Thursday, September 28, 2006

I've given lots of thought to the idea of this blog, and blogs in general. Thanks to all of you who took the time to send me an email and to post your comments here.

Here is what I've decided:

1) I'm going to continue to use this as a place to post information I find interesting and useful, for example the Forbes survey of successful entrepreneurs, below.

2) As far as my personal reflections and original writing, I'm going to keep that to short comments on the daily posts and a monthly summary that I'll combine with my monthly When & Where in Denver email. Once a month is all I have time to write, and it is probably more than most want to hear from me.

Denver When and Where will come out the Monday following the last Saturday of each month, which should give me enough time to write something you will find worth the investment of your reading time. Watch for it next Monday.

In the meantime, here is a facinating article from today's online edition of Forbes:

Fourteen self-made members of the vaunted Forbes 400 shared candid, contrarian and even comedic answers to 20 thoughtful questions--ranging from what they eat for breakfast and how they pray to the importance (or lack thereof) of getting an M.B.A. and what advice they would give aspiring entrepreneurs. You can search the list two ways: Read each titan's responses to all 20 questions--or peruse the entire group's answers to each of the 10 most thought-provoking ones. (We will add more names to this list in coming months.)

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

1540 The Society of Jesus (the Jesuits) was recognized by the Pope.

1722 Samuel Adams was born, American revolutionary leader (d. 1803)

1779 John Adams was named to negotiate the Revolutionary War's peace terms with Britain.

1825 The first locomotive to haul a passenger train was operated by George Stephenson in England.

1928 The United States said it was recognizing the Nationalist Chinese government.

1939 Warsaw, Poland, surrendered after weeks of resistance to invading forces from Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union during World War II.

1942 Glenn Miller and his Orchestra performed together for the last time, at the Central Theater in Passaic, N.J., prior to Miller's entry into the Army.

1954 ''Tonight!'' hosted by Steve Allen, made its debut on NBC-TV.

1994 More than 350 Republican congressional candidates signed the ''Contract with America,'' a 10-point platform they pledged to enact if voters sent a GOP majority to the U.S. House.

1996 The Taliban, a band of former seminary students, drove the government of Afghani President Burhanuddin Rabbani out of Kabul, captured the capital and executed former leader Najibullah.

2001 President George W. Bush announced plans to bolster airline security in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks.


A new report of the medical crisis. When are we going to realize that health insurance is a ponzi scheme?

The Choice: A Longer Life or More Stuff
The New York Times

The most authoritative report on the cost of health insurance came out yesterday, and it’s sure to cause some new outrage.

The average cost of a family insurance plan that Americans get through their jobs has risen another 7.7 percent this year, to $11,500, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. In only seven years, the cost has doubled, while incomes and company revenue, which pay for health insurance, haven’t risen nearly as much.

These spiraling costs — a phrase that has virtually become a prefix for the words “health care” — are slowly creating a crisis. Many executives have decided that they cannot afford to keep insuring their workers, and the portion of Americans without coverage has jumped 23 percent since 1987.

An industry that once defined the American economy, meanwhile, is sinking in large measure because of the cost of caring for its workers and retirees. For every vehicle that General Motors sells, fully $1,500 of the purchase price goes to pay for medical care. “We must all do more to cut costs,” G.M.’s chief executive, Rick Wagoner, said on Capitol Hill this summer while testifying about health care.

Mr. Wagoner’s argument has become the accepted wisdom about the crisis: the solution lies in restraining costs. Yet it’s wrong. Living in a society that spends a lot of money on medical care creates real problems, but it also has something in common with getting old. It’s better than the alternative.

To understand why, it helps to look back to a time when Americans didn’t worry much about health care costs. In 1950, the country spent less than $100 a year — or $500 in today’s dollars — on the average person’s medical care, compared with almost $6,000 now, notes David M. Cutler, an economist who wrote a wonderful little book in 2004 titled, “Your Money or Your Life.”

Most families in the 1950’s paid their medical bills with ease, but they also didn’t expect much in return. After a century of basic health improvements like indoor plumbing and penicillin, many experts thought that human beings were approaching the limits of longevity. “Modern medicine has little to offer for the prevention or treatment of chronic and degenerative diseases,” the biologist RenĂ© Dubos wrote in the 1960’s.

But then doctors figured out that high blood pressure and high cholesterol caused heart attacks, and they developed new treatments. Oncologists learned how to attack leukemia, enabling most children who receive a diagnosis of it today to triumph over a disease that was almost inevitably fatal a half-century ago. In the last few years, orphan drugs that combat rare diseases and medical devices like the implantable defibrillator have extended lives. Human longevity still hasn’t hit the wall that was feared 50 years ago.

Instead, a baby born in the United States this year will live to age 78 on average, a decade longer than the average baby born in 1950. People who have already made it to their 40’s can now expect to reach age 80. These gains are probably bigger than the ones the British experienced in the entire millennium leading up to 1800. If you think about this as the return on the investments in medicine, the payoff has been fabulous: Would you prefer spending an extra $5,500 on health care every year — or losing 10 years off your lifespan?

Yet we often imagine that the costs and benefits are unrelated, that we can somehow have 2006 health care at 1950 (or even 1999) prices. We think of health care as if it were gasoline, a product whose price and quality have nothing to do with each other.

There is no question that the American medical system does suffer from a lot of waste, be it insurance industry bureaucracy or expensive procedures that haven’t been proven effective. But the No. 1 cause of the cost increases is still the one you can see at the hospital and in your medicine cabinet — defibrillators, chemotherapy, cholesterol drugs, neonatal care and other treatments that are both expensive and effective.

Not even most forms of preventive care, like keeping diabetes under control, usually save money, despite what many people think. The care itself has some costs, and, more important, patients then live longer than they otherwise would have and rack up medical bills. “When I make this point, people accuse me of wanting people to die earlier. But it’s exactly the opposite,” Dr. Jay Bhattacharya, a researcher at Stanford Medical School, told me. “If these expenditures are keeping people alive, it’s money well spent.”

As Dr. Mark R. Chassin of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York says, “You almost always spend money to gain health.” Of course, the opposite is also true: the best way to reduce health care spending is to reduce health care itself.

Which is exactly what we’re starting to do. The growing number of families without health insurance are, in effect, families who have been kicked off the country’s health care rolls. Many will go without available treatment, will get sicker than they need to get — and will thereby save the rest of us money. They are what now passes for a solution to the health care mess.

The current situation is indeed unsustainable, a point that the conventional wisdom has right. The cost of health insurance can’t keep doubling every seven years, and wasteful spending — the brand-name drugs that are no better than generics, the treatments that haven’t been proved to extend lives or improve health — does need to be reined in.

But far too much of the discussion has been centered on this narrow idea. Somehow, going to the mall to buy clothes has come to be seen as a vaguely patriotic way to keep the economy humming, and taking out a risky mortgage is considered to be an investment in one’s future. But medical care? That’s just a cost.

It’s easy to be against high costs, and it will no doubt be hard to come up with a broad health care solution. But the way to start is by acknowledging that an affluent society should devote an ever-growing share of its resources to the health of its citizens. “We have enough of the basics in life,” Mr. Cutler, the economist and author, points out. “What we really want are the time and the quality of life to enjoy them.”


Tuesday, September 26, 2006

There is trivial difference between freshmen and seniors in their knowledge of America's heritage.

16 of 50 schools surveyed exhibited negative learning.

Overall, seniors failed the civic literacy exam with an average score of 53%.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Sort of a MySpace for start-ups, site creates entrepreneur network

Andrew Johnson
The Arizona Republic
Sept. 23, 2006 12:00 AM

Greg Baskin said he was too immersed in the minutiae of running the online portion of his family's Anthem jewelry store to think about what he could do to improve the business.

That was before he discovered, an online clearinghouse of articles, tip sheets and other resources geared toward entrepreneurs.

In May, the site's founders introduced a discussion portal that lets business owners create a profile and communicate with other users. It is similar to how social networking sites such as MySpace and Facebook work.

Since then, the number of individual visitors to the site has increased more than 45 percent and the number of page views has leaped more than 200 percent, according to Rich Sloan, co-founder and head coach of

"It's definitely an active community, one that seems to be growing while you watch it," said Baskin, director of e-commerce for Gold Mountain Mining Co., which sells jewelry and leather goods. "Honestly, I'm impressed with the quality of the members who seem to sign up on there. It's not a lot of garbage. There seems to be a lot of thought behind the responses that I received to my specific questions."

Sloan and his brother, Jeff, formed in Birmingham, Mich., in 2002 after years of running start-up companies and their own venture capital firm.

The brothers, who wrote a book on entrepreneurship and record a weekly AM radio talk show on the subject, plan to move the business' headquarters to Scottsdale as early as June. The radio show airs in about 50 markets but not in the Valley, though the podcasts are available on the Web site.

In addition to having family in the Valley, the owners consider Scottsdale an attractive business location because it has "young, dynamic, high-energy professional people, who are exactly the culture that StartupNation lives by," Rich Sloan said.

The company employs 18 people, and Sloan said he expects that number to increase to 20 in the next two months. Sloan said the company likely would hire more employees after its move.

He and his brother got the idea for the company after starting the Sloan Fund, a small-seed venture-capital fund. The more entrepreneurs they came in contact with, the more they realized they could help others with lessons they learned from their own endeavors.

"We started to recognize that one of our most valuable forms of currency . . . was our knowledge as entrepreneurs and our passion for entrepreneurship," he said.

Visitors and registered users can access all information on for free, something Rich Sloan said he and his brother were adamant about.

"The core concept was to keep the barriers as low as possible" for potential users, Sloan said. The site makes most of its money from advertisers.

Like many of the business owners, their site aims to help, the Sloan brothers have financed their business primarily through angel investors, or people who invest in a company to help business owners get to the stage of being ready for venture capitalists.

Sloan would not say how much money investors have provided.

"Angel investors provide a perfect combination of qualities to us for the kind of money we need at this stage in our growth," he said.

Robert Sussman, a Paradise Valley resident who is president of New York City-based hedge fund company Bentley Capital Management, has invested more than $500,000 in in the past six months.

Sussman said he was attracted to because of its potential to tap a niche market.

"There's less and less loyalty to big companies, and more and more people want to control their own destiny," he said.

The site's community portal differentiates it from other sites geared toward entrepreneurs, Sussman said.

Sherry Azzarella, vice president of communications for the Arizona Small Business Association in Phoenix, said new entrepreneurs often are so busy trying to get money in the pipeline that they neglect to devise long-term growth strategies.

A site such as can serve as a sounding board for business owners who need an outside perspective.

"There's lots of different scenarios in there for (entrepreneurs) to consider," she said. "I think the thing I appreciate the most as an educator . . . is the details in here and that the examples are so thorough."

"The thing is, when you're swimming in your details and (facing) constant interruptions eight hours a day, sometimes you just need a reality check - someone to wave a white flag in front of you and say, 'Did you think about this?' " Baskin said.

Reach the reporter at or (602) 444-8280.


From the Denver Post this morning:

Podcast: Word of year, but a misnomer

By Kim Komando
Gannett News Service

Imagine listening to network news or a fantasy football show without your radio.

You can with podcasts, radiolike programs you download from the Web. You can listen to them whenever and wherever you wish.

Podcast was named the "Word of the Year" in 2005 by New Oxford American Dictionary. Nonetheless, many people haven't a clue about podcasts. The dictionary defines podcast as a "digital recording of a radio broadcast or similar program, made available on the Internet for downloading to a personal audio player." The word "podcast" is a contraction of iPod and broadcast. Podcasts were originally downloaded to Apple's iPod media player. Today, the name is a misnomer. You don't need an iPod, or any other music player.

You can listen to a podcast on your computer. And the programs aren't broadcast.

Podcasts are typically MP3 files. Technically, they are like music files, which you also can listen to on the computer. They can be transferred to and played on virtually any music player. Or they can be burned to a CD.

File sizes are generally small, even for programs with long running times. It usually takes less than a minute for someone with a broadband connection to download an hour-long program.

Thousands of podcasts are free. They run anywhere from a few minutes to more than an hour. New episodes are created hourly, daily, weekly - depending on who creates them.

They are amazingly diverse in both quality and content. You can listen to movie reviews by famous Chicagoans Roger Ebert and Richard Roeper. Or listen to movie reviews by not-so-famous Chicagoans Adam Kempenaar and Sam Hallgren.

Some podcasts are professional. They cover just about any subject.

Others are amateur. You'll recognize these right away. Then, some podcasts are nothing other than infomercials.

Not all podcasts are intended for young ears. Some are explicit. There is no rating system, but explicit podcasts generally are identified as such.

Checking websites daily for new episodes would be tedious. That's why aficionados use podcatchers.

Podcatchers automatically check for new episodes of subscribed podcasts. If a new episode is available, it downloads it.

To use a podcatcher, you must subscribe to a podcast. Subscription instructions are typically on the podcast area of the site. You may download and listen to a podcast without subscribing to it.

Subscribing merely ensures that each episode is automatically downloaded.

Some common podcatchers are iTunes (, Yahoo Music Engine ( and Winpodder ( All are free. Check your favorite website for podcasts. Unfortunately, there's no standard area to look. lists them in the Technology area, in the Extras. Some require a nominal fee, but many are free.

Kim Komando hosts the nation's largest talk radio show about computers and the Internet.

Battle lines drawn on gift ban
Opposition group says ballot item would bar kids from scholarships. Backers of Amendment 41 dispute that the $50 limit extends to the activities of public officials' children.
By Chris Frates
Denver Post Staff Writer

A proposed constitutional amendment to prohibit gifts to public officials could affect everything from little league uniforms to college scholarships for government workers' children, an opposition group said Wednesday.

Proponents, however, called the claims bogus distractions, previewing what promises to become a heated debate over just how much the measure would ban.

Amendment 41 would prohibit cash and gifts of more than $50 to government employees, state elected politicians, other officials and their families.

"It will impact hundreds of thousands of Coloradans who certainly are not corrupt and are certainly not in the position to do favors for lobbyists," said Katy Atkinson, director of the No on 41 campaign that launched Wednesday.

For example, children of government employees probably could not accept college scholarships because it would be considered a gift of more than $50, Atkinson said.

The measure could also prevent businesses from sponsoring little league teams if a government employee's child plays on the team because the purchase of a child's uniform could be viewed as a gift, the group says.

Jenny Flanagan of Colorado Common Cause, an author of the measure, said, "We're not going after people's abilities to go live their lives."

"The opposition are coming up with bogus claims to distract from the real issues of the campaign," Flanagan said, adding that the measure is trying to prevent personal financial gain from public positions.

Atkinson also took aim at the ethics commission the measure would create, saying it would give individual members of the five-member panel subpoena power.

It also would not prevent lobbyists or lawmakers from sitting on the panel, she said, creating "real potential for a kangaroo court."

Shepard Nevel, an Amendment 41 proponent, said the ethics commission would be governed by the amendment and administrative procedures.

"It's simply not true that the commission could act in the manner they say it could," Nevel said. "They are fabricating concerns."

Staff writer Chris Frates can be reached at 303-954-1633 or

From today's

Young Internet Producers, Bankrolled, Are Seeking Act II
SAN FRANCISCO, Sept. 24 — Silicon Valley is awash in serial entrepreneurs, those who start a company, run it for a while, and then after success, failure or something in between, move on and start again.

Jay Adelson, 36, and Kevin Rose, 29, are parallel entrepreneurs — starting a second company just as the first one is taking off.

In 2004, the two started Digg, a fast-growing Web site that allows users to play editor by submitting links to news accounts around the Internet and collectively deciding which deserve top billing.

Now, while they are still very much involved with Digg, Mr. Adelson and Mr. Rose are preparing to announce that they have turned the Revision3 Corporation, an Internet video production firm they have been running on the side, into a full-fledged company.

Revision3 has close to $1 million in financing from a group of investors that includes Marc Andreessen, the founder of Netscape, and Greylock Partners, a venture capital firm that has backed the start-ups Facebook and LinkedIn, as well as Digg.

It is trying to capitalize on the rapid growth of Internet video, and its founders hope that their programming formula, a hybrid of the polished shows created for the networks and the amateur videos that populate sites like YouTube, will be the path to commercial success in this medium.

The company is built around a series of Internet television shows, or video podcasts, aimed at a young, technologically savvy audience, one steeped in “geek culture,” as Mr. Adelson, the chief executive of both Digg and Revision3, put it.

The most popular show so far is “Diggnation,” which is already in its 64th weekly episode. Each installment features Mr. Rose and a co-host, Alex Albrecht, 30, sitting on a couch, drinking beer and talking about some of the most popular stories that have turned up on that week. Invariably, most of these are technology-related.

The core audience for “Diggnation” consists of users of Digg, which has more than half a million members and attracted 8.5 million visitors last month, up from 2.3 million in August 2005, according to Mr. Adelson. (That is much higher than the 1.2 million visitors reported for August by comScore Media Metrix, a widely used source of Web traffic data, but it shows a similar growth rate. Mr. Adelson argues that the service does not properly measure the site’s niche audience.)

Digg’s success has made Mr. Rose, 29, an exemplar of sorts in user-generated media, the phenomenon behind the startling growth of YouTube and the popularity of MySpace and Facebook, among other recently minted Internet companies.

The “Diggnation” shows, which are frequently photographed in Mr. Rose’s walk-up apartment in San Francisco, last 45 minutes to an hour and involve a fair amount of banter, off-color jokes and digressions on topics like skateboarding and beer-bottle openers. “A lot of geeks do that, but don’t have a camera,” Mr. Rose said, in explaining what he does and its appeal to fans.

The show is not for everyone, but Digg fans appear to be loyal. Mr. Adelson said that each episode of “Diggnation” was downloaded about 250,000 times, and that all Revision3 shows, including one about hacker culture and a cooking program called “Ctrl-Alt-Chicken,” were downloaded a total of about 1.5 million times each month.

Exact audiences are difficult to measure, especially since video podcast viewers often use software that automatically downloads episodes onto their PC’s, and may not watch all of them.

But “Diggnation” routinely ranks among the most popular shows in the Apple iTunes podcast directory. It is also distributed on its own Web site and through YouTube and other services. By way of comparison, when ABC ran a two-month test and offered free episodes from four hit series on its Web site, including “Desperate Housewives,” “Lost” and “Alias,” it reported 5.7 million online requests for the shows.

Many of Revision3’s performers and producers, including Mr. Rose and Mr. Albrecht, gained experience on the cable television channel TechTV, so they come to the shows with production skills.

That puts the company on the leading edge of a shift in Internet video from user-generated clips to “a more controlled environment,” said Allen Weiner, a research director at the market research firm Gartner.

Mr. Weiner predicted that the popularity of this kind of programming would surge in the next few months. Whether it will turn into an enduring form of entertainment, let alone a profitable one, is an open question. “Let’s face it, this is an experiment in progress,” Mr. Weiner said.

Indeed, Revision3’s technologically hungry audience represents a subset of MySpace enthusiasts, but it is not clear how large a subset it is. The company has broadened its lineup of shows to embrace alternative music, cooking and comedy. But in doing so, Revision3 may run into the kind of challenges faced by Digg.

In June, Digg expanded beyond technology to include world news, business and other topics. Mr. Adelson said more than half the site was now made up of links to nontechnology news. But on a recent afternoon, the top link in the “world and business” section was an item about whether the movie character Napoleon Dynamite was a nerd or a geek. The six most popular items on the site were technology-related.

“It’s a niche,” said George Zachary, an experienced veteran Silicon Valley investor who is a partner in Charles River Ventures of Waltham, Mass., and Menlo Park, Calif.

Most Internet users have much broader interests, Mr. Zachary said, adding, “If you look at the top search terms of Yahoo and Google, it’s not tech products.”

David Sze of Greylock Partners is bullish about Revision3’s prospects but acknowledges that the appeal beyond its core technology audience is unknown. “How new programs will extend the user base remains to be seen,” Mr. Sze said.

Mr. Zachary applauds the company, saying: “One of the most important things going on in media is that people want an authentic point of view. That’s why things like ‘Diggnation’ are popular.”

At a taping of the show last week in San Francisco, Mr. Rose and Mr. Albrecht settled on a couch — each with a laptop, unshaven and in jeans and a T-shirt. As a camera rolled, they spent five minutes chatting about each of seven top items on Digg that week, including one titled “How Paris Hilton Can Help Your Web Development (seriously).”

Everything about the show, including the ads, is unscripted. It is basically up to Mr. Rose and Mr. Albrecht to say whatever they feel like about their sponsors, which include the Internet domain company and CacheFly, which helps Web sites transmit video.

“It was a bit scary out of the gate,” said Barbara Rechterman, executive vice president for marketing at GoDaddy, which is known for its racy Super Bowl ads. But she added, “It has worked really well for us.”

Mr. Adelson said Revision3 was already profitable and had monthly revenue from “Diggnation” alone ranging from $50,000 to $100,000. While that is modest, it happened without much effort. Advertisers, he said, called him asking to be on “Diggnation.”

With the new funds, Revision3 will be able to put together an advertising sales team, give regular contracts to performers, lease office and studio space and spruce up its Web site.


Thursday: I'm going to start publishing a weekly summary of what I've posted here and a Denver When & Where calendar (email me if you have events you'd like me to include on my calendar and attend.)

Sunday, September 24, 2006

F. Scott Fitzgerald, novelist, short story writer and scenarist, (was born on this date in 1896, he died when he was 44 from a heart attack).

Mr. Fitzgerald in his life and writings epitomized "all the sad young men" of the post-war generation. With the skill of a reporter and ability of an artist he captured the essence of a period when flappers and gin and "the beautiful and the damned" were the symbols of the carefree madness of an age.

The best of his books, the critics said, was "The Great Gatsby." When it was published in 1925 this ironic tale of life on Long Island at a time when gin was the national drink and sex the national obsession (according to the exponents of Mr. Fitzgerald's school of writers), it received critical acclaim. In it Mr. Fitzgerald was at his best, which was, according to John Chamberlain, his "ability to catch the flavor of a period, the fragrance of a night, a snatch of old song, in a phrase."

(Characters in his writing) became as much a symbol of Mr. Fitzgerald's own generation as, two years later, Sinclair Lewis's Babbitt was to become a symbol of another facet of American culture.

He lived (the last years of his life) near Baltimore, Md., where he suffered a depression of spirit which kept him from writing. He made several efforts to write but failed, and in an autobiographical article in Esquire likened himself to a "cracked plate."

"Sometimes, though," he wrote, "the cracked plate has to be retained in the pantry, has to be kept in service as a household necessity. It can never be warmed on the stove nor shuffled with the other plates in the dishpan; it will not be brought out for company but it will do to hold crackers late at night or to go into the ice-box with the left overs."

And on this date in 1955, President Dwight Eisenhower had a heart attack while he was on vacation here in Denver. In 1968 “60 Minutes” premiered on CBS.
Is this what's gone wrong with the RNC? Sounds a lot like the "Whiz Kids" that pulled LBJ under. Statistics are wonderful servants, terrible masters.

Lost Horizons
New York Times Magazine
September 24, 2006

In an arena that seems to value instinct, bravado, gall and undisciplined excess, Ken Mehlman (chair of the Republican National Committee) is empirical and deliberative. Why should a campaign manager direct resources based on a hunch when there is consumer data that can flush out Republicans living deep in Democratic enclaves? Why guess when you can measure what words will be most persuasive to the middle-class exurbanite voter marching on the StairMaster (watching, no doubt, the Republican ad that the Bush campaign placed on the closed-circuit gym channel after realizing that its voters were no longer at home watching the network news)?

When Mehlman talks about politics, he doesn’t talk about Machiavelli; he talks about “Moneyball,” Michael Lewis’s book about how the Oakland A’s employed statistical modeling to assemble a powerhouse baseball team, sending to pasture the old-line scouts with their years of calling it from their guts. “We are the party of ‘Moneyball!”’ Mehlman proclaimed, practically shouting and bouncing on the balls of his feet, talking to a room of slightly bewildered Republicans in California last year. “They measured everything. We are doing the same thing in politics.”

Tomorrow: A new direction for Wren's eJournal.