Archive Page 2

Mattermark vs. CrunchBase

I love Mattermark. I think what they are doing with big data compilation and analysis is spot on for investor decision making and support for new ventures.

Presently, I’m not a paying subscriber to their service. But, I’ve been a short-term user of their services. And, I’ve really enjoyed their daily e-newsletter, ranking it in LinkedIn as one of my top 10 reads for professionals.

MM vs CB report coverRecently, Mattermark promoted their mobile database edition to some of us dedicated evaluators. I downloaded it and have tried it out a couple of times. My initial summary is: it’s got a ways to go to catch up to CrunchBase, which I’d consider the mostly widely available-to-the-public alternative.

To illustrate, I chose a private Austin tech company that received the most funding in the past year, a mobile software company called Mozido, and browsed the information provided by Mattermark vs. CrunchBase.

I saved a PDF of the screens, which you can view or print.

I like the clean white-space look, fast response time, and employee growth chart from Mattermark. But, I expected a lot more of the reference information to be click-able, rather than static.

And, I also expected to see more images of people, products, and places, e.g., Mozido’s headquarters building, maps of their locations, photos of the home screen of their flagship app, and the like.

These are the areas where CrunchBase outperforms Mattermark, at the moment. It is more visual, more complete, exceeding the information that Mattermark provides.

Since CrunchBase provides company officials and other 3rd parties the option to edit the company’s information, there is an incentive for the company to invest in good information “hygiene” – keeping their listing up-to-date, relevant, and highlighting positive achievements, while eliminating negative or old information.

Unlike a wiki-style approach, where edits are first allowed unencumbered, then corrected or reversed by moderators (like Wikipedia), any edits that you make and save to CrunchBase are put in a queue for a moderator review before being posted.

Sometimes, the new information is posted quickly to CrunchBase; other times, it seems like the refresh takes days. This delay can be a little frustrating to companies that are trying to spruce up their profiles before meeting with investors, customers, or the release of a piece of significant news.

In any event, it will be interesting to see how Mattermark continues to improve and refine their mobile offering. As of this moment, if I had to choose one new venture company profile database to use, I’d go with CrunchBase.

But, that’s the beauty: you don’t have to choose just one. So, I recommend you use them both, actively managing your company’s “face” to the investor world.

Austin Clean Energy Initiative Reunion

ACE-reunionThis is a photo of Allan (“Chip”) Wolfe and me, taken recently at a reunion lunch of what I liked to call the “Batman and Robin” of cleantech evangelizing in the early 2000s. NOTE: Chip was Batman; me, Robin.

What we’re each holding is the original copy of a modestly historic City of Austin resolution that we were proud to have received.

It says, simply: “Be it resolved by the City Council of the City of Austin: The City Council endorses the Mayor’s Task Force on the Economy’s Austin Clean Energy Initiative, adding the clean energy cluster to Austin’s local economy.”

You see, back in late 2001, it was pretty clear that a virtual neutron bomb had dropped on the economic activity of any US city that had been benefitting from the dot-com boom, what we know fondly refer to as “web 1.0.”

ACE-resolutionEarlier in the year, the Dow and S&P had shown their first sounds of cratering, under the dual weight of ridiculously overhyped dot-com investing and the drying up of Y2K remediation dollars, on which companies had spent billions. Throw in the third blow of 9/11, which happened that dark September day, and what you had was the Austin tech economy in a free fall.

Then, in early 2002, I found myself sitting in my friend and colleague Angelos Angelou’s office who more-or-less said “Hey, I’m going over to IC2 to sit in with some people who are getting together to talk about clean energy technologies. Want to come along?”

Having spent the first dozen years of my professional life growing up and doing business in the oil & gas patch of Houston, Texas, I was intrigued and said “Sure!”

That meeting is where I met Chip. Others I very clearly remember at that first meeting, in addition to Angelos and me, were Richard Amato (the 1st director of ATI’s Clean Energy Incubator), Randi Shade (before she made her 1st Austin City Council run), Dennis Corkran (operating his family business Corkran Energy at the time), and a handful of others.

At the time, I’d been scanning the economic landscape for sectors to invest some time & effort, including life sciences, biotech, financial services, social ventures, and others that were a few steps removed from the hobbling dot-com industry.

An_Inconvenient_Truth_Film_PosterWith this merry band of sisters and brothers, I instantly knew I’d found something. Mind you, this was a full four years before “An Inconvenient Truth” exploded on the scene and made cleantech and its evil twin, global warming, household discussion topics.

But, once we started talking, the group – which we dubbed the Austin Clean Energy Initiative, or ACE Initiative for short – saw with clear-eyed conviction that, not only was the time right, but in fact the Austin and central Texas region had an enormous cluster of industrial, environmental, university, and civic resources already present that made cleantech a natural candidate for entrepreneurial activity.

However, as it is unlikely to surprise you, few business leaders at the time saw things the way we did. To his credit, Will Wynn, Austin’s mayor at the time, did “get it” fairly immediately and became an important advocate of ACE.

But, to win over the rest of the business community, we had work to do. I’ll leave a description of those efforts to another day and a cup of coffee, if you are really interested.

To jump to the end, Chip and I – as Batman and Robin – and the rest of the ACE Initiative team (including a big shout out to Jon Lebkowsky, who I’ll call our “Alfred” of the team, which means he was really often the brains of the operation, but kind enough to let us take some credit!) met with hundreds of city, business, and academic leaders, all around Austin, Texas, and parts beyond, advocating our position.

ACE-reportThe effort culminated in the publication of a major report, commissioned by the ACE Initiative and rolled out at a significant press conference, that convincingly established what we had known — that Austin/central Texas had the resources, people and financial capital to be one of the major centers of cleantech entrepreneurial activity in the country.

We were quite proud of that 100-page report, which you can still download today, and have been pleased at its prescience (in that cleantech, indeed, did become a welcomed part of the entrepreneurial, business establishment in Austin) and its durability, with most of the main arguments researched in the report as valid today as they were at the time.

So, back to the Austin city council resolution, which I had found sandwiched in some old files I was cleaning out over New Year’s day. I hadn’t broken bread with Chip in over a year, so I thought it was time to pass the resolution from Robin to Batman and reminisce about one of my favorite advocacy projects in the 20 years I’ve been in Austin.

The Nature of Travel

There has been a lot written about cartoons lately. Here is a favorite cartoon of mine, slightly personalized, that captures my older-wiser perspective on the nature of international business travel. Enjoy! ((C) Berkley Breathed)

China travel

The Nature of Technology

brian arthurOn the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), I am a high “N” for “iNtuiter” on the 2nd of the 4 dimensions analyzed  — the opposing quality being “S” for sensor.

An “N” as I understand in layperson’s terms is someone who sees the possibilities of something presented to them. An “S” on the other hand is someone who sees the precise nature of something presented to them, as it is.

So, for example, an N might be given a blue sheet and think “oh, this could be a great ghost costume for next Halloween” or “cool, a tent to use alongside the sofa-cushion fort we’ve got under construction in the living room” etc.

Whereas, an S would say, “that’s a sky blue sheet for a single bed. Period.”

I mention this personal quality because it helps explain why I especially enjoyed the thesis of Brian Arthur’s classic The Nature of Technology, that I read over the holidays. Not that Sensors wouldn’t enjoy it too. But, the book is about the evolution of technology, which requires you to think a lot about “what could be” not “what is.”

It was recommended to me a couple of years ago by a good friend, when we were visiting one afternoon about our shared appreciation for another great book on science & technology, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.

The Nature of Technology is a scientific evaluation, written in a non-academic yet still rigorous manner, of how technologies have evolved and continue to evolve.

One of the interesting arguments that Prof. Arthur poses in the book is the similarity between biological and technological evolution. Here are examples of the similarities he draws from a few main tenets of the book:

1. Novel technologies arise by combination of existing technologies (evolution, natural selection)
2. Existing technologies beget further technologies (heredity)
3. Novelty occurs from the constant capture of new natural phenomena and harnessing of them for particular purposes (adaptation)

This last tenet — especially, the part about “capturing and harnessing of new natural phenomena” — was particularly illuminating for me. Because, in many respects, it renewed a lapsed interest I’d had in news & data streams that cover scientific research and discovery, when I was younger.

Are you in a constant scan (like I am) for insights to that “next big thing” in software, gadgets, or other new tech? Then my recommendation is this: follow research in new natural phenomena emerging in communications…person-to-person, group-to-group, human-to-machine, device-to-device, and more.

Here are a few ideas for you…

Perhaps VR really hits a mass market this year with some new kind of meaningful communications/interaction paradigm, if Facebook and Oculus can work out the price point and integration issues that get beyond the gamer community.

Maybe it’s really time for haptic tech to break through, where we begin tapping into our sense of touching, in addition to hearing and seeing.

Or, perhaps, we’ll see the likes of DMX, with a version of the total experiential tailoring that they do for business clients like Abercrombie & Fitch, hit the home market — SaaS would take on a whole new meaning, with Senses-as-a-Service.

These are the types of integrative interactions and communications (conscious and unconscious) that I’ll be spending more time watching in 2015.

The challenge for all of us is to open up the aperture, seeking inspiration for the technologies that will emerge to shape our digital future in the coming decades as profoundly as email and social media have in the past several.

“Mist,” Lyrics Composed from the Book of James


Come now, you who say, today or tomorrow

“We’ll go into ‘such and such’ place and live there”

“Spend a year, trade a bit, make lots of money”

Boasting of life, with no second to spare.



What is your life, oh what is your life

Little do you know where you will go.

What is your life, of what is your life

Little do you know about tomorrow.



For you are a mist that appears for a little time

And then vanishes.

You are a mist that appears for a little time

And then vanishes.



What causes wars and what causes fightings

It’s our desires for what we can’t have

But asking is all that’s required for God’s tidings

Draw near to him and he’ll never flee you.



Come now, you rich and poor, howl for your misery

The pleasures of earth have you caught in a spin

“Whoever knows what’s right, but denies me,”

Christ says “can’t be free…can never win.”



Come now, you poor and rich, shout for your victory

The pleasures of life, beyond life, now begin

“Whoever knows what’s right, and’s beside me,”

Christ says “is now free…has no choice but to win.”


The Walk on Thanksgiving Night

dark roadBrilliance and warmth.

He stepped out into the antechamber of darkness.  Moving left, the door handle came into reach and he was outside.  Rattling the car keys from his left pocket, he walked towards the car.  Need to make it look like I’m out here for a purpose, he thought.

Reaching into the glove compartment, he fished out three tapes to listen to later. Done, he straightened and headed for the street in the night.

In a small town, it could be 6pm or 3am and it wouldn’t matter.  The same stillness greets you, the air feels the same, the world is still moving at the same pace everywhere else.

As always, he walked in the on-coming lane. Easier to see the cars as they come and be able to do something about it, just in case the driver doesn’t see you.  The course was familiar; he’d walked or run it many times before, with others and alone, at day and night.

As he approached the T intersection, the truck appeared from the right.  In the distance, seeing only the headlights, he couldn’t tell whether it was a car or a truck.  He slowed so that the truck would reach the intersection first and continue on by — as it did.

In a city at night, not your own, the fear of being a stranger walking alone being caught and prosecuted on the spot by local justice, real or vigilante, for no apparent reason, crosses one’s mind ever so briefly.  He turned left and continued walking.

On the right were mobile homes, the kind that people who can’t afford real houses use as substitutes for the real thing.  At the third home, a hound he could not see howled out at the intruder.  No attack other than the noise imminent, he continued walking, making as little sound as possible.  He waited for the yell from the master to quiet the dog.  No one stirred; the dog’s bark trailed off with one last half-volume, “all clear” howl.

He rounded the corner and headed into the darkest portion of the walk.  Here, the country reclaimed its right of sovereignty.  The field on the left was fenced in by a sparse but imposing barrier of scrub, trees and barbed wire.  The road was paved so as only to allow one vehicle on it at a time.  He was walking in the middle now.

As he walked, the lights and sounds of the town were drowned out by the silent sounds of the country and darkness.  He could only hear his steps and the rubbing of his nylon pants legs.  He couldn’t see anything and tried to remember the functions of the rods and cones and which ones were providing him the ability to determine the shapes of the road.

He could tell he was nearing the bridge because the time was right.  The bridge was always cause to hesitate in pace.  He had only ever noticed at night.  During the times he had come this way in the light of day, the bridge was insignificant.  Twelve feet across, from one side to the other, at the most.  It dipped down at the center by maybe three or four feet.  It was cement and therefore shone differently in the absence of light than the black asphalt road.

dark road 2And yet, he never knew exactly where it was until he was descending it.  Doing do, for those few seconds, the sounds to the side, underneath, and above, were more intense, more ominous, less natural.

On the other side, he noticed shadows.  Over by the plant, the great high security lights radiated the white bluish glare clear out here.  His shadow faintly at his side, as tall as three men, he walked on as the truck suddenly appeared again.

This time, it came from behind.  He was at the most remote point in the walk, in terms of safety or the nearness of others.  Should he walk on the right or the left?  He felt and saw the yellow light from its headlights growing on the road before him.  It carved the outline of his legs on the road, and then died, still a ways off.

He didn’t turn to see what had happened, or where it had turned, knowing instead that the next curve was approaching and he would be able to watch the road he had traversed from his right.  As he rounded the curve walking towards the plant, he was struck, as he always was, by the width of the road.  It was big enough to play football on.

He always felt a sense of almost relief when he turned to this part of the road.  It signaled civilization again.  The road was easier to see here because of the plant on the left.  The lights extended up into the sky several stories, principally illuminating their charge for the night — the plant.

The road had curbs here, the asphalt composition was smoother and easier to walk on than that of the previous stretch.  He walked down the middle of this expanse, staring to the right to see what had become of the truck.

dark road 3Nothing moved for several moments as the steps and the nylon pants kept churning.  As he watched though, the headlights reappeared in the middle of the dark stretch he had left.

The truck came quickly and rounded the corner so that once again it was immediately behind him.  This time he considered jogging, as if the appearance of purposeful action would justify his presence at this odd location and time to those driving.  Instead, as the truck neared, he stepped off the road and walked along in the field for a few moments.  It passed rapidly on the left, seeming to continue its acceleration into the night.

He stepped back into the road with the threat gone and wondered about his life.  Keeping up the pace, he clasped his hands behind his head.  Is he a prisoner, someone being led against his will in a direction over which he has no choice?  The hands drop behind his back, bound by nothing but more thoughts about what…about what?

Rounding the corner, he thought about Mike.  Why did Mike sound surprised when he mentioned he was interested in the position the other day?  He believed he had much in common with Mike.  And yet Mike was older; Mike knew.  He knew what he wanted.  How much did he make — but, does it matter, would Mike  ever be happy?  He could easily die in abjectness, without ever having found satisfaction of purpose other than the solitary, fleeting moments of business success.  (But, maybe that’s all there is?)

There are things you can’t tell anyone.

He began walking by houses now.  He watched the windows for light and for movement.  Were other families celebrating Thanksgiving too?  They must be happy being together.  Many houses were completely dark.  Either their occupants were gone or asleep or in the dark.

One of the houses on the right was larger and more modern than the others.  More questions.  Why would anyone spend a lot of money on a place like this clear out here?  What kind of people are they — ranchers, is he a doctor, a businessman, are they kind to others, or do they keep to themselves?

Again, he wondered what to do.  What is important in life?  Is achievement the most important above all else?  Or is living a good, spiritual life the most important — being an example for his child(ren) to be, his co-workers, his fellow churchgoers, and the kids in the youth group?

As he rounded the corner onto the last major stretch, the fire hydrant of the corner house stood out.  Surrounded by a circle of well-trimmed monkey grass, the hydrant was part of the landscaping, just like the miniature cubed hedges and the mimosa trees.  He tried to think of a short story about the hydrant — something along the vein of a black comedy — but nothing came to mind.

The road was now a street.  There were houses on both sides, neatly lined as in every other place on earth.  The last house on the left, before the field, had its garage door open.  Several half-elliptical shaped objects appeared to be hanging from the ceiling all along the width of the garage.  They were irregular and of an interesting texture and mixed color.  He felt he must concentrate on them to learn what they were, to know what it might be that could be of any interest in such a small town.

They were the curtains of the garage door.  They hung down from the horizontal door, billowing down in dirty and abstract splendor.  Their usual job taken away, they now doubled as separate objects of interest, totally devoid of any use in their current state.

And now, the walk was ending.  It had served its purpose.  He had gotten some exercise.  The heavy unsettled feeling he had had in his stomach was gone for the most part.  The crispness of the air had felt good on his face and clothes.

He looked toward the house as he neared it.  He slowed down and observed the family within.  The big window worked as an opening into a fishbowl of human activity.  The world was in there.  Warmth and brilliance.

Walking up the driveway, he reached for the doorknob and entered.

My Affairs with Stairs

stairs-do-ho-suhnote: inspiration for this post comes from the contemporary austin’s do ho suh exhibit, opening to the public today, ee Cummings, and john updike’s story museum’s and women.

the first stairs i can recollect were those of the back porch at the first home i can remember.  the home was the apartment that my parents had in wichita, kansas.  the memories coincide with the photos in my parents’ picture albums.  the shots are of the back of the building with one or more of our immediate family sitting, standing, or laying on the stairs.

i remember the coarse, grainy gray of the stair (for it was only one step) — made of the concrete that composed the remainder of the rows of apartments’ foundations.  the steps were cool in the fall and winter and warm in the spring and summer.

the next stairs i remember are those of my dad’s parents in iowa, before they sold their farmhouse.  memories are faint, but i can still remember (“remember” more than “see”) the ill-lighted back staircase that we would take up to my guest room.

i also remember the stairs at our next home in wichita — on hillside drive.  the house we lived in then brings me close to bradbury’s dandelion wine and his childhood self, douglas.  the house was rather stately and large, as i remember, reminding one of a southern home from the ’40s.

at that time, hillside drive was on the verge of being in the black part of town.  we had a big porch — the only real porch i can ever remember — and the steps up to it were wooden and wide.

i can remember looking out the front door at night and seeing a police motorcade speed by the night the monkees rock group played in town at the height of their 60s popularity.

stairs-Escheri can also remember looking out and standing on the porch during a few nights of curfew during the year the race riots were aflame.  at the time, it was on parallel with the biggest of other events, because the police were out in force and the night and town had quiet power and tension to them.

the back stairs of the hillside house were higher and only led to a landing for the back door, without a porch.

my greatest single memory of those stairs is seeing my uncle keith (husband of my dad’s sister judy) leaping down the stairs ahead of my parents one day when i faked being hurt. i don’t remember the exact details, but i talked my brother frank into going in to the adults and telling them i was in trouble.

i layed down on the ground and acted as if i couldn’t get up.  frank must have been only a few years old at the time, so although he was doubtful at first (we had been playing normally before i layed down on a whim), he “went for the bait.” (i guess i must have been exerting my dramatic juices.)

however, seeing keith rushing down scared me out of my wits and i immediately leaped to my feet telling them everything was okay.  i think i was firmly but gently reprimanded and was left with a genuine impression of concern from keith that i remember to this day.

we moved to amarillo, texas in the middle of my third grade year and i attended Wilson elementary.  in texas, i found most things were very flat. (in junior high and high school, the halls were dominated by long wide ramps that led up to one floor of school and down to the other.)

stairs-hogwartswilson was an old school though and, being somewhat in the style and probably the period of its namesake president, it had sheer brick facades, lots of stairs, and the look and feel of rock solid history.

at wilson, i was a patrol guard  primary duty of this honored position was stair monitoring.  principally, keeping an eye on the manner in which other children walked the stairs between classes and making sure that no unorthodox techniques were employed.

walking out of single-file, backwards, or taking more than one stair at a time were not to be tolerated by a patrol guard.  a person flagrantly violating stairs rules was to be turned in by the observing patrol guard to receive appropriate punishment.

stairs-rockyi suppose that the patrol guard was a position of responsibility given to children assumed to be the elite — preparing them earlier than their peers for the other responsibilities that would soon be pressing from around the corner of years.

as a regular guard in fifth grade and a captain in sixth grade, i relished my responsibility and the respectability that came from the associated authority.  the only time i can ever remember crying in grade school, though, came from this stairs duty.

a friend had been walking back to class after morning recess up the stairs in the usual single file.  as he passed me at the halfway point, which was a landing where i took up position, i believe he grinned.  the next thing i knew, he skipped some stairs right there in front of me!

i later told my teacher of the incident, making her pull the details out of me.  i remember her comforting me because i was troubled with the idea of having to turn in a friend.  duty versus friendship.  she listened and i felt better and i can’t recall if my friend was ever punished.

stairs-steve-zissouthe job I had before and during junior college was at a hotel. as a bellman, i was basically an all-around, do-everything person. two memories of stairs there remain.

the first memory is a fond one.  the lobby of the hotel was a large two-story affair with a great carpeted wooden stairway coming down from the top. i remember learning how and then repeatedly sliding down the great rail of the stair every chance i got, when customers weren’t around.

although it must have looked perilous, I found it easy and enjoyed the little gasps and wide eyes i would get from other staff who hadn’t seen me when i would come zipping down and land in a full trot at the bottom.

the second recollection is less fond.  as i said, the hotel was two stories and half of the rooms faced out while the other half were inside. during the summer, when things got really busy, we had a lot of guests request roll-away beds for their rooms.

we had a limited supply of roll-aways, which we tried to keep evenly distributed between the first and second floors. however, invariably, the weekend would find me needing to take a bed from below to above, or vice versa.

let me paint the picture for you:

  • there were no elevators in the hotel — this was pre-ada
  • our roll-aways were full-size single beds that folded up in half and had wheels — they were not smaller cots or day beds
  • i worked by myself

IMG_0426if the picture isn’t clear, suffice it to say that i gained a bit of strength during those summer days and evenings, hauling beds up and down those stairs.

i believe that it was during this job that i first began a practice of counting the stairs i frequented. particularly on some of the heavier beds i remember lifting upwards, it was either know how many stairs there were and rush up as fast as possible with faith, or struggle step-by-step, peering down at your feet for the last four or five before taking them to make sure you didn’t anticipate one that wasn’t there and break your neck, or vice versa.

the next stairs are from college, and i see them more vividly than any others, perhaps because i walked them more times. i attended a very small, private church-sponsored university in the middle of texas to which i had won a full academic scholarship.

there were only two men’s dormitories. the one on campus was the jock dorm, where all the athletes lived. it always seemed dimly lit, even during a bright day, peppered with loud music and an odor of sweat, i think i went in there to visit someone once during my two years at the school.

the other dorm was an early 1900s converted hotel. besides being the tallest structure in the city, it also housed the remainder of the college’s men — and the majority of its eligible bachelors. because of its age, the dorm only had two elevators, even though it was 12 stories high.

and because of their age, these elevators were in a constant state of repair. every week, it seemed, the maintenance men were hovering over one or the other of the shafts, while lowering a comrade down to service one of the units — looking like the coal-black workers in a diamond mine.

stairs-liu-bolini lived on the 9th floor of this dorm-hotel throughout my stay. because of their lack of dependability, general overuse when they were operating, and overall untrustworthiness (i was trapped in one of the vators on my way to an important lecture one afternoon; even though i yelled for help, it was about 20 minutes before anyone noticed anything wrong), i soon learned that the preferred method for getting up and down was going to be the stairs.

i have several impressions of these stairs. first, they were steep, but not unmanageable — just the right height. this characteristic is as opposed to the lack of height of stairs at many modern facilities, including sports arenas and churches, where each step is only a few inches in elevation above the previous, confusing the climber as to whether to go the slow and awkward way of taking each step or stretching for every other step, which makes it almost too steep.

i also noticed a characteristic ( which i have since concluded is a feature ( or perhaps a common engineering principle) of most staircases) such that the majority of flights of stairs from landing to landing are numbered in odd sets. therefore, i developed a technique of always taking the first step by itself and then skipping every other stair therein, which i practice today.

this seemed the most logical way to take the stairs when running up or down them, which is what i was usually doing. i was usually running because walking 9 flights of stairs (yes, i lived on the 9th floor) got to be rather trudging work — particularly when you walked up and down them several times each day.

the stairs were an ugly, but not unfriendly, yellow color sprinkled with green. (no doubt this gave them a modern look when first built. today, most builders ignore painting and just leave the concrete or steel steps barren to absorb the dirt, trash, and wear of their users.) i don’t think I had ever considered walking stairs a preference or habit until after my college career. since then, given a choice, with all things being equal, i go with taking the stairs.

stairs-tower-babelin graduate school, the stairs were less memorable, but by this time, as i said, habitual. i worked as a a graduate assistant for a non-profit, quasi-academic group that promoted free enterprise ideals. my duties evolved into what some might observe as a curious mix of brain and brawn work.

i did a lot of hauling of the center’s propaganda from place to place but also took care of the center’s financial records — which included transactions, both donations and disbursements, of tens of thousands of dollars.

we were on the 6th floor and, although the elevator service was vastly improved over my old dorm, i took the stairs up and down. they were concrete, not very wide, and harshly lighted. during my time there,

i practiced trying to walk noiselessly. i wanted to walk like indians and the fox, to develop a stealthy quality, for whatever reason at the time. as i went up or down, i would listen for the volume and length of the sound made by my step. i worked on different ways to place my feet, different combinations of shifting body weight, and even the most deliberate of slow speeds.

after achieving only marginal success, i gave it up to go back to just walking as a means of getting from one point in a vertical space to another, and not a skill to be cultivated.

stairs-houses of the holyi was hired by a big eight accounting firm to do consulting work coming out of graduate school. in houston, the building our offices occupied was one of the older of the modern building era. our offices were spread across a dozen or more floors of the building. there were three banks of elevators serving logical partitions of the tower, with six elevators in each bank. the elevators were dependable, fast, and pretty convenient.

by contrast, the stairs of the building were practically inaccessible. from the ground floor, they could only be exited, not entered (except, i presume, with a special janitor’s or guard’s key).

on the regular office floors, the stairwells were locked from the inside. this meant that entering the stairwell without your office key left you with 3 options: knocking on the stair doors in hopes that someone would hear and come rescue you (an embarrassing option); waiting for someone else to enter the stairs to go one way or the other (a fifty/fifty shot); or, walk all of the way down to the ground floor and come back up in the elevators (an unexpected interruption in the tasks you were performing before being trapped).

stairs-lincolnat first, i actually used the stairs a lot. i did most of my work between 2 or 3 floors and the convenience factor was in my favor. however, the equal convenience of elevators for distances greater than my 2 or 3 floor  world broke me of my habitual use of stairs. during college, it had become quite uncomfortable (and disconcerting, for some strange reason) to use the vators.

but, in the professional, business world, using the stairs had a sense of being vaguely unnatural — as if the person using the stairs had some unusual quirk that motivated them to do so, like a distaste for waiting for anything (i.e., the vators) or a propensity for being a loner.

i began to use the stairs less, eventually taking them only at night as part exercise and part avoidance of the five o’clock rush.

my affairs with stairs are infrequent today. my occasion to resort to them is rare — mostly in practice of mock fire drills or when the elevators are broken. since joining my new company and moving to our new building, i can’t say i even know where they are. i wonder if anyone does?

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