Random Thoughts About the Last Couple of Years

I’m permitting a bit more randomness into my life. Like this post. Almost nobody will read this post since I do nothing to promote this blog. And I really have made great progress on my latest project (more in a minute) and have plenty to do if I want to bring it to fruition in the next few months. This post could have waited for a few days, even weeks or months. But I developed an itch to update the blog since the last post seem so long ago. Eighteen months is forever for a guy like me who is ‘future-biased’ and seldom spends much time looking back.

So, a quick summary of the last couple years:

  • I built a house. No, I just didn’t pay somebody to build a house for Bee and myself. I built the house with a friend who is an excellent carpenter and a host of subcontractors. Steve and I were undoubtedly the oldest framing crew in Santa Fe and probably the only crew who used double-walled construction here in 2014. For ten months, I strapped on a tool-belt every morning. See https://ebersolezollo.wordpress.com for the house-building story.  And when the house was done, I decided to write a book with another friend. A wise person would have taken a break but I can’t help myself. I like to be engaged.
  • The book (Rise of the Data Vampires) was a good exercise with a great writing partner, Randy Schultz. Randy did a superb job of getting us signed with a very good NYC agent who pitched us to the top publishing houses. In my view, we got very close if we assess the quality of the ‘thanks-but-no-thanks’ responses. The topic was considered relevant, the book proposal was good and the writing was solid (after Randy’s editing). Why were we not picked up? I think there are three reasons. First, and most critical, we lacked a ‘platform’. In the publishing world, this means we lacked a solid public presence (in today’s world that is measured by Twitter followers, Facebook friends and blog feed subscribers). For a non-fiction topic like ours, publishers like to see enough projected sales from a well-defined audience to at least cover the costs. Second, the issue of online privacy was only starting to emerge into the wider public—that is, consumer—awareness and the mainstream press was only beginning to cover the topic. Finally, and most discouraging, I think the publishers knew most consumers just didn’t care about or had given up on trying to maintain a modicum of online privacy.
  • Randy and I bid the book project good-bye and pondered whether we could salvage anything from what we learned. In a nutshell, we decided that there might be a niche market for a paid email service that didn’t scan your private emails like the ‘free’ service providers. After months of coding, marketing and learning just how difficult it is to bring up and manage a paid online email service, we discovered once again that consumers are not concerned enough about online privacy to spend $5 a month for a private, secure email service. Oh, well…
  • With a year gone but not wasted (I learned a lot about the publishing business, writing for consumers and how complex contemporary software development has become), I decided to revisit the project that actually triggered the book effort in May, 2015. Rather than delve deeply into the details of my on-demand, hot water recirculation system project, I will save that for a tutorial I plan to publish on instructables.com to promote the products from my new bootstrapped startup. Of course it involves more technology. In this project, I have learned how to layout simple printed circuit boards (my first order arrived a few weeks ago), program micro-controllers (using C++ makes me long for Javascript), use laser cutters (fun) and debug network systems (a royal pain in the butt). The small, simple devices and systems I am designing and building will require all the operations found in building much larger, more complex products albeit on a much smaller scale.
  • I almost forgot to mention Bee and I decided to become Airbnb hosts. After a rush of family and friends in 2015, our guest house sat empty for several months. After a bit of research and preparation for our first guests, we opened for business in late May. I’m not the most social guy so I was concerned that it might not be a good fit for me but it has been a very positive experience. We were very surprised how quickly the reservations came in and we ended up being booked almost solid for the prime months of the summer and fall. And we already have 83 days booked for 2017 and it’s only January 6. Note to friends and family…you folks have absolute first dibs on the guest house (free, of course) so let us know now. We want to see you so don’t be shy.
  • Finally, I do ‘look back’ occasionally. I am surprised at how much has changed, amazed at how quickly time has passed since we lost Kathy and stunned that I am 68 freaking years old. Surprised, amazed and stunned is probably better than being bored but now and again I think I need to slow down and smell the roses. Oops, forgot about the anosmia…

I should retire someday or, at least, get paid for all the work I am doing but I’m happy. I have a nice house, a wonderful partner, a delightful family who spent Christmas with us and my project is fun as well as intellectually stimulating. As a friend who is advising me on the technical aspects of the latest project said a few days ago after I had resolved a quite gnarly technical problem that consumed several days, it’s nice when you discover “you still got it”. I think I do.