Monday, November 30, 2015


It is done.
These are the screen shots of the final version of my app that has been swirling around my head for the past two years, to the month. 911buddy will allow you to call the 24 hour administrative line to any 911 center anywhere in the country, and it will also allow you to have a third party, someone in trouble on the line with you. No one has done this before, no one has connected all the 911 centers around the U.S into one technological spot.
My business partner Jeff has been working with VezTek in Los Angeles to produce the app and next it gets sent to the people at Apple who will I hope give us authorization to put it up for sale in the iTunes Store.
VezTek has been amazing, they have stuck to the schedule and budget with tenacity and good cheer. Of all the many elements that have gone into this project they are the team that has caused me least grief. Sani their front man is always available, he listens, finds answers, explains and gets things done and makes it seem easy. Adeel the engineer is also a great listener which has made the process easy and drama free. VezTek has been outstanding, but they aren't out of the woods yet as we now have to build the Android version. Looking at these pictures while actually using the prototype I know it also will be outstanding.
The process has been exhausting and trying in ways I never imagined. Sometimes I have spent almost the entire day on the phone coordinating one detail or another, trying to figure out a way forward when I have very little idea where we have come from. When I look back over the path Layne Jeff and I took to get here I wonder we made it at all. I have heard it said that new companies go down dead ends all the time and have to retrace their steps, spend money unnecessarily and waste time to get to the finish line and we did all of that. I have spent just about every other weekend meeting with Jeffery and it has been exhausting, brainstorming in hotel rooms, writing proposals, working out pathways to a patent, visualizing how the app might work. In all that time we only had one really serious disagreement that nearly tore us apart. I think it has been an astonishing test of endurance.
And now the app is built, we have an amazing website, and all we have left is...the marketing. Thats a whole new set of skills we have to ramp up! And in twelve months I will look back again at the missteps...dead ends....wasted time...wasted money...! I think there is a pattern emerging.
The really interesting part is what a learning curve I have been on. When I started this process I wanted to do something new with my life, something more absorbing than learning to skydive or make pottery. So I embarked on this crazy idea. people sometimes ask if I had to start again knowing what I know would I do it again? Sure would. Especially if I could avoid my mistakes! But thats life isn't it? Wanting to start over and avoid the mistakes you know, which leads you to the mistakes you don't know...We might all like to be teenagers again if that were possible.
I have had some profoundly odd experiences with people along the way. Jack Riepe told me early on in the process not to believe American business operates any better than your average lemonade stand and he was right. Anyone who thinks free enterprise has created capable business models needs to have followed along beside me on this odyssey. On my bad days I'd feel like no one understands how to meet a commitment or a deadline, with the notable exception of VezTek. 561 Media who has built our brilliant website at first didn't believe me when I said I expected deadlines to be met. One Aspergers meltdown there and they have been amazing. Suddenly they believed me when I told them that whatever they needed I would get for them. I had to prove that to them after they made a point of telling me most clients fail to deliver needed materials on time for their own websites. Not us! We made believers of them with prompt delivery of all they asked for. That was another experience that led to my sweeping conclusion that being serious, meeting commitments and deadlines is beyond the grasp of a lot of free market capitalists.
I have discovered Venture Capitalists have all the sense of adventure of country vicars. I had one merchant banker tell me he was interested in investing in the company and he wanted to look over our business plan as he might have ideas to help. Then he tore me a new one saying I hadn't enough money to promote my app and I needed a million bucks etc etc.. and most start ups fail etc.. etc... My reply was basically "No shit" -which was why I was looking for someone experienced with ideas. But like most bankers he was only interested in parting with money to someone who didn't need it. Weird stories like that abound. People in business listen as badly as anyone, are as fearful as anyone and lacking in imagination as anyone. Some are good and many are useless. On the good front we seem to have got into business with one banker who loves the app and sees possibilities. I think I have kissed enough frogs to deserve meeting at least one princess! I am hopeful...but I'm not counting my chickens.
I think building the app has reaffirmed my own sense of what is possible and of what I am capable. I did not do this alone by any means but I have stuck to my vision of what this app should be and together my team and I have actually built it. Last week we started the marketing with all the grit and imagination we have deployed to get this thing built. Marketing is another opportunity for me to grow and I intend to embrace the growth for me and my company. With banker Ami in our camp I think we may be able to move ahead with fewer false starts and dead ends. They say you need grit to make it in this start up business and I can assert we have grit by the shovel-full amongst us all.
My idea is brilliant, it fills a need and I have identified my market. If you have a web page or a podcast and you would like to promote 911buddy to your readers and listeners we are ready to share our product with you and for a decent return for you. I am totally into profit sharing and doing as well as one decently can by doing good, and this app does a whole lot of good. When people understand this app and accept the fatal shortcomings of the current (and most likely future) fragmented 911 system they all want this app on their phones. I find it amazingly reassuring to be able to use even my Mark 1 prototype currently on my iPhone to call 911 centers anywhere in the country. I can't do that even from my 911 desk. Weird but true. If you think the 911 system should be modernized, integrated and federalized I can tell you 21st century America is looking for private sector solutions like mine, not a TSA-style Federal take over of 6300+ independent 911 centers around the country.
I have a lot to do in the coming months and I am still working as hard as I can to be a dispatcher, keep up my blog and manage my start up. I thought Key West Diary was going to take a bigger blow than it has when demands on my time ramped up but I am pleased that I have managed for the most part to keep posting fresh content. Some days I just have to dig in the archives as I have nothing left to write and no new photos to post...That's just the way it is some days. I spend hours on the phone and Skype is my friend. I'd rather go for a walk with my camera but now I am an entrepreneur and there' sworn to be done all the live long day.
This is my 911 center in Key West and I have to say a big thank you to Kristi, Shannon, Nick and JW who have followed my progress, been my sounding board and my test guinea pigs and my supporters all along. Chief Lee thinks it's cool as does my own boss Captain Brandenburg and they have all been great about this idea now at last on the cusp of becoming reality. I want 911buddy to be a Key West start up, born in the tropics and nurtured at my small inconsequential police station. It's not Charlotte, Boston or San Jose that dreamed and designed, patented and built the first national 911 system. It was Key West.
One idea we have had is to market 911buddy to schools, to have schools sell my app instead of candy bars and cakes, and make real money off each sale, and sell something useful and reassuring to parents who have kids with phones and have themselves parents with phones all of whom depend on the harassed "sandwich generation" for help and support. If your school district, or non profit, could use a fundraiser to raise real money and do good for the community at the same time you can reach me or our indefatigable sales manager Joe at If you belong to an organization whose members would benefit from the app, and you could promote it to them by all means let us know. The hardest thing about 911buddy is explaining to people one by one that 911isnt what they think it is. Once they know, they like the app.

Get the word out. This app will save lives

President, John Avery Company. ( My other hat).

Sunday, November 29, 2015

3 Monochrome Shots

I was downtown on a morning's slow amble with my elderly dog and she gave me time to compose three black and white pictures on Duval Street, this first at Johnny Rocket's restaurant of all places. She snuffled up some errant fries, I saw shadows and light overhead.
Across the street I saw this building as though for the first time, and I am reminded by it of the solid Georgian architecture brought to the Bahamas and the Caribbean by the British two centuries ago. I looked at the picture and wondered if I weren't in Nassau in the Bahamas or St George's in Grenada. 
For this last one I dumped Cheyenne's leash and let her drag it off across Kino Plaza while I tried to avoid a low hanging wire. Key West is covered in a  spider's web of wires which I usually just ignore as they are simply part of the landscape. Here though I wanted the uncluttered roof line of this peculiar little stucco square off Fitzpatrick Street. 

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Sand Sculpting

I don't quite get the drive to sculpt sand into fantastical shapes by my hat's off to the artists  who can turn sand into these astonishing shapes. And then tear them down...
The beach at the Casa Marina Resort is the location this weekend of this competition and I stopped by yesterday for a quick look on my way to work and it was well worth the detour. The weather lately has been perfect, a mixture of hot sun, fresh breezes, no humidity and deep blue skies. So standing around under the palms admiring the artists was no trouble at all. Actually I rather wanted a room number and someone to bring me a gin and tonic as I wandered around the people slicing and smoothing sand.
I have a friend in California who is a sculptor and talking to him about his creations, often cast in metal, the story I get is one of intense physical labor as much as artistic inspiration and the need to overcome technical obstacles like smelting metal and casting and refining the artwork. Sculpture requires base technical skills in large quantities and you can see this working with sand as well.
I love how the creations arise out of the sand, a particular well suit type which is imported from Miami and  stacked in forms then wetted down to create a true block as though of marble. Then instead of chipping the artists slice and smooth with builder's tools.
 It all looks very solid...
 ...and that is an illusion:
 Tremendous patience and an eye for detail:
There is a time limit according to the newspaper of 30 hours for the artists to sculpt their 100 tons of Miami sand. In deference to the deadline I suppose there was not much conversation going on and no banter between the doers and the watchers. Indeed I saw a lot of headphones and earbuds deployed to keep us watchers at a solid arm's length from the creators.
They were all business.
I heard a parent trying to explain the duality of impermanent life and permanent death to a small child. One more reason I figured I am designed to be child-free.

It is astonishing to see these figures emerging from their sand cocoons and the crowds wandering around did rather detract from one's ability to contemplate. I suppose I could have used ear buds myself!
I wondered what these figures would look like under the nearly full moon bathing the Keys in silver light this weekend...
 And slowly the figures emerge  from the boxed sand lumps.
 It was quite the setting for...
 ...the competition.
 Not too many hours left to finish.
And then destruction. Weird.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Post Holiday Key West

Thanksgiving is over, long live Thanksgiving! Now it's time for Christmas in the long march to New Year's Day. So we see poinsettias:
Key West in December will look pretty much like it does every other month, except the sun is lower in the sky, and the newspaper headline has an extra letter.
How they make the rent selling everything for five dollars continues to be a mystery.  Nevertheless five dollars continues to be the mantra, through post-Thanksgiving sales and Christmas sales and so forth.
"Gifts of Enchantment" set my mind to thinking. Then I heard the Pelican Poope shop on Simonton Street is closing. I shan't miss the name, nor the gifts of enchantment they sell either. When I think of local business I wish we could also include useful places too. I miss Valladares the newspaper seller on Duval at Catherine.
Not Greece; Kino Plaza.
The city is promising to put 15 local poets in the ground around the city. The first is Key West's poet laureate Kirby Congdon:
I walk on sand
and leave a trail
of footprints,
hard and deep.
The wash of waves
fills my step
in hasty cascades.
Water and sand return,
not quite the same;
the tide, its oceans,
the earth itself
are changed.

          -KIRBY CONGDON

That early morning sun, low in the sky, cast this shutter in bronze.
Duval Street, empty, as we like it, Cheyenne and I.
Let the others shop in a frenzy, we walk, my dog and  and enjoy the cool morning air, on the day after Thanksgiving, when we are still remembering to give thanks.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Giving Thanks

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. It used to be a close competition with Fourth of July but as I have aged Thanksgiving has pulled ahead by a long way. Maybe having a fall meal with friends under palm trees while camping at Fort Jefferson swung the pendulum...
...but last year at Jekyll Island in Georgia with Robert and Dolly in formal circumstances wasn't tropical by any means but  it was pretty damned good, let's face it. I'd like to do it again in fact. 
And yes, being able to sit on a beach and maybe even go for a swim if it is exceptionally warm suits me just fine this time of year. 
But this year Layne is in California, freezing her ass off in sub zero temperatures which seems vaguely appropriate as I am home alone and working all hours. And speaking of work, as 911 has to be answered all year round, I don't mind it on a holiday so much but for the fact that the source of all 24-hour Cuban coffee is closed. Grr. One can hardly hold it against Sandy's but still...
I avoid almost all the Christmas blather as Netflix doesn't offer gruesome advertising and judicious use of the  channel button can keep Christmas at bay on Sirius satellite radio. Besides which the weather stays pretty much the same and that I adore. I think Thanksgiving is better  than Christmas because it is a much more low key holiday, no frenzy of gift giving, no stress, just a silly over stuffed meal with friends and a moment to pause and think and be grateful. To me that defines a great day.
 I shall get a Cuban thanksgiving meal at work today which because it has roast pork and plantains among other things I like just fine thank you and I won't be home but that's okay. Cheyenne won't miss me as she will be snoring on a very full stomach and my wife will be sitting around a California fire pit enjoying what passes for nice weather on the West Coast.
This is  good winter weather:
Happy memories for my girl, now too old for such shenanigans so I am grateful she is still with me.
Happy Thanksgiving, hoping you have much to be thankful for...