Artists I Like: Bert Marsh

I haven’t written any posts featuring artists I like in a while so it’s time to pick it up again because there has been an explosion of art works in my favorite medium, wood. Bert Marsh is an English based wood turner that caught my attention recently for his simple vessels that are exquisitely turned and finished.

Wood turning is unique in the spectrum of woodworking because it is more art than function and also because the entire process of creating a vessel like the image below can be done from start to finish on one machine, a lathe. This is in stark contrast to furniture making and other disciplines which rely on an entire shop of equipment and/or hand tools to accomplish. I should also point out that wood turning is extremely demanding from a skill standpoint and what you see below is the result of years and years of skills being honed.

Images don’t do these three dimensional objects justice, mostly because turnings like this are created from woods that have fantastically intricate figure in the wood itself and the delicacy of the work almost demands the question “how did he did he do that?”. I also like the fact that these pieces are always unique, no two will be alike, and they are very affordable with a turning like the one below selling for $700-$1,000, a fraction of what a good painting, sculpture, or bronze will cost.

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Sufi Coffee, Customers Not Tolerated

I was just thinking today that I have been getting some really fantastic service from local businesses lately. Crouching Tiger has some of the best Chinese food anywhere and they are super nice people, West Coast Glass really went out of their way to get 2 pieces of glass for my house, were very friendly, and gave me a really good price, the guys at the parts dept at Peninsula HD have been really helpful finding parts that will work on my Indian, and the list goes on. There are some dimwits for sure but for the most part I am finding that local retail businesses are doubling down on service as the economy gets tighter and it’s important to recognize good behavior instead of just the bad.

However, today I ran across a post about Sufi Coffee in Mountain View… read the whole post, it’s quite funny. The Yelp reviews are entertaining as well but I don’t know how much stock to put in Yelp reviews.

But the attitude. Wow, the attitude. The place is covered from wall-to-wall with angry signs admonishing the customers for various sorts of misbehavior. I took a photo of the first one, and the owner turned around, sternly instructed me “no photos!,” and then demanded, as an implicit condition of selling me any coffee, that I delete the one I had taken.

[From Uncommon Priors » Diary of a visit to a coffeehouse run by a madman.]

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Social Network Interopability

I think that pretty much from the beginning there existed a tension between users and software developers around the notion of interoperability. Users want it while developers more often than not view it as a threat to their strategy to lock users into their apps and services.

With social networks the tension has increased because users simply don’t have the bandwidth or desire to manage multiple networks, which only fuels the developer fears that interoperability is a threat so the way to win is to run faster on the hamster wheel to develop more features and services which will drive users to their service and quench the desire for competing services.

Users still want interoperability whether in the form of directed services like identity and interoperability or more strategic features like messaging.

I noticed something with the latest version of TweetDeck that demonstrates how interoperability is good for users and for developers. The integration of Facebook alongside Twitter has, for me, resulted in my re-engagement with Facebook on several levels. Not only am I actively monitoring messages in Facebook as a result of the added feature pane in TweetDeck, but I’m an “retweeting” Facebook status messages to Twitter. Here’s a screenshot from my rig (in the interest of privacy, I removed my direct messages pane).

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Lastly, I find it really interesting that desktop client apps are taking a leadership position in driving service engagement and now interoperability. I wrote last year about how desktop and mobile “satellite” apps were changing the way I use popular services, I’m more convinced than ever that developers have to court this trend as a central strategy for consumer AND enterprise users.

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Sales Taxes – Tea Party Edition

The WSJ profiled how sales tax revenue has dropped significantly across the country but they missed a big factor… new vehicle purchases.

State and local sales taxes, among the largest sources of revenue for municipalities, fell 6.1% in the fourth quarter of last year, as consumers bought fewer clothes, ate out less and canceled vacations. Revenue from personal income taxes was down 1.1% in the fourth quarter; corporate income taxes dropped 15.5%, reflecting weaker profits.

[From Sales-Tax Revenue Falls at Fastest Pace in Years - WSJ.com]

Here in California the response from Sacramento to declining tax revenue has been to increase taxes, with the attendant result being that consumers are purchasing even less. Case in point, I wanted to buy a new car but when I looked at the increase in sales tax, which would go up by approximately $800 for the vehicle I was considering, and the DMV registration fees I decided to scrub it. Why should I give the State of California another $800 when my marginal personal income tax rate has gone up and additional fees have been attached to practically everything that can be taxed (e.g. look at your cell phone bill lately)?

When everything you purchase has an additional 10% tacked on to the purchase price by the state, the result is that merchants and manufacturers reduce prices or consumers purchase less.

Every dollar that is spent by government is taxed or borrowed out of the economy and sales taxes offer an excellent test bed to see this in real time. As I look at the Tea Party Movement sweeping 300 cities today I am struck by fragile the relationship between government and populace really is and protest can come in many forms but the most destructive to government is simply to have consumers boycott spending beyond the basics.

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