Steve Ball Diary
Monday December 22
Tuesday December 23 
Wednesday December 24 
Thursday December 25 
Friday December 26 
Saturday December 27 
Sunday December 28 
Read the archive
Monday December 29 
Tuesday December 30 
Wednesday December 31 
Thursday January 01 
Friday January 02 
Saturday January 03 
Sunday January 04 

Monday December 22

Work: completed a mini-business plan and project proposal and sent it off to a pile of Windows big-wigs.   Not sure where, if anywhere, this will lead, but it has potential to slightly redirect my course in 2004. 

Or not.

* * *

Tuesday December 23

A number of constant themes run through my work and start-up life: using technology to document and share text, media, ideas among communities of people who share a common aim.  Adaptive Networks was about using a non-traditional, noisy physical layer for communications.  Rockslide was about putting the icons, merchandise, and images of music that matters in front of those for whom it matters.  BootlegTV was about transmitting the event beyond the boundaries of the event. 

And now, my day job is about managing the human and technology trade-offs between innovation and limitation.  Every miniscule decision at every minute of the day has repercussions.  With 700 million customers, how to prioritize?  With awareness of the billions of choices at our fingertips, where to begin?

Job one = narrow the field.  Frame the problem.  Articulate the most important goals.  And avoid distraction like the plague.  

* * *

Wednesday December 24

Christmas eve.  Home with my family.  A welcome 'break' in my recent routine.  I suck at 'downtime.'

* * *

Thursday December 25

Quiet day consumed with foreground family concerns.   Merry Christmas.

* * *

Friday December 26

Transition, already looking to commitments and work that awaits back home.  Searching for a place to go online.  No wireless at my parents or sisters house.  And no desire to waste an ounce of energy on dial-up logistics.  

I'd rather die than dial-up.

* * *

Saturday December 27

Flying home.

* * * 


Sunday December 28

Cleaning out my inbox.  The email firehose at work and at home only grows worse each day.  Due to sheer volume, it is hard to tell the difference between spam and normal email at times.

I work on Volume Control at work.  Ironically, I also need to work on "volume control" in my inbox.   One strategy to consider for 2004: ignore all except that which is P1 (priority 1) -- that which materially affects my short term goals.   P2 = that which materially affects my long term goals.  P3 = all else. 

P1 = necessary
P2 = optional
P3 = luxury

"Success" in 2004 is all about clearly discriminating between these three in all activities and actions I undertake.

* * *

My sister sent me this last year. Kind of funny, kind of true.

(1) The nice men are ugly.
(2) The handsome men are not nice.
(3) The handsome and nice men are gay.
(4) The handsome, nice and heterosexual men are married.
(5) The men who are not so handsome, but are nice men, have no money.
(6) The men who are not so handsome, but are nice men with money think we are only after their money.
(7) The handsome men without money are after our money.
(8) The handsome men, who are not so nice and somewhat heterosexual, don't think we are beautiful enough.
(9) The men who think we are beautiful, that are heterosexual, somewhat nice and have money, are cowards.
(10)The men who are somewhat handsome, somewhat nice and have some money and thank God are
heterosexual, are shy and NEVER MAKE THE FIRST MOVE!!!
11) The men who never make the first move, automatically lose interest
in us when we take the initiative. For all the MEN that think WOMEN are hard to understand. NOW ....WHO IN THE HELL UNDERSTANDS MEN?

Men are like a fine wine. They all start out like grapes, and it's a woman's job to stomp on them and keep them in the dark until they mature into something you'd like to have dinner with.

* * *


Monday December 29

"I have yet to see any problem, however complicated, which, when looked at in the right way, did not become still more complicated."

- Paul Anderson,  12/29 MSN Quote of the day.

* * *

From my inbox, via my sister:

The System

You have two cows.
Your neighbor has none.
You feel guilty for being successful.
Barbara Streisand sings for you.

You have two cows.
Your neighbor has none.

You have two cows.
The government takes one and gives it to your
You form a cooperative to tell him how to manage
his cow.

You have two cows.
The government seizes both and provides you with
You wait in line for hours to get it.
It is expensive and sour.

You have two cows.
You sell one, buy a bull, and build a herd of

You have two cows.
The government taxes you to the point you have to
sell both to
support a man in a foreign country who has only
one cow, which was
a gift from your government.

You have two cows.
The government takes them both, shoots one,
milks the other, pays you for the milk, and then
pours the milk down the drain.

You have two cows.
You sell one, lease it back to yourself and do an
IPO on the 2nd one.
You force the two cows to produce the milk of four
cows. You are surprised when one cow drops dead.
You spin an announcement to the analysts stating
you have downsized and are reducing expenses.
Your stock goes up.

You have two cows.
You go on strike because you want three cows.
You go to lunch and drink wine.
Life is good.

You have two cows.
You redesign them so they are one-tenth the
size of an ordinary cow and produce twenty times the milk.
They learn to travel on unbelievably crowded trains.
Most are at the top of their class at cow school.

You have two cows.
You engineer them so they are all blond,
drink lots of beer, give excellent quality milk,
and run a hundred miles an hour.
Unfortunately, they also demand 13 weeks of
vacation per year.

You have two cows but you don't know where they are.
While ambling around, you see a beautiful woman.
You break for lunch.
Life is good.

You have two cows.
You have some vodka.
You count them and learn you have five cows.
You have some more vodka.
You count them again and learn you have 42 cows.
The Mafia shows up and takes over however
many cows you really have.

You have all the cows in Afghanistan, which are two.
You don't milk them because you cannot touch
any creature's private parts.
Then you kill them and claim a US bomb blew
them up while they were in the hospital.

You have two cows.
They go in hiding.
They send radio tapes of their mooing.

You have two bulls.
Employees are regularly maimed and killed
attempting to milk them.

You have a black cow and a brown cow.
Everyone votes for the best looking one.
Some of the people who like the brown one best,
vote for the black one.
Some people vote for both.
Some people vote for neither.
Some people can't figure out how to vote at all.
Finally, a bunch of guys from out-of-state tell
you which is the best-looking cow.

You have fifteen million cows.
You have to choose which one will be the leader of
the herd, so you pick some fat cow from Arkansas.

Crowd herd of happy fun loving cows into a small dirt lot.
Feed cows weeds.
Hire Hollywood to show commercial of HAPPY COWS in
green pastures.
Smoke weed left over from cow feeding.
Make millions selling "HAPPY MILK."

* * *

Tuesday December 30

Again, cleaning out my inbox this morning.  Came across this forwarded by my sister last September.  Rather than forward it again to everyone in my address book, better to just plop it here:

The Washington Post's Style Invitational once again asked readers to take any word from the dictionary, alter it by adding, subtracting, or changing one letter, and supply a new definition. Here are this year's

1. Intaxication: Euphoria at getting a tax refund, which lasts until you realize it was your money to start with.

2. Reintarnation: Coming back to life as a hillbilly.

3. Bozone (n.): The substance surrounding stupid people that stops bright ideas from penetrating. The bozone layer, unfortunately, shows little sign of breaking down in the near future.

4. Foreploy: Any misrepresentation about yourself for the purpose of getting some.

5. Cashtration (n.): The act of buying a house, which renders the subject financially impotent for an indefinite period.

6. Giraffiti: Vandalism spray-painted very, very high.

7. Sarchasm: The gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the person who doesn't get it.

8. Inoculatte: To take coffee intravenously when you are running late.

9. Hipatitis: Terminal coolness.

10. Osteopornosis: A degenerate disease. (This one got extra credit).

11. Karmageddon: It's like, when everybody is sending off all these really bad vibes, right? And then, like, the Earth explodes and it's like, a serious bummer.

12. Decafalon (n.): The grueling event of getting through the day consuming only things that are good for you.

13. Glibido: All talk and no action.

14. Dopeler effect: The tendency of stupid ideas to seem smarter when they come at you rapidly.

15. Arachnoleptic fit (n.): The frantic dance performed just after you've accidentally walked through a spider web.

16. Beelzebug (n.): Satan in the form of a mosquito that gets into your bedroom at three in the morning and cannot be cast out.

17. Caterpallor (n.): The color you turn after finding half a grub in the fruit you're eating.

And the pick of the literature:

18. Ignoranus: A person who's both stupid and an asshole.


* * *

Wednesday December 31

More from the ongoing inbox cleaning this morning. This one forwarded to me by my mom!

A language teacher was explaining to her class that in French, nouns, unlike their English counterparts, are grammatically designated as masculine or feminine.

For example, House" in French, is feminine-"la maison" "Pencil" in French, is masculine-"le crayon".

One puzzled student asked, "What gender is a computer?" The teacher did not know, and the word was not in her French dictionary. So for fun she split the class into two groups, appropriately enough, by gender, and asked them to decide whether "computer" should be a masculine or a feminine noun.

Both groups were required to give four reasons for their recommendation.

The men's group decided that computer should definitely be of the feminine gender ('la computer"), because:

1. No one but their creator understands their internal logic;

2. The native language they use to communicate with other computers is incomprehensible to everyone else;

3. Even the smallest mistakes are stored in long term memory for possible later review; and

4. As soon as you make a commitment to one, you find yourself spending half your paycheck on accessories for it.

The women's group, however, concluded that computers should be masculine ('le computer") because:

1. In order to do anything with them, you have to turn them on;

2. They have a lot of data but still can't think for themselves;

3. They are supposed to help you solve problems, but half the time they ARE the problem; and

4. As soon as you commit to one, you realise that if you had waited a little longer, you could have gotten a better model.

The women won.

* * *

Thursday January 01

Considering options for 2004 'resolutions.'   Considering going dark in this diary to 'conserve' energy until:

1. I get my 'work life' sorted out
2. I get my 'home life' sorted out

These are my priorities for Q1 2004.  Work life = finding operating mechanisms that will allow me to 'succeed' in my job, thereby enabling a sustainable financial base from which to work.  Home life = getting out of renter's hole and owning a home. 

All else is P2 for Q1 2004.  One more entry to kick off a 12 week personal project where all energy is focused on P1. 

* * *

Friday January 02

A decision: going dark in this diary for three months to focus on P1.  

However, one more important day to document.

* * *

Saturday January 03

A full day of Seattle Guitar Circle activities began in the Crow Room of the Freehold Theatre on Capitol Hill with calisthenics, sitting, and a 3 hour "History and Mystery" meeting followed by 45 minutes of guitar in a large circle. 

The meeting was designed to illustrate and demonstrate the fact that the illusion that we share a common language and/or a common aim is complicated by the fact that we barely know where we've been, where we are, or how to communicate with each other.  

This makes looking ahead to a new year and making plans nearly impossible. 

But as of this meeting, we are closer.   And perhaps we now have a new awareness of what we don't know.  And a 'map.'   And renewed hope that we may discover where we are.

I began the meeting with a statement about taking on the 'aim' that we approach the next two hours of meeting as if we were all on stage, in a performance together -- I asked everyone to bring the same care and attention to their contributions to this meeting as they would to a performance with guitars. 


1. Reading - I read excerpts from three letters from RF that are now relevant to the state of our group in Seattle:

a) 1987 letter addressed to L3, 1994 addressed "those who know"

b) 1994 January pre-Grosderschau A&A course themes

c) 1994 July, preparation and financing of GC houses

2. Performance History - I performed an expository 11-minute year-by-year oral 'history' driven by 30-second cue cards with each year written on one slide.  Purpose: transmit a sense of who I am, where I've been, and what my 'aims' mean in context of what I have been doing for the past two decades.  It is amazing how little we know about each other.  Not to mention ourselves.

3. Headline History Circulation - I then asked each person to describe a concise 'history' of what brought them here in 30 seconds of less!  The range, diversity, and depth of 'histories' (average length of 2 minutes, despite the 30 second limit) made it clear to everyone in the room that the experiences, language, and aims of this alleged 'group' are all over the map.  Good fuel for the second part of the meeting. 

4. Break


5.  Have we been here before?  I reminded everyone of two previous SGC January meetings from the past;

a) January 1998 - SGC meeting in the Phinney Center where Ingrid described SGC as a "soup" - very muddy; I also began the meeting by describing an aspect of the "Seattle Guitar Circle" that few in the room seemed to be aware of -- as the sole proprietorship I had registered through which the business side of SGC had been operating for the past year.

b) January 1999 -  SGC meeting in Bob and Jaxie's living room when I passed out a colorful business plan with definitions, goals, and budget; discussed how complex it is to be in a group with 30 people with such diverse history and need for a common language or map

6. The next 'big challenge' is Communications - Using the first hour as reference, I then characterized our current 'communication' skills as terrible (L1 in GC terms) because we assume we speak the same language and use the same maps. We are not even aware of how bad we are.

7. pulled up GC symbol and described the 9 points in a process, quick overview of relation to enneagram, alpha omega, and processes. Then pulled up a list of 9 activities that SC does and unveiled two "maps" -- many light bulbs going off for people in the room

8. Much discussion on what to do (house? Or ballroom? How to discover and share where we are)

9. Ingrid, Jax, Tobin volunteered to lead a "Communication Skirt" designed to give us a forum for practicing 'communicating' with each other, perhaps via 10 minute performances (with critiques)

10. SB presented proposals: a) work with SGC as large group made up of smaller sub groups, b) SGC CD to be produced by SB, CG, BR, c) drop everything to work now to find a facility, d)

11. Ingrid proposed killing the online diaries

* * *

Three proposals

* * *

Nature is complex.    Even more complex than we know.

I am constantly amazed at the trend in the news and in our human  interactions to assume that we can simplify the universe and its operation into a small set of EZ to digest ideas while expressing what we want and need via terse or universally understandable "aims."  

Half of a billion people have learned to click a mouse and the verb "ping" has entered mainstream pop vocabulary.   It use to be that it was impossible to underestimate the intelligence of the masses.  Now, my sister needs to know what an IP address is to keep up with the neighbors.   

Radiohead, with no commercial songs whatsovever and albums full of indecipherable lyrics and songs in 5 and 7 is one of the most popular bands on the planet.  And Thom Yorke cites "Remain in Light" as one of the most influential albums for Radiohead. 

When did my taste become so 'mainstream?'  

* * *

Sunday January 04

Darkness falls.  

See you back here later in 2004.

* * *