Living in interesting times

I am still planning a long series of Key West posts, with pics. This still isn’t that post.

Rather, this is yet another “it seems the universe wants us to leave Tampa” post.

I don’t want to leave Tampa, really I don’t. But it’s looking more and more like it’s going to happen, and soon. I still have one client that’d like to hire me and ship me up to Atlanta, and now a second client–one I am a minority shareholder in–wants me to move up to the Atlanta region as well.

It’s kind of a complicated situation, but: when I first started my own business, one of my clients, an ad agency, provided me with rent-free office space in exchange for a discounted rate on prepress and other technical services. That client has a partnership with another company, which makes consumer electronics. The electronics firm is a small startup that’s been struggling for a number of years; they make a very popular device, and have patents on the basic technology behind many other devices that could be worth literally hundreds of millions of dollars, but they’ve lacked the capital to develop and market the products. They’ve actually paid me in stock for various services I’ve done for them, as they have virtually no cash.

Well, the electronics company has finally found venture capital backing. Lots and lots of it. Millions of dollars. Enough to start doing serious development on the new products they’ve prototyped. They’ve decided to lease an industrial park in Georgia, near Atlanta, and…they want me to move up there with them.

Simultaneously, the ad agency has decided to shut its doors. The people who own it are also the principal owners of the consumer electronics firm, and since the latter is getting venture capital and the former is losing clients, they’re closing the doors.

What that means to me: I’m losing my rent-free office. I’m losing my largest client. However, I have the potential to make a lot of money, and by “a lot” I mean “well over six figures,” by staying with the electronics company. So, it shakes down something like this:

If I stay in Tampa:

– I lose my office, and my accounting serivces (currently being provided for free by the ad agency). This means I restructure my business so that clients never come to me, or I spend the money it takes to get another office.
– I still do work for the electronics firm, via telecommuting. They’re willing to do this, but I’m skeptical about it. It’s rather cumbersome, and I think that in the end, what may happen is they’ll look for someone to do the day-to-day work locally, and I’ll gradually end up being phased out.
– I don’ have to spend the money to move. Moving will be a nontrivial expense.
– I keep my existing clients…but I’d better come up with some new ones to replace the advertising agency pronto.
– Shelly keeps going to school.
– We are in a place that’s much more socially supportive than Georgia.

If I move to Georgia:

– I have the potential of earning a six-figure salary, and possibly becoming a millionaire on the basis of my percentage of the company…if things go well for this company, if the venture capital works out, if the company succeeds. A startup company is always a gamble.
– I have the backup plan–my client that already wants me to move to Atlanta would be deliriously happy to have me, though it would mean giving up being self-employed.
– It’ll be expensive. Moving is not cheap, and we’re already out a lot of money because of the Boston thing.
– We break the lease here. Also not cheap.
– Shelly has to change schools, meaning she has to pay out-of-state tuition for a year.
– We have to leave all our friends in Florida. That sucks hefty moose willie.
– I will have to start from scratch if I plan to develop my own client base as well as working for the electronics company.
– I will have to leave my existing client base.

This is the third time this year that something has happened which has caused us to consider leaving, or caused us to leave (however briefly), Tampa. This is getting ridiculous. Losing my office space, and my largest client, is a big deal; packing up and moving to Georgia, and betting on a startup, is also a big deal.

The ad agency is shutting its doors in sixty days, which at least gives us some time to figure out what move to make, but in any event it looks like going out to San Francisco for MacWorld this January is a non-starter. Unless a miracle occurs, it ain’t gonna happen. In a way, I kind of feel like I’m in a chess game, and these next few moves will either win or lose the game. Where’s a future prediction device when I need one?

Some thoughts on the political process

I have a lot of things to post about our recent trip to Key West, and (as usual) lots of bandwidth-devouring, not-safe-for-work photos to go with. This isn’t that post, however.

On the way to Key West, i saw a truck with a patriotic bumper sticker–the one that has a picture of the American flag and the slogan “These Colors Don’t Run.” The sticker was printed with cheap inks, which had faded almost to nonexistance inthe sun–the red stripes on the flag were sunbleached to pale yellow, the slogan was barely readable. How appropriate, I thought.

Right now, America is the world’s sole superpower. Right now, we can do pretty much as we please on the world stage; right now, there is nobody who can out-muscle us. problem is, right now we’re facing an adversary who isn’t competing with us on our own territory. The Cold War, that bitter war of attrition with the Soviet Union, was largely about who could out-muscle the other, an arm wrestling match fought with nuclear weapons and with conventional weapons in thousands of indirect ways all over the globe. The Taliban in Afghanistan was an American creation; we found, trained, armed, paid, and equipped the most virulent, anti-Western, reactionary, xenophobic bunch of fanatic whackos we could find and set them loose against the Russians, hoping to bog the old USSR down in an unwinnable quagmire in Afghanistan. Fate, it seems, is not without a sense of irony.

So the Soviet Union is no more, and we’re the supreme military power in the world. These colors don’t run; that’s not what happens to solitary superpowers. These colors, instead, gradually fade away.

Being a solitary superpower is not a sustainable proposition. Ask the Persians, or the Romans, or the British. Indeed, we find throughout history that Afghanistan and Iraq are the places where world superpowers go to die.

During the fading days of the British empire, the British found themselves up to their hips in the quagmire of Afghanistan, spending what was left of its resources in a feeble and ultimately fruitless effort to bring order to that part of the world. Meanwhile, across the ocean, America was quietly and steadily building its own political, economic, technical, and military might. By the time the British realized what was happening, they’d been consumed in Afghanistan just as the Soviets would later be, and in Iraq, and they looked around and realized that the world had passed them by…the British Empire had faded, quite without anyone realizing it, and the nation that was once the reigning superpower was suddenly an also-ran.

So. Fast forward to today, and we have…a world superpower slowly being consumed in Afghanistan and Iraq, while across the ocean, another country, this time China, is quietly and steadily building its own political, economic, technical, and military might. The Chinese economy, which depends far less on the rest of the world than ours, is slowly becoming a mammoth juggernaut; the Chinese now publish more research papers every year than we Americans do; the Chinese are developing their own ambitious manned space program; the Chinese government is investing heavily in manufacturing, R&D, and technical firms abroad… Haven’t we seen this script before?

Afghanistan and Iraq is where world superpowers go to die. You’d think someone would have noticed by now.

I voted today. I doubt anybody will be surprised at the way I voted. Had a dead mackerel been running against Bush, I would’ve voted for the fish. “Vote smelly fish for a stronger America!” “The fish–it can’t do a worse job, right?” I did, however, jump outside the Democrat/Libertarian paradigm in my local elections, where I actually feel those votes might be of some use.

On a completely unrelated subject, I got my Alcor paperwork yesterday. Once I have it filled out and notarized, I’m in. I have to find some witnesses who’ll sign it as well; coordinating the witnesses and the notary, and a bit of luck, is all that stands between me and having a life that’s long enough to have some prayer of seeing a time, far far in the future, when human beings the world over will actually learn something from history. But then, I’m an optimist. I know that because OK Cupid says so.