Tuesday, September 8, 2015

The First National 911


"Key West 911, where is the emergency?""Hi, I need the 911 in Charleston, South Carolina. My wife just called and she can hear burglars breaking into our home.""I'm sorry we only serve the City of Key West and we can't connect you to 911 centers in other cities.""So what am I supposed to do?"

Good question. The fastest option is to call your wife back and have her call 911 to get help. You could Google your home police department and hope they answer their administrative line after hours so they can transfer you to their 911 center...or if you had 911buddy on your iPhone you could have hit the locator function and been connected, with your wife on the line to her 911 center.

Reality check: 911buddy is currently being built by my partner Jeff with VezTek, an iOS development company in Los Angeles and the idea is to have the app up and running by Thanksgiving which will be here sooner than we think... Delays are possible as this is a start up and we have learned to expect the unexpected over the course of the past 18 months.

This essay includes screen shots from our Web page, HERE which is also under construction. I promised readers of this blog a sneak preview of my project and here it is.

Two years ago I was wondering what to with myself. My marriage had gone through one of those rough patches as we seemed to be living divergent paths after we lost our house to foreclosure, a loss that with the passage of time has resulted in liberating us in ways we had not previously imagined. I wanted to do something different and usually my response to tedium is to get on my motorcycle and ride away for as long as I can. Or go sailing, however we had no sailboat, Cheyenne is a daily responsibility, delightful but not a great traveler, and, small point, we had no money to speak of. We have pensions and the wreckage of the great crash of 2008 which induced panic among some fellow investors we had invested with, and who sold everything at a deep discount. Buy low sell high we said but we were in a minority and the syndicate sold low and that was that, we got out with our nest egg sliced and diced. Enough it turns out to start a company, but not enough to retire on.

How, I thought to myself can I possibly find meaning and purpose with my wife in my life sparing us the slow steady and certain decline into a tediously impoverished retirement? Electronics, I said to myself in the manner of Mr McGuire in The Graduate who thought plastics were the future. Well, I thought, I know the 911 system real well after ten years working in it, maybe there is something we can do there. And of course I got yet another call from someone in Key West frantic to connect to a 911 center somewhere else in the country and I started mulling over a possible application for a smartphone.

It seemed like a good idea, the more I thought about it but I could find nothing similar anywhere, nor even any discussion about this peculiar hole in the 911 system, and that gave me pause. Was I crazy? Well, I finally decided to broach my idea to my wife and she would either kick me in the backside to sell the idea to Quirky, my original non-entrepreneurial plan, or she would tell me to go back to sleep and double down on the overtime, our original economic recovery plan. As it was she thought it was a great idea and started nagging me to act on it which plan freaked me out. Me? Put myself to a public test? I think not... Then I thought of Jeff Abbott, a long time reader of this blog who helped me re-set the page once when I screwed some delicate HTML mechanism in the back of Key West Diary. I had never met him but with my wife, the harpy from hell nagging me, I called Jeff out of the blue at his Cape Coral home...the first of many nerve wracking cold calls I have made on behalf of the John Avery Company, of which I am now President and of which Jeff is Vice President of Technology (and my wife is COO). All of those titles and five bucks might buy you a cup of coffee at Starbucks or Panera, the early meeting rooms of the John Avery Company, named I might add, after the most successful pirate in history whose real name was Henry Every.

I have been a wage slave all my life, and it has been a very good life, with organized time off, paid vacations, benefits, properly paid overtime and job security and respect. The banking fiasco of 2008 stabbed my psyche in a very profound way and brought home to me a suspicion I have been harboring for a long time: We do not really matter, in the grand scheme of things. I understand some people turn to God to get meaning but God and I haven't been on speaking terms since I traveled through Africa on a motorcycle decades ago and I asked why the fuck people had to live in such misery amid abundance and God didn't reply. Then in 2008 the message that greed and selfishness trump (pun intended!) decency and selflessness was brought home to me by the sight of millions of Americans losing everything as banks cashed in their illegal shell games and got compensated by the government for their "losses." We got swept up in the wholesale asset destruction and lost the 25% we put down on the house and the extra mortgage payments we had made when our asset income was wiped out. We still had a roof, medical insurance, incomes and a pension. But other people lost their jobs and their homes and ended up in the street with their kids but without health insurance or the certainty of a daily meal. To me the message was clear: we are all Africans now.
So I decided it was time to take care of my family myself and together with my wife and with Jeff we became entrepreneurs. The experience has been eye opening. I am astonished by the chaotic nature of many IT businesses we encountered as we tried to hire a developer. The way people talk about Government you'd think we lived in Nigeria, but if you had shared my experiences dealing with suppliers you would agree with my friend Jack Riepe who reassured me in my dark moments by explaining that American business is "run like a lemonade stand." So, even with my lack of experience I'm in with a chance I thought to myself If I do it right, take my time and get the marketing right. Our government paychecks keep getting cashed exactly on time so we are staying afloat. My paid vacation allowed my wife and I to spend the summer hunting down a reliable company to build the app, for which at last I held the U.S. Patent. All the stress got us bedridden with pneumonia, a first in our 21 years of hard fought marriage, but here we are, on the brink of doing something good.

My thanks to Michael Schein of MicroFame Media in Brooklyn whose guidance has helped us navigate the crazy stressful moments of appalling decision making and who will make 911buddy a household name as we go forward. To Blaine Graboyes whose experience with start ups has given us much needed common sense not to mention an ace Pitch Deck, a start up tool I never even knew existed six months ago. We scribbled so many ideas as we brainstormed trying to keep our eye on the prize. At one point I realized that yes, it's true, you get to the stage where you keep pressing forward because you cannot turn back, failure is not an option, and you're more afraid of failing than you are of succeeding. Thanks also to the Yarmulke'd bankruptcy attorney we met with in Ft Lauderdale one desperate day who told us to just keep going. He was right, we still had some wiggle room. That and endless note taking.

To Jeff many more thanks for being smart and levelheaded, for trusting me when it seemed like the chips were down, for spending endless weekends at La Quinta Ft Myers banging our heads against the wall trying to make the patent work, losing our tempers and our trust in ourselves.


I told my Chief of Police at work about my idea and to his credit he got it immediately and we are looking forward to giving Key West the historical credit for developing the best innovation in 911 service since the smartphone was invented. Thanks to him for his support, Captain Brandenburg my boss, and we also owe big thanks to Mary Jane and all the cheerful staff at the front desk at La Quinta Ft Myers, on speaking terms with Cheyenne so often have we been there, every other weekend for a year...Incidental connections all help in the struggle to give birth to an idea.

We were going out of town so often our friends wondered if we were moving to Ft Myers. We had to break down and expose our secret plan to start our own business to reassure them. Frankly I am sick of non disclosure agreements and looking over my shoulder worrying about my idea. Getting the patent was a huge relief. On the subject of friends my colleagues on night shift have known about 911buddy for six months and never told a soul. Kristi, Nick, Shannon and JW have been an invaluable sounding board and generous to a fault in putting up with me as I worry about some setback or another. If 911buddy works as well as I expect it to, they deserve thanks for telling it to me like it is. Last Tuesday night Kristi said to me: "We had four 911buddy calls this weekend!" as I took over her shift. Monday night JW took a call and I heard him tell a caller "We have no way to connect you, sir...YET" and he winked at me across the room. With colleagues like these who needs friends?

And of course thanks to my wife who has trusted my idea and propelled it forward by never letting go, by holding us all to our deadlines, for beating us into action long after we were as dead as the proverbial beaten dead horses. Everyone at the John Avery Company is terrified of hearing from her when deadlines loom. But without that drive this idle dream would never have got off the ground.

Soon it will up to this man, our newest partner in the company to get the app where it needs to be, on telephones everywhere:


I've known Joe for twenty years and he can sell anything to anybody, a skill I greatly envy. It's on his shoulders we dump the next phase of this exercise in masochism known as running your own company. A strangely enjoyable masochism it turns out.

Last but not least my thanks to you the readers of this page. My warning last year was cryptic but heart felt: I knew I was going to have less time to devote to composing this page, less energy to run down ideas, less content to post, and believe me I am truly sorry about that. But I hope it is clear now that my time has not been wasted and my commitment to this page is as strong as ever. I have promised myself if 911buddy ever makes me some money that first, my long suffering Triumph Bonneville will get a refresher of new parts and some small mechanical improvements my 86,000 mile motorcycle long since deserved, but also I'd like to expand the photography on this page with a telephoto lense. And perhaps one day I will have more time in my life than I do right now to take pictures that go beyond my rather small trips that I need to make To Get a Things Done. On that subject thanks to two blog readers who have given advice and support at critical times and kept the secret long enough to get me here: Gary in Tennessee, and George in Prague.

I hope you will be among those that will gain some benefit from buying my $30 app -that price includes a six dollar discount on the full price- putting it on your phone and feeling reassured that anyone you care about, anywhere in the U.S. (and Canada when I can get around to it) can call on you for reassurance and help in a crisis and you can easily give it to them from your iPhone (Android to come as soon as Jeff can build it). Hell, I'll see if I can organize a discount for Diary readers...


Michael Beattie

President John Avery Company

Click to buy our reduced-price pre-sale national 911 app on our website http://911buddy.com


Monday, September 7, 2015

Fantasizing Key West

I really quite liked this Automated Teller Machine when I strolled by. How perfect I thought: "Welcome To Key West; Get Cash." That about sums it up really.

Not true, there are bargains if you know where to look and knowing where to look depends in large measure on knowing who to point you to, in order to look in the right place. Luckily I am overloaded with spare pink Crocs at the moment. I'm not sure why they make them in men's sizes as they are so hard to sell they practically give them away, lucky me.

An incautious scooter renter managed to get park and get a ticket, $25 or even $35 depending on the mistake...This in a town where free parking for motorcycles and scooters is everywhere. Welcome to Key West, get cash. Pay off the little white slip of paper wedged into the speedometer.

I missed the Fantasy Fest party last weekend when I was working. Had I not been working I'd probably have missed it anyway. The idea is to raise money for assorted events leading up to Fantasy Fest week and whichever people get the most money become King and Queen. Monies raised go to AIDS Help which gives the whole Nudity Fest a veneer of respectability. Fantasy Fest is another of those bones of contention in a town that loves a drag down debate from time to time. The problem for Fantasy Fest opponents is that the grotesque dress down show brings in tons of money and in Key West money always talks. Besides which, looking at the pictures in the paper Fantasy Fest remains firmly in the hands and for the entertainment of a mostly older crowd. Which leads the ageists in our midst to assume that older people shouldn't strip however as usual the older people have the money and the buff young things don't. This means there is a natural, progressive and apparently unstoppable drive to see older participants in the Fantasy Fest week at the end of October.

This year the Fantasy Fest Grand Parade falls directly on Halloween and the city wants families to take trick or treating outings to the night of All Saints, November 1st. That suggestion has raised the predictably combative opponents and once again crass nude commercialism butts heads with the families of Key West. I am no great fan of Fantasy Fest but to me it's just another messed up week(end) similar to but more intense than Lobster Fest, Bike Week,Mini Season, and whatever other money spinning events they have conspired to create. For a town that used to die, economically, every summer, Key West has got the money flow figured out these days.

Now it is September and the seven weeks between now and Fantasy Fest will fly by before people start to pour in, in droves. Everything now starts to take on the calendar divide of "before" and "after" the Grand Event. And the last week of October will be a week when not much gets done in Key West when the city pretty much gives up trying to function. In a way its a rather nice evocation of big local holidays in the medieval past when cities would shut up shop to celebrate a patron saint or some such local festivity. The fact that Key West in the Age of Internet is willing to shut down for a few days, totally ignoring the outside world, is rather quaint I find. I wish it wasn't to honor people getting shit faced, taking their clothes off and acting stupid, but there it is. We must make the most of it and commiserate the end of Daylight time and the start of short winter days and no more swimming. Winter comes after Fantasy Fest.


Tomorrow's essay will explain in detail my business project which is supposed to come to market, fingers crossed, by Thanksgiving. I apologize for the delay and the toll it has taken on my ability to devote the full measure of my attention to this page. There has been a reason for that and I believe it will prove to have been worthwhile. Fingers crossed, as always.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Summer Sunday

I like this picture I took in the Spring. I was hunting for a geocache (not found) on Washington Street, so I figured I would re-post it to remind myself of the beauty of summer shadows and light.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Cheyenne On Niles Road

Weather watching, fresh southerly breezes, no mosquitoes, no humidity, perfect morning to play with the camera while the dog walked.

 A thick gray rainstorm blowing over Cudjoe, hanging like a curtain over mangroves and water.

Friday, September 4, 2015

616 Eaton Street

I took this picture a while back of a nice old tumbledown house on a large patch of land half a block off Simonton Street. I actually have a  number of images of this picturesque heap in my archives, one notably from several years ago announcing the building for sale for the low, low price of four million dollars. A price that was not entirely realistic apparently, even in this crazy town, as a new owner has surfaced and remarked in the paper that they paid a mere $1,850,000 - did I mention this town has some crazy real estate prices?
The reason the new owners are in the paper is not because they paid a preposterous sum of money for an uninhabitable wreck- that happens all the time in Key West- rather because they have plans to get the full measure of their money's worth for this place. Their plans for the new structure to occupy the lot as so expansive as to be ludicrous in the real world, but the theme of this essay is becoming, accidentally I might add, the mad mad mad world of housing in Key West. Check out this side view of what is purportedly the future of this lot. 
Neighbors in this corner of architecturally sensitive Old Town Key West are somewhat taken aback by a plan that calls for a home that appears to be styled in the manner of a guest house or exclusive hotel, as some of the less charitably minded neighbors suspect is the ultimate goal of this monument to bad taste. the old 5,000 square foot wreck is supposed to be the frontispiece for a 6,000 square foot addition in the rear - no really- that will include a walkway between the two homes, with two swimming pools and 1200 square feet of covered porches. The mind boggles. But what makes it even more boggling is the fact that the Historic Architecture Review Commission, the guardians of preserving Old Town's character, bent right over and gave this thing their seal of approval. Which has really annoyed some people who can't get storm windows or white roofs approved for their Old Town homes. They do sort of have a point, don't you think?
The proud new owners didn't help their case along with a rather tart comment in the paper to the effect that they didn't pay that much money for all that land to grow vegetables. Which may very well be true but a large house, a nice swimming pool and some superb tropical shrubbery could have done the job were one less ambitious, with perhaps a modest guest house and garden shed to round out the compound. The thing is I rather imagine the city will yield - it usually does- and make some mumbling noises and get a couple of minor concessions and one more nail will be planted in the coffin of Key West's urban character. Might as well build it and hang a CVS sign on the front I suppose.
It's not impossible to buy an old structure and redo it with dignity, and no doubt a lot of money. Check Bonnie Albury's old place on Southard Street. The former school teacher died and her beloved home was  put up for sale, not surprisingly really as it is a giant structure on Southard Street:
 This place was restored to look like this:
Is that an impossible example to follow?

And this week's podcast on Travel and Safety we feature a rather fun interview with a young enthusiastic Australian comedian. Take none of it too seriously but enjoy his take on the crazy world he has come to enjoy in America, for the first time. A very confusing place it turns out!

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Blimp Road On Fire

Cheyenne is patiently waiting out summer heat and humidity, refusing to spend much time outdoors between sunrise and sunset. So when I offered her an early evening walk I wasn't surprised when she refused to follow me out of the door. However a couple  of hours later she came to me on the deck and stuck her snout between me and the Smithsonian (Preserving Pompeii) and told me in no uncertain terms she was ready to face the outside world, despite the persistent humidity and lingering heat. Just as well she wanted to go. I planned to take her to the ramp at the end of Blimp Road, one of her current favorite walks, but I stopped halfway at a break in the mangroves and watched the spectacle until my unpredictable dog got bored and steered me back to the car. All pictures using the hand held iPhone with Camera+ app, unretouched and taken more or  less in a 360 degree circle.