Saturday, May 4, 2013

Panoramas

I wanted to try some wider pictures around Maastricht and the countryside, the one above is from my window over Kesselskade and the Mas river.

I feel like the results were a bit mixed, but they do give a nice idea of what Limburg looks like on a gloriously sunny day!

Maastricht p-6

Onze Lieve Vrouweplein

Maastricht p-3

The Maas River near Eijsden

Maastricht p-5

Vrijthof Square, Maastricht

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Eijsden Countryside

Sint Amorsplein, Maastricht

Friday, May 3, 2013

Maastricht Zomer

Or, at least, it’s starting to feel like it… finally matching what my May calendar picture (left)  says the weather should be.

I took a leisurely bike ride around town and through the surrounding countryside to enjoy the warm weather and sudden crowds.  It was the first one this year, lovely to feel the wind and the sun, see the water sparkle, smell the flowering trees and farm animals again.

The weather may finally have turned a corner, along with (knock on wood) so much else in life.

   

Oh, and the drug boats have opened again.  It may only be for a few days, though: the owners plan to sell to buitenlanders this weekend, and the City Fathers promise enforcement actions if they try.  ‘stay tuned…

More pictures, as always, at my Flickr site.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Raad eens waar ik vandaag was?

I was up at six this morning to catch the early train north to Amsterdam.  It’s important to establish a hedge against negotiations falling through, so that meant a trip to see Hans the Advocaat. Fortunately the news was all good, and I headed back towards the station with some spring in my step (even if it wasn’t in the chill air).

Passing Dam Square, I paused to take a few pictures of the banners hanging from the old Post Office, the balcony where the royal coupe met the crowds, the lines snaking around (and around) the Square.

And, well, why not?

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I’m no royalist, but these things only come around once every few decades, and the Nieuwe Kerk was open for just two days to view the decorations.  So I found the end of the queue – it actually moved along faster than I would have expected.  5 euros to enter (they have to have paid for the wedding with entry fees alone), and it was just like the news photos.

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I do feel like *such* a tourist…

Credits: Stock news photos from NRC

More photos at my Flickr site.

Hunting the hooker snowglobe

My daughter got a very cute snow globe from the red light district during her visit a few years ago.  Unfortunately, it disappeared and, with the new apartment, she wanted help in finding a replacement.

‘Nothing else to do but head toward the Red Light District near Oude Kerk and prowl the souvenir shops while I was in town.  I hadn’t been down there since Queen’s Day a few years ago: it’s still bustling and seems unaffected by recent attempts by the City Fathers to discourage it’s scope and trade.

As for the snowglobes, the pickings were a bit slim (at least, for anything approaching tasteful):

  

In the end, common sense prevailed: a Maxima tee is the safe choice (Father to Daughter).

Now I have to start thinking about Mother’s Day… Belgian chocolates or Dutch tulips?

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Tuesday’s questions

How do I know if it’s Queen’s Day (if I’m not in the Netherlands)?

Look closely at your favorite sites…

radar weather google

How can I join the latest Expat Explorer Survey?

The 2013 HSBC Expat Explorer Survey is open - the report is always a wealth of information about what it’s like to live and work in different countries worldwide.  You can participate at this link.

How globally innovative is Europe?

The IEEE published this graph of commercially innovative enterprises in countries across Europe.  Innovation is “new or significantly improved goods or services or the implementation of new or significantly improved processes, logistics, or distribution methods”, and the light blue is the innovative proportion of all enterprises.  The solid blue wedge is those with significant partnerships with China or India; the dark blue with significant partnerships with US firms.  The ranking is the number next to the name.

Innovation Europe

I’m surprised at how little innovation, relatively, is going  on in the UK, considering all the government programs and rhetoric aimed at stimulating it.  I’m not surprised that there are few global partnerships, though.  Interesting too, that the Belgians are doing better than the Dutch, who are themselves not doing badly. 

Why doesn’t Elizabeth abdicate like Beatrix (sensibly) did?

A BBC analyst commented yesterday that the British are simply different than the Dutch.  When pressed, he allowed that Elizabeth is head of a church, unlike Beatrix.  Presumably, then, God won’t let her quit?

And Charles looked on

Where in the world are you today?

Check my Skype status: it always shows my week’s location.  I’m still not very good on posting calendar.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Boundaries

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I was coming back to Cambridge from Nottingham yesterday, changing between late afternoon trains at Ely.  The Cambridge coaches were running late due to “Disruptive passengers”, so the the platforms emptied and people settled in to wait.

It’s the first spring day we’ve ad, but everyone sat in the shade.  The resulting composition was nice mix of contrasts on many levels: sparse/detailed, dark/bright, natural/artificial, work/play.

DSC07553William helped with rendering the platform in greyscale, which brings out the ‘two worlds’ feeling better.  I fiddled a bit with contrast and  brightness, but in the end, couldn’t do better than the original.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Sunday’s startup maxims

The FT is publishing a series of case studies to assist entrepreneurs: the latest profiles the strategy behind  Amici’s East Coast Pizzeria.  It looks deceptively simple:

The strategy. To assess the opportunity, Mr Cooperstein considered the following questions: is there a compelling unmet need; is there a large market; is there sustainable differentiated positioning; can there be a scalable business model; why us – is the team uniquely positioned; and why now – what is the timing of the opportunity?

The reality is a lot more challenging.

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After a weary week on the road (and a decisive one ahead), I’d add a  few practical thoughts to the academic strategy.

-- No business ever truly a ‘going concern’, without risk for the next 12 months, secure in revenue and funding.  Cash flow is always fragile; resources are never enough to address opportunities or problems.

I never understood this working for someone else…

-- When people believe in you and your business, success leads to success, a positive buzz that  draws in money and attention. But, and it can happen in a flash, a negative perspective can be crippling.  People and money become scarce, supporters ask how long you plan to continue, and staff find better things to do (and throw sand in the gears along the way). 

Stay confident, have a backup plan, and keep finding a way forward so they don’t look for the way out.

-- When the Founders fall apart (and it will happen as soon as the ‘big money’ organizes a Board),  you can mediate agreement on facts, but you can’t restore trust.  The Unknown-Unknowns just keep everyone worried that they’re getting screwed, and reminds them that it’s the last chance to get their piece of the pie.

Don’t lose sight of why you went into business, and don’t lose consensus. Once the lawyers arrive to broker a peace, it’s war.

-- If negotiations get rough, take a time out, but don’t walk away from the table: A cooling off period can last months. 

Similarly, if you get agreement, get it written down and signed: it’s fragile and lost if people have a chance to sleep on it.

-- Boards…

    • Are mentor and cheerleader, judge and jury.
    • Assert themselves when provoked.
    • Need balance (and more experts than investors).
    • Only credit outcomes, not effort.
    • Protect shareholders above stakeholders.
    • Need their members to be sunsetted.
    • Amplify the good times and the bad times.

-- Don’t assume that silence means that people are cunning or  crazy; they’re likely just distracted or indifferent.

-- Be critical of the denominator in any ratio.

-- Don’t let it get to you when angels invest more in their car than in your business. 

-- And…

In hindsight, I only wish I’d tumbled on to what works, sooner.