Kevin Warnock

Entrepreneurship, ideas and more

Archive for November, 2011

A small way the world wastes big money can be fixed by super sizing our plumbing. Switch to toilet sized drain pipe for all drains.

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1.5" diameter drain fitting on the left and a 4" diameter drain pipe fitting on the right. Photo from http://scorevalve.com/

1.5" diameter drain fitting on the left and a 4" diameter drain pipe fitting on the right. Photo from http://scorevalve.com/

On January 27, 2011 I wrote a post suggesting people could live a more comfortable retirement if they stopped frittering away their money by buying necessities in quantities far smaller than made sense. The example I used was dental floss. We all need it, but we typically buy it in tiny little packages that we have to keep buying every couple of months forever.

This is stupid.

It would be far better to buy a roll of dental floss the size of a softball and have it last for a decade. Think about how many plastic containers for dental floss you’ve thrown out over the years and multiply that number by billions. That’s a lot of plastic containers.

Another product the world almost universally buys in too small a size is waste water pipe.

In the United States and all the other countries I’ve visited, the diameter of the drain pipes under the sinks, bathtubs and showers is about 1.5 inches. This is too small for our own good. Because of this small size, there is a section in every grocery and hardware store that I know of where I can purchase caustic chemicals that I am instructed to pour down the drain and into our water supply. Think of the huge tanker trucks of this drain ‘cleaner’ just slobbering their contents into our water treatments plants every day of the year. Yuck!

We buy these nasty products that will burn out your esophogous if you drink it because building codes call for drainage pipe that is too narrow in diameter to not get clogged up periodically.

I don’t know if it was a giant conspiracy between Mister Plumber and Joe the Plumber, his colleagues and their ancestors, or if nobody has seriously considered the societal benefits of super sizing the world’s drain pipes. Super sizing your meal is bad. Super sizing your plumbing is good.

But consider this: When was the last time the pipe connected to your toilet needed to be unplugged by anyone? I’ll bet the answer for 99.9% of the population is ‘never.’

Sure, the toilet trap can get stopped up pretty easily, but a USD $7.99 toilet plunger or a USD $8.78 toilet auger can take care of that for no incremental cost. The toilet user can clear the obstruction without pouring caustic chemicals into our water supplies.

But the 4 inch diameter pipe in the floor that carries the toilet waste away almost never gets clogged. Sure, there are truly rare situations like a tree root breaking into an old ceramic pipe in the backyard. But generally, a 4″ pipe is very hard to clog up with household or human waste. Here’s a video showing common drain pipe and how to calculate how much to slant the pipe so it drains properly.

What I propose is the the plumbing codes be modified planet wide so that only 4″ or larger pipe is used for all drains. It’s that simple. Problem solved. Billions saved over time. When can I schedule my TED talk?

Probably half the service calls of plumbers are to unclog drains. I can’t imagine any plumbers like this monotonous work. They can do something more fulfilling in life with their newfound spare time. Sure, many plumbers would go out of business, just like many buggy whip manufacturers went out of business. It’s a good thing to eliminate dumb repetative work, and cleaning drains century after century is certainly dumb when the solution is so easy and cheap.

Think of the brilliance of putting in 4″ drains under sinks, bathtubs and shower stalls. If you drop your engagement ring in there, just reach your hand in an pluck it out yourself. No need to dismantle the trap when you can stick your hand right into the trap. If huge hair balls accumulate, just stick your hand in the trap and grab them. Elapsed time? 10 seconds. I would suggest there be a grate over this larger opening, and I further suggest this grate be removable without tools. Some sort of child resistant solution would be best. I don’t want to read about a newborn infant being given a bath and falling down the drain never to be seen again! If a baby can pass through the birth canal, a baby can navigate a 4″ drain pipe trap, I suspect. Just to make this fool proof, I recommend a pencil thick rod be permanently affixed at the bottom of the U trap, perpendicular to the fluid flow. That would prevent a baby from squeezing past but since you can get your hand down there easily, hair and other obstructions could be cleaned away in seconds.

We already have sinks that have large diameter drain holes in them — they are called kitchen sinks with garbage disposals. In the sinks I propose, one wouldn’t even need those rubber flaps like on a kitchen sink. On a typical modern bathroom sink, there is a drain plug attached to a lever behind the faucet handles. Pulling up on that lever causes the drain plug or cover to move down to cover the drain opening. These covers are now about 1.5 inches in diameter. In my new improved world, these covers get bigger by 2.5 inches. Big deal. There’s more room for the logo of the fixture manufacturer, and perhaps advertising can be sold in this space for commercial sinks.

Under the sink I propose the same trap system we have now, but with the larger pipe. Maybe a more compact U shaped bend can be engineered so the trap doesn’t take up too much space under the sink. But right now space under the sink is used for plungers and bottles of nasty caustic chemical drain cleaners that kids often swallow. Once we get those items out from under the sink, there’s plenty of room for a larger trap.

In most bathrooms, the sink is in the same room with the toilet, so the extra larger diameter pipe needed to shunt the sink drain water to the toilet  drain pipe should be under 10 feet, a negligable expense compared to buying chemicals and paying generations of plumbers hundreds of years into the future to clean absurdly tiny drain pipes in use now.

Of course, the sinks themselves will need to have larger drain holes, but after simple retooling, that means less material consumed since a sink with a bigger hole consumes fewer resources to construct.

The kitchen will cost a bit more to prepare, but I suspect there is almost always a toilet within 50 feet of a kitchen sink. Fifty feet of 4″ diameter drain pipe in quantity costs less than USD $100.00, judging from the fact I can buy a single 10 foot section of 4″ ABS pipe online for USD $29.95 today. This is peanuts compared to plumbers and chemical drain cleaners into infinity. Since it will take more work to install the bigger pipe, perhaps the plumbers won’t lose any billable hours at all if my idea is adopted. The work gets front loaded into building construction.

Having a stuffed up drain is no fun. It’s messy and time consuming to deal with. This hurts productivity across the planet. Think of all the hours away from work that homeowners spend waiting for a plumber to arrive. Think of all the truck trips that plumbers won’t need to take. Think of how many fewer vans will need to be produced to move all those plumbers around. Think of the former plumbers doing more important work to improve the planet. Think of all the drain clearing snake machinery that won’t need to be built. Think of how many fewer children will be poisoned by drinking drain cleaner by accident. Think how many plumbers won’t accidentally drop a glass bottle of strong acid and get splashed with it when the bottle shatters all over the room. Acid is a step up from consumer drain cleaners, and it’s what the pros will sometimes use to clear a really stopped up drain. It has to be sold in glass because plastic can’t contain it — the plastic will be attacked by the acid and fail. There must be hundreds of acid accidents every year, and they’re sometimes horribly disfiguring accidents.

Example of the disfigurement drain cleaner accidents can cause. Photographs from http://www.dailyecho.co.uk/news/8253292.My_face_melted_when_drain_cleaner_exploded/

Example of the disfigurement drain cleaner accidents can cause. Photographs from http://www.dailyecho.co.uk/news/8253292.My_face_melted_when_drain_cleaner_exploded/

Think of how many people would not ruin their good looks by being splashed in the face with drain cleaner, like this grandmother whose face was ‘melted’ by drain cleaner.

Household chemical drain cleaners are dangerous, really nasty and should be made unecessary if only larger pipe were used in place of smaller pipe. This slide deck published by the pediatrics department at the University of Chicago says there were 1.5 million cases of corrosive ingestions by children 1 to 5 years old in the United States in 2002. That should be all the country needs to know to force my suggestion into the national building code.

One and half million children ingesting corrosive household products per year almost a decade ago. I had no idea the problem was so widespread until I began my research for this post tonight.

If saving innocent children doesn’t convince you, consider this. I have a strong suspicion that the waste water treatment industry has to apply more chemicals to counteract the millions of gallons of drain cleaner dumped down the drain by design. If someone knows about this, please contact me. I think it’s likely that for every gallon of drain cleaner made there’s an ounce of some counteracting agent also mixed in at the treatment plant. The company that makes this chemical can switch to making something else, like green household cleaners that are non-toxic, for instance. The waste treatment plant can cut its budget.

I propose that the building codes be modified. These codes will apply to remodeling projects and new construction, not existing structures. So we’ll still be stuck with our current rediculous narrow guage pipes for generations. This will give plumbers decades to adjust to their new, more exciting profession where they are solving higher order problems that call for more thinking. Millions of additional kids are going to ingest drain cleaner over the next half century or so it will take to phase out most of the narrow gauge pipe out there. But it’s far better to start the change today than to wait or even worse, to never make the change. Do we really need to poison hundreds of millions of kids over the next 100 years in just this country? No, we do not. 4″ drain pipe is cheap. Not as cheap as 1.5″ drain pipe, but still extremely cheap in the face of the horror that is happening right this minute. As you read this, there is likely a child drinking drain cleaner that will soon be rushed to the emergency room, never to really be the same again I suspect. Ouch!

Right now my bathroom sink is plugged up because I’ve been rinsing the water dish for my backyard chickens. The chickens manage to get the dish dirty with actual dirt, and the dirt has been accumulating in the trap for a while now. Finally the trap is stopped up. I’ve been thinking about writing this post for months now, but having a currently stopped up drain inspired me to sit down an write this post.

I recognize not all residential walls are thick enough to accomadate 4″ drain pipe, but for them, new oval pipe could be developed, like the gas appliance vent (chimney) industry developed. The area can be the same in an oval pipe, and it should have similar clog resistance. If not, make the oval larger until the unclogability is equal to round 4″ drain pipe. I understand toilet manufactures like Toto and Kohler are expert at using powerful computers to model water flow inside toilets. They had to develop this expertise in response to government demands for low water use toilets. I bet the engineers at those two companies could quickly calculate how large to make oval drain pipe that would be the functional equavalent of round drain pipe, which would allow builders to keep the current standards for wall thickness while achieving nearly uncloggable plumbing for every fixture in the house.

I think the building industry should get behind this project. They can charge slightly more for their new houses, and make the customer want to pay more by boldly demonstrating how superior a home is that has uncloggable plumbing. Think of the persuasive YouTube videos that could be produced where side by side installations are compared, made from transparent plastic pipe so viewers could see how impervious 4″ pipes are to clogging.

I even have the brand name: It should be called ‘DrainYes.’

Compared to what we have now with tiny pipes and lots of ‘DrainNO‘, what’s not to like?

PS – While researching this post I encountered a novel use for even larger drain pipe. I promise this pipe won’t get clogged no matter what you throw at it! Trust me.

Written by Kevin Warnock

November 24th, 2011 at 5:00 am

A picture of me with Ilya Zhitomirskiy that I didn’t know existed until two days ago

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Kevin Warnock, Ilya Zhitomirskiy, Matthew Wise, Grant Ricketts, ___ and Andreas Sæbjørnsen, March 3, 2011

Kevin Warnock, Ilya Zhitomirskiy, Matthew Wise, Grant Ricketts, ___ and Andreas Sæbjørnsen, March 3, 2011

Last Friday, November 18, 2011, I attended a memorial service for Ilya Zhitomirskiy. I wrote a blog post about the service.

In that post I mentioned I had met Zhitomirskiy once, at a party at the offices of CloudFlare, the red hot website performance and security startup that just won the Wall Street Journal’s Innovation Award in the Network and Internet Technologies category. After my memorial post, a friend of mine that read the post sent me the above photograph from that party. As you can see, I’m standing there on the left next to Zhitomirskiy.

I just had to post the picture here because it’s such a great picture.

My friends Matthew Wise, Grant Ricketts and Andreas Sæbjørnsen are also in the picture.

Written by Kevin Warnock

November 23rd, 2011 at 5:00 am

I will attend CloudBeat 2011, a cloud computing conference organized by VentureBeat

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CloudBeat 2011 conference graphic

CloudBeat 2011 conference graphic

I plan to attend CloudBeat 2011 in Redwood City, California USA on November 30th and December 1st, 2011.

CloudBeat is an event put on by the website VentureBeat.

Since I’m in the process of moving the infrastructure for my company’s website to the cloud, I thought it would be a great idea to attend and make some new friends. If you’re also going to be there and would like to say hello, send me a message on Facebook, here.

I’ll be blogging about the event, so look for a report here.

Written by Kevin Warnock

November 22nd, 2011 at 5:53 pm

Posted in Work

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My grandmother Elsie Battaglia’s 100th birthday party coming up December 12, 2011

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Elsie Battagla 100th birthday party invitation

Elsie Battagla 100th birthday party invitation

Yesterday, November 21, 2011, I received a paper invitation from my beloved 99 year old grandmother Elsie Battaglia to her 100th birthday party, which is scheduled for December 12, 2011, next month. I scanned the invitation for you to see. I direct your attention to left side of the graphic, which is the front of the invitation. The right side of the graphic is the interior of the folded invitation.

The text on the left illustrates the strides the world has made in the last 100 years.

I love my grandmother Elsie so much. I’ll be at her birthday party, and I’ll share the highlights with my readers here on my blog.

If you’re having trouble reading the text, click on the invitation graphic to enlarge it dramatically.

Elsie is on Facebook. She had WebTV in 1997.  Her now disabled and unused email address was elsie97@webtv.com. She had her Volkswagon Bug in the mid 1950s. Her first son (my father) picked it up for her in Paris, France and had it shipped back to Portland, Oregon, where no doubt it was one of the first in the United States.

Written by Kevin Warnock

November 22nd, 2011 at 5:00 am

Posted in Family

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Food Startups panel discussion at SOMA Central in San Francisco

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On Wednesday, November 16, 2011 I attended a fascinating panel discussion entitled Food Startups. To learn more about  Food Startups, follow @foodstartups on Twitter.

The panelists were:

The moderator was Wade Roush, Chief Correspondent at Xconomy and Editor of Xconomy San Francisco.

Networking hour at Food Startups event, November 16, 2011

Networking hour at Food Startups event, November 16, 2011

Food Startups was organized by my friend Matthew Wise, who invited me. Wise is a busy man — he’s running two startups – FounderLY and TableSlice.

Wade Roush was the moderator.

Wade Roush was a staff member at MIT’s Technology Review (a very good magazine my father gave me a subscription to for my birthday on October 6th), serving multiple roles, including senior editor, San Francisco bureau chief and executive editor of the magazine’s TechnologyReview online presence. Roush was also the Boston bureau reporter for Science magazine and managing editor of supercomputer publications at NASA Ames Research Center. Roush graduated with honors in the history of science from Harvard University and earned a PhD in the history of science and technology from MIT.

Alexa Andrzejewski, founder and CEO of Foodspotting.com, November 16, 2011

Alexa Andrzejewski, founder and CEO of Foodspotting.com, November 16, 2011

Wise gathered a panel that is the equal of panels I’ve seen at the MIT Venture Lab series held at Stanford University. In other words, simply outstanding.

I captured the entire panel discussion to video, and I have embedded it here.

Nate Gallon, partner at Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, and Matthew Wise, Food Startups organizer, November 16, 2011

Nate Gallon, partner at Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, and Matthew Wise, Food Startups organizer, November 16, 2011

Since the video is available, I will reserve my written remarks for the most entertaining highlights of the evening.

The most remarkable startup story was that of Nikhil Arora. Arora founded a food company that is brilliant. It’s called Back to the Roots. Their product is mostly recycled trash I presume they either get for free or are paid to take away. Sounds unappealing you say? It’s not. Back to the Roots gathers tons and tons of used coffee grounds from San Francisco Bay Area coffee shops and resells the grounds to consumers for about USD $8.00 a pound.

That’s not much less than the coffee cost before it was earlier flooded with hot water to make coffee.

Matthew Wise, Food Startups organizer, and Wade Roush, Chief Correspondent at Xconomy and Editor of Xconomy San Francisco. November 16, 2011.

Matthew Wise, Food Startups organizer, and Wade Roush, Chief Correspondent at Xconomy and Editor of Xconomy San Francisco. November 16, 2011.

The secret sauce is that Back to the Roots adds mycelia to the coffee grounds and then boxes up what others consider trash in attractive boxes that when opened form the container for the buyer’s mini mushroom farm.

The farm is started by opening the box and misting the grounds with water from a tiny 1 ounce spray bottle that’s included with the kit. After misting twice a day for 10 days, the first harvest is ready, and one box can be harvested multiple times until a pound and a half of oyster mushrooms have been picked. Then the unbleached cardboard box and the grounds can be recycled. Genius.

Nikhil Arora, founder of Back to the Roots, November 16, 2011

Nikhil Arora, founder of Back to the Roots, November 16, 2011

The founder is a Haas School of Business graduate that knew nothing about the food business when he started in 2009. His company now operates a 10,000 square foot warehouse and his mushroom growing kits are for sale at Whole Foods Markets and Home Depot. Those are two customers not frequently paired in the same sentence.

Ananda Neil, founder of Artisan Growers & Producers, November 16, 2011.

Ananda Neil, founder of Artisan Growers & Producers, November 16, 2011.

Arora had the approximately 50 people in attendance enthralled when he described an early sales visit to a Whole Foods Market grocery store. Without an appointment, he brought in a plastic bucket of used coffee grounds and somehow captured the attention of the rank-and-file worker (whoops… associate) he first walked up to. He was ushered in to meet with a manager and an order flowed from that bold move. I found it to be an inspiring and moving story.

This Food Startups event was sponsored by:

The stories of the other panelists were fascinating as well. Please watch the video. I’m sorry I don’t have the time to write detailed summaries of the other fine and worthy companies.

Rajat Suri, founder and CEO of E la Carte, November 16, 2011.

Rajat Suri, founder and CEO of E la Carte, November 16, 2011.

Entrepreneurs are rewarded for being bold and outrageous.

Read about Justin Yoshimura of 500friends for another example.

Here’s what Steve Newcomb of Founder School says about Yoshimura:

“I thought I had met some tenacious people in my life, but Justin is ridiculous. In some super weird, proud way, he reminds of some little mangy dog that bites your leg and just won’t let go. If Justin decides he’s going to do something, he’s going to do it, no matter how scrappy he needs to be to get the job done. Keep going you scrappy little dog… make us proud.”

Rob Lafave, founder & CEO of Foodzie, November 16, 2011

Rob Lafave, founder & CEO of Foodzie, November 16, 2011

Another bold and outrageous entrepreneur sadly passed away recently, and this seems a fine place to focus additional attention on his remarkable life.

Andreas Sæbjørnsen, November 16, 2011.

Andreas Sæbjørnsen, November 16, 2011.

Andreas (Andy) Sæbjørnsen is the co-founder of the two startups Matthew Wise is working on, FounderLY and TableSlice.

I took all the pictures and video for this and posted the pictures at full 21 megapixel resolution. Click on the pictures to see the full size versions.

While I was researching Nikhil Arora for this post, I discovered his TEDx appearance where he talks about his urban mushroom farming enterprise Back to the Roots. I embed the video of the talk below, since I think it’s worth watching. Enjoy.

If you enjoy my posts, please share them on Facebook or Twitter. Also, please consider subscribing by filling in your email address in the box in the upper right corner of this page.If you want to use the pictures from this site, I’ll probably let you, so just ask.

Additionally, I want to become a public speaker and guest columnist. If you have an opportunity to offer for either, I’d love to hear from you. You can find me on Facebook and Twitter.

Finally, please leave a comment and friend me on Facebook if what I write resonates with you. Thanks!

University of California at Davis Assistant Professor calls for Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi to resign

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UC Davis police officer pepper sprays student protesters, November 18, 2011. Photograph by Wayne Tilcock of The Davis Enterprise.

UC Davis police officer pepper sprays student protesters, November 18, 2011. Photograph by Wayne Tilcock of The Davis Enterprise.

I hope this letter doesn’t spell the end of Nathan Brown’s career and/or prevent him from being granted tenure.

Brown cites the November 18, 2011 pepper spraying of University of California at Davis students that had set up tents to protest as part of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Brown calls for Chancellor Katehi to immediately resign.  He doesn’t soften his words. He concludes:

“I call for your resignation because you are unfit to do your job. You are unfit to ensure the safety of students at UC Davis. In fact: you are the primary threat to the safety of students at UC Davis. As such, I call upon you to resign immediately.”

Yes, he called the Chancellor the primary threat to the safety of students at UC Davis.

I am proud of Nathan Brown, and I wish him well. I would take a class from him, for I suspect he’s an outstanding and conscientious educator. His friends, family and students should be proud.

Thank you to my friend Danae Sterental for bringing this powerful letter to my attention.

Written by Kevin Warnock

November 20th, 2011 at 5:00 am

Assistive Touch for iOS5 Apple operating system for mobile devices

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Apple assistive touch feature demonstrated in iOS5

Apple assistive touch feature demonstrated in iOS5

David Pogue, the Walt Mossberg of The New York Times newspaper taught me something today. Apple’s iOS 5 mobile operating system incorporates extensive usability features for the disabled.

Pogue writes:

“One new feature, called AssistiveTouch, is Apple’s accessibility team at its most creative. When you turn on this feature in Settings->General->Accessibility, a new, white circle appears at the bottom of the screen. It stays there all the time.

When you tap it, you get a floating on-screen palette. Its buttons trigger motions and gestures on the iPhone screen without requiring hand or multiple-finger movement. All you have to be able to do is tap with a single finger — even a stylus you’re holding in your teeth or fist.

For example, you can tap the Home on-screen button instead of pressing the physical Home button.

If you tap Device, you get a sub-palette of six functions that would otherwise require you to grasp the phone or push its tiny physical buttons. There’s Rotate Screen (tap this instead of turning the phone 90 degrees), Lock Screen (tap instead of pressing the Sleep switch), Volume Up and Volume Down (tap instead of pressing the volume keys), Shake (does the same as shaking the phone to undo typing), and Mute/Unmute (tap instead of flipping the small Mute switch on the side).”

I think Apple deserves a round of applause for anticipating the needs of its users with disabilities.

I think David Pogue also deserves a round of applause, for bringing these features to the attention of a wide audience. These features have been written about earlier, but I didn’t learn about them until today.

Thankfully, I am not disabled, but I have considered the plight of those who are disabled, since Purple Communications, the company I sold my last startup to, caters exclusively to the disabled market. I still follow Purple, and I hope Apple doesn’t eventually drive them out of business by including features helpful to the disabled at no extra cost. Purple employs upwards of 1,000 people to help the deaf and hearing communicate by both wired and wireless devices.

Here’s a video that shows the feature in action. I found this on YouTube.

As a side note, I am a fan of David Pogue because he wrote in his first iPhone Missing Manual book about the very simple word processor my company used to offer for iPhone, launched 7/7/07. Thank you David!

Written by Kevin Warnock

November 19th, 2011 at 10:39 pm

Memorial service for Ilya Zhitomirskiy, co-founder of the start-up social network Diaspora*

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ilya Zhitomirskiy - 1989-2011

ilya Zhitomirskiy - 1989-2011

Tonight I attended a public memorial service in San Francisco, California USA for Ilya Zhitomirskiy, co-founder of the start-up social network Diaspora*. The service was held at McAvoy O’Hara mortuary at 4545 Geary Boulevard. I took the picture below of McAvoy O’Hara as I was departing.

Ilya Zhitomirskiy died Saturday, November 12, 2011 at his home in San Francisco. The preceding link is to his lengthy obituary in the New York Times newspaper, a testamant to Zhitomirskiy’s influence. Such coverage is remarkable for someone whose idea that made them famous has not officially launched yet. Such coverage is remarkable for someone just 22 years old at their passing.

I met Zhitomirskiy only once, and I don’t remember the meeting except in the vaguest sense. My friend Matthew Wise introduced me to Zhitomirskiy at an office warming party for CloudFlare, which I wrote about here at the time. Wise reminded me two days ago at his Foods Startup event that he had introduced me. I recall that Wise had mentioned Diaspora* at the CloudFlare party. I had heard of Diaspora* back then, but I didn’t appreciate the significance of meeting one of the co-founders because I wasn’t aware how much attention the project had already garnered.

With that introduction you might wonder why I went to the man’s memorial service. On a group hike some weeks back I had a long and interesting conversation with Bobby Fishkin. Fishkin was a good friend of Zhitomirskiy, and yesterday Fishkin sent out a broadcast email to his connections inviting them to attend Zhitomirskiy’s memorial, which was described as ‘open to all.’ Fishkin can write a moving email, and his text was so descriptive and colorful that I decided to attend. In part, Fishkin wrote:

“He was a visionary and revolutionary. He approached the world out of love and then used a profoundly gifted analytical mind to approach what could be done based on that love to circumvent all the forces of the world that would otherwise get between us and those we love. He founded Diaspora to achieve this. But more than this, he sought solutions to global challenges and gave us all further confidence to speak our truth.”

How could I not attend the memorial after an introduction so uplifting?

I am glad that I did attend, as this was the most moving and thought provoking memorial I have yet attended.

It made me cry many times and I wasn’t even Zhitomirskiy’s friend.

Over 100 of Zhitomirskiy’s friends were in the room, and I estimate 20 of them came to the podium to share their memories. I feel like I learned the essence of who Ilya Zhitomirskiy was in the course of this memorial. I wish I had gotten to know him better, as he seemed like a remarkable thinker.

A recurring theme his friends recounted was that Zhitomirskiy kept extensive to-do lists on Post-It notes on how to change and improve the world. He collected these notes on one of those skewers pointing in the air that restaurants stick their filled receipts upon. These notes and lists apparantly are so profound that one of his friends collected them and made a website dedicated to just displaying Zhitomirskiy’s to-do lists.

Zhitomirskiy talked of slaying metaphorical dragons frequently, I learned.

He dreamed of traveling the world as a public speaker, and longed for a way to have such travel and talking paid for. I have that in common with him…

He talked too much, but in a way that mesmerized his friends. One of his most ardent friends, Elizabeth Stark (I didn’t learn her last name, and it seemed the wrong place to ask), an instructor at Stanford University, described passionately how she could stay up until 5am talking with Zhitomirskiy, and that such conversations seemed to just fly by they were so engrossing. I got the distinct impression that Elizabeth is a very smart woman, and she looked to be 10 years older than Zhitomirskiy. He must have been quite an impressive guy to keep her attention until nearly sunrise.

His friends over and over promised Zhitomirskiy that they would work hard in life to help finish his to-do list. They said Zhitomirskiy lived by a code where he advised keeping good company and making outrageous demands of them. He was known for his epic (sic) parties, and for his intense drive to introduce people to each other at said parties. He even started a website themed around these parties, but I couldn’t find a working site at the domain name mentioned, epicparty.com or epicparties.com.

Zhitomirskiy’s passing brought so many of those in attendance to tears. They clearly and dramatically loved him. His friends and family I hope will take tremendous comfort that Ilya Zhitomirskiy so profoundly touched so many impressive people. The whole room seemed to be filled with impressive and thoughtful people. One Asian woman who spoke at the podium had only known Zhitomirskiy for a month, yet her remarks were insightful and lovely. I meant to tell her so after, but she was engrossed in a conversation and I didn’t want to interrupt her.

It’s so sad when a bright light goes out too soon. I reflect on my own life at times like these. I pledge to redouble my efforts to help others and bring more happiness and good to the world. Thank you Ilya Zhitomirskiy for the inspiration you gave me to write about you and reflect on your short yet meaningful life.

I predict your influence Ilya Zhitomirskiy will remain upon the globe for many moons. May you rest in peace.

McAvoy O'Hara funeral home, 4545 Geary Blvd San Francisco, CA 94118 - November 18, 2011, 7:55PM PT

McAvoy O'Hara funeral home, 4545 Geary Blvd San Francisco, CA 94118 - November 18, 2011, 7:55PM PT

PS – I particularly invite Zhitomirskiy’s friends to introduce themselves to me by sending me a message or friending me on Facebook here. I’d like to learn more about your friend, and I’d like to know you as well, as it appears he kept quite good company from what I saw this evening.

[Additional: I added this November 24, 2011. After I wrote the above post, a friend of mine sent me a picture taken March 3, 2011. The picture is from the CloudFlare party I mention above, and it shows me with Ilya and four others. It’s a great picture, so I posted it to my blog here.]

[Additional: I added this February 9, 2012. I added the last name of Elizabeth to this post, as I found out her last name.]

Written by Kevin Warnock

November 18th, 2011 at 10:14 pm

Intel Capital Global Summit 2011 concluded yesterday

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Kevin Warnock at Intel Capital CEO Summit 2009

Kevin Warnock at Intel Capital CEO Summit 2009

This week Intel Capital held its Global Summit for its Portfolio Companies. This event used to be called the Intel Capital CEO Summit, and I attended in 2008 and 2009 since my company Silveroffice, Inc. is an Intel Capital Portfolio Company. I did not attend this year because only select Portfolio Companies are invited, and I was not invited this year.

I am not upset or complaining however! Frankly, Silveroffice doesn’t deserve an invitation this year because it has been mostly dormant while I work on other projects in life.

I have committed to making Silveroffice a success, and I’m working on it strenuously again, for the first time in years. I have a renewed vision and passion for the company, one that will involve a complete rewrite of the software on a new platform. I am firing on all cylinders again after taking my foot off the accelerator for an extended period of deceleration.

I feel outstanding.

I remain in touch with people from Intel Capital, and perhaps one day I’ll be invited back to their Global Summit. But even if I’m not, I’ll fondly remember the fun I had at past events. In 2008 Intel Capital took over The Tonga Room restaurant at San Francisco’s Fairmont Hotel for breakfast, so I’ve eaten breakfast by The Tonga Room tropical lake, an unforgettable experience.

I got to meet and have several real conversations with musician and tech entrepreneur MC Hammer, in 2008 and 2009. In 2009 he remembered me from 2008. I’m certain of it because in 2009 I introduced my friend Gail Kantor, CEO of eJamming, also a Portfolio Company, to Hammer. Hammer looked at both of us and pointed at Kantor and said “You I haven’t met” and amazingly then pointed at me and said “You I have met.’ I only spoke with Hammer for perhaps 10 minutes the previous year, and we didn’t stay in touch, not even via social media. Hammer must meet thousands of people a year, and to be able to accurately remember me a year later after talking with me for such a short time was simply jaw dropping.

I recognize many tech entrepreneurs have met Hammer because he’s reputed to be a fixture at Silicon Valley events. But still it was fun to meet a real rock star and have dinner with him like I did in 2009.

I feel I let Intel Capital down by taking my foot off the Silveroffice, Inc. accelerator. They reached out to me to invite me to become a Portfolio Company. Part of my motivation to rebuild Silveroffice and make it a meaningful company again is to prove to Intel Capital that they did not misplace their confidence in me. This might seem like a silly reason, but I carefully debated accepting Intel Capital’s offer, and the negotiation of our deal took roughly a year to complete, so I have something invested, as do they. I started Silveroffice in 2003 so it is deeply a part of my life, and I enjoy working on it. Great things are to come, so stay tuned.

Silveroffice, Inc. doesn’t have a website, which is why the references above are not hyperlinks. Silveroffice created the first true online office suite, way back in 2004. It’s called gOffice. gOffice has been decimated in the marketplace by Google Apps and Zoho, but gOffice was number one in the world for over a year. If only some nice person would write a WikipediA entry for gOffice, I would be so pleased…

If you write a WikipediA entry, don’t overlook that Microsoft lists gOffice by name in its 10K Annual Report as a competitor to Microsoft Office from 2006 through 2010. In 2011 Microsoft stopped naming in its annual report any of its online competitors to Microsoft Office, so that’s why gOffice doesn’t appear in their 2011 report.

Written by Kevin Warnock

November 17th, 2011 at 7:42 pm

Occupy Cal protest at University of California at Berkeley November 15, 2011

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Kevin Warnock at Occupy Cal following Robert Reich speech at UC Berkeley, November 15, 2011

Kevin Warnock at Occupy Cal following Robert Reich speech at UC Berkeley, November 15, 2011

I was at the Occupy Cal protest at University of California at Berkeley last evening, November 15, 2011. There were over 1,000 protesters there. The energy in the air was positive and infectious.

As far as I could detect, the Occupy Cal event wasn’t marred by the shooting of a Berkeley student by campus police earlier in the afternoon. That student later died at the hospital. That student, Christopher Nathen Elliot Travis, age 32, was a transfer student from Ohlone College in Fremont, California.

Haas School of Business Dean Richard Lyons addressed the school’s students this morning. Later, Lyons posted this letter to the Haas Newsroom and publicized it via the micro-blogging website Twitter.

My friend Heather Sepulveda went to Ohlone College before she transferred to UC Berkeley years ago — a very strange coincidence to be sure.

Occupy Cal general assembly at UC Berkeley, November 15, 2011

Occupy Cal general assembly at UC Berkeley, November 15, 2011

There was a drum beat to the protest, thanks to the talented musicians that showed up. One of the musicians looked to be about 60, and he said he had participated in the anti war protests at UC Berkeley in the 1960s. I feature some of the music in the video I am editing from the event, which I hope to post tomorrow. I got some great video, including of the camping tents being carried into place.

Board member of the Mario Savio Lecture Fund addressing Occupy Cal protesters November 15, 2011 at Sproul Plaza

Board member of the Mario Savio Lecture Fund addressing Occupy Cal protesters November 15, 2011 at Sproul Plaza

Robert Reich speaking at Occupy Cal protest, November 15, 2011

Robert Reich speaking at Occupy Cal protest, November 15, 2011

The event incorporated a gathering of The Savio Lecture Fund, which originally was to take place indoors at the Pauley Ballroom in the Martin Luther King Jr. Student Center, also on the UC Berkeley campus. My guess is the change of venue was decided close to the last minute to benefit from the association with the Occupy Cal movement. I was not previously familiar with Mario Savio, I am embarrassed to admit. I concluded from the talks I heard last night that Savio would have embraced the Occupy Cal movement and message. Savio spoke on December 2, 1964 from the same steps of Sproul Hall where the speakers last night spoke from.

The Savio Lecture speaker last evening was former United States Secretary of Labor Robert Reich, who is a Professor of Public Policy at UC Berkeley. I captured his speech to high definition video and presented it on my blog earlier today.

Camping tents being moved onto Sproul Plaza as part of the Occupy Cal protest November 15, 2011

Camping tents being moved onto Sproul Plaza as part of the Occupy Cal protest November 15, 2011

In the photograph above you can see some of the camping tents already in place, along with another tent being carried into place already set up. Organizers were distributing hot food on the Sproul Hall steps. Even though there were a lot of people there, it was possible to easily move among the crowd, and I had no trouble taking pictures and video, even though I had brought a tripod with me, for many of the time exposures I took to capture the low light images you see here.

Soap bubbles by the hundreds liven up the view from the steps of Sproul Hall during Occupy Cal protest at UC Berkeley November 15, 2011

Soap bubbles by the hundreds liven up the view from the steps of Sproul Hall during Occupy Cal protest at UC Berkeley November 15, 2011

Sproul Hall after Robert Reich concluded his speech on the steps. UC Berkeley, November 15, 2011.

Sproul Hall after Robert Reich concluded his speech on the steps. UC Berkeley, November 15, 2011.

I took the above shot right before I departed, after 10pm. The group front and center appeared to be in their 50s and 60s. The age mix of the crowd was inspiring — it definitely wasn’t just current students in their teens and twenties. I felt that people were really passionate about the Occupy movement, and that this movement will be long lived and will accomplish real change in the world. I am glad I made the trip from San Francisco.

I uploaded these pictures at full 21 megapixel resolution. To see them at full size, click on them twice, with a pause in between the clicks to allow the photographs to load in a separate window. If you’d like to use these pictures for something, please give me a link back to my blog. If you like this blog, please subscribe, and please add this post to your status feed on Facebook. Thank you!

Written by Kevin Warnock

November 16th, 2011 at 4:41 pm