From Paycheck to Profits

I gave a speech at toastmasters yesterday entitled “From Paycheck to Profits”.  It is about how we need to make a transition from earning our living by things we do to things we own.  You can listen to the speech.


And here are the notes that I made for the speech:

A hurricane hit Galveston.  Universal flooding.  Homes destroyed.  Decimated city infrastructure.  Disrupted lives and 8,000 dead, a massive blow for a town with 42,000 residents.  Unreal!  That was 1900.  The great Galveston hurricane of 1900 which destroyed everything and killed 8,000 people.

We did not have the weather forcasting ability.  We did not have the means or foreknowledge to allow us to move all the people out of the city.  And we were not able to have a quick rescue effort afterwards. 

Compare that with what happened earlier this month.  When Ike came, we had similar flooding and destruction as the Great Galveston Hurricane of 1900.  Today Galveston has a population of about 57,000. But instead of talking about thousands of deaths, we talk about dozens.  And each one is considered to be an unnecessary and avoidable death.  Each person laid to rest with the ceremony and honors.  Not the anonymous burying and floating bodies of the 1900 flood.  What was the difference? 

Why the difference? We could see Ike coming.  We could understand the damage that it could cause.  We knew something had to be done and we did it!

Now, I want to talk to you about a critical change that we need to take to prepare for another one of life’s hurricanes.  Something that can be just as painful as a destroyed house, and can feel as devastating as the loss of a city.  The loss of a paycheck.  You see, everyone of you will lose your job.  You will lose it because someone took it away from you, or maybe because of sickness or death, or perhaps you will lose by choice.  But one thing is for certain is that you will not work forever.  That paycheck will not come forever.  Like those lights before the hurricane that we never took second thought of, one day that paycheck, that source of support will disappear.

Like a hurricane, it can be unpredictable.  It could be next week or it might be 108 years from now.  We do not know what may come or when.  But one thing we should do is prepare higher ground so that we do not feel exposed on the day it happens.   It is a change that we need to make, one that is difficult to find, but one that we must attempt to make.  While I have no road to get you there, I would like to convince you that it is something that we should be attempting to pursue.  We must find a way to earn our living not by things we do but through things we own.  We need to figure some way to get to the higher land of financial security.

I have not successfully gotten there myself.  But I know we seldom find what we do not look for.  We do not achieve what we do not try to do.  We do not get to where we want to go by chance.  My friends, what I suggest to you, is that we should make this a priority.

I do have some observations, some ideas on how to get there.  I share with you my plans.  But they are untested, and have not yet proven to be successful.  But it is advice that is not unique and does make common sense.   It is advise I have heard from fellow travelers.

The first thing to get where you want to go, you have to know where you are.  I think this is half the problem.  Most of us do not know where we are financially.  And I believe this is just the first step.  How much do you really spend a month?  A year?  Finding that big number is the first priority.   I recently tried to do this by getting the account balances of my savings, checking, and credit card accounts for the first of each month.  Then I was able to take the difference in the account and subtract it from what my take home pay was.  This gave me my big expenses.  Now, I am trying to break that big number up into expense areas.  How much was spent on things that I had little control over, like the mortgage, and long term payments, things I had some control over like gas, electricity, etc.  And things I have lots of control over like eating out, buying things that I just have to have, but provide no long term benefits.  The next step  will be to try to reduce the costs. 

Free up some savings, and figure out some way to start getting that savings to generate income on its own.  Perhaps through investments, creating a business. 

But you know, you do not need much money to create some business these days.   Many of you have heard about my site.  Right now, I spend almost no money on it.  But I can see someday it being the vehicle for earning a living through selling advertising space, books/cds/and other things. Perhaps licensing out some of the content.  And while it is requiring a lot of effort today, and will probably require years of effort to get it where I want it.  It is none the less and investment in my future.

Friends, I wish I could give you a directions on where you need to go, and what you should do.  I can not.  But I think we should seek higher ground.  Try to transition from making a living from things we do, from a paycheck, and start trying to get money from things we own, from profit.  You find what you seek.

Let me close with some words from Bengamin Franklin, “All humanity is divided into three classes: those who are immovable, those who are movable, and those who move!”  Friends, we need to move!

Ike, Ike, Ike

Last Friday my family and I were bracing for Hurricane Ike to come our way. And come our way it did. I live on the far north side of Houston, so the damage in our area was not so bad. But Galevston and areas right on the coast appear to be almost completely wiped out. I am sure you can find plenty of photos of this on the internet and news. Their tales are being covered and are terrible. They give me nothing to complain about. So as I go through the details of our past week, I am not complaining! Just documenting!

Friday, Septmember 12 – finished putting all the backyard things into the garage, filled up the bath tubs with water, located the flashlights, put the cars in the garage, etc.

That night the wind started to blow. It blew, and blew, and belew. The power went off sometime early staturday morning. I think about 3 AM.

Saturday, September 13 – no electricity but we did have natural gas and running water. Our neighbors had started cooking all their food, and brought us over some chicken nuggets.

We had a fallen tree in the back. Also part of our fence had fallen down. No damage the house though..

We went to go check on my mom, who lives about 1.5 miles from us, and check on another friend, but they were not home. Then we went to go check on a 3rd friend who lives 2 streets over. We had dinner with them. (Also, the friend that was not home had come to our house!! So we missed each other.)

That night we lighted the candles to see at night.

Sunday, September 14, 2008 – Still no lights. Checked on Mom. Checked on Friend. Kids played there a while, then came home. We cut off limbs on the tree to make it lighter. then we uprighted it and tied it down… In retrospect, I’m not sure this is the best move. I am wondering if it will survive or if it is a bigger risk keeping it uprighted than cutting it up and forgetting it.

Friend’s family and my children went to the tennis courts and cleaned a court that had a lot of debris on it. We spent more time cleaning, than playing tennis. But it started getting dark, and we noticed the tennis lights came on. We started talking about this, and some other people at the tennis court mentioned that their lights had come home earlier in the day. I was hopeful that our lights came on. Not the case. Our lights were still not on.

Monday, September 15, 2008 – still no lights
Went to work for an hour with my youngest son. Had trouble working and entertaining him, so didn’t stay long. When I got home, I was pleasantly surprised to see my wife had made it back to Boston. She was supposed to come on Saturday but the flights were cancelled.

Tuesday, Septemeber 16, 2008 – still no lights
went to work for a few hours. charged up laptop (have the EDVO card so I can connect at home with the laptop to the internet…)

Wednesday, Septemeber 17, 2008 – still no lights
went to work for half a day. Mom, who lives on other side of the neighborhood got lights early in the morning. Our friends who live in a different part got lights too. We still do not have lights. A lot of our neighbors have generators… we do not…

Thursday, September 18, 2008 – still no lights….
Went to work for the full day… pretty much
Call me dad in the evening to see how he was doing. while I was on the phone with him, his lights came back on. So, he agreed to let me borrow his generator. We went out and got the generator. By the time we got back, it was past 10, and I was tired… It was dark.. I needed help carrying the generator, and too late to ask a neighbor.

Friday, September 19, 2008 – still no lights.
asked neighbor to help me carry generator. Let them plug into a socket. decided to stay and work from home today.. I’ll try to publish more details later…

It is great having a generator. Thanks Dad!

I met Matz, the creator of Ruby

Earlier this month, I attended the Lone Star Ruby Conference in Austin.

nathan-lone star ruby conf sign

Yukihiro Matsumoto (Matz), the creator of Ruby, was there.  We got to meet and talk.  He is a very nice person.

Here is a picture of (from left to right) me, Matz, and Daya.


The previous posts are random notes that I took through out the conference.  I mainly took them for myself… but maybe they might be of interest to you too..

How not to build a service


Who is your customer?

What are you building?

What do you know about your customer?  how do you fit in their lives?  Pricing?  Marketing?

Build a good trial

target audience> trials > customer

Eating your own dogfood…


No integrated billing…

Ruby in the Computer Science Classroom

Speaker James McGuffee, Ph.D.

Associate Professor

Tips and Tricks for Tweaking and Using Ruby and Rails for a Distributed Enterprise Application

speaker: Francis Sullivan


Spiceworks overview

updating remote installations

performance of ruby

avoiding deadlock

extensions for adding and modifying

scanner tweaks



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A Year of Innovation

with Gregg Pollack and Jason Seifer

HPricot – good for scraping websites

doc = Hpricot(open(“”)


Juggernaut – lets you do server push with rails


create SQL statements



– easy ruby based PDF generation


Ruby VMs

roo – spreadsheets

can open google docs!



skynet – map reduce for ruby


Data Fabric – easy chart data


Mack Framework

Sinatra – easy quick way to build web application

Webby – generate static websites – rake task to

shoes – dsl for generating GUI applications

Hackety Hack – help kids learn programming


redmine –

Pool Party

RAD – Ruby Arduino Development – electronics (build robots)


Adhearsion – builds astrics – Voip


create a web frame work with only interfacing with Rack…




Starling – a light weight server for reliable distributed messageing

Ruby EventMachine


Thin – fast, fast server..


NeverBlock – really fast web server for Ruby…

Ruby: Past, Present, and Future

Yukihiro “Matz” Matsumoto

(creator of Ruby)

4,000 years ago we had one language (Babel)

That one language was “Fortran” 🙂

Hired by NaCl  – open source integrated

1999 – First book published

It should be “Rails on Ruby” since Rails is a DSL for the web built with Ruby…

Sometimes Smart People:  Just don’t understand the nature of ordinary brains..


Flexibility <–>Understandability


Ruby became “Enterprisy”

“There are under one million professional Ruby developer now and were projecting there will be four million plus by 2013”

Mark Driver, an analyst at Gartner (

Ruby focuses on programmers NOT computers.

Primary goal is to enjoy programming…

Matz: “I love meters”


Question from the audience: “Do you think you are learning how humans related to world by creating a language?”