Saturday, December 23, 2006

A little canine can-do spirit and the value of capitalism
Linda Seebach
Linda Seebachis an editorialwriterfor the Rocky Mountain News. She can be reached by telephone at (303)954-2519or by e-mailat

Too late for Christmas delivery perhaps, but if you were thinking about a special something for your canine companion, how about a stylish new place for him to stay while you’re not home?

I was snowed in Thursday, and thus happened to run into my next-door neighbors, Scot and Heather Korth, when they came back from taking their dogs out. (People were skiing on my unplowed street, they said. It was sensible of me to stay in.) So we got to talking, as neighbors do when they’re not going anywhere, and Scot happened to tell me about the crates he had designed and built for their two dogs to stay in while he and Heather are gone during the day. And he invited me in to have a look.

See, our condo units are nice, but they’re small. Having two standard-issue dog crates — the kind you see in airports — shoved into a corner or pushed up against a wall does not add to the effectiveness of the decor. So Scot made some that double as furniture.

He and Heather use one as an end table next to the sofa in the living room, and two as nightstands. They’re basically cubes, made of acrylic panels cut with a laser, with laser-cut air holes and one side that slides up and down or locks in place if you prefer so the dog is free to come and go.

You can see Owen, the pug, next to his daytime home at online.

I’m not much for dogs, though Owen and Sammy seem nice enough, but this is pretty nifty. You can order the acrylic in a number of different colors to fit your home’s color scheme and, if you like, you can even order the air holes in a design of your own choosing; say an elegant F for Fido. And if I hadn’t already known this was furniture for dogs, I would probably not have given it a second glance. It just looks like furniture.

Well, not like my furniture, which is mostly thirdhand attic from the house I grew up in, but it would fit in almost anywhere.

However, I wouldn’t have bothered to tell you this little homegrown story except that it is nifty in another very important way. Here are a couple of people who improvised a solution to a space problem they share with many urban dwellers who live in small spaces. They have a company. They have a Web page. They have access to sophisticated materials and the tools to work them. They can fill custom orders and ship them anywherein the lower 48 (though they’ll deliver and install in and around Denver). They take PayPal. They even offer accessories.

And it’s all no fuss, no bother. Like them, anybody with a plausible idea can start a company, and you don’t have to wait months and pay a fortune in bribes as is the case in many poor countries. And of course that is part of the reason they’re poor.

As some readers will know, I started a business in 1972 to print and sell parts catalogs and shop manuals for Studebakers and Packards (yes, we had permission from the company). You might think that is a rather specialized economic niche, and that’s true, but worldwide, there was no one else occupying it. We even did a respectableamount of export sales, in part to Australia because, I was told, you could leave cars to your heirs there free of inheritance tax. An immaculately restored classic Packard could easily be worth six figures, and besides, you got to drive around in it before it became part of your estate.

We incorporated the business, I don’t remember exactly when, but basically we filled out a one-page form and sent the Minnesota secretary of state a dollar. We hired teenagers after school to assemble books (we paid above the minimum wage) and in 1976 we hired our first full-time employee and moved the presses out of our basement and into cheap space in a rickety hotel in downtown Northfield.

We sold the business to one of our employees in 1986, because we were going to China for a year. He later went on to other things as well, but somebody took over the printing and if you want the books, you can still buy them online. That means 30 years of full-time employment for somebody and a good deal of part-time work as well. Not a lot? No, but there are millions of specialized businesses, and taken together they are a significant part of the economy.

No central planner would ever have planned my business, or Scot and Heather’s designer dog crates, so they just wouldn’t have happened. That’s why, I believe, central planning has never worked and never will.

Friday, December 22, 2006

I wrote this letter to the editor of the Denver Post
this morning:

RE: Denver has fewer bulldozers, more snow.

Thanks for the very informative article on this big,
big problem.

I've lived in Denver for nearly all of the last 58 years.
Denver never shut down like this for big snow storms.
City services clearly have not kept up with our growth.

From what I can gather, while Mayor Hickenlooper
should have been planning for snow removal, he
was planning how to get homeless kids sleds.

Same thing as with the elections. The new art
museum is a disaster. The problems with the
justice center, the homeless, it goes on and on.

When is someone going to start a campaign
for mayor and look beyond the Hickenlooper PR?
What is really happening in Denver? Isn't that
why we have elections?

The election is next May. It would be a great
service to the city if one of our experienced
leaders would stand up now and help us wake up
to the fact that this Mayor wears no clothes.

John Wren
960 Grant St. #727
Denver CO 80203

My letter was in response to this front page article today:

The scoop: Denver trails big cities in bulldozers but not in snowfall
By Chris Frates Denver Post Staff Writer

Denver has far fewer snowplows per mile of road than Chicago, Pittsburgh, Detroit and New York, despite getting more annual snowfall than any of those cities.

Each Denver snowplow driver would have to drive about 70 miles to clear the city’s 5,000 lane miles. That’s more mileage per driver than the four other cities combined.

As Denver residents stayed home by the thousands Thursday because of impassable streets, the city’s 71 snow movers worked nonstop to bring life back to a mostly deserted downtown...

History of the 12 Days of Christmas

From 1558 until 1829, Roman Catholics in England were not permitted to practice their faith openly. Someone during that era wrote this carol as a catechism song for young Catholics. It has two levels of meaning: the surface meaning plus a hidden meaning known only to members of their church. Each element in the carol has a code word for a religious reality, which the children could remember.

The partridge in a pear tree was Jesus Christ.

Two turtledoves were the Old and New Testaments .

Three French hens stood for faith, hope and love.

The four calling birds were the four gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke & John.

The five golden rings recalled the Torah or Law, the first five books of the Old Testament.

The six geese a-laying stood for the six days of creation.

Seven swans a-swimming represented the sevenfold gifts of the Holy Spirit-Prophesy, Serving, Teaching, Exhortation, Contribution, Leadership, and Mercy.

The eight maids a-milking were the eight beatitudes.

Nine ladies dancing were the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit-Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self Control.

The ten lords a-leaping were the Ten Commandments.

The eleven pipers piping stood for the eleven faithful disciples.

The twelve drummers drumming symbolized the twelve points of belief in The Apostles' Creed.

I hope you and your family and friends have a very Merry Christmas! John

Thursday, December 21, 2006

The Robert H. and Beverly A. Deming Center for Entrepreneurship has won the 2006 Award for Excellence in Specialty Entrepreneurship Education from the National Consortium of Entrepreneurship Centers.
The center was cited for its Sustainable Venturing Initiative, which advances programs that educate students, support innovators, acknowledge cutting-edge research and showcase emerging opportunities in the clean-technology and renewable-energy sectors.

From the Denver Post, 1/21/06

Wednesday, December 20, 2006


The recent 2006 Wharton Entrepreneurship Conference, organized by the school's Entrepreneurship Club, the issue of what makes a successful entrepreneur, inviting a group of entrepreneurs to discuss their backgrounds and business philosophies and offer advice to those interested in taking the plunge.

Raffi Amit, academic director of Wharton's Goergen Entrepreneurial Management Programs, set the tone for the discussion by noting that academic research has debunked much of the conventional wisdom about entrepreneurs.

"There's a myth that entrepreneurs have special traits that distinguish them from other people," he said. "But research shows no unique characteristics. There's a myth that entrepreneurs are risk takers. But research has shown that they try to manage risk. They outsource it where they can. And there's a myth that entrepreneurs have some sort of secret method that they can apply to venture after venture. But many second-time entrepreneurs fail."


***When you graduate is as good a time as you'll see to start a business. The negative is you're broke. But the positive is you're broke, so you've got nothing to lose.

***"The more wealth and prestige you accumulate, the more risk averse you become.

***"There's too much emphasis today on venture capital as a funding source. Historically, most businesses are funded using friends and family, credit cards, Small Business Administration loans and second mortgages. Very few companies are venture backed. One entrepreneur shared he started his business with $25,000 in credit card debt.

***Venture capital makes sense for very few companies. When you're in something that requires a lot of money to start or where time-to-market is critical, then maybe it makes sense.

***Did anyone ever notice how rich VCs are? That money comes at your expense if you're an entrepreneur who is financed by VCs.

*** Before turning to venture capital try to tap personal savings, debt, angel investments, government loans and grants and even financing from potential vendors and customers. One entrepreneur increased her student loans to start her business.

***Another pitfall for aspiring entrepreneurs is spending too much time thinking about all the gee-whiz features they might add to their products. Instead, they should bang out prototypes and put them in consumers' hands as quickly as possible. Remember the KISS rule: 'Keep It Simple, Stupid. Give your product to your mom. Can she use it without any problems? Then you're ready to go.

***"Fail early and learn. Once a company starts attracting customers, many of the other obstacles facing new ventures, like finding investors, will begin to work themselves out.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

On this day in 1903 the Wright Brothers flew the 1st powered aircraft.

Who Americans Are and What They Do, in Census Data
New York Times

Americans drank more than 23 gallons of bottled water per person in 2004 — about 10 times as much as in 1980. We consumed more than twice as much high fructose corn syrup per person as in 1980 and remained the fattest inhabitants of the planet, although Mexicans, Australians, Greeks, New Zealanders and Britons are not too far behind.

At the same time, Americans spent more of their lives than ever — about eight-and-a-half hours a day — watching television, using computers, listening to the radio, going to the movies or reading.

This eclectic portrait of the American people is drawn from the 1,376 tables in the Census Bureau’s 2007 Statistical Abstract of the United States, the annual feast for number crunchers that is being served up by the federal government today…

… since 2000 the number of hobby and athletic nonprofit associations has risen while the number of labor unions, fraternities and fan clubs has declined.
“The large master trend here is that over the last hundred years, technology has privatized our leisure time,” said Robert D. Putnam, a public policy professor at Harvard and author of “Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community.”

“The distinctive effect of technology has been to enable us to get entertainment and information while remaining entirely alone,” Mr. Putnam said. “That is from many points of view very efficient. I also think it’s fundamentally bad because the lack of social contact, the social isolation means that we don’t share information and values and outlook that we should.”