David St Lawrence describes micro-business and how to be successful.

A micro-business is one which does less than $1 million in business per year. The majority of these business are home-based businesses (HBBs).

Let me share the most basic facts I know to be true about business:
– All legitimate business is based upon the principle of exchange
– Exchange is providing something valuable and getting appropriate value in return
– Value can be established through communication with the prospective customer
– You find out what the person wants and is willing to pay for it
– If you provide exchange in abundance, that is the most certain way to grow a business as you will have customers telling others about you.

All of the other activities of a business are only there to support the creation of an exchange of goods or services with a continuing series of customers.

Exchange is the key. It is the fundamental activity of any business, especially a micro-business where you are self-employed. Many people have it backward. It’s not about your product or service. What is important is: What do people need and want and how can I provide it?

If you concentrate on finding out what people want that you can provide, you will inevitably come to a point where your resources and the prospective customer’s needs line up and the way to proceed will become clear. It may take a lot of research to work out how to produce a uniformly acceptable product or service, but it will all be worth it if you can deliver what is needed and wanted. The next thing to do is to become more efficient so you can start making a profit.

The important thing is that you have created an exchange. If you have chosen well, you should have more exchanges coming up. If there are no more prospects, repeat the process of finding out what people need and want until you find a need that will keep you busy for a longer period of time.

Link Ripples

A Good Life: Ray Charles

RayCharlesAndJohnBryantI always felt like I had inside information on Ray Charles from the stories that childhood friend John Bryant told. Ray was a true American success story. Where else could a blind boy from rural poverty rise to a multi-millionaire musical force by combining great talent with hard work?

The plane was about 30,000 feet in the air when John Bryant leaned up in his seat and peered in the cockpit. And there sat his pilot — Ray Charles.

It sounds like the punchline to a tasteless joke, but this was no joke to Bryant. Back in 1975, it was just another concert date to the then-23-year-old drummer and the blind pianist.

“Ray was always good with machines,” Bryant said nearly 30 years later, from his music studio in Dallas, Texas. Bryant recalled how Charles often would direct his private jet in the air while licensed pilots would direct the musician.

Bryant, a Martinsville native, still chuckles at the memory, one of hundreds he has of his former boss who died Thursday at the age of 73.

Charles, the raspy-voiced soul icon behind such staples as “Hit the Road, Jack,” “Georgia on my Mind,” and “What’d I Say,” died of complications from liver disease.

Link Drummer recalls life with ‘The Genius’

Another Great River Is Being Neutered

China wants to turn the Mekong River into a canal.

The Chinese government has begun building a series of eight dams on its part of the Mekong. This new system will not result in a huge rise in the water level, as with the monstrous Three Gorges Dam project; the goal on the Mekong is to create hydroelectric power and widen the river’s course so big ships can cruise all the way from Yunnan to export markets and raw materials downriver.

Two dams have already been completed on the upper Mekong. Since they were built, floods have resulted in hundreds of deaths and endangered the livelihood of thousands of farmers who pursue traditional agricultural methods, as far south as Cambodia. An ongoing phase of the Chinese plan is dynamiting the many rapids and shoals that have long prevented through-navigation of the Mekong down to the sea. You might expect that there would be an outcry in Laos over the proposed dam scheme, but there’s almost no such thing as news reporting here; few people outside the handful of cities have any knowledge about the world beyond their village. (It really isn’t in the Lao nature to complain, anyway.) More electricity, more trade, galloping development—a glorious future with no downside, it seems, except the destruction of some of the most spectacular river terrain in the world.

Link National Geographic Adventure Mag.: Mekong River Trip

When We Run Out of Gas

Here’s a scientific analysis of why our American lifestyle will be changing soon.

…Economists seem to believe that the problem is not real. As oil becomes scarce, its price will rise, permitting other fuels to take over. That argument ignores fundamental realities however. Our vehicles, our roads, our cities, our power plants, our entire social organization has evolved on the promise of an endless supply of cheap oil. It seems unlikely that the era of cheap oil will end painlessly.

A more likely possibility is that when the peak occurs, rapidly increasing demand will meet rapidly decreasing supply with disastrous results. We had a small foretaste of what might happen in 1973, when some Middle Eastern nations took advantage of the declining U.S. supplies and created a temporary, artificial shortage of oil. The immediate result was long lines at the gas stations accompanied by panic and despair for the future of our way of life. After Hubbert’s peak the shortage will not be artificial and it will not be temporary. At the very least, the end of cheap oil will mean steep inflation, not only due to the rising cost of gasoline at the pump, but also due to the rising cost of petrochemicals, and of anything that has to be transported.

…The crisis will come not when we pump the last drop of oil, but rather when the rate at which oil can be pumped out of the ground starts to diminish. That means the crisis will come when we’ve used roughly half the oil that nature made for us. Any way you look at it, the problem is much closer than we previously imagined. Even beyond that, burning fossil fuels alters the atmosphere and could threaten the balmy but metastable state our planet is in. We have some very big problems to solve.

So, what does the future hold? We can easily sketch out a worst case scenario and a best case scenario.

Worst case: After Hubbert’s peak, all efforts to produce, distribute and consume alternative fuels fast enough to fill the gap between falling supplies and rising demand fail. Runaway inflation and worldwide depression leave many billions of people with no alternative but to burn coal in vast quantities for warmth, cooking and primitive industry. The change in the greenhouse effect that results eventually tips the Earth’s climate into a new state hostile to life. End of story. In this instance, worst case really means worst case.

Best case: The worldwide disruptions that follow Hubbert’s peak serve as a wake-up call. A methane-based economy is successful in bridging the gap temporarily, while nuclear power plants are built and the infrastructure for other alternative fuels is put in place. The world watches anxiously as each new Hubbert’s peak estimate for uranium and oil shale makes front-page news.

Is there any hope for a truly sustainable long-term future civilization? The answer is yes.

…I have a prediction to make. Here it is: Civilization as we know it will come to an end some time in this century, when the fuel runs out.

Running Out of Gas by David Goodstein, Ph.D.

How Do We Win the War on Terrorists?

If my elementary school history classes covering the American Revolutionary War were historically accurate, the Redcoats (British soldiers) marched in formation into the American battle zones and took a beating from the colonial woodsmen. The battlefield strategy that worked in Europe in the 1700’s failed in the New World. Is conventional military warfare going to win against terrorists?

“We just don’t know yet whether that’s the same as winning.” Rumsfeld’s remark encapsulates the confusion and frustration that have plagued U.S. counterinsurgency efforts around the world for more than half a century—most notably in Vietnam, El Salvador, and now Iraq. The United States is not alone, however. It is the latest victim of a problem that has long afflicted the world’s governments and militaries when they are confronted with insurgencies: namely, a striking inability to absorb and apply the lessons learned in previous counterinsurgency campaigns.

Guerrilla groups and terrorist organizations, on the other hand, learn lessons very well. They study their own mistakes and the successful operations of their enemies, and they adapt nimbly. The past year in Iraq has been a case in point: insurgents have moved from sporadic, relatively unsophisticated roadside bomb attacks to more coordinated, even synchronized attacks, with brutally successful results: growing numbers of coalition soldiers and Iraqi civilians are dying; security in much of the country remains fragile or elusive; Iraqi resentment of the United States is increasing; and international political support for the American occupation, never exactly formidable to begin with, is withering. By many measures the insurgents are succeeding and we are failing.

Link The Atlantic | July/August 2004 | Plan of Attack | Hoffman

Scooter Got Me Again

Memorial Day weekend was hot and humid in Atlanta. It felt like summer. So, for the first time this year, I didn’t wear socks to bed. (I suffer from cold feet – which is better than hot, stinky feet like my Dad and nephew James.)

About 5:30am on Memorial Day I got up to go to the bathroom. As I sleep walked to the bathroom, I suddenly felt something stuck to the bottom of my foot. As I woke up, I began to realize what it was.

Scooter Cat had dropped a turd just outside my bathroom, perfectly positioned for me to step on. He got me again. I woke Ann up spewing some unkind words at Scooter. But he maintained his Siamese attitude, knowing he would be forgiven within minutes. How can I stay mad at the creative mischief that is the spirit of Scooter?

Related link: Know Your Blind Spots

Bigfoot in Virginia?

From Wired Magazine

William Dranginis saw a bigfoot once. It was hairy, a good 7 feet tall, and sprinting through the woods of Virginia. In the decade since that 12-second sighting, Dranginis has dedicated himself to getting another look. To improve his chances, the 45-year-old surveillance and security expert from Manassas, Virginia, bought a 24-foot mobile veterinary unit and converted it into the Bigfoot Primate Research Lab.

So far, Dranginis has spent about $50,000 to outfit the mystery mobile with state-of-the-art gear, much of it custom-built. He mounted a Raytheon NightSight 200 thermal camera on a 25-foot-tall crank-up mast. (The camera can detect an animal in the dark 800 yards away.) He’s also got two night-vision scopes, a surface-to-aircraft radio, and TV monitors that can combine images from roof-mounted videocams into one 360-degree view, or receive feeds from remote cams in the woods. He deploys at least two weekends a month.

And still no second sighting. “Early on, I said if I could just look into the eyes of this thing I would sell all my equipment and get back to my life,” he says. “But my main goal now is to try to establish contact, then push for legislation to protect the areas they inhabit.” You are now exiting Sasquatch territory.

Link Desperately seeking Sasquatch

Global Warming: Is Nuclear Power Green?

My concerns are nuclear waste disposal and the potential for terrorism. I think we need to de-centralize our sources of energy rather than concentrate them in a few huge power plants.

James Lovelock, an independent scientist and the creator of the Gaia hypothesis of the Earth as a self-regulating organism, says that civilisation is in imminent danger and nuclear power is the only green solution because we have no time to experiment with visionary energy sources.

What makes global warming so serious and so urgent is that the great Earth system, Gaia, is trapped in a vicious circle of positive feedback. Extra heat from any source, whether from greenhouse gases, the disappearance of Arctic ice or the Amazon forest, is amplified, and its effects are more than additive. It is almost as if we had lit a fire to keep warm, and failed to notice, as we piled on fuel, that the fire was out of control and the furniture had ignited. When that happens, little time is left to put out the fire before it consumes the house. Global warming, like a fire, is accelerating and almost no time is left to act.

So what should we do? We can just continue to enjoy a warmer 21st century while it lasts, and make cosmetic attempts, such as the Kyoto Treaty, to hide the political embarrassment of global warming, and this is what I fear will happen in much of the world. When, in the 18th century, only one billion people lived on Earth, their impact was small enough for it not to matter what energy source they used.

But with six billion, and growing, few options remain; we can not continue drawing energy from fossil fuels and there is no chance that the renewables, wind, tide and water power can provide enough energy and in time. If we had 50 years or more we might make these our main sources. But we do not have 50 years; the Earth is already so disabled by the insidious poison of greenhouse gases that even if we stop all fossil fuel burning immediately, the consequences of what we have already done will last for 1,000 years. Every year that we continue burning carbon makes it worse for our descendants and for civilisation.

Worse still, if we burn crops grown for fuel this could hasten our decline. Agriculture already uses too much of the land needed by the Earth to regulate its climate and chemistry. A car consumes 10 to 30 times as much carbon as its driver; imagine the extra farmland required to feed the appetite of cars.

By all means, let us use the small input from renewables sensibly, but only one immediately available source does not cause global warming and that is nuclear energy. True, burning natural gas instead of coal or oil releases only half as much carbon dioxide, but unburnt gas is 25 times as potent a greenhouse agent as is carbon dioxide. Even a small leakage would neutralise the advantage of gas.

The prospects are grim, and even if we act successfully in amelioration, there will still be hard times, as in war, that will stretch our grandchildren to the limit. We are tough and it would take more than the climate catastrophe to eliminate all breeding pairs of humans; what is at risk is civilisation. As individual animals we are not so special, and in some ways are like a planetary disease, but through civilisation we redeem ourselves and become a precious asset for the Earth; not least because through our eyes the Earth has seen herself in all her glory.

There is a chance we may be saved by an unexpected event such as a series of volcanic eruptions severe enough to block out sunlight and so cool the Earth. But only losers would bet their lives on such poor odds. Whatever doubts there are about future climates, there are no doubts that greenhouse gases and temperatures both are rising.

We have stayed in ignorance for many reasons; important among them is the denial of climate change in the US where governments have failed to give their climate scientists the support they needed. The Green lobbies, which should have given priority to global warming, seem more concerned about threats to people than with threats to the Earth, not noticing that we are part of the Earth and wholly dependent upon its well being. It may take a disaster worse than last summer’s European deaths to wake us up.

Opposition to nuclear energy is based on irrational fear fed by Hollywood-style fiction, the Green lobbies and the media. These fears are unjustified, and nuclear energy from its start in 1952 has proved to be the safest of all energy sources. We must stop fretting over the minute statistical risks of cancer from chemicals or radiation. Nearly one third of us will die of cancer anyway, mainly because we breathe air laden with that all pervasive carcinogen, oxygen. If we fail to concentrate our minds on the real danger, which is global warming, we may die even sooner, as did more than 20,000 unfortunates from overheating in Europe last summer.

I find it sad and ironic that the UK, which leads the world in the quality of its Earth and climate scientists, rejects their warnings and advice, and prefers to listen to the Greens. But I am a Green and I entreat my friends in the movement to drop their wrongheaded objection to nuclear energy.

Even if they were right about its dangers, and they are not, its worldwide use as our main source of energy would pose an insignificant threat compared with the dangers of intolerable and lethal heat waves and sea levels rising to drown every coastal city of the world. We have no time to experiment with visionary energy sources; civilisation is in imminent danger and has to use nuclear – the one safe, available, energy source – now or suffer the pain soon to be inflicted by our outraged planet.

Link Argument