2016 Year In Review

Goodbye 2016…

2016 was a crazy year for me. Following the advice of Tim Ferriss, instead of drafting a New Year’s Resolution, I’m going to do a review of 2016 and all of the weirdness that may entail. Bear with me…

Writing:

In 2016 I wrote and published book #4 of The Corsair Uprising Space Opera Series: The Lost Corsair. I also put out a compilation of The Corsair Uprising books #1-3 on Kindle. I also wrote some short stories that need some more work before they can be published. This was not my best year from a writing standpoint, but in my defense, I had a lot of distractions. More on that later.

Master’s Degree:

I’ve been working toward a Master’s Degree in Business for two years now, and have just one more year left. It’s proven to be a major time-suck, but some of the things I’ve learned have helped me to make 2016 by most lucrative writing year ever, despite writing less than I wanted. Perhaps one of the most useful things about the program was the reading list. You can check out my 2016 and 2017 reading list here.

I’ve been skeptical of higher education since I was about sixteen, jaded with the constant search for the ‘right’ college and major. I always knew what I wanted to do, but there was a much harder path to making a living through writing in 2003-2005 than there is today. Despite my reticence, the MBA will be my third degree. If I were to advise someone else about the pros and cons of college, I would say this: almost every syllabus from every college is available in some form online. Get a library card and the kindle app, read the books, and absorb as much as possible. I was always a reader growing up, sitting with a good book on the floor of a Barnes & Noble while my dad did a book signing, but I never read so enthusiastically as I did after graduating with a Bachelor’s in English and tearing through volume after volume, realizing that I could learn an incredible amount all on my own.

Conclusion:

As for the MBA, the classes themselves are mostly pointless (save for the practical entrepreneurship classes). The most important parts for me were the books and the contacts I made in my community. If you decide you absolutely need an MBA, I would find one that focuses on practical knowledge and building relationships. That being said, an online program might be able to impart practical knowledge, but is probably not the best for making business contacts.Italy Trip 2016

Italy Trip Review 2016
Hotel in Calabria

Travel:

I was able to visit distant family members in Italy last June. The only things better than the wine were the food and company. My great-grandfather lived in a small town in southern Italy and some of our relatives are st
ill there. To prepare for this trip, I completed most of the Italian Duolingo Course as well as a number of grammar books and parsing my Italian-English dictionary for necessary words (mostly types of food and bad words). Nothing, however, was more helpful than Facebook messaging back and forth with family there. If you’re going to learn a language and don’t know any native speakers, there are tools like WeSpeke that can help.

Military:

I rarely talk about my military service, though someday I expect I’ll write about it here. In 2016 I was promoted to Staff Sergeant (finally) and spent a lot of weekends looking at a screen
like a true cyber-warrior.

Tesla Raffle 2016
Should have been my Tesla

Work:

For a while, I worked for an advertising agency (though despite my penchant for social media, doing it for work proved less than desirable). One of my many jobs was photographing events for our clients. With Tesla coming to the area, it seems like every big event in Reno now features the raffle of a Tesla Model S. Hey, I’m not complaining, but one of these days my ticket had better be called, that’s all I’m saying.

Personal Life:

Saving the best for last, 2016 was also the year I met my future wife! Out of respect for privacy, this photo is all you get.
roger's ring 2016

All-in-all, 2016 was a pretty successful year for me! I may not have accomplished everything on my list, but when my list was a moonshot that’s understandable. In 2017, I intend to broaden my knowledge base through aggressive reading, finally finish my MBA, and with that, focus more on writing and other pursuits. Oh, and I’ll probably get married too.

 

Science Sunday: Tesla to Create Batteries to Power Home

Science Sunday: Tesla to Create Batteries to Power Home

Tesla’s earnings may have disappointed, but what Elon Musk said in passing could change the way our power grid works.  Seriously, the implications of this are huge.  Musk said, “Some will be like the Model S pack: something flat, 5 inches off the wall, wall-mounted, with a beautiful cover, an integrated bi-directionl inverter, and plug and play.” Apparently a fully charged cell could power a typical home for a week.  A week!  Think about that.  If there was a power outage on the grid, almost all of them are fixed within a week.  But that’s not where things get interesting.

This isn’t just some off-the-cuff statement.  This is actually happening.  Musk said that about 30% of the Gigafactory being constructed near Reno, Nevada will be dedicated just to this function and they’re in talks with utility companies to discuss terms (on a side note, it’s possible the Gigafactory will be completed in 2016, rather than 2017).  Anyone familiar with Nikola Tesla‘s headbutting that occurred between him and the utility companies of his day will get a kick out of this.

So, what is Tesla Motors, an electric car company, doing in the utility business?  Musk also started SolarCity, a solar power company.  His cousin is the current CEO and Musk is the Chairman of the Board.  If you have SolarCity’s panels on your roof, they can power your home and store excess electricity in the Tesla battery, which you can use to power your home or charge your Tesla car.  It’s beginning to become one big circle.

Consumers should embrace this advance in technology because it not only makes sense, it will save them money.  Customers lease their roof space out to SolarCity, so there’s no cost to it.  Currently, you only pay a minimal amount to the utility company for power during night hours and some extra fees. Overall you still pay far less for your utilities. As long as you don’t mind the aesthetic of a solar panel on your roof (which I think looks like the future and is awesome), then there’s really no downside. Admittedly, this model works better in the Southwest and places that get more direct sunlight. In the future, we need to harness every bit of power we can as the population of the planet balloons.

I think we’ll get a lot smarter as a collective people and start implementing more ideas such as this. Something I’ve always been fascinated by since I first saw it mentioned is Vertical Farming. I’ve used this concept to some extent in my writing because it not only makes sense, but I think it will become a necessity as an estimated 80% of the world’s population will live in Urban areas by 2050. By that time I expect our abilities to increase crop yields and create these ingenious urban farming practices. Those buildings might just be powered by solar panels by SolarCity or a similar company and store power in batteries created at the Gigafactory.

I’ll leave you with this: if Tesla’s Gigafactory isn’t a flop (which I don’t think it will be), and SolarCity continues to expand, how will our power grids change and who stands to make out? Do you think this news is overstated or do you think it will truly change how we get power in this country and potentially the world? I’d love to hear your comments and thoughts!

UPDATE 5/1/2015: Tesla Energy has been announced. Tesla will create batteries to power homes and businesses at a starting cost of about $3000 for home use and more for the product known as the ‘power wall.’

Reno, NV: Startup City

Reno, NV: Startup City

With all of the talk about the Tesla Gigafactory coming to Reno, NV some of the smaller players have gotten a little overshadowed. However, Popular Mechanics recently recognized Reno, NV as the #8 Best Startup City in the Country! Between the Reno Collective and Startup Row, Reno has a lot going for it these days, which is great given its slow economic improvement since the 2008 Financial Crisis.

Here’s a few of the companies sprouting up in the area and a little of what they’re about.

inqiri:
inqiri operates the premier online collaborative decision-making platform. Our patent-pending technology combines the power of collective intelligence with a multi-criteria decision analysis (MCDA) methodology. The inqiri solution provides organizations with a structured, objective, rational technique for improving decisions. Founded in 2012, inqiri develops advanced business intelligence solutions designed to enhance business outcomes.

Dunce, LLC:
Dunce, LLC is college planning that’s clever! Founded in 2013, we help high school students determine their paths after graduation, and provide resources and guidance to help them achieve their goals. Dunce prides itself in challenging our clients to think outside the box when it comes to their goals after high school, as well as develop an entrepreneurial mindset when it comes to life and learning.

TrainerRoad:
TrainerRoad provides indoor-cycling software to cyclists and triathletes with the goal of making them faster on the bike. TrainerRoad records athletes’ workouts and displays live data such as power output, cadence, and heart rate.

In addition to these great startups, there’s a lot more in the works for Reno. Apple is expanding their Data Center presence in town, Petco is opening a new distribution center, and Amazon is moving their distribution center from Fernley, NV to Reno, NV. This is just the tip of the iceberg for great companies popping up in town and it looks like the next few years will greatly expand the presence of tech companies and the ever-present warehouse/distribution business.

I know there are a lot more startups out there in Reno, NV, but for the sake of time I limited my post to only a few. If you have a startup in Reno and would like to talk about it on my blog I would be happy to let you do a guest post or conduct an interview.