Jeff the Great Spies CitySpeek in the Wild!

Jeremiah and I both had a great day today, mostly because a tech blog we love covered CitySpeek.com, just 2 weeks after launch!

had some great things to say about CitySpeek that really encouraged us and gave us some extra motivation. In part, TechVibes writes:
I really like their concept of categorized Speeks - what I think is best about it is that you can search through public Speeks by category. Check out events, questions or funny stuff; what might be really interesting tweets often get buried in my Twitter stream, and this is a way to sort through posts if you are looking for something in particular. You can receive speeks through the CitySpeek website, or through IM or email.
I've linked the full article below. Give it a read and make sure to check back with TechVibes daily for more great coverage of web startups!

CitySpeek hopes to appeal to Twitter-phobic
-TechVibes Blog, 12/23/2008

-Jeff the Great


Jeff the Great is High on Speed

A good friend of mine posted some impressive internet speeds over at his blog so I thought I'd do the same. Both of our speeds make most internet users in the US incredibly jealous.

I am running FiOS from Verizon. I am actually disappointed in this test since I am paying for 5mbps upload and as you can see I only got 3.2. Oh well, still faster than most.

-Jeff the Great

p.s. Steve...I'm still faster! j/k


Jeff the Great Participates in GPIE

I recently signed up to participate in the Great Portland Interview Experiment which was brought to the Rose city and is being managed by Chris O'Rourke. I was interviewed by one of my new best online friends, Ramona White. She asked me some fun questions and then posted the interview over on her blog. With her permission I have re-posted the interview below. Make sure to check out Ramona's blog MouthFeel for a daily dose of poetry and other great writing.

Without further to do, enjoy!

-Jeff the Great

What is one thing about you most of us don’t already know?

Besides the fact that I fell off a 60 foot cliff and survived or that I have witnessed a murder? I think most people would be surprised to know that I was a volunteer junior high youth group director for three years. The church I was attending had its entire youth staff resign in one summer so I called and said “hey, let me know if you need anyone to stuff envelopes.” I received a return call a few days later from a guy at the church who said something to the effect of “thanks for your offer to stuff envelopes, how would you like to be the junior high youth guy until we hire someone?” Next thing I know, I added the title of Jr High Youth Director to my resume and did that for three years in addition to my job at Nike. I finally resigned right before my wedding; I figured I should dedicate all my time to my new wife.

You seem to share the love of bacon common in the PDX tech community. Have you always loved bacon or did it develop through your associations in this group?

I’m what they call a “large man” and thus it’s a requirement for me to eat bacon as often as possible. Hey, you don’t get a body like this without working at it! If you asked my parents, I think they’d probably say that when I was a kid, restaurants hide the bacon when I walked in for Sunday brunch.

Do you consider yourself a geek?

Wow, I don’t know! I mean it’s cool to be a geek now, right? I do consider myself a geek but not a computer geek. I am a geek because I am writing a white paper on an economic theory I developed years ago and can’t get it out of my mind. I am a geek because to me, fun is developing a complex analysis of the thousands of mutual funds available at my online brokerage. And that’s just Saturday, wait till I tell you about Sunday!

Why do you think techy people are so fond of sporks?

Sporks are to techies as the swiss army knife is to MacGuyver. On a related note, I have some tiny plastic forks that have a hinge on the handle so that you can fold them in half. They fit in a wallet, how cool!

What is your favorite beverage while you’re working?

Coffee! I drink it like crazy. I switched to a coffee mug instead of a Styrofoam cup so that it appears like I care about the environment. I probably have 6-8 mugs of coffee before lunch. Then after lunch, I’ll throw back another 1 or 2 mugs. Around 3pm I usually need more but I have been trying to do decaf at that point.

Do you listen to music or podcasts while you’re working and if so what?

I do occasionally. My favorite source of music is Pandora Radio. Not sure how I discovered it, maybe through TechCrunch.com, but once I tried it out I was hooked. I have three stations setup. The first and most frequently listened to is seeded with Counting Crows, Augustana, The Killers, Blues Traveler, and Keane. Then sometimes I feel a little funky and I switch to a light rap station. Then, when the day has totally gone to shit, I bust out the old skool rap station which is seeded with 2Pac, Eazy-E, Biggie and Mase.

“Me and Bobby McGee”- the Janis Joplin or the Kris Kristofferson?

Bobby McWho? Don’t tell anyone this, but I have never heard either version of that song until I googled ‘em just now. However, I don’t think Janis Joplin has ever been used to describe me in any way, so I’ll say Kris Kristofferson.

How did you end up launching CitySpeek and where do you hope it will go?

CitySpeek isn’t the first project that I have developed with my business partner, Jeremiah. It is however the highest of quality and our first with a shot at being a major player. Jeremiah has an incredibly creative mind and almost two years ago now he invited me to work with him on a project. Three web sites later we have CitySpeek. The idea came from our new and shared love for micro-blogging (or micro-messaging as I prefer to say). We noticed two things: First, micro-messaging was going beyond the early adopter techie crowd and into the mainstream. Second, we saw a frustration from users as they tried to group themselves by interest and share media with their networks. Our initial idea was a site with sub-domains for each major US city but it eventually warped into what we have now: a micro-messaging site for the rest of the internet. Integrated pics and video, interest groups, message categories, message mapping and Flickr integration (the first of many social network tie-ins). A common misconception is that we are going after Twitter users and that is just not true. Twitter is great but it’s not for everyone. CitySpeek was made for the average internet users and we are marketing to groups. Church groups, softball teams, coworkers, alumni associates, etc. Of course we wouldn’t complain if a twitter user switched to CitySpeek as their primary messaging service, but we understand if they don’t.

What question do you wish I had asked you and what’s the answer?

I don’t know, there’s no one question I was hoping for. I love my wife and can always brag about her. I’ve been consuming books like bacon lately so that’s always fun. This was a blast and your questions were great! Thanks for the opportunity and your time Ramona, it’s been great to meet you through the GPIE!


Jeff the Great Launches CitySpeek.com

If you follow me on Facebook or Twitter, you've probably heard me mention a "super seekrit" project that I was working on. Well, today I am proud to announce that the project is now live on the web, ready for you to check out! Since August, my biz partner Jeremiah and I have been working late nights and exhausting weekends on CitySpeek.com.

You might recall that last year we developed a site called Goboz.com to positive reviews and good visitor traffic. As soon as we launched Goboz we realized how much we had learned, the things we did right and all the things we did wrong.

In the meantime, Jeremiah and I both became big fans of micro-messaging. Essentially, micro-messaging is staying in touch with your network through frequent and short messages. Typically things you want people to know but not something important enough to compose an email about. We quickly found the shortfalls in current micro-messaging platforms and realized the potential that was out there...specifically as a medium to connect small business with customers.

Jeremiah began working his design magic in August, we started to hash out the features we wanted and in October we found an advanced web developer to make the vision a reality. Without going into the specifics I can tell you we really stepped things up this time and did this project 'right'.

So, what is CitySpeek.com you ask?
CitySpeek is a micro-messaging service that allows you to stay in contact with your friends, co-workers, teammates and customers through an efficient means of communication. CitySpeek is different than other micro-messaging services in many ways. CitySpeek encourages communication in communities by offering a rich user experience. Messages can include integrated pictures or video and are sent as one of six different categories.
What are you waiting for, come give the site a try! Start by clicking JOIN on the site and filling out your user info. You will then get a confirmation email right away, click the included link and we'll walk you through the rest of the process. Then, find friends or interesting people to follow (me) and start 'Speeking'!

Finally, I want to thank you for your support of me in everything I do. I couldn't appreciate my network of family and friends any more than I do.

-Jeff the Great


Jeff the Great not 'Made in Oregon'

I took the rare step today of picking up the Oregonian newspaper (I typically read the WSJ and NYTimes) and read an opinion column from an Oregonian staffer that just enraged me. Here is my response.

If you are from the Portland area, you are probably very familiar with the sign pictured here. Its currently referred to as the 'Made in Oregon' sign. When driving into downtown from the east you can't miss it in the beautiful skyline.

The 'Made in Oregon' sign is now in the middle of a controversy that would make the Housewives blush. See, the University of Oregon has owned the building and the sign for a number of years now. They recently finished a spectacular renovation of the space and cut the ribbon for the University of Oregon Portland center.

Naturally, since the sign and building no longer have anything to do with Made in Oregon, the company, the UofO wants to change the sign.

Enter a bunch of angry and aparently bored Portlanders, including Anna Griffin of the Oregonian.

Anna's opinion piece in the Dec 10th, 2008 Oregonian disgusted me. She showed that sometimes Portlanders like to bitch and protest just because. Her opinion is so empty of anything meaningful that she even goes as far as to bring Phil Knight, Nike, and Oregon Athletics into the argument. What? Is she serious?

Whats the problem, anyway? Why should the owner of the building be forced to advertise a private brand? Why can't the UofO tell all of Portland and it's visitors that they University is here to serve the community? Whats wrong with change? The sign changed in 1995 and the world survived, it can change again. Is PSU affraid that a sign will destroy their business in Portland?

Where were you, Anna, when the University first bought the building? Did you protest then? Did you stand up and demand that the University stay out of your city and not change anything in Old Town?

Where were you, Anna, when the sign was changed to read "Made in Oregon"? Did you protest then? Had you lived here, would you have? Would you have been that passionate about White Stag?

I didn't think so.

-Jeff the Great


Jeff the Great Bans Toy Drives

Most would agree that the Holiday's are the season of giving. We give presents to friends and family, some give money to the mailman, I even give a gift to my doctor (its the key to good health).

This year, when you are inundated with requests to give to the poor, I urge to you to walk past the toy drive bin and donate food and warm clothing instead.

In these economic times we need to just survive. Food and shelter are what matter first. So donate some canned or dried food to the local food bank and donate an old sweatshirt to the Salvation Army. Give people what they need most. Toys aren't it. Life is what we all need.

-Jeff the Great

P.S. if you are in Oregon like I am, visit the Oregon Food Bank and the Salvation Army's web sites to get started.


Jeff the Great votes 'Yes' on 60

If you are an Oregonian you should know that there is a ballot measure in this years election that proposes the end of seniority based pay in favor of performance based pay for teachers in the Oregon public school system. It's called ballot measure 60.

I'm voting yes on this ballot measure because I have a sister who is a phenomenal teacher and I think she should be paid for her outstanding performance. Why should she, as a 3 year veteran, be paid less than a 15 year vet with a 'tenure' attitude towards their work?

Unfortunately, the various teachers unions are brainwashing my sister and her fellow teachers. They are lying to them by saying the ballot measure requires pay based on student test scores. They act as if they have my sisters best interest at heart, when in reality they are for nothing but the status-quo.

Instead of arguing with the teachers unions and pointing out their lies, I'll just let you read the full text of the ballot measure and let you decide for yourself:
Section 1. Teacher pay raises and job security shall be based on job performance.

(a) After the effective date of this 2008 Act, pay raises for public school teachers shall be based upon each teacher’s classroom performance and not related or connected to his or her seniority. If a school district reduces its teaching staff, the district shall retain the teachers who are most qualified to teach the specific subjects, which they will be assigned to teach. A determination as to which teacher is most qualified shall be based upon each teacher’s past classroom experience successfully teaching the specific subject(s) or class, as well his or her as academic training in the relevant subject matter.

(b) This 2008 Act shall be called the “Kids First Act” and shall supersede any previously existing law, rule, or policy with which it conflicts. This Act shall not be implemented in a manner so as to violate or impair the obligation of any contract in existence as of the effective date of this Act, but shall govern later extensions to those contracts and new contracts entered into after the effective date of this Act.

Anywhere in there does it say test scores? In fact, it doesn't even define what performance is. Some say that's bad, I argue its a great thing. This way principals and superintendents get to decide what good performance is.

You know, kinda like how your company and boss does for you if you don't work in the unionized public sector.

I challenged my sister this. I said that if she is okay with seniority based pay, a structure that her union pays millions to defend, then she should have seniority based grading in her classroom.

Older kids get "A's" since they've been around longer and the youngest kids get "F's." Just as fair as their teachers salary.

-Jeff the Great

P.S. Barack Obama supports performance based pay for public school teachers...I'm just say'n.


Jeff the Great: "Stupid is as Stupid Does"

Not sure why but I seem to come across stupid people, saying and doing stupid things, just about every day. Maybe its me, I mean common sense might be too much to ask for.

This morning I went to Starbucks for my usual venti drip coffee with walking room. Now, I hate the new Pike Place blend...its about 1 step above 3 hour old Denny's coffee if you ask me. Starbucks knows this, they created the new blend to appeal to a wider audience, those that aren't into the strong premium coffee we drink up here in the Northwest.

I normally ask for the 'alternate brew.' They almost NEVER have a pot of it to sell to me. So, I end up with the hated Pike Place blend. Today when I asked for the alternate brew they again told me they didn't have enough for a venti.

I said to the Starbucks employee: "Why is it that you never have enough of the alternate brew when I ask for it?"

His response: "Oh, that's because we only brew enough for about 2 cups of coffee."

Are you kidding me?! I didn't care what the actual answer was, I was trying to make a point! Does it take a rocket scientist to figure out that maybe you should brew more?

He was so proud of himself for answering the question. Little did he understand that he looked like an idiot.

-Jeff the Great


Been quiet lately

Sorry, very little time to blog lately. I have however put up 2 posts over at my other blog, PDXCompanies. Make if you or anyone you know is looking for a job in the Portland, Oregon area...make sure to check it out.

Talk soon,

Jeff the Great


Jeff the Great Condems Obama Basher's

This blog post is a call to action. A challenge to get off the sidelines and stand up for your country and your integrity.
What I am about to tell you is a threat to our way of life, a statment that I hope does not reflect who we are as American's.
If you are the recipient of something like this, I ask you to take a stand and let people know that it is NOT okay.
Last night I received an email forward from a close friend of mine...someone who is like a brother to me. It started off by naming every major terrorist event in the western world since the 60's, stating that each was purportrated by muslim males between the age of 17 and 40. This disgusting email then goes on to lie and claim that the New Testimate book of Revalations calls the coming anti-christ a Muslim male (another lie). As you can probably guess, the email forward then goes on to suggests that Barack Obama is all of these things.
As a halfway intelligent and rational American, I am incredibly offeneded by this email and what it suggests. It questions my intelligence and judgment. It fosters racial and religious discrimination. It uses God's word to mislead and frighten.
If you receive one of these emails and if you feel the same way that I do, I challenge you to take a stand and tell the world that this type of action is not okay. This goes beyond Democrat or Republican, beyond conservative or liberal, black or white, male or female. Disgusting acts like this are not what America stands for and it is our responsability as individuals to take a stand.
I for one, a former republican and current independant, will not sit around and let this happen. Not in my country, not during my election.
-Jeff the Great


Jeff the Great joins PDXTech

I am a big fan of LinkedIn, I think it is one of the most useful 'social networks' on the web (though I hate that term and don't think it applies well to LinkedIn). I recently joined the Nike Global Alumni Network on LinkedIn to allow me better access to past co-workers without having to add them directly to my network.

Last week I apprently helped inspire the creation of a new LinkedIn group for Portland, Oregon area technology professionals. If you are interested in joining, follow the link below:


-Jeff the Great


Jeff the Great calls "Alllll Aaaboard!"

I have been meaning to sit down and write a blog post on Amtrak and the state of rail travel in our nation ever since I took the train from Portland to Spokane back in the summer of 2007. Little did I know that as I sat down to write this blog post I would learn of the record $14 billion funding package that congress approved for Amtrak this past week. The timing is pure coincidence, I swear!

It is hard to imagine that at one point, train travel was the dominate mode of transportation in our country. Today it is little more than a joke that hasn't been very funny to tax payers.

A little history lesson on Amtrak tells us that its birth can be traced back to 1971 when the US government created it in response to declining ridership at private companies. The new rail company was expected to be profitable by 1974. The rest, financially speaking, is history….you don’t need me to tell you they have never reached profitability.

Alas, a new era may be upon Amtrak….or at least it could be. With rising gas prices, congestion on our freeways and lines at the airport, I have recently found myself considering train travel as an alternative. Little did I know that it would be an unrealistic alternative.

The first thing that struck me was the odd schedule that many routes keep. My recent 2007 trip took me from Portland, Oregon to Spokane, Washington…a roughly 300 mile trip by car that I can usually do in 5 to 5.5 hours. My train left Portland at around 4:45, a great time for a business person. However, the 5 hour trip by car would turn into a 7+ hour trip by rail…putting me in Spokane at 12:30am! To make matters worse, my return train was scheduled to leave Spokane en route to Portland at 2:3oam on the day of my departure.

Rule #1: if you want me to ride the train, get me to and from major cities at reasonable times.

So what’s with the 7.5 hour travel time for a route that takes only 5 by car? To Amtrak’s credit, it is not all their fault. In the western United States, Amtrak owns little if any track. This means they are buying the rights to use track from commercial rail lines such as Union Pacific. What does that add up to? What I’ll call rail priority to the freight trains; Frequent stops to allow another train traveling the opposite direction to pass. Can’t blame the freight companies; as the saying goes: he who has the gold makes the rules.

Another problem however is the frequent stops along the way. Just out of Portland our train stopped in Vancouver, WA which is basically a suburb of Portland and only 10 miles from the Portland city center. Later we pulled into a no name town that literally did not have a station. There was one guy standing next to the tracks with a duffle bag in hand. Yep, we stopped and he got on.

I’ve come to learn that our elected officials tend to support congressional bills ONLY if they can ensure train service to the po-dunk towns in their district. This ensures rail service in our country but it also adds up to inefficient, unnecessary stops along the way. The ‘Coast Starlight’ route from Washington to California is a perfect example. It serves the west’s larger cities like Seattle, Portland, Sacramento, Oakland, San Jose, and Los Angeles. It also stops in Centralia, WA (population 15,000), Albany, Or (population 42,000), Chemult, Or (population 300), Klamath Falls, Or (a few hundred miles off course from a more direct route), Dunsmuir, CA (population 2,000), Martinez, CA (population 36,000), Paso Robles, CA (population 30,000) and just under a dozen other small or out of the way locations.

Rule #2: if you want me to ride the train, take me directly to my destination with only a few, efficient stops.

How about the rail cars themselves? On a trip probably 10 years ago I remember riding from Portland to Eugene on a really sleek train that had LCD displays with GPS mapping at every seat. We watched a short animated kids movie and I wandered to the lounge car for a beer at a bar that looked like most stationary watering holes.

On my trip to Spokane in 2007 if found myself on a train car that was probably older than me. The seats were big and reclined nicely (with foot rests, too) but the armrests still held the ashtrays of days past. Cleanliness is not Amtrak’s strong suit. Floors were well vacuumed but dirt and grime was present on most surfaces.

The kicker for me was that there were not electrical outlets at our seats or anywhere for that matter! I was able to find one set of outlets in the lounge car where I had to share with a power hungry hoard of cell phone users.

Rule #3: if you want me to ride the train, make me comfortable by keeping up a modern and clean car with the amenities to run my modern, digital life.

Finally we get to price. How much would you pay for an excessively long ride on an old train that makes lots of stops and doesn’t offer the level of comfort that they so easily could? You might be surprised at how much you’ll pay. From Portland to Spokane expect to pay between $40 and $80 one way (reserved coach)….or $80-$160 round trip. Compare that to booking in advance on Southwest Airlines for as little as $90 round trip (and only a 55 minute flight). How about round trip from Portland to San Francisco? Try $300 by train (reserved coach) compared to $225 by air.

Rule #4: either offer me a lot and then charge me a lot or charge me a little for the little you offer me.

I could probably go on and write 6 more rules to give us a nice round 10, but I really believe that the four points I have made could revolutionize the passenger rail industry. As oil shoots past $130 a barrel and we pay $4-$5 at the pump, as airlines continue to cut back while the lines and delays get longer, we should have other viable options. However, we don’t. Why isn’t there a high speed train outfitted with modern comforts going between Seattle and Portland? If I want to take the train to the bay area, why must I suffer for 17-18 hours as the train goes out of its way and stops at so many small towns? Why isn’t there a daily bullet train from Los Angeles to San Francisco?

When will Amtrak executives and congressional representatives take the step to modernize our rail system? When will you again have a third choice for travel, alongside flying or driving?
-Jeff the Great


Jeff the Great is Alll a Twitter

The Oregonian has a great story in today's (Sunday) paper about twitter and its Portland area users. Steve Woodward, Oregonian writer also known as @oregoniansteve on Twitter, followed Portland's own Rick Turoczy (@turoczy) for a few hours to see how he used the hot new service in his daily life.

Steve does a great job profiling the web site that allows users to post short, 140 character messages about what they are doing at the moment...or really anything else. Steve also talks about how some local businesses are using Twitter and he mentions the Justin Hickox Studio as one example.

Here is the link, enjoy: @everyone :-) twitter is tweeter

-Jeff the Great


Jeff the Great Discovers Nike Alumni Network!

If you are one of the tens of thousands thave have worked for Nike, Inc in the past and you are on LinkedIn....there is now a LinkedIn Group for Global Nike Alumni.

If you have Nike listed as a past job in your LinkedIn profile, follow the below link to join the group:


This shoud be a good way to stay in touch with co-workers and find job opportunities during life after Nike.

-Jeff the Great


Jeff the Great Raises Money for Cancer Research!

I've written in the past about my brother-in-law, his family and his fight against cancer. On December 20th, 2007 he passed away at the age of 23.
Later this month I will team up with the family and friends of Klinton Boylan to particpate in the 2008 Tacoma Relay for Life. We are walking in rememberence of Klinton and with the goal of raising money for the American Cancer Society.
I would appreciate your support and any and all ways. One way is to make a donation directly to the American Cancer Society through my personal fundraising page: http://main.acsevents.org/goto/jmartens
Thanks for your support. I pray that you and your family will never have to go through what Klinton and his family did.
-Jeff the Great


Jeff the Great Saves You Money at the Pump!

Pop Quiz: which is more expensive to produce?

1. One hundred units each of 17 different types of MP3 players


2. Seventeen hundred of 1 type of MP3 player

Answer: Generally speaking, option #2....just 1 type of MP3 player.

Pretty easy question, huh? If it's that easy, why doesn't our country figure that out in regards to gas production? According to Exxon/Mobil, our country has legislated 17 different formulations of unleaded gasoline as the state and county level.

Take a look above, 17 different formulations with the specialty mixes dominating the most populated areas. There is even a little slice of west Texas with its own type of gas that one one else in the country uses. My home state of Oregon requires 3 different types, and the hardly populated state of Nevada requires 4.

Any wonder why gas prices are so high? The limited (and old) refineries in our country have to produce 17 different types of gas. When one goes offline, another has to retool to make a different type of gas than they usually do. When there may be excess crude on the market or crude at lower prices, not just any refinery can buy it and produce gas for the geography they serve.

Instead of wasting time with Congressional hearings and oil executive questioning, when is someone in government going to stand up and standardize US gas requirements? Does anyone doubt that we could get by with 1, 2 or even up to 4 formulations?

Does the presidential candidate you support plan on changing this if they are elected? If you don't know, you might want to ask.

-Jeff the Great


Jeff the Great Gets Some Sugar!

I've been working hard as a consultant for a local hair care product line from the Hickox Studio. Today we received some great validation for all our hard work when one of the web's hottest beauty blogs featured the products.

BellaSugar.com had this to say about Hickox products:
"Justin Hickox has grown up with hair. As the son of a hairstyling couple, he's been around it all his life — so it's no wonder that he's opened his own studio in Portland, OR. Using so many styling products on a daily basis, he had a hunch that he could improve upon many of the formulas. And that's just what he did.

The Hickox Studio line is small, but it doesn't mess around. The star of the line is his Styling Cream ($19), which is, he claims, an improvement upon Bumble & Bumble's coveted and similarly named product that changed its formula a couple of years back. It also includes two different styling waxes, a volume-boosting foam, curl products, and a thermal protecting spray.

To see what I thought of a couple of the products, read more."

To read the rest, visit the Hickox Studio article directly here. If you are one of the few Portlander's that hasn't yet tried these products, now is a better time than any!

-Jeff the Great


Jeff the Great Puts Out a Call to Action

If you are in or around the Oregon area and love technology, you have probably read my favorite blog: Silicon Florist. A few weeks ago Rick, the author of Silicon Florist, wrote a story about how Oregon students get a "D" in technology education.

Lots of people commented on the blog post. In fact it may have been a record response to a Silicon Florist article. People were generally passionate about doing something to improve technology education in Oregon. It was a great sight, the Portland technology community was jumping into action.

Rick followed up a few weeks later with a call to action and a few ways we can start to get the ball rolling. One was a newly formed discussion group through Google Groups (thanks to Dave Merwin) and the other was a proposed Silicon Florist internship program.

What great plans! Except for one thing. The Google discussion group has been quiet. What happened to the folks that generated the 30+ comments on Rick's original blog post? Where is the passion and desire to act that everyone expressed?

I am disappointed.

So I put out a(nother) call to action. If you care about technology education in Oregon. If you care about the jobs your kids will be qualified for when they are your age. If you love to complain about public education as much as I do. Get off your butt and join me in making a difference.

See you in the Oregon Education & Technology Google Group.

-Jeff the Great


Costco is Brainwashing You

Have you ever spent any time thinking about Costco and the rituals we go through when shopping there? Specifically, the idea of stopping as you exit and showing your receipt to a Costco employee so they can put a pink mark on it?

Why do we stop at the door and get our receipt checked? Do you do that at a department store or the grocery store? Does the local mini-mart check your pockets when you leave? So why do we do it at Costco?

We do it because that is how it's always been done. We do it because Costco puts employees at the exit and tells them to do it.

So do you have to stop? Does Costco have the legal right to make you stop? What would happen if you just kept on walking? Why do we sometimes wait in a long line of other exiting shoppers just to be checked for stolen goods? I'm not a criminal, are you?

Today I was leaving Costco after purchasing a bouquet of flowers for my wife. I don't really mind stopping as long as there is no line and the employees are ready for me at the door. Today the two employees at the exit were busy talking to each other and after extending out my receipt to them with no response back, I kept on walking out. My feet didn't skip a step...just kept on walking.

What happened next surprised me. One of the employees followed me out, yelling "excuse me sir, excuse me! Did you get your receipt marked?" I turned around and said "nope, you weren't paying attention" and kept on walking to my car. I looked back a few steps later and she was standing there almost in shock that I didn't let her mark my receipt.

Costco is not only brainwashing their employees, they are brainwashing us. I'd love to see a national "Don't stop for the receipt markers at Costco" day. Anyone with me?


Jeff the Great Updates His Reading List

I've completed a few books and have another I am about to start. Figured I'd share and get your suggestions on what to read next!

Charlie Wilson's War

I started this book because I thought the story would make a better read than a movie. Charlie Wilson's story IS interesting but it was a tedious read near the second half of the book. If you have little time for reading, skip the book and watch the movie.

Completed: Made to Stick

This book exceeded my expectations. It is all ready my favorite type of book but it was written better than most. Lots of examples that are super interesting and I learned a TON. I suggest it to anyone that is looking to improve the message you give about your business, church, project, or even your personal brand.
Just Starting: The Big Swtich

I am just about to start this book today and don't know much about it. I think it is about how technology has changed and continued to influence our world. I am excited about it as I won a signed, pre-release copy from http://www.techcrunch.com!

So, after The Big Switch, what should I read next?

-Jeff the Great


Jeff the Great Raises $1 Billion for Nike!

If you didn't pay very close attention to the business news this week, you may have missed a substantial story.

Nike has filed papers that outline their plan to raise approximately $1 billion in cash....very soon.

What makes this really interesting is that Nike is already flush with cash. Their latest quarterly report shows just shy of $2 billion in cash and equivalents. If I am not mistaken, they are adding to their coffers every quarter.

So why do they need to raise their envious cash positions from $2b to $3b? Sit down for this one: rumor is the are putting together an offer to buy rival Adidas (which owns Reebok).

This is going to be fun to watch! If the Adidas rumor is just that and untrue, Nike must have something else BIG up their sleeve. Stay tuned!

-Jeff the Great


Jeff the Great Calls Out Teachers, Again!

Have you read my posts in the last couple months about teachers? Here is just another reason why I really dislike the current state of our education system.

On Monday Feb 18th the Oregonian ran a story about how abusive (often sexually) teachers are allowed to conceal their conduct and leave the district they offended in, only to teach again in a different district. Partly because it is so damn hard to fire a teacher considering the bullet proof contract they have through their union.

Here is an excerpt from the Oregonian article and a link to the full story:

"It would take months for the agency that licenses Oregon teachers to discipline a Salem-area teacher for inappropriately touching at least eight girls.

To get Kenneth John Cushing, then 44, away from Claggett Creek Middle School students immediately, administrators cut him a deal: If Cushing resigned, they would conceal his alleged conduct — clutching students’ waists, touching their buttocks and massaging their shoulders — from the public."

read the rest here.

The Oregonian also has a great database of teachers that have been reprimanded (but not necessarily the same teachers that abuse then walk to another school to do it again). Follow this link and you can search by name, district, or school.

Is someone from YOUR kid's school on the list?

-Jeff the Great

BAC/CFC Update

I wrote back in January to give my opinion on the Bank of America/Countrywide buyout. Actually, I didn't give much of an opinion but rather my analysis and conclusion that the deal may not go through.

Bank of America offered BAC stock to shareholders of CFC. So its a no cash deal (partly because BofA has already invested over $2b in cash over the last year). Since stock prices are always changing I thought I'd revisit the deal, update the value BofA is placing on Countrywide, and see if the market has changed it's opinion on the transaction.

Last month I noted a $1.2b gap between the markets value of CFC and BofA's offer. Since my write up BAC is up 15.4% and CFC is up 26.8%. At 0.1822 shares of BAC for every 1 share of CFC, BofA is now valuing Countrywide at $4.5b (market close 2-22-08).

Despite the great increase in CFC stock price over the last month and a half, the market is still valuing CFC $500m less than BofA is ($4b vs $4.5b). So no longer the 43% premium I wrote about last month but still 12.5% to gain if you think the deal will go through (and want to own BofA stock at $42.60).

So BofA...what has Countrywide done in the last 6 weeks to increase their value by $400m? Certainly it wasn't the $422m loss last quarter or the $0.15 dividend on common stock and $1,812.50 dividend on preferred stock (not a mistype, it really is $1,812.50 a share). Come on BofA, what is it?

And you Countrywide/BofA fan boys: I expect you guys to be buying up CFC for that 12.5% premium.

-Jeff the Great


Jeff the Great gives Teachers a Raise!

I received a *cute* little email forward from my sister, about how teachers are apparently underpaid and worth say, 8 times more than they get paid. I thought I'd share the forward with you, and then my response. It's worth the read:


Their hefty salaries are driving up taxes, and they only work nine or ten months a year! It's time we put things in perspective and pay them for what they do...baby-sit! We can get that for less than minimum wage. That's right

I would give them $3.00 dollars an hour and only the hours they worked, not any of that silly planning time. That would be $19.50 a day (7:45 AM to 4:00 PM with 45 min. off for lunch). Each parent should pay $19.50 a day for these teachers to baby-sit their children.

Now, how many do they teach in a day...maybe 30? So that's 19.5 X 30 =$585.00 a day. But remember they only work 180 days a year! I'm not going to pay them for any vacations. Let's see...that's $585 x180 = $105,300 per year. Hold on! My calculator must need batteries!

What about those special teachers or the ones with master's degrees? Well, we could pay them minimum wage just to be fair, round it off to $7.00 an hour. That would be $7 times 6-1/2 hours times 30 children times 180 days => > $245,700.00 per year.

Wait a minute, there is something wrong here! There sure is, duh!

And my Response:

Oh Sister, so cute are you when you feverishly defend teachers…regardless of the truth.

However, while you were amassing tens of thousands of dollars of debt only to enter a career you knew only paid ~$34k per year, I think they failed to teach you proper math. Lucky for you, while only collecting $14k of school debt for a career that pays me 3, 4, 5 and many more times the national average, I did learn what you teachers call “new” math.

You imply teachers are worth $245,000 per year. Well Please see below for my “lesson plan” in rebuttal to your below email about teachers pay.

1. Though you do teach more than 1 student at a time, it is absurd to think that your pay should go up proportionately to the number of pupils in your class. I mean, the guy that works the McDonalds counter gets the same hourly wage if the serves 20 people an hour as he does if he serves 1 person per hour. Life just doesn’t work that way.

So lets call it 19.50 per day, not $585 per day. To be fair, lets bump you up to minimum wage: $59.63 per day

2. Teachers with Master’s Degree’s you say? In my industry those folks have a starting salary at most 60% higher than those with a BA….surely not the 133% more pay you claim in the below email. Masters degree =$80.50

Grand total: $17,173 per year. You make about double that. Wish I made double what the basic math says about my career.

BUT WAIT, there is more!

3. You have some of the best health insurance available, for almost $0 out of your pocket for premiums. My company (that offers great insurance in the private sector) pays about 90% of my premiums. That’s worth about $10,000 per year for my wife and I. We know your insurance is cheaper for you than mine is for me, so lets assume your ‘company’ pays 98%. That’s a value to you of $10,780.

salary + benefits= $44,780 per year or 161% greater than my above calculation.

4. Lets not forget the sweetheart of a retirement plan that you contribute $0 into. I’ve heard some teachers retire with up to 120% of their highest annual salary. So if they make it to $60,000/yr like many teachers do they retire with $72,000 a year in retirement. But lets say you are a new teacher and you only get 80% of your highest salary when in retirement. That’s still $48,000 a year. Of course you will live for probably 30 years after you retire earlier than most people do (because they don’t have the great pension plan you have) so in today’s dollars that’s $1,440,000. You’ll work about 20 years before retirement so lets call it compensation of $72,000 per year NOW in TODAY’S dollars.

I could get more technical with present value, inflation, opportunity cost, etc, but I am sure you have papers to grade.

So with my simple math we have $44,780 + $72,000= $116,780 per year or 580% more than my original calculation.

5. As a salaried employee it doesn’t really matter if you work 180 days or 300 days. I work about 245 days out of the 250-255 work days that my company recognizes. When I take a day off, they actually count that as compensation. They say a day off has value above and beyond my salary. So lets look at the summer, spring break and Christmas vacations you get. That’s what, 70 additional days off do be conservative? Seventy days at $80.50 per day…that’s $5,635 worth of additional compensation.

$116,780 + $5,635= $122,415

I could go on about the value of virtually guaranteed employment due to a rock solid union contract, guaranteed raises regardless of performance, etc, etc….but I think you get the point.

I think you can see that teachers are paid VERY well and appreciate benefits and job security that most of us in the private sector will never enjoy.

Your (apparently underpaid) loving brother,


P.S. never send something like that to a Financial Analyst

So, do you make $122,415 per year?

-Jeff the Great


Jeff the Great Says "NO" to BofA/Countrywide!

I've been thinking a lot about the proposed $4.1B purchase of Countrywide Financial Corp by Bank of America Corp and came to a simple but important conclusion today: the market is against it.

Here is my analysis, for what it is worth.

First, lets look at the facts:
  • BofA offered the equivalent of $4.1B to purchase Countrywide (all stock purchase)
  • Countrywide's 1-18-08 closing market capitalization (stock price * number of shares) was $2.9b
Notice something there? BofA says that Countrywide is worth $4.1B but the stock market says it is worth $2.9B.

So why isn't the market valuing Countrywide at what BofA values them? If the sale goes through, owners of Countrywide stock stand to get the equivalent of $7.08 per share. However, the stock is trading at $4.96 per share. Anyone that thinks the BofA/Countrywide deal is a good one should run out and buy CFC shares! You'll make 43% on your investment!

But people aren't running out to buy the stock which contributes to the low price of $4.96 per share.

Now what does this tell us? Well, a few things:

1. Maybe investors don't think the sale will happen, and $2.9b is what they think Countrywide is worth on it's own (and that number declines everyday)

2. Investors probably think Bank of America over paid for Countrywide (the most obvious since current market cap is $1.2B less than the BofA offer)

3. Since the purchase will be made with BofA stock instead of cash, investors could be saying that BofA stock is trading higher than it is worth (overvalued)

4. And as part of #3 above, they could also be saying that Countrywide will make BofA less valuable after the acquisition

I am sure there is more, but I am no securities analyst. However I do know this: In theory the free market is the most efficient system for commerce. I also know that the stock market operates on free market principals. Therefore, it is safe to assume that stockholders are probably more accurate with their assessment of Countrywide (reflected in CFC stock price) than BofA.

So are you running out to buy CFC shares at a premium or are you sitting this one out? Food for thought....

-Jeff the Great