“The less you do, the stranger it all seems.”
Dallas Clayton

Echoes

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Silence is an echo of sound
Sound is an echo of words
Words are an echo of thoughts
Thoughts are echoes of knowledge
Knowledge is an echo of silence

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What Comes Around Has Been Around?

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I just finished reading this post by Brad Burnham and its echoes by Fred Wilson and Brad Feld about patent trolling and its effects on startups. I can understand and sympathize with the problem they are facing but I wonder if there is another older pattern at work.

A few years ago when I was closer to startup dynamics it was not uncommon for founders to pursue (often prohibitively expensive and often useless) patents, often primarily to cater to investors expectations (“investors like to see patents to secure their investment”). I also encountered patent based startups that were created as patent-traps with no other substantial offering (their financial models were based primarily on expected legal expenses).

I see an irony when business people explain that patents were originally intended to protect inventors and the very idea of innovation. Why was protection needed in the first place? I doubt it was from other innovators or society at large, I have a feeling (no historical research to back it up) it was mostly from businesses (run by businessmen who wanted to make a profit) who did not have any qualms about exploiting innovation without recognizing and supporting innovators. I don’t think we live in a world where businesses would line up of their own free will to recognize and adequately (I don’t want to push for generously) compensate inventors even in cases where it is obviously due.

When I look at the USV portfolio I see some companies that I feel have substantial purpose and potential impact that go beyond making healthy profits for their investors. I also see companies that I feel have no or misplaced purpose, regardless of potential future profits for investors. I am curious to know which companies in the USV portfolio are suffering from abusive patent prosecution – and I am curious to see if there is any correlation between that and their purposes.

It can (and usually does) take time for true nature to reveal her-tself – things that appear to be “good” can morph into “bad” and then back to “good” and on and on. We do not control the consequences of our actions. We do control our intents and they will resonate strong and far. If you play in a game where your objective is to use money to make more money, you should expect to meet like-minded people, even when you don’t like it. If you don’t like yet, you can consider changing the game.

I do not feel that I have the credibility to say this – so I am happy to quote an interesting, established and inspiring source:

“Money is not meant to generate money; money should generate an increase in production, an improvement in the conditions of life and a progress in human consciousness.”

“Money is not meant to generate money; money should generate an increase in production, an improvement in the conditions of life and a progress in human consciousness.
Posted in AltEco, outside | You are welcome to add your comment

Romania – Food

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The most memorable food from Romania, for me, was fresh and warm mini-bagels sold in the center of town. I am not a big fan of food – I eat mostly to sustain myself and rarely as an indulgence. Yet my visit to Romania was very food-centric. It was a holiday season (Christmas, New Years & two additional religious holidays honoring saints) and most of my visits were first time meetings with Andreea’s family. Also, since I don’t speak Romanian – eating is the next best way to socialize – so I was constantly surrounded by food.

Drinks

Wine is always served. When we visited village homes – there was always plenty of home made wine (a humble home winery had a capacity of 700 liters). When we visited other homes there was usually a healthy quantity of wine that came from a family-relative village winery. The wine is not too strong (it’s usually a fresh vintage) and is a rather light drink, it can be deceiving.

Tsuica is a lethal alcoholic beverage ranging from 30%-60% proof. Like wine, most of it originated from family-relative village homes. It was made from the mashed grape left-overs from the winery. These left overs are stored in sealed bags outside in the cold (which prevents further fermentation) – which are used to brew fresh Tsuica throughout the winter. Only once was it served to me raw, the smell alone was too much for me, the taste was awful (and I have a feeling it’s appeal is not the taste). Most of the time it was served mixed with a berry-fruit-concentrate that resulted in a really pleasant drink that reminded me of a port-wine we once purchased from a monastery. Every sip seemed to immediately caress my insides with a delicate and tingling warmth – it was great fun.

There are many brands (and loads of stupid TV commercials) of bottled water. It is ridiculous because there is so much excellent natural water in Romania. The faucet water in the city was of dubious quality. It is usually much better in the village where it is either pumped or manually (yes still!) drawn from nearby wells. Ironically water never seemed to be offered on the table, I had to ask for it :)

Mamaliga

Mamaliga (yellow dish in the center of the post at the beginning of this post) is a an instant, fresh, warm and cheap substitute for bread. You place some corn-flour (which is literally ground dried corn!) in boiling water with some salt and after a few minutes it turns into … Mamaliga.

One of the reasons it’s a popular food (besides how ridiculously simple it is to make) is that if you live in a village you are very likely to have plenty of corn – as it is widely grown and used to feed the livestock (chickens, goats,pigs, etc.).

Hemp Cake

One of the Romanian Christmas treats is Hemp cake (if you read Romanian – you can find a recipe with more images here). As Christmas nears (and at no other time during the year) the market is filled with bags of hemp seeds – there is nothing “high” about it. Its cream filling is made using hemp seeds which are considered healthy (but not much fun). It has a delicate flavor. One variation of the cake is in the following image, and as you can see, the wine is ever-present.

Vegetables

Finding simple vegetarian food is usually an unwelcome challenge when I travel – all I need is some rice and vegetables to make me happy – and it often difficult to come bye – especially when eating out. Plenty of vegetables were very available in Romania. One of our first walks was to the market – and it was a delight for me. Many fruits and vegetables are imported and therefore relatively expensive. But what took my breath away is the amazing variety of large (and muddy) root vegetables at amazingly low prices (much much much cheaper then in Israel – which is considered a heaven when it comes to fruits and vegetables. $15 would have probably supplied the two of us with a month’s supply of cooked vegetables. I was blessed with two or 3 wonderful meals cooked by Andreea’s step-mother which included plentiful vegetable dishes.

I often feel that when people talk about organic foods – that the focus is on the biological or chemical aspects. For me a bit part of organics is a state of mind of appreciating and embracing what nature has to offer. I could easily and heartily embrace Romania’s land and nature offered. It may not be an equivalent of 5 star restaurant food – but that is not what I am looking for – I am looking for good, wholesome, affordable (it’s free if you grow it by yourself – more on that in an upcoming post) nutrition.

Due to the nature of Romanian weather (a long and cold winter) they are very proficient at preserving vegetables (and other things) using various techniques (pickling, salt, etc.). One preservative I couldn’t fathom, and found very unpleasant was watermelons – small personal sized watermelons are … well… pickled – resulting in a slimy red substance … eeek!

Potatoes deserve a special mention. They are widely available and also very cheap. But they have a bad reputation – they are considered poor (as in social standings) food. Since rice is sometimes harder to come by or more expensive – potatoes are a favorite substitute for me. This created a cultural conflict. Our hosts needed to be convinced that serving potatoes is OK – they did not want to give the impression of being poor. They preferred to serve something that symbolized abundance – which brings us to the main event: Meat!

Meat

Yesterday Andreea & I passed by the meat section in a local supermarket – and we both laughed at how pathetic it looked. I don’t eat meat – but I was impressed by the amazing variety of meat in Romania – much of which is of course made (at least partly) of pig. Actually, I arrived at exactly the time when, in the villages, pigs are slaughtered (just before Christmas) and almost every part is somehow prepared or processed to provide meat in the coming winter. So not only did our hosts not want to serve me potatoes – they very much wanted to serve me freshly slaughtered pork meat. For them it is a celebration they look forward to every year.

During our first village visit (on the same evening that I am close to being drunk) a fresh platter of meats (from animals that were recently slaughtered) was placed on the table and I decided to taste. some. I took three bites of three different meats. They had a rich flavor and a lot of character. But that was all for me. In my consciousness the events of the following night were tightly linked.

Hallucinations?

By the time we got home I was suffering from a painful headache and my entire body was tightly wound. I settled on the living room sofa (I didn’t go to the bedroom because it is a noisy room, it was still early and the city noises hammered into me) and wrapped myself in a blanket. I kept my eyes closed because the light from the TV (which was thankfully muted) hurt me. Eventually we moved to the bedroom and I had a terrible and sleepless night. I don’t usually remember my dreams, and this night felt more like some kind of hallucination then a dream (I imagined that it felt like I was on some kind of Indian spirit journey – though I’ve never been on one so I can’t really tell).

I was trying to solve some kind of three dimensional puzzle. Tubes were flowing through space, creating an endless maze of paths and spaces. I was busily trying to unravel the puzzle – and it wasn’t working – the puzzle was getting more and more complicated – it was my entire world. Every time I “solved” one area, others appeared – it demanded an all-inclusive solution – a sudden revelation. At one point I realized that I was actually creating the puzzle. My efforts to solve it were fueling it – making it larger and more dense. I felt that if I could only find a way to stop my consciousness, that the puzzle would simply disappear – and there would be nothing left to solve. I was restless during the entire night, twisting and turning on the bed, until sometime in the early morning hours I found some peace and sleep.

Posted in Expanding, inside | You are welcome to read 1 comment and to add yours

Family

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My recent travels have given rise to thoughts about family. Traveling agitates my energy, it destabilizes me and my body tenses and aches. So, actually, the stops on the way are those that affected me and got me thinking.

A few weeks ago, during my day in Tel-Aviv family surfaced for the first time in my consciousness. It was just past 5pm. I felt demolished. I called @ronenk, whom I’d never met in person before, and asked him to bring me to a place of shelter and refuge from the overwhelming city experience (I could not yet leave the city because I had one more engagement I planned and wanted to attend). He told me to come and join him and @naamasegal. When we spoke on the phone I was standing on a busy road overlooking a traffic-jammed highway, and I thought (wished!?) he was inviting me to Naama’s home.

When I reached the address he gave me and found him I realized I was going into another disturbing experience – a coffee shop. I was in for a surprise. After a full-hearted, paternal hug from @ronenk, I soon found myself sitting in a corner chair of a corner table in the company of two new friends (soon to be joined by @yoavsegal) – and the rest of the city seemed to fade from my consciousness. They took me into their intimate bubble, one that was created before I arrived. They were understanding, soft and caring. There were family.

When I set out on my journey to Romania I left a couple of days before my flight. The first leg of my journey was from our house in the north to my parents house in the center area of Israel (so that I would have a recess before the next part of the journey). Obviously my parents and sisters are family – biologically. Yet our relationship is not always familial. They gave me shelter and food and we also managed to strike a conversation in which we met with attention and curiosity (instead of typical friction). They too were family.

I wrote these words at the home of a family who lives in Bucharest. They are Andreea’s friends and they offered to help in making a transition from Bucharest airport to Piatra Neamt (where Andreea and her family await me). Help was needed. The trains in Romania, like many other things, are not very reliable and the fresh snow made them even less so. We were not able to make it to a train on the day I landed and so they gave me a home for the night. They live in a 2 room apartment and I slept peacefully in one of the rooms while they (two adults and two children) slept in the other. They fed me and provided me with a warm shower. They cared and supported with generous patience. Even thought I was in a distant, foreign, busy, cold and snowy city, diverted from my planned journey, I felt at home. They too were family.

As I write these words, I am on my way to another, even more remote, distant and cold city. I am going to meet new members of my biological family. I can already feel care and curiosity reaching out to me from Andreea and them (people I’ve never met), wrapping me comfortable and safely in another familial bubble.

I eventually made it onto a train that was heading in the correct direction. I purchased 1st class tickets to ensure I had a place to sit. I had seat number 104 on carriage 9. The carriage only had 96 seats. When I approached a conductor – he said “yes, this is a problem” and gestured for me to get on. I climbed back into the train into a crowded passageway, barely finding a place for myself and my luggage. I was standing right in the connecting area between two carriages. When the train began to move, snow, from the carriage seams, began to fall on me and on my luggage – while I was holding first class tickets. Despite all the discomfort I was still content and happy, still protected by family.

Family is a surprising and refreshing experience for me after all these years. I believe that families make homes.

Posted in Expanding, inside | You are welcome to add your comment

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2010-01-10

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  • a typical sheep will yield 7kg of wool, 4kg remain after processing, a medium sized hand knitted shirt requires about 600grams #
  • hello all, our physical bodies are back in Israel@home, the rest is slowly arriving… have much to recall and share.. cusoon #
  • Life in a Yurt – Broadband, Yes. Toilet, No: http://bit.ly/5AIzI8 #
  • @shanacarp thank you for the listing/unlisting :) in reply to shanacarp #
  • @ronenk אני פה :) in reply to ronenk #
  • one day at a time, one task at a time, one breath at a time #
  • first post on visit to Romania – it's all me me me and my energy: http://bit.ly/8MIrHY #

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