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Michael Gracie

There Won’t Be Blood, But There Will Be Runoff

There was the Blowout Year, then the Fire Year. And with one exception, Flood Week, last year seemed like a reversion towards the mean. This year is shaping up in support …

Colorado Snowpack

A few anomalies within, but that’s what the Big Thompson Water Project (and like-kind water management infrastructure) is for. Won’t have to turn the spigots up too much to feed the thirsty plains, meaning the fishes will be a-swimmin’.

MG signing off (because the white stuff still falls in April)

Amazon quashes the mongol hoard

Colorado HB 10-1193 motioned for the voluntary collection of sales tax by online retailers. Most probably didn’t pay much attention to it because it was “voluntary”, meaning law makers had visions of sugar plum fairies and passive-aggressive search engine optimizers dancing in their heads when they offered up the punch line.

Of course legislators and the administrations who sign their work rarely take into account the Law of Unintended Consequences, and in this case all the Colorado residents who made their living through the Amazon affiliates program are now hitting the bread line.

Dear Colorado-based Amazon Associate:

We are writing from the Amazon Associates Program to inform you that the Colorado government recently enacted a law to impose sales tax regulations on online retailers. The regulations are burdensome and no other state has similar rules. The new regulations do not require online retailers to collect sales tax. Instead, they are clearly intended to increase the compliance burden to a point where online retailers will be induced to “voluntarily” collect Colorado sales tax — a course we won’t take.

We and many others strongly opposed this legislation, known as HB 10-1193, but it was enacted anyway. Regrettably, as a result of the new law, we have decided to stop advertising through Associates based in Colorado. We plan to continue to sell to Colorado residents, however, and will advertise through other channels, including through Associates based in other states.

There is a right way for Colorado to pursue its revenue goals, but this new law is a wrong way. As we repeatedly communicated to Colorado legislators, including those who sponsored and supported the new law, we are not opposed to collecting sales tax within a constitutionally-permissible system applied even-handedly. The US Supreme Court has defined what would be constitutional, and if Colorado would repeal the current law or follow the constitutional approach to collection, we would welcome the opportunity to reinstate Colorado-based Associates.

You may express your views of Colorado’s new law to members of the General Assembly and to Governor Ritter, who signed the bill.

Your Associates account has been closed as of March 8, 2010, and we will no longer pay advertising fees for customers you refer to Amazon.com after that date. Please be assured that all qualifying advertising fees earned prior to March 8, 2010, will be processed and paid in accordance with our regular payment schedule. Based on your account closure date of March 8, any final payments will be paid by May 31, 2010.

We have enjoyed working with you and other Colorado-based participants in the Amazon Associates Program, and wish you all the best in your future.

Best Regards,

The Amazon Associates Team

Thankfully I’ve made about two bucks off the Amazon Associates Program since engaging in it circa 1972 1971. But now instead of spending that $2 on a cup of coffee at Starbucks, I’m going to sock it away for my next dirtbaggish fly fishing adventure.

In Wyoming.

Colorado fishing folk have reason to rejoice in 2009

If you woke up from your New Year’s hangover, immediately reached into your vest, found your fishing license expired, and thought “damn, I spent that thirty bucks, and then some, at the bar the last night”, there’s no need to worry. You can fish on that 2008 license until March 31st.

That’s three free months of fishing, so you can safely head back to the bar with delusions of fiscal responsibility dancing in your head. California licensees only wish they were so lucky.

Stuff worth reading before 2009 (UPDATED)

Take your time – you’ve got about 36 hours

  • Cheap cement is pouring into the US, and it’s creating headaches for Cemex, the largest US producer. Don’t feel sorry for them though – they’ve been pushing through price increases in the midst of plummeting construction. I wonder how this will effect the ‘replacement cost’ line on all those home refinancing appraisals being jammed through right now.
  • If you’re a skier, there’s hardly a better time to come to Colorado than now – snowpack is at 120% of normal. If you’re the fly fishing type, you might want to check clarity conditions before heading out this spring, and you may want to pick up another hobby for the first half of the summer – if this keeps up, we are going to be wading in chocolate.
  • If you just got laid off, there is no reason to lie about it. It’s hardly ever personal when the economy is in the tank, so talk it up – you might land that next job as a result. However, you could also discuss a made-up controversy designed to distract you from making next month’s mortgage payment, or log into the social network de jour so everyone knows you’re doing nothing but sitting in a coffee shop.
  • And…

  • If you are a hedge fund manager, just write 2008 off. If you were thinking about blogging for a living next year, forget about it. UPDATE: Ditto (i.e. I don’t think Denton is panicking – I think he knows his shit).

Adieu.

A look at Colorado’s Gold Medal fly fishing waters

gold-medalJust in time for autumn

It’s a great time to be fishing, and it’s only going to get better. We’re heading into a transition period, when the temperature cools, the leaves start falling off the trees, and (happily) when fish either head into spawning mode and/or start bulking up for winter. In my humble opinion, there is no better place to be during this time than on one of Colorado’s designated gold medal waters (notwithstanding that those who fish with me will quickly debate the ‘humble’ part). On that note, I thought I’d summarize what ‘gold medal’ means, and where to find them besides the cover of Sports Illustrated.

The Colorado Division of Wildlife says there are more than 6,000 miles of streams and more than 2,000 lakes and reservoirs in the state. Of those precious natural resources, just 168 miles of streams (and 3 stillwater locations) have been officially designated “Gold Medal water.” This award is given to those fisheries that represent the best opportunities for anglers to catch trophies, and are specially managed to ensure their excellence. Most are catch and release, artificial lure and fly only, and those that do allow taking fish usually limit the bag to two (one of which can be greater that 20 inches, and one that must be less than 12 inches – essentially limiting the take to one ‘trophy’ since nobody really wants to keep a 12 inch fish). The best part is most people memorialize in picture, and the “report poachers” warnings that usually reside near the entrances to these waters are enough to deter those sans camera.

Where do I find the medals?

Gold medal waters are spread throughout the state – some are within an hour or two of major metropolitan areas (think Denver and Colorado Springs), and some are far enough away to virtually guarantee minimal pressure. You can expect that the waters close at hand will be chock full of anglers, hence the fish are handed their Ph.D.’s in entomology early. Those far off may hold less educated aquatica, but you may find yourself carrying your shelter if you decide to stick around for more than a day. Here’s a list, as compiled by the department and organized alphabetically, which includes links to satellite imagery (and links to maps) of the described sections…

(more…)

Colorado’s Gold Medal Trout Streams

I’ll fish three of these Gold Medal waters in the next four weeks.

StartupWeekend: resounding success, just incognito

70 people get together to build a web-based company in a single weekend. That’s 70 people that either barely know each other or have barely worked together – well maybe 60 or so plus a few that actually do work together. Nevertheless, just getting this many people to burn their entire weekend working for 1/70th of the equity in an unfunded enterprise is a feat. Yet, there were naysayers beforehand and the “told ya so” crowd” afterward (the site didn’t actually launch on time), many of whom fall into the following persona categories:

– Those that thought this project was purely an exercise in building to flip (because they generally can’t see the forest through the trees); and
– Those that the existing 70 folks probably wouldn’t have wanted around anyway (because they are simply negative-willed pains in the asses).

There were numerous successes to this “venture,” and you don’t really need a well-trained eye to see them either:

  • A few die hards will finish the project (albeit late), and probably sharpen their negotiating skills (to balance their highly tuned coding skills, and newfound high pressure social skills);
  • A few people will have some fun with the project once it’s done;
  • Vosnap will not need to hire a PR firm when it launches (they’ve gotten plenty of free publicity already);
  • The groundbreaking “all open” development methodology (open as in blogged, video-ed, cross-commented on, etc.) will be the subject of a business school case study, and probably sooner rather than later;
  • Several of the participants will invariably start something else, knowing now that they have complimentary skillsets and further assurances of a productive working relationship;
  • The Foundry Group/TechStars/Boulder/Colorado communities stand to benefit from the above (and they knew it to begin with).

There are probably a lot more gains to be had that don’t show up at first glance, but I have to go walk the dog.

Also noted…even though Vosnap didn’t launch on time, there is a distinct lack of directly negative commentary showing up among the “internet influencers” – before you bash this project, ask yourself why.

VCs pouring cash, just not into Colorado glasses (yet)

Fortunately, I think happy hour should be longer, even if it does have to start a little later.

According to yesterday’s report from E&Y and DJ’s VentureOne, venture capital investing hit its best quarter since the first of 2001. That’s great for startups. Unfortunately, the party doesn’t seem to be happening in my neighborhood.

You could provide the standard reasoning that local funds are more mature, and they are doing more follow-ons and portfolio consolidation right now. You could also go out on a limb by saying there is a “right brain drain” going on, so there are less ideas floating around. I don’t buy any of the notions, and I think the phenomena is actually a good thing.

First, less capital floating around means only the choice opportunities get funded, and the chance of success of any given deal should jump a notch or two. Getting more wins (and less fiascos) under the belt will attract additional capital over the long term. And it’s the “left brain” that usually keeps the books anyway.

Second, I suspect a big part of the local economy has been real estate driven, at least that’s my guess based on the impression that all people seem to want to talk about is their new houses, and all everyone seems to be doing is getting real estate licenses. Time to wake up there – the housing party looks like it is ending, and while it could actually get really ugly, at least that will prime a lot of people to get down to the business of creating value instead of waiting for someone or something to conjure it for them.

In summary, a little restriction of liquidity gets the juices flowing. We’ll see more bootstraps, more ideas popping up out of the woodwork (I love those kinds of surprises) – more ingenuity, and less waste. And that is really the entrepreneurial way.

Colorado AG talks fraud to poorly packed house

Colorado Attorney General John Suthers is touring the state talking about fraud, privacy and identity theft. His last stop, in Pueblo, was met with something less than enthusiasm – in fact, he was met with nobody at all. The AG was targeting the elderly – the ones you would think would be the most vulnerable. According to Suthers, one-third of fraud victims are seniors.

Hat tip to ColoradoPols for picking this one up, and a bit of a smirk to them as well, for politicizing it. I don’t care who your candidate of choice is, and/or what they are promising. Not a one of them can stop this stuff – new laws, policing, etc. won’t put much of a dent in it. But, education and awareness will. And I’ll applaud Suthers for trying.

And to those sniveling about the poor turnout – you won’t be when someone empties your bank account.

Colorado education employee laptop stolen

You would naturally assume that if some educational institution was now “missing” a laptop with the names and social security numbers of 95,000 students and faculty on it, that I would be picking on them like no tomorrow. In this case, however, it happened in my backyard, so I am just hoping nobody I know is caught in the grips of some ID thief.

I heard the news on the tele while sitting in a crowded Jiffy Lube a few hours ago, so I have not been able to corroborate the story in print or bytes. But my eyes and ears gathered that several Denver metro area higher-education elements could be affected, based on enrollment over the last few years.

Best bet is to call the fraud prevention departments at the three major credit bureaus, forthwith. Here are the contact points you need:

Equifax fraud division
800-525-6285
P.O. Box 740250
Atlanta, GA 30374

Experian fraud division
888-397-3742
P.O. Box 1017
Allen, TX 75013

Trans Union fraud division
800-680-7289
P.O. Box 6790
Fullerton, CA 92634

They will ask you a bunch of information about yourself – name, address, SSN, the name and account number of a creditor (and maybe more, so have that stuff ready). Ask them to put a fraud alert on your report. That should cover you until the smoke clears, and/or the machine is recovered.

Best wishes,

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