Home, sweet home

It is still (just) Thanksgiving Weekend, so here are some things for which I am grateful.
  • Thanksgiving: although England (where I was born and grew up) has public holidays (known as "bank holidays"), those are either religious (Christmas, Easter) or entirely devoid of meaning beyond the extra day off work. My favorite is the "late summer bank holiday", often synchronous with Labor Day, but not always. We adopted Thanksgiving easily and happily when we arrived in the US... it is a great, inclusive holiday with its own rituals shared by all. We love it.
  • My family: my oldest daughter (currently a high-school junior) returned home from a three-month program overseas last Tuesday. We all missed her a great deal, and it is a joy for us that she is back home. We know in a couple of years she will be off on her own, and so these moments, weeks and months we have together now are all the more precious.
  • Friends: I am blessed with wonderful friendships - you know who you are - thanks!
  • Newton, MA: apparently Newton again made the list of America's safest cities, for the umpteenth time. That's a great start, but Newton, despite being a bustling small city and a suburb of a big(ish) city, is also a village. I can't spend an hour in Starbucks or Peets without seeing at least one person I know (other than whomever I am meeting!) and often I see several friends or neighbors.
  • Cycling: this blog is often about my cycling, and my cycling buddies. Cycling has provided a way for me to get fit and enjoy nature, and become involved in Hazon ... all good things.
  • Work: I really do enjoy my work at Sigma Partners (which is good - there is a lot of it). I get to spend time with bright, creative, driven people working on developing new businesses which are often drivers of job creation and economic growth. When we do well, then our investors do well, and many of our investors are charitable and educational institutions, so despite being at the sharp, pointy end of the capitalist machine("red in tooth and claw"?), our success supports many good causes.
  • My health: 'nuf said.

Chief Common Sense Officer

Dennis Devlin is Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) at Brandeis University. I met Dennis a few years ago when he had the same role at Thomson Corporation. It has always struck me that a better title for Dennis would be Chief Common Sense Officer. I recently heard Dennis give a talk and wanted to share a few of his thoughts.

As CISO at a university, his group offers a "Digital Self-Defence" class. One key tenet he tries to impart is that information (or photos, videos etc) that you put on the web is like a tattoo: easier to put on display than to remove.

I have previously heard the people part of the technology equation called wetware (as in, "the problem is not in the hardware, and not in the software, it's in the wetware"). Dennis, however, uses a much more pleasant term, and a thought-provoking one, too (pun intended): know-ware. I think I much prefer to be know-ware than wetware!

I also particularly like the analogy that Dennis provides us to think about security
Security is like the brakes on your car; the function is to slow your car down, but the purpose is to allow you to go fast.

Finally, in terms of information systems security, Dennis noted that a system is secure when it does exactly what it is supposed to do, and nothing more! (It strikes me this is a good definition of quality as well as security.) Here is my take on his visual:

VC:VC Social Entrepreneurship

I have an occasional series of blog postings I call my VC:VC series in which I compare my venture cyclist and venture capital worlds. The venture cyclist in me is involved both in cycling and in the non-profit world ... so this gives me plenty of scope for interesting comparisons.

For today's note, I don't have to do any work ... I refer you to a great post on the TEDfellows blog entitled In Social Enterprise force yourself to be an entrepreneur first. The VC:VC relevance is obvious from the title. The writer, Peter Haas, lists 10 rules including
  • Clearly define what you do and stick with it
  • It costs more than you expect, get more than you need

It is not a long article - and worth the read.

Meaningful Use

The federal stimulus bill provides nearly $20 billion in incentives for physicians, hospitals and other healthcare providers to adopt electronic medical records as long as they are used in a meaningful way.

The definition of "meaningful use" took a few months to even begin to crystalize (see this article from the AMA news service).

With thanks to Dr Danny Sands (@DrDannySands), check out this great definition!

Tis better to travel hopefully than to arrive

I had a great bike ride with friends on Sunday morning. With the clocks changing in favor of an early start we duly set off at 8am (yes, you crack-pots of dawners, that's early!). After about seven miles I got a flat rear tire. We found the puncture - a single pinprick hole - in the tube, but could not find a corresponding problem inside the tire or the wheel rim. We duly put it down to rubber fatigue, put in the (only) spare tube, pumped up, and headed on. Three miles later I had a flat again, and with the same pinprick hole at the same position in the tire (relative to the valve). This time a group of us all searched for the cause - and could not find anything. We took the tire off completely, turned it inside out and looked at it under the glare of the beautiful fall sunlight. Nothing. Again we searched, and the wheel rim as well. Nothing.

Meanwhile I was also working with my trusty patch kit to repair the hole. We decided to replace the tube and hope for the best ... what was the alternative?

As I reseated the tube inside the tire, when I got to the patch on the tube, I noticed a small bump on the outside of the tire. It looked like a minor imperfection caused by wear, but I tried to rub it off, and in doing so flicked out a very small grain of glass. This was the size of the period at the end of this sentence. It was lodged on the outside of the tire, and must have been impinging through the inner wall onto the tube under pressure. Without the pressure (whether from the tube inflation or the weight on the road) it did not poke into the inside of the tire which is why we could neither see it nor feel it inside.

Happy we had found and solved the problem I finished refitting the tube. We used a $1 bill (thanks Sammy) as shield for extra protection for the patched tube inside the tire where the glass had been "just in case", and went on to enjoy the rest of the ride without incident. Thanks to the early start we arrived home at the normal time, rather than significantly late. As I look back on this ride I have the same warm feelings of enjoyment of the ride, the company, the wind and the sun as I have for most Sunday rides. Puncture? Two punctures? Nooo problem.

There is a lesson here ... probably some pithy version of "be more thorough looking for the cause the first time!" Another lesson is "enjoy". It is not about arriving, it's about travelling hopefully.