Mastery And Mimicry

The Internet is an amazing place. Last weekend an email arrived in my inbox with the subject line "Hello From MIT". That got me to open it. Turns out it was from Sep Kamvar, a faculty member at the MIT Media Lab, and before that the Stanford computer science department. I don't know Sep and was not familiar with his work. I am now.

Sep pointed me to a series of essays he has written called Mastery and Mimicry. He describes them as:

In this series of vignettes, I describe some design principles for technologies that follow nature. In short, such technologies would be self-limiting, accessible, cyclical, and purposeful. My hope is that technologies that follow these principles will lead to a greater unity between art and science, between intuition and reason, between nature and machine. Each would nurture the other.

I am particularly fond of a principal Sep calls cyclicality:

Every tool should nourish the things upon which it depends.

We see this principle at varying levels in some of our tools today. I call them cyclical tools. The iPhone empowers the developer ecosystem that helps drive its adoption. A bike strengthens the person who pedals it. Open-source software educates its potential contributors. A hallmark of cyclical tools is that they create open loops: the bike strengthens its rider to do things other than just pedal the bike.

Cyclical tools are like trees, whose falling leaves fertilize the soil in which they grow.

I read all of Sep's essays this weekend. It didn't take me long. But they have touched me and stayed with me. They speak to me. Maybe they will speak to you too.

I emailed Sep back and thanked him for his work. He replied and called USV a "cyclical VC firm." That's quite a compliment in the context of his work and it made my day, week, and month.

#VC & Technology#Web/Tech

Comments (Archived):

  1. RichardF

    it’s the circle of life as someone here on avc reminded me not too long ago

    1. fredwilson


    2. Matt A. Myers

      Queue Lion King soundtrack

      1. RichardF

        Will, my 5 year old son, loves the Lion King and fortunately so do I because the film gets played a lot in our household.

        1. Matt A. Myers

          I really should buy it again. I first had a VHS! My second one, first I ever owned being The Little Mermaid;) I was 6 years old, Christmas present. ๐Ÿ˜›

    3. Carl Rahn Griffith

      And let’s never forget that once the 360 degrees is complete, that’s it, no more. Each day is so precious, we can achieve so much good – that’s what I hate so much at not being involved in anything meaty at present – each wasted day kills me. Life’s too short!

      1. RichardF

        “each day is precious” – absolutely Carl, it’s imprinted on my brain at the moment

    1. fredwilson

      everyone should adore themselves. and those around them. and what they do. and how they do it.

      1. Matt A. Myers

        Indeed, you must love (and respect) yourself before you can love others.

    2. Cam MacRae

      Adore. verbTo love and respect (someone) deeply.Chum, while wallowing in your sad little existence you’ve happened upon deep insight, albeit completely by accident; one cannot adore another without first adoring oneself.Perhaps this new realisation will assist you to direct your energy more constructively in future.

      1. Matt A. Myers

        We don’t know if OP was saying what he said in a snark / malicious way. Though, if he was then it’s quite funny.. and OP should learn to adore himself more too.

        1. Cam MacRae

          I’m pretty sure it’s the same troll who pops up daily at around this time.

          1. fredwilson

            yeah, but i let this one stand because i liked it and it wasn’t about my wife

          2. Matt A. Myers

            Ooo, so he’s learning how to be more polite? Great news! ๐Ÿ˜›

          3. Cam MacRae

            Figured so. To be honest I nearly up voted it.

          4. fredwilson

            he is banned so i had to manually approve it for it to show up

          5. Matt A. Myers

            That’s sad / pathetic then. Hopefully they can find whatever their source of anger is that they’re displacing and find the help to deal with it..

      2. ShanaC

        When I think of Adore, I think of “Adoration of the Earth” – there is a religious component to that ballet, and the act of adoring can be violent.One needs to know what the cost of worship is in terms of self and the world before pursuing it…

        1. Cam MacRae

          Interesting. I’ve always considered adoration to be on the less critical end of the spectrum’o’love, and given many acts precipitated by the uncritical are undeniably violent, I take your point. Most definitely food for thought — even though I was really just giving our resident troll a good razz.

  2. Rohan

    I was interviewing @danielha this morning and he made a very insightful point when discussing his vision for Disqus and the internet.A 100 years ago, companies that used electricity were called electrical companies. Now, electricity is taken for granted and we are building things on top of that.Now, companies are called technology companies. Soon, tech will be taken for granted and the next level of creation will take place. What’s that going to be?In Sep’s words, what’s the next cycle going to be? What are we going to build when technology permeates into everything we do?

    1. fredwilson

      have you published your interview with @danielha?

      1. Rohan

        Nope. We’re in the ‘recording’ stage right now and will continue to releasing on Mondays every fortnight. Will definitely keep you posted. Brad Feld and Daniel coming soon.2 you may enjoy:1. Bijan:…2. Eric Weiner, Geog of Bliss author:

        1. fredwilson

          i will keep an eye out

        2. JLM

          Great stuff. Well played.I listened to several and they are great..

        3. testtest

          just watched some of the bijan interview; you should get involved a bit more in the show imho. if you’re not going to get involved you may as well just share someone else’s video. it’s your spin and the interaction that’s interesting, at least for me.

          1. Rohan

            When you say get involved – do you have something in mind?And that’s a piece of feedback I’m hearing more now. I had a lot of positive feedback on the interview with Eric as it was more a conversation than an interview.I don’t know which is better. I also find it depends on the interviewee.. For now, I’m still learning to be a better interviewer.

          2. testtest

            conversational is interesting. and also being able to pick up on your reactions: otherwise it may as well be a sound recording.i don’t know what the je ne sais quoi of great content is. it may not even be possible to boil it down to something easily explained.what i would say, it’s almost certainly not the content being a commodity. if people can get it anywhere they probably will

          3. Rohan

            That’s really cool feedback, Chris.You’ll probably not see that implemented in the next few as they’ve already been recorded but I’ll take that on board for the next one I conduct! :-)Thanks a lot!

    2. Matt A. Myers

      It’s interesting how many things naturally want to become a platform. I wonder if this is why @fredwilson:disqus / USV likes investing in platforms, and hopes they open up an API – mostly because you can’t really know what others might imagine happening or being created, how things will evolve.

    3. Michael Elling

      Glass Bead Game?

    4. leigh

      check out Derrick de Kerckhove’s work (who is an amazing person and mad professor) ….so many interesting thoughts clues there (skin of culture is one of my favorite books — so many have taken his ideas and repurposed them for their own) . Brilliant stuff.

  3. awaldstein

    Great stuff. These are bookmarked to read later.I’ve been looking for thinkers in the architectural, city planning space to find some crossover, inspiration and language for understanding communities further. Anyone have any referrals?

    1. fredwilson

      i will ask nick grossman to reply to this comment arnold. he will have some good ideas.

    2. Matt A. Myers

      I’d be interested in this too. Crossover is so pleasant, magical sometimes.

    3. Guest

      Go back to the beginning and read Georg Simmel, The Metropolis and Mental Life.

      1. awaldstein

        Public spaces design may actually be less crossover and more synergistic between on and offline.

        1. Tom Labus

          It will be interesting to see how living walls evolve in cities.

          1. awaldstein


        2. leigh

          Arnold i have something to send you — can’t find your email — do you have mine?

          1. leigh

            ok sent. ๐Ÿ™‚

      2. awaldstein

        Good one.And of course “The Timeless Way of Building’ by Alexander.

        1. leigh

          lol ok 2nd reference to that in one post — i decided to hire my fav IA (who was an architect in real life before he did IA/UX) after i asked my first question — asked him what he thought of a timeless way of building – alfons (fonzie as we like to call him) is a 6″3 Romanian with a heavy accent who told me he was a bunch of BS drivel that privileged Westerners like me have a tendency to like. ๐Ÿ™‚ he was so right (both the BS and the fact that I liked it)

          1. awaldstein

            Great story.I don’t know about being BS.I was referred to it by a film maker . Speaks to me.

    4. Cam MacRae

      Not 100% what you’re looking for, but pulling on the same thread, you might find Baudrillard’s Simulacra and Simulation interesting.

      1. awaldstein

        I’ll check it out.I’m less trying to solve a specific problem and more just looking for a new direction for language and thought.

        1. Cam MacRae

          In that case I highly recommend it, or that you at least find an exegesis. It’s about a 4 bottle read though, so pace yourself ๐Ÿ˜‰

      2. ShanaC

        I actually never read that set of essays – how is?

        1. Cam MacRae

          Well… it makes me wish I read French for a start, as although in translation the prose is infinitely more digestible than say Irigaray’s, it’s still dense as hell.That said, take a deep breath, a sip for courage, another deep breath, then dive right into the Matrix: It will probably rock your world.

          1. ShanaC

            I can deal with density. Preferred translation?Me too about the french – I keep seeming to find myself in a french novel or a french philosopher – something about their intellectuals really make you think.

          2. Cam MacRae

            I’ve only read the Glaser version (I don’t know if there is another).

    5. ShanaC

      I’ll ask around about architecture – this is very specific about how we relate to the environment we’re in

    6. panterosa,

      Arnold, have you read Emergence by Steven Johnson? There’s a section on cities as self-emerging systems, as well as other similar systems. I loved that book, and went on to other emergent books.

      1. awaldstein

        new2me thanks!With all these new books I need another half week on the beach in Tulum to catch up! Not going to happen though.

        1. panterosa,

          @awaldstein:disqus I’m shocked you haven’t read this! If you enjoy the concept then ping me for follow up read. When Steven Johnson spoke recently, I mentioned to him afterwards getting super into Emergence. and reading more from others. He replied – perfect – I intended the book as a springboard.

          1. awaldstein

            Buying it now!Finishing up The Intention Economy then I’ll read this,

    7. Nick Grossman

      Here are a few of my favorites:William “holly” whyte did an amazing set of studies in NYC in the 70s on how public spaces work. “The Social LIfe of Small Urban Spaces” was his most famous work, as a book and also a film: (this film is an hour long and an amazing watch — holly whyte is like the “warren miller” of cities, if that makes sense).Jane Jacobs, if you haven’t read/heard of her is one of the most compelling writers on city ecosystems:…Kevin Lynch:…In terms of the living:Aaron Naparstek, founder of Kent at project for public spaces: Gehl is a danish architect who has done great quantitative studies:…Anthony Townsend from the institute for the future: Geraci: http://johngeraci.comAaron Renn: Katz @ Brookings:…Richard Florida:…Frank Hebbert: Tolva (Chicago CTO) one is a stretch, but Eben Moglen gave a stupendous talk at the freedom to connect conference yesterday, that gets at the crossovers between technology, innovation and cities. Must watch, IMO…I’m sure there are other great and obvious ones I’m missing, but that’s a start. If you feel like digging, there are lots of people I follow on twitter who occupy this space —… (but you’ll have to page down quite a bit, as all of my recent follows are in the tech/policy space)

      1. awaldstein

        I thank you!

      2. fredwilson

        wow. thanks for stopping by and sharing all of these with us Nick

    8. Nick Grossman

      Oh, and I forgot to add perhaps my favorite, Steven Johnson — more than almost anyone, he gets at the crossover between cites, biology and the internet.http://www.stevenberlinjohn…His 2000 book Emergence is incredible:…And his forthcoming book Future Perfect promises to be another great one.

      1. awaldstein

        @panterosa:disqus has already chided me on not know Steven Johnson.My lifelong/career long obsession with community and dynamic spaces is excited by my ignorance of these thought leaders.Really excited to find the time to start digging in.Thanks!

        1. Philip Trotter

          If you enjoy Steven Johnson’s book ( it is a great read) then strongly recommend: Jane Jacobs The Death and Life of Great American Cities – circa 1963 (which Johnson’s book refers and was partly inspired by). I would also recommend checking out the research blogs at CASA Center for Advanced Spatial Analysis at University College London (…. .

          1. awaldstein

            Thank you.@fredwilson:disqus what an amazing network of information and expertise we have here.

          2. fredwilson

            Yes. And I am the greatest beneficiary of all.

          3. awaldstein

            Leadership has it responsibilities but certainly has its rewards.

        2. panterosa,

          @awaldstein:disqus I even asked you if you were going to hear him speak! Would have been to have a drink after that.The best part of emergence is what @nickgrossman:disqus is mentioning – how cities follow rules of biology as does internet follow ant patterns.Why I geek out over it? My games about nature are teaching pattern recognition, not just of tree bark, or big cats, but patterns all over – universal math, and how systems self organize is across many platforms but follow basic patterns.Maybe that ties my thesis better together for you. But that’s just the behind the scenes. I lure the customer with beauty and I give them intelligence and grace. Like the kind of people we all want to meet, and play with (which qualifies my games as social objects…..)

          1. awaldstein

            Yes I remember…I’m loving this discussion. Thanks.

          2. panterosa,

            I enjoy it too, Arnold.BTW I had a very proud moment yesterday, speaking of conversation. @PantherKitty reorganized my iPhone with folders, as she did our iPad. On her own, she made a folder which she called connect and put in Twitter, Facebook, and AVC. At 10 she gets ‘connecting’ and AVC that deeply. Amen.

    9. leigh

      @nickgrossman:disqus mentioned Jane Jacobs — read everything of hers. She’s brilliant brilliant brilliant. My fav. is Dark Age Ahead.(ps. it’s funny you mention this — i was lamenting the other day the fact that I got in to the Masters in Planning program at U of T and was going to transfer from Environmental to Social planning but didn’t end up going — that’s where so much of the content that you want is )

      1. awaldstein

        Thanks for this share Leigh.

      2. ShanaC

        I loved Dark Age Ahead. It shows the critical limits of siloed data in the way we think.

  4. Cindy Gallop

    Sep collaborated with my friend Jonathan Harris on this brilliant project several years ago: – a study of human emotion on the net, which is also a book:… (I met Sep when I hosted the book launch for them in my apartment ๐Ÿ™‚ They’re both brilliant. Jonathan did the Modern Medicine vignettes on Farmer&Farmer:… You might find Jonathan’s work interesting too:

  5. jason wright

    …but isn’t corporate law (and much human behavior) going up against these forces?Corporations are like sand castles on a beach. Wind and wave will have them.

  6. Laura Yecies

    I also like this concept of Cyclicality. I am trying to have this relationship with my employees at SugarSync. I depend on them to build our company but as a company we are building their skills and knowledge for their future and even for things they do today outside of work.

  7. Matt A. Myers

    Tools that facilitate engagement create more engagement furthering the use of said tools.

  8. Carl Jonas Sjonander

    Nice. I instapapered them for reading on the treadmill later on. Thanks!

  9. jason wright

    “:the bike strengthens its rider to do things other than just pedal the bike.”Yeeeeah,…virtuosity. The car is so the opposite.

  10. John Best

    That makes perfect sense to me. We (I) toss around words like “ecosystem” and “accelerated growth” without necessarily considering the deeper meaning. There is no sustainable growth without cyclicality, no ecosystem without the nurture of the business/technology soil from which the startups grow.The more I think about it, the more the cyclicality imagery is appropiate. Seed funding takes on a new dimension.

  11. Guest

    Some companies, organizations, and people are “extractive” and others are “cyclical.”Like gardening, you have to amend the soil, you have to weed, you plant and prepare for the future. The same thing holds true in business and life.I have ceased calling what we do “a game” and rather refer to what I do as “a calling.”As much as we enjoy success, winning, and making money, it should not be extractive, but rather cyclical in the sense that we are mere stewards; we have an obligation to leave the world, to leave our industry, and to leave our associations stronger, better, and more prepared than we found them.

    1. ShanaC

      I don’t understand why the idea of stewardship is not talked about more heavily, as it is the basis of all long term things.

      1. Guest

        The answer is in your comment, “…long term…” and we are not a society that thinks long term but rather lives for the thrill of the moment…

        1. ShanaC

          That is something we need to change.

          1. Helene

            I do talk about long term stuffs. I agree with you ShanaC.

    2. The Serial Startup

      “As much as we enjoy success, winning, and making money, it should not be extractive, but rather cyclical in the sense that we are mere stewards; we have an obligation to leave the world, to leave our industry, and to leave our associations stronger, better, and more prepared than we found them.”This was amazing to read and brightened my morning. Empowerment comes from within and as stewards in our associations and industries we should feel the energy inside with the creation of these cyclical tools. We are even given the added benefit of unexpected returns for such a simple gesture when our source of empowerment inspired someone who saw the cliff ahead to go build the tugboat which rescued the ship and they both arrived at the port together safely and soundly.This post I will never forget, thank you very much Fred for posting to it.

      1. The Serial Startup

        And I should add when they arrived they left their pasts behind because what ahead was too beautiful and great to become just a thought. Again Fred, I sincerely thank you as you’ve inspired me.

        1. fredwilson


      2. Guest

        I read somewhere recently about the “Apple Creed” which is basically a little paragraph that Apple gives to all its employees. Heck, I have had one for 20 years and once an employee completes their probationary period we give them a framed copy….I am going to post it to my blog later today. It never dawned on me that I was doing something that was newsworthy….but again I am not Apple.Common, simple ideas can empower each and every one of us.

  12. Cam MacRae

    The notion of cyclicality marries very nicely with @amairh ‘s thesis that every company should nourish the things on which it depends.

  13. brisbourne

    These are magical essays. Thanks Fred.

    1. fredwilson

      right? i couldn’t stop reading them.

  14. Anthony Bosschem

    Must be one of the most beautiful pieces of text I have read in a long time. Thanks for pointing it out for us. Currently preparing a start-up launch, and the essay describes perfectly what the filosophy behind our product is.

  15. Tom Labus

    It would be great to see this for the medical profession and the development of new drugs.

  16. Matt A. Myers

    Reading these is a fresh of breathe air. Thanks for sharing @fredwilson:disqus

  17. jacopogio

    just finished reading and cannot stop relating it to “The Selfish Gene” , the book on Evolution by Richard Dawkins, published in 1976

    1. fredwilson

      great book

    2. Carl Rahn Griffith

      The book that inspired my wife to change careers mid-life and do a degree in ethology – and subsequently teach it.

    3. bsoist

      Popular science books sometimes really aggravate me, as does arrogance and smugness (except, of course, my own), BUT that book was fantastic. I’ve reread it several times and I find myself thinking about its lessons all the time.

  18. LissIsMore

    Thanks for the heads up. Looks like interesting reading. Just added to my pile for this weekend. ๐Ÿ™‚

  19. ShanaC

    Hi Professor Kamvar – where do you think technology is going to push us next? It seems you are IDing this biomimicry/pervasive type of tech – what should we be looking for when it comes to emerging ideas…

    1. fredwilson

      he doesn’t have a twitter handle (that i could find). not sure he has a disqus handle either. maybe this post will get him one!!

      1. ShanaC

        I can hope he stops by! If not, we could just turn it into a discussion point….

        1. sepkamvar

          Shana, great question. Let me spend some more time thinking about this, and I’ll add an essay to the collection and send it to you in the reply. And Fred, I now have a Disqus handle :).

          1. Ro Gupta

            Hey Sep! – nice to see your name pop up here and good to have you on board. Had no idea what a gifted essayist you are. Looking forward to reading more and hopefully getting to catch up soon.Next time, maybe could even get Disqus up somewhere on the F&F site so this community and others can riff a bit more with you.

          2. fredwilson


          3. Ro Gupta

            heh. well yes .. but in this case sep’s an old friend and i bet a lot of avc’ers would love to discuss his essays over on his site.@sepkamvar:disqus you need a twitterbot or email subscribe option so we know when you drop some more knowledge on us

          4. sepkamvar

            Hey @Ro:disqus ! Great to see you here, and hope to see you in person soon. I’ll get my technologies in order before my next essay, and will keep you posted :). In the meantime, you can e-mail subscribe here:

          5. Roy

            yes please!

          6. ShanaC

            Hi (wow this is cool)I would love to see that essay. In case comments close (they close after 2 weeks) my email is shana dot carp at gmail.

  20. JamesHRH

    I almost did not post, in order not to disrupt the positive vibe.Sap is a little too much on the Hippy Dippy Weatherman side of things for me. I just spent 4 days in the nature he adores. Every time I am there, I am reminded that its a tough place. Winners winning everyday. Losers losing in a big way.His surfer buddy is the ultimate extractor – he does nothing to contribute and scolds a builder for not extracting more from the labour that make his wetsuit & polycarbonate board possible (not to mention keeping his cerveza cold).A high school hoops teammate of mine – with whom I spent innumerable hours – took the same path. I don’t envy him.

    1. jason wright

      “His surfer buddy is the ultimate extractor – he does nothing to contribute and scolds a builder for not extracting more from the labour that make his wetsuit & polycarbonate board possible…”Patagonia?

    2. fredwilson

      please don’t hold back. we need all opinions here. postive vibe, hippy dippy vibe, negative vibe. we want it all.

      1. Cam MacRae

        that, right there, is why i adore you.

        1. fredwilson

          and why i adore this community

          1. bsoist

            Exactly! I’ve read your blog for a long time, but the intelligent and mostly polite disagreements in the comments is what really drew me into the community.

          2. JLM

            .Comity — the missing ingredient in much of life..

      2. Kyle Van Pelt

        This community amazes me. I can’t think of another place, digital or not, that I know of where there are so many different worldviews in one place with so little slander and defamation.Kudos to you Fred for facilitating such a great place to come and discuss meaningful things for the future of America.

    3. John Best

      Nature, red of tooth and claw? I think that’s true, and not necessarily contradictory, even if the presentation is a bit too sappy for you.The cycles don’t care who is the soil, and who the seed. Even in the losers losing, *someone* wins – the gain is knowledge, or availability of a skilled hire.I have to say that today’s topic really resonates with me.

  21. John Revay

    I was on Fred’s tumblog the other day and saw a quote by Sep “We would not want a web thatโ€™s shaped only by those who can afford Oracle” – I clicked through to the Farmer & Farmer site read what lies upstream – part of Sep’s series of essays. Great read on the web, tools and making things “accessible and empowering to all”I will be sure to read the rest of the seriesThanks for sharing

  22. John Revay

    Message to Sep,Why not think about incorporating disqus into the Farmers & Famers site

  23. reece

    funny – i’d just discovered a post by Sep over the weekend called “Natural Limits” in which he covers “self-limiting tools” of which i am a huge fanfrom his post:โ€œIf the idea of self-limiting tools seems antithetical to technology and capitalism, let me suggest that we already build them. A search engine is a self-limiting tool. As is an online dating site. When these tools succeed, people leave the site. Video games and TVs, on the other hand, are self-reinforcing. Their use doesnโ€™t lead to disuse; their use leads to more use.โ€…(and for anyone who knows what we do, my goal is to make “TV” a self-limiting tool)

    1. fredwilson

      twitter is also self limiting. we go, we find, we click, we leave.

      1. Rich Ullman

        and then we go back. again and again and again. ๐Ÿ™‚

      2. reece

        ehhh… my general use follows that pattern, but i know that there are days where i can rat-hole into tons of people/links etc…

    2. JamesHRH

      What is the difference between focused and self limiting?

      1. panterosa,

        Yes, I just took issue above with the term self-limiting. Somehow I feel there is a better term.

      2. reece

        i didn’t write that quote/post, so you’d have to ask the author, but i’m sure there are great examples of products that, by their nature, are limitless

    3. bsoist

      I am not familiar with what you do. I’d love to know more about that goal.

      1. reece

        my team is building – “the best way to discover and share video.” we love video. it’s the best way to tell a story… and it’s great to see the costs of production come down, while the means to distribute proliferate (all while the underlying technology behind our four screen world – phone, tablet, PC, TV – converges… they’re all just screens)… but this is creating a lot of noise, and we want to provide more signal…so, we’re building Shelby to get smart about what video is relevant/interesting/meaningful to you and my goal isn’t to make people watch more video, it’s to offer up the ‘right’ video.** so in a perfect world, a Shelby user would open up the app – watch the 30mins or hour of video that’s right for them – and get out** for what it’s worth, i think TV is just video. i don’t differentiate

        1. bsoist

          thanx, will check it out

          1. reece

            cool. still early in terms of product, but would love hear what you think

        2. bsoist

          I’ve tried a few times to check this out, but I’m having issues with it. Is it me?

          1. reece

            not sure… email me r[at]shelby[dot]tv and we can troubleshoot?

  24. kirklove

    Stumbled upon The Farmer & Farmer Review a little while back via a Perry Chen tweet. He doesn’t tweet much so when he does I listen. These were wonderful.

    1. fredwilson

      he’s a man of few words. his actions speak for him. he is the real deal.

      1. kirklove

        I’ve told you before if I could pluck one company from the USV portfolio it would be Kickstarter hands down. Might not be the “most” profitable exit of the lot, but I’m not a VC so I don’t think that way. It’s a magical company.

        1. bsoist

          Magical indeed!

  25. panterosa,

    I dig the biomimcry theme here, and how the tool works in careful tandem to its user to be of service. I design games for kids about nature which reinforces nature, and the kids getting out to see it. Games are also open ended. I’m looking forward to reading more of these essays.

  26. panterosa,

    I have a big issue with the choice of ‘self-limiting’ as a term for this though. There must be a better word.Or maybe I have a negative reaction to seeing this word used for beneficial experience because I find it incongruous – my wasband was described as self-limiting.

  27. Rich Ullman

    blogs and comments are cyclical tools. but isn’t that obvious?

    1. fredwilson

      Great point

    2. Alex Murphy

      Good blogs are cyclical tools.

  28. William Mougayar

    Brilliant essays.ย I liked in particular this part “The more self-reinforcing a tool is, the more we likely we are to use it at our own expense. On the other hand, the more self-limiting a tool is, the more likely it is to die out.”ย It makes you think about the software you’re building.ย And this last one is very profound as I totally believe in it “So the key to building great technologies is to first find your purpose.”.ย If you are right, what you build can be huge.ย I hope Sep will write more. Get him to do a guest post here maybe?

    1. awaldstein

      A ‘self-reinforcing’ life is what being happy is all about.The best products in a social loop do just that.

    2. sepkamvar

      Thanks William — I’m really happy that you liked them. I’ll try to write a couple more of these over the next few months.

    3. Michael Elling

      “if you are right”. Powerful words. Risky words. Feel that way every day fighting in the lower layers for a cheaper bandwidth paradigm against monopolists and regulators/academics that sustain them and don’t have a clue about network theory and the reality competition developed until it was crushed by the above cabal.

  29. Adam Alphin

    Great Essays. I’m wondering how many emails you will now receive with “Hello from MIT” as the subject line…

    1. fredwilson

      It is a good subject line. Works on @bfeld too ๐Ÿ˜‰

  30. Carl Rahn Griffith

    It seems like an exactly inverse philosophy to those behind the Facebook IPO.

    1. JLM

      Not to get started on a different rant but what is the difference between the FB deal and a “pump & dump” sweat shop?This will go down as a case of mass hysteria in which everybody with a straw in the pool all sucked at the same time.It will set back the IPO market..

      1. Tom Labus

        That beast is insatiable.

        1. JLM

          .The level of greed exhibited in this deal is beyond what I have ever seen or heard of. It really embarrasses me as a member of the business class.The proof will be in the pudding as I see FB drifting down to $12.If so, this will be a criminal tragedy.The Mafia wishes it could operate with this degree of criminal complacency..

          1. Carl Rahn Griffith

            Well said, JLM. I was already waning as a user of Facebook – which I have now deleted from my iPhone and my Mac bookmarks. I will use as necessary in a business context but this whole affair shows the banks will never learn/change and greed is all that matters to all of those involved in this sorry mess. It makes the boom and bust seem like very innocent times…

          2. Tom Labus

            It pales in comparison to JPM’s “hedge(s)”!!!Is Corzine consulting there?How many times do we have to hear this song? But if you say guys you may want to tone it down it bit……

          3. JLM

            .The Corzine affair is starting to get a bit spooky.You can “misplace” over a $B and nobody gets excited?We have to return to dueling. America needs dueling for situations like this. .

          4. LE

            I think given how Zuckerberg did the Instagram deal on his own w/o (if reporting is correct) consulting others shows how much his 28 year old thinking was intimately involved in how this deal and the pricing rolled out.This is why I always laugh at @kidmercury and all the Occupy people who somehow think that there limited experience and lack of complete information somehow trumps older people will knowledge and life experience in decision making in the government. (And of course yes they FU and make mistakes as well as do the most experienced doctors).I wish his wife well by the way in the fishbowl she will be living in.

          5. testtest

            i’ve met many old fools.when i was younger i would ask adults for their single best bit of advice. i never received anything valuable.someone i didn’t think to ask was my rugby coach. he was wealthy, but doing something unglamorous. without prompt, one day, he said to me ‘if you want to be successful do what other people don’t want to’. i ignored it at the time. turns out it was great advice.which then segues into the whole ‘if you know what good advice is you don’t need much’.

          6. JLM

            You know usually a first wife will wait until the divorce to loot the family net worth but in this instance she was able to make a big dent in just a day.Not fair, I know.You want fair? Go to Dallas in September — Texas joke — State Fair and Fletcher Corn Dogs..

          7. LE

            He should have thought twice before marrying a pediatrician. She will be bringing all sorts of shit over the transom that he will have to fight off all the time.

          8. ShanaC

            err, I don’t get that joke.

          9. kidmercury

            your point is illogical as for the most part all i do is repeat what people in government are already saying.

          10. LE

            Like the bible I’m sure you can find people in government who support your point of view. Anyway who are these people and what are they saying that supports your point of view (which by your own wording I believe you refer to as wacky?)

          11. kidmercury

            i would suggest you pay attention to what i am saying if you wish to criticize, as doing so will give your critiques much greater validity. i have repeated the same points literally hundreds of times on this blog. in any event, you can find a list of hundreds of government officials who doubt the “official” story of 9/11 (official gets quotes because there has never been a criminal investigation) at the one i enjoy citing most is FBI chief of investigative publicity rex tomb who has stated there is no hard evidence connecting bin laden to 9/11. if you want government officials who have testified about a government coverup of extraterrestials search the web for “the disclosure project.” if you want jfk assassination look into former CIA agent e howard hunt’s comments. that is all just the tip of the iceberg, i could go on and on as i have on many occasions on this blog.

          12. LE

            I actually had looked at that site when you had mentioned it previously. Unfortunately I don’t have time to read everything and research everything that is said which I would normally want to do before saying anything.But in this case to answer you I will offer this.It seems to be a collection of people who are credible but with few exceptions would have access to direct info about the events. So it’s kinda like “the sheriff saw the UFO and he is trustworthy..”In one example of someone who was actually involved that I saw “Peter Rundlet, Counsel for the 9/11 Commission” makes his entire point based on information appearing in Bob Woodward’s book. Bob Woodward’s book saying something doesn’t make it so. And even what he said – so what people fucked up and could have prevented it (that’s my take and feel free to correct me as I may have summarized incorrectly.)In another case, “Major General Albert Stubblebine, U.S. Army (ret)” (in 1984) says “I don’t know exactly what hit it, but I do know, from the photographs that I have analyzed and looked at very, very carefully, it was not an airplane.” and in trying to follow his argument further there seems to be some people saying there was actually an explosion that happened before that and/or the plane landed afterwords etc.Wesley Clark said “We’ve never finished the investigation of 9/11 and whether the administration actually misused the intelligence information it had.” To which I say, so what? So they fucked up. Who cares? Got a better way to do this? Are there better people to receive information and make these decisions for us?I mean this is truly wacky stuff. A plane didn’t hit the pentagon? It was remote controlled?Anyway my feeling is that while there could have been a coverup but (as they say in medicine) it wouldn’t have changed management. After all the fact that I lie to my wife about her surprise party and someone discovers that I lied (about something) doesn’t necessarily mean that I am doing bad things.Here’s another one by “Col. Ronald D. Ray, U.S. Marine Corps (ret) โ€“ Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense during the Reagan Administration and a highly decorated Vietnam veteran (two Silver Stars, a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart).” Hasn’t worked in the military since 1990. He says “I’m astounded that the conspiracy theory advanced by the administration could in fact be true and the evidence does not seem to suggest that that’s accurate.”This site seems to be a way to convince the sheeple by parading a bunch of people with titles and accomplishment saying shit that there is something rotten in Denmark and that they should care about it.Oh one last one (this just sucks you in..): “Col. George Nelson, MBA, U.S. Air Force (ret)” says “yet not one piece of hard aircraft evidence has been produced in an attempt to positively identify any of the four aircraft. On the contrary, it seems only that all potential evidence was deliberately kept hidden from public view. โ€ฆ “So correct me if I am wrong but is this guy saying that because the government won’t release the “hard aircraft evidence” that this shit didn’t happen?

          13. kidmercury

            you can cherry pick whoever you like from that list. try the 9/11 commission members, former FBI agent and time magazine person of the year coleen rowley, fbi agent sibel edmonds, CIA agent ray mcgovern, the aformentioned rex tomb, new york city first responder kevin mcpadden. among many others.although as neither party is likely to be convinced the more meaningful exercise is for you to state what you believe and provide supporting evidence. you do have a clear thesis with facts that can support it, right?as for why i care, 9/11 was the most memorable day of my life, so i regard it as a bit of a religious experience — that is why i have an usually high degree of passion for the subject. as for why i care about hte global economy or all the other conspiracy stuff outside of 9/11, that too is somewhat motivated by spiritual beliefs as i seek to serve a higher purpose and i believe this is the route most appropriate for me. in more material terms, though, i believe we will not see economic progress until the global governance problem is resolved — and that the internet is the means by which the governance problem is solved. my startup is in fact designed accordingly, although i’m winding that down as i have not been able to get on the growth curve i need to. i still believe that basic idea to hold true and hope that some entrepreneur with greater resources at his/her disposal and the requisite political will will choose to take on this project and reap the rewards for doing so.beyond the internet, i am passionate about investing, and i consider it extremely advantageous to have a thorough political understanding when making investment decisions. i have the majority of my net wealth in gold and gold-related assets, which has worked out well for me thus far and i believe the best is yet to come. in the gold community, particularly in the sect that is all in or almost all in, the views i espouse are not particularly contrarian. so, i consider it materially advantageous to pursue the truth.

          14. LE

            “i am passionate about investing, and i consider it extremely advantageous to have a thorough political understanding when making investment decisions.”Well I 100% agree with you on that!”you can cherry pick ” – Yes, that’s what I did.”the more meaningful exercise is for you to state what you believe and provide supporting evidence. you do have a clear thesis with facts that can support it, right?”Actually no I don’t. I have a fuzzy thesis that is built upon efficiently scanning information and coming to conclusions. The degree to which I perceive, in my opinion (key “I perceive in my opinion) something will effect me determines how much effort I can put into it. Just being practical. Which is why I said: “Unfortunately I don’t have time to read everything and research everything that is said which I would normally want to do before saying anything.””i have the majority of my net wealth in gold and gold-related assets,”Wouldn’t it make sense to diversify a bit?

          15. LE

            One more thing – serious question here. Why do you spend your time and care so much about this anyway? What are you trying to achieve exactly? What’s the end game?Is this something that is just interesting to you (which is fine btw if that is the case) like the same way people enjoy sports, the movies or a certain TV show? Or is there something you realistically (key “realistically”) think you can do given the amount of time it would take assuming your points were valid?I’ve also noticed that you spend time on economic issues as well. My way of dealing with that is simply to try to make as much money as possible so I am in a better position if what you seem to think will happen, happens recognizing to quote a play phrase “my arms to short to box with god”.

          16. jason wright

            Operation Northwoods. In whom does one place trust?

          17. LE

            Well first that happened 50 years ago. Second to me it shows how much of a threat the Soviets were. (Similar to when an animal (or a person) chews off their arm in order to escape a greater peril.) Third it didn’t happen it was a proposal. Fourth we hold military actions in other countries and innocents are killed to achieve our goals. Our soldiers, their citizens etc. Bad if it happens to you or a loved one of course.In the end, hey, why don’t we just take a vote of the citizens and see (with their limited understanding) what we should do, how we should spend money, when we should go to war (US citizens are killed in war of course) – etc.Like you said “in whom does one place trust”.

          18. jason wright

            It is an interesting insight into the thought processes of the military and agencies of government and how far, in theory at least, they are prepared to go to achieve their objectives. Yes it was fifty years ago, but the man who turned down the proposal died the following year in circumstances that have never been entirely satisfactorily explained.I place my trust in those I come to know well.

        2. Carl Rahn Griffith

          Bonfire of the Vanities time…

          1. Tom Labus

            JPM time

      2. Carl Rahn Griffith

        Self-appointed ‘Masters of the Universe’ who know the price of everything and value of nothing. Tempted to post that powerful monologue by Ed Norton in Spike Lee’s wonderful 25th Hour, but if I did it would only wind me up further…

      3. LE

        “in which everybody with a straw in the pool all sucked at the same time.”That sounds like it would be a good google interview question. “Assuming a pool of dimension 30 by 50 feet with a max depth of 5 feet holding 3000 gallons of water estimate how many people it would take to suck the water from the pool using a straws of length 6 feet”

    2. fredwilson

      Not much on wall street conforms to Sep’s worldview

      1. Carl Rahn Griffith

        Good. Shall definitely read his stuff.

  31. Alex Murphy

    I love the premise of this. Three Practical Applications:1. Know your Product: ‘The best gardeners put their hands in the dirt.’2. When Balancing Monetization with UX: ‘The best tasting fruit comes have less yield per acre, not more.’3. Keep building a better team: ‘The most beautiful plants are pruned and deadheaded.’

  32. testtest

    i was thinking yesterday how weak even the best academics are when trying to be polymaths

    1. Cam MacRae

      Depth, and not breadth is the price of entry to the academe. The greatest polymaths simply bypassed the gate.

      1. panterosa,

        What gate ?? ๐Ÿ˜‰

        1. Cam MacRae

          There’s no gate INTERROBANG. Ugh… I wish someone had told me that earlier ๐Ÿ˜‰

          1. panterosa,

            By 17 I had lost my father, and applied to colleges without a diploma from Exeter because of a missed credit when I studied abroad. RISD laughed at this and I knew I was at home. A gateless community. The only way I know how to live.

      2. testtest

        i’s interesting to think the types of problems that we deal with in a “network” society (problems of organized complexity–Warren Weaver) are probably best solved by the polymath

      3. ShanaC

        True. Sometimes they are welcomed back once they made their mark, sometimes not.

  33. Paul Sanwald

    I really really like the one on “the nature of computer programming”. composing music and writing code are both (sometimes) like that for me, in our best moments, you’re just writing down something you hear like listening to the radio.the most interesting cyclical tools to me are the non-obvious ones, that (could) span across disciplines, even.

    1. fredwilson

      yeah, that was a great one

  34. LE

    I have to say that some of this stuff seems like the business equivalent of walking into an art gallery and standing next to someone who tries to explain to you some meaning they are deriving out of a painting that looks like a complete mess to you. I mean you can form words in any order and prove any point you want, but I’m not sure at the level that most people should be operating at if they are starting a business and trying to earn money (key word: “most”) is at this level. Or that they should even consider this at all.To wit:An ecosystem of cyclical tools would therefore nourish nature and empower people. A fully cyclical software application may, for example, use peer-to-peer data centers powered by its users, consisting of biodegradable, fertilizing microprocessors. It would be open-source and provide APIs to empower the creativity of builders, and a clean design and useful purpose that cultivates the concentration of its users.

  35. aarondelcohen

    Great stuff Fred. We will invite him down to NYU.

  36. Dave Pinsen

    Your Academy for Software Engineering is cyclical, in Sep’s usage of the term (related to it, you might want to check out this FT article about the German dual system, which combines school work and apprenticeships, and is being implemented by Mercedes where it owns factories in the US — maybe something similar would work with NYC tech cos?).

  37. Ben LeBlanc

    Good post. That’s quite a compliment from Sep, and I’d agree.I particularly liked the essay “The Nature of Computer Programming” and the quite from Richard Feynman. It was a good reminder that I need to read more Feynman.

  38. jason wright

    This is a bit of a vector, but as the Raspberry Pi post is now long since closed I thought I’d ask on this one instead. I hope it’s not frowned upon;…Has this made a blip on anyone’s radar?;

  39. James France

    Hello,I like this

  40. FlavioGomes

    I’m into a few *chapters* and some of this is just lovely reading:My favourite thus far:”Our heads cultivate reason. Our hearts cultivate intuition.Our heads seek opportunity. Our hearts seek purpose.Our heads maximize utility. Our hearts give gifts.Our heads think of self. Our hearts feel connection.Today, our technologies reflect reason and utility and opportunity and self. But this may be an artifact of our time. We could equally imagine building technologies that reflect intuition and purpose and gift and connection. I might say we’re already starting.”The reading is easy but so elegant.Thank-you for sharing this and thanks to Sep for thinking and working to get his thoughts down.

  41. Guest

    Looks to me like Fred has a new series, “gardening and management.”

    1. fredwilson

      guest post co-written by charlie and jlm

      1. JLM

        @fredwilson:disqusJust a bunch of farmers come into town on a load of turnips..

  42. leigh

    way less ecological then i guessed (hoped?) it would be. Kinda cross between A Timeless Way Of Building (Alexander) & The Prophet (Gibran).But fav quote:If software follows content, I imagine we’ll start to see lots of APIs that do small things. But they will easily interact with one another to together do big things. And if hardware then follows software, I imagine that we will see lots of small devices that do simple things alone, but complex things together.

  43. Josephams

    I grew up with Sep -family friends in NJ, soccer camp, and he was a grad student at Stanford while I was an undergrad. I remember sitting in the starbucks on el camino and California, having a coffee, and him telling me about this company google, which everyone was starting to use on campus, Interested in buying his brand new co Katlix. Now here I am > 10 years later reading about him on one of my favorite blogs. Small world indeed. Having split my time between NYC and the bay area working on 3 startups on the last 8 years, I have to say our community here shows much more Cyclicality than Silicon Valley’s. I wonder if that goes away naturally as a community/competition grows?

    1. fredwilson

      i sure hope not!

  44. sudhanshu

    So right, its like the way the semantic processing tools get enriched in their heuristics by being used more and more. So very right. Whats the point of a technology which does not give a constructive feedback to its origin.So correct when we merge the community model to technology, isolation is a survival hassle but when we are community we have a longer chance to survive, grow, adopt and see the new world. Happy to read your blog.

  45. Tom_Nocera

    Thank you Fred for passing along that wisdom. It is proof positive of the truth in the assessment regarding AVC’s nurturing of community.

  46. Jessie Arora

    I love the message here- Thanks so much for introducing me to Sep’s essays. I remember him from my time at Google and am inspired by his current work. This concept of cyclicality is at the heart of the most exciting education reform efforts right now, like the Maker Edu Initiative and others that see the learner as the creator/teacher, driving their own education. Hope to see this spread to learners all over the world!

  47. fredwilson

    When worlds collide the good stuff happens

  48. awaldstein

    I love this idea and that you are involved with it.Sometime I should take a field trip to PA and visit. We can sit on a bench in your garden, have a bottle of wine and feel good about life and the part we are playing to make it better.

  49. JLM

    .We are all many people. All at the same time. We have to feed each one in some manner.My Father always had a vegetable garden and I hated to work in that garden. He was a professional soldier, so I thought the garden a bit odd. But that damn garden was always neat, clean and orderly — like ranks of soldiers awaiting inspection.The Kohlrabis were always a bit recalcitrant. And the Brussel Sprouts were always complaining about something. I used to go the garden with a salt cellar and devour the tomatoes.I later found out it was really a counseling couch for both of us. He buried his troubles in that dirt. He imparted wisdom to me and I was too dumb to understand he was growing ME not vegetables.When I had had some of the horrific experiences he had had which had driven him to that spot of tranquility and peace, I began to understand. I was a dumb kid.When I was a real estate developer I used to plant Magnolia trees on all of my projects. I bought them from nurseries — containerized — in Louisiana and they were spectacular. Very Southern.I planted thousands of them and they gave me more joy in some odd little place in my brain. Now I drive by them — make a detour on occasion — and visit them like old friends who have spent 25 years growing. I am so proud of them.I like to think they are proud of me and imagine them saying to each other — hey, it’s that guy, the one who kidnapped us and moved us from Louisiana to Texas, he turned out OK.There is something primordially magic about dirt and growing stuff and anybody who does not experience it is poorer for the lack of experience.Hey, I want one of those damn garden plots, Charlie. Well played community, techno entrepreneur and sage..

  50. sepkamvar

    Charlie, I’d love to come see the gardens next time I’m in the area.

  51. ShanaC

    I wish I had grown up with a real garden, we had too many trees for vegetables….

  52. William Mougayar

    That’s a great story. I love gardening and growing vegetables too. There is a certain tranquility that it brings. It’s you and nature trying to optimize the little things that will make a difference for their growing. The year my grand mother passed, I found a Hosta variety called Josephine which bears her name. I planted it & nurture it. It grows back every spring.

  53. fredwilson

    Planting and building …….

  54. karen_e

    Uh-oh, my eyes are welling up. You big business guys, you’re just a bunch of saps!

  55. awaldstein

    Nicely said.I love NY. I miss having access to dirt that I can grow things in.My farm is the Green Market. Not perfect, but a connection nonetheless.

  56. panterosa,

    He was growing you! I’m stealing that.I have a rooftop garden which will be replanted after a year’s roof reno. Not having that outdoor space did more to damage my psyche than many understand – like not using a hand. I love my plants, and composting, to make them flourish. I so look forward to visiting them every morning and evening.PantherKitty is ‘grown’ out there. Her godparent is a florist.I wonder what the AVC plant would be?

  57. John Best

    You took my back to my own childhood. I grew up on farmland in “the garden of England”. The things I learned helping my father have shaped my own attitude to my environment. I remember rhubarb as tall as I was, runner beans I’d help keep free from greenfly and the dark earth offering up deliciously misshapen potatoes. My youngest was helping me clear the back garden for a vegetable patch at the weekend, she was in charge of composting. We found a millipede, and her excitement at its undulating across my hand was the echo of mine, and both came from that farmland of my childhood.I still pine for a tiny finger length mother-of-pearl penknife I lost in the wild beyond our fence.

  58. PhilipSugar

    I had the same experience as a child. I try to do it now with my kids fishing and crabbing on the bay.

  59. Ed Freyfogle

    I’m reminded of the old saying:”Best time to plant a tree: 25 years ago. Second best time: today.”

  60. LE

    When I was a real estate developer I used to plant Magnolia trees on all of my projects. I bought them from nurseries — containerized — in Louisiana and they were spectacular. Very Southern.I planted thousands of them and they gave me more joy in some odd little place in my brain.When I was in the printing business and occasionally ran some of the equipment I used to love to clean the press after a good run (where “good” equals nice ink lay, no jams etc.). There was something very satisfying about doing that and seeing the chrome glisten and stripping the ink from the rollers. I remember seeing those war movies and how soldiers cleaned their shoes and their guns and how firemen do the same thing. There is obviously some psychological principle at play here that makes people feel good about doing this particular type of “work”.

  61. Guest

    Here you go JLM, “real estate development” the German way!http://andrewhammel.typepad…Every major city in Germany has land on the outskirts that has been turned over to mini gardening towns!Germans take their gardening very seriously.



  63. JLM

    .We are all many different people and the key is to find which person you are really dealing with at any given time.I once was doing business with a huge organization and that relationship was essential to my business survival. They were money lenders and damn good at it.I met the top guy who had a reputation as an unconscionable prick. And there was no exculpatory evidence to the contrary.It was a cocktail party and while seemingly a relaxed setting it was like a King holding court.I looked at him and said: “Bob, you’re not really as big a prick as everybody says you are.” I really don’t know why I said that. It just came out naturally.He looked at me and in a conspiratorial tone said: “Yeah, well don’t tell anyone else.” We both laughed and never had a cross word thereafter.From that instant on we had a perfectly cordial relationship and people remarked incredulously that we got along so famously. Of course, I owed the guy a quarter of a billion $$$ and we had our fates intertwined.Everyone is more complex and more simple than we can ever fathom. The nicer we are the easier life really is..

  64. JLM

    Composting. Don’t get me started on composting. Composting is the cycle of life writ large.The stories I could tell about cotton seed hulls and ‘Dillo Dirt. I take the PH “basic” of the limestone central TX soil and make it slightly acidic with cotton seed hulls and ‘Dillo Dirt.I grow azaleas which are as complex and lovely as women. AVC should be azaleas.I may just go get some cotton seed hulls and ‘Dillo Dirt today..

  65. panterosa,

    @JLM:disqus So glad to find a fellow composter! I had to deliver my goods to a Union Square collector this last year, and while it was stinky garbage I always felt I was losing something. Dillo Dirt is so cool. Wish we had a large a program in NYC.Azaleas are quite splendid. I didn’t know they had deciduous and evergreen versions. Which are your faves? I made an azalea color wheel once, alongside a bougainvillea color wheel. Plant color is one of my deep nerd moments hidden behind pretty pictures of seductive color.As an AVC herb I’d promote Mint – refreshing, invigorating and invasive.

  66. John Best

    Azaleas are my favourite. There are a patch growing just off my front drive. Reds and pale lemons and royal purples.

  67. JamesHRH

    In my first job, I worked with a relationship wizard. He described a key person in our area of work as ‘everybody hates him; which I love.’Once he got close to him (which he always did), he knew no one else would.

  68. Rohan

    ‘Under everyone’s hard shell is someone who wants to be appreciated and loved.’

  69. JLM

    .I like the old fashioned big growing azaleas which require constant acidity and pruning otherwise they grow like mad. The real secret is the pruning. You cannot prune an azalea except right after it has bloomed. If you wait, then it will not bloom on the “new wood”.I have some 20 year old azaleas.I also have some double flower azaleas which are slightly smaller. Their flowers are almost too bright.One of my azalea beds is right under a Magnolia which provides a bit of shade and which also benefits from the soil acidity. It is a symbiotic relationship.I love bougainvillea because it requires almost no water. I also like mandevilla which I train to grow up strings in front of a rock wall. I have a 12′ rock wall next to my driveway and love to have it completely covered with mandevilla. It makes me happy.My spoken game is a bit more impressive than my actual game right now.I love mint — in mojitos..

  70. ShanaC

    OOO, I love mint, and I want to grow some in a planter- how much sun do they need?

  71. JLM

    .I wish Discus had the picture attachment feature.Go to and I will attach some of my azalea pictures..

  72. panterosa,

    I love it – flower porn! I worked for a florist for this reason! So beautiful and sexy.My flower anatomy app will for sure get sent to you right away when it’s done. I’ll make sure we include azaleas for you!

  73. panterosa,

    You know, peaked it’s not so bad either…..In July, I send you hydrangea porn, deep deep blue, purple, pink. I know each of the girls in my stable, and when they are at their best.

  74. panterosa,

    That’s invertebracy for you. So different than vertebrates.But my fave is the smartest and most visual invertebrate – octopus.

  75. JLM

    .The cleaning of weapons is very, very deep shit. I have a German Walther P-38 from the early 1940s that I acquired in an adventure that would embarrass me to relate. Not something silly, something very, very intense.I think that pistol speaks to me and that the Nazi markings and its history of traveling from Europe through Russia to China and to Southeast Asia speaks to me. Every so often, I get it out and talk to it. I try to squeeze its story out of it.I can watch a soldier clean his rifle and I can tell you exactly what kind of soldier he is. I can see into his soul.I loathe a dirty weapon. It is almost as bad as treason.I remember learning how to clean an M-1 and a .45 like my First Holy Communion and Confirmation. Religious experiences.Sorry..

  76. LE

    See now to me most successful businesses are simply able to execute on the correct wave (at the correct time) and be in the right place and not have anything knock them out of orbit. And I think this is true at any size level.

  77. JLM

    OK, I have posted a bit of azalea porn at but that is not my best picture as they had already peaked..

  78. panterosa,

    Your garden sounds lovely. In summer, we have many hydrangeas of many colors due to the soil. Foggy NE island.Just doing a puzzle with magnolia flower as one of the images today. Will send you a look see. Did gorgeous stationary for florist, with tree magnolias. The set before that won an award. I hope perfect daughter has some cool design work lined up. I interned with Milton Glaser.

  79. LE

    Was going to say before you wrote this after I posted that it’s a form of worship. Noticed that with machines of all types.As far as this: “I can watch a soldier clean his rifle and I can tell you exactly what kind of soldier he is. I can see into his soul.”I was taught the “watch” principle at a very early age by my father. He could tell by the speed at which a craftsman worked how good he was at his job. To this day I have an artistic appreciation of how workmen do their jobs and the level of skill and attention to detail that they show.

  80. Dave Pinsen

    Meh. Things were probably different in the M-1 days, but I remember how finicky M-16s got with the slightest buildup of carbon. Hours spent with the pipe-cleaner thingy and the little toothbrush thingy cleaning it. Makes you appreciate the genius of Mikhail Kalashnikov, to build a rifle even fourth-world tribesmen can pick up out of the mud and fire.Have we ever, as a nation, spent more money on weapons and troops and had less to show for it than we’ve had in the last 10+ years in Afghanistan? We drop $75k JDAMs on worthless stone hovels; our enemies spend a few hundred dollars on an IED to blow up a $3 million Bradley Fighting Vehicle.

  81. Neil B

    My grandpa taught me at about age 10: Never put away an uncleaned weapon and never fire and uncleaned weapon.

  82. JLM

    Nantucket, hydrangeas. I am ready to die..

  83. panterosa,

    Actually, it’s not Nantucket. Fred’s partner is on this way smaller place. Former army base.

  84. JLM

    .The ability to teach a child how to fish and do anything around water is a sacred rite of passage. You are a lucky man and smart.My first entrepreneurial experience was walking the Jersey shore — we used to live at Long Branch whenever my Father went overseas — and catching huge stripers which I then sold to fishermen who had gotten skunked.I would lurk on the seawall with my fish wrapped in burlap and pick out the ones who had no fish.In the early 1960s, I used to get $10-20 per fish and sometimes I would catch 4-6 good ones casting into the surf from jetties. I once played hookey for a week and got a well deserved thrashing — having made almost $500 in the process.I also learned how to conduct an auction.I learned about “added services” when I would offer to clean them for an additional $5..

  85. ShanaC

    I did a lot of fishing with my father and brother growing up. Worked up until one of us got seasick. You got lucky you have kids with sealegs ๐Ÿ™‚

  86. JLM

    .I remember Brad having written about flying to that island. I know which one you mean. When I fly to Nantucket, I always stay over land and carefully plot my bailout locations. I have only flown my plane there once but I remember the island with the little air strip..

  87. panterosa,

    Ah the world is small @JLM. You have been in my backyard. Not many get out that way.It’s quite magical for it’s dead as doornail appearance. Perfect for pseudomous people.I make art from the beach off that air strip, ‘composting” plastic all July.…Very wise to fly over land up there. Many disasters.

  88. Michael Elling

    Riverside Park. Lot’s going on there.

  89. Michael Elling

    Or maybe we’re just like Russell Crowe in Gladiator. Smell and taste the earth before battle. Must be a guy thing.

  90. JLM

    .The first M-16s were truly lousy weapons — in great part because they tried to build too fine a weapon. Tolerances were too close.As you note, the AK-47 was a very good weapon. You could literally bury it in mud, dig it up, hose it down and start firing. I know because I did just that.The Soviets were very clever in the design of all of their weapons. They used to have a 82mm mortar and we had an 81mm mortar. They could use our ammo and we could not use theirs.I do not begrudge the cost of armaments. We will always be a nation that is willing to spend money rather then spill blood. Nothing wrong with that.Having said that, we do have a propensity to develop weapon systems far beyond their battlefield demand. We are working on weapons systems that are several generations beyond the current threat when nobody can hang with us on the current inventory.The only recent cost-benefit weapons system we have developed is the drone. And even then, we have tarted them up to the $5MM range. It is essentially a remote controlled souped up Cessna which should cost about $500K.A mouse built to milspec = an elephant..

  91. Dave Pinsen

    I don’t begrudge the development of advanced weapons at all. Those advances take decades to develop, and you can’t improvise them on the fly. And it’s always best to have the most advanced weapons to deter war, and, if deterrence fails, to win.But I do begrudge the military being used as a de facto social welfare program. The comp & benefits we spend to induce 18 year olds to enlist are absurd. Much better to bring back the draft (I know you object to that — I used to too). Let the draft board look at SAT/ACT scores and pick the kids with the highest scores first. Then America’s elites will have more skin in the game, and we’ll be a little more judicious about where we spend our blood and treasure.

  92. ShanaC

    Why do we ask for weapons that we can’t really use for several generations – doesn’t this strike anyone as a bloated way to run a war (or keep an army around)

  93. JLM

    .I always enjoy chatting with you about military stuff because you have an obviously informed and knowledgeable opinion. I might quibble a bit by pointing out that the P-51 was developed in less than 110 working days.I object to weapons systems for which there is no real threat. The Russians and the Chinese cannot hold America’s jock when it comes to the sky.I was in the Army at the tail end of the draft and I am very much in favor of national service. Not everybody has to go into the Army but we all should serve a couple of years.We have emotionally and financially subcontracted our defense in many ways but we have the best military in the history of our country.The special operations field has attracted the kind of talent never seen in the history of our Nation.When I was in, all special ops stuff was done by folks who were either seconded because of specific skills or who were lent by their branch for 1-2 years. Most combat arms branches were very, very suspicious of officers w/ an SF combat patch. They considered it time ill spent from the branch.Today SF is a branch and you can make it a career and the talent has flowed into it as a result.We just have to stop fighting expensive wars. Get in quick, kill a lot of shitheads, get some frequent flyer miles and get home. Leave the rebuilding to the UN..

  94. leigh

    the house is some nice real estate porn too ๐Ÿ™‚

  95. panterosa,

    Shana, mint likes some shade and some sun. It is very hardy and will bounce back from the dead. Make sure it’a a planter – it spreads like crazy.