How much is the Carlisle car show worth? I just witnessed an incident in front of my house involving 7 police vehicles, 2 police motorbikes, and 1 police helicopter. Of course, this is just after I finished reading Player Piano, and watched a BookTV advert for The Devil that Danced on Water, so let's just say that I'm not in a very pro-police-state mood, but I can still see the need for control should a riot occur. What I'd like to see is a definition of the economic benefit that the car shows bring (if people want something to identify Carlisle by, then I'll suggest Really Big East Coast Drug Distribution Center).

As for Player Piano, it's about humans and their technology, which Vonnegut delivers as a future where only engineers have to work as all human labor has been replaced by mechanized labor. This causes the inevitable soul rot as humans seem to derive personal value from labor. In the end, technology wins out, 'Cause none of them-a can-a stop-a the time (although Tasmania apparently did a pretty good job of this).

The bad thing about the book is Vonnegut assumes that skilled labor is unable to do anything but skilled labor. We need to just look back at our waves of immigration to see this very fear voiced by people who thought they would be outcompeted by the new immigrants. Whenever new competition arises (human or mechanical), we'll see complaints and pleas for temporary relief (how many years have we had farm subsidies?) His biggest fear should be that the US will not be able to offer a quality education to all youth, free of charge.

But, the book does get one thinking about meaning in one's life. I think that meaning gives a life purpose, motivating the person to accomplish some set of goals. Otherwise, you might just end up sabotaging your life without even realizing it (well, at least until you're dying and you finally realize that you may not be able to itemize all your regrets before you die ;).

What's a Saturday without some bad news? Not only has the SARS mortality rate edged up to 7%, but it looks like it's gone exponential.

I talked to Rich (who's living in Japan now) this morning. Apparently, sells cobranded DSL over there, and the ADSL modem has a phone jack whereby you can make VoIP calls to the US for $0.02/minute. When he first signed up, the first two months of phone calls were free. He could call anywhere in the world for free. This reminded me of the old phreak days. Also, the VoIP connection quality was surprisingly good.

Talking about islanding of cultures in a global society (Japan's big enough to experience the effects of this), Rich recommended Guns, Germs, and Steel, so that's two ++ references. Looks like I'll be spending some book money soon.

Ever wondered how your eye works?

I just finished The Gorilla Game by Geoffrey Moore, Paul Johnson, and Tom Kippola. This book is billed as a handbook to picking winning stocks in high technology. The algorithm they have devised is to identify an emerging industry that has a natural monopoly aspect to it (like Ebay's network effects, M$'s control of the PC, etc.), then id the companies most likely to dominate, invest in all of them, and as the competitors are beaten, sell off the losers and plough the money back into the remaining potentials.

The problem with this approach is the timeline aspect; as technology is constantly changing, the market leader may be be badly beaten (M$ was challenged by Netscape, ILECs were severely hurt by CLECs). The book spent no time on valuing companies, so you may buy into an industry unfortunately cut short by another emerging technology. I conjecture that there are far more technology industries that fail to develop to maturity than new industries that actually succeed.

The good thing about the book is that it kept provoking me to think about what makes for a sustainable competitive advantage (SCA). And does CTI have one? I can only see our brand name, but this only helps when it comes to acquiring new customers (I think of brand as a percentage chance of getting a person as a customer when they decide to try something new, the more familiar they are with your brand, the more likely they'll choose your brand).

Basically, ISPs are like the soda market; they're all just sugar-water (or aspartame-water ;), and you choose what you like based on small differences in personal taste. Given the maturation of technology in the ISP market, most ISPs' technical functioning is the same. We really only differ in the flavors of services that we offer. Which probably means we should have a lot of service-flavors to offer our customers.

The worst part is that service flavors are easily copyable (if Coke has lemon, then Pepsi has lemon ;), and so are not SCAs. On top of that, the only possible SCA (that I can see) is to build your brand. But, brands are only really effective if there are new users (Coke and Pepsi are looking for the rest of the world to start being able to afford sugar-water), what new users do we see in our markets?

The more competitive the market, the more brand matters. The corollary to this is that all profits are temporary for small brands, and either need to be plowed back into developing the brand or used to break into a market that has a natural monopoly aspect to it.