I'm gaining some customer service experience through Dress.Up Fitness bracelets. Currently we sell through eBay and our website, www.dressupfitnessbracelets.com. I am learning that consumers are no longer content to wait for something to arrive in the mail. They want to know when it was shipped and where the package is (and if they are like me, they might obsessively click the tracking page to see if there has been any progress). I've had a few experiences where the tracking info I received wasn't very helpful and ultimately, it doesn't allow packages to travel any faster. However, I understand that desire to KNOW.
Peter Gabriel was ahead of his time. In 1992 he co-founded WITNESS, an international nonprofit organization that has been using the power of video and storytelling for 20 years to open the eyes of the world to human rights abuses. Watch his TED talk from 2006, Fight injustice with raw video.
The ideal of handing out portable DV cams to citizen journalists was born of technological innovation. Technological innovation has killed DV cams but today we have a nearly infinite number of citizen journalists.
Our stories and injustices, real and perceived, are now documented in excruciating detail.
Which brings me to the Bundy Ranch story. Cliven Bundy runs cattle in the middle of a desert north of Las Vegas. Bundy's cattle graze on public land. He claims pre-emptive rights due to his Mormon ancestry. The free range days ended quite some time ago for most ranchers. Tragedy of the commons stuff. For background read CNN's Showdown on the range: Nevada rancher, feds face off over cattle grazing rights.
The plight of a rancher is to be frustrated. Working the land is hard. Cattle prices fluctuate. Add increasing government regulation to the mix and tempers flair. In this case Bundy's last stand is the result of his failure to win in the courts. Bundy can't graze cattle but large solar facilities probably eradicate more tortoise habitat. Meat is out and solar is in and the government is trying to enforce the will of an increasingly fickle population.
Back to citizen journalism. Watch the raw footage of the most recent "Bundy Ranch" confrontation. People are so immersed in capturing footage, that they trip over each other. It is half media scrum/half protest. Protesters are struggling to provoke government agents with one hand because the other is holding a phone camera.
I doubt this is what Peter Gabriel had in mind when he started WITNESS but there is no question that these protesters feel empowered because they have the ability to document their encounters with agents of the US government. Hopefully this conflict can be resolved without anybody getting seriously hurt. If not, at least there will be video.
I've been writing the Big Picture Speculator Newsletter in a variety of formats over the years. In order to streamline the administration, I've changed the format of the newsletter to that of a metered paywall.
Incoming links from other sites do not count on the meter. Clicks on Premium Content do count.
Rob wasn't beating around the bush here. I was impressed by his comments (and delivery) and Rob graciously agreed to repeat them for me to share.
Why is the Canadian Dollar dropping? The value of much of what Canada exports has been dropping. Jeff Rubin's Why the loonie’s fortunes are still tied to oil sums up the energy situation nicely. Thanks to George P. Mitchell, producers in the critically important energy sector are trying to find ways to export beyond the North American continent.
Unfortunately for Canadians, the Canadian Dollar is not just tied to energy. With the exception of lumber, most of our other commodity exports (metals and agriculture) are falling in value as well. In my talk at the Vancouver Resource Investment Conference I pointed out Canada's relative lack of economic diversification. Canadian investors will start being more open to investments in technology over the next few years.
Meanwhile many of the speakers at the conference reminded me of this quote from Bob Lefsetz:
But you can’t speak this truth in the music business, oh no, because that’s undercutting the game!
The TSX Venture has been on a 3 year slide. It is currently at some key technical levels so maybe we'll get a bit of a run up but until commodity prices turn, I'd consider it a bounce, more than a longer term reversal.
Don't miss the Vancouver Resource Investment Conference #VRIC14) this weekend. Please drop by table 12 and say hello.
I'll be presenting Cures for the Resource Investing Blues in Workshop 5 from 11:00-11:30AM
Between the Palm Springs International Film Festival Gala and hanging out at Cinémas Palme D'Or in Palm Desert, there's some pretty good celebrity watching.
The Vancouver Resource Investment Conference now known by the #VRIC14 hashtag is looming.
I'll spare you yet another long term TSX Venture chart. I'm not a gold conspiracy believer although I'm curious as to what the hell happened with Kitco and the $750 million in fines. I'm open to being wrong and seeing the gold price move higher but for the most part, I'd encourage people to broaden their horizons and keep diversified. I pretty much know what most of the speakers are going to say but I've been impressed with Ned Goodman. That alone is a good reason to attend.
Google Account Activity Reports show how my inbox is jammed up with emails. I'm never one to shy away from signing up for a new service but those emails start to add up. I regularly unsubscribe from services as well but obviously at a slower rate. I have numerous filters on my email so it is not uncommon for me to miss a few important ones but I'm blown away that the really important ones regularly find their way to the top of the pile.
Here's what happened last month...
Twitter's market cap is ~$25 Billion. How cool is that? Celebrate the recent IPO by watching the reflective video ;)
For every Richie Incognito, there's a John Moffitt:
I just want to be happy. And I find that people that have the least in life are sometimes the happiest. And I don't have the least in life. I have enough in life. And I won't sacrifice my health for that.
Moffitt majored in sociology at Wisconsin and said his world view was really shaped over the last couple of years when he began studying the writings of the Dalai Lama and Noam Chomsky.
There's more than one kind of warrior. The ones like John Moffitt are winning.
My wife likes to dress up. She has a very large closet. She loves her Jawbone Up but she's not thrilled with its appearance when she's going out on the town. She's been to Coachella but prefers Broadway shows, opera and ballet.
It didn't take long for her to complain about the appearance of her bracelet. I didn't give it much thought but I agreed (the secret to a happy second marriage) and said that she needs one with sparkles or rhinestones on it. This led to some conversations with one of her friends. It wasn't long before Pat started experimenting. First she checked to see if covering an UP bracelet with material would effect its performance. Then they had a seamstress make a few prototypes out of different materials. Lace looked nice but was difficult to pull onto the bracelet. Stretchy fabrics worked very well. Julia and her friend Pat were encouraged enough to start a business around the idea and Dress Up Fitness Bracelets was born.
Big names like Rupert Murdoch and Gwyneth Paltrow happily wear rubber bracelets. Is this a case of the Emperor's New Clothes? I don't think so. Rubber bracelets are the new activist ribbon. Remember the Wayfarer 515 crash on Breaking Bad followed by Albuquerque residents wearing light blue and orange ribbons? It doesn't have to make sense, once the cool kids grab onto something, they make it so. Even rubber bracelets. They start conversations. Like a Macbook Air at a Starbucks did 2 years ago.
Livestrong's yellow bracelets were very popular and may explain the lack of yellow fitness bracelets on the market. We live in a world where the transgressions of a popular athlete can alter the colour trends of fashion. We're all just Sneetches.
When someone wears an activity tracking bracelet on their wrist, they're making a statement. "I track my sleep, I track my activity. I watch what I eat. Please please please ask me what this rubber thing on my arm is for." Activity trackers are getting smaller but its no fun wearing one if nobody knows that you use one. I see a future where people will happily wear activity tracking earrings.
A textbook marketing push by Jawbone during New York Fashion week got a great piece of press in the New York Post - Calorie counter is Fashion Week’s hottest accessory. In the article, New York designer Charlotte Ronson said that she’d like to see UP bracelets come in “different prints.”
I didn't really think too much about making a Kickstarter video. If you look at them they're as good as most Hollywood movie trailers. Slick as hell. I was using methods I taught my kids when they were in grade school. My Donkey Kong graphics skills are not cutting it. We have help on the way and should have an awesome looking video up shortly.
My wife has brought in some big supporters but with age comes friction and resistance to all things new. Two supporters want to pay by cheque, three people thought that Julia's email was hacked when she asked for support. Four people couldn't figure out what the campaign was about. She's had several friends who say they've supported the project with no corresponding record of said donation. Most boomers don't tweet and they're only on Facebook to see what their kids are up to.
In spite of some challenges, with 10 days to go we are 38% funded. We have been amazed at the support we've received from family and friends which we know has been a leap of faith on their part. It isn't charity, it isn't angel investing, but it just might help Julia and Pat make fitness tracking bands look fantastic.
We need your help so please check out our project below.
The big picture on moving oil around the continent so we can drive our cars. The spills referenced weren't actually oil but the main point of this column stands. Reflexive opposition to pipelines flies in the face of the reality that they are the safest mode of transport.
By Kenneth Green
Senior Director - Natural Resource Studies
The Fraser Institute
CALGARY, AB/ Troy Media / - A pair of petroleum-related events in Canada has re-invigorated the public debate over the movement of petrochemicals such as oil and liquefied natural gas.
On October 17, a natural gas pipeline in a remote area of Alberta ruptured, releasing natural gas into the environment. As a result of the rupture, several major oil sands producers had to cut back on their operations. There was no fire, and as natural gas is non-toxic and disperses quickly in the atmosphere, there is little risk to the environment. Canada's National Energy Board quickly responded to the rupture, assuring people that there was no immediate safety concern for local residents.
On October 19, a Canadian National (CN) train derailed about 86 km west of Edmonton, with 13 cars coming off the rails. Three derailed cars were carrying liquid petroleum gas (propane) and four contained crude oil. The propane cars burst into flames upon derailment but the fire was quickly contained, and allowed to burn itself out. Nearly 100 people were evacuated from the local area but thankfully no injuries were reported as a result of the derailment.
The difference between these incidents, a pipeline rupture that threatened no-one and caused little or no environmental harm, and a train derailment that resulted in a serious fire, air pollution emissions, environmental destruction, and the displacement of a hundred people illustrates that, on virtually all metrics of safety, whether environmental, occupational, or residential, movement of oil and gas is safest via pipeline, less safe via rail, and still less safe via roadway.
Data pertaining to the safety of three modes of oil transport in North America show that, on an apples-to-apples basis, transporting a billion tons of oil over a mile of distance by pipeline has a very low likelihood of leakage - less than one incident per billion ton-mile. The risk of a leak by rail is twice as high, at two likely incidents per billion ton-mile. And trucks are 10 times higher still, with 20 incidents likely in moving a billion tons of oil over a mile.
In terms of volume spilled, it is true that pipeline ruptures release larger quantities of oil than individual truck or train spills, but again, when compared on an aggregate basis in terms of ton miles, pipelines are about equal to trucks, but worse than trains. The average releases for 2005-2009 were 11,286 gallons per billion ton-miles by pipeline, 13,707 gallons per billion ton-miles by roadway, but only 3,504 gallons per billion ton-miles shipped by rail.
When it comes to worker safety, pipelines also look safer. Safety data from the U.S. suggests that one would have only 0.007 injuries per billion ton-miles, while rail injury rates are 30 times as high. Road is still worse, with an injury rate 37 times that of the oil pipeline.
That pipelines are safer than trucks or trains should come as no surprise. A pipeline is fixed infrastructure with little exposure to the elements, fewer opportunities for operator failure, and with greater capacity for real-time monitoring and pre-planning for remediation based on the specific and well-understood characteristics of the pipeline route. Trains and trucks, running above ground, on fluid routes subject to constant change offer far more opportunities for breakdown, operator error, and injuries to workers as well as the general public. That's not to say that we should pick one particular mode: each has its pros and cons not only with regard to safety and environmental protection but with regard to economic factors such as changing market conditions - we'll need them all, we just need to understand that choices have consequences.
The public discourse over pipelines has been distorted by environmental groups that have exaggerated their dangers in order to persuade people to oppose their development. But as pipeline projects face increasing scrutiny, regulatory and social barriers, markets are responding in predictable ways, finding other ways to transport oil from where it is produced to where it will be consumed. Those changes, as we're seeing played out in the daily news, have consequences not only for the petroleum industry, but for the environment, for worker safety, and for the safety of those who live along transport routes, whether pipeline, railroad track, or highway.
Reflexive opposition to pipelines flies in the face of the data, which shows that pipelines are safer modes of transport than railways or roadways. Environmentalists engaging in anti-pipeline crusades risk causing considerably more harm than good.
Kenneth Green is Senior Director, Natural Resource Studies at the Fraser Institute. He is co-author of a recent report calledIntermodal Safety in the Transport of Oil.
My wife Julia said that she didn't like having a plain black fitness bracelet. I said she should put rhinestones on it. That led to a Kickstarter campaign led by Julia and her friend Pat Daunais. The site went live this afternoon. I'm not seeing a rush of support just yet.
Pat and Julia know fashion - they were ahead of the New York Fashion week crowd (read this article if you're confused - Calorie counter is Fashion Week’s hottest accessory )
Find out more below:
In my experience, people who hide behind the cloak of anonymity generally behave worse than people using their real names on the Internet. Even people using their real names will write things that they would be unlikely to say to someone's face. The big picture is that nobody is truly anonymous anymore and eventually I would expect for people to remember that manners matter, even on the Interwebs.
With that preamble out of the way, we all love juicy insider information. First person accounts. I've found two services that allow people to describe their experiences of either working for a company or getting paid while consulting for a company.
Glassdoor describes their service perfectly. Glassdoor is your free inside look at jobs and companies. Salary details, company reviews and interview questions - all posted anonymously by employees and job seekers.
I've checked out a few public companies using this service and it does provide an unvarnished snapshot of how people in the trenches view the company. Employees are happy to share their tales of woe anonymously and that makes Glassdoor very useful. Many great companies squeeze the life out of their employees. Companies grow and lose their culture. While the site is tailored for job-seekers, it is pretty handy for anyone interested in investing in a company. I would hope that HR departments pay attention to it as well.
Satago lets freelancers know when they'll actually get paid. Currently UK based. You'll blow your anonymity pretty quickly if you gripe about a smallish firm that doesn't pay many freelancers but it is a valuable site because it answers a fundamental question for consultants. How quickly will I get paid? If this business scales into other countries, it could also be used to track the relative health of different industries.
The founders wear t-shirts that say F**k You. Pay Me. I think that is reason enough to pay attention to them.
Strange coincidence. I was in the Museum of Modern art in New York last Saturday and took a few snaps of the Andy Warhol soup can paintings.
On Thursday I was in a taxi headed to the Windsor International airport and the driver was listening to the CBC. The program was about soup. You record enough programming and you'll probably talk about soup a few times. There's some classic Canadiana on the show but I really enjoyed the piece about Andy Warhol visiting Toronto. You can't make this stuff up!!
Start at 15:34 for the Warhol segment or listen to the whole thing on a cold day for some healthy nourishment.
Catchy tune with a quality video to match. Saw him live at Webster Hall in NYC last night and he's going places.
One of the most memorable meals of my life was courtesy of Frantzén in Stockholm. Ranked as one of The World's 50 Best Restaurants, this place provided friendly attentive service along with some amazingly creative dishes. We were greeted at the door by an NFL sized doorman wearing a dark coat and bowler hat. He escorted us to our seats, at a small bar overlooking the kitchen. Then champagne was served with friendly introductions. At every stage of the dinner, there was an explanation about the source of the ingredients and how they were prepared. The meal was scripted so that ingredients they presented earlier in the meal would not always show up immediately, but a few courses later. Sous-Chef Jim Löfdahl (the tall guy with the beard) graciously answered all of my questions. Of course the food was amazing but just as enjoyable was watching the food being prepared by a fast moving yet efficient team.
This video provides a condensed version of the experience. We were fortunate enough to have the two seats on the right.