Honkyoku: Learning to Play the Shakuhachi

For about a year, I’ve been learning to play the shakuhachi, a Japanese flute. Compared to other instruments I’ve played, it’s quite difficult, but immensely interesting. I love the sound of this instrument, and I very much appreciate the subtlety of its music.

I’ve set up a new website to chronicle my path as I learn more about how to play the shakuhachi. Honkyoku: Learning to play the shakuhachi will contain observations on the learning experience, and point to some interesting music in videos and on Apple Music. I’m sure few of my readers are interested in this, but do check out some of the music I post there; you might find that you, too, feel a connection with the wonderful sound of this instrument.

(Honkyoku is a type of music for shakuhachi originally played by komosu, itinerant Zen monks.)

Why It’s Productive to Let Employees Work from Home

With today’s technologies, it’s possible to build a company without all your employees needing to work in the same location. You can set up offices in different cities, and workers can communicate quickly and efficiently via Slack, Skype, and other technologies. Yet you can also have many of your employees work from home, and you may be surprised at how this can be more productive.

In a 2017 report by Fundera, they found that 3.7 million employees in the United States worked from home at least half the time; that’s 2.8% of the workforce. And these numbers are on the rise: this more than doubled since 2005.

Many people in business think that if employees work at home they’ll goldbrick: they’ll sit around and binge-watch Netflix, they’ll drink beer, and they won’t get any work done. However, businesses that have made the switch and allow working from home have found that remote employees are more productive.

Here’s why it’s productive to let employees work from home.

Read the rest of the article on The Startup Finance Blog.

Optimize Home Viewing Settings – MyRoma

Best Practices for watching ROMA on your TV

You can find these options by accessing your television’s menu, going into picture or image settings, and if you don’t see them there, going into Advanced picture settings.

The people behind the film Roma, directed by Alfonso Cuarón, and now on Netflix, have a detailed web page about adjusting your TV’s settings so the film doesn’t look like crap. This covers more than just about the motion smoothing settings that Tom Cruise spoke about recently in a video, discussing his latest film Mission Impossible: Fallout, but with Roma being in black and white, you don’t want your TV to have a warm or cold color profile.

It’s good that people are starting to publicize all the bad settings on today’s TV sets; I’m flummoxed when I look at my settings, and I’ve used this document to tweak them a bit.

Source: Optimize Home Viewing Settings – MyRoma

10 Ways to Create a Human-Friendly Office

Some startups may get off the ground in a basement or garage, but once your business is big enough to have an office, it’s important to not just toss together a bunch of desks, chairs, and computers. Your office is where your company makes its money, and the office should be a comfortable, welcoming environment.

Want to make your office a happier place for your employees? Whether you have cubicles or an open-plan office space — both of which have their drawbacks — or private offices for each employee, there are ways you can make your office more comfortable. After all, happier employees are more productive, take less sick leave, and are more committed to their jobs.

Read the rest of the article on The Startup Finance Blog.

Why You Need SaaS Accounting Software for Your Startup

When you start making your first purchases for your startup, it’s easy to record them in an Excel or a Google Docs spreadsheet. You may be a spreadsheet whiz, or you you may have downloaded some free accounting templates on a website that helps people launch businesses.

Excel spreadsheets may pass muster for the first weeks, or even months, as you’re getting your business off the ground, but continuing to manage your books that way — and not using real SaaS accounting software for your startup — is simply the wrong thing to do. This is true especially when you seek investments or venture capital to grow your business; when you show potential backers your financials in a handful of spreadsheets, chances of errors are higher and it looks unprofessional.

There are certainly people who could maintain their financials for their SaaS startup in this manner. In these cases, they’d have to create very detailed spreadsheets with all the accounts and reporting elements of standard accounting. Spreadsheets like this would look a lot like accounting software, and the amount of time they’d take to set up — and verify — would be better spent on growing their business.

The disadvantages of using Excel for accounting for your SaaS startup is about a lot more than just the way figures look in a spreadsheet. There is so much that can be wrong in a spreadsheet that investors can’t take that sort of financial data seriously.

Read the rest of the article on The Startup Finance Blog.

Amazon’s ad business is both alluring and dangerous – Recode

Amazon’s business unit that primarily consists of advertising revenue registered another booming quarter this summer, growing to nearly $2.5 billion in sales during the three-month period, as Amazon announced yesterday in its third-quarter results.

The ad division’s fat profit margin — analysts estimate it could be as large as 75 percent — is a big reason why Amazon posted its largest quarterly profit ever in the third quarter. It’s also a big reason why the slowing growth of Amazon’s core online retail business isn’t a giant story in tech right now.

But Amazon’s ad business, for all its glitz and hype, does not come without significant risk: Namely, that an over-reliance on ads will ruin the Amazon shopping experience.

It’s already ruined. It’s been some time since search results on Amazon are helpful. If I search for, say, an author, I get one or two of their books, then ads for random self-published romance novels, then another book by the author, then more ads. If I click one of the books to view its page, I see more ads on the page. It’s the same for all types of products. When I look for something on Amazon now, I have to know what I want and by what brand. They’re killing the site.

Another example: I just searched for baking powder on Amazon UK. I wanted to buy some in bulk because it’s cheaper. The first two results are sponsored results for “Matcha green tea powder,” nothing at all what I’m looking for. They’re probably looking for “powder” as the keyword, which is, quite simply, stupid. Further down the page I get “No Egg (Egg Replacer),” then stevia, then face powder and silicone ice cube trays. Also lots of bicarbonate of soda, which, while close, is not what I’m looking for. Out of 22 results, only ten match my search. (Here is a link to the page; I’m not sure if everyone’s search results will be the same, or whether some of this has to do with my Amazon purchases.)

Source: Amazon’s ad business is both alluring and dangerous – Recode