May 31, 2014
The Lib Dems are finished – a squalid end for the heirs of the greatest party in history – Telegraph Blogs
It’s over for the Liberal Democrats. They may not realise it, but it is. Before the 2010 general election, the party was pursuing two contradictory strategies at the same time. On the one hand, it presented itself as a moderate, centrist party, liberal on both social and economic issues, broadly pro-business if occasionally interventionist. On the other, it was a radical, anti-war alternative to Labour.
As long as the party was in opposition, these two stories could be maintained simultaneously. As with Schrödinger’s cat, both states were, so to speak, co-existential. But, when the Lib Dems entered government, the box was opened. Only one version of events could now be true. And it was clear which version that had to be.
Nick Clegg could no longer lead a protest party of the Left: half his voters had walked away in disgust at his deal with The Evil Heartless Tories. The Lib Dems’ sole remaining option was to make the Coalition work, to show themselves to be competent and responsible, to make a virtue out of having put the national interest first. To behave, in short, like an adult party of government.
Oh, dear. For once, the string of mixed metaphors that the Daily Mail often makes its house style is apt: "The poison at the heart of the Liberal Democrat party burst into the open last night after an explosive resignation statement which rocked the political establishment…" The impression of haplessness and hopelessness, to say nothing of nastiness, is overwhelming.
The Lib Dems have, in short, managed to make a mess of both strategies, showing all the inept crankery of a party of permanent opposition, but without any commensurate principles. Schrödinger’s cat lies cold and stiff.
What a miserable, tawdry end for a party with such noble antecedents. The Whig-Liberal movement was responsible for the finest developments in our history. It gave us parliamentary supremacy and religious toleration, meritocracy and a wider franchise, the equality of all citizens before the law and the supremacy of that law over monarch or minister. Not only did Whig principles elevate Britain above the run of nations;they created the United States of America.
Has this sublime tradition, the tradition of Edward Coke and John Hampden, of James Harrington and Algernon Sidney, of John Milton and John Locke, of Pitt the Elder and Edmund Burke, of Earl Grey and Viscount Palmerston, of Richard Cobden and John Bright – and, yes, of Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson – truly found its quietus in the person of Nick Clegg? The thought is almost unbearable.
But the truth is that the Lib Dems had long since abandoned classical liberalism. Though the Homeric figures I have just cited would be astonished to see it, Whig-Liberal principles survive best in a goodly part of the Conservative Party.
The takeover happened slowly, through successive transfusions. The first occurred in the late nineteenth century, when traditional Palmerstonian Whigs, alarmed by the Liberal Party’s drift towards social democracy, sidled up to the Conservatives, formally amalgamating in 1912 (the “and Unionist” bit of my party’s official name dates from that merger). There was a second transfusion with the assimilation of some of the “coupon” Liberals following the First World War, and then a third with the absorption of the National Liberals during the 1950s and 1960s.
These transfusions left the surviving Liberals weak and anaemic, but still recognisably the heirs to Gladstone. Indeed, as their electoral prospects became poorer, they attracted unusually high-minded supporters: men and women who cared more about principle than office.
When did things go wrong? In 1988, when the Liberals merged with the Social Democratic Party. People sometimes think that the SDP was founded on some issue of principle: opposition to nationalisation, or to unilateral nuclear disarmament or some such. In fact, it was created because the Labour Party wanted to make incumbent MPs subject to reselection by party members. To be sure, there were some honourable Labour moderates, including David Owen himself, who had long agonised about his support for his party. But the mass of his followers were actuated by grubbier considerations: they didn’t want to lose their seats.
Suddenly, the high-minded Liberals were overwhelmed by a horde of petty, calculating careerists. The remaining heirs of the Whig tradition broke away under Michael Meadowcroft, and still hold several council seats under their old name, the Liberal Party, mainly in Merseyside. The rest of the party became what it is today: a tricksy, self-righteous alliance of convenience, prepared to say whatever local people want to hear.
But Whiggery is not confined to Meadowcroft’s admirable Liverpudlians. Ralph Harris – whose memorial service was the subject of one of my first ever posts on this site, back in 2007 – once told me that he had held a number of meetings with other classical liberals in the 1950s. They had concluded that their best tactic was to convert one of the two potential parties of government. Since Labour was hopelessly statist, they would try their luck with the Tories.
It worked. A party that was still imperialist, militarist and mildly protectionist in its outlook began to make space for what we would nowadays call libertarians. A few key individuals were convinced, including Keith Joseph, who after reading Hayek (a self-described “Old Whig”) declared that he thought he had been a Conservative all his life, but now realised he had only just become one. Keith Joseph had several disciples in the party, one of whom was the daughter of a Methodist grocer with a classic Whig-Liberal background. She, too, was convinced, and went on to become our country’s greatest ever prime minister. The revolution had happened peacefully and benignly in one generation.
Pure liberalism will always struggle to secure an electoral majority. While some of its positions are popular – tax-cuts, welfare reform, Euroscepticism – others are not. I always tell libertarian students to focus on the big issues, such as the economy and education, rather than fighting losing battles on relatively minor questions such as drugs and pornography. As part of a wider conservative alliance, as under Thatcher or Reagan, classical liberalism can enjoy meaningful triumphs. On its own, it will only ever be a fringe movement.
As for the Lib Dems, they have long since ceased to be liberal in any meaningful sense. In recent years, they weren’t really anything at all. And, as King Lear observes, nothing will come of nothing. Thursday was the beginning of the end. Nothingness – annihilation – is coming.
And yet, more than a century after its death was proclaimed, Liberal England lives on in large parts of the Conservative Party. We Whigs are not finished. We shall carry on even as the Lib Dems slide away, unwept, unhonoured and unsung.
May 29, 2014
May 28, 2014
As a startup founder, being able to quickly explain what company's goal and vision is imperative. Master the art of the elevator pitch with these tips.
As a startup founder, you'll often have to explain what exactly your company does. Entrepreneurs are passionate people, and sometimes that passion gets in the way of a clear, concise message of what it is you are trying to accomplish.
This is where the elevator pitch comes in as a short summary of your company, the work you do, and why it matters. Elevator pitches are important in the business world because they are the way you introduce yourself to the rest of your industry. For startups, it's even more important because it could be the tool to open the door to that meeting with a VC, or it could spark the conversation that lands you an acquisition deal.
The idea behind the term is that it is an explanation you could deliver in the time it takes to ride the elevator. So, say you meet a powerful investor by chance on an elevator ride you're sharing. Your elevator pitch is the speech you use to explain your startup while you have him or her trapped on the elevator with you.
Here's how to make your elevator pitch stand out.
Explain your value proposition
"The best elevator pitches tell the audience what is valuable and to whom," said Larry Weidman, executive in residence at Innovation Works. "Entrepreneurs often can do a decent job of describing what their company or invention does, and even offer what they think is cool, but then forget to address value. At the heart of every successful venture is a compelling value proposition best described by the entrepreneur. The audience wants to know."
Properly explaining the value of your startup is, perhaps, the single most important part of an elevator pitch. Part of this comes with explaining the pain point, if it isn't already apparent. This will also come, in tandem, with a quick explanation of the market and opportunity.
The next step is connecting how you solve a problem to how you make money. If people you meet, especially investors, don't see a clear path to revenue they will be less likely to see it as something worth following up on. According to Rui Ma, a venture partner at 500 Startups, you shouldn't be afraid to use numbers.
"Experienced investors are looking for data they can use to benchmark you against other players in the industry," Ma said. "For less experienced investors, provide the numbers but also provide context -- i.e. why are you tracking these numbers, why are you investing to grow them. Either way, revealing your numbers, no matter how poor, actually builds credibility and delaying the revelation of important traction metrics wastes everyone's time."
While you don't have to break down your entire revenue model, you should give some hint as to how your company makes money. So, value exists in two planes.
- Intangible - You must establish that your product or service solves a real problem that exists in a viable market.
- Tangible - You must explain how your company grows in monetary value by solving said problem.
Weidman adds, "They'll remember the value proposition long after they've forgotten the specific features."
Tell a story
Explain the story that built your company and the story your company is constantly contributing to. By telling your story when you pitch, you are giving your audience better insight into who you, and your team, really are.
"Humans are wired to remember stories and to respond to them emotionally, so the more your pitch can include or resemble a great story, the better people will react," said Kathryn Minshew, founder & CEO of The Muse. "Sometimes I tell my own story; sometimes one of our users; sometimes I simply start out with something like 'Last year, 20% of Americans said they'd rather die than go to the dentist, but they'd rather go to the dentist than look for a new job' that makes people think of their own fear of these things in relation to The Muse."
As many investors or startup mentors will tell you, the team behind the idea is often more important that the idea itself. Condensing your story down to fit within an elevator pitch will be a challenge, but it will give you the opportunity to showcase how you have pursued the goal of building your startup, no matter what, and why you've made the decisions you have. That's going to make the biggest impression.
"Think of it like a consulting interview -- consultants are recruited for their ability to problem solve, and that's what entrepreneurs are. Most companies experience many (often significant) changes in their product or service, and in the absence of mind-blowing success, it is more interesting for us to understand how an entrepreneur thinks and works through issues with limited resources on hand, versus just being told the results of those decisions."
If you are telling your personal story, your passion is more likely to show. You might never get anyone to care as much as you do, but that shouldn't stop you from doing everything you can to get them to.
As you tell your story, remember that your audience might not be in on some of the narrative elements. Cut the jargon, unless you are absolutely sure that the person you are addressing is privy to it. Also, try to be as clear as possible about who you are and what your objectives are. You want this pitch to be something that is easily repeatable so that, if you make an impression, the person you spoke with will be able to share exactly what you shared with them.
Try to explain what it is about your story that is unique. Maybe you were the first company to successfully follow this model. How is your product better than your competitors, or how do you and your team better execute? These are important points that will stick with your audience.
This is going to take some practice on your part to get this down, so dedicate some time to both honing and practicing your pitch. Also, know when it's time to wrap it up.
"Don't go on too long. Pay attention to your listener's body cues and know when to cut yourself off. One of the easiest ways to ruin an elevator pitch is to go on too long, past when your listener is done listening," Minshew said.
Be confident. This is your startup and your story, and no one knows this better than you. So, after your deliver your elevator pitch, stick your hand out for a handshake and don't be afraid to ask for a business card or a time to follow up.
May 22, 2014
Dave Carnell's Boatbuilding Page
Chemotherapy for Rot
Once rot gets a toehold in wood it is difficult to cure completely -- it is like a cancer. Digging out the rotted wood will still leave spores and water in the sound wood. After you fill in the cavity with something like epoxy, the rot continues to flourish underneath.
Products promoted to make rotted wood sound and stop rot penetrate only until they meet water, with which they do not mix. Under the solid repair rotting goes on. With one exception (more later), the commercial products sold to treat dry wood to prevent rot are completely ineffective against established rot in wet wood because they are dissolved in petroleum solvents and oil and water do not mix.
There are two commonly available inexpensive materials that will kill rot in wood and prevent its recurrence. First, there are borates (borax-boric acid mixtures) which have an established record in preventing rot in new wood and in killing rot organisms and wood-destroying insects in infested wood. Second, there is ethylene glycol, most readily available as auto antifreeze-coolant. Glycol is toxic to the whole spectrum of organisms from staphylococcus bacteria to mammals. All of the published material on its effectiveness against wood-destroying fungi and insects that I am aware of is the result of my investigations over the past 15 years.
Both borate solutions and glycol penetrate dry and wet wood well because they are water-soluble; in fact, penetration by glycol is especially helped by its extreme hygroscopicity -- its strong attraction for water. For both, the fact that they are water-soluble means they are not permanent solutions to rot in wood that is continually exposed to water-below the waterline and in ground-where they will eventually be extracted-dissolved out.
I first was interested in glycol as a wood-stabilizing agent, where it is in many ways superior to polyethylene glycol (PEG), and it was during this work that I realized the useful effect of glycol on organisms, though I was pretty dense in interpreting the first experiment.
The ladies immerse the stems of greenery such as magnolia branches in glycerin to keep them green. Glycol is very similar to glycerin in all its physical properties and much cheaper, so I stuck a magnolia branch in antifreeze. The next day it was brown. After the third attempt I tumbled to the fact that the glycol was killing the greenery. This was the reason that glycol never replaced glycerin in applications such as a humectant for tobacco and an ingredient of cosmetics and pharmaceutical ointments, though it had all the desirable physical properties.
I had two 2" thick slabs of a 14" diameter hickory tree that had just been cut. I treated one with antifreeze and left one untreated. I was looking at wood stabilization, not rot prevention. After about six months stored inside my shop the untreated control was not only cracked apart, but it was sporting a great fungal growth, while the treated slab was clean.
The local history museum wanted to exhibit two "turpentine trees", longleaf pines that had many years ago been gashed to harvest the sap that made everything from turpentine to pine tar. The trees delivered to us after cutting were infested with various beetles and had some fungal growth. I treated them with antifreeze outside under a plastic tarpaulin every few days for three weeks. They were then free of insects and fungus and have remained so after being moved inside and installed in an exhibit over four years ago.
I took three pieces from a rotting dock float that were covered with a heavy growth of fungus, lichens, etc. I treated one with antifreeze painted on with a brush, the second with a water solution containing 23% borates (as B2O3), and left the third untreated as a control. They were left exposed outdoors and were rained on the first night. By the next morning the growth on the antifreeze-treated piece was definitely browning and the borate-treated piece showed slight browning. After two months exposure to the weather the growth was dead on the antifreeze- and borate-treated pieces and flourishing on the control.
I have a simple flat-bottomed skiff built of plywood and white pine, which has little resistance to rot. After ten years some rot developed in one of the frames. It may have begun in the exposed end grain. It consumed the side frame, part of the bottom frame, and part of a seat brace fastened to the side frame. The plywood gusset joining the side frame to the bottom frame was not attacked. I excised the rotted wood, saturated all with ethylene glycol antifreeze to kill all the rot organisms, and there has been no further deterioration in four more years afloat with wet bilges. I have not replaced any pieces, as I am building another boat that can replace it; that is more fun, anyway.
I have a 60+-year old case of the fungus infection known as "athlete's foot". Many years ago it infected the toenails extensively. The whole thing was pretty grotesque. My dermatologist and druggist both assured me there is no known cure. About six years ago I started using antifreeze applied under the nails with a medicine dropper about every five days. The professionals are technically right. I have not completely cured it, but the nails have grown out pink and thinned almost to the ends and I never have any trouble with blistering, peeling, or itching between the toes as I had had for six decades. No drug company is going to have any interest in this because the information has been in the public domain for so long that there is no opportunity for any proprietary advantage. The various wood-rotting organisms cannot be anywhere near as tough.
There are two types of borate products commercially available for treating wood-solid sodium octaborate for making solutions in water (Tim-Bor® and Ship-Bor®) and a 40% solution of sodium octaborate in ethylene glycol (Boracare®). Their equivalents and more concentrated solutions can be easily prepared from borax, boric acid, and antifreeze at much lower cost. Keith Lawrence, editor of Boatbuilder offered to sell me advertising if I wanted to go in the business, but I might run afoul of patents (preparation for individual use is not prohibited), I would have to get EPA registration, and I could not deliver products anywhere near as cheaply as they can be made from raw materials available at your supermarket, drugstore, and discount store.
Glycol by itself has one big advantage over solutions of borates in either water or glycol. Glycol penetrates rapidly through all paint, varnish, and oil finishes (except epoxy and polyurethanes) without lifting or damaging those finishes in any way. You can treat all of the wood of your boat without removing any finish. The dyes in glycol antifreeze are so weak that they do not discolor even white woods. Once bare wood has been treated with glycol or the borate solutions and become dry to the touch it can be finished or glued. IN THE YEARS SINCE I FIRST WROTE THIS ARTICLE, MY EXPERIENCE HAS BEEN THAT GLYCOL BY ITSELF IS GENERALLY THE BEST TREATMENT FOR KILLING ROT.
Gougeon's research has shown that borate solutions weaken epoxy joints in the treated wood. If a borate solution leaves white residues on the surface, it will have to be washed off with water and the surface allowed to dry.
If you decide you need to treat with both glycol and borates, this is my preferred process to treat rot. Once you find soft wood or other evidence of rot, soak it with antifreeze even if you cannot do anything else at the moment. Paint it on or spray it on with a coarse spray. Avoid fine mistlike spraying because it increases the likelihood that you will breathe in unhealthy amounts of glycol. Put it on surfaces well away from the really damaged wood, too. Use glycol lavishly on the suspect wood, which will readily absorb 10-20% of its weight of antifreeze.
Next dig out wood that is rotted enough to be weak. Add more glycol to wet the exposed wood thoroughly. Then add the 25% borate solution of the recipe below so long as it will soak in in no more than 2-3 hours. Then fill in the void with epoxy putty and/or a piece of sound treated wood as required. The reasons I use borates at all are: 1) it is a belt-and-suspenders approach to a virulent attack, and 2) over a long period glycol will evaporate from the wood; especially, in areas exposed directly to the sun and the high temperatures that result.
If there is any question about water extracting the glycol or the borates, you can retreat periodically with glycol on any surface, painted or bare, and with borate solutions on bare wood.
Glycol's toxicity to humans is low enough that it has to be deliberately ingested (about a half cup for a 150 lb. human); many millions of gallons are used annually with few precautions and without incident. It should not be left where children or pets can get at it, as smaller doses would harm them, and they may be attracted by its reported sweet taste that I have confirmed by accident. The lethal dose of borates is smaller than of glycol, but the bitter taste makes accidental consumption less likely.
BORATE WOOD PRESERVATIVES:
COMMERCIAL AND HOME-BREWED
COMMERCIAL AND HOME-BREWED
Tim-Bor®: Solid sodium octaborate; dissolves in water to make approx. a 10% solution containing 6.6% borate (B2O3); about $3/lb. plus shipping.Ship-Bor®: Same as Tim-Bor®; $19.95/lb. plus $2 shipping.
Bora-Care®: 40% solution of sodium octaborate in ethylene glycol; 27% borate content; $70/gal. plus shipping.
Home-Brew Water Solution of Borates:
All percentages for this recipe and the others here are percentages by weight. Based on U.S. Navy spec. of 60% borax-40% boric acid (this ratio gives the maximum solubility of borates in water); 65% water, 20 %borax, 15% boric acid; 15.8% borates; borax costs 54 cents/lb. (supermarket), boric acid costs about $4/lb. in drug stores (sometimes boric acid roach poison, 99% boric acid, is cheaper in discount stores); equiv. to Tim-Bor® or Ship-Bor® at 30 cents/lb. To make this solution mix the required quantities and heat until dissolved. The boric acid, in particular, dissolves slowly. This solution is stable (no crystals) overnight in a refrigerator (40°F.), so can be used at temperatures at least as low as 40°F.Home-Brew Glycol Solution of Borates:
This is equivalent to Bora-Care® diluted with an equal volume of glycol to make it fluid enough to use handily; 50% glycol antifreeze, 28% borax, 22% boric acid. To make a stable solution you mix the ingredients and heat till boiling gently. Boil off water until a candy thermometer shows 260°F. This removes most of the water of crystallization in the borax. This solution is stable at 40°F and has a borate content of 26%. With antifreeze at $6/gal. and borax and boric acid prices as above, this is equivalent to Bora-Care® at about $15/gal.