’t know exactly how this antenna is constructed, having spent a few years working on automotive radar, I have a pretty good general idea. Radio frequency antenna design is a black art involving boiling cauldrons, intestines of frightening animals, and ominous incantations. This is not your grandmother’s rabbit-ear antenna. The antenna itself is a small, light, black square that sits nicely on top of your television. See the picture at the top of this blog post.

RCA Antenna Amplifier

RCA Antenna Amplifier

The radio frequency amplifier is included with the antenna (no extra charge). It is an inconspicuous small box that sits between the antenna and the digital tuner converter box. See picture.

By the way, RCA makes several models of these antennas. It wasn’t clear at all to me what the difference between the different models was. However, Consumer Reports was very pleased with the RCA ANT1650 in their October 2013 magazine issue.

Next up – digital TV converter box. This subject took some study. The problem seems to be the fine distinction between “Manufactured in China” – a category that includes many very high-quality products such as the iPhone – and “Designed in China” which is a category of products that is still pretty rough around the edges. Reading the reviews, there were a bunch of “Designed in China” products that were extremely cheap and offered a huge list of amazing features, the only problem being that they didn’t actually work. I opted for a “Manufactured in China” product -> “Zenith DTT901 Digital
TV Tuner Converter” which was NOT that cheap ($113.98) but received rave reviews. Some of the other products were as cheap as $30 – a bargain if you don’t need a product that actually works.

We have been delighted with the Zenith product. It works very well. As soon as we plugged it in, it scanned and identified 22 active signals in our area. Not all of them are actually active. These fit into the following categories:

  • English – 12 channels
  • Spanish – 5 channels
  • No Signal – 5 channels

As for content, these include:

  • Cartoons almost 24×7 – 1 channel
  • Movies 24×7 (with advertisements) – 1 channel
  • Public Broadcasting – 4 channels
  • University of Texas – 2 channels
  • Local Weather 24×7 – 1 channel
  • General TV – 8 channels

The interesting thing is the Public Broadcasting offering. This is actually ***BETTER*** than Cable TV. The Cable TV industry hates public broadcasting (PBS offers content for people with an IQ of greater than 70 – an affront to Nancy Debuc’s mantra that all television should be aimed at an IQ of 45.) Among other things, this expanded PBS offering includes “Jacques Pépin” a delightful cooking show in which the host: (“***GASP!***”) actually ***COOKS*** something.

As for the other programming, the movie channel is pretty good. You do have to put up with some advertisements, but I usually have a magazine in my lap while watching the TV anyway. Lately, I enjoyed watching “Sabrina” and being impressed at just how elegant Audrey Hepburn was. News programming is about as good as Cable TV. We watch KEYE news because meteorologist Chigake Windler is half Japanese – a subject near and dear to our hearts.

The quality of the news coverage is a really interesting aspect of this comparison: Cable TV provides 24*7 news broadcasts. Digital broadcast TV only provides a few broadcasts per day. However, the Cable TV news is deceptive. Yes, they broadcast 24*7. Faces appear 24*7. Lips move 24*7. However, how often do they actually have genuinely “new” information to report? Oh…perhaps a few times per day. The practical difference is less than profound.

Dave’s opinion: The MBAs in Cable TV land are digging the industry’s grave. They are so clever. They are so smart. Content? Why do we need content? We can feed the public watered-down drivel. Viewer numbers skyrocket. Our “metrics” look great. We are geniuses! Unfortunately, these whiz-kid geniuses are too stupid to recognize the classic “Prisoner’s Dilemma” they are caught in: If all other players are producing great high-value content, any one “clever” channel can win by cutting costs and putting out mind-numbing reality TV drivel. However, if ALL the players start putting out content-free programming, eventually the public will begin to ask why they need to pay $100/month for….what?

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I am Really Popular with Imaginary People

Katy Hirst Wants to be My Friend

Katy Hirst Wants to be My Friend

Katy Hirst was the first to show up about nine months ago. I was thrilled! What a gorgeous young woman – and she wants to be my friend?! I wonder how she found out about my awesomeness? I didn’t remember meeting her anywhere.

I took a look at her profile. Katy seemed to be a very entertaining person indeed.

Katy Hirst Wants to be My Friend

Katy Hirst Seemed to be an Entertaining Person

Katy seemed to be a college girl. She seemed to live near the beach somewhere. By the looks of it, she was very amorous, and perhaps a bit morally flexible. Wow. Wonderful.

However, it did seem a little odd. I am not exactly George Clooney. Hmmm…. how about her other friends?  Katy had about 100 Facebook friends at the time – all men and of all ages.  Continuing to look at her online history, her entire online existence occurred on November 5, 2012. No posts before. No posts after.

Looking at Google, “Katy Hirst” had no internet footprint whatsoever, at least none that matched the luscious young woman in the photos.  So what was the point?  I never did figure it out.

Stephana Karlin wants to Contact Me

Stephana Karlin wants to Contact Me

Obviously, the cloud-ghost of internet social media got the message: I was not going to be taken in by some bikini-clad bimbo splashing in the surf. Also, blonde didn’t seem to be getting my interest up. We needed something more serious, and definitely a brunette.

A few months later “Stephana Karlin” wanted to connect to me on LinkedIn. This looked much better. Brunette, still with a sort of impression of moral flexibility, but a more serious version. No splashing around in the surf, more of a torrid office romance.

On closer inspection, however, Stephana seemed to be just as imaginary as Katy. I was really impressed, however, with the 3D animation. I am learning to do 3D modeling using Blender 3D and someone must have put months of work into making the imaginary photo of Stephana Karlin.

Obviously, the cloud-ghost of internet social media was frustrated!  I wasn’t responding to anything. It had send me a blonde splashing in the beach – nothing. It had sent me a brunette ready for an office romance – nothing. Clearly, something must be entirely misaligned!

Barry Flemming wants to be My Friend

Barry Flemming wants to be My Friend

The obvious conclusion? I must be gay! The cloud-ghost of social media is anxious to please! Barry Fleming showed up a few days ago….

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Asatte Press New Website

Asatte Press New Website

Asatte Press New Website

Today we completed the top to bottom redesign of our website.

As discussed in my previous post Asatte Press 3rd Annual Shareholders and Directors Meetings we are shifting away from consumer and personal skills toward Systems and Software Engineering.

Actually, this shift is not as dramatic as it might seem.  The conception of Asatte Press began in the Fall of 2010 with a command to me from Tomoko: “Dave, just quit! This job is killing you!” Followed by the next command: “And do something fun for a year.”  It was quite a revelation and it took almost a year to rearrange our life to transition.

However, it was the “And do something fun” part that led us into publishing.  I have always been very interested in typesetting. When I was an undergraduate at UC San Diego, I worked on a volunteer basis for a history professor who was using TROFF to photo-typeset complex academic texts. I wrote a series of very intricate macros to help him make parallel sets of footnotes in multiple languages (Greek, Latin, German, etc….)

Later when ROLM was purchased by IBM, I got to know GML and BookMaster. IBM GML was one of the key ancestors of SGML which begat XML and HTML. While BookMaster was definitely not in my job description, I was fascinated. I ordered all the manuals and dug in.  Where other engineers would produce specifications that were a few pages long and looked like they had been done on a typewriter, I went all-in and produced polished manuals that were hundreds of pages long with custom table formats, indexes, embedded graphics, you name it.

So, when the “just do something fun” chance came up, I jumped at the chance to go deep into XML technology. For Systematic Martini Lifestyle,  I developed my own XML-based markup language called APDOC. I then used XSLT 2.0 to write XML-to-XML transformations to turn that into XSL-FO, the Apache page formatting language from which I could use a high-end Japanese page rendering package (Antenna House Formatter) to produce the camera-ready PDFs for the book.  I also wrote a second set of transforms to produce EPUB2.0 versions of segments of the book which I released for the Kindle, iPad and Nook platforms.

Lots of fun! And it completely met my objectives of immersion in the XML technology space. However, we also learned that it almost impossible to make a living from consumer-oriented information products and social media. Time to think about the next step.

Well, it turns out that another technology I had a chance to work with at IBM is the formal modeling languages: UML and SysML. In 2003, IBM purchased a company called Rational that was a pioneer in the development of “Unified Modeling Language” (UML) which enabled the graphical modeling and design of complex software applications. In 2006, the Object Management Group  (OMG – the owner of the UML standard) and the International Council on Systems Engineering (INCOSE) announced the adoption of SysML or “Systems Modeling Language” for System Engineering.  SysML is an extension of UML that enables the design of complex combinations of hardware, software, natural elements, political factions – whatever one might have in a system.

UML and SysML, however, are both XML technologies. Furthermore, one of the key challenges in deploying these technologies involves model-to-model transformations, which are basically just the next step in the XSLT transformation technology I developed in the last two years. The Systems Engineering part of the equation builds on the rich variety of software and system engineering experiences I had in almost three decades with IBM and the companies it purchased.

So far, this is looking really fun and I am really excited!

As for the website, we did a careful study of technology company websites, especially in the oil industry (a target customer set for us). I rewrote the site from scratch using the latest HTML5 and CSS3 techniques, which are much better and simpler than the partial implementations of two years ago.

Tomoko put together the front image. I gave her some XSLT code from my APDOC to XSL-FO transformation and she super-imposed it on a collage of some interesting architectural photos she had taken on her last trip to Tokyo. I think it gives a great abstract impression of our new mission.

Please stop by and take a look at our new website at



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Asatte Press 3rd Annual Shareholders and Directors Meetings

Asatte Press held its third annual shareholders and directors meetings Saturday 6 July 2013 at BB Rovers in Austin, Texas.

Third Annual Shareholders Meeting

The third annual meeting of shareholders of the corporation was held at B. B. Rovers, 12101 Jollyville Road, Austin in the state of Texas, on 6 July 2013, at 8:30PM for the purpose of electing directors of the corporation.

David Hetherington acted as chairperson, and Tomoko Hetherington acted as secretary of the meeting.

David and Tomoko raise glasses of beer in a toast.

The Meeting of the Shareholders is Called to Order

The secretary announced that the meeting was called by the chairperson

The secretary announced that the meeting was held pursuant to notice, if and as required under the bylaws of this corporation, or that notice had been waived by all shareholders entitled to receive notice under the bylaws. Copies of any certificates of mailing of notice prepared by the secretary of the corporation and any written waivers signed by shareholders entitled to receive notice of this meeting were attached to these minutes by the secretary.

Tomoko squeezing the seal

The Secretary Affixes the Corporate Seal to the FY 2013 Annual Report

The chairperson then presented the (written) annual report to the shareholders of Asatte Press, Inc.

Accomplishments for FY 2013

Systematic Martini Lifestyle

We released our first book “Systematic Martini Lifestyle” in October 2012. The book is 320 pages of full color content.

The book takes a young man through a series of carefully scripted cocktail parties and gives him an overview of the ins-and-outs of sophisticated entertainment along the way.

Simple Series Books

We released the first two eBooks in our “Simple” series. We implemented semi-automatic conversion to allow us to take targeted content from “Systematic Martini Lifestyle” and release eBooks. The first two books released are:

  1. Simple Buy a Men’s Shirt
  2. Simple Buy Men’s Shoes

These eBooks are in ePub 2.0 format and are available from:

  1. Kindle Direct Publishing (
  2. iBooks (Apple)
  3. Nook (Barnes & Noble)

Social Media Presence

During FY 2013 we ramped up and fully implemented a social media marketing strategy consisting of the following components:

  1. Facebook – We invested considerable effort in the Asatte Press Facebook page. We tried hard to build our following. We ran an entire series of control experiments to investigate which paid advertising strategies would yield results. We had two for-credit interns from the University of Texas Advertising and PR program spend most of Spring Semester 2013 attempting to build traffic to our Facebook page.
  2. Blogs – We expanded our blog offering to cover a variety of subjects including:
    1. Systematic Martini Lifestyle
    2. Systematic Dating
    3. Systematic Diet
    4. Systematic Business Chinese
    5. Systematic Cloud Business
    6. Systematic Job Search
  3. Twitter – We explored all the recommended strategies for building a following on Twitter.
  4. Pinterest and Tumbler – We built out pages on both Pinterest and Tumbler and posted numerous pretty pictures as a means to try to drive traffic to our blog pages and to our store.

Asatte Press Store and

We created and fully populated the web store, hosted by In addition to our own “Systematic Martini Lifestyle” book, we also created a series of lifestyle products. We also listed “The Gift of Job Loss” from Austin author Michael Froehls. We put considerable effort into purchasing Google and Facebook advertisements to drive traffic to the store.On, we listed our products. We also have been using to sell surplus computer technical books and other used books donated by the owners of the company.

Management’s Analysis

Fiscal Year 2013 was a year of learning for Asatte Press. We completed our first major product, the book “Systematic Martini Lifestyle”. We spun up a complete social media marketing effort. We did a major college recruiting campaign. We hosted three waves of interns. We put out our first eBooks. We gained a rich and detailed understanding of the challenges of marketing a product to consumers in the current era.

As planned, we pursued a total commitment strategy in taking our first products to market in FY 2013. We put it all on the line. Unfortunately, we also learned that marketing information products to the public is extremely difficult, basically economically impossible. The exorbitant cost of purchasing tiny amounts of the public’s attention makes the marketing of almost any information product to the public completely economically infeasible.

As FY 2014 starts, we are getting ready to shift Asatte Press to a completely different “business to business” focus centered around Model-Based Systems Engineering (MBSE).

What’s Ahead

During FY 2014 we plan to get on a footing to offer high-value Systems Engineering services to industrial clients.

  1. Systematic Software Development Using MBSE – Our second book will be a highly technical book that teaches a detailed method for using Model-Based Systems Engineering techniques for software development. This book will form the credibility platform for engaging industrial clients in legacy systems reverse engineering projects.
  2. Modeling Conferences – Starting in July 2013, we will begin aggressively submitting paper proposals for systems engineering and software conferences in calendar 2014. These conferences will be an important platform for driving recognition of our capability and technical value.
  3. Website Redesign – In July 2013, we will completely redesign our website to bring it into line with current style trends and focus attention on our systems and software engineering capability.
  4. – We will phase out our online store. We will keep our commercial seller’s account, but remove everything other than our books.
  5. Social Media – We will scale back our blogs and social media engagement.
  6. Consumer Books – We will suspend efforts to create any further consumer books. We will finish out the series of five “Simple” series eBooks derived from Systematic Martini Lifestyle and then suspend further eBook activity until such time as there is an obviously profitable opportunity in that area.
  7. Investor Funding – We will defer pursuing investor funding until 2014 at the earliest.

Third Annual Directors Meeting

The third annual meeting of the board of directors of the corporation was held at B. B. Rovers, 12101 Jollyville Road, Austin in the state of Texas, on 6 July 2013, at 9:00PM for the purpose of reviewing the prior year’s business, discussing corporate operations for the upcoming year, and for the transaction of any other business that may properly come before the meeting.

David Hetherington acted as chairperson, and Tomoko Hetherington acted as secretary of the meeting

Picture of a basket of hot wings and celery

The Meeting of the Board of Directors is Called to Order

The chairperson called the meeting to order.

The secretary announced that the meeting was called by the chairperson

The secretary announced that the meeting was held pursuant to notice, if and as required under the bylaws of this corporation, or that notice had been waived by all directors entitled to receive notice under the bylaws. Copies of any certificates of mailing of notice prepared by the secretary of the corporation and any written waivers signed by directors entitled to receive notice of this meeting were attached to these minutes by the secretary.

The secretary announced that the following directors were present at the meeting:

Name of Director
David Hetherington
Tomoko Hetherington

The above directors, having been elected to serve on the board for a one-year term by the shareholders at the third annual meeting of shareholders held on 6 July 2013, accepted their positions on the board. The secretary then announced that the presence of these directors at the meeting represented a quorum of the board of directors as defined in the bylaws of this corporation.

The chairperson presented the near-term cash-flow plan for the corporation. The directors approved the cash-flow and spending plan.

The chairperson announced that the next item of business was the appointment of the officers and of standing committee members of the corporation to an initial one-year term of office. After discussion, the following persons were appointed to serve in the following capacities as officers, committee members or in other roles in the service of the corporation for the upcoming year:

Name Title
David Hetherington President
David Hetherington Treasurer
Tomoko Hetherington Secretary

The next item of business was the determination of compensation or fringe benefits to be paid or awarded for services rendered the corporation by employees and staff. After discussion, it was determined that no compensation could be planned at this time.
There were no further resolutions at the meeting.

Tomoko signing the stock certificates.

The Secretary Signs the Newly Issued Stock Certificates

The board approved the issuance of additional shares of stock to the investors in exchange for a fresh infusion of operating capital.

There being no further business to come before the meeting, it was adjourned on motion duly made and carried.

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Scaling Down, Moving Day

Japanese movers are a phenomenon. We have had several experiences with Japanese movers. When Tomoko and I married, Japanese movers packed, wrapped, and shipped everything from her seemingly microscopic apartment to the United States. The tiny apartment yielded forty meticulously wrapped and packed boxes of stuff.

When we went on assignment to Japan (twice) we got to enjoy the services of Japanese movers again in both directions.

Japanese movers are wonderful. They are also really expensive,.

American Moving - Two Guys and a Truck

American Moving – Two Guys and a Truck

About two weeks ago, we were finally ready to move out of our house and into an apartment. For this move, we got to enjoy state-of-the-art American moving services, otherwise known as “Two Guys and a Truck”

We did all the packing ourselves. In fact, we were up until about 2AM the night before packing stuff. The two guys and their truck arrived at 9AM. They moved everything out of both levels of our house and moved stuff to three different places and were done by around 3PM.

Thirty years ago, American moving services were a lot like Japanese moving services. Big companies. Big trucks. Large crews. Special padding and wrapping everywhere. What has happened since then is straight out of the economics textbook.

  1. Technology Innovation – First, someone figured out how to use a heavy-duty pickup truck rather than a tractor trailer rig. That dropped the price of the equipment drastically.
  2. Service Industry Standard Problem – What the guys who moved us told us was almost a direct quote from our lectures on the problems of services business at the University of Texas MBA program:  After a little while, the workers in a service industry figure out what the end customer price is and begin wondering why they need their boss in the picture as a middleman.
  3. Darwinian Economics – With the internet making it almost free to advertise this sort of service and no barriers to entry, the price drops like a rock. Eventually, the scenario evolves to the most economically efficient configuration and that is exactly two very strong, very athletic guys who move very, very quickly and one truck.

Our move, including the service and all materials cost less than $1000. If we had spent more time negotiating bids, (we were in a hurry) we probably could have got the entire thing done for around $700.

The Floorspace Compression Challenge

The Floorspace Compression Challenge

The move was further complicated by the scale-down/compression challenge.

The Austin apartment market is quite tight at the moment. We found a really nice apartment in a really nice complex, but that particular unit will not be available until mid-July. As a result, we were forced to move into a much smaller unit as an interim step. One saving grace is that this complex has garage units that you can rent for $100 per month. We were able to get the garage unit underneath our intended final apartment. That extra garage unit is a life-saver. We were able to use it to temporarily store some of the furniture for the final apartment, furniture that we will eventually move to our office, and most of the almost 100 boxes of stuff that came out of our house. Using this garage as a base, over the next year or so, we will be able to gradually work our way through the excess stuff, sorting, condensing, and discarding stuff to get down to our final target.

Three of Four Color Tags

Three of Four Color Tags

Even with the garage, however, we still had to get rid of a lot of furniture. I made several hundred tags in four colors:

  • Yellow – Moving to our apartment.
  • Green – Staying in the house (after coordination with the buyers)
  • Orange – Moving to our garage unit
  • Pink – Discard or recycle

It was a ton of work, but with the help of the two guys and their truck we got everything to its proper destination in one day.

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Game Day at Asatte Press

We spent Monday afternoon at Asatte Press playing games with our Spring 2013 interns.

No, we weren’t just goofing off. Asatte Press is now working on its first mobile game/training app for iOS. We have been very lucky to onboard an intern named Alex Hernandez who graduated from Full Sail University with a specialized degree in game software design and he has been working on a more formal design process. The first step in most software game design efforts is to prototype the game with paper and cardboard and test it to see whether it is fun to play or not.

Game Objectives

This game is actually the first of several concepts we are pursuing. All of our games are learning oriented with an eye to assisting the oil industry with its current training challenges.

This cocktail party game focuses on the problem of transferring historical knowledge from an older generation of workers to an incoming younger generation. The oil industry refers to this problem as the “Crew Change”. The game sets up a mildly competitive test in which the younger workers vie to show mastery of historical information in several different subject areas. During testing we actually discovered by accident that the most effective way to play this game is to have the older worker (me in this case) be the moderator and let the younger workers compete against each other. Done properly, this setup allows the older worker to jump in and explain the peculiar background behind some of the seemingly obscure “trivia” questions.

Initial Design of the Game Board

The game board is in the form of a gear with 8 spokes and a trail of colored mini-gears tracing the circumference,

Initial Game Board Design

Since we don’t yet have an adequate base of knowledge for the oil industry, we decided to base our game instead on the knowledge base encapsulated in our Systematic Martini Lifestyle book.

We decided to implement the prototype game as a around-the-board game similar to Monopoly or Parcheesi. We chose a gear motif to match our Systematic Logo. Tomoko created the board using the Inkscape Scalable Graphic Editor and partitioned it into four pieces which we printed on 11″x17″ paper using our large format Epson printer. Cutting and pasting these together, we were able to come up with a reasonably sized playing board.

Initial Rules of Play

The board has five colors of tip cards as well as some plastic figures.

Prototype Board

We used the Systematic Martini Lifestyle tips developed by our Summer 2013 interns as the knowledge base. We divided the tips into five categories:

  1. Red = Wine
  2. Orange = Food
  3. Yellow = Utensils
  4. Green = Liquor
  5. Blue = Clothing

The tip database includes difficulty levels from 1 (easy) to 4 (difficult). However, for the initial test we did not differentiate and instead used all the tips together.

Tomoko went to the hobby store and found some small plastic players to use as avatars during the game.

The initial playing/scoring approach was as follows:

  1. Each player selects a plastic piece.
  2. Each player places his/her plastic piece on the red gear on one of the spokes of the larger gear.
  3. Players take turns rolling a single six-sided die.
  4. Each player moves forward clockwise around the outer path of small gears according to the roll of the die.
  5. When the player lands on a small gear, the color of the gear determines which category of question will be asked. White is a pass (no question).
  6. Each question is multiple choice with four answers, only one of which is correct.
  7. The first player to have one correct answer in all five categories wins.

Results of Play Testing

Score Sheet from 4/28

Score Sheet from 4/28

We actually did two rounds of testing, one on Sunday 4/27 and one on Monday 4/28.

During the initial game on Sunday, we started out with me as one of the players. However, part way through the game, a late guest arrived and we had her take over my position. Before she arrived, we had been taking turns reading the questions to each other. After she arrived, we switched to me being the master of ceremonies as shown in the video clip. We discovered that this arrangement enhanced both the play (making it a little more festive) and the education factor, in that it created natural opportunities to explain the quirky back stories behind the tips.

Another change between day 1 and day 2 is that we switched to from playing for 3 correct in each category to only playing for 1 correct in each category. This change shortened the play time to about 35 minutes for 5 players. It also created an interesting dynamic towards the end of the game in which players had to pass a lot, because they had already finished the color they landed on. This forced passing in turn enabled lagging players to catch up. This game dynamic is not unusual, a lot of games play this way and we have decided for the moment that this dynamic is a positive feature.

What’s Next

We are going to go ahead and implement this game for iOS and probably for Android too. Although the style and game play approach is different from the prototype we used last summer, we will be able to reused the Google App Engine design that our Summer 2012 interns did in Java (on the Google App Engine) and Objective C (on IOS). After we release this as a “Cocktail Party” game for the general public, we will start pursuing opportunities to customize it to specific knowledge domains for the oil industry.

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