This page includes the monthly columns of the Batteries Digest Communications Director, Toby Georgi. He is an AKC registered, non-neutered Yellow Laborador who first appeared in the staff photo on the front page of BD's first issue in April of 1996. He has the primary responsibility of facilitating understanding for the staff and readers. He is friendly, upbeat, opinionated and does not value political correctness.
Time sure does fly. It seems only yesterday that I sat for the first BD Staff photo with my brand new battery-operated shock collar on. Who would have guessed that the collar changed my personality dramatically over the decade!
But what about the decade? Oh sure, I have shown up for work every morning to add my sparkling personality to every happening. One of my favorite times is when a phone call comes in. I look out the window pretending that I am protecting the place and bark up a storm. Then, Shirley or Don has to explain to the caller why we have this barking dog in the office in the first place.
However, an absolute highlight is when the UPS truck arrives. It makes me go orbital. These drivers know me and have treats, then let me jump up in the truck to sniff all the deliveries. These trucks have a distinctive sound so that I can even tell if one drives down the road without stopping.
‘Woofing’ this column is another fun activity of the month. I like to think of all you readers who probably do not have access to the tail wags of man’s (and woman’s) best friend. If I can add just a bit of warm fuzzy feel to your day, it makes my day great, too. It was frustrating during the transition period of going from paper to a web-based publication since I had to make the explanations of what was happening simple enough for you readers to hang in there with us. Fortunately, the jump to cyberspace has been made and we can settle down for a while. I am still keeping my thinking cap on though, and currently, I am thinkibng of offering CDs of the issues and /or building a podcast. In between, for fun while resting, I still solve ordinary differential equations in my head. ‘ also am thinking of applying this math to the thermodynamics part of my unified field theory.
The most fun comes from chasing rabbits, and in my position in BD, I most enjoy confrontations with my nemesis, the Energizer rabbit. Many times have I challenged that rabbit only to have him shrink away indicating my superior prowess. Really though, I would trade all that prowess for a good chomp on his fur. While on the subject of technology symbols, have you noticed that while batteries have this wonderful rabbit, neither fuel cells nor PV have any animal mascots? Perhaps that is why they are still struggling technologies. Perhaps fuel cells should adopt the cat because like a fuel cell it can be stealthily quiet. For the PV, we need a symbol such as the owl with a bar above his head. In logic, the bar is a symbol which means the complement of, so the complement of the night owl would be, PV’s mascot the daytime owl. I could see good days in hunting for the rabbit, the cat and the owl.
My biggest disappointments in the decade include repeatedly flunking the paws-on course in refrigerator door opening. Try as I may, I just never get the hang of it. And all those tender morsels within....
Pet peeves include not getting to the conferences. There was a BCI conference in Memphis where I had to spend my time in the car or a kennel because the conference didn’t allow dogs. Then again, in my back yard, the 2005 Fuel Cell Conference was just begging to be enlightened with my personality and ...yep, you guessed it...dogs not allowed!
So now, BD is a decade old and so am I, but there is no retirement gold watch (or juicy steakbone) in store for me. I just have to continue to provide my sparkling personality both in the offices and in my column for you. According to our illustrious publisher, it seems there is a parallel from Napoleon’s chastisement of Volta retiring, saying he couldn’t do so because “a soldier should die on the field of honor.” (See BD #46-1.) No problem, I wouldn’t trade this position for a million bones.
Tail wags \ / \ / \ / \ / \ / \ /, TOBY
Some demented frog once said, “time’s fun when you’re having flies.” Sick! I once had a fly fly up my nose causing me to sneeze my head off. Let me explain to you that for me, this proboscis is 50% of my head assembly, and a sneeze takes up all of my energy, concentration and attention. Passers by shrink in amazement when they experience one of my sneezes - more like an explosion. In lesser being’s terminology, “its nothing to sneeze at!”
I’m getting prodded by my editor, who is also my mistress and my good buddy, with whom I snuggle at the feet of on cold nights, to get off this sneeze topic.
I really need to lay at your feet the fact that the progress in www.BatteriesDigest.com website - ever since I set the course over a year ago - is nothing to sneeze at. For 2005, our Site statistics showed 163,208 sessions with 345,388 page views. In August, we initiated our Adsense program which places relevant ads alongside our copy to further enhance the visitor’s range of selection. Each month, we have seen a growth of about 20% in ad activity. The future looks bright as we currently have Adsense in only a small percentage of the site’s 664 pages. If we can complete the Adsense work this year, we may yet see a ten-fold increase in activity, which both increases our revenues and provides a rich addition of content selection to our visitors. This is truly a win-win situation! Maybe it should be a Win3 situation because it simultaneously increases my bone commissions.
My editors like the results because it means that they can focus more on what they like to do - research and reporting. It is another win-win because it means more and better content.
One of the new features is a column which we call Energy Equities. In it, we target one or more companies in the fields of batteries, fuel cells and photovoltaics from an investor’s viewpoint. Our advantage is that we are not saddled with having to say nice things because an organization advertises with us. Therefore, we can tell it like we see it, and never issue a buy-hold-sell recommendation. We try to put historical and recent information up front so that investors can add that material to their global picture of investment opportunities. The approach is very relevant because the contributions of batteries to hybrids is catching on, and the worldwide growth of photovoltaics continues. As world oil demand continues to grow, these fields along with alternate energy and fuel cells gain importance. Stay tuned!
Tail wags \ / \ / \ / \ / \ / \ /, TOBY
Parachuting Rabbits and Sponsors
Some people think that we dogs spend a lot of time just lying around sleeping. While I admit that this often appears so, there is a lot more happening than meets the eye. I, for example, when catching up on some reclining, like to do mental dynamic problems which require solving differential equations in my head. A favorite is to set up a problem where three airplanes are involved. The solution required is to define the drop in altitudes. One plane drops a carrot, another a rabbit with a parachute and a third, a dog, (me) with a chute, too. The object of the problem is to have the rabbit focus on the carrot, and the dog, dropping from a slightly higher altitude, surprises the rabbit in flight (me, again). The identification of the dynamics is quite difficult. Questions arise as how much drag can a rabbit make with his feet extended? And how clean can the dog streamline himself to catch up with the rabbit? Obtaining particular solutions by guessing at rabbit ‘fur drag’ is especially fun. Of course, there is one special boundary condition which requires me to make the capture of the rabbit [:-)] before 1,000 feet so I have time to open my chute.
To get the funds to do such relaxation requires that I keep you updated, and here is the latest word from the head shed. Advertising programs have been really performing poorly for me, and since our structure does not provide for a big ad department, we are going to request that organizations sponsor us with a very small annual donation of $99.00 a year. For this, we will place the sponsor’s name and logo on the back cover of the Newsletter (see above) and also list them in the sponsor’s section with a hyperlink to the sponsor’s site.
Since this is not straightforward advertising which results in wildly responsive customers making the organization fabulously wealthy, what is in it for the sponsor? First, it identifies the sponsor as one which promotes the free exchange of news about batteries, fuel cells and photocells to improve the economics, environment and business of the world. Second, it provides the sponsor with one free edited monthly news release in each issue. (We do not print many news releases.) The third benefit focuses on extending the Website and Newsletter as free source to all visitors (who now number over 17,000 with over 30,000 pageviews for April, 2005) and implicitly says that the sponsor has been able to successfully carry on its business, pay its bills and still have $99.00 left over to support energy storage and generation news. Becoming a sponsor is simple. A single phone call to 763-479-6190 or an e mail to [email protected] will make it happen. It’s a lot simpler than snapping up a parachuting rabbit who is hot on the trail of a flying carrot.
Tail wags \ / \ / \ / \ / \ / \ /, TOBY
I’m back in Minnesota after one of my best winters on the desert. Actually, any winter is good when you don’t get bitten by a rattlesnake. Back here, we don’t have the brown wiggly guys, but we share getting bit by economic fakery shared by politicians and special interest groups. For example, there are lots of teary eyes in Washington if the words ‘clean environment’ are mentioned. Concurrently, Representatives of Congress, stacking up their chips for reelection, inked an energy bill which gives billions in tax breaks to oil and gas R & D but far fewer than President Bush had asked for in alternative energy funds. With the addition of shielding for MTBE lawsuits, you have a government statement which deincentivizes (word coined by me) environmental responsibility.
So where is the beef? It may be in the top level decision made by Jeff Immelt of GE on May 9th. He wants to double GE’s annual investment in environmentally friendly technologies to $1.5 billion so that more than half of its revenue in 2015 would come from better environmental performance. The Kyoto Protocol can’t do it, and the U. S. Government won’t do it, so maybe the good-old innovative U.S. Industry can. We all know that Mr. Immelt has a big responsibility to have GE perform short and long term on its financial scorecard, so financial benevolence is not a luxury he can fall back on. His commitment to make more money than the average company is a, long term goal. Hopefully, the efforts will result in a cleaner country, and world.
Of course, talk is cheap and we have heard the promises from other big U.S. companies such as GM and Ford, but those may be little more than PR statements with no one held accountable. Hummer and SUV ads still dominate their advertising which formulates buyers’ opinions. From across the sea, we notice that before the turn of the century, Toyota made a big gamble on hybrids and now enjoys the worldwide image of being the green car company and will soon be rewarded with the most auto sales worldwide.
So what does it take to implement responsible ecology? There have to be continual announcements of positive accomplishments from CO2 sequestration, to higher efficiency jet engines. Our readers have to continually see the progress in GE announcements and BD is standing ready to show you that green can be better business. Listen up- battery, fuel cell and PV people, toot your horn when you do something green and let us know so that we can pass it on.
By the way, the new House Energy bill also includes an extension of Daylight Savings Time by two months. Now if that ain’t Congressional progress...hmmm?
Tail wags \ / \ / \ / \ / \ / \ /, TOBY
This morning, I went on my usual constitutional walk among my beloved trees, only to see a huge cloud of smoke filling the sky from the adjacent property. It was another of the frequent burnings of the Maple Plain (MN) Public Works Department (oxymoron???), sanctioned by the city, the county and the state. This burn produces no energy for the grid and has no purpose other than reduce the size of the pile mostly composed of tree branches, trunks and roots. No concern for an alternative clean air disposal method is considered. For a moment I took offense in that the amount of carbon-based pollution created in this one huge burn probably transferred more carbon and heat to the atmosphere than my 3000 + trees had photosynthetically extracted this entire year.
As you know, dogs don’t ‘do tears,’ but my tail was down in defeat. BD spends a lot of time each month trying to illustrate the benefits of improving energy creation and storage so that there is less carbon-based junk poured into the atmosphere. The Southern California Air Quality Management District estimates that 9,600 Californians die each year from cancer and respiratory disease because of air pollution.
Images rushed through my mind of the work being done by hybrid auto manufacturers, fuel cell builders and PV farm builders to reduce net emissions. In some cases, I see a few conservation actions even in other parts of the frozen tundra of Minnesota. I thought, “ If those clean air proponents, Prius drivers and fuel cell researchers could see the burning I saw this morning, they would feel similarly defeated.” My images shifted to Washington where executives, legislators and judges have their hands out to special interest groups to look the other way when difficult decisions to improve air quality need to be addressed. I wondered what we could do, and my conclusion varied between nothing and not much. The onslaught of population growth and greed will not be diverted to improvements of the air quality.
The bottom line is that if you waited to be rewarded for cleaning up the earth’s environment, you would first be strapping on ice skates in hell. To justify your work, you have to be content with your own contribution because ‘I did it my way.’
Tail wags \ / \ / \ / \ / \ / \ /, TOBY
I have heard it said that all change is bad. Moving to a subset of that concept, I can report that when necessary change is implemented, it is not easy. You may remember that last November I began to report to you that we would be changing our business model to remove the newsletter and put all the information exclusively on the web. That sounded good and over the next three months we started to make the shift. Not having a distinct monthly publication did not sit well with us and the pursuit of advertising continued to languish. We then brought the monthly newsletter back, kept the content in the web and made all the information concurrently available. Previously, we had reserved the latest information for the newsletter and put it on the web a couple of months after its initial date of publication.
Advertising still did not improve, so in August, we decided to replace our advertising program with Adsense, a click-on-ad program run by Google. It is simple, clean and we now have revenues. But if we keep the newsletter in paper or Acrobat format, fewer people see our web ads, so we decided to stop the free Newsletter. From our previous experience, the Newsletter never breaks even, so all free public accessable content will be placed only on the web. Contributors will still receive the Newsletter and, with Adsense, we don’t have to grovel for ads.
Now the changes have been fixed and I am looking around the website where there is mayhem abounding because of these changes. With shovel and broom, we are cleaning it up. Bear with us.
Tail wags \ / \ / \ / \ / \ / \ /, TOBY
Friends, this hot weather represents the ‘dog days of summer’ for me. I like an early morning walk and then hot-foot-it into the air conditioning to study the dynamics of the day.
One of the items which I wanted to point out to you humans is that there is more than one group of CFOs in this corporate world who must think that all investors are dumber than dirt. “Why do I say this?” you ask. Well, it has to do with the whole ‘science’ (or chicanery) relating to reporting results in quarterly earnings based on guidance.
It goes like this. Company X has been growing at about Y%. The acquisition of company Z has been a drain on cash because of the transition costs and the bottom line eventually has to show it. This is not a surprise, or if it is, there should be new management. Imagine any CEO who is not aware that an in-process, one-time-charge is going to soon impact earnings!
This is where the CFO earns his/her compensation. Highlighting earnings, which would have been met without the one-time-charge for restructuring, makes it looks like the company is meeting expectations. Really, Company X counts on both the stockholders and the media to be dumber than dirt by highlighting earnings without the one time charge and then quietly recording the total balance sheet results in small type. The fact is that the company really missed guidance. Even most media and analysts follow the company line and state “Company X met expectations...” without noting the ‘one time’ charge and ultimante quarterly earnings. You have to get one of the few really savvy analysts such as Herb Greenberg (Herb Greenberg’s Reality Check) or Jim Cramer (Mad Money) to ferret out the real details wrapped in the fish paper containing such financial summaries.
Don’t get me wrong; one-time-charges are just another cost of doing business, and those charges happen as a part of ongoing business. Today, it could be the loss of a big lawsuit and tomorrow, it might be a big restructuring. Unfortunately, quarterlies too often repeat the one timers, even though the subjects of charge are different from the last one timers. When they repeat often, it appears that such is not an unusual occurrence, but a way of life in the company. My gripe is that perception is diverted to what would have been, instead of what did happen; I think this is less than respectable behavior. To say that earnings met guidance and leave it to the alert readers to dig through the financials to see the real bottom line, I feel, is misleading. Such methods make one question how a company’s management states other events which might suggest deeper problems.
Why do I bring this up in a battery journal? Because there are a few public battery-producing companies which project an image of meeting guidance without one timers rather than tell the whole story up front. With recalls, knockoffs and bankruptcies, we battery people have had our share of unforeseen disappointments, but when it comes to reporting financials, it is not rocket science to take our lumps and tell the story up front with all the positives and negatives. To stand out with an ethical image, all battery, fuel cell and PV businesses should be honest; they should concentrate on value, quality products, responsible reporting and accurate information for customers, bondholders and stockholders who deserve respect.
Me? I’m a sled dog; not one of those dogs who pulls it, but one of those who rides in it. Let’s face it, I’ve gotten used to the amenities of life, sitting here writing about the happenings in BD. But there are other sled dogs who have distinguished themselves to be medal of honor winners because of their achievements. One of those achievements was detailed in the January 2005 issue of the American Legion Magazine in a story titled ‘The Serum Run’ by Mike Coppock. Mr. Coppack unfolded one of the great dog rescue stories of the 20th century.
In 1925, a diptheria epidemic came to Nome, Alaska. Three boys died because there was no serum for the disease. Ships could not get through the ice; planes of the day could not get through the frozen weather and the closest railroad was 674 miles away. The only possibility for stopping the outbreak was to have the serum delivered by dogsleds. Time was a factor because the serum would only last six days in the extreme cold temperatures. The serum had to go the 674 miles by a series of dogsleds, dogs and mushers. Relay teams covering distances up to 90 miles, at a stretch, delivered the serum in 132 hours, during which time three more boys died, but the rest were saved by the serum. At one point musher Leonhard Seppola risked a time saving short cut across ice breaking up, but he was blinded by the fierce white-out winds. Taking over, his lead dog Togo led the team to the next relay. During the trip, four dogs died for the people of Nome. Today, a commemorative race, “the Serum Run,” commemorates the heroic dog sled rescue of 1925. (See www.serumrun.org.)
So what does all this have to do with and Batteries Digest ? Obviously, there is a message to dog owners to carry battery-operated foot warmers for dogs working in cold weather. Beyond that, my immediate job is to keep you in touch with BD’s activities.
In late 2004, as you probably remember, we almost did away with the Newsletter, but we brought it back at the last-minute so that there is no interruption in monthly issues since April of 1995. We did eliminate sending subscriptions electronically, and we have replaced that service with an immediate posting of current issues, in Acrobat format, to the website. At this time, you can pick up over a year’s worth of issues, at no cost, merely by downloading them. As time permits, we will be placing the individual stories in the ‘Topics’ sections of the website.
There is an underlying message here for you. Neither perpetual motion nor profit-losing companies can exist for very long. The way we keep Batteries Digest going is with quality advertisers such as Indium Corporation, which recognizes that there is a need for our views and analysis in the world of batteries, fuel cells and photovoltaics. We do need more advertisers, so please ask both your company and other organizations to consider placing ads in BD. We have both banner ads and sponsored links which can be placed for as little as $99.00 in both the Newsletter and Website. Where else can you get such a good deal advertising in a Website with over 12,000 visitors a month? And they are not just visitors, but battery-interested visitors.
Tail wags, \ / \ / \ / \ / \ / \ / TOBY
...I like to drag the strip before attending CES. This year was no different and I have the snapshot here to prove my presence on the ribald runway. It doesn’t have those hair raising smells which you get in the forests, but when you have been touring in a car for four days, it is quite enjoyable to stretch your legs on the strip. Me, being a quadruped, finds additional enjoyment in this stretching. I have been looking without success for a slot machine which uses dog treat biscuits. It should have a reasonable size opening to put one or more biscuits in, then on the pull of the handle, a myriad of squirrels, rabbits and deer would go whizzing by. Two deer would return two for one; three squirrels three for one, and a whole line of rabbits would keep me in biscuits for the entire year.
Sight-seeing is nice, but I now have to earn my dinner with a current update for all you BD readers. Recall that as we got to the end of calendar year 2004, I outlined the changes which would completely end the Newsletter, with only the website having pay-per-view (PPV) stories. It sounded good when looking at the big picture, but when we got into the de-tails, some major nightmares began to surface. The problem of incomplete downloads, errors, misperceptions and housekeeping headaches started to make the new PPV concept look like more work that it was supposed to save. This was not just like going around shooting one’s-self in the foot; it was like blasting all four paws simultaneously. Fun and happiness gave way to despair and concern until we finally realized that the monthly Newsletter wasn’t so bad. We charted the worst problems with the newsletter and found that we should no longer send copies out as e mail attachments. As one of my colleagues, Napoleon Bone-apart once said, “ Let them download it from the web.” Taking his advice, I suggested that we only make the Newsletter available from the web, getting rid of the problem and creating a habit for visitors to check us out every month.
Of course we will also split the content of each issue to fit into the appropriate topics such as Batteries/Lead-acid/Business, etc. so no matter which way visitors want to get the news, we have it.
The business model? Back to advertising; both on the web and in the Newsletter. More on that later.
Tail wags, \ / \ / \ / \ / \ / \ / TOBY
We canines are renowned for our ability to pick up scents. I, for example, can smell a steak through six feet of mild steel. It is amazing to me how some people have an undefinable ‘sixth sense.’ I have seen MDs make a correct first glance diagnosis across the room because of an acquired medical sixth sense.
At the turn of the millennium, there were a whole bunch of business leaders and visionaries who did not have any sixth sense and could not see the demise of business value. Many of them, once caught up in the downturn, continued to throw resources in the dumpster while watching stock values plummet. In our case, we had not shared in the ‘virtual’ business success of the dot-com era, so we didn’t have anything to compare when the economy went south.
Not being blessed with a sixth sense, we have to try new business models. Our transition from the free Newsletter and Website to Batteries Digest Online with pay per view (PPV) content mixed with free materials is our next experiment. Advertising has never been a successful model for such a narrow targeted topic such as batteries, so we have to try this web - based approach which begins as of now. There won’t be any more free Newsletters.
Those of you who use our content to expand your vision of the world of batteries will still want to visit us at www.BatteriesDigest.com to see what type of stories are available on line for a modest fee. We will still include some free content such as our Columnists, World News, Portals and Meetings.
Me? I’ll still be there, but hopefully, I can get away from this serious stuff to write about topics which more suitably fit us furry ones with wagging tails. I hope to paw out an occasional light virtual story from my imagination for your enjoyment and relaxation.
The best to you all and tail wags, \ / \ / \ / \ / \ / TOBY
Back when Charles Shultz was cartooning ‘Peanuts,’ he created a classic titled “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” Lucy, Charley Brown’s sister, had a frigidly realistic view of humanity and at one point, when queried about what type of present she wanted, she bypassed toys and ordinary things which would delight children. She chose instead, real estate. This is something one can really count on; it has been fundamental to the world since creation, usually being the object of great wars. The point I want to make is that there are fundamentals which are more important than perceptions and they direct our new venture in the web - based publication.
The fundamentals are found in our decision to move away from the monthly newsletter and the selling of web ad space into pay for view (ppv) reports downloaded from the web. Paying immediately for use is fundamental. The perceived hopes and promises of subscriptions and advertising leading to break-even have not produced the necessary revenues for such a selective topic publication as BD.
Since we can’t count on subscribers or advertisers, ppv should be the more fundamental because it is an immediate exchange of copy for cash. We know that there is a great interest in our stories on the website and someone has to pay for the costs involved. If only a small percentage of our current web visitors buy a story, we will begin to cover costs. While it may appear more cumbersome than alternatives, it results in real revenues; the stuff that allows me to buy hamburgers.
How is progress? To date, we have met our project milestones while continuing the Newsletter. Next month still has a tough ‘stone,’ and we will be building the December Newsletter. Tentatlivly, it will be the last monthly publication. Stay tuned.
Tail wags \/ \/ \ / \ / \ / \/, TOBY
I have been chasing deer all of my life and the speedy characters always get away. In transitioning from the word ‘buck’ as in male deer to ‘buck’ as in money, there is a common transference expression called ‘passing the buck.’ The U.S. Congress just passed the buck instead of passing a bill to continue the outlawing of automatic weapons.
Unfortunately, I do not have either the gutless principles or the ability to pass the buck as it relates to this matter of the future distribution of BD, which I introduced to you in my column last month. The buck has stopped here, and here this is what ‘he’ looks like.
The advertising program produced no results, so it is now scrapped. Will we accept Web advertising as now defined? Yes, but we won’t put money into pursuing it. The free Newsletter, which has had the sole purpose of stimulating advertising business, therefore is no longer necessary and will be terminated after the December 2004 issue. We might string it out until March, but that is an audible call which we can make later.
Without the Newsletter, we still have the Web presence which we are going to continue and will more specifically call Batteries Digest Online. The big difference will be that in addition to free content, individual stories will be paid for on line. There will be a short summary of the story with the ‘order now’ button to take the visitor to the shopping cart where he/she can purchase the story and thereafter download it as an Acrobat file.
Since readers have been receiving the Newsletter at no cost, we do not have any exit financial commitments, so our costs in ending the Newsletter are nonexistent. We will have to commit a few dollars to develop the ‘pay-per-view’ (PPV) part of the site, but it is only a small fraction of the present costs which are required to build the content. The PPV revenues will be used to cover these costs and, if successful, may someday even produce a profit, at which point, I will use my share to buy a quad set of ‘Super Nikes’ (Labradors need four shoes, remember) and re-try my luck chasing those ever elusive deer in my back yard. (That’s another buck I’m not planning to pass, just catch up with.)
There is an interesting side story mixed in with this change. Because of spam, many ISPs have begun to limit the number of e-mail addresses, either sent or received. If we weren’t dumping the e-mail Acrobat form of the Newsletter, this is a problem which we would have to address. Right now there is no simple answer, but since we are discontinuing mass mailing of the Newsletter, it isn’t my problem. There was also the issue of reader’s mailboxes being full, and again, for a Web purchase, the file will go directly into the user’s active memory so that little headache will also be eliminated.
Gosh, with all the benefits, I wonder why I have to be so apologetic about the change.
Tail wags to you \ / \ / \ / \ / \ /, TOBY
I don’t know how many of you have to sit through boring corporate board meetings, but take it from me, they often run a distant second to watching paint dry. Unfortunately, this last one didn’t follow that pattern because I ended up in the frying pan. It seems that my program to obtain advertisers by having more people experience the benefits of the newsletter through free Web content and free monthly newsletters has been a big bust. Although all our total number of newsletter subscribers is higher than at any point in our history, it does not contribute anything to paying costs. The awareness was supposed to create advertising placements which didn’t happen. I’m not offering any excuses. It’s just the way things turned out!
Currently, I am the least popular member of the board and have the responsibility in the following months to present to readers the changes which will make access to Batteries Digest completely different. Since these new changes will negatively impact ‘free’ readers, my unpopularity will extend far beyond the board room. Such a situation deeply affects me down to the chromosomes because the principal goal of the Yellow Labrador (me) is to positively interact with people.
But the course requires changing and we have to make some difficult decisions which won’t be popular. We have to look at the bigger picture which requires finding a model which will cover costs. As of today, the specifics have not been defined, but I can tell you that the core concept will focus on the almost half-million page views which our web site produces annually. In other words, although organizations will not advertise in BD and we have never been able to make subscriptions pay, we have to generate a new formula which is centered on the Web visits. I’m sure that these generalizations allow you to speculate on our thinking because it doesn’t take rocket science, or a pack of educationally challenged coyotes, to figure out what options are open. Suffice it to say that in the following months I will be bringing you updates to our actions. Stay tuned!
Meanwhile, the board meetings and their actions are going to be anything but boring for me. Hot? Maybe. Painful? Maybe, but certainly not boring. I need a drink! Please pass the milk!
Tail wags \ / \ / \ / \ / \ / \ /,
Those of you who could not find my column last month have Shirley and Don to blame for all the WORDY copy which they had in the issue which preempted space for me. Well, I’m back and have a very appropriate battery story to tell you.
Those of you who have been with us since the first issue of BD in April of ‘96, remember seeing my picture on the front page as a young pup only because I was wearing my battery powered shock collar. Since I roam great distances both in my Minnesota and California hangouts, the collar is the ideal way to keep me focused on staying with the crowd without long leashes which would get caught in the brush.
I wear a Tri-Tronics model TM 200 Lite which has an effective range of about one-half mile. The range is good because I never get out of sight, which in the brush is usually less than 300 yards. Those of you who do not know the purpose of a Yellow Lab’s tail have never been with me in the longer grasses. When we are out there, and I am searching, my tail is pointed straight up so that although I am not seen, the tip of the tail shows my people where I am. The collar is only used to remind me that I have to listen to commands, and not run down animals, since I am not allowed to catch them. In the Midwest, I am allowed to chase deer, but they get away before I can get too close, and the collar reminds me to return. On the desert, it reminds me to stay away from the rattlers, despite having had a few really good coyote and rabbit chases there.
So where is the battery connection? The collar uses one Nickel-cadmium and the transmitter uses another. Remember now, I have been using it almost daily for 8 years, and through judicious recharge regimens have kept it in operational form. About a month ago, the run time became noticably shorter, so I figured the batteries were reachng the end of their lives. The batteries were housed in welded cases, which if replaceable would require special repair techniques. We contacted Tri Tronics to see if we could get the batteries replaced. The model was obsolete, but they told us of another company called the ‘Collar Clinic’ (www.collarclinic.com) which might repair the TM 200. In a quick correspondence by email, we found that the Collar Clinic would do the job for 20% of the cost of a new collar, so we sent it in. They promptly replaced the batteries, checked out the entire system, and I now have complete connectivity in the field again. The point is that, one should use the web and all contacts to find battery replacements.
In a similar fashion, Shirley was going to have her cell phone trashed while under a service contract with Best Buy because they could not get a replacement Lithium-ion battery. She found a web supplier of the battery and has so far extended the use of the phone by a year to date and still operates properly.
For those of you who have shied away from Palm and Sony based PDAs because the factory does not provide replacements, there is more good news on the web. Companies like Laptops for Less (www.LaptopsForLess.com) sell not only the replacement batteries for many Palm, Handspring and Sony PDAs, but they also provide replacement instructions and the small tools required to get the case open.
The bottom line is - don’t accept manufacturers edicts to trash the product because of a dead battery.
Somewhere along the way cats got the image of having nine lives. From my point of view they need them because other than rabbits deer and cyotes, I can’t think of any better guy to chase. When I go to my vet’s office, he has a resident cat sitting on the desktop, and I have been informed in no uncertain terms that if I even try to get that cat, I will be neutered without novocaine. Despite having all kinds of shivers ovetake my body when I see that cat, I am of reasonable enough composure to realize that, having any part of me surgically impaired with a rusty pair of pliers or other questionable tool, far outweighs that captivating desire.
Dogs, too, seem to have some life extensions as I have had with three leg surgeries. I am finally coming around to seeing life without constant pain. But when the physical pain goes, we get further reasons to call on one of those lives to eliminate psychological pains. This past month we decided to completely redo our website with a new web development tool called Cutesite. The benefits included new ways of making it easier to navigate and better presentation for the reader. It simultaneously meant that all our materials had to be converted from our old (Pagemill) tool to Cutesite, one page and one graphic at a time. We decided that rather than drag out the transition, that we would bite the bullet on May first and get it done on line by the first of June. With the help of a trashed hard drive, we missed it by a couple of days, although there are a bunch of details yet to tune up. At least the site is converted and the search engines can begin their laborious task of redefining our information for subject-searchers. We are also restructuring our site statistics to begin with the base of experience starting in June. By September, we will have a good handle on what the growth and preferences are. All this has taken one of my nine or so lives and I hope to have a quieter summer.
I extend happy, peaceful thoughts as wishes for you.
Tail wags...\ / \ / \ / \ / TOBY
It has been a terrible month for me. Starting with my exuberance over recovering from the surgical repair of my leg, I tore the cross bands and had to have a much more complex and expensive ‘TPLO’ surgery done at the U of M Veterinary Hospital which is located at the boundary between Minneapolis and St. Paul, hence my new title of The ‘tail’ of two cities.
While there recovering, a fellow brought into his limp dog to be evaluated by a Vet. The Vet placed his stethoscope on the dog’s chest at a number of places and after a few contemplative moments said to the owner “I’m sorry sir, your dog is dead.” than the heart broken the owner went into a dramatic state of disbelief and cried for a second opinion. The vet left the examining room in and a few minutes later a Yellow Labrador with a white smock over his upper back and front legs walked in.Now this dog was not as good looking as I ma, but he was a pretty handsome hound. He approached the comatose dog and began his sniffing first his nose, then ears, eyes and continued over the rest of the body, paying special attention to those areas all dogs like to sniff. The Lab then closed his eyes, made a soft growl, then followed with a mournful but discreet howl. He trotted from the room and after another two minutes a cat with big a horn-rimmed glasses came in. She studied the dog from a afar then at very close quarters from top to bottom. Leaning back she made an unsavory ‘Nrown’ and also left the room.
The vet returned saying that his diagnosis had been doubly confirmed and he and presented the grieving owner a bill for $600. Not completely disoriented, the owner got even more frustrated and said “Six hundred dollars! You charge me $600 to tell me my dog is dead?” “Well,” said the vet, “my fee was only $65, but with the Lab work and the Cat Scan it brought the total to $600.”
Tail wags, \ / \ / \ / \ /
(April 2003) Welcome to the new (and yet old) version of Batteries Digest, exclusively in Web Site format.
All the stuff you have been reading about is now directly posted to this website and is free. The stories we have added for each month are listed in the 'What's New' page which you can select anywhere in the site from the navigation box like the one above.
The editorial staff is still made up of Shirley and Don with Tim doing all the web posting work. Me? I'm still the lead dog of this outfit. Every morning, I get to the office about an hour before Shirley does, check through the windows for rabbits and pheasants, and then settle down to figure out just what articles we should be writing. Many of you have thought that the material of BD was the creation of Shirley and Don, but they only fill in the fluff of a story after I have dug out the real de-tails for them to use. What gets my fur ruffled is that when stories are finished, Shirley gets out her red editing pen and marks up copy with merciless abandon, implying that we are literary Neanderthals. Well, I get back at her when somebody calls on the phone. She tries to be so business like, and just about the time the conversation is getting really important, I bark big time at some virtual animal outside the window. Then she has to explain why the conversation has been drowned out and why we have a dog in the office. Afterward, I slink off to a quiet spot and have a large chuckle over it. We dogs don't let humans see us chuckle as it would impair our perceived image as being stoic creatures.
You may have noticed in my initial comments that I said the access to the site was free to visitors. Friends, there is no free lunch! But it will stay that way if we can get organizations to advertise on the site as Indium Corporation now does. I will have a primary role in explaining how this works and begging important companies to support the site with an advertising account. I will even be throwing in extra bonuses such as special sniff walks with me to find rabbits, deer and coyotes.
More than anything, though, I want to have you know that this Yellow Lab has a day full of tail wags for just you to enjoy. \ / \ / \ / \ / \ / \ / \ / \ / \ /.
Killer Ap’s Are Still There If You Want Them
(Sept, 02) Hello Subscribers,Before moving to the main subject, I have to take a moment to tell you a story.The other day I was hanging out at my favorite watering hole, the Pink Palace, with my buddy the bartender, Butch, who is a bulldog by birth. This penguin comes in, pulls up a barstool and Butch, wiping the bar, says his usual, “What will you have?” The penguin asks, “Was my father in earlier today?” to which Butch answers, “Dunno, what does he look like?”
Where was I? Oh yes, killer Aps! Every strategic planner and marketing manager is looking for the holy grail for his/her product which will sell billions each year, with a fantastic margin. Cell phones are no exception. Now marketeers are chasing 2.5 and 3G but the customers aren’t playing along. Worldcom accounting mentality has pounded telecom profits into pits so deep they don’t even include fire. While gross corporate accounting schemes abound, other legal schemes include obsolescence which is tailored to increase sales at the expense of frustrated customers.
Based on a personal experience, there appears to be a contrary untapped killer ap in cellphones. Here is the background: Three weeks ago, Shirley’s Sprint Touchpoint battery crashed. She has a service contract on it from the retailer which discontinued supplying the battery, apparently because it is in their most profitable interest to have the customer buy a new phone with an updated and more costly monthly contract. After taking it to the store, she found out that, although it was only two years after selling her the product, Best Buy was not going to get any, and the customer sales representativeoffered no recommendations to implement repair under the service contract. After holding their ‘feet to the fire,’ the retailer has agreed to pay for the battery if Shirley can buy one somewhere else. When checking with battery vendors such as Radio Shack, Batteries Plus and 1-800-Batteries, each stated that their company had never carried a replacement or had discontinued the battery.
According to sales people at popular cellular retailers, all cellular manufacturers want to quickly obsolete today’s phone and push the customer into a new phone and service contract. Key to the issue is a non-standard battery. Every cellular manufacturer drives manufacturing costs up by specifying a one-of-a kind battery, then shuts off the supply when the market year expires. Although the electronics continue to function, the limited battery life guarantees a re-supply of customers seen by the marketeers as herds of not-very-bright sheep.
Now, the killer-ap! Suppose that one renegade manufacturer sold a cellphone which included an off-the-shelf, standard battery, maybe even AAA Nickel-metal hydrides. Maybe the talk time is cut in half, but with three extra sets of batteries in my briefcase, I would have twice the total talk time of today’s Lithium-ion at a fraction of the price. I could easily get more. Perhaps this renegade would put a battery gas gauge in the cellphone so I would know when to swap cells. Will I pay a premium for this product? You bet! It will mean having a working cellphone while the other glitzy followers are waiting for their ‘obsolete’ phone to get replaced. I shall have to find out that this product exists, so if you make one, get this product differentiating message to me.
Some digital cameras already have this off-the-shelf replaceable battery product differentiation, but I was too slow to recognize it when I bought mine. However, I will be smart enough to make it the last time since the choice is offered. >Keep chugging!>