Equal Hemispheres

I traveled over the Equator a couple weekends back. I have never been to the southern hemisphere of Earth, and learned it didn’t feel any different than the North. I also learned the monument was not tall enough for me.

The drive from Jinja to Kabale, the capital and namesake of the district where Lake Bonyoni and Bushara Island are located, was long and uneventful. Kampala was predictably jammed with traffic, and there were virtually no vehicles on the road after leaving Uganda’s capital city.

We reached the lakeshore amid bleating goats, cawing chickens, and shouts in rukiga (roo-chee-gah, the local language). It was market day. Animals, clothes, vegetables, and a hundred other things were traded, sold, bought, and boated to small communities around the lake.

Lake Bunyonyi lies between hills. Very steep hills, where even the most stable vehicle would fail to maintain its grip. Some roads existed on the peaks of each hill, but transport to everywhere near the lakeshore was by boat. There were some with fibreglass hulls and low-power motors. More common were dugout canoes; you know, canoes carved out of tree trunks using only hand tools.

We – two VIDEA interns stationed on Bushara Island, our driver, and my co-intern at Arise and Shine Uganda – used a massive dugout canoe to travel around the lake. I was told it could fit 20 people, if necessary, so our party of five was very comfortable. We visited another island, Byonna Amagara (boo-nah ma-gar-ah; the words spoken almost as one) for lunch on Saturday, and spent every free minute (every minute was free) talking about life in each of our slices of Uganda and our plans when we return to Canada.

Sunday was a hiking day. Previously, I mentioned that Converse All-Stars aren’t the greatest hiking shoes. Sunday June 5th was the day I tested that purpose, the steep hills around Lake Bonyonyi was the crucible.

Led by a tall, lithe gentleman named Enos, we hiked up and over one of Bonyonyi’s edges, climbing roughly 900m in what felt like a very short horizontal distance. The slope was slippery with loose gravel and dirt. A third of the way up, a pair of children moving faster than us despite carrying 20 litre jerry cans filled with water waited for us to pass and then began to follow.

Once on the other side of the hill, we descended a couple hundred metres or so, following a road until it reached a schoolhouse, and then continuing across the hill by way of paths barely wide enough for a cautious goat. Our descent resumed briefly as we wound through trees, Enos following a path I wouldn’t have seen without his lead. At its end we found a cave that made the Equator monument’s height seem palatial. Enos told us that women and children would hide in the cave in times of war, men standing around the hill to keep watch.

It was just before noon when we began ascending the hill to its peak, interrupted only by excited children shouting “muzungu!” and groups of men bearing loose-fitting suit jackets, slurred greetings, and wobbling gaits. The road snaking along the peak led to our next destination: blacksmiths who used techniques stretching back to the Bantu expansion 3000 years ago. A crowd formed as we watched the smith pound iron against a rock to form simple knives. I enjoyed the process, though I felt like we were a local attraction much as the blacksmith was a tourist attraction – persons walking or driving by stoped for a brief conversation or simply to look at us.

Trekking down the hill back to Lake Bunyonyi was on trails similar to the goat-paths already mentioned. We emerged from a field of tall sorghum to a view of the lake. We smiled in a moment of visual ecstasy. Continuing down, the path was no steeper than that which we ascended; it was littered with even more loose stones and dirt, making it much slower going.

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View from the top: Most of Lake Bunyonyi

Back on a more level path, we walked back to where our canoe was moored. For the second time, wobbly-legged men followed us repeating their sentences until we memorized every slurred word. I couldn’t manage more than an embarrassed smile – I’ll admit to a midday beer or two during vacations or party weekends with friends, but friends, family, and I tend keep that to ourselves instead of showing off to tourists. Enos greeted many community members along our way, but didn’t speak to any day-drunk men other than to shoo them away. We canoed back to Bushara Island, thanking Enos profusely for his excellent guidance. I was pleased to note that my Converse All-Stars had survived, though the soles of my feet would tell you a longer, less pleasing story about the hike.

My roommate and I asked for another tour the next day: a bird watching walk around the island. Eos obliged, arriving before 8am to begin. Binoculars in hand, we were introduced to a couple dozen species of avians ranging from miniscule bee-catchers to black kites and cormorants. I left my camera in its case; I was busy enjoying the birds.

We boated back to the mainland shortly after the end of the tour and group hugs with the Bushara Island interns. We reached the car and started the 10 hour drive to Jinja, eager to return home yet sad to leave the other IYIP interns behind.

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Searching for Sunrise

My stomach growls. I stand less than fifty metres from the Nile river, just North of the Nalubale/Owen falls hydroelectric dam, making a mental note to my future-self that one piece of bread with a thin layer of peanut butter does not count as breakfast. I’m not yawning yet, but less than four hours’ sleep is telling my eyelids to stay shut.

The air feels like late spring back home: cool and wet, yet comfortable in a t-shirt and shorts. I see a half dozen wooden boats near the dam. Moses, a coworker and friend from Arise and Shine Uganda who lives on the land where we stand, explains they are fishing for talapia. Sunlight appears on a hill many kilometres away on the opposite side of the river. The clouds are bright pink that slowly swallows on purple remnants of twilight. I flick my camera’s power switch and wait to line up the right shot.

*            *            *

A Doxy Lesson

Doxycycline is a daily antimalarial prophylaxis. In fewer syllables: it helps prevent malaria. It is my third line of defense after killing every mosquito I meet and mosquito nets.

It has a multitude of other uses. For example, my skin will be clear of acne, and there is almost no chance I will be harmed by anthrax nor the bubonic plague. Regardless of its other uses, I use it to prevent malaria, so I’m glad it exists and I am happy take a daily dose.

Worth noting, however, is that it must be taken after eating a reasonable meal. “A good bed of food” was the description given by my local coordinator.

…which I learned after I found out what ‘doxy’ looks like on the inside of a toilet bowl.

Home Tour

This is my home for the next six months as shown through the eye of a digital camera. I’ve been moved in here for just under two weeks at time of publication.

Amenities include attractively barred windows, fully equipped kitchen, beds, furniture, deadbolt locks (imported from Italy, apparently) on every door that require a key on both sides, television (no cable/satellite/etc), shower water heater (!), and mosquito netting. Walls, floor and ceiling are all concrete, the only wood being interior doors, shelving units, closets, and table legs.

The unit is in a compound with six other units. Compound amenities include a security guard, attractively barred front gate, neighbours with children, roughly 3.7 metre (12 foot) concrete walls with a half metre (~1.6 foot) of electric fencing or razor wire, one dog, and a very nice manager named Medi (probably spelled incorrectly…).

Check each image caption for more detail about each.

Sunday Roundup – April 20, 2014

It can be hard to tell whether actions and words are correlated, even if they seem that way from the outside.

On the other hand, it can be easy to tie two and two together. I bought an Android smart phone (thanks Megan!) last week. Naturally, I was biased towards news about Google for the rest of the week.

They’re your words, choose them

Actions have meaning. They take on a different meaning from person to person thanks to personal biases. Like words on signs, the action implies something about its originator.

Google buys Titan Aerospace and enters drone wars

Google is investing in drones, saying that they will be a means to altruistic ends. “Wars” is a silly word. Note that Google didn’t choose it: an editor did.

Tim Drinan, Google spokesperson say that drones “…could help bring Internet access to millions of people, and help solve other problems, including disaster relief and environmental damage like deforestation”.

I like those words. I’ll be watching for action, as I am skeptical that drones in general will be used for only altruistic purposes. Google does have its own interests, of course, and drones are powerful objects of observation.

Google Glass available to anyone in the U.S. – for one day only

One-day-only is a fashion brand marketing action designed to imply exclusivity. It is not a disruptive sales model, rather unusual in the technology sector.

Glass already has a hyped reputation, so a one-time-sale is a neat little hype generator. “Buy me now because you won’t be able to tomorrow” is a compelling argument to the tech-obsessed. Glass becomes a limited-production car, clothing line, or other object that means “+1 to status”.

Over to You…

What does Google (as a company, not a verb) mean to you? Does its acquisition of Titan Aerospace or limited-time-offer of Glass have any meaning to you?

Monday (to-be-Saturday) Roundup

I read a few things last week. I think they’re important, but at the time of reading, I was limited to 140 characters. Though Twitter’s character limit is summarizing practice, I am going to use extra characters below to expand on my original executive summary.

In the future I intend to publish this on Saturday. Remember to comment below to let me know what you think about the articles, my writing style, or anything else you think is relevant!

Smarties

Smart Canada will be offering parking discounts to owners in Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto, and discounted rates at Enterprise Rent-a-Car. I like the second part: I am used to driving Smart cars thanks to my time at Three Point Motors and their size makes sense as a rental car. Hello, Montreal!

Oh, and I feel silly for mentioning municipalities. Yes, they should offer parking discounts for Smart cars, but they do not need to give us cheap rental rates.

More Maligning Target

Target is tapping Pinterest designers to create “party-planning” collections. Sure. Why not. I like this partnership on premise – leverage existing relationships forged online in an attempt to attract a younger customer base.

Will be successful? Recent evidence says that its shipping and stocking operations will not keep up with marketing. I will enjoy watching (and perhaps laughing).

Dog Food & Business

This short article by Ryan Holmes, Hootsuite CEO, posits that a start-up’s owners/operators are better off to eat their own dog food, which is to say that the toolmaker uses his own tools. I like it. If you wouldn’t use your own products, then what is the likelihood that anyone else will?

Wireless riffage

Acoustic Stream is a wireless acoustic pickup system that streams to mobile devices. I am not 100% tied to my phone yet. I think this device would turn me into the guy who is constantly on his phone, though I would always have one of these too.

Over to You…

So did I get it right? Do you agree (or not)? Are there 50 grammatical errors in this blog? Leave a comment with your thoughts, suggestions and questions.

Of Days Past

Today is Remembrance Day in my homeland of Canada. The day is marked as such because of the armistice that ended the First World War – signed on the 11th hour on November 11th, 1918. For that reason, I have chosen to forsake my usual Monday blog post in favour of reflection.

Last month, my grandfather died. He was a veteran of the Second World War – a radar technician stationed at an air field in Northern Africa. He will be in my thoughts, along with other veterans and soldiers worldwide.

A poem appeared on my Facebook feed this morning, courtesy of a YouTuber I follow. I think it summarizes Remembrance Day best:

“They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.”

Laurence Binyon – For The Fallen

The Maker and The Kickstart

I am back! I did not mean to be away from publishing for this long, however an unfortunate happenstance in my family meant my focus had to be somewhere other than this blog. Now that I am back, I will be exploring marketing topics on a weekly basis – right here every Monday.

For the past month, I have been working on a business project. It includes using a Kickstarter and some third-party manufacturing. For those reasons, and because I am a guitar player, I was excited to find Fryette’s Valvulator GP/DI Kickstarter project.

Fryette A.K.A. VHT

Honestly I missed the rebrand. I follow amplifier companies like Orange, Traynor, Victory (now that it actually exists) and BadCat very closely; Fryette/VHT never quite made it onto my radar. The only thing I have heard about the company is that Alexi Laiho (Children of Bodom singer/lead guitar) uses VHT power amps in his live set-up, and I read that 5-ish years ago.

My lack of knowledge aside, VHT-now-Fryette has a strong line-up of amplifiers and tube-based devices that range from a vacuum tube buffer and power supply to 120-watt 3-channel KT88-tubed face melters to small-ish 30-watt class A EL84-powered heads. Steven Fryette, the company’s namesake, founder and product designer, has 40-years experience making noisy electric devices, and the company itself is 25 years old.

So a company with two-and-a-half decades under its belt has created a Kickstarter campaign. Some may dismiss it as something the company shouldn’t have to do; I think they are missing the point.

Size Matters

Fryette’s lowest powered amplifier is 18-watts and that’s is it is running at half power (it’s the 30-watt head linked above). The majority of it’s products are tube amplifiers that must sit on top of or nearby a speaker cabinet, barring the intervention of other cool-but-expensive technology. The product they are Kickstarting is a 1-watt amplifier that does not need a speaker cabinet. It can be used with headphones or directly into a recording preamp or into a speaker cabinet or any combination of those (and more).

That means the product is a new direction for the company that may not be accepted by the guitar-playing public, so a Kickstarter makes perfect sense. There is a strong statement made if the project is fully funded: the investment necessary to get the product on retailers’ shelves comes from people that have confirmed their desire to see the product on store shelves. Being part of that investment also has positive consequences.

Funders get a sense of pride from being intimately connected to a product in addition to a reward. That direct connection will enhance Fryette’s reputation as funders tell friends of their monetary participation. On that note, the rewards for being a funder deliver everything from the simple (t-shirt and company sticker) to top-shelf (one of the three production prototypes or unit #0001).

Everybody wins, assuming there are funders.

Be Convincing

Integral to a Kickstarter campaign is showing that the product will be useful to the end user. If that value cannot be communicated, it is nigh impossible to secure backers for the project – few will invest in a product that will not give them something.

Luckily for Fryette, convincing potential funders of the product’s value is easy. After all, it is an amplifier designed to make beautiful noise, so simply find ways to show off its noise-making capabilities!

Demonstration videos explain different facets of the final product have been uploaded every week. They range from comparisons between traditional speaker cabinet/microphone recording versus recording directly using the amplifier to waveforms of playing dynamics being used to show how much more satisfying it is to play through a tube amplifier instead of a digital simulation.

Pretty Pictures

It is also clear exactly what the product is. Last week, images of the front and back panel were uploaded, complete with an explanation of what every knob, switch and plug does. This weekend, images of use-cases were uploaded.

These images are normal for a finished product (instruction manuals are a thing), but at this stage, they fill the same role as the videos that have been uploaded. Knowing what the device is capable of is key to a guitarist, especially one that is considering investing in a product that is just a prototype right now.

When Do I Get My Amp, Man?

Between February and March of next year, assuming the project is fully funded. Fryette notes that every other variable keeping the product from being produced has been eliminated; the company knows what it is doing, so the only question is money.

I sincerely hope the project is fully funded. For a generation of apartment dwelling, on-the-move guitar players, a 1-watt tube amplifier that can go directly into a USB powered 2-input recording device or front-of-house mixing console is an excellent innovation.

Does that mean it will be accepted? Heck no; the world is full of great ideas that never made it off the ground. Keep an eye on the project’s Kickstarter page, contribute if you love the idea, and start counting down to November 5th.

Networking

Late last summer i wanted to find ways to practice the skills i want to enhance: marketing in specific. I also realised that my network of contacts was not large, despite living in a relatively small and definitely close-knit city.

Networking Is Easy

It really is. Every phone number, email, Twitter handle, and YouTube channel that has a person’s name attached has one this in common – there is a human being on the other end of of the line. Yeah, theyre not the same as you, but if theyre anything like most people i know, they love to share their stories. If you want to know more about an industry or career, it’s as simple as asking. So that is just what i did.

Just over a year ago, i reconnected with a lady i had met in high school at a friends’ wedding by asking an obvious question: “how has your life been going since high school?” She had been running her own marketing and graphic design consultancy. We connected on LinkedIn shortly after the wedding and i noticed she had been running that business for 7 years (before she had graduated high school, infact).

Every person has expertise. When i realised my lack of contacts and real world practice, i asked her for an informational interview about her experience in the marketing industry. It would be a lie to say her experience was intimidating, so i tried to consider that experience as a resource for me to tap into.

Reaching Out The hardest part of anything is the first step, as the cliche states, and is even harder is one has stumbled before. For a period of time, i earned my keep cold calling businesses in an attempt to sell them a product. Honestly, that work scared me off making phone calls for a long time. Eventually i got over that fear.

Professors are a great place to start. Ask your favorite professor to coffee or spend a few minute chatting with him or her after class. They are often well-connected, and will gleefully respond to any interest in learning from their life experiences.

The value of a network of contacts cannot be underscored enough. All my current work and every step i have made towards a career has come from an acquaintance.

While i was in networking mode, my father made a suggestion. When job searching, he requested three things from every willing member of his network: phone numbers. He would call every number, state how he got the number (name dropping is a good idea), and then ask for a meeting. In the case of an answering machine, he always stated a follow-up date.

Down with the Sickness

Hello, everyone.

You may have noticed there is no Marketing Monday today. I woke up and spent the morning in the bathroom: a bout of food poisoning struck. I am feeling better now, though utterly exhausted. Vomiting requires far too much physical energy.

I may get the chance to finish the post later this evening. If not, you will see it here tomorrow.

See you then!