Katie and I had a really, really nice Christmas week. It began with seeing Avatar in IMAX 3D here in Houston. I didn't know much about the film going into it, except that it had been very hyped. All I hoped for was more Terminator and less Titanic. Although the plot wasn't terribly novel, I certainly identified with the eco-friendly themes and, hey, I can always get behind an underdog in a good fight. Besides, the film was visually pretty spectacular and I strongly encourage people to see it in IMAX 3D if available. Overall I'd give it a 4.5 out of 6.

We then attended the annual holiday dinner of the Houston chapter of the Accademia Italiana della Cucina, a lovely affair in the private room at Tony's. We were thrilled to see that, during my two-year hiatus, the organization took on many new Rice alumni members so we had many friends at the dinner.

Wednesday we hopped on a flight to DC, where Mom picked us up from the airport. It was a real Winter Wonderland there after 20+ inches of snow! Boy it was great to be back, though. This was a very lazy trip in stark contrast to my usual pack-as-much-in-as-possible-and-try-to-see-everyone-in-just-a-few-days-which-basically-means-spending-all-my-time-stuck-in-DC-traffic. Maybe this was Katie's influence on me? Or maybe I'm just getting old? Either way, I could get used to the R&R!

Christmas Eve our dear, dear friends who have been like parents to me came over for dinner. Mom and Katie put together a veritable feast for us--with healthy, natural ingredients, of course. I tried to help out where I could but I spent most of the day reconnecting with my 8-year-old self and reading through all my old Calvin & Hobbes books. What a blast! Two decades later they are still a delight.

After dinner we exchanged gifts and then dove into the piece de resistance, a homemade Italian cream cake our guests had brought. When we finished it and loosened our belts a little, we were all surprised to realize that it was well past 1 AM--time flies when you are reconnecting with friends who are so close they really are family! We therefore had to call it a night to ensure that Santa would come.

Christmas Day was just as leisurely as we opened more presents and sipped on mimosas. A Christmas Story was watched, delicious leftovers were consumed, and naps were taken. Awesome.

The day after Christmas we hosted a small open house, which was a wonderful opportunity to catch up with friends and neighbors. Of course it featured even more great food. I did manage to squeeze some cardio in on this trip but that could hardly compete with the onslaught of delectables with which I was confronted every day. I'm not losing any sleep over it, though; the whole trip felt really, really good.

Now we're back in Houston and gathering ourselves for the New Year. We both received some truly outstanding gifts for Christmas but the greatest were the opportunities to spend time with the ones we love. What more can one really ask? I mean, other than wishing for Bill Watterson to come out of retirement to write more Calvin & Hobbes strips! And for Art Monk to come out of retirement to fix the Redskins. It was a very merry Christmas for me, for us, and I hope for everyone else out there as well. Here's to you all!


The United Kingdom

I spent the last week in the UK on business with meetings in Oxford and Cambridge. Katie had never been to London so we flew over for the preceding weekend just to soak it up a bit. In the security line at the Houston airport we bumped into Mike Unton, another Lovett alum, which was a good way to kick off our trip.

The flight from IAH to LHR was a significant one: for the first time in my life I attained Continental Platinum Elite status! I'm not sure it will change my life much but I have already been upgraded for this week's flight to DC so I'm excited about it. En route I watched Up and GI Joe. The former was pretty good while the latter was about as expected.

We arrived early Saturday morning and met up immediately with Mike Cox, another Rice alum who's currently working on a project in the UK. All last year while I was in Switzerland, Cox and I schemed about what we would do when this project started and we were finally on the same side of the Atlantic again. However, his project was delayed and delayed until it finally started shortly after I returned to the States--doh!

Cox was still recovering from a Christmas party the night before but he rallied quickly and we struck out together for the Texas Embassy. At the Embassy we met up with several IMD alumni, a few of whom are in green businesses--very cool! After lunch we donated a large Rice banner to add to the UT, Texas Tech, TCU, UH, and Baylor banners already present in the Embassy's upstairs bar. The manager humored us with a formal unveiling ceremony--go Rice!

Then we walked around London and Pub crawled a bit. Lisa Piguet, IMD's MBA admissions director, was in town so it was a thrill when she joined us too. Cox, Katie, and I had to duck out early, though, for dinner at a little French restaurant in the theater district. Dinner was delicious and full of fall/winter fare, such as pumpkin risotto, which paired well with the cold London weather.

Such a meal required that we walk around a bit afterward, which was basically an excuse to pub crawl some more. First we set our sights on a place with warm drinks and we found one quickly. There we also bumped into George DeMontrond, another Rice alum, whom I last bumped into at the Jimmy Buffett concert in Paris. Small world!

After our hot drinks it was time to take advantage of our proximity to Ireland so we migrated to an Irish pub for some Guinness. We also tried Guinness Red but quickly returned to our pure roots. Finally the pub closed up so we wound down with cocktails back at our hotel.

Sunday we walked around seeing London's historic sites during the day and then caught up with my IMD classmates, Randy and Ijeoma, for Indian food in the evening. It was great to see those two with whom I shared so much last year and, although they are both facing their own challenges now, it was gratifying to see that they are doing so well.

Katie caught an early Monday morning flight back to the US while I journeyed out to Oxford, where I spent Monday and Tuesday. Our principal supplier is headquartered there and it gave me a great chance to spend time with their CEO. By the end of the trip it was clear that personal relationships matter so much more than spreadsheets, contracts, or technology. We've been working on a deal with this company for months and the in-person time to solidify it was well worth the expense of the trip. Also in Oxford I found something that pairs very well with Guinness: steak, mushroom, and Guinness pie!

Wednesday I departed Oxford early for Cambridge, where I had never been before. One of the world's largest consumer electronics manufacturers was conducting a day-long meeting to determine how best to enter the home energy management market and they asked me to help craft their strategy. I was honored to be invited and excited to participate. After a full day of reviewing data from focus groups, evaluating the existing competitive landscape, and positing possible entry paths, I left feeling extremely energized by the process and excited about their direction. If they can succeed in this market it will do a lot of good--for them, for their consumers, and for the world at large--so I wish them the best with it.

Wednesday evening I returned to London to meet with a new VC--headed by a Rice alum. It was a great meeting and I'm excited about his firm--for entrepreneurs by entrepreneurs. This was followed by dinner with Cox and Scotch back at the hotel--where we were joined by another Rice alum living in the area.

At the end of five days I was exhausted and very satisfied with both the professional and personal aspects of this UK trip. What struck me most was that I met up with seven IMD alumni and four Rice alumni during the brief stay. Although the schools are small, I was impressed with the global distribution of their alumni. Next time I'll make sure to hook up with a TJ alum or two as well!

Pics are in my facebook album.


Poken One-Year Anniversary

December 8th was the one-year anniversary of my start with Poken. I can't believe it, that really seems lifetimes ago. What a roller coaster ride it was: arriving just as we launched the product commercially, working feverishly to update the product to meet the massive surge of initial demand, building a team quickly to keep up with the scale of growth, and--ultimately--making the heart-wrenching decision to leave Poken to lead a company that is working toward a better energy future. Poken is still doing well, growing and expanding every day. I wish the team all the best there and I look forward to the day when everyone else has a Poken!

Also in the news recently, my high school was selected as the top public school in the nation for the third year in a row. Once again I am humbled by the company I am in and can only strive to live up to such a standard. I feel very, very fortunate to have had the opportunity to attend TJ and I must make the most of it!



Christmas season has officially begun! Last weekend Katie, my mom, and I flew to Arizona for a "pre-Christmas" celebration with Katie's family. I had never been to Arizona before and found it to be pretty nice. The trip started off on a strange note, though: as we left Houston on Friday, it was actually SNOWING! This was the earliest snow on record in Houston and, frankly, I didn't believe that it EVER snowed here until I saw it with my own eyes and felt it on my own eyelashes. Wild! I'm glad we got out of there because I wouldn't trust Houston drivers on snowy roads. I suspect that people would be overconfident in their huge trucks and SUVs and not drive more cautiously.

We arrived in Phoenix in time to meet Katie's family and my mom for dinner. The weather was cold but very dry. Then we all caravaned to the houses we had rented for the weekend in Sedona. Sedona was really beautiful, with big red rock formations in every direction. The terrain was so foreign to that of places I've lived and been before that it seemed almost other-worldly.

Saturday we mostly putzed around Sedona, walking around and seeing the town. While the ladies shopped for arts and crafts, Katie's father and I snuck away to a microbrewery to sample their wares and watch the SEC Championship game. It ended well (Roll Tide!) so I'd call the day a success. In the evening, Katie's sister orchestrated a wonderful vegan dinner for us all and we exchanged gifts.

Sunday morning began with stockings--Santa somehow managed to find us three weeks early in Arizona! Then we drove up to the Grand Canyon, which none of us had visited before. Wow, was it ever impressive! It was very cold and windy, though, so most of our peeks at the Canyon consisted of parking the car as close as possible, sprinting to the overlook, taking pictures, and then sprinting back to the car. One of the overlooks was significantly below the parking area so we had do sprint down to it, then sprint back up afterward. I was excited about the sprint back up as it was a clear Rocky opportunity. However, I found myself completely unable to yell "Adrian!" at the top since the 7,000 feet above sea level rendered me totally breathless.

Monday we returned to the airport but stopped in Phoenix first so I could meet with an IMD alum who is commercializing a really cool wind energy technology for the developing world. Although networking was not a driving factor in my decision to attend IMD, it has been great to see that it really is a significant benefit.

It was a short weekend but a very good one. Getting to know Arizona was interesting, seeing the Grand Canyon was inspiring but, most of all, it was just wonderful to celebrate Christmas in such a warm family environment. Happy Early Holidays to all!


Space . . . The Final Frontier

Last week I had the honor and pleasure of presenting at the imagine09 conference of the American Astronautical Society. Breaking from tradition, the AAS followed the lead of TED this year and invited many speakers from across the US and across industries to present topics about which they are passionate. Some of these topics were space related but many were not and the goal was to foster dialog among the AAS membership about how these topics could be used within the context of the space industry. Cool!

One of the organizers is a member of the Rice Engineering Alumni group, of which I used to be president. Over coffee a few months ago, he somehow got the impression that I was passionate about using information technology to address the global energy challenge. I'm not sure how he got that impression . . . ;-) He invited me to join the slate of speakers and I agreed almost before he finished asking!

The guidelines I was given as a speaker were the TED commandments:

1. Thou shalt not simply trot out thy usual shtick.

2. Thou shalt dream a great dream, or show forth a wondrous new thing, or share something thou hast never shared before.

3. Thou shalt reveal thy curiosity and thy passion.

4. Thou shalt tell a story.

5. Thou shalt freely comment on the utterances of other speakers for the sake of blessed connection and exquisite controversy.

6. Thou shalt not flaunt thine ego. Be thou vulnerable. Speak of thy failure as well as thy success.

7. Thou shalt not sell from the stage: neither thy company, thy goods, thy writings, nor thy desperate need for funding, lest thou be cast aside into outer darkness.

8. Thou shalt remember all the while: laughter is good.

9. Thou shalt not read thy speech.

10. Thou shalt not steal the time of them that follow thee.

Accordingly, I put together a 20-minute talk about information-adaptive human behavior--using technology to "nudge" human behavior by providing the right information at the right time in the right way to the right people. After all, this is exactly what we're doing at Enistic to "nudge" office employees to better energy use behaviors. Instead of putting together a dry lecture about the behavioral science theory, I presented the material as part of the story of my own entrepreneurial journey; the presentation can be found at my slideshare page.

The conference itself took place over two days last week at NASA's Johnson Space Center. As someone who has always been fascinated with and inspired by the space industry, I was thrilled to participate. Given some of the other speakers (Bob Rogers, Richard Garriott, Wayne Hale, T. Boone Pickens III, for example), I was also honored to participate.

The talks were very engaging. For example, Wayne Hale presented a history lesson about China's world-leading shipping and exploration 600 years ago. Abruptly they shifted from exploration to isolationism and stagnated for centuries. This fostered a great deal of dialog about what we could learn from such lessons and how they might be applied to our own exploration policy.

In fact, all of the talks fostered dialog. After a speaker presented, he/she was whisked off to a breakout room. Audience members then had the option to go engage with that speaker for more detailed discussion or stick around in the main auditorium for the next presentation. Tough decisions! When it came time for me to present, I myself was torn as I really wanted to follow the previous speaker (executive director of the X PRIZE Foundation) for dialog!

I'm glad I stuck around and gave my presentation, though. It was well received and many people (including some of the other speakers) joined me in the breakout room to discuss energy savings, human behavior, technology, and how to apply all of these to the space industry. I don't think we solved any great problems during the breakout session but I do hope that the discussion seeded thoughts, ideas, and follow-up discussions that will continue to bear fruit for some time to come.

At the end of the conference I was exhausted from all of the energy, ideas, and discussion with new contacts. Great job, AAS, and I expect great things from the space industry! I'll post a link to the video of my presentation once it's available online.



My first Thanksgiving back on US soil in a couple of years was just what the doctor ordered! It began on Wednesday when Katie and I hopped in the car to begin the seven-hour drive to Hot Springs, Arkansas. Having watched the first six Harry Potter movies over the past several weeks, we listened to the audio book of the last in the series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, on our way up. It was great driving weather and we found ourselves at my aunt's house in Hot Springs before we even realized it.

Truth be told, my aunt's house isn't actually in Hot Springs. Each year more and more of my relatives move further out to the peaceful countryside. The aunt with whom we stayed owns a house way out in the woods, far from the hustle and bustle of city life. When I was a child we used to come out there for bonfires and s'mores. Now the accommodations are much nicer but the stars are still bright and unobstructed by ambient light.

Even though I haven't seen my aunt and uncle for almost a year, we were welcomed with open arms as if we had just been there yesterday. We spent a relaxing night there then began Thanksgiving day with a run along dirt roads, passing by several neighboring farms. The weather was in the 30s and cold air and the smell of fires in fire places filled the nostrils as we ran. Harry Potter 7, clear starry skies, running in cold weather, the smell of fires . . . I could have been back in Lausanne!

Running was fun. Each residence along our road had one or more dogs who came out to see who the runners were and then followed us as we ran. I felt like the pied piper with dogs coming out of each farm to trot along beside us, nipping at our hands and heels.

And it's a good thing we got some exercise in because Thanksgiving Dinner (which begins at noon and lasts all afternoon) didn't help my fitness goals. Neither did sitting around watching football all afternoon! But it was great just to kick back, eat great food, and enjoy the benefits of being back so close to the family I love.

Dinner was at another aunt's house, also out in the country. She has a farm there with dogs, chickens, cattle, horses, and lots and lots of pasture land. Not everyone was able to make it but we were thankful for those who could. Plus it was fun playing around with my aunt's livestock.

On Friday Katie and I continued our Thanksgiving weekend movie tradition and saw The Fantastic Mr. Fox by Houston's own Wes Anderson. It was very enjoyable and, of course, featured a great soundtrack. We then spent the evening with my aunt on my mom's side going out to dinner at Brauhaus, a German restaurant downtown. I didn't expect to be dining on Bavarian cuisine so quickly after having left that part of the world--and I especially didn't expect to do it in Arkansas--but the schnitzel was very good! Here again, though, the primary benefit was spending time with family.

Saturday Katie and I made our way back, still listening to Harry Potter. It's a good thing we missed most of the day's schedule of college football, because most of the games I cared about were very forgettable. However, the Rice volleyball team has been dominating. After winning the Conference USA tournament, they beat #17 LSU in the first round of the NCAA tournament. I've spent almost as much time supporting Rice volleyball as I have football, so I'm thrilled for the Owls and hope they can keep it up.

Pics are in my facebook album.


Rice-Baylor Update

Since my post a few weeks ago about the potential merger between Rice University and the Baylor College of Medicine, I have been made aware of many new sources of information. Many thanks to all contributed these, especially to Freddy Nguyen, Lovett '02. All active, engaged members of the Rice community should familiarize themselves with both sides of the debate:

The Rice Student Association Site on the Merger:

The Faculty Senate Site on the Merger: (Results from the Faculty Merger Review Committee)

Here are some blogs:

Houston Chronicle Articles: (There are more out there but this is the most recent editorial)

Rice Thesher Articles:
  1. http://media.www.ricethresher.org/media/storage/paper1290/news/2009/11/20/News/Rice-Bcm.Pointcounterpoint-3837970.shtml?reffeature=recentlycommentedstoriestab
  2. http://media.www.ricethresher.org/media/storage/paper1290/news/2009/11/20/News/Rice-Bcm.Inside.The.Merger-3837934.shtml
  3. http://media.www.ricethresher.org/media/storage/paper1290/news/2009/11/20/Opinion/Letters.To.The.Editor-3837907.shtml
  4. http://media.www.ricethresher.org/media/storage/paper1290/news/2009/11/20/News/Rice-Bcm.Faculty.Merger.Review.Committee-3837952.shtml
  5. http://media.www.ricethresher.org/media/storage/paper1290/news/2009/11/13/Opinion/Letters.To.The.Editor-3831153.shtml
  6. http://media.www.ricethresher.org/media/storage/paper1290/news/2009/11/13/Opinion/Merger.Does.Not.Portend.Culture.Clash-3831132.shtml
  7. http://media.www.ricethresher.org/media/storage/paper1290/news/2009/11/06/Opinion/RiceBcm.Merger.To.Promote.Research-3824252.shtml
  8. http://media.www.ricethresher.org/media/storage/paper1290/news/2009/10/30/Opinion/University.Address.Unfairly.Excludes.Students-3817981.shtml
  9. http://media.www.ricethresher.org/media/storage/paper1290/news/2009/10/30/Opinion/University.Address.Requires.Transparency-3817967.shtml
  10. http://media.www.ricethresher.org/media/storage/paper1290/news/2009/10/09/Opinion/RiceBaylor.Merger.Promises.Unparalleled.Opportunities-3798513.shtml
  11. http://media.www.ricethresher.org/media/storage/paper1290/news/2009/10/02/Opinion/Faculty.Concerns.For.Merger.Must.Be.Addressed-3790434.shtml
  12. http://media.www.ricethresher.org/media/storage/paper1290/news/2009/10/02/News/Concerns.Voiced.Over.Bcm.Merger-3790529.shtml



The last two weeks have been very, very active and full of milestones. At enistic, we've secured our first investors, our first resellers/installers/distributors, and--perhaps most importantly--our first clients! We still have a way to go to raise the money we need really to get this venture off the ground but this early momentum is very, very encouraging! Moreover, most of these initial angel investors know me personally and/or professionally so I'm encouraged by the votes of confidence they are putting in my abilities.

Closing this round of funding really can't happen quickly enough. Sitting in an office alone working on powerpoints, spreadsheets, emails, and phone calls is not how I am most effective. Building a team and working together to accomplish major commercial and operational goals is where I add the most value. Until we get to that point I feel . . . underutilized. Perhaps it's weird to feel "underutilized" when you're the founder, but my point is that the sooner we get past this initial hurdle, the sooner our pace of real growth will accelerate. We are heading in that direction, but I've never been known for my patience!

Other milestones have also been reached in my "extended" life. Last week was Rice's Homecoming. In addition to a fantastic weekend full of lectures, alumni group meetups, and reconnecting with friends, the mighty Rice Owls football team won its first game of the season! They followed that up this weekend with another win, and today the Rice volleyball team won the Conference USA tournament to boot. Go Owls!

Last week my mother opened a new exhibit, Moving Beyond Earth, at the National Air & Space Museum. It is an immersive, interactive gallery about the history and future of human spaceflight. Katie and I can't wait to see it when we're in DC for the holidays. Mom continues to amaze me with her exhibits, books, papers, conference publications, awards, and myriad other accomplishments--all while managing to be a great mother. Canonically one thinks of a doting mother proud of her children, but in our case the pride goes very much in the opposite direction!

The weather in Houston has actually been relatively cool recently. Katie and I have been taking advantage of the opportunity to sip on hot chocolate in the evenings and remember life in Switzerland. If the weather stays cool, perhaps we'll throw a little fondue party! In the meantime, big eating is ahead as we prepare for Thanksgiving. We can't wait to see the family in Hot Springs and enjoy my first Turkey Day back in the States!


GoWear fit

Having completed one week with the GoWear fit on my arm nearly 24 hours/day, I now have enough data to begin drawing conclusions about its usefulness. I'll break down my review into nutrition, exercise energy expenditure, non-exercise energy expenditure, and sleep.

GoWear Fit's nutrition functionality is hardly unique. It provides a web-based mechanism for tracking your daily nutritional intake, just like myriad other products and sites. Its UI is probably in the 70th percentile for online food logs, which makes it a mediocre food log but a great addition to a comprehensive calorie management system.

In 2005 I logged every single food/drink item that entered my body into a spreadsheet for the entire year. It was quite a chore, but the take-aways were invaluable. It was readily apparent from the data that the #1 contributing factor to my inability to reduce body fat was consumption of empty calories from alcohol. More specifically, the few evenings of heavy binge drinking (wine dinners a the Petroleum Club or late nights clubbing/bar hopping) would create massive calorie surplusses (2,000+) that would wipe out weeks of modest calorie deficits. I modified my behavior to drink more in moderation and the following year shed 10 pounds of body fat with no other modifications to my fitness or diet plans.

Online tools make the food logging process much easier than entering everything manually into a spreadsheet so I was eager to give this one a whirl. Although I constantly had to battle error messages telling me that I had been logged off, I was ultimately able to enter each food item I consumed each day, drawing from a large database of pre-existing entries, and get a great breakdown of caloric and nutritional content. The task of food logging itself is quite onerous so I will now use averages from the last week to estimate future intake. Here are a few take-aways from my end-of-week analysis:

1. Food logging is absolutely invaluable and should be done, if not constantly, regularly. It's amazing to see what we put into our bodies and how it differs from what we think we're putting into our bodies. Furthermore, the simple act of measuring caloric intake induces behavioral change, causing food loggers to forego that late night snack because they know they'll have to log it.

2. This actually has an unintended negative side effect: I found myself going back to the same foods over and over again to avoid having to enter new custom foods into the food log. This results in lower dietary variety and I'm a big believer in the positive nutritional benefits of dietary variety. Still, I believe the net effects of food logging are quite positive.

3. I consume ~120 calories per day more than I estimate in my spreadsheet.

4. I consume ~1/2 the Recommended Daily Intake of cholesterol for my 3500 calorie/day diet--that's more or less a good thing!

5. However, I also consume ~2x my RDI of sodium and only ~2/3 my RDI of potassium and calcium. Clearly there is room for improvement here. The vast majority of that sodium is coming from dining out so I need to have heightened awareness when making my choices at restaurants.

6. I consume ~10% protein, ~50% carbs, and ~40% fat. Much of the fat and the sodium come from my cheese addiction (Allez Suisse!), so I need to reign that in a bit. My target will be 15% protein, 60% carbs (good, whole ones of course), and 25% fat.

My nutrition clearly needs some work so I'll do another food log soon to show improvements.


I remove the GoWear fit for swimming (It isn't water proof.) and beach volleyball (I doubt it's sand proof, given how insidious sand from the courts tends to be!) but I leave it on for strength training, running, cardio machines, etc.

For activities such as running and walking, the GoWear fit estimates caloric expenditure that is pretty close to the estimates provided by my Garmin Forerunner 305 GPS/heartrate monitor. That is encouraging for accuracy (of both devices) but by itself it doesn't add much usefulness for the GoWear fit.

The real advantage comes when engaging in activities for which I don't use the GPS/heartate monitor, such as playing Wii or ping pong. For these types of activities I've traditionally gone to my favorite online calorie calculator and estimated my expenditure based on my weight and the nearest activity I can find. I strongly prefer the GoWear fit for this type of measurement, though, as it measures your actual exertion, which may vary a great deal during any such activity. I'll still have to use calculated estimates for swimming and beach volleyball, but I now have much greater confidence in my data for all other activities.


Although the GoWear fit and my spreadsheet of estimates largely agreed on my caloric expenditure during intense exercise, they disagreed vehemently on my total burn each day. On average the GoWear fit estimated that I burned ~550 fewer calories than I had estimated. That's a big difference! Over a week, that amounts to a full pound of body fat of difference!

So which is right? I'm inclined to believe the GoWear fit because it calculates net expenditure at a much finer granularity. It knows, for example, whether or not I've slept less and, hence, burned more calories than a day during which I've slept more (all other things being equal). It knows whether or not I've gotten up only five times from my desk all day and, hence, burned fewer calories than I would have if I'd been up 20 times. It knows if I've been on my feet all evening at an event and, hence, burned more calories than I would have if I'd been sitting on my couch watching Harry Potter movies.

However, the data is kind of damning. According to GoWear fit, I finished the week with a surplus of ~1900 calories, which would account for the addition of ~1/2 pound of fat. According to my spreadsheet of estimates, I finished the week with a deficit of ~3000 calories, or almost one pound of fat lost. Using a three-day moving average of my body fat (as tested on my Tanita scale/body composition monitor and adjusted based on periodic measurements with a Bod Pod), I indeed lost about a pound of fat during the week.

A week is a pretty small sample set for something like body composition, which can vary wildly with, among other things, hydration. Accordingly I'll keep these two systems running in parallel for the rest of the year to see how it plays out. Either way, I'd rather have a calorie tracking system that underestimates my expenditure rather than overestimating it.

An awesome feature for the GoWear fit would be a system that adapts its estimates of your expenditure based on your actual body fat changes over time. That's what I've done with my spreadsheet and, as shown here, it's pretty accurate.

Also a serious shortcoming in the GoWear fit is the fact that it really just tracks weight which, as we all know, is a poor metric of fitness. BMI isn't really any better. I know most people don't have body composition scales at home but it would be great if GoWear fit let those of us who do enter those figures in addition to weight. Until then I will always have to maintain a separate spreadsheet.


I am pleasantly surprised with the GoWear fit's sleep tracking function. I tend to hydrate a lot at night (maybe because of all that sodium I'm taking in during the day!) so sometimes I'll wake up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom. This week I noted the times that this happened and compared them with the data from the GoWear fit. Sure enough, it recognized easily that I was not sleeping during those times and counted it against my sleep efficiency measurement.

I'm not sure how useful this feature is per se but I think it's cool and I think it's accurate. I'm getting a little over 6 hours of sleep each night with a 91% sleep efficiency. Not bad, I think that's enough--but I could always use more!


Sound Body, Sound Mind

This was a busy, but exciting week at Enistic Inc! We secured our first client--an office building owner here in Houston--and now we're ready to raise some money to get started. This will be my first time leading a capital raise as my previous companies were either bootstrapped or had other officers in charge of investment. Houston has a robust community of angel investors in front of whom we will pitch in January. However, if we can raise some quick cash ($90k) from FFF, it will help us expedite American electrical certification and rollout with our first clients. Therefore I'll be in fundraising mode for the immediate future--look out!

We know we're onto something here and this was validated by a recent conversation I had with my contacts at Google. We're talking with them about being the first business solution that uses Google PowerMeter and they confirmed that, even in their own offices, myriad high-power monitors are left on all the time with useless screen savers. This is Google, arguably one of the most forward thinking (regarding IT power consumption) companies in the world and even they would benefit tremendously from our product. We've got to succeed with this company--it would be irresponsible not to!

I've also been asked to speak at the American Astronautical Society's imagine 09 conference this December. Many of the other speakers are quite high profile so I consider it a real honor to be included among them. As many of you will know, I have grown up in the shadow of the space industry and I have always been extremely compelled by it. For a long time, in fact, I planned to pursue a career in astrophysics before I fell in love with computer science in high school. So this presentation is of special significance to me: an opportunity to share something about which I am very passionate (inducing human behavioral change by supplying well timed information) with a community I love. There isn't much time to put together the presentation, but I'm sure hard work will produce something good.

As always I believe strongly in a balanced lifestyle. Hard work must be balanced out by adequate rest and physical activity to produce optimal performance. As many of you know, I'm a very, very data-driven manager and I manage my own life the same way. This includes measuring my body composition every morning and calculating my daily energy intake and expenditure every evening. As a result I have a massive spreadsheet of every day's net weight gain/loss for the last 8 years.

One problem, though, is that most of these calculations are based on estimates: calorie intake based on historical averages +/- any special daily consideration, estimated resting calorie expenditure based on body composition and activity level, estimated exercise calorie expenditure based on GPS/heart rate monitor, etc. This motivated me to try out a relatively new tool for calorie tracking: the GoWear Fit. You wear it on your arm all day and, based on the movement it detects and your skin temperature, it calculates an [allegedly] much more accurate estimate of your caloric expenditure each day.

I've only been using it for a week but so far I like it. There is definitely a marked difference between the days that I spend in front of a computer and those during which I am active with meetings. This helps me know when to take my evening cardio up a notch to compensate for a sedentary workday. One side benefit too is that it calculates how well you've slept if you wear it at night.

My strength training tools have also been upgraded. I used to print out my workout before I headed to the gym, write down my actual accomplishments as they occurred, and then enter them on my spreadsheet once I returned home. Now I have uploaded my spreadsheet to Google Docs so I can access it from anywhere over the Web. This gives me the ability to enter workout data directly into my phone while I'm at the gym, saving paper and time.

More than just measuring my fitness, though, I actually have to eat right and exercise to change those measurements in a positive direction. As part of my move back, I have added some new areas to my exercise regime. One is the Nintendo Wii. The Wii's sports and fitness programs get me moving around a lot in a fun way that motivates me to keep going. So far I've been doing Wii Fit. We also have Wii Fitness Coach, which I'll start on once Fit becomes tired. Wii Sports can also induce a sweat, as can DDR.

Katie and I have also been swimming Saturday mornings before our weekly trips to the farmer's market. I like swimming because it is low-impact, uses muscles that I didn't even know I had, and is a great cardio workout. However, swimming doesn't like me! I still sink like a rock and it's not uncommon for me to take at least one big gulp of pool water each day! Oh well, no pain no gain!

And speaking of pain, both Rice and the Redskins came back from their bye weeks with losses. Sigh.


Rice Baylor Merger

What a glorious weekend for football! Not only did the Texans win, but Rice alum James Casey had some great plays! Also Peyton Manning and Brett Favre won. More than that, though, NEITHER Rice NOR the Redskins lost this weekend!!! OK, so that is because they both had bye weeks, but I'm happy anyway. :-)

And speaking of Rice, a subject of hot interest for the last year has been the potential merger between Rice University and the Baylor College of Medicine. While I am excited about the prospect of Rice gaining a top-tier medical school, I also recognize that such a transaction would need to be considered very, very carefully. Even if it makes sense on paper (and it isn't yet clear that it does), IMD taught me that the devil is in the details of execution and certainly neither organization has an existing competence in conducting such a major change.

I believe that good things come of public awareness and open debate so following are several resources for interested parties that provide information and editorial argument for/against the merger:

If anyone else knows of good resources for information about this topic, please post them!


Beginnings and Endings

Last Wednesday Katie and I went to dinner with an old friend and classmate, Nate, and his lovely wife. Nate and I were two of three Rice computer science 2001 graduates who started up companies at about the same time so we shared a special bond of cutting our teeth together. He is founder and CEO of Entrance Software, a top notch custom software company that is one of Houston's fastest growing. It was bootstrapped since the beginning and has grown organically based on smart talent and fastidious attention to customer satisfaction. As I know most of the team, I wouldn't hesitate to recommend the company to anyone looking for IT solutions.

Dinner was at Sorrento, less than a mile from my house. I pass it every day and every day I say to myself, "Hmm, that looks good; we should give it a try." At last we did give it a try and it was well worth the wait. From the anchovy-cheese bread to the risotto served from a parmigiano wheel, from the tender, succulent fillet with foie gras to the delicious salads, the experience was sublime. By the time we ordered dessert it was too late to order the chocolate-Gran Marnier souffle', which bummed us out a bit. But our waiter surprised us by bringing us a snifter of Gran Marnier with gorgeous chocolate truffles. Well played, sir, well played.

Friday Katie and I celebrated a special date at Capital Grille uptown. It has plenty of redeeming qualities--many of which we tasted--but number one hands down is LOBSTER MACARONI & CHEESE. Words can't describe how rich and delicious this is so I won't even try. The citrus-glazed salmon, green salad, parmesan truffle fries, and everything else merit praise but the lobster mac & cheese clearly takes the cake. Mmmm!

Last week I was also pleased to host Angela, a Ugandan woman in search of a US university. Due to discriminatory practices in her own country she has been forced to look elsewhere for higher education. She found me through an Irish IMD classmate of mine, who had worked for several years in Rwanda--now that's a global network! When she expressed an interest in Rice University, I offered to put her up at my house and do whatever I could to facilitate her application. Although I didn't have as much time to spend with her as I would have liked, it was a real pleasure getting to know her. She is smart, capable, and would be a real asset to the next Rice class; I really hope she gains admission!

The week wasn't all sunshine and roses, though. I dropped my tablet (laptop) in a parking garage and it understandably began behaving very unreliably. It turns out that my hard drive was damaged and needs to be replaced. The computer itself is pretty worn but can be salvaged. In the meantime, I bought a new tablet, the HP TouchSmart tx2z. It is about the same size as my previous one but the mult-touch screen is much more functional: I can control everything with my fingers instead of just the attached stylus. It also runs Windows 7, with which I am very impressed. It is fast, clean, and quite functional.

Last week I also caught up with two friends with dying fathers. Obviously the subject is a pretty poignant one for me and I'm sad that others are having to deal with it. However, I'm glad to be a resource for them. If I can ease their burden at all or help out in any way, then at least there is some silver lining to my own experience. I remind myself that death is just as natural as life and that none of us are getting any younger. The best we can do is live life to the fullest and enjoy the blessing of the time we do have with those we love.

While I'm on morose topics, what a terrible, terrible football season to be a fan of the Rice Owls or the Washington Redskins--not to mention being a fan of both! My Owls are winless on the season, giving up 46 points per game! The Skins aren't doing much better with two wins and a dramariffic front office. Oh well, at least the Texans are doing well, as are Peyton Manning and Brett Favre, my two favorite active QBs.

It was a busy week for Enistic too. We have almost finalized the deal with our UK partners and will soon be ready to raise some money and get started. As many of you know, I'm not a patient person so I'm very, very eager to move this venture forward!



What a week! On Tuesday I drove to Austin for the Clean Energy Venture Summit.This was my first road trip in the Smart car and it left me with several impressions. First, it is very comfortable to be and drive in. Second, because it is a city car, it has no cruise control, which makes it understandably poorly suited for long trips. Third, you can definitely feel the low power on the highway when it slows down on inclines--that never happened in my 270-horse power SLK! Fourth, the gas mileage is great; I got well over 40 MPG on the highway. And finally, it really does open up parking options that would be out of the question in most other cars!

It was great to be back in Austin for the first time in awhile. The city feels so different than Houston. Where Houston is huge and full of multinational corporations, Austin feels smaller, younger, and definitely more outdoorsy. People seem more casual there and the live music culture is thriving. I stayed with a friend of mine from Rice. She has a great little house in the middle of the city, which was very convenient for me. She also has a very sweet dog, which was an unexpected bonus!

Wednesday morning I met with a journalist from Greentech Media, a publication I have followed for many months. It was a thrill to be interviewed by Jeff St. John, their Smart Grid specialist. As expected, he was extremely knowledgeable and had great insight into the entire space in which Enistic is playing. It was a great conversation, after which I felt even more energized about what we are doing--a good way to start off the two-day summit.

The rest of the day was spent learning about current Smart Grid trends, opportunities, and potential future scenarios--exciting stuff! In the evening there was a reception at City Hall hosted by the Austin Chamber of Commerce. Although I thought I wouldn't know anyone there, that turned out not to be the case at all. Immediately upon arrival I bumped into a classmate of mine from university who now works for an Austin-based VC. Shortly after that a classmate of mine from high school came over to say hi--he now works for a Bay area VC and would even be on the VC panel for the following day's pitch competition! Small world! I also met many other people there as it was a pretty friendly bunch.

Afterward, instead of going out, I stayed in and rehearsed my pitch. Although I consider myself a pretty good extemporaneous speaker, especially when I'm as passionate about something as I am about Enistic, IMD taught me that I am all that much better at presenting when I am well prepared. The next day I would have only five minutes to present a compelling vision of our company, why what we're doing is worthwhile, and how investors will realize major returns--both economic and "green" returns. Therefore I needed to be dead on about making each and every point, holding it just long enough for emphasis, and then moving on to ensure I stayed within time limits.

Thursday morning began early! I arrived at the UT McCombs School of Business AT&T Conference Center at 6 AM to run through my pitch. It may have been a bit overkill but I really wanted to ensure that they had the right version of my powerpoint and that everything showed up/transitioned well on the large projection screen. My pre-run went flawlessly so I felt kind of sheepish being there so early, but I would much rather that than the sheepish feeling of beginning my pitch only to realize that the powerpoint is the wrong version, as happened to one of the other presenters later in the day.

The morning was great and the company pitches were quite compelling. It felt wonderful to be surrounded by so many passionate, knowledgeable people who had similar goals of creating great businesses that do a lot of good for the world. I had an opportunity throughout the day to meet most of the presenters too and my impression is that they are all top notch individuals.

Lunch came and went but I didn't have much appetite as I grew a little nervous before my afternoon pitch. This always happens: I know the presentation backward and forward but I get butterflies in advance. The butterflies build to a crescendo right before I start and I can literally feel my heart in my throat. Then, all of a sudden, BAM, I'm in the zone and it usually comes off really well. The same pattern has emerged before every performance I've ever given--including performances on the football field--and I absolutely revel in it. I love the feeling of nervous anticipation beforehand, the zen in the moment, and the feeling of triumph afterward.

Long story short: the pitch went really well. There were 400+ attendees out there and it felt great to share with them the grand vision for Enistic. After the pitch we had 10 minutes of Q&A from the VC panel and I was excited that the VCs had many questions for me and that their questions indicated significant interest. After the pitch, several people took me aside to compliment me on the pitch, which felt great. In the end, we didn't win the pitch competition, which I consider a failure. It was definitely one of my goals. However, we did receive a great deal of follow-up from potential investors, business partners, and employees, so I still think it was a strong net positive.

With the Summit over, I celebrated by meeting several friends from Rice at Chuy's, a tex mex institution. The Texas Martini, stuffed/fried avocado, and creamy jalapeno sauce reminded me how much I missed this cuisine while I was in Switzerland! Afterward we went to a wine bar in a beat-up shack nearby. Austin is definitely weird--and I love it!

Friday morning I woke up and was thrilled to see two pieces of news: first, the Greentech Media article on us had been published. Second, IMD was ranked #2 in the world by The Economist. Bolstered by the good start, I breezed back to Houston, where I met with an interested investor. All-in-all I'd say it was a great week for Enistic!

The weekend was much more laid back. Katie's sister and cousin were in town so we spent most of our time with them. The weather was cool and gorgeous, perfect for walking around outside and watching football inside. It was also my nephew's birthday AND I learned that my mother received a major award, so reasons to celebrate abounded! Next week will be very hectic as we kick Enistic into high gear. In the meantime, though, I am absolutely loving life!

Pictures are in my facebook album.


Domestic Hippies

I have completed my first week of life back in the US and what a productive week it has been! The time that I have not spent on enistic has been spent on very domestic activities. After unpacking my bags, Katie and I had to spend many evenings sorting through our stuff, deciding what to keep and organizing furniture for space efficiency. We made major progress and now there is a huge pile of stuff on the dining room table that we simply don't need. If anyone is looking for a microwave, a toaster, a coffee maker, a George Foreman Grill, a TV/VCR, a dumbbell set, or any number of kitchenware items, don't hesitate to let me know!

It wasn't all work this week, though. Friday evening we had dinner with Katie's coworkers at Indika, which was so, so good. The Indian food with a new kick is excellent, but the real standout is the cocktail menu--I recommend the Madras Mojito, although the chili dusted glass rim offers little solace from the spicy food.

Saturday began with a new gym membership. I'd like to join the new Rice Rec Center, but alumni can't join until 2010 so I joined 24 Hour Fitness in the meantime. My first workout there felt great! My membership costs 1/4 of that of a Swiss gym and the equipment is ~1,000% better. Nothing against Swiss gyms--I certainly enjoyed my time there--but it is really nice to be back in a place where they take this seriously.

After the gym, it was time for more domestic activities. Whole Foods, Central Market, the farmer's market, the recycling center--Katie and I are such hippies! We picked up lots of delicious, natural food--at least enough to last us the weekend! I was pleased that my little Smart Car got us around fine; I think it's going to serve its purpose very well.

Saturday afternoon we went to the Rice football game. This started off very well with a Rice Engineering Alumni tailgate but quickly went downhill with a 63-14 loss to the US Naval Academy. After such a great 2008 season, this year's slow start is tough to handle.

Sunday I reveled in two things: 1. more football all day and 2. stores that are open on Sundays!!!! I haven't had the possibility to go to the store on Sunday for two years and boy did I miss it! After brunch at Mango's, where I had jalapeno-cheese-stuffed french toast, we filled Sunday with more domestic hippie activities and some relaxation at home.

This will be another big week for enistic as I am pitching at the Austin Clean Energy Venture Summit. Wish me luck as I'm hoping for a big win!

Pics are in my facebook album.


Smart Start

For the last two years while I was in Switzerland, I took it upon myself to describe the culture, food, landscape, and people to my faithful readers back home in the US. Now that I am back in the US, I feel the impulse to do the same for the European readers I have developed. There is nothing too crazy to report yet, except that the sky is just so big here in Houston. Having spent most of my time in Lausanne, where much of the sky was obscured by [beautiful] mountains, it is now refreshing to look up and see so much blue all around me. I never appreciated it before, but it seems that Houston's flatness has advantages above and beyond being good for running.

And speaking of moving around, one of my first steps here was to procure a means of transportation. No more Mercedes convertible for me; I needed something greener! I thought about a Prius or other hybrid but they all were much larger than I needed. My basic needs are driving 2 miles back and forth to work every day and sometimes transporting another person to lunch. The ideal car would have been a plug-in electric, but it seems that they won't be commercially ready for another 1-2 years. So I settled on a car that is ubiquitous in Europe but only just gaining traction here in the US: the Smart ForTwo.

It meets all of my criteria and leaves so much additional space in the garage that it may have preemptively solved any space-sharing issues Katie and I might have. Is it as fun to drive as my SLK(s)? Certainly not! But I only miss the fun for a few minutes worth of commute each day and I feel great about the 40 mpg. This is a good first step for me in a policy of just buying what I need.

Although I am already working hard on enistic, I am also spending a great deal of time getting settled back into my house. My friends from all over the world are welcome to come visit me here in Houston. It's hot and it's humid, but it's home and I love it!

Pics are in my facebook album.


Amsterdam Day 3/Europe Day 639

My last full day in Europe was great. Miraculously the sun came out and the day was just beautiful. After a lazy morning we went to my classmate, Joonwon's, birthday party, where we also were able to catch up with another classmate, Ziad. That was great fun and Sujin served up some excellent (and spicy!) Korean food.

This was followed by an IMD alumni event at a local hotel. John Wells, the IMD president, was in town so he hosted a gathering of 30+ alumni in the greater Amsterdam area. Here we all met up with another classmate, Frank, as well as with many older alumni.

I came here with the intention of getting to know Amsterdam but the highlight of this trip by far was catching up with friends/classmates. After a full day of IMD activities, we repaired back to the apartment and had another great meal--fajitas, in celebration of my return to Texas! There were more philosophical discussions--this time regarding blogging and online identity!

Now I am about to board my flight to Houston. This was a great weekend in Amsterdam and the last two years in Europe have been wonderful. A part of me will always reside here and I definitely hope to return often.


Amsterdam Day 2

In an unexpected twist, I woke up this morning feeling really nauseous. I didn't throw up but I was tired and definitely not hungry. Boo, bad start! Tomas, Albert, and I enjoyed some male bonding by walking over to the local farmer's market. This took us past Amsterdam's 1924 Olympic Stadium, which was pretty cool. Oh how far we've come since then!

Despite feeling pretty poor, I bucked up enough to check out the Red Light District. Tomas and I walked around, said hi to the ladies, and even visited the Sex Museum. I may have had more zeal for this tour if I hadn't been so nauseous but I found the whole scene to be pretty underwhelming. Still, I'm glad to have checked it off my list.

On the way back to the apartment I bumped into Joy Roth, a Rice alum and former ARA Board member--again, what a small world! I spent the evening resting up a bit. As I hadn't eaten all day, I was pretty tired. Lucia is such a good mother that she was able to take care of not only one boy, but two. She established that I had a fever and helped me treat the symptoms. The #1 treatment method was shooting Borovička, a Slovak dry gin. Oh yeah, that'll cure what ales you!

Lucia and Tomas are also great cooks. We decided to stay in for the evening so they prepared a wonderful meal of fish, potatoes, and spinach with garlic. Under normal circumstances, I would have shown them how much I appreciated their culinary skills by devouring everything they put in front of me. This night was different, though, and the smell of the garlic almost made me lose my stomach. Yikes, something was clearly wrong!

However, I knew I had to eat, so I joined them for dinner and had some cereal. I managed to eat it all and immediately felt better. My fever was gone by the end of dinner and I was beginning to feel like a new man. We spent the rest of the evening just sitting around chatting and discussing deep philosophical questions.

At one point Lucia brought out some mango and berliners (the doughnuts mentioned in my blog about Berlin) and I ensured that there were none left. Ah yes, there's that appetite I know. I'm back, baby! Still, I'm heading to bed to ensure that I'm rested and ready for my last day here.


Amsterdam Day 1

Today was a lot of fun in a very new environment. Tomas had to work so I amused myself by heading into town and just walking around all day. My first impression of Amsterdam when waking up and looking out the window was: green! Tomas et al live in an apartment overlooking one of the canals in the southwest part of the city. There are vibrant green grass and bushy green trees all along the banks of the canal, which give the canal water itself a green hue. Waking up to the shining sun on such a view was like looking into one of the impressionist paintings I saw last weekend.

I set off along the canal and turned left on Beethovenstraat, where I formed my second impression of Amsterdam: bikes! Everyone travels by bicycle here. There are dedicated bike lanes everywhere and bike racks are full of tens and tens of bikes at each corner. They're pretty simple bikes too, most with only one gear and no hand breaks, but they seem to get people around very well without creating pollution or traffic. Nice! The bicyclists are pretty remorseless with their forward momentum, though, and I've seen more than one dumbstruck tourist walk into a bike lane only to be mowed down by a hurrying Dutchman.

I made my way to the Museumplein, where I grabbed a sandwich and people-watched for a while. Next impression: tall! According to wikipedia, the average male height here is 6' and the average for females is 5'7"--I believe it! They also seem to be pretty sporty, with many people engaged in individual and organized physical activities. This was verified as I then walked around the Vondelpark.

OK, enough "soaking up" the local feel; it was time to do something touristy. So I walked up the Anne Frank House, stood in line for a while, and then walked through the secret rooms where she and her family hid from Nazi persecutors. I haven't read the Diary of Anne Frank since middle school, but I remembered enough of it to be moved by the physical site where such a betrayal took place.

Not wanting to lighten the mood too much, I then went to the Van Gogh Museum. While waiting to purchase my ticket, I bumped into Rice alum, prof, and Lovett College Associate George Hirasaki--what a small world! He happened to be in town for a conference. This once again proves my assertion that the Rice network is small but high-value and very global.

Inside the museum I met Sujin, the partner of another of my IMD classmates, Joonwon. Sujin is a painter herself so she was a great tour guide. After viewing the paintings and writings of Van Gogh, we went downstairs to view an exhibition on Alfred Stevens. I had never heard of Stevens before but I found his works to be quite remarkable. Specifically his ability to capture the texture of fabrics and upholstery was unlike anything I had before seen.

On my way back to the apartment I saw a line of painted elephants, part of a city-wide elephant art show in support of save-the-elephants charities. I stopped to take a picture and was immediately accosted by a man, raving at me in several languages. When he worked out that English was my best language (certainly better than my Dutch!) he informed me that he had been in my picture of the elephants and that he did NOT want to be in any pictures. I assured him that there was no problem and let him watch as I deleted the picture but, now that I reflect on it, I wish I had pressed him more to understand why he didn't want to be in any pictures!

Back at the apartment I relaxed a bit with Tomas, Lucia, and Albert. Albert is very well behaved and has a very pleasant disposition. Tomas and Lucia seem to have taken to parenthood very naturally and it is inspiring to see this young family doing so well.

In the evening I went out for dinner with some other friends from Amsterdam. For the second time in as many weeks I went to a Jamie Oliver restaurant--this one was Fifteen Amsterdam. The food was, once again, delicious. we each ordered the four-course prix fixe menu. I began with the antipasti sampler, after which I was basically full. Next was a sweet gorgonzola risotto--mmmm! The main course was certified sustainably caught salmon--good thing we had plenty of wine to help me make room in my stomach! Finally there was cinnamon panna cotta with a dark chocolate mousse. How indulgent!

After all that I am stuffed and am heading to bed. Who knows what Day 2 will hold, but I bet it will be fun!

Pics are in my facebook album.


The End of an Era

This evening I took a one-way train from Lausanne to Geneve-Aeroport, boarded a plane with two heavy bags, and left Switzerland indefinitely. Last night some of my Poken friends and IMD classmates came out to celebrate my last night on the town. We had cocktails at Kai Zen, followed by La Berlinoise at Bavaria. It was a very fun evening and I was glad to have the chance to say goodbye before I left.

I spent most of today cleaning as the Swiss have very, very strict standards regarding the state of an apartment when it is handed over. Unfortunately I was informed at the handover that I had still missed a few spots in the kitchen but there was nothing catastrophic.

Packing up my stuff required, as it always does, some decisions about what to keep/pack and what to toss. Some casualties of this move include my old, huge laptop (nicknamed "the aircraft carrier" by some clients of my previous company), my favorite shoes (that are large and very worn), and several bottles of wine (but I know they will bring happiness to the Poken staff). Eventually I managed to squeeze everything into my two suitcases and lug them down to the station.

Instead of heading directly to the US, though, I'm taking a detour through Amsterdam, where I have never been before. Here I am staying with my IMD classmate Tomas, his wife, Lucia, and their son, Albert, who was born during our school year. Unfortunately the cost of checking my heavy luggage on EasyJet was three times the cost of the ticket but, oh well, these are the costs of moving.

When I stepped off the plane this evening, the moon was bright and the air was crisp and cool. It felt like the first step toward an uncertain, exciting future. It felt like the right step.


Buffett in Paris--again!

This weekend I hopped on the train to Paris to meet Mom for her birthday. The very first time I took the TGV from Lausanne to Paris it was to be with Katie before the MBAT and now, the last time I took it (for a while, at least) was to be with Mom for her birthday. That train has done a good job of transporting me to be with the women I love. The 4-hour trip is quite scenic but I'm usually so excited about my destination that I can't focus on the French countryside outside my window.

Mom was there with a tour group from TCU, her undergraduate alma mater. Most of them were Texans and every one of them welcomed me to join them with open arms. Although there are many things I will miss about Lausanne, I will be quite pleased to return to Texas hospitality. After lunch on Friday at Le Petit Sommelier, Mom and I walked around Paris and went into the Rodin sculpture garden. Very impressive stuff, but I still prefer the Italian Renaissance sculpture of a few weeks ago.

Friday evening we dined at Aux Charpentiers, which remains the best value restaurant I have ever found in Paris, if not all of France. Fresh, delicious cuisine, a gracious staff, AND a special birthday cake prepared just for Mom--what a wonderful evening!

Saturday morning we joined the tour group at Musee d'Orsay. We had three art historian guides--two locals and one professor from TCU. This made for a very informative tour of a museum replete with stunning impressionist works. It struck me that art is like wine: the more you know about it, the more you appreciate it. Multiple times we spent 5+ minutes on an individual painting that I might have otherwise given just a glance. Learning about what made that painting so distinctive (sometimes the painting technique, sometimes the subject matter, sometimes the sociopolitical context, sometimes all of the above!) made it much more interesting.

After a morning full of Monet, Manet, Courbet, Degas, Renoir, Cezanne, and Van Gogh, we decided that we were kind of saturated. So we skipped the afternoon tour of the Louvre and spent the afternoon wandering around Ile de la Cite, including Notre Dame and Sainte-Chapelle. I had never even heard of Sainte-Chapelle before but it was magnificent! Floor-to-ceiling stained glass made for a very luminescent experience and it housed 32 relics of the passion of Christ, including his crown of thorns, the spear that pierced him on the cross, and a piece of the cross itself. Wow!

Saturday evening Mom and I were in for a cultural experience of a different variety: a Jimmy Buffett concert! When we lived in Alabama we used to listen to Jimmy Buffett when we would head down to the Gulf beaches; he was part of the lifestyle there. Mom took me to my first Buffett concert at Auburn University when I was 8 and I've been to many since then. Therefore it seemed appropriate that I take her to her birthday Buffett concert in Paris!

It was a great show, as always--basically one big sing-along with the crowd. This year's venue, La Cigale, was significantly larger than last year's but there were still easily fewer than 1,000 people there. I ran into another Rice alum there (whom I had bumped into at last year's show as well), which was fun. Great show, great night, great birthday weekend.

Now Mom is cruising along the Seine and visiting important impressionist sites with the TCU group. I'm back in Lausanne for just three more days before I'm gone for good. The weather is beautiful and I already miss this place. However, I am so, so, so excited for this next chapter!


Family Time

The weekend was a lot of fun. Nick came into town on Friday so he, Katie, Cox, and I went to dinner at Indika for excellent Indian food. I accompanied mine with a Madras Mojito, featuring chili powder on the rim--awesome!

Saturday we took Nick's son, Aidon, to the zoo, which was a blast. I haven't been to the Houston Zoo since 1998 and I was happy to see that it's still a great place. We made our own Indian food for dinner and all crashed pretty early. Sunday Nick and Aidon returned to Florida pretty early so Katie and I spent the day just enjoying being at the house--something we'll do much more of in the near future!

Sunday night I took the red-eye to London and spent Monday in Oxford meeting with enistic's sister company. That night we celebrated our recent steps forward with dinner at Jamie's Italian. The food was all good but the CLEAR highlight was my main course: three orders of chips (fries): garlic and parsley, parmiggiano and truffle, and polenta chips with rosemary. I'm a fan!

Now I'm back in Lausanne and beginning to prep my apartment for the trans-Atlantic move!

Pics are in my facebook album.


An Early Win

As many of you know by now, I have stepped full time into founding a US-based green technology company, enistic. US businesses spend over $9b each year on energy for office equipment--$1b of which is for equipment that isn't even in use. enistic reduces office equipment energy consumption 20+% with wirelessly monitored power strips that you control over the Web, and that affect not just the equipment itself, but also human behavior.

I am extremely excited about this venture for several reasons. First, it is exactly what I have been looking for: a company that marries economic value with green value. The better we do, the better it is for our shareholders and the environment! I can't think of a better incentive to succeed. Second, the product already exists. It was invented in the UK and clients such as IBM are already experiencing energy savings of up to 27%. This is not a speculative technology development venture; it is a venture to commercialize an existing, excellent product in a new market. Third, this is a perfect fit for my background. My greatest successes have been in starting and leading US-based, information-driven technology companies that provide products and services to businesses--a profile that enistic, inc fits perfectly!

This week I have, for the first time, focused on enistic. I secured and moved into office space downtown. In the heart of the Theater District, my new office window looks out onto the Wortham Center, Jones Hall, the Alley Theater, and Bayou Place--the site of Katie's and my first date! It feels great to work in an area I love so much!

There wasn't any time to get settled, though, as Thursday was the Rice Alliance Energy & Clean Technology Forum. enistic was chosen to be one of 50 companies presenting its 90-second elevator pitch to judges comprising VCs, angels, and prominent executives. I really wanted to nail the enistic pitch because it would be our public debut. We're raising $1m to fund electrical certification in the US and a pilot rollout in Houston, one of our largest markets, so the pitch could provide some good exposure for us to potential investors.

Antmachine, the first startup I worked with, was one of the first companies ever to present at a Rice Alliance event back in 2000. Back then the organization was just getting started. Thursday morning, when I arrived at registration, I was impressed by how far the Rice Alliance has come! There were 650 paying attendees, 50 company presentations from all over North America, and great keynote speakers--the President of Shell Wind and Vinod Khosla.

The elevator pitch competition was great. The business ideas were as varied as the day is long and they were generally very well delivered. At the end of the event, awards were handed out and I was elated when enistic's name was called for the top honor of "Most Promising Company of 2009!" What an honor among such distinguished company! It has attracted some attention too as we have been contacted already by several investors.

Katie and I celebrated with some wine in the Village--what a great feeling! We can't stop here, though, we need to capitalize on this momentum and keep rolling. Still, I will take a break this weekend, as my brother and nephew will be in town and the weather is looking fine!


Victory Lap

What a truly wonderful week it has been! Katie and I arrived in Florence early Monday morning, just in time to catch the sunrise over the Arno. We found our hotel, which turned out to be a medieval tower in the center of the city, close to the Duomo--awesome! We dropped off our bags, got some breakfast, and then climbed to the top of the Duomo for spectacular views of the city. Wow, did I miss living there--it really is beautiful.

After spending the whole morning just walking around, we rested our legs at an outdoor cafe, where we had excellent fresh pasta and two Tuscan specialties: ribollita and fava beans. A full day of walking around after a not-so-restful night train with not-so-comfortable sleeping quarters meant that an afternoon nap was in order too!

Recharged, we struck out for the evening. First things first, we stopped by Art Bar for caprioska alla fragola (strawberry). We were informed, however, that peaches were in season, so we ordered caprioska alla pesca instead. Then we were informed that it was happy hour and drinks were half price--so we ordered the caprioska alla fragola as well! After all that fresh fruit, it was natural for us to want more so we headed to Salamanca for sangria and tapas. We then called it a night after a long, wonderful day in bella firenze.

Tuesday morning began with a visit to the Accademia to pay our respects to David. We then trekked up to Villa La Pietra, where I lived nine (Yikes!) years ago. The villa grounds were largely unchanged (as they had been for six or seven centuries!) and brought back a flood of memories. The villas from the 1500s, where I ate, slept, and took classes . . . the fig trees, olive groves, and vineyards, where I took long walks and contemplated what I wanted to do with my life . . . the rolling hills where I ran incline sprint workouts . . . :-) What a sublime place to spend several months of my life!

Tuesday afternoon we rented a car and drove to San Gimignano, which was as charming as I remember. We arrived there late enough that most of the bussed-in tourists were gone so we just walked around the entire town, analyzing menus to see what spoke to us. We finally settled on a little cafe in the square of the duomo, where we enjoyed some great pasta dishes and lots of Baroque violin from a street musician.

We then moved to a wine bar near our hotel. I remember San Gimignano's local wine, Vernaccia, as a simple, crisp, delightful white wine and, yes, it still is. However, at the wine bar we tasted several oak-aged riservas which were downright stupendous! Kudos to the local vintners for experimenting with some modern vinification techniques; these riservas could go toe-to-toe with some of California's best chardonnays--and for a fraction of the cost.

A description of our evening would be incomplete without mentioning the amazing gelato at Gelateria della Piazza. During our stay of less than 24 hours we visited the place thrice (It was maybe 20 meters from our hotel.) and savored its award-winning awesomeness. I wish I could remember all of the flavors we tried but here are a few: Vernaccia, violet, lavender, saffron, black cherry, raspberry & rosemary. So good!

Wednesday morning we beat the crowds to climb the Torre Grossa and take in the breathtaking views of Tuscan countryside. It was at this location that, nine years prior--almost to the day, I first looked out over Tuscany. I had seen pictures and paintings before but nothing could ever do justice to the beautiful patchwork tapestry of rolling green hills. There must be one hundred different shades of green in any given Tuscan landscape, each more beautiful than the next. I love Paris in the springtime but oh how I love Tuscany in September!

Wednesday afternoon we spent in Siena, walking around and sampling the local cuisine. The highlight was definitely the risotto at lunch. It was prepared tableside inside a huge wheel of Parmigiano-Reggiano. The heat from the rice melts the inner layer of cheese as it's being mixed up and creates flavorful, gooey goodness.

For the next two days we resided at Villa Casabianca, another great find by Katie. In the middle of the Tuscan countryside, this complex of villas and suites was peaceful, serene, and absolutely beautiful. We were shown to our suite, "Suite della Musica," where sparkling white wine awaited us. We sipped it while strolling the grounds and listening to Mozart's Requiem in D. Dinner followed and we were very, very happy campers.

Thursday was dedicated to tasting Brunello di Montalcino. We began at Livio Sassetti's Pertimali estate. Livio's son showed us around the vineyards, explained their winemaking philosophy, and then showed us how they carried it out in their viticulture and vinification. Generations of passion for great wine came through in his explanations--and in the tasting that followed! This family loves its wine and I strongly recommend it.

We then visited Valdicava and dined at Boccondivino, both of which I covered in my post about my June visit. As in June we visited Castello Banfi, but this time Katie and I toured the winemaking operations. Banfi was the first winery in the world to be certified "green," which is a pretty cool distinction. They also use funky oak/steel hybrid fermenters, which I don't really get. However, there's no arguing with the end result; they make a damn fine Brunello.

After days and days of rich restaurant food, we stopped by a supermarket and assembled a picnic dinner of cheese, bread, and grilled vegetables. Of course we supplemented it with Castello Banfi 1998 Brunello di Montalcino Poggio al'Oro Riserva, which was gorgeous: rich and complex with undulating layers of taste and texture. First you were hit by the black cherry then along came the vanilla. After that the tannins were very smooth and the finish lasted forever. I like!

Friday we departed the villa after a lazy morning and wound our way through Chianti. We stopped for lunch at Castello di Brolio, where Barone Ricasoli "invented" Chianti centuries ago. We walked around the castle grounds and then stopped at the cantina for lunch.

Although our flight back to Switzerland was later that night, we managed to squeeze in some additional Chianti time. First we stopped by Greve in Chianti, where the annual Chianti Harvest Festival was just beginning. Scores of vintners were present in booths waiting to show you their wines and olive oils. The cost of admission bought you a Chianti glass, which you could then use to walk around the booths and taste. The glass came with a convenient necklace attached to it so that you wouldn't break it when you were too bombed to hold it any longer.

A short drive from the town center was the winery estate of my former professor, Count Niccolo Capponi. He is a descendant of the Florentine Capponi family and a fine historian. His brother runs the wine operations at Conti Capponi but Niccolo was able to sneak us down into the cellar for some barrel tasting. We caught up, reminisced about the Fall of 2000, and drank good wine--what a pleasant evening!

Finally Katie and I turned in the rental and hopped our flight to Geneva. Tomorrow we fly to Houston so that I can begin work on my new startup. Our grand Tuscan adventure is over, but oh what a week it was!

Pics are available in my facebook album.