Virtual roller coaster

I read with great interest the book excerpt from Fred Moody's The Visionary Position, on the rise and fall of Virtual i/O ("All in a Day's Work at Virtual i/O," Books Quarterly, 3/4). While the office politics and management incompetence he described probably existed, I don't see these issues as the reason for the company's failure; rather, they were fuel being added to an already blazing fire. What caused the fire in the first place? The attempt to singlehandedly introduce a revolutionary new technology into the consumer electronics market. It costs a fortune to do this, and can only be accomplished by a company with the patience and the resources of Microsoft or Hewlett-Packard, or a joint effort between multiple companies.

The Virtual i/O story isn't complete without studying a preceding Redmond-based company: Virtual Vision. I was with VV during a two-and-a-half-year roller coaster ride from start-up, through 200-plus employees and more than $2 million inventory and down to bankruptcy. The two companies followed the exact same formula for disaster. They both became infatuated with their sexy technology and acted on the belief that every man, woman, and child in the free world would stand in line to spend half a month's wages on these cool gadgets. The similarities in failure modes between the two companies is especially surprising, considering they shared some of the same investors and employees. They both had strong ties to the UW HIT lab as well.

A third local company makes this trilogy complete: Microvision. Microvision is taking HIT lab technology to the next level, but is very aware of the VV/Virtual i/O mistakes. It has no illusions about the consumer electronics market. Rather, it is developing technology and forming business relationships in a low-key and conservative way. When we do see VR products on the market containing Microvision technology, chances are the label will say Sony or HP, with royalties lining the pockets of Microvision's staff.

I look forward to reading Moody's book!

Dan Moore


Rhoads shall return

A Yellow Cab driver for many years and occasionally having the pleasure of driving Linden Rhoads to work at Virtual i/O, I was saddened to hear of the company's demise. I found Ms. Rhoads to be focused, driven, and very nice woman, and I'm disappointed with Fred Moody's portrayal of her (BQ, 3/4). I would pick her up at o-dark-thirty and run her down the hill to work (and this would be Saturday), and she was always in a good mood. In any business failure you can find the blood trails and missteps, but it seems that the Virtual i/O employees were the ones who undermined the company. How appropriate the name of Moody's source, "Deep Bile." How easy is it to drag the name of a visionary like Ms. Rhoads through the mud. Her type are few and far between. They are the ones who act on our collective dreams. Linden Rhoads is a winner, a dreamer, and a visionary. Perhaps she failed this time, perhaps not. I assure you we haven't seen the last of Linden Rhoads.

James M. Beck

via e-mail


After reading Rick Anderson's "The Silas File" (3/11), I'd like to point out a couple of inaccuracies in the article. As the bail bond agent who posted bail for Silas Cool when he was detained at the Lynnwood Municipal Jail, I can provide information to correct your story. First of all, Mr. Cool had not been arrested for "peeping into the women's shower at a Mountlake Terrace recreation center." As you can verify with Snohomish County South District Court and the Mountlake Terrace Police Department, he was arrested for obstructing; he was not arrested because he was peeping, he was arrested because he lied to the police when he was questioned. As I spoke with Mr. Cool at the time he was released, I very clearly understood at that time that he was mentally unstable and that he should have been detained for a higher amount of bail. This man was very clearly a danger. It is my professional impression that the authorities should have taken more time to evaluate his mental stability.

David Genz

via e-mail

Rick Anderson responds: In the same sentence, I mentioned the obstruction charge.

Art by committee

In Roger Downey's article on Virginia and Bagley Wright ("Seattle as Wrightscape," 3/11), he suggests that the Seattle Symphony was forced to accept Robert Rauschenberg's mural Echo for Benaroya Hall. This is a total fabrication. The art collection committee, which I chair, was thrilled with the very generous offer from the Wrights—who wouldn't be? Regarding the placement of the Chihuly pieces, which we were also thrilled to receive from Jack and Becky Benaroya, they were placed in the Boeing Co. Gallery after much discussion with our committee, the Benaroyas, the artist, and the architects. Both works of art were reviewed and gratefully accepted by the committee.

Cynthia Bayley

Seattle Symphony Board member/chair of the Art Collection Committee

Roger Downey replies: My account of the selection process of art for Benaroya Hall is based on first-person communications from persons intimately involved with the process. I stand by my description.

Affront to Amazon

I've never read a more one-sided (not to mention inaccurate) article as "On the Line at" (3/11), except, of course, for the last one you printed about Amazon.

Keeping proprietary information within the confines of the operation is standard practice among most companies, especially ones with fierce competition, as I'm certain you are well aware.

Almost everyone in the distribution centers start as temps, myself included. Yes, many of these temps are released, but I think you'll find that most businesses do not keep people who are not meeting expectations.

I notice you spoke to at least three ex-Amazon temps, but only one person still currently employed with the company. Is this your idea of representative journalism? Speaking as someone who has been with Amazon for a year and a half, and has worked in both the Seattle and Delaware locations, I have never been, nor have I witnessed anyone being, mistreated in any way.

It sounds to me more like sour grapes from a handful of people who are too lazy to accept responsibility for their own laziness . . . rather like your last article about Amazon.

Jamie D. Russell

DC Lead— New Castle, DE

Column kudos

Thank you for your Legis-ledger column. We get so little coverage of what's going on in the Legislature from the other media. Keep up the good work.

Richard Cole


Barber bashing

That Gavin Borchert resorts to profanity to discuss a work of such immense pedigree as Samuel Barber's Vanessa only reveals his limitations as a writer on modern music ("Positively Barber-ic," 3/4). There is no mystery as to what is happening musically in the section Mr. Borchert describes as "CRASH!!! Blam! Whoosh! Shudder!" That he failed to grasp the immense brilliance and musical tightness of this moment and so many others simply means he lacks basic listening techniques for 20th-century music.

Mr. Borchert, at an obvious loss in discussing musical matters, brings up issues of political correctness. If he had read Menotti's introduction, he would have found that Vanessa is not about women needing men, but "about the central dilemma which faces every human being: whether to fight for one's ideals to the point of shutting oneself off from reality, or compromise with what life has to offer, even lying to oneself for the mere sake of living." And how PC is it to call the moral and scrupulous Erika a "slut" simply because she has one one-night stand in her life?

The only surprising thing in this hapless display of ignorance is that Seattle Weekly, by publishing Gavin Borchert, chooses to contribute to a culture of musical philistinism.

Bernard Pack


Refreshingly negative

How very refreshing to read Gavin Bor-chert's review of Vanessa ("Positively Barber-ic!" 3/4). It's just wonderful to have a paper in Seattle that 1) presents a viewpoint other than that of the establishment; and 2) will publish a column or article that does not simply present both sides of an issue, without ever stating a considered opinion.

I love it! Keep up the good work.

Keren Whittemore


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