Asatte Press Book on Sale at Kinokuniya

Asatte Press Book on Sale at Kinokunia Books in San Francisco

Asatte Press Book on Sale at Kinokunia Books in San Francisco

Recently we have had a major win for Asatte Press. This photo shows our new book on sale at Kinokuniya Books in San Francisco. We are thrilled! For the Japanese speaking world, Kinokuniya Books is the equivalent of Barnes and Noble. Even better, they found two other books with very similar topics and similar covers to put ours next to. From a book marketing point of view, it doesn’t get any better than this!

BURUSHITTO! Bullshit! - Front Cover

BURUSHITTO! Bullshit! – Front Cover

The title of the book is “ブルシット! Bullshit!” and is the first book by Tomoko Hetherington. The book covers the rich variety of less-than-polite expressions related to the word “shit” that Tomoko learned from her three bilingual children. The bull on the front of the book is saying something to the effect of: “Totally wrong. This here is HORSEshit.”

BURUSHITTO! Bullshit! - Rear Cover

BURUSHITTO! Bullshit! – Rear Cover

On the rear of the book, we can see the same bull (from the other end) saying: “Nope. No bovine manure here.”

In order to avoid confusing readers of our technical and engineering books, we created a separate imprint “Texas Hirame” (which happens to be Tomoko’s blogging pen name) and are marketing the book under that alias. This kind of thing is done all of the time. Most major publishing companies have dozens of different imprints targeted at specific markets.

Better Get Your Boots On, The Shit is Getting Deep

Better Get Your Boots On, The Shit is Getting Deep

The cover artwork was done by Tomoko herself as were the numerous illustrations in the book. Here we see a helpful illustration for the expression: “Better get your boots on. The shit is getting deep.”

This is Horseshit

This is Horseshit

Shit from several different major animals (bull, horse, chicken, bat, ape) is introduced and the nuances of each type of shit are discussed in some detail.

Up Shit Creek Without a Paddle

Up Shit Creek Without a Paddle

Other expressions that describe various types of difficult situations are clarified as well.

The book is offered in print from Amazon.com. It is also available in Kindle and iBooks versions on Amazon.com and iTunes respectively.

The iBooks version also includes a number of convenient embedded audio segments. For example:

Provides Japanese speakers with a convenient audio example that they can practice with and emulate until they can smoothly make sarcastic remarks about dim colleagues discovering the obvious.

Links to all of the major stores are available here: TexasHirame.com

Our Products are Starting to Take Shape

Systematic Martini Lifestyle

Systematic Martini Lifestyle

We have the second draft of our book back from our print on demand supplier. We are about 70 percent content complete at this point. During the next month and a half we will be working to finish out the content and do final editing to get an initial version ready for sale.

This work has been fun but a lot harder than Tomoko and I expected. We have learned a tremendous amount about
photography and printing. Preparing an image for printing using CMYK ink printing is an entirely different world than quickly photoshoping something together to toss on
a blog.

The XML stylesheet that I started off using (DocBook) turned out to be too rigid and inflexible to meet our formatting needs. I have had to dive deep into XSL formatting objects and the XSLT transformation language to write our own stylesheet (APDoc) that can format a book with rich color content and a competitive layout.

System of Instruction for Young Men

System of Instruction for Young Men

The title of the book is “Systematic Martini Lifestyle.” It is a series of lessons for a young man to introduce him to the world of the sophisticated cocktail party. At the left of this image, you can see the typical 22 year-old guy (actually our son Tye) We take him through a series of five structured cocktail parties teaching him a variety of social and lifestyle skills.

The book contains five main tracks:

  1. Liquor – What are fine liquors? How are they made? What do the various marketing claims on the bottles mean?
  2. Wine – We introduce five of the major white and red wines.
  3. Cheese – What are the major types of fine cheese? How do they pair with wines and liquors?
  4. Clothing – How do you go about purchasing quality men’s clothing? What are the key points to pay attention to.
  5. Life Skills – how do you plan and execute a sophisticated party? How do you care for the fancy clothing? How do you handle a hangover?
Our Facebook App

Our Facebook App

As a companion to the book, we are developing a Facebook application that will be a fun learning and quiz game for Martini Lifestyle skills. We are still finalizing the name, but the current
choice is ClassyU.

This app has been the focus of a lot of  interesting collaboration between our graphic design team and our software development team.  We are currently developing a few different possible look-and-feel combinations for the app. In a few weeks we will start soliciting feedback from friends on the game. (It is not quite ready for prime time yet)

Our iPhone App

Our iPhone App

We will also have an iPhone application that provides the same
function as our Facebook application, albeit with a different
graphical design approach to accommodate the limited screen
size of the older iPhones.

Both the iPhone app and the Facebook app connect to a common back-end “big data” application that we are hosting on the Google App  Engine. That part of the  work is also very interesting and allows us to dabble in the latest in highly scalable Internet database design.

Asatte Press Store

Asatte Press Store

The final element in our business strategy will be an online store. While we do intend to make our products available through the Amazon Marketplace channel, our primary focus will be on our own store which we will integrate tightly with the Facebook and iPhone application.

We hope to have the store open and the two applications in beta testing by mid-August.

Web Style Guide 3rd Edition

The first book you should read if you are getting ready to setup a commercial website.

Web Style Guide 3rd Edition

If you need to design a commercial website, this is the book you need to read first.

These days the computer shelf at your local book store hosts a cornucopia of books on an alphabet soup of subjects like Drupal, Ruby, PHP, HTML, CSS, OOP, WordPress, PERL, MySQL, JavaScript, and so on. In the last six months, I have purchased dozens of these books. Many of them spend pages and pages showing the reader how to click on the “File” and “New” commands. Others, dive into dense text on exactly where to put the semicolon. None of them provide anything resembling a useful overview about what one might actually want to do and why one might want to do it.

I also tried buying some web design magazines. For some reason, these magazines all seem to come from the United Kingdom. These magazines contain breathless articles about how HTML will allow you to make fire-breathing dragons leap out of the user’s screen. Other articles contain elaborate instructions for setting garish green text on pink backgrounds. None of these magazines actually say anything useful about Design

I have worked in the tech industry for thirty years now. I have spent most of that team either designing software or leading teams that designed software. I have written innumerable technical specifications and spent a lot of time coaching younger engineers in specification writing technique. My main focus in such coaching is usually to get the young engineer to write less about “what” and write more about “why”. The details of “what” of a design tend to be out of date by the time the product is released; the value of “what” specification tends to drop rapidly. On the other hand, “why” documentation tends to maintain its value as new generations of engineers have to add to an existing product and scratch their heads trying to understand why certain tools were chosen or certain design approaches were taken.

Web Style Guide 3rd Edition is a wonderful “why” book. This book walks the reader through the process of identifying design goals for a web site. The book then explains the pros and cons of different technologies and design approaches. The book does not get bogged down in the intricate details of any one technology. The subjects covered are fascinating. Topics include Gestalt psychology, management of contrast, cognitive effects of different typesetting approaches, and many more. This is definitely the book you want to read before you read any of the other detailed books on any one technology.

By the way, the full text of the book is also available for reading on line at:
http://webstyleguide.com/wsg3/index.html

The Great Stagnation by Tyler Cowen

How America Ate All the Low-Hanging Fruit

The Great Stagnation by Tyler Cowen

Fascinating! I Just finished reading this short but excellent book last night. Business Week published an excellent article on the semi-autistic author in July called “Tyler Cowen, America’s Hottest Economist” After reading this article,  I ordered this small hardcover book from Amazon for $7.19, an amazingly reasonable price for a current best-seller.

The book is very clear and easy to read, not technical at all. I read it in two evenings while watching the late night news with my cat climbing all over me.

I don’t want to give away too much of the content, but his key summary of the financial crash is:

We thought we were richer than we were.

In this brief 89 page book, he lays out a rock-solid, clear case that the Democrats and the Republicans are arguing about the wrong problem. The issue that we are facing is not that the tax levels and spending levels need to go up or down. The bigger problem is that our society has an entirely unrealistic expectation about endless and continuous economic growth.  That is, the long string of economic growth since the founding of the United States has been heavily dependent on the consumption of “low hanging fruit”. In the author’s perspective, the biggest “low hanging fruit” for the United States was the huge piece of free land and its natural resources. The second biggest piece of “low hanging fruit” was increasing the university educational level from 6% of the population in 1900 to its current level today.

Interestingly, we tend to think of the last 30-40 years as the era of astounding innovation. However, the author’s clear-eyed analysis debunks that myth. His argument is simple. When he was a child in the 1960s, his family had a house, a television, a stereo, two cars and so on. His life today is not all that different. The individual items are somewhat better, but other than the computer and the internet, their functionality is not that wildly changed. On the other hand, his grandmother’s life experience change between age 6 and age 50 was astounding by comparison. Railroads, cars, highways, telephones, televisions, airplanes. Actually, he shows that the last 30 years have actually been an era of rather low innovation.

Definitely worth a read!

Asatte Press, Inc. is Setup

Asatte Press, Inc. Logo

Asatte Press, Inc. is up and running!  Tomoko and I filed all the paperwork and opened the bank account for our new company last week.  Asatte Press will be producing books, e-books, software and a variety of small promotional products. Martinis will be an area of special focus.  It will be a few more weeks before our website is running, but all of the other formalities are basically complete.

Tomoko has already designed a nice logo for us.

So, what exactly does it take to get going? In the ongoing “Step off the Cliff” spirit, allow me to provide some feedback on what we have actually done so far.

First the Fundamental Assumptions

There are thousands of variations in how one could go about setting up a company.  In our case, some key assumptions simplify the picture considerably:

  1. This will be a high-tech company. This assumption is more about the business style, atmosphere, employee relations and approach to solving problems. Asatte Press is going to be a software development company that happens to produce books, not a traditional book company that feels that it somehow has to produce some software.
  2. We are planning for success. While we don’t need or even want to be the next Facebook, we do want to grow into a company of at least a few hundred employees and tens or even hundreds of millions of dollars of revenue.  That is, we need an organizational form that will scale to a larger size and eventually allow for additional investors, employee financial incentives and so on.
  3. We are not doing squirrelly weird stuff.  Transparency and honesty is a key point. No Bermuda offshore, upside-down, cheat-on-taxes, contorted lawyer fantasies. We intend to build our business and make money the old-fashioned way: by providing attractive products and services. We will not be trying to make money by playing games by less-than-transparent financial arrangements and organizational structures.
  4. We are going to pay our taxes. We are not Leona Helmsley.  Asatte Press will not be engaging in oddball maneuvers or accounting slight-of-hand to avoid paying its fair share of taxes.
  5. We are the investors.  We will not be using Secret-Handshake-Society private equity funds. No venture capital. No ethically challenged Wall Street financiers. (We don’t anticipate working with Goldman Sachs any time soon)

Working through the assumptions above, it becomes clear that what we want is a normal corporation.

  1. What about a Delaware Corporation? The primary advantage of the Delaware Corporations apparently lies in laws that are very convenient for proxy takeover fights and other pleasant pass times of the Secret-Handshake-Society crowd.  Such laws will not benefit us. Furthermore, since we actually operate in Texas, we would have to file for foreign corporation status and business permits locally, in effect doubling our paperwork overhead and fees.
  2. What about a LLC?  LLCs have certain legitimate purposes for operations such as law firms that primarily do professional services.  Given that most legislators are lawyers, there is a certain tendency for them to write laws tat are advantageous for law firms. About ten years ago, such laws conferred some big tax advantages on LLCs. There was a big scramble as many enormous companies that really had no legitimate reason to be a LLC restructured to make themselves a LLC holding company with a large subsidiary containing the actual business. We are not interested in playing this sort of game.
  3. What about a S-Corp? This is a better question and we may elect S-Corp status at some point. However, S-Corp is actually just a status for the tax purposes.  There isn’t any difference in how one goes about setting up the business entity at the state level. Furthermore, the excellent books from Nolo Press mentioned below point out that S-Corp status is actually only an advantage if you have significant other income and you want to pass through business losses from your corporation to offset that separate income stream. We don’t have any such separate income stream at this point.

Thus, the best form for us turns out to be the plain old, ordinary Texas corporation and that is what we have set Asatte Press, Inc. up to be.

Here is an overview diagram of our experience with the early steps of setting up Asatte Press, Inc. as a Texas corporation:

The Bank Account is Key

Overview of Setting Up a Texas Corporation

 

Get Ready – the Early Phases Step-by-Step

The first thing one needs is a good guidebook. I highly recommend “Incorporate Your Business, A Legal Guide to Forming a Corporation in Your State” from Nolo Press.

This book is excellent and covers most of the different possible variations and also the differences from state to state.

Background Study

Background investigation is important. You need to have a clear concept for your business and there is a large variety of diverse detail that has to be mastered. For the mid-career guy who is stepping off the cliff, the change is dramatic. The difference is best described by defining the difference between a specialist and a generalist.

  • The Specialist – is a person who starts off knowing a lot about a little and continues to narrow and enhance his knowledge until he knows absolutely everything about nothing.
  • The Generalist – is a person who starts off knowing a lot about a little and continues to expand and broaden his knowledge until he knows absolutely nothing about everything.

Up there on the top of the cliff in large company land, you were almost certainly a specialist. Large companies love specialists; they are so easy to sort into nice little pigeonholes. Once you step off the cliff and are plummeting towards the rocks below, you will discover that you need to rapidly metamorphose from Specialist into Generalist.

We have spent about $900 to date on books. By the way, we order books from Amazon (even though we think their stance on sales tax is undermining local government and not a good idea) because Amazon Marketplace provides a very efficient way to obtain used copies of almost anything. We don’t care if the dog chewed on the book for a few days – as long as we can still read it, the book is good enough for us.

If you don’t like reading or can’t deal with a fire hose of information, don’t step off the cliff. That is, there are any number of new private clinics that will provide lobotomies at cut-rate prices. Sign up. Get the lobotomy. Learn to love Big Brother. Stay with the big company.

Pick a Name

This step is the hardest step in the process. It is complicated. However, one step can simply the process immensely: Marry an intelligent Japanese woman and let her pick the name

Our name “Asatte” is a Japanese word that means “The Day After Tomorrow” and is written in Japanese as 明後日。Needless to say, this name did not come from my brain. (I have a congenital defect that makes it difficult for me to think of things like this that are polite)

After you have some candidate names, the next step is fairly obvious: use Google to see if anyone is using the name yet. If someone else is obviously using the name, think of another name.

Once you have a name that seems to be available, the hard part starts. You will need to systematically check to see if it is a good candidate for trademark protection. At this point, you should order the book Trademark, Legal Care for Your Business & Product Name from Nolo Press.

The challenge and difficulty of deciding whether the name you have chosen is going to work from a trademark point of view seems to arise from some sort international treaty ratified by all major countries in the 19th century guaranteeing full employment for intellectual property lawyers worldwide.  That is, we seem to have broad international agreement that trademark infringement or ownership should not be determined by whether a competing mark is identical, but rather whether the competing mark is “Similar” or “Reminds you off” or “Could cause confusion in the public’s mind”. This lawyer-friendly arrangement means that it is basically impossible to ever get a clear answer as to whether any given proposed trademark is actually safe and acceptable or not.

In our case, we algorithmically generated 64 permutations of the word “Asatte”, checked all these on Google, checked them all against the United States Patent and Trademark Office’s database and checked them for registered internet domains using the WHOIS database.

Finally, we paid $300 to do a search on Thomson Reuter’s SAEGIS database as recommended in the Nolo Press book.

Register – Sign Up the Corporation

The next three steps should be done in rapid succession, ideally on the same day or even during the same hour. The reason for speed is that as soon as you start entering anything into the state databases, the entire world can see it.

In our case, we reserved the name “Asatte Press, Inc” with the Texas Secretary of State on a Thursday with the thought that it was better to put a hold on it while we worked out the details. In retrospect, I don’t recommend this approach because on Monday we received our first piece of advertising mail addressed to Asatte Press, Inc. – even though we had not finished setting it up yet.  Needless to say, we scrambled to finish the rest of the steps that afternoon. We were lucky and did not have any actual problems.  However, there was nothing that would have prevented an internet troll from grabbing our domain name in the interim.

The corporate registration in Texas was remarkably simple and we were able to do it entirely online with the Texas SOSDirect web site of the Texas Secretary of State.

We filled out a simple online form, paid the $300 fee using our credit card and had our certificate of formation in a ZIP file attached to an e-mail by the end of the next business day.

Reserve Domain

As soon as you click submit to register the corporation, you should move immediately to reserving your domain name. If you have already decided to use a certain hosting service for your web site, that hosting service will probably register your domain name for free.

In our case, I wanted the domain name registration to be ours, free, clear and independent of the hosting service.  The main registrar for the United States seems to be Network Solutions.

As shown in the diagram above, we ended up spending $250. The web site is showing $19.99 domain registration. Why did it cost so much?

  1. The $19.99 price is for a “*.co” domain, not a “*.com” domain.
  2. As soon as you ask it to register XYZ.com, the website points out that you really should register XYZ.net, XYZ.org, and XYZ.us  as well. There is a certain logic to this argument.  I signed up for a total of five domains.
  3. Next the website asks if you really want your personal home address and telephone number listed in the international WHOIS database where every Russian Mafia programmer, Nigerian scam artist, and Goldman Sachs telemarketing rep can look see it. For a mere $9.99 per domain, they will serve as a proxy for you in terms of WHOIS registration. I signed up for this.
  4. Great! Now I will just sign up for the first year… at which point the website points out that search engines will spot such short-timer registration and downgrade the search engine ranking. I signed up for 5 years for our main domain and 3 years for the alternates.

Funny how $19.99 became $250 by the time the smoke had cleared.

Employer ID Number

Actually, this step is not as sensitive as the previous two. However, you are going to need your employer identification number from the Internal Revenue Service before you can do anything else. You might as well sign up for it right away. Again, this application can be submitted on line in a few minutes at the IRS EIN Online website.

Before you register for an EIN, you will need to decide on your fiscal year. Asatte Press, Inc. will have a fiscal year that starts in July and ends in June the following year.  Why did I sign up for a non-calendar fiscal year?

Well, one answer is that it fits nicely with the month we happen to be setting up the company. However, that is not actually the real answer. I had already picked this fiscal year months ago.  The reason I picked this fiscal year is to strategically place the “end of the year panic” at a time that does not crush employee family holidays. Over the years I have watched too many needless and stupid “March of Death” projects get scheduled in December – when everyone really wants to be working less and spending more time with their families and children – merely because it was the end of the year and this, that or the other executive wanted to have a few extra brownie points for his or her annual performance review. At Asatte Press we intend to be a bit more thoughtful about setting up structurally to avoid these sorts of problems.

Setup the Money

Bank Account

With your certificate of formation and your EIN you are ready to setup a business checking account for your company.  Since we do our personal banking with Bank of America, we decided to use them for the Asatte Press checking account as well.  By looking carefully at their web site offerings, I was able to identify a “Business Economy” checking account that is free as long as you stay within some reasonable usage guidelines.

We went down to our local bank branch where a very nice business-banking specialist set everything up for us in about 45 minutes.

The creation of your corporate checking account is an important milestone. All the expenses up to this point come out of your personal account. These expenses are really your hobby expenses and irrelevant from the point of view of the accounting and taxes of your new corporation. Only after you have a proper checking account for your corporation can you start spending “on the record” money.

Credit Card

In principle, once you have the checking account you are ready to go. In practice, you will want to have a credit card attached to that account for most realistic expenses. Writing checks is an expensive and cumbersome way of doing things these days.

Again, after looking carefully at Bank of America’s credit card offerings, one was a very basic VISA card with no fees or charges as long as you pay off the bill every month. The business-banking specialist set up two such VISA cards for us during the same 45 minutes.

Finish Up the Details / Everything Else

Now you are ready to really get going on setting up your business. There are dozens of other little details that will need to be handled before you are really up and running. Some of these details are problems or ordering things such as letterhead, web site hosting, a corporate binder, and so on. Others are procedural such as having the initial director’s meeting, adopting bylaws and so on. We will be working on these activities during the next few weeks.

The Gift of Job Loss by Michael Froehls

A Practical Guide to Realizing the Most Rewarding Time of Your Life

Book Cover the Gift of Job Loss

On May 3rd, Tomoko and I were lucky to be able to attend a book signing for the new book The Gift of Job Loss by Michael Froehls.

The signing was held at the Gibson Bar in South Austin. It was a pleasant afternoon and we were able to chat with the author Michael Froehls and meet his publicist and several of his close friends.

After everyone had a chance to mingle and chat, Michael gave a brief talk on his experiences that led to the writing of this book. Like a lot of us, Michael had been quite ambitious and was working in a high profile financial position on Wall Street when the financial crisis hit. He lost his job along with about 100,000 of his closest friends and colleagues. However, rather than panicking and plunging immediately into what would have been a frustrating and fruitless job search, Michael took the opportunity to re-examine his life goals and think about how to use time strategically. This book chronicles this process and provides a lot of helpful practical material on how to go about planning and executing such a mid-career sabbatical.

For me, one of the strongest points of this book is the observation that time is perishable and a limited resource that can’t be recovered once wasted. This point seems obvious, but as the author points out, we all tend to get so immersed in the tree-details of our job and career that we lose sight of the time-going-by-forest.  How many people do you know who are plugging away at a job that they don’t necessarily like promising themselves that they are going to get around to all sorts of important things after they retire? In many cases, these people haven’t stopped to consider the obvious problem that some of these deferred activities may simply be too physically challenging once you reach retirement age. There is also the problem that one might get run over by a bus tomorrow.  On the other hand, for most of us there is no hard deadline that forbids us from working until age 66 instead of age 65. Why not add an extra year onto the end of your working life in exchange for a mid-career year to really go pursue some of these deferred goals?

I wasn’t actually fired. The paychecks were still being deposited in my bank account. However, the job I had once enjoyed greatly had morphed into an unrecognizable monster. It was eating me alive. It wasn’t my manager who summoned me to his office to dismiss me. Rather, it was my wife Tomoko who pointed out that the job was killing me and strongly suggested that I quit and take a sabbatical.

After the discussion with Tomoko, I began to look at our finances and think about what I really would want to do during a sabbatical. I had already come up with a list quite similar to the one in Michael Froehls’ book. The details of  my actual plan end up being slightly different from the approach recommended in the book. However, the spirit and intent of my plan matches the Michael Froehls concept completely. Quitting and reorganizing my life so that Tomoko and I can found our own company is exactly the sort of strategic re-allocation of time advocated in the book. I am an enthusiastic supporter of Michael Froehls’ message!

Further information about this book and about Michael Froehls is available in several places:

  1. The Amazon product page for the book:  The Gift of Job Loss contains extensive reviews (including one from me)
  2. Michael Froehls has his own web site http://thegiftofjobloss.com/
  3. Michael Froehls is a regular expert contributor at Ezine Articles. See Ezine Articles by Michael Froehls PhD
  4. There is a Facebook page for the book as well.