Sunday 22 January 2006
Some members of Ottawa City Council want to get rid of the
Ontario Municipal Board or, at the very least, water down its powers. Is
this a good idea?
First, their reasoning goes something like this: elected Councillors
should be the final arbiter of City policies on Official Plans, Zoning,
By-Laws, City Finances and so forth. An unelected body such as the OMB
should not be able to overturn the will of Council. This has the ring of
democracy about it.
Peggy Feltmate, Kanata City Councillor, says: “There is some good
news. Changes to provincial planning legislation will place additional
restrictions on the board…. they will make it easier for council to make
the right decision without fear it will be overturned.” (Kanata Kourier
Standard, January 20, 2006).
But I think they have forgotten why the OMB was brought in, decades
ago, by Permier Bill Davis in the first place. The concept behind the
OMB was to give citizens, community associations, folks in the
neighborhood of new development, a place where they could turn to
question or oppose new projects proposed by either their city councils
or the development industry. The OMB was an alternative to an expensive
appeal to Divisional Court or an appeal to Ontario’s Cabinet. Frankly,
the Premier’s Office and the Cabinet was tired of fielding community
complaints about unwise spending by local councils or intrusive
development proposals. For the cost of a postage stamp or a fax,
ordinary folks could appeal either to the OMB. And they could expect
that, instead of coming in front of a judge who knew more about traffic
offences or commercial disputes, they would appear before OMB panel
members who had a background in urban issues and law. They could
represent themselves instead of hiring a lawyer and many of them do.
Now it also turns out that the development industry has the right to
appeal decisions that it doesn’t like. Is this unfair? I don’t think so.
We still have some property rights in Canada even if they are not
entrenched in the Constitution’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms. If a
town council abuses an owner’s property rights, shouldn’t they also have
the right to appeal that decision?
It turns out that property rights and human rights go hand in hand.
Just look at the number of countries which are ruled by a kleptocracy.
Say you build a successful business or development project, in a
kleptocracy, they find ways to ‘expropriate’ the value you have created:
sometimes by usurious taxation, often in much cruder fashion– they
simply force you at the point of a gun to hand over what you have
The fundamental prerequisites for economic takeoff, first proposed by
Walt Rostow, include: peace, order, good government. Sounds very
Canadian to me. Also needed are education and health care. Sounds even
more Canadian to me.
If you allow any person, politician, leader, president, prime
minister, councillor, civil servant, court, police officer, army
personnel, … to take away your property rights without recourse, it is a
very small step to taking away your human rights. World history teaches
us this: first you take their property, then you take their lives.
Homeless people and people without property are treated as sub-human
everywhere. You don’t have to look to Rwanda for that. Just check out
the harassment homeless folks in your city or town receive from
everyone; not only police officers but from you too. Take away a
person’s property and you take away her/his dignity and eventually their
existence is threatened. Oh yes, and by the way, another pre-condition
for economic takeoff in LDCs is property ownership. Without an address,
you can’t get a loan and start a business and become a part of the cash
economy. And guess what else? The number one source for startup capital
is home equity– just as true in Kansas City as in Mumbai. If you want
your economy to perform well, just unleash your entrepreneurs…
But Canada does not have property rights in its Charter. Why not?
Former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau understood the connection between
property rights and human rights and wanted property rights in the
Constitution. It was the Provinces who wouldn’t agree. Their fear was
that they wouldn’t be able to ‘own’ the resources under your land (e.g.,
oil an gas in Alberta) or tax them or expropriate them or zone them…
By getting rid of the OMB or emasculating it, we are losing an
important safety valve for both ordinary folks and the development
industry and land owners. Do you think City Councils make sound
decisions in the best interests of all their citizens and their
city-states? Think again. A local Councillor is like a god in her ward.
Other Councillors support her because they want the same treatment for
their wards. And just how many votes does it take to get elected. In
some Ottawa wards, there are fewer than 12,000 voters of whom only 30%
may vote. If three candidates are running, you can get elected with as
few as 3,600 votes + 1.
So if a local group of 150 ‘concerned citizens’ shows up at a
Planning Committee meeting, they pack quite a wallop. Decisions are
often made that are counter productive. Minto recently went to Ottawa
Council with a plan for 99 townhouses on a former school board site.
Ottawa’s OP (Official Plan) calls for densification of the City and
making better use of scarce resources and city infrastructure
investments in roads, sewers, water mains, transit, etc. City staff
supported Minto’s application for rezoning. It is consistent with
Ottawa’s new OP, which Councillors support like it was the Ten
Commandments handed down by God on Mount Sinai. At least, that is what
they say. Well, what happened? What did they actually do?
Local NIMBY’ites showed up and wanted it zoned for single family
homes instead, 55 in all. They wrapped themselves up in environmentalist
colours saying the 99 towns would create undue traffic, noise,
pollution, what have you. They are just NIMBYs though. Their main
reasons for really opposing Minto’s application are greed and fear– fear
that townhomes might attract a different sort of crowd (ridiculous) and
greed– their only concern is not for the City as a whole but their own
property values (despite the fact, that there is overwhelming evidence
that densification and intensification raises property values, all else
being equal. Otherwise, why would property values in Manhattan be so
much higher than Ottawa’s?)
The local Councillor sided with the locals and with no planning
evidence whatsoever, City Counil downzoned the land to singles. So much
for their vaunted OP*. What is Minto to do? Well, it’s off to the OMB
where almost certainly the Board (unless it is deleted by then) will
overrule Council. And don’t put it past local politicians to vote
strategically. Nothing a politician likes better than money and power.
They might well vote down Minto’s proposal knowing that the OMB
will overturn it and secretly wishing for it too. That way, in their
next campaign, they can run against the OMB and say to the ‘people’,
“we’re on your side against the big, bad development industry”.
Getting rid of the OMB would be a form of democratic abuse– don’t do it, please.
(* It will be an expensive decision for the City to defend at the OMB
since none of their staff can appear before the tribunal to defend
Council’s decision since their staff report supported Minto’s
application. They will need to hire outside ‘experts’– lawyers and
planners. And I can’t imagine any Ottawa-based planners or lawyers who
would want to take on such an absurd position so they may have to come
from Toronto. It’s a pathetic waste of taxpayer money.)
Prof Bruce @ 9:37 am
Saturday 14 January 2006
I4 Commerce has created a new “online” payment system that
is essentially made possible because they use a form of bootstrap
financing; it is called BILL ME LATER. It is based on a simple business
model, the best kind.
Remember, a business model shows the relationships between the
business and its customers and suppliers (and sometimes, it goes at
least one dimension further and includes the customers of its customers
and the suppliers of its suppliers. The added dimension can sometimes
reveal important relationships that can also be exploited in the
business.) The model also has to reveal how the business acquires new
clients and customers—i.e., how it can COST-EFFECTIVELY market its
products and services.
Returning to I4′s business model, we learn that about one third of
users don’t want to use their credit cards over the Internet. So I4′s
potential customer base is easy to identify. But these people are really
customers of I4′s customers, whose real clients are the online
merchants like Walmart.com and others who use BILL ME LATER. This is
handy since, in terms of marketing, I4 only has to reach a small number
of website operators to become a viable business—its marketing is ‘one
to a few’ as opposed to ‘one to many’. The latter has been the downfall
of many Internet businesses since if you want to launch a B2C Internet
business, the cost to acquire new customers can be prohibitive. Mass
marketing/creating a consumer market is tough whether or not it is an
Internet-based business or a brick and mortar business.
For I4, they have created a viable business with just 230 website
operators (Business Week January 16, 2006) agreeing to use BILL ME
LATER. I4 is now doing $1 billion worth of transactions. And getting 230
website operators to adopt BILL ME LATER is a matter of just making the
calls. A good salesperson (in this case, it would probably be the CEO
of I4, Gary Marino) can easily call 30 major operators a day and get at
least 10 face-to-face meetings. Someone with a good track record like
Mr. Marino (he has experience in the credit card industry) can probably
get at least 4 customers to sign on out of every 10 F2F meetings he
does. (A salesperson needs to have a longterm track record in the range
of 4 out of 10, i.e., a .400 ‘batting’ average’, to make this kind of
cold calling/warm calling marketing/selling work.) So the marketing
dimension of this business is direct selling I would think.
Now who are the suppliers to a business like BILL ME LATER? It turns
out the key supplier is a bank—JPMorgan Chase, who buys BILL ME LATER’s
receivables. Without this support, the faster BILL ME LATER grows, the
more capital it would consume, obviously an impossible model that would
BILL ME LATER works by asking consumers for three things—their name,
DOB and the last four digits of their social security number. With this
info, they can check the customer’s credit rating and approve/not
approve the transaction in less than 4 seconds. The customer then gets a
bill in the mail or by email.
From the customer’s POV, they have not had to disclose their credit
card number and they get a paper record of their transaction (if they
choose the option of a snail mailed invoice) and a grace period to pay
for their purchase. One of the negatives I see in this is that every
time someone pings your credit rating, your credit rating suffers a 2.7
point downgrade. So if you make a lot of online purchases using BILL ME
LATER, your credit rating could suffer unless BILL ME LATER has made a
deal with the credit agencies to avoid this. (The credit agencies,
unfairly in my view, reduce your Beacon Score with every ping. Their
reasoning, I suppose, is that you are looking for credit and the more
credit you take on, the worse risk you are. But if, for example, you are
shopping for a home mortgage and say five banks ping your credit
rating, you could lose 13.5 points which is unfair. This is one of the
reasons that Mortgage Brokers are taking more and more of the home
mortgage pie—they ping your credit score just once and they shop it to
15 banks and lenders… I am guessing but you probably need a Beacon Score
of at least 650 to use BILL ME LATER.)
I4 has a lot of ‘pixie dust’ or differentiated value in its business
model that should create a sustainable business including: a) they
undercut credit card issuers by charging their merchants 1.5% of
transaction volume instead of the 2% to 4% charged by their competition,
b) they give online customers a new way to pay that is exactly what
they are used to in RL (Real Life as opposed to the Web)—an invoice
either paper or email that they can pay by cheque or EFT, c) a form of
bootstrap capital or bootstrap financing by selling their receivables
instantly to a supplier (a bank), d) a one-to-a-few marketing dimension
that can be easily handled by direct selling. Also, there probaly is
some real first mover advantage for them. As consumers become used to
seeing BILL ME LATER on websites, they will come to trust it.
Trust is the underpinning of all successful relationships (personal
as well as business) and business ecosystems. People like to buy from
people they like and TRUST. I think that by extending this trust to the
consumer level of their bsuiness model, it will create a powerful
dynamic that will ‘force’ their real customers (websites that market to
the consumer) to turn to BILL ME LATER for another payment option for
their customers. So while I don’t see any network effects operating here
(where the network becomes more valuable the more people use it*), the
trust factor could be a huge barrier to entry for potential competitors.
I am sure we are going to hear a lot more about BILL ME LATER; it’s
clever. Now someone should start a Canadian or Euro or Indo or Chinese
or Japanese version…
* Search engines have that kind of dynamic going for them. Their
search algorithms undoubtedly use frequency of search as one of the ways
they rank websites, for example. So the more people who use, say,
Google, the more accurate the search results are likely to be. An
obvious example of network effects would be email or IM programs. Email
wouldn’t be too useful if only a handful of your friends or business
acquaintances had it. The fact that most IM programs can’t interact with
each other certainly diminishes the value of Instant Messaging. It’s
shame that AOL, Yahoo, MSN don’t get their act together and make them
all inter-operable. The Multiple Listing Service (MLS.ca or MLS.com) are
probably the most important competitive weapon that residential
realtors have going for them. MLS.ca and MLS.com are certainly examples
of network effects taking place in a big way. An older example of
network effects would be facsimile machines. Again not too useful if
there are only two or three faxes in your city or town but hugely useful
in their day if everyone has one.
Prof Bruce @ 11:41 am
Monday 9 January 2006
I have argued with a number of clients of mine that customer
serice is a profit centre not a cost centre. People, your customers,
are calling you for help. Wow, what a great opportunity to improve
customer loyalty and, maybe even, to up-sell them. (‘Would you like
fires with that?’)
Some companies are squeezing their costs by cutting down on the
number of people in their call centres. They are probably figuring that
if they keep their clients waiting on the phone long enough they will
hang up and try to: a) figure it out on their own or b) go the FAQ on
their website and try to piece it together.
But where is the best and least expensive place to look for new
clients or customers? Why, it just so happens to be your existing
customer base. These are the people most likely to buy upgrades from you
or re-order or what have you. But if you don’t support your products
and serives, you increase the churn rate in your customer base. This is
very costly. You not only don’t re-sell to them you can never up-sell
According to research done by Michigan’s Ross School of Business and
reported in Business Week (January 9, 2006), 20 companies with the
highest marks for customer service returned (on their stock price) 40%
for the five year period ending in May 2003 (compared with a 13% return
for the S&P 500 Index).
Perhaps if you are looking to invest in a company, you ought to ask
their clients about the level of customer service before you buy the
stock. A local Ottawa company (Magma.ca, an ISP) has based its entire
business model on excellent customer service. When you call them, they
answer you in seconds. If the problem is at your end they don’t rudely
hang up on you telling you it’s not their problem as some others have
been known to do. If you ask a dumb question, they are patient.
Business Week reports that Apple, Yahoo!, VF Corp. and Toyota top
their list of 200 companies rated from 1 to 100 with a ’1′ being a great
score. It doesn’t surprise me that great service and a great stock
performance go hand in hand. So investing in customer service appears to
boost the bottom line…
Prof Bruce @ 2:37 pm
Tuesday 3 January 2006
One of the hardest things for my students to learn is that
there are no rules in the field of entrepreneurship. By that I don’t
mean that you go outside the Law; I am not talking about those kinds of
rules. You always obey the Law and protect your reputation; the latter
is the most important thing you own BTW.
But how many times have you heard: ‘We don’t do it that way because
it isn’t done like that and, anyway, no one else does it that way
either’? Entrepreneurs are constantly asking BIG questions and thinking
of ways to do things differently. It is usually this kind of creativity
in EXECUTION that creates the most value for entrepreneurs. Fred Smith’s
brilliant insight that he could develop an overnight package service
(Fed/Ex) by reducing a 50 by 50 matrix of origins and destinations (with
its impossible requirement for 2,500 overnight flights) to a handful of
flights by developing a hub and spoke system was responsible for one of
the great startup success stories of the late 20th Century.
Let me give you another example.
Gino Rossetti from Detroit asked the owners of the Detroit Pistons on
a visit to Joe Louis Arena: ‘How come the people who pay the most
(i.e., suite holders) are the furthest away from the floor?’ Joe Louis
only has one ring of suites, which are located at the nosebleed level.
The answer was that all arenas are built that way; it’s just the way
it’s done. Gino whipped out his sketch pad and said: ‘What if we had two
lower rings of suites– the first one just 12 rows from the action on
the court?’ That single insight revolutionized arena design and
economics. It not only increased the number of suites in these
buildings, but people also paid more (a lot more) for private suites
close to the floor or ice surface. Plus it gave the ownership committed
revenues (because they signed 5 and 10 year deals with leaseholders) and
it gave them the ability to finance new arenas on a commercial basis.
Additionally, it created the opportunity to bring all the seat holders
closer to the action because the balconies created by the lower rings of
suites could be stacked closer to the arena level much as in an Opera
House with rings of private boxes.
Less volume in the building creates a less expensive but more
intimate structure which beneifts not only the fans of major league
sports but concert goers too. So Gino gave the world not only a much
higher revenue-generating sports facility but there a qualitative
Students often ask me how prices for new products or services are
arrived at. They seem to feel that there is some form of government
control or other, officially approved, algorithm that generates a price.
I tell them the story of Butch Cassidy (in the film BUTCH CASSIDY AND
THE SUNDANCE KID) when he was challenged for the leadership of the gang
in a knife fight. Butch says: “Before we fight, I have to explain the
rules.” His opponent, a giant of a man, says: ‘Rules, in a KNIFE FIGHT?’
Butch then walks up to him and kicks him in a vulnerable spot and then
stomps him into the ground saying; “Rules? There are no rules in a knife
Pricing is a bit like that. In a competitive markplace, you can
charge whatever you like. It may be above your cost (often way above,
in, say, the marketplace for baseball players), at your cost or even
below cost (these are called loss-leaders; e.g., selling below cost milk
to get folks into your supermarket. Ever notice how the milk is always
furthest from the door in every store– that’s to get you to impulse buy
when you are walking through the facility.)
Rules? There are no rules in entrepreneurship; you get to make up
your own. You just have to hope the set of rules you choose, works;
i.e., they underpin a viable business model.
Prof Bruce @ 12:14 pm
Tuesday 3 January 2006
Business Week published (Seton Hall University, Stillman
School of Business study, August 25, 2003) their take on why most
businesses fail. I’ll bet you that their top five reasons (too much
debt, inadequate leadership, poor planning, failure to change and
inexperienced management) are in fact related to number six on their
list: not enough revenue.
To me, a business that does not generate enough revenue is probably
(by far) the biggest cause of business failure. Perhaps, they are not
generating enough revenue because of inadequate leadership, poor
planning, failure to change and inexperienced management, which also
means they can’t meet their debt obligations. In other words, they may
not be interpreting their stats in quite the right way in as much as
their independent variables are not truly independent and, hence, their
take on causation might be wrong.
What are the three most important things for a startup to focus on?
SALES, SALES, SALES. The focus on sales is also an important requirement
for established businesses. I mean how long do you think mighty IBM
would last if it didn’t collect its receivables? IBM sells around $85
billion worth of goods and services a year (one customer at a time, btw)
so that means around $7 billion a month. If they don’t collect for two
months that means that they would have a cashflow shortfall of $14
billion so my guess is that even IBM would be in serious trouble in less
than 60 days.
Today, if you have enough revenue, you will get financing, not the
other way round. This is the lesson of the false boom of the late 1990s
when VCs and others financed startups with interesting business models
but no revenue prospects. This has never worked, in any age.
If you have enough revenue, you can meet the cashflow demands of debt
servicing costs so a focus on revenue growth is vital. One needs to not
only generate the revenue but collect it too. This seems self-evident
but a lot of startups don’t do billing, invoicing and collections very
well and many don’t do selling or pre-selling very well either.
In my experience, the number one reason for failure is the absence of
buoyant revenues. I mean how many businesses have you heard of folding
if their revenue numbers are going up and up?
Prof Bruce @ 11:37 am
Friday 23 December 2005
To build sustainable business models, you need to have
control over some type of ‘factor of production’. When my wife and I
took the mule train to the bottom of the Grand Canyon to visit Phantom
Ranch, I realized how valuable the concession was to operate the
service. First of all, it’s a monopoly service. Second of all, it
operates in one of the seven wonders of the world, a sacred place.
Thirdly, there is practically unlimited demand– you need to book ahead
many months or you won’t be going.
How would you like to control the bridge from Windsor to Detroit
which in the first 11 months of 2005 carried 8.9 million vehicles and is
one of North America’s most congested choke points? And every one of
those vehicles paid a toll to Manuel Moroun’s company. Now it appears
that Mr. Maroun has negotiated a 90 year agreement with the Wayne County
Port Authority to build another bridge. The Port Authority is rumored
to get a 2.5% royalty. Sheesh. That means that Mr. Maroun gets 97.5%.
Seems like a pretty good deal for him.
Business modelas that work need to have some kind of differentiator;
some type of ‘pixie dust’, the magic that makes a business work. For a
National Football League franchise, it is the right to operate an
exclusive franchise within a defined geographic area and exploit all the
revenue rights within that area– tickets, merchandise, suite rentals,
sponsorship, signage, parking, etc. and to share in national television
Most entrepreneurs who don’t have some type of value differentiator
either can’t build sustainable businesses or the ones that they do build
produce no more value for them than if they just went out and got a
The role of an entrepreneur, in my view, is to build a business that
creates more value than that and which can take on a life of its own–
i.e., it can survive the passing from the scene of its founder or can
make money for its owner while she/he is lying on a beach. The latter is
the preferred option, obviously.
A spa, for example, might have some pixie dust becuase of its high
end location or because it has some highly sought after hair stylists or
because it has some sophisticated software that runs its appointment
calendar and inventory of products and reverses out some of the work to
its clients (e.g., they can self book online).
A friend of mine, Rob Hall, runs Pool.com, a business that
revolutionized the backordering of domain names. Instead of paying $60
to backorder a domain name that may never delete, Pool.com allows you to
register your backorder FOR FREE. You only pay if Pool.com is
successful in getting the name for you. Guess which site gets most of
the backorders now? (BTW, over 5,000 dot-COMs delete every day).
Pixie dust/value differentiation– think about it, see how you can add
some to your business and watch your revenues and margins grow.
Prof Bruce @ 7:01 am
Saturday 17 December 2005
Coldwater Creek (born in 1984) is a great example of a
Bootstrap startup. It was started in the apartment of the two founders
in a small town in Idaho. What did they do?
They: cut costs to the bone both personal and in the business, found a
market niche (catering to professional women) that was under-exploited,
focused on the three most important things in a new startup (SALES,
SALES, SALES), showed a profit, used an inexpensive way to reach their
customers and add new ones (snail mailed catalogues), changed the
business model as needed (adding bricks and mortar stores when
warranted) in upscale malls, provided great customer service, invested
in staff training, had a lot of confidence in themselves.
But it wasn’t painless. The founding couple divorced and they both
experienced a lot of stress. Entrepreneurship is a tough calling but it
is perhaps like the River Styx: once you cross it, you can never come
back (to a JOB).
Prof Bruce @ 10:01 am
Monday 14 November 2005
Thank you to the City of Ottawa for sending me a copy of
their recent Land Inventory Report. The Consultants make a number of
very useful points such as noting that lands in inventory are largely
held by a few players in the development industry. I have never believed
that such concentration of ownership is good for housing markets, home
buyers, first time home buyers, small builders and cities generally.
I think that if they had access to 2005 data, they would have seen
that raw land prices have jumped even higher with lands that are General
Urban and ready for development within two years are now trading at
$150,000 per acre and up.
To me, rapid increases in land prices together with, for example, a
push to recently re-designate 300 acres of industrial lands to
residential (successfully, by the way), means that we have a shortage of
land and that shortage is caused by the City’s policy freezing the
I don’t believe in that policy—cities are living organisms and
artificial restrictions are bad policy for cities. Now, many people feel
that freezing the urban boundary will increase the density and
intensity of development within the existing boundary. Well, if you look
at recent Council decisions, for example, the down-zoning of a former
school site from 99 town homes to 55 singles because of NIMBY pressure
(and despite City staff support for the original application), you get
not only bad planning which is contrary to the City’s own Official Plan
but hypocrisy as well.
Now developers are often cited as the source of urban sprawl but
developments such as the recent construction of three, 15 storey
apartment towers in Kanata show that developers can build denser
communities. It is the City imposing 40% open space requirements on
parts of our suburbs, insisting on road rights-of-way that can be as
much as 26 metres wide (practically big enough for Formula One Racing),
imposing setbacks, height limits, single family only zoning, no spot
commercial inside new sub-divisions, one way streets, no left turns, no
work-from-home rules, no employees in the homes, no duplexes, or
duplexes and triplexes that attract two and even three Development
Charges and a plethora of other restrictions that create sub-divisions
that are not walkable, not sustainable and not affordable.
Anyway, I think the research is useful but obviously I don’t entirely agree with the conclusions…
Prof Bruce @ 9:45 am
Saturday 29 October 2005
By Wendy’s and Others
My youngest son, Matthew and I were talking the other day about the
probability that someone drawn from a random list of 200,000 names
(that’s how many people entered the Wendy’s
kick-a-field-goal-from-50-yards-to-win-a-million-dollars contest) could
actually kick a 50 yard field goal. We both thought Wendy’s and their
insurance company were quite safe from having to pay out a dime. That is
until Brian Diesbourg, a 25 year old from Belle River (ON), lined up at
the 50 in the Rogers Centre (after failing to make it from the 20, 30
and 40 yard lines) and, in front of 40,000+ screaming fans (now that’s
pressure) and drilled it through the uprights.
Almost 600,000 television viewers were watching the halftime show (up
from 465,000 during the game), so both the sports network and Wendy’s
were getting a huge marketing push from the stunt.
When the kick was made, fireworks went off, Brian’s girlfriend and
family started jumping for joy and the Toronto Argonaut players swarmed
Brian; it was a happy scene. Someone from Wendy’s gave Brian one of
those giant (fake) cheques showing ONE MILLION DOLLARS on it. It was a
great guerrilla (GM) marketing moment for Wendy’s.
Remember that there have been payouts of that magnitude before (twice
in the NBA and once in the NFL—but that was for a 35 yarder) so it
isn’t unique—still it was a good moment for Brian, the Argos and, yes,
Brian did the media rounds the next day still wearing his Wendy’s shirt—more GM for the restaurant chain.
But now the truth is out. Brian didn’t actually get a million; he
received a cheque for $25,000. That’s right: TWENTY-FIVE THOUSAND
DOLLARS. Huh, what’s with that? Well, it turns out that if you read the
small print, the winner ACTUALLY gets $25k a year for 40 years. Now that
is reverse marketing in a big way. The contest should have been
advertised that way—WIN TWENTY FIVE THOUSAND A YEAR FOR LIFE (40
And any way you cut it, the contest isn’t worth one million dollars.
If you use a discount rate of 5% p.a., it’s only worth around $352,000
in today’s money. Net present value, if your discount rate is 10%, is
just $226,000. Even if you use a 3% discount rate, NPV is still less
than half a million ($435,000).
Brian is a gentleman—he said that the payout doesn’t bother him; he
would have blown the million if he had received it all at once anyway.
Now that’s probably true (one third of all million dollar+ lottery
winners are bankrupt within 5 years of winning) but what does matter is
that Wendy’s looks bad and cheap. Some people are calling for a boycott
of Wendy’s—geez, somehow I don’t think that is what they had in mind
when they organized the contest. If you are going to do some viral
marketing, might as well do it right.
More recently, a former student of mine went to buy a car and later I noticed this exchange via Twitter:
Wow. Dilawri really knows how to sour a car buying experience. Agree to
one thing, deliver another. Possible further rant later. #ottawa
@kareemsultan my cousin worked there. She told me, “Nobody steals like Dilawri”.
Now if you know the car dealer in question, their slogan is ‘Nobody Deals like Dilawri‘. Having people riff on it as per the above is reverse marketing in a BIG way.
Dr Bruce M Firestone, B Eng (Civil), M Eng-Sci, Phd. Founder, Ottawa
Senators; Author, Quantum Entity Trilogy, Entrepreneurs Handbook II;
Executive Director, Exploriem.org; Broker, Century 21 Explorer Realty
Inc; Entrepreneurship Ambassador, Telfer School of Management,
University of Ottawa. 613.566.3436 X 200. bruce.firestone @ century21.ca
You can also read the first four chapters of Quantum Entity Trilogy or send it to your friends for free from: https://www.old.dramatispersonae.org/images/QuantumONE_CS_Third_Edition_First_Four_Chapters.pdf
You can read the first two chapters of Entrepreneurs Handbook II or send it to your friends for free: https://www.brucemfirestone.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/entrepreneurs-handbook-2013-edited-first-two-chapters-withCovers.pdf
Prof Bruce’s current motto is: “Making Each Day Count”
Prof Bruce @ 8:04 am
Thursday 27 October 2005
Take this 5 – 10 minute online test and see how you rate as a
would-be entrepreneur. This is for entertainment purposes only. Like
most tests, it only gives approximate results, but evidence suggests
that there is a correlation between your score on the ECQ test and
success as an entrepreneur.
Prof Bruce @ 6:05 pm
Thursday 27 October 2005
Here is a free online Business Model Generator that we
developed at Carleton University’s Sprott School of Business that helps
startups generate a business model. It forces entrepreneurs to be
rigorous in their analysis of what a business model is and helps them
get a handle on whether their model might actually work in the real
world. The end product is a one page visual flow chart of the new
business model + you can see some other examples too. Free Online Business Model Generator
Prof Bruce @ 5:56 pm
Thursday 27 October 2005
I have been asked many times by students and others: “Why is it that
North Americans live to work, while Euros work to live?” Well here is my
(rather too long) answer.
This is a BIG question that is tied into (at least, to my mind) an even BIGGER question: “What is the Purpose of Life?”
Before we look at that, let’s try to enunciate what we most commonly
think of as the purposes of a national economy. They are to provide: a)
for the defence of the nation-state, b) for the health and education of
its inhabitants, c) for the edification, entertainment and happiness of
its citizens and d) for the furtherance of the nation-state in its
endless competition with other nation-states.
Now these goals are not universally held to be true in all nations
but even in those that are governed by dictators they tend to pay
lip-service to the middle two of these goals. As George Orwell informed
us in 1984, the bigger the lie, the easier it is to believe. But for the
purposes of this essay, let us assume these are an acceptable set of
When I was a child of about 10 (circa the early 1960s), I was
impressed by the vision of a future (circa the first part of the 21st
Century) that would allow people to work 12 hours a week and still enjoy
a rich lifestyle. For a kid laboring in a private boarding school where
the teachers were called Masters and they still caned and strapped
their students, this sounded marvelous to me. A future filled with time
to play, amazing.
Alas, it was too good to be true. But wait, why is it too good to be
true? We have robots building cars, we have labour saving devices in the
home, we have satellites in geo-synchronous orbit, we have space travel
and space stations, we have universal, ‘free’ and instant communication
(the Internet), we have clones, we have heart transplants, we have
quantum teleportation, we have… all the things that were first
speculated upon by science and science fiction writers in the 50s and
60s and yet everyone I know today is working incredible hours and not
really getting any further ahead. Huh? What’s with that?
On Golden Lake
A few years ago, my family and I were at Red Pine Camp on Golden
Lake. It was one of those fantastic Ontario summer days—the temperature
was perfect, the humidity low and a huge weather front had arrived from
2,500 kilometres of prairie lands and tundra to the west and north of
I sat with my wife, Dawn, on a high bluff overlooking the Lake—the
sunlight reflecting off the surface of Golden Lake was indeed golden.
The light patterns on the Lake were complex as the winds created wave
forms that were endless in their variety. Hours passed, an entire day
was spent watching this stupendous display of natural beauty.
During that time, I thought that it was highly probable that men and
women had been coming to this particular bluff and enjoying this
spectacle for at least the last 30,000 years. And that led me to think
that for most of those generations (before the coming of the White Man
to NA), they actually had enough time to enjoy it.
I read that the average work week for a native Indian male in North
America before the current era was about 12 hours a week—during which
they were able to hunt enough game to provide for their families. The
rest of the time, they could indulge themselves in: games, competitions,
smoking unadulterated tobacco, communing with their gods, making love
and war, playing with their children, trekking, telling stories, chewing
peyote buttons, observing the natural world, perfecting their arts,
teaching their kids, etc.
I also had time to reflect on a conversation I once had with a worker
at a resort in Jamaica some time ago. He was responsible for towels at
this particular resort—he managed the inventory of beach towels; he made
sure that only resort patrons got them and he collected them from the
beach after their use.
I got to know him a bit while I was staying at the resort and one day
he asked me: “Mr. Firestone, who has the better life? You or me? I work
25 hours a week; I do a fine job, my boss likes me and I meet nice
people. I get good tips and I still have time to smoke the Ganja, listen
to music and make love to my woman. How many hours a week do you work?”
You have to ask yourself the question, if we accept the four purposes
of our national economy as described above, how come it isn’t producing
these kinds of results?
Socialization of Risk
In many developed nations, with, until recently, the significant
exception of the U.S. (the Obama administration has now introduced more
nearly universal medicare there), we socialize the risk of the health of
the population—i.e., we provide national medical care for all citizens.
Now there is hope for 45 million Americans previously not covered that
getting sick won’t mean financial ruin or a much higher risk of death or
impairment because they cannot afford treatment or the most advanced
There is no nation on the planet that has ever held the power of the
U.S. The U.S. exports its value system to every corner of the globe
through its legions of trans-national corporations, its cultural
hegemony, its control over* and dominance of the Internet and its mighty
(* The DOC controls the 13 world-wide root servers that underpin the Internet which allow websites to resolve.)
The top 1% of households in the US in 2007 owned or controlled nearly 35% of all privately held wealth (https://sociology.ucsc.edu/whorulesamerica/power/wealth.html). The next 19% controlled 50.5% which means that the bottom 80% of households have to make do with 15%.
When the US has an economy with a winner-take-all modus operandi,
whether that is in health care, entertainment, sports, business or
academia, the rest of the world must take note. So we cannot ignore the
national priorities of a country like the United States* because they
set the de facto standard for the rest of the world.
(* It may be that the arguments I made in this essay, originally
written in 2005, might substitute the country name ‘China’ for ‘the
United States’ and it would still work. It seems that China is ascendant
right now (circa 2010) and could be the world’s next superpower with
the ability to set the pace for others. Mitigating factors might be
their one-child policy which will eventually slow China’s growth.
Having said this, I am not convinced that the US will altogether lose
its world power status. They have, at least until recently, accepted
the best and brightest immigrants into places like Silicon Valley and
NYC which has had powerful, positive effects for their growth rate. In
addition, the US is the one developed country that can at least meet the
birthrate needed to replace its population, around 2.1 live births per
female. Other developed nations are significantly below this and,
without in-migration, their populations will implode in the next half
century. This is likely to happen, for example, in Russia and Japan. If
the Americans don’t lose their guts, they may yet stage a comeback.)
Anyway, ask yourself the question: “If the U.S. decided to go to a six day work week (God forbid), what would your leaders do?”
In a relatively small nation-state like Canada, we would be sunk. A
few years ago, one of Ottawa’s great companies (Newbridge, now owned by
Alcatel) lost more than 10% of its value overnight because they dared to
close on a national holiday in Canada when the U.S. was still at work. A
few U.S. analysts tried to call the PR department to get an answer to
some trivial question and, when they couldn’t get an instant response,
rumors started swirling around that Newbridge had gone out of business
and then the rush was on to dump the stock. Now major publicly-traded
companies in Canada have to keep a skeleton staff on at all times when
the U.S. is at work lest it happen to them and, presto, they are forced
to sell out to a larger competitor.
Socialization of Leisure
Now the Europeans have tried to take a middle path and, certainly,
they have had more success than Canada could ever have in terms of
pursuing their own independent policies* with regard to working hours
and working conditions. France is famous for shutting down every August
and German spa resorts are world-class; they know how to pamper the
(* Mind you, this has never stopped U.S.-based fund managers from
constantly criticizing Euros for their ‘lazy’ ways despite the fact that
the Euro zone has some of the highest productivity economies anywhere.
It is my experience that the U.S. has this peculiar notion that unless
you’re an American, you’re a dunce. I once dated a girl from NYC, a
producer for a major television network, who, after finding out I was a
Canadian, started talking s l o w e r to me. This occurred after a
few dates and presumably finding out that I wasn’t a moron. I thought
to myself: “Did my IQ suddenly drop or did she just find out I was a
The Euros laugh at North Americans; they call us the ‘Work/Pajama
People’. We work all day to come home at night to get immediately into
our PJs so we can get to bed so we can get up the next day to do it all
over again. Social life? Fun? Hobbies? Art? Play? Being with our Kids?
Lifetime Learning? Hanging Out? Other interests? Extended Family? Bosom
Buddies? Are you kidding, who has time for any of that?
It seems clear to me that there is no way we could ever have a
national economy (in Canada and maybe everywhere) that truly puts the
interests of its people first without first having an international
agreement to that effect. It would be like the MAD (Mutually Assured
Destruction) doctrine of the Cold War only it would apply to working
hours and conditions—“I (name of country goes here) promise not to work
myself and my co-workers to death trying to out compete and out do and
out sell you if you (aka the United States of America) promise not to do
the same to me.” The only difference this time would be that the
doctrine would revolve around a calculus of life instead of the
Strangelovian calculus of death that haunted my early childhood and all
those who are middle aged today*. Hmm, that sounds somehow right to me.
(* We practiced preparing for nuclear Armageddon in the basement of
our school—we were told to crouch down and put our heads between our
legs. I remember hearing the wail of the early warning sirens, which
were tied into NORAD, as these were tested. We would get 20 minutes
warning of a nuclear attack. Plus we regularly got updates from the
Doomsday Clock. Scientists set the hands on the clock—the closer to 11
it was, the higher the likelihood of nuclear war. The futility of it
all, the expense, the never ending stupidity of all humans, it just
boggles the mind.)
At its most primal, the urge to work ourselves to death doesn’t just
come from our avarice to buy more stuff. It derives from a deep seated
fear that if we don’t, our competitors will eat our lunch. If we don’t
work hard, our boss will fire us, our chief competitor will steal our
clients, our city and our country will fall behind other nations that we
compete with, we will all lose our jobs because there are others out
there willing to work even harder than we do and for less money, we
won’t be able to provide all the necessities of life and educational
opportunities for our children, we won’t be able to pay our bills, our
spouses will leave us, …
Think about it for a minute—two primary human motivations are greed
and fear. These are perhaps the most powerful human impulses of all. But
is this the right way to run our lives—living in fear that we are going
to get beaten out and greedy for everything we can grab lest one day,
we don’t have enough?
National or international standards have always made us wealthier.
What’s the purpose of having a fax machine if every fax machine has its
own standard and one machine can’t talk to another? What if all the fax
machines in your city could talk to each other but not to one in
Toronto? What if they could all talk to each other in every city in your
nation-state but nowhere else?
Most of us have no idea how important these agreements are—we have
standards that affect nearly every part of our global economy: we agree
on the time of day (don’t laugh; it wasn’t that long ago, before the
acceptance of GMT (Greenwich Mean Time), that scheduling an appointment
with someone was subject to a great deal of clarification as to which
time you were using); the calendar, voltage, spelling, driving (right
handed or left handed), signalization (red for stop, green for go),
table heights, measurement (length of a centimetre, etc.), temperature
scales, operating systems, counter heights, work week, right handed
screws, protocols for the telephone, television, fax, tape deck, VCR, IP
(Internet Protocol), Browser, Email, DVDs, secure e-documents
(basically, by default, Adobe PDFs), right click, left click and so on.
English has become the international standard for the Internet, for
technology, for business, for politics. Think about the economic
advantages that derive from having one common language that everyone
speaks. The alternative is Babel and we know what became of them…they
couldn’t work together as a team and teamwork is perhaps uniquely
important to the survival of the human species.
We might not like some of the standards that we have adopted but their economic benefits are enormous.
Now what if we agreed on a new international standard that people
should only work 12 hours a week? Would that be possible to do? No,
probably not but it might be possible to, say:
Agree on 12 days a year that would be set aside as universal, internationally sanctioned holiday days—one a month.
That would allow people to have one three day weekend per month and
it would be a start in a new direction. Is it possible that better
rested people might be more creative and more productive? It certainly
is possible and would be worth finding out.
I know that I cannot take any time off; I feel guilty if I do. Work
ethic is so deeply ingrained in me that if I try to take a day off when
other people are working, I feel lousy. I am sure that I am not alone in
this—I need Big Brother to impose time off and make it a social goal,
then I am fine with it.
Wouldn’t it be nice if one of our ‘leaders’ was worried about
something other than, say, Bill Clinton’s ‘love’ life? That debate
practically monopolized the U.S. Congress for two years. The national
dialogue in most countries, it seems to me, is incredibly picayune. No
one seems to talk much about issues that would really mean something to
their citizens. What are we afraid of?
Why couldn’t our leaders simply agree to add the 12 new international
holiday days to whatever national holidays they already have in their
countries whether that is 6, 8, 10 or whatever number of days. Imagine
12 internationally recognized holiday days where everyone got to rest
and, maybe, the planet got to rest too. Turn stuff off for 12 days each
year. And while we’re are at it, turn off all the outdoor city lights
too so our kids can see the night sky. God knows ‘Gaia’ (Mother Earth)
needs a break from human activity.
(To read more about the effect that standards have on our well being, please refer to: https://www.eqjournalblog.com/?p=1366.)
The Purpose of Life
I wish I knew what the answer to this question is. The framers of the
U.S. Constitution thought it was: Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of
Happiness. In Canada, our philosophy is based on: Peace, Order and Good
As a young man, I lived in Oz for seven years and I thought that the purpose of life then was sailing and hang gliding.
(This was later affirmed when then Prime Minister, Bob Hawke, declared
an impromptu national holiday in Australia the day after Alan Bond’s
yacht wrestled the America’s Cup away from the Yanks, after more than
120 years of U.S. domination of the sport).
When I was a kid, I felt sure the purpose in life was to advance
technology so we could go flying around the Solar System and then the
Galaxy. Immediately after this phase, I felt really sure that the
purpose in life was girls.
So what is the purpose of life? Maybe if we understood it better we
might also find the answer to what we should be aiming to do with our
national economies too. If the purpose of life is to sit on the beach
and contemplate nature then perhaps we should only be doing just enough
with our national economies to keep ourselves fed.
If we decided this was the right path, then we would need
international agreement (an impossibility I realize) to implement a
radical change like this. You can’t have one nation working feverishly
piling up wealth, technology and weapons while others, made up of
slackers, are contemplating the Tao because, if there is any one lesson
that history shows us, is that nations and peoples that don’t keep up
with their competitors, well, they simply cease to exist. So you need
agreement before any one nation-state could even consider re-jigging
national priorities to, say, give people more family time*.
(* International agreement is a practical impossibility; you can’t
even get national agreement on anything like this. Look at what happened
to the national consensus and provincial consensus in Canada concerning
Sunday shopping. Whether you believe in a Sabbath day or not, Sunday
was the day of rest by national consensus in Canada. Families spent time
together because, in a way, they were forced to. Commercial interests
pressed hard for decades to make Sunday just another shopping day, like
any other. They had logical arguments on their side like: not everyone
recognizes Sunday as a Sabbath day or some shops in designated tourist
areas were allowed to be open while others a few metres away were not
They also put forward plausible sounding arguments like: “Shouldn’t
people be allowed to choose what they want to do and when they want to
do it? People can always choose not to shop on Sunday but why should
they take away the rights of others to shop if they want to.” The result
of these campaigns is that Sunday shopping is now allowed practically
everywhere in Canada.
It has proven to be disastrous, in my view. Now every day is just
like every other day. Nothing is special anymore. There is no rest day.
My youngest son, Matthew, works in a local retail store and they all are
required to take shifts whenever management requires them to;
unwillingness to take their turn may result in dismissal.
So if we can not come to agreement about what purposes the national
economy should be put to and if we do not then socialize these goals by
agreement and by implementing these agreements through recognized
standards, then they aren’t going to happen and the whole debate is just
stale air coming out of our mouths anyway.)
Now if you examine the geological record, you can see the evidence of
mass extinctions and selective extinctions. Mass extinctions seem to
have occurred when external events like a comet impacting the earth
happened. Selective extinctions are harder to explain but, in all
probability, those species disappeared because they could not adapt to
new circumstances in their environment or because of the rise of new
competitors who, literally, either ate their lunch or ate them for
It seems the height of hubris to think that this cannot happen to humans; in fact, it seems all too likely.
In the case of extinctions, the biological slate is being cleaned—and
biological room is being made for other life forms to arise. The
convenient extinction of the dinosaurs almost certainly made room for
the rise of mammals and humanity with it too.
Arthur C. Clarke recognized this possibility in one of his early works, Childhood’s End,
where humanity perished in the process of giving rise to their
successors. (Interestingly, he also predicted in this novel (in 1953, no
less) that long distance would be at an end as of December 31st, 1999.
The Internet arrived just in time to see Mr. Clarke’s prediction come
If all the works of humans must one day perish, what’s the point*?
Maybe smoking Ganja and listening to music is the right path after all.
(* Existentialists embrace a philosophy that emphasizes the
uniqueness and isolation of the individual experience in a hostile or
indifferent universe. They regard human existence as unexplainable and
stress freedom of choice and responsibility for the consequences of
one’s acts.** This seems to neatly get around the need to explain things
like: how did life begin? But if human consciousness, ‘I think
therefore I am’, is unique, or at least, a very special event and not
plentiful in the Universe, then it seems to me that we are here to ask
the hard questions and not to embrace a philosophy, that even though it
does have a moral underpinning, it refuses to go beyond a ‘rose is a
rose’ explanation of the wonders of the unimaginably large and
unimaginably old space we experience around us. Humans seem to need
absolutes to tell right from wrong—everything can’t be relative;
everything can’t be ‘Beautiful in its Own Way’ as a syrupy old song once
crooned… There is too much evil in the world for that to be true.
** American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Third
Edition © 1992 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Electronic version licensed
from INSO Corporation. )
But somehow I don’t think life is really like that. Humans have an
innate desire to create new things and manipulate their environment. Our
brains have grown so enormous that the only limit on their development
is the diameter of the birth canal. There must be a point to it.
We have opposable thumbs that are just perfect for gripping tools.
Tools and brains, brains and tools. That is a recipe for hard work—I
realize it is a circular argument; we have big brains and tool using
digits so we must be meant to use them and we have big brains and tool
using digits because we have used them.
Life is a self-organizing and powerful force*. If you have ever been
present when someone dies, you would realize how precious it is and how
fiercely it is surrendered.
(* If life was not an incredibly hardy thing, it would have died out
on this planet long ago. Planetary scientists have speculated that at,
times, the entire planet was an ice-covered white ball. We know the
planet has been damaged by massive cometary impacts. If life hadn’t
found a way to survive continuously for, at least, the last 4 billion
years, you and I could not be having this conversation. We worked on a
YouTube video which looked at using, in part, biological systems to
colonize the Moon: https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_profilepage&v=9crQK3ReJHY.)
There are many unanswered BIG questions—what created the Universe,
how did life begin, how do different species actually arise? No matter
how hard we think about it, no one can truly understand the meaning of a
Universe that is 15 billion years old. Can you imagine, for a minute,
what it would be like to witness 1,642 billion sunrises and sunsets (the
approximate age of our Solar System is 4 and ½ billion years)?
No matter how hard we try, no one can really grasp the idea that
there was NOTHING before the Big Bang and that the Universe was created
at that moment and the enormous energies unleashed at that moment in
time were conjured up from the nothingness of nothing; not even the
background noise of space since space and time are linked and without
time (which began at the moment of the Big Bang), there can be no space.
No one really understands how you mix a bunch of chemicals and energy
in a Petrie dish and, voila, you get self-replicating DNA. No one can
really explain how you breed generation after generation of cats and,
somehow, through speciation, you get a dog. Sure, we understand that
longer necked giraffes had a competitive advantage over their shorter
necked cousins, so now all we see are the longer necked ones. I get
that. But no matter how many times we breed giraffes, we aren’t ever
going to produce a zebra.
In Bill Bryson’s excellent book, A Short History of Nearly Everything,
he notes that in order to create proteins, you need to assemble amino
acids (the building blocks of life) in a precise order. To produce
collagen, a common protein, you require a 1,055-sequence molecule. The
chance of this happening randomly is vanishingly small. For a protein
with a more modest 200 sequence, the probability of this happening by
itself is 1 in 10 to the power of 260, Bryson calculates (p. 288). That
is a larger number than all the atoms in the Universe. Obviously,
science has a great deal more explaining to do to solve the mystery of
how life began. Wouldn’t it be remarkable if science* found the
answer—it is bound to be wonderful because it is so improbable.
(* I have always found it funny that scientists often pooh pooh new
theories and new discoveries because they transcend or are inconsistent
with established orthodoxies. But the scientific method requires that we
suspend disbelief. The absence of proof is not, in itself, proof that a
concept or theory is wrong and scientists should know better.)
Speciation has been defined as occurring when isolated groups from a
single species develop along differing evolutionary paths until finally
they can no longer interbreed. This seems much too limited a theory to
account for the incredible biological diversity we see around us and
that has taken place on earth over geologic time.
And random mutation isn’t the answer either since an entire
population needs to be created simultaneously so they can breed future
generations successfully. Perhaps populations infected with a virus may
cause DNA migration and new speciation or maybe DNA of whole populations
or, at least, a significant proportion changes rapidly in the face of
intense environmental pressures. Life seems to find a way.
It is stubborn and adaptive and I suspect that it could be quite
widespread in the Universe. Intelligent life might be much rarer.
Exogenesis seems as likely a vector for the start of life on earth as
anything else that I have read—for example, rocks have traveled from
Mars to the Earth and, less frequently, from Earth to Mars. Natural
forces such as asteroid or comet impacts have thrown Mars rocks into
orbit which have later intersected with Earth’s orbit and fallen to the
surface. If there was life on Mars at one time, it’s already here in all
probability—having hitched a ride on space debris.
I think we have little to fear from space borne plagues that we haven’t already seen at one time or another already.
So what is the purpose of life? I don’t know but it isn’t to work
ourselves to death and it isn’t to feed our children into the maws of
corporate giants to spit out ever more profit for the lucky 1% of the
population that are equity lords (thanks to Neal Stephenson for coining
this term in his novel, The Diamond Age) in our society. But I
don’t think it is to just sit on a beach either, smoking weed. If we all
did that, life would still be short and brutish—you’d be old, toothless
and dead before 40. No thanks*.
There is something much more complicated, much more beautiful, much more dangerous going on. I just don’t know what it is.
* If you are unsure about our use of at least some technology, I recommend you see the film, Quest for Fire,
again. It shows what life is like for a primitive tribe that has lost
its one source of fire; it’s not a pretty sight. Life without fire is
not pleasant for the group. Fire is the basis for cooking, warmth,
development of new technologies and for protection. It allows them to
extend their day (because they can see at night.) It has subtle effects
like allowing them to hang around the fire at night and begin to tell
each other stories. They pass on information to their children and each
other. They can entertain themselves. They can discover humor and
leisure time. They can become more creative.
In the film, they send out three hunters to find fire and bring it
back to their cave. The three hunters have many adventures, the most
important of which is their contact with a more advanced group that has
mastered the art of making fire. If you think this skill is trivial, remember that in subsequent episodes of the hit TV series, Survivor, not one modern human could successfully make fire despite the fact that each of them knew, in advance,
after watching the contestants in the first series, that this would be a
huge advantage in the game to outwit and outplay their opponents and
win a million dollars. Yet not one of the next 16, after more than two
days of effort, could do it.
Copyright. Dr. Bruce M. Firestone, Ottawa, Canada. Saturday, January 1st, 2005. With revisions.
Prof Bruce @ 5:22 pm
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