Friday, September 4, 2015

Winding along the Vecht

120 bus

‘up and on my way early to Schiphol airport (AMS) for a mid-afternoon flight back to the UK.  I was meeting a friend at 7:30, so ik word wakker at  5:30 and ben op weg at 7:00.  My suitcase clatttered over the over the cobbles to the station, I paused for the occasional picture of the rising sun behind the gebouwen in de Wijk.

I’m going to miss this, although it felt like an odd visit.  The occasional connection to old friends, the neighborhood changes since April, questions of ‘how to live’ now that I’m making organizational and lifestyle adjustments, all throw doubt around how long I’ll stay along the Maas.  The restaurant is successful enough to expand to the 1st floor apartment, so mine is the only residence left in the building.

Brug BreukelenWith a couple of hours to spare until I needed to arrive at Schiphol, I started thinking about which mooie dorpen to visit on the way north.  Breukelen (rhymes with Brooklyn, from which the New York borough derived it’s name, meaning ‘broken land’) was an obvious choice.   It was once the royal place for Amsterdam’s traders to live, and their mansions remain set into the lush green forests and gardens along the Vecht river.  ScheenkdijkThe quaint village has views along the river and the Loosdrechtse Plassen, a lake bordered by serrated shorelines (and the village of Scheendijk) where peat  once was harvested.  There’s a notable Dutch bridge and a bustling market in the town center, perfect for losing myself for an hour.

And then the rains came.

DSC04601 (1400x905)Unfortunately this forced me onto a bus to reach town, running every half hour to match the trains.  It was otherwise a 2 km walk.  There was no way to catch the bus, spend an hour, and get back to the station in time to catch my plane. 

Studying the maps, though, I found that the 120 bus traveled from the station all the way to Amsterdam Bijlmar ArenA, the home of the Ajax football team and on the direct line to Schiphol.  One hour travel time, a meandering track along the estates along the river and a string of small villages. 

It was a plan.

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Torrential rain prevented photography, and I really needed longer to linger, hopping on and off the bus.   But it’s a wonderful ride, with lots to see along the way.   The route passes mansions and gardens, winds between canals along either side, and crosses through beautiful small villages, café’s and shops. 

DSC04607 (1400x934)It would be even better by bike, and I’ve marked the route for a future sunny day with more time to explore.   The only change that I might make is to bail at th4e Holendrecht Train Station, about 3/4 of the way along.  From there, the bus travels through industrial parks with striking modern architecture, but the best part is the earliest part.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015


DSC04528 (1400x917)An outdoor café, a September afternoon along the Maas, is an ideal venue for close conversation, but also for people-watching, guessing attachments and professions of  passers-by.  It’s a game I seldom win.

Still, I think about people more, and differently, than I once did. 

And I take greater note of my intuitions about them. 

“Intuition” is not well defined, but can be approximated as The capacity for direct, immediate knowledge before rational analysis, reaching a conclusion based on  previous experiences and emotional inputs’ (Dane, 2007).  It’s not the result of a rational process, but a realization that comes from the heart rather than the head, or the left brain rather than the right.

I had a spirited debate recently about whether the heart learns, thus whether intuition can be developed.   Intuition - 1No question that our rational nature is informed by facts and improves with practice.  While the heart is often thought of as constant and true, I suspect that it, too, can change with experience.  The ‘bad feeling’ that we get about some people or situations reflects earlier misfortune.   Attractions should similarly connect to positive times of  joy, comfort, or security.

DSC04534 (1400x766)The linking of experience  and emotion to produce an intuitive feeling of gratitude is nicely illustrated by two recent authors.

David Brooks’  essay observes that Gratitude happens when kindness exceeds expectations, or when it is undeserved.  Life may not surpass dreams, but it can nicely surpass expectations.  This is a lovely thought: I have expectations of people, probably moreso of those who I know well or have close ties to.  Paradoxically, I may also feel disappointed by them more often, while being delighted by the occasional stranger who goes out of their way to help.

The Sage writes that many human emotions involve judgments.  We are angry because someone behaved badly, disappointed because we misjudged events. We would feel differently if we judged differently. Reciprocally, then, foreboding likely attaches to a nagging doubt,  anger to a thwarted desire?  We can help the way we feel, if the way we feel flows from a mistaken judgment that we can correct.

Intutition -2Once identified as a skill with management utility, the academic community produced guidelines for developing intuition as a skill, of course (Sadler-Smith, 2004):


1. Open up the closet.  Trust your feelings; count on intuitive judgments; don’t suppress hunches.

2. Don’t mix up your I’s.  Distinguish your instincts, your insights, and your intuitions.

3. Elicit good feedback.  Seek feedback on your judgments and build confidence in gut feel.

4. Benchmark your intuitions.   Get a feel for your batting average. 

5. Use imagery.  Visualize potential future scenarios that take your gut feelings into account.

6. Play devil’s advocate.  Probe how robust gut feel is when challenged.

7. Capture and validate your intuitions.  Log them before they are censored by rational analysis.

Maybe.  For me, I (do try to) spend more time listening and watching than I used to, and to be skeptical of whether my beliefs about people are in line with their reality.

Especially when lessons can be learned in a café.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

The moral hazard of startups

DSC04568 (1400x932)Selling equity to venture capitalists has become a lucrative business model, headlined FT-Entrepreneurship this morning.  It’s a provocative article.  With seed capital abundant,  anyone with a compelling idea and a silver tongue can fund a couple of year’s employment in an incubator.  Entrepreneurs can enjoy the start-up lifestyle with little personal risk, Murad Ahmed writes.  The moral hazard is that Founders can live for a year or two on seed capital, have some fun and punch their lottery ticket. If things don’t take off immediately, they can simply move on. 

My move from Corporate to Startup was driven by a desire to get great ideas through to physicians and patients,  to keep control of  key business and project decisions,  to select capable and congenial talent to work with, and to keep what I win when it all succeeds. 

The reality of running a startup is more humbling.

The daily realities of long hours, frequent setbacks, demanding customers and skeptical investors requires sustained effort and deep resilience to overcome.  (Horowitz, 2014)

Along the way, I’ve learned what I am good at, mastered what I needed to know, and recognized (almost too late)what was beyond me.

I’ve always kept to my principles of building value for customers, being fair to employees, providing a return for my investors, and being honest with everyone.

DSC04552 (1400x933)The FT suggests two additional tests for identifying the truly committed entrepreneur.  During conversation, 1) Get edgy and unpleasant to see that they behave rationally and understand what they need to succeed,  and 2) Change the subject, to see whether they are focused and immediately get back to the topic. 

I’m embarrassed to say that I’ve probably failed both.  I move on when confronted by arrogance, and follow the social talker to building rapport.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Goede morgan, Maastricht

DSC04515 (1400x1127)It’s been a very long time. 

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Subtle things have changed in five months,  A new burger restaurant is open two door up.  Water fountains have been planted among the trees lining the High Street. 

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In a city like Maastricht, though, most things never change.

DSC04519 (1100x1400)Bert smiles and waves from Café La Clé next door, delivering beer and gossip to the old men with elbows planted onto the new blue tables.   ’t Mooswief still keeps watch over the main square, green water sparkling in the yellow sunshine.  The Boekhandel Dominicanen still offers coffee and a book. 

My Locomotief is little the worse for my absence: a few leaves caught in the cables, some air for the tires.  I thought for sure it would be gone.

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Provisioning is the first order, then opening a foot-high stack of mail.  The rail card, bank card, lease car and tax authorities have priority, and I’m off to the Vrijthhof.

DSC04533 (1400x932)New students scurry past, starting their academic year.

Preuvenemint is ending, workmen carrying away gates and knocking down the booths.

It’s hot, it’s humid: it’s likely to storm before the day is DSC04537 (1400x988)out.

But, still and all, it’s welcoming sights and sounds, familiar along the ‘skade.

 Goede morgan, Maastricht. Het is te lang geleden, weg van huis.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

The Notting Hill Carnival

DSC04494 (1400x933)We decided to take a weekend swing through London, time off ahead of a crowded September travel schedule.  The usual survey of theater and galleries didn’t turn up much, though. What about the Notting Hill Carnival?

A fabulous  idea.

DSC04466 (1400x1177)Carnival is a spring event in the Netherlands, preceding Lent.  In London, the Carnival is a celebration of all things Caribbean originating in  1959. More of an Arts Festival, it’s steel drums and Jamaican bands, jerk chicken and piña colada, sitting on the curb and watching the parades.

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Unfortunately, Sunday was Children’s Day and the parades were hours late.  There was, however, ample entertainment to be found in the costumed people skating by, the police removing cars, and the music on every street.

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