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2008-07-02 »

Toronto Fringe Festival Suggestions

Congratulations, Torontonians, your Fringe Festival starts today and runs until July 13th. Since a lot of shows tour from East to West and Montreal is the first one of the season, my friend Elaine asked me to recommend some good shows based on what I saw in Montreal. So my good deed for today will be to offer you some assorted preview reviews:

  • Blastback Babyzap. Go see it. It's by Uncalled For. QED.

  • Teaching the Fringe, by Keir Cutler. Except that Dr. Cutler won't be able to make it to your fringe, so Barry Smith, of Barry Smith's Baby Book (not to be seen in Toronto), will be doing the show on his behalf. That's a bit strange, because both Teaching the Fringe and Baby Book are autobiographical, and so now Barry is doing someone else's autobiography. Oh well, both of them were good. You might as well give it a shot.

  • American Squatter, also by Barry Smith. Apparently it was popular. I didn't see it, but Smith himself is pretty funny. Who knows?

  • 'Beth. As advertised.

  • Transcendental Masturbation. Not as advertised.

  • Wonderbar! and Balls! Both titles are exclamatory, but both shows I missed.

  • The Diaries of Adam and Eve. Luckily for you, it's cancelled.

  • The Tricky Part. Didn't see it, heard it was awesome.

  • Die Roten Punkte. Go see this. Really.

  • Telegrams from the New Canadian Cinema. Didn't see it. Heard nothing about it.

  • Time to Put my Socks On. Be sure you know what you're getting into.

  • Crude Love. Reputedly good. I didn't see this one either. Gee, I'm starting to sense a pattern here.

  • Greed. Well done. Time-twisted plot exposition. Cute girls.
    Update 2008/07/02: Hmm, I've been told there was only one girl. Anyway, she had many cute outfits.

  • Jem Rolls. Dude, it's Jem Rolls. Of course you have to go see him. If you don't know why, then you have to go see him even more.

  • Mating Rituals of the Urban Cougar. Pretty good, especially the songs. Unless I got it mixed up with something else, that is. Actually, I'm pretty sure I did. Well, it was pretty good anyway, I think.

  • The Spy. This came to Montreal for a one-night show. The guy was super nervous and unfortunately it showed. But the show was otherwise excellent, and if he can get into his groove, it'll be awesome. Maybe wait for a later showing just in case.

  • Totem Figures, by the increasingly infamous TJ Dawe. The guy talks at top speed for 90 minutes and doesn't forget any lines. Worth seeing just for that, although he seems a little oversold to me. Reputedly the only guy to ever make a full-time career out of doing fringe shows.

And two troupes with three shows that you won't be seeing because they're not coming to Toronto but they're so awesome that I have to mention them anyway:

  • Identity Crisis by Influxdance. More serious and scaled down than previous years, but still excellent. Sadly, they seem to be done for the summer. Too bad.

  • The Cody Rivers Show: Stick to Glue, and Boom (by one guy from the Cody Rivers Show). Neither of the members is named Cody Rivers, but they're both awesome. Looks like they'll be in Edmonton, if you're lucky enough to live there, or Minnesota, if you're not.

And by the way, if you're going to the Toronto fringe, make sure you mention to them how lame the Fringe Donation Buckets system is, where you basically have salespeople nagging you while you line up for every single show. Please, please, if your fringe festival is going to collapse without these donations, then just charge a service fee per ticket like they do in Montreal. Seriously, guys. It's either optional or it's not. Stop harassing me already. You want people to go to more shows, but the lineup harassment gets less fun every time.

But all that said... you Torontonians have a great selection of shows waiting for you, including a huge number that didn't make it to Montreal. Have fun fringing!

Previously.

Update (2008/07/02): jnc has some alternative opinions.

2008-07-04 »

Risk vs. Calculated Risk

It's accepted knowledge that potential returns in business are greater if you're willing to take on more risk. That is, a "safe" investment with guaranteed payoff will generally offer less than an "unsafe" investment that might fail. And so, if you have lots of money, as the wisdom goes, you might want to invest it in a wide variety of risky investments in order to collect some of that potential gain. The idea is that even if some of the risky investments fail, the increased profits from the non-failing ones should more than pay for the loss.

Okay, so far so good, but the problem with risk is that it's random. And worse, there are a lot more worthless risky investments than valuable ones; such is the state of humanity. (In contrast, "safe" investments, by definition, don't really have that problem.)

Enter the concept of a "calculated risk." The idea here is that if you're careful, you'll be able to see which risky investments are better, and thus collect on the returns instead of losing all your money.

But there's a problem with that theory. The problem is that if everyone could just figure out what's a "good risk" vs. a "bad risk," then everyone would want to invest in the same things. Thanks to supply and demand, this basically sucks the profit out of such obvious investments. Various problems with fancy hedge funds and the recent subprime crisis can all be traced to this problem: everyone agreed that a particular risk was "good" at the same time, and over-invested in it until the profit was gone.

But wait! If supply and demand can suck the life out of risky invements, what makes risk such a great thing, again?

My entrepreneurship professor in university used to say that a better term for calculated risk would be "risky calculation," because that puts more emphasis on calculation than on risk. And the more I learn about business, the more I realize how absolutely right that is. Profits don't come from risk. Of course they don't! Who wants to buy pure risk, except compulsive gamblers? Profits actually stem from the quality of the investment, and you can buy into an investment at a good price only when other people don't. Perceived risk is just one possible reason that people might avoid a particular high-quality investment.

I don't have huge boatloads of money, so I don't usually think about investing from the point of view of investing money. I think more about where to invest my time, because my time is the most valuable thing I have. Right now, the cool thing for a programmer like me to do is to form a web startup. But I'm not doing that, because the space is risky and overinvested. It's completely wrong on both axes. If you want to be successful in the market right now, do something safe and underserved.

2008-07-17 »

It lives

The company that I co-founded and eventually left lives on as Lotus Foundations.

There's even a guy blogging about it. (He includes some screenshots of the new webconfig and boot screens. The webconfig update looks quite classy.(1)

It was also featured in the keynote at Lotusphere 2008.

And speaking of things that aren't dead, I discovered all these links using the beta of Pressflip, formerly Persai, a surprisingly non-sucky news engine from the guy who made uncov. I'm not usually impressed by Web 2.0 startups, to say the least, but this one is pretty cool. Check it out.

Footnote

(1) The boot screen is less classy; when they changed the "Nitix - Autonomic Linux" title in syslinux to say "Lotus Foundations", they centered it incorrectly, probably because they counted the colour code bytes as visible characters. Probably nobody else would ever notice this, except that I've done it myself in the past.

2008-07-22 »

iPhone 3G

"If you've ever wondered what Apple will be like after Steve leaves and they've got visionaries like Phil Schiller and Tim Cook running the place, well, now you've seen the trailer. The movie will be worse."

-- Dan Lyons (aka Fake Steve Jobs) on the iPhone 3G release

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