For Dominique

DG 2nd Year 2

July 27th was the day we met

July 27th was the day we parted

Many, many days and many, many nights

Fell between those two same days in July


Now 2 years have passed since your last breath

Many, many deaths and many, many lives

Remembering, Rejoicing, Loving, Mourning


Simon says: “Tomorrow is another day!

Live your life and be happy, or at least work at it.”

Is what he texted me last night


Now the children are parents and the parents are babes

Many, many days and many, many lives

Between those two same days in July

Today is July 27th


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Love–Sustainably Free?–I think so

These past days I’ve felt as if I were gripping a fast moving knife from the wrong end and moment after moment the blade rips through my fingers as memories flash through my mind interspersed with new impressions and situations.  It is terrible.  It is wonderful. 

This poem which I stumbled upon fortuitously tonight, riveted me to my chair – brilliant, terrible, delightful:

bring it all down on the side of love.


thank you Jeanette LeBlanc

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Remembering: Time, Zeit, Tiempo, Tempo, Temps!


Dominique’s spirit left her body one year ago today.  It is quite difficult to fathom; impossible.  The body is gone.  She is not.  It feels like yesterday. It feels like forever and a day.

Something reminded me of this video a couple of days ago.  It is probably one of her last story-choreography’s and performances; performed for Dance Fremont’s students in Seattle on January 15, 2012.

Timelessly she captures and releases time.

Video:  Time, Zeit, Tiempo, Tempo, Temps!

Summoning, sensing, searching – I return to Bad Salzhausen in Germany, just to be in the physical place where the physical being ceased to be animated by spirit.  I come to honor what was and that which still is.  I come to select a tree, a chestnut tree, to be planted in the healing parks and gardens, with mystical hares and elusive deer.  I come for something else, though don’t know what it is.

Arriving in Switzerland earlier in the week, I have had time to reflect, to be, to feel Europe, Dominique’s presence here and to be with our family and friends.

Often we feel alone – but are we?


« read between the lines »

Garçon s’il vous plait, do you have the ‘time’?   Bitte noch ein Apfelschorle.

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The Ides of March

SQ15 – flying from San Francisco to Seoul and continuing on to Singapore

The cycles are completing and the season’s changing. 15 years ago today I began working for a large US multi-national; a technology provider in the Seattle area, which was dominating the world with its products and growing at exponential rates as it achieved its existing mission of “a PC on every desktop.” This cycle soon ended when the internet bubble burst about a year later. Growth (of the stock price, not the company or its market penetration) ended and the company mission changed.

I had never considered them as noteworthy, was leery of their products, though used them extensively and I was curious to see what might transpire while in the company. Might I make it better? I had been challenged by 6 of 8 interviewers to describe “what do you want to do here”? Such wonderful empowerment in that question and not a question I was ready for, though a question which has lived in me for the past 15 years. On this day my cycle in the oceanographic sciences ended. I’ve held various jobs in the company but the focus has almost always been the same: the essence of the company’s new mission – “to enable people and businesses around the world to realize their full potential” with my own added twist of doing so with harmony and through more harmonious human relations in all that we do.

I had a technical role which focused on enterprise management and the company’s engagement, development and use of standards. The external-facing aspects of my role I loved. The internal ones were hard as the development environment was hostile and challenging. I used to joke with my counterparts from our competitors at the standards meetings how much nicer they were than those I worked with at home. I had my work cut out for me between this and 3 adolescent children at home still struggling to adapt to the United States as they were pulled in various directions by the turbulent growth and change within themselves and facing discrimination and prejudice for the first time, now that they were in “The Land of the Free.” How sickeningly ironic… I had the best companion and partner one could ever hope for in my wife. It was hard, it was new, it was exciting. Today, it is difficult to imagine that that was 15 years ago, so much has changed and yet also so little…

This has been a year of milestones. I entered my 50th year, my daughter her 30th, my wife’s soul left her body after an 18 month journey with cancer, I celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary alone with my daughter and son-in-law, 4 years completed in Singapore and now my 15th anniversary with the company. What’s next?

Given the all-pervasive, engulfing and sometimes intrusive nature of the ‘large organization’ into one’s personal life, the blurring of the lines between personal and profession so prevalent today and the impact of one’s profession upon one’s sense of identity, this last milestone carries more weight than perhaps I would have chosen it to. Given that I am now alone its weight seems heavier. At the same time, it is also liberating as if yet another cycle was complete. 15 is a good number.

My sense of identity, though encroached has also been deeply enriched through living into the power of this mission, which now is indeed my own. Is it still theirs? At the same time my identity has also been shattered from the opposite side with the departure of my mate. I find myself in a period of redefinition, with an odd and sometimes troubling attachment to my new social status of “widower” – an identity I resent and abhor yet also to which I cling. It is real and undeniable and a reminder of the finality of our mortality and the end of that cycle. CTO is good one too – but that’s my job, not who I am and it does not capture my mission stated above. What am I? Who am I? What have I become? Why am I here? What is my purpose? It’s as if I were starting over – is that sustainably free? Is it having my cake and eating it too? What an inordinate cost… Or is it just the cycle of Saṃsāra…?


A new Humming Bird Nest discovered in the bamboo on the balcony when I reached home in Singapore

Garçon : une assiette de lait chaud pour le chat noir qui traine au soleil sur le trottoir et un whiskey-double pour moi s’il vous plait – c’est mon anniversaire de boulot – et je ne bois plus. . .

…les nuages sous l’avion pleuvent des larmes géantes sur le Pacifique qui est colérique avec ses veilles vagues d’hiver maintenant frôlé par des nouveaux vents du printemps. Pourquoi on l’appelle « Pacifique ? » . . . les saisons changent en perpétuité, un cycle fini, un autre commence…

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Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive.

Gil Bailie




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Creative Competition

Leap Year and leaping into new possibilities! We’ve an extra day, how will you use it?

In the last 6 weeks I’ve come across 2 speeches which intrigued me and two concepts from two men of note that I wish to explore in this and future posts. Each man seems to be at the threshold of something great, yet something’s not entirely filled out:

  1. Muhammad Yunus spoke at Microsoft Research in Redmond, WA back in early January. He built a compelling case around the concept of “social business. This is captured in his book: Creating a World Without Poverty: Social Business and the Future of Capitalism – definitely worth reading. A few days later
  2. Bill Gates addressed the World Economic Forum in Davos, CH on the concept of “Creative Capitalism“.

Both concepts resonate with me yet each relies heavily on the concept of collaboration without a developed concept competition. My own focus today: “Creative Competition” could build upon socially contributing models and collaborative endeavors, though leverages the boosting power of healthy and energetic competition. Competition focused on winning and success – though absent of any destructive element that tries to win by making others lose. I’ve been toying with this notion for months and it forms and integral part of Sustainably Free. The title came to me following Yunus’s talk and was confirmed by Gates’s the following week.

This topic deserves dialogue and I intend to develop it further in the coming months – Leap on it if you will – I want competitive dialogue ;-)

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Rips and Walls

Sometimes ‘having your cake and eating it too’ can take on rather unusual dimension and result in physical injury – like getting thrown on to a rock-wall jetty by large waves and strong currents in cold winter conditions. So remember to be careful what you ask for and if your ‘eyes are bigger than your stomach’ be ready with bandages and aspirin, but also be ready and go back for more… as the lessons here can be rich indeed.

The Setup – December 26-28, end of year retreat with my wife Dominique to quiet, natural location. I brought my new surfboard, just in case…

We get to Westport, Washington just after sundown. It’s cold, wet and most places are closed for the holidays. We find a motel with the view pictured here of “The Groins”. Nice. The motel has no heat or hot water, but a great view and only $49/night…

After breakfast together, taking this picture and negotiating a hot shower location in the next door campground, I get in the water while Dominique goes to find a better place to stay at the motel’s sister location.

The currents at the Groins are complex and dynamic. This is the threshold to Gray’s Harbor and the water really tears through here. You’ll note that the ship in the picture swings the other way when the tides coming in, so definitely something to contend with. I’d watched folks and knew which way was the best way out, but took my own path, to ‘save time’.

The Incident – I jumped in the water to the right of jetty ‘a’ and the rip dragged me towards jetty ‘b’ as I fruitlessly attempted to get out. It seemed useless, so I decided to abandon, turned in and tried to climb out at jetty ‘b’. This didn’t go well and I was thrown on the rocks by a large wave, smashing my new board and both my legs quite badly. Once out and on the jetty wall, I sat for a bit, I inspected my board and legs and then crawled into the water to the right of jetty ‘b’ got out and tried to catch a few waves. I was hurt so I didn’t stay long.

Again – the next morning I came back and this time went into the water to the right of jetty ‘b’ and got out past the break right away. The problem was that I was ‘way out’ past the break and to the right of jetty ‘b’ but the waves were breaking off jetty ‘a’. The current was against me out here and I was moving backwards as I paddled. I was frustrated. Finally, I stopped going against and actually started paddling back in towards the jetty and across the current. I moved towards the rocks and then sat still in the water for a bit to recover my strength. To my surprise I noticed that I was moving in the current again, though this time in the right direction; opposing currents. I had had to stop and go towards the rocks; in other words, changing my altitude, as well as stopping to notice what was happening before I could actually find my way. At this point I moved quickly out to the break and started catching waves.

And Again – as luck would have it I got caught inside after a nice ride and found myself between the jetties with several large sets of waves coming back to back. I couldn’t believe it! I was determined not to get thrown on the rocks again, yet I didn’t see how I could avoid it. The waves were 2 meters plus and the current strong enough to turn a ship. I felt I’d been had.

The Decision – at this moment I had to turn and make an exit or keep trying. I chose to keep trying and stay my course regardless. Accepting the rock wall and my situation without changing my intention or abandoning my effort was a breakthrough and fortunately ended up being the best choice. What happened was unique. When I got within 1 meter of the rocks, I found myself caught in a strong outbound current and before I realized it I found myself 20 meters out past the jetty and wondering what had happened. If I had turned in, my previous day’s experience would surely have been the outcome. I changed course, paddled back in a bit to catch the current I’d learned about earlier and headed out to the line-up just as the sun was just cleared the clouds on the horizon. I enjoyed some great waves for the rest of morning.

Reflections – sometimes you have to eat it (your cake) again and again until you actually get it!

1. If you know what’s right, do it. Going against or taking shortcuts can be harmful.

2. If you don’t understand a situation and are getting nowhere try changing your altitude and being still. This may help you to see what’s actually going on.

3. Accepting what is without abandoning one’s intention can lead to tremendous breakthroughs.

The Retreat – the second lodging we had was a wonderful condo out by the open ocean. The waves here were impenetrable, though awe-inspiring by day and by night and a perfect setting for our year-end retreat.

Happy New Year – Michael

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Selling by allowing others to “give freely”

Saturday, October 20, 2007

I’d like to improvise on the notion free through “giving” or “giving freely” in the realm of some recent product announcements. I believe that this could have an incredibly powerful influence on the notion of “sustainably free” when properly built into or leveraged in a business model. After all, religious institutions have often times been the wealthiest enterprises and often solely through the tithing and the benevolence of their devotees. Why? Perhaps it the service they provide their people or the sense of wellbeing their constituents receive when they give. There are many reasons and I won’t belabor this point as it has surely been pondered and debated sufficiently for both the religious and the NGO institutions that exist primarily off of such benevolence.

What interests me rather, is the commercial “for profit” world as well as its intersection with that of the NGOs. I’m particularly intrigued by commercial entities leveraging similar approaches as a means of running a successful business in the for profit world.

When we buy something we normally attribute a value to the item and we are usually willing to pay the associated or reasonably “demanded” price. Tipping is an exception here, also not for this post and also a fascinating area with intriguing human behavior associated to it as well. There have been some very interesting studies on tipping as well.

Two relatively recent announcements are the source of my writing today:

  1. Radiohead’s new album In Rainbows (see New York Time’s commentary)
  2. The prelaunch of controversial “One Laptop per Child” (OLPC); now coming to us as the “XO” via their “Give one Get one” campaign in the USA (see David Pogue’s commentary)

The debate around distribution of digital media just got a bit more interesting this month with Radiohead’s decision to make their new album available for what “you decide” is the right price. I find their move both daring and delightful. They’ve cut out the distributor, are self-releasing and self-promoting and the big thing is that they let you decide how much you want to pay for the album! Many have been paying nothing and many of been paying several times the “normally attributed value” for the new album (the following opinion piece from New York Times covers nicely).

This is cool and my money’s on the fact that assuming the music’s good and enough fans are able to hear about it, they will in fact succeed in making more money this way than through their previous engagement with the record company.

For the soon to be shipping XO (cute name for an American audience, not sure what resonance this will have the intended users but read on as they aren’t paying for it – so who cares if they like the name…). The XO, also known as the “$100 Laptop”, got all its hype through its founders making a great deal of noise about the arbitrary price point of $100. Today it’s going to cost nearly twice that at $188 and you and I have the option of buying one for 4 times the originally stated goal! Utter and complete brilliance! The concept is for a 2 week period (note the impression exclusivity and possible scarcity) folks in the US can buy an XO for $400. You will receive one XO and one XO will be given “for free” to a deserving child in a developing nation world. If this works our XO friends may still make good on their existing government contracts set at the original $100 price point, perhaps make a profit and perhaps “do good” with your help – that is assuming you believe that young 3rd world children actually need laptops.

Remember I said improvise and I realize that I make a few assertions which are lacking firm substantiation, however time will tell in each case if Radiohead can make some money selling their new album and the XO will find a way to enter the 3rd world at a reasonable price (who knows maybe even the first world will enjoy the XO as this does look like a very cool gizmo which strangely enough is just in time for the holiday season…). I’m guessing that both will be wildly successful

For me, the crux of the biscuit (Zappa) lays in each offering providing me the buyer with a sense of empowerment. They allow me to “bestow goodness” upon someone else through my purchase. In each case there is a call upon a higher motive, not just the music and not just a new laptop for my own needs (I’ll be curious to see how many of the $400 Laptops are kept by the purchasers or actually donated as well). By making me feel both powerful and good I may willingly support each. There’s a notion of “free” here, but is it sustainable?


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Knowledge and Costs of “Free”

Since writing my first post, I’ve had two clarifying discussions with my mother regarding the expression: “have your cake and eat it too”

In the first she indicated to me that this statement was made to me before I knew how to bake a cake and that in fact as a result of the conversation I indeed applied myself to learning how to bake cakes. I have a fond memory of this time and creating what I called “make-up cakes”. I am not much for manuals and recipes, so once I’d made a few successful cakes – lemon frosting was my favorite, I abandoned the recipe and began improvising with my creations. For some unknown period, my family was getting a weekly “make-up” cake from me. I believe that knowing how to make a cake adds to facility of having it and eating it too.

In the second conversation we spoke of the notion of “payment”. We agreed to the notion that free does not necessarily imply without payment, though I believe that this is really at the heart of the matter and a notion which deserves deeper investigation. The first concept – learning and knowing how to make a cake is actually quite linked to this concept of payment. Fully understanding and knowing how to bake a cake is in fact a form of payment.

I surf. Surfing is free. However; to enjoy this sport there are various forms of payment involved; equipment, clean water with surf-able waves, physical fitness to enable me to paddle out and catch waves, transportation to the beach, etc.. The payment I make today given my life circumstances at the moment is huge; yet, surfing for me will always be free – dropping down the face of a perfect glassy wave at dawn this morning in Lawrencetown, Nova Scotia – was ultimate freedom – yet the culmination of substantial payment and to some extent, sacrifice.


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What is Sustainably Free?

Growing up, my mother used to tell me that I couldn’t have my cake and eat it too.  I’ve never accepted this and throughout my life I have always been drawn to such paradoxes and searched for just this in all that I do.  From a business perspective, “Sustainably Free” encapsulates the notion of “have your cake and eat it too”. However, perhaps not in the simple notion of giving away something for free (purchase price = $0), which might not be sustainable in the long run; though perhaps, through the notion of free in terms of the cost to produce, which indeed could increase sustainability and long term profit.  For example if I love my job, then it costs me nothing to go to work and deliver upon my responsibilities.  When I get paid for my efforts, my personal profit margin is 100%.  That’s Sustainably Free!

Sustainably Free: fosters explorative discussions on the theme of “have your cake and eat it too” in the context of environmental and cultural sustainability, hybrid business models, community – from ad hoc to formal, appropriate use of technology, and joyfully fulfilling our human potential.

Microsoft’s Encarta Dictionary defines Sustainable and Free as follows (selected definitions):
Sus.tain.a.ble (adjective/transitive verb)
1. able to be maintained
2. maintaining an ecological balance
   exploiting natural resources without destroying the ecological balance of a particular area
3. nourish
   to provide somebody with nourishment or the necessities of life

Free (adjective/transitive verb)
1. self-ruling
   not ruled by a foreign country or power
2. disregarding traditional limitations
   performed or written without being subjected to traditional conventions or restraints
3. giving something readily
   giving or expending something generously
4. open and honest
   spontaneous, open and without awkwardness or reserve in speaking to or dealing with other people
5. make available or enable
   to make somebody or something available for use or able to do something

When we are able to maintain an ecological balance, nourishing ourselves and our families; self-directed and interconnected; without regard for known limitations and beliefs; giving readily in an open, honest and spontaneous fashion which enables others to succeed; we will be closer to sustainably free.

Michael Thatcher

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