Jonathan Brun

My Business Venture – Enterprise Web 2.0

Many people have recently asked me what I am doing, by which they really mean are you employed, getting dressed in the morning, and abiding by the rules of upper-middle class society. So here is my rough explanation of what is occupying my time these days. 
Until recently, I worked for EEM, an environmental consulting group. As a small portion of their business, they sold an online database of Canadian environmental regulations and simplified explanations. The product, NIMONIK, was originally designed as an enterprise (web-based) software for large multi-jurisdiction corporations. It was a break-even operation.
Some of the shortcomings were the high price structure, the old web 1.0 technology and the static 800 x 600 design – ultimately boiling down to the product itself. Since May, we have purchased the product from the consulting group and started renewing it as a more dynamic, simpler, and richer website that will (we hope) become a community hub for Canadian environmental managers. We want to build an affordable web 2.0 application for companies – not currently a common sight.
On this project, I am working with Yves Faguy, a lawyer who was at the consulting group, and Paul Maclean, the president of the consulting group. We also have two fantastic people working on the content and the software with us.
Part of our strategy is to reduce membership fees, allow users to import/export ISO 14001 information, and upload corporate documents. Furthermore, users will be able to add comments, rate articles, and generally speaking – participate in the content to create institutional memory for their companies. The great thing about the project is that it comes with cash-flow (not much), a reputation and a lot of rich content – more than what 90% of web start-ups can claim.
Soon, NIMONIK will become a web 2.0 enterprise community driven website for Canadian Fortune 5 000 000 businesses. 
Published on July 25, 2008

The Path of the (Quasi) Vegetarian


The concept of vegetarianism has always appealed to me. Like many to-do items, I have procrastinated, but it is now clear that (Quasi) vegetarianism makes sense on three massive fronts: Personal Health, Environmental Degradation and Morality. The word “quasi” is not used as an escape root, but rather a warning. In my attempt to move towards a flesh (all animals – including fish) free diet, the most challenging thing has been the inconvience of it all. When you are at friends, a French restaurant or a seaside town – the options are limited. Even the Dalai Lama (Buddhists are vegetarians though not vegans) admits that when offered meat he accepts to avoid waste, I agree.

I try not to preach an evangelical vegetarianism, where I scorn carnivores, but rather to educate people around me to the potential benefits. Just as I think smoking is bad for you, it seems meat consumption is also detrimental to your physical, mental and moral health.

People must make their own decisions, but the corporations who control and mass market food have activly deceived the public with regards to the personal and societal costs of eating a meat rich diet. Below are a few ideas on why we should avoid (too much) meat.

Health Implications

It is very, very, very, established that eating red meat and other meat in excess is bad for you. Notice how young girls and boys are hitting puberty earlier? Scientists agree that it’s linked to the hormone injected chicken nuggets in their happy meal. Need I cite heart attack rates in the West? The list is long and deep, but eat more fruits, vegetables, and a little organic meat and you will live longer and better – guaranteed.

A solid TED Talk on the general reason for eating less meat – by a well-known chef.

Environmental

If we assume that everyone is in agreement on the current situation: global warming, the non-sustainable exploitation of resources and the rising cost of food, then we can also agree that too much meat is being grown and consumed. The UN warns that the oceans’ will hold little more than jellyfish by 2050. Chew on that!

Here is a very scary report on the largest porc producer in the United States. Another interesting article on the rising cost of meat from the International Herald Tribune and another one on the discrepancy between your government sanctioned diet and farm subsidies.

Meat is a tremendously inefficient way of getting protein: imagine everyone showering in Evian water, hunting polar bears and driving hummers. Not the best use of resources you say?

Morality

This one is probably the toughest sell. But ask yourself this: do you regularly kill, clean and cook an animal? If so, you are in the very small minority of the developed world.

I think everyone can agree that factory farming is wrong. Therefore, eating meat from a factory farm is wrong, yes? Vegetarianism is a form of protest against the exploitation of animals (see great article here).

Religion, the moral compass for many, is fairly clear on this issue. The ten commandments (Islam, Judaism, and Christianity) state, “Thou Shall not Kill” – it does not say “Thou Shall not Kill Humans”, it says “Thou Shall not Kill”. Buddhism is even clearer and preaches not harming sentient beings. We should do as little harm as possible to others implying leaving our fellow animals to their pastures.

If only schoolchildren were taken on a hunt. Buying chicken breasts at the supermarket is not the same thing as taking a live chicken in your hands, ringing it’s neck, and turning it into dinner. I have nothing against hunters, in fact I support them, they are often ardent conservationists and have a great respect for nature.

If we all touched the source of our food – perhaps we would choose a different way.

Published on July 15, 2008

The Seeds of the Housing Market Bubble

The graphic above provides a quick overview of the magnitude of the tech bubble in the late nineties. And the following – a very similar graphic for the housing market.

The housing crisis is obviously dominating the news right now and is likely to continue to do so for the forseeable future. To get a quick background on how (and why) this happened, I suggest the following resources.

The begining of the end of Fannie Mae – A Consultant at Fannie Mae

How we go from one bubble to another – Harpers

Published on July 12, 2008

Out of Ethiopia – Last African Update

From the Misty Mountains of Simien, I continued North through the sleepy town of Shire, turning East to the heart of the fallen Aksumite Kingdom. The city of Aksum, littered with giant Obelisks, undiscovered tombs, and ancient Palaces; could easily be the backdrop of an Indiana Jones movie. The scale of the Aksumite projects rival any ancient civilization and it’s mysterious fall from power should deeply humble us.

From Aksum, the bus took a hellish dirt road that it remarkably survived, landing me amidst the rock-hewn, cliff dangeling, churches of Tigrai. Innumerable churches litter the region, usually hidden inside, on top of and part of mountains; they were placed in these innaccessible locations to hide from the invading bearded ones.

The priests, who hold the keys to the churches are notoriously difficult to find, but once they do show up, the inside of the churches are simply remarkable. The local priests kindly invited me to a funeral feast, held annually to commemorate the death of a family member. A delicious feast amidst hundreds of villagers and a bucket of locally brewed Tala beer remains a great, though hazy, memory. Though I could not visit it, there lies a dark and forboding land to the east of Tigrai; the Danikal depression, a highly volcanic area which may be the most inhospitable on earth.

After stumbling back to the main road from the mountain village, I started the long journey to Lalibella.

Lalibella, also refered to as Roha, is a city centered around massive monolithic churches (means: they were carved out of solid bedrock, in a sense, freed from the mountain) in a remote series of mountains at an elevation of over 3400 m. After a long bus ride, I hitched a ride in a cement truck, which, after trudging along for 8 hours, lost a wheel and left us stranded. After a cool night in the mountains, two buses to Lalibella showed up; one was a chartered bus with a few extra seats, while the other was a public bus with three times too many people on it. Of course, I chose the public bus.

With two friendly ethiopian laddies on my lap and a mouthful of kchat (mild drug) in my mouth, we plodded along the curvy mountain road. About 30 kilometers from Lalibella, we came across the chartered bus which had impressivly managed to go off the road, over a ditch, through a pile of wood, stopping half way through a local villager’s mud house. Luck was on my side.

My last fistful of ethiopian dollars were exchanged for a plane ticket to Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia. In Addis, at a traditional Ethiopian restaurant we ordered Kittfo, Ethiopian steak tarter (slightly cooked to ensure the tape worms are dead). A very memorable meal and a great finish to an amazing country.

P.S. If you noticed some similarities with the names from Middle Earth, Gonder, Misty mountains, shire, Danikal depression, and Roha; you were not alone.

Published on July 7, 2008