Saturday, October 31, 2009

Leaves and Limbs

Somehow this year the leaves fell all at once.  Could be my imagination but Councilrock was filled with leaves.  Naturally there are some limbs where the leaves hang on - all winter (Oaks I think).  But the majority of the limbs are barren.

Remember the fun of jumping into a pile of leaves.  While raking why not enjoy the fruits of your labor before disposing of all those leaves.  Jenna and I used to create entire paths - a complete labyrinth at our Brill house.  Such a wonderful memory of playing with her outside.  Naturally she will remember this and the chore of picking up limbs (not her favorite activity).

I wonder how those limbs feel now without the clothing of leaves.  Free or a sense of loss. Do they hang in there or just fall?  Jenna hopes they hang in there!

Friday, October 30, 2009


It's 1-1 in the World Series.  We are a nation of scorekeepers.  And I love the statistics.  If you haven't read Money Ball it is on the Best Seller list for Statisticians who love Baseball.  Just look at the back of a baseball card - its full of the numbers of success.  But how do you define success in Baseball? in Business? in LIfe?  What set of numbers taken together equal success?

I'm re-reading "When the Game is Over ..   It all goes back in the Box" by John Ortberg.  Chapter 3 talks about Ways to Keep Score.  I loved the part ---   "But nobody sells major league father cards with key statistics on the back (Had a great season in 2005: set career highs in unforced expressions of affection and averaged 87 minutes of quality time per day). 

And who are your most important scorekeepers?  - Parents, Teachers, Coaches, Bosses.  Is it half-time yet?  What's the score?

Trouble is, I don't know the answers to these questions. And I struggle with abandoning all forms of scorekeeping. But like the worry box - as I get older a high score or a winning score is less important to me.  But it is still important for me to strive for a score -  it's just the measure has changed.

As I've always said in business - you get what you measure.  So get the measure right and the score will follow.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

On the Backs of "Bs"

Al Cambridge (Accenture Former Managing Partner Cincinnati) once asked me what "drove the success of the Firm?  -- Innovative 'A' players?   --  No he said -    It's the "solid B players".  That comment has stayed with me for a long time.  So developing people to their full potential - to be a solid B player was the key. Finding your B spot is what it is all about.  B doesn't mean average - it means above average. 

Garrison Keillor said it well - "Welcome to Lake Wobegon, where all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average." 

Is it possible for all the children to be above average?  I think we are all above average at something.  Maybe that is the definition of America's middle class -  the diversity of B's that make our country successful.  Sometimes I worry that we take advantage of the solid B players - we tax them, fire them, ignore them, and focus on the other two ends.

So can you be happy being a B player?  All our schools, all our measures are about getting A's.  Celebrating the 4.0.  How about your kids?  Can they be a B player in your mind?  No I think Garrison Keillor had it wrong -  every kid is an A in their parents mind.

Every person is an 'A' in God's world. 

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Remembering Names & Storytelling

Jerry Lucus - Dr. Memory spoke at our church a couple of weeks ago.  Remember he was the evil NY Nicks who would beat up on the 76ers (my favorite team since I lived in Philly).   He memorized the Manhattan  phone book.  In his presentation he taught that visualization is the best means of helping you remember someone's name.  Key to success is the rapid ability to find a rhyming word and put it visually on a prominent facial feature of the individual you want to remember.

Garen - would be a big legal GUARANTEE document.  Wisner would be a Wizard with at Computer Nerd (Wiznerd).  And the prominent facial feature - you decide.  So this Nerd Wizard will be writing the word GUARANTEE on this document on my thick glasses.  Easy -  NOT!!!     It takes practice and lots of work.

The the point of all this to visualize.   This was re-enforced at my SVPI conference in Dallas with the key note speaker talking about storytelling.  Since we were primates we told stories.  Bible stories are locked into our minds since childhood.  We are the sum of all our story telling.  What are the top ten stories you tell about yourself?  What is your personal mythology?

I'll try mine:

(1) Losing a contact while landing a plane ( and others - Carb Heat out)
(2) Jumping out of a plane
(3) Airline Stories -  Aborted Takeoff; Emergency Landing; Wrong Airport Arrival; Wrong Airport Departure;
(4) Workaholic Reformation and Wayne Walder Death
(5) Lost in Shanghai
(6) Passport Expiration in Amsterdam
(7) Accenture Eccentric Clients - Smelly Feet;Cigarette Man;
(8) Shaking Johnny Unitas hand
(9) Warren Buffet Monopoly Board and Monopoly MU Story
(10) Poland Bumper Cars, Poland Elevator

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Moores Law Ending?

Yes I heard it on Wait Wait don't Tell Me that Radio News Quiz show on NPR.  Moores Law could end in the next 20 years - presumably my life time.  But that is even controversial.  Kurzweil speculates that it is likely that some new type of technology (possibly optical or quantum computers) will replace current integrated-circuit technology, and that Moore's Law will hold true long after 2020.

What is it again --- the number of transistors that can be placed inexpensively on an integrated circuit has doubled approximately every two years.  Or in laymans terms the cost of a PC should go down in price AND increase in speed every two years.  This law was introduced in a paper in 1965.  So if it ends in 2030 that would be 65 years.  I guess that is a good age to retire the law.

It is always interesting to find things that act exponentially.  Finding a stock like this would be good!   Just finding a stock with a great compound growth rate would be great.  Albert Einstein supposedly responded that Compound Interest was the greatest invention in human history or the ninth wonder of the world  (it is an urban legend - but note the picture).  So why get greedy - no need for exponential growth like Moores Law  - just give me some 25% compound growth rate -  After all that will never end.

Women, Horses and Dogs

Adams vs Jefferson was one of the books on tape I listened to during my 36 hour driving excursion last week.  It is about the 1800 election race to the Presidency.  I'm now convinced that my criticism of today's politicians as being  un - statesmanlike is ill founded.  They were just as dirty and mean back them.  And our recent disputed elections were no match for what happened in the 1800 election of our third president. 

I did perk up (the 10 disks were alittle boring at times) when the author said the three subjects that men spent most of their time talking about were - Women, Horses and Dogs.  Made me think - what are the three most common topics today for men?    In 1950's,  I bet it was Women, Cars and Sports   Today -  Cars might be on the downturn to be replaced with technology gadgets. 

So what stands the test of time -  The Human condition of companionship, reproduction, bragging?, or what? 

Monday, October 26, 2009

Truck Driver

I think in another life I was or will be a truck driver.  Just finished driving 2,364.6 miles over the last 6 days.  Cincy to Wichita to Dallas to Wichita to Cincy  and about 36 hours.  I just pop in my books on tape ( 3 complete books for this trip) and cruise.  Average speed - over 70 mph except on way back (traffic jam on construction) that I spent one hour in traffic for 3 miles - ugh!   

I like the car  and I like driving.  Now with cell phones you can still connect with people (if you want) or just zone out and meditate.  Just think about the amount of time you spend in the car.  Take an average of 15,000 miles a year and assume an average speed of 40 (probably high) with some start and stop time (avg. stop light is 3 min) - somewhere between 400 and 500 hours or 50 workdays per year.  Arbitron says the average person spends 15hrs per week in a car (11 on weekdays and 4 on weekends) which would be 780 hours or 98 workdays per year.  Now we know why there is so much billboard advertising.

So why would l like to spend 12 hours in the car driving to Wichita.  Well one part of the trip is almost spiritual.  Driving through Flint Hills Kansas.  I usually get to Flint Hills about 7pm as the sun is setting.  That drive shows the grasslands of Kansas - no billboards, no houses, no telephone lines, no sign of civilization other than the road and an occassional radio or cell tower.  The sun is setting over the rolling prairie with the cattle grazing - its just beautiful.  Or may be it is the fall leaves in Indiana just after Louisville, or the Kentucky hills and horse farms. 

Yes -it's alot of alone time - but I cherish my alone time.  I suppose that might be a common trait among many truck drivers.  But with all that driving there isn't much time for blogging :)

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Price/Volume Margin/Quality

There are really only two business models to choose from -  low price and high volume OR high margin and differentiation (also termed quality in product, service, image or other).  Both models are difficult and are always subject to intense competition.  You can get into all kinds of arguments about whether you can do both - low price and high quality.  I contend the answer is no - because it is all about process and people and it takes constant modification, teaching and reinforcement in the continuous improvement curve focused on price or quality. 

Susan's store is an example of the tension of this issue.  Should she price the same as Nordstrom?  Should she carry similar items?  The list goes on and on.  LCP Tech and my partners face this issue.  Price Nanocleanse for volume or keep the differentiation high and price the product for the value provided.

Growing up in Accenture,  I am brainwashed into the high margin/high quality area.  That takes greater sales and marketing costs and on the top line looks like slower growth.  But it provides a large cushion between price and cost for strategic discounting where other values could be found - R&D, recession stimulus, employee training & development etc. etc.

It is so tempting to "drop the price" thinking more sales will automatically come.  But that is being lazy and not spending the time to find more value to provide the customer with the existing business model.  In the end the customer votes with his feet.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Britannica Browsing

As a kid,  when I was bored I would look through encyclopedias.  I was lucky enough as a kid that my parents had bought a used set of Britannica encyclopedias - 32 volumes I believe.There was a volume for just about every letter of the alphabet and some volumes for current events by year. Just pick a volume and thumb through it - not really read it - just browse. 

I think browsing creates innovation.  Accidentally happening on an unrelated idea that you connect together with another idea.  Unfortunately my Britannica browsing was limited by relating alphabetic items as I scanned from front to back whatever volume I picked up at the time.

Browsing is sort of like just driving along without a destination - wandering.  A curiosity of just letting the journey happen.  Maybe my blogging is like that too.  Whatever life deals me at the moment is worthy of blogging about.  I find browsing relaxing and enjoyable.  Who knows what interesting subject might appear - and really they are all interesting. 

Maybe that is why I was never interested in diving too deep into one subject area.  It's the old 80/20 rule - I get 80% of my satisfaction about learning something from 20% of the content.  Who cares about the minute details.

Now browsing can be less alphabetical and more chained by wandering.  With hot links to new subjects, you are immediately taken to the inside of another Britannica volume in a single click.  In fact it's difficult to navigate back to the source sometimes (on of my pet peeves about back browsing).  

No wonder we call Mozilla Firefox, Explorer, and others our browsers.  How often do you just sit down and begin to let your curiosity just take over and follow your browsing urge?  Start today - just begin with the letter "A".

Thursday, October 15, 2009

What is Fun?

What is Fun? That is a tougher question than I thought.  I just had to write the answer to that question that will be published on the SVP Cincinnati web-site.  Here was my answer:

fun:  I like puzzles, problems, unknowns,
and new technologies.  Consequently, fun
for me is discovering new facts, faces and places. If an activity requires
logic, predicting behavior, probabilities and optimization, I will enjoy
participating.  For fun I ask people
their favorites, challenge their thinking, and learn as much as I can about
their point of view.

I could have listed all my favorite activities and hobbies as a participant or spectator (in no preference order in my life journey - child, youth, adult):  Basketball, Tennis, Golf, Ping Pong, Badminton, Pond Hockey, Piano, Clarinet, Puzzles, Board Games, Technology Gadgets, Investing, Gambling, Reading, Bridge, Flying, Collecting, Movies, Giving, Writing (and now Blogging), Bible Study, Alumni outings, Family gatherings, Friend gatherings, Miami U. Football, Home Renovations, Driving, Organizing

Now it begins to bleed into interests (e.g. subjects):  Math, Economics, Statistics, Finance, Human Behavior, Socio Demographics, Trivia, Lists, Technology, Human Ergonomics, Music, Magic, Self Help, Consumer Value, Memory, Business Models, Nostalgia, Adoption, Libertarianism, ....

And now it bleeds into philosophy and values  -  Moderation, Laissez Faire, Honesty, Frugality, Punctuality, Forthright, Seeking Knowledge, Flexibility, Adaptability, Helping, Encouraging, Teaching, Learning, Trying, Honoring, Respecting, ......

So how did what is fun turn into a self actualization of "Who am I"   -   That's the fun part of logical chains.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Your Private Social Network

So what is the balance between social networking and privacy?  I tend to be less private when it come to the internet and telling about myself.  Early Geocities site (about to be discontinued in a few days by Yahoo); (first signed up 4/2/2004); Facebook (just recently); My Space (2007); Plaxo (2008) and some other one that has morphed into My Life. 

Bill Ernst introduced our Vistage group to a great Utube video describing what social networking is all about.  It is why I started this blog.  But the privacy part is only a few people even know about my blog.

Now most of what is on Facebook, and Linkedin is public information.  I have set up no privacy features yet.  So like the Utube guy described - this is like the social party room.  Everyone can see you, know what you do and even see your friends.  And as he stated your blog is like your house.  When you feel comfortable with someone you "invite them over".  They begin to understand alittle more about you than just the surface level party talk stuff.

It's interesting to google someone to see what you can learn about them.  If you haven't googled yourself, it is a good thing to do once a month (like looking in the mirror). From mine you could construct alot of data.  For me it is no surprise but for others who value and attempt to keep private everything - they would be shocked.

For now, I will err on the side of transparency and little privacy.  If people know more about me prior to meeting, it can only help our relationship.   Those that object to who I am will avoid me (thank goodness) and those that are intrigued will seek a deeper relationship.  And that what life is really all about.

Be Still

We are so busy.  The days that I feel more peaceful occur when the battery on my phone dies without my knowledge.  How wonderful to have no interruptions.  It is so rare to sit and just listen - even then the noises bombard the senses; images still appear to our eyes;  and the mind races on. 

Is it possible to be still?   Life is a cacophony and filled with activity - even if it surrounds our stillness.  It is easy to equate stillness with a void.  To some it may be a black nothingness.  Some people need a TV or a radio going constantly in the background.  It is the noise of activity that gives them comfort.  A sort of worldly static of busyness (or is it business). 

I prefer the quiet stillness of life.  The calm day with muted sounds.  The roar of a ocean preventing the man made sounds from entering my ears.  No interruptions - no distractions.  A time to meditate and empty the mind of the activity demons of pressure.  A time of peace.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Puzzling over Taxes

So now that I have finished my 2008 taxes, I now turn to 2009 tax planning.  A great site I found for this is:
Naturally my personality likes to do taxes myself - why because it is a puzzle; a game; a system to understand.  And with Turbotax it is also a computer program to analyze.  What a complicated web of intra-dependencies.  Full of what if -  what if I earned more income?  what if I had more deductions?  what if I had more capital gains?  and it goes on and on. 
And it is always interesting to try to understand what loop holes Congress was trying to close, what social engineering they had in mind for the credit or deduction and whether it achieves the result is the constant debate.
So is there anything I can conclude from all this wasted productivity analyzing the taxes?  Not really.  It is like a fingerprint - the code is uniquely applied to each person (and rarely to a group).  Why?  Are you blind, how many kids, in college, married, unemployed, house, farm, self employed, rental property, moving and it goes on and on.  Taxes are as unique as our DNA. 
In fact there are about 113 million plus households in America.  So it is an easy math problem to figure out how many variables would create 113 unique outcomes -  2 to the n power where n is the number of variables.Try less than 27!
So when our esteemed Congressmen believe they are looking out for a group of people with a key credit- that may be conceptually true but it adds yet another variable that affects each of us uniquely.  Even if you said everyone (yes everyone) gets a $1 rebate, it still means that on the margin each of us received a different blended average benefit (e.g. everyone has a different and unique average tax rate).  
It makes my head swim to think of this complexity.  And for what gain?  To let those same Congress people (not all men) play with the social engineering of where to spend the taxes collected. Stay tuned for that blog.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Moving Franchises

So I finally figured out why I was so confused a few weeks ago.  I tuned in half-way through a Tennessee pro football game and was looking at Houston Oiler helmets.  How confusing -  I did remember Houston moved to Tennessee but did Tennessee keep the name and logo of Houston Oilers? Was it like the Baltimore Colts who moved to Indianapolis and kept the Horseshoe helmets and name? 

No it is now the Tennessee Titans and the Houston Texans; but it is the Indianapolis Colts.  The reason for the confusion is that this year they are celebrating the AFL legacy with 16 games being played in the old uniform and logo designs - Hence Tennessee was wearing the old Oilers uniforms. No wonder old fogys like me are confused.  Having just listened to Jerry Lucus and his memory techniques tonight, I can see why my mind is confused.  We all visualize things best to remember.  So seeing Oil rigs on helmets - I remember Houston ---- not Tennessee.
I've lost track of the Rams (LA or St. Louis), the Raiders (Oakland or LA) --- where or who are they?.  And such a shame to be unable to refer to any game with just the city or the team logo.  When you say - I remember that game between Baltimore and the Rams - just who are you talking about?  Colts, Ravens or St Louis, LA or Cleveland?

Saturday, October 10, 2009


No I'm not talking about Halloween.  I referring to the xylophone playing up and down your spine.  For me that occurs in music since I never watch horror flixs.  Since I have been watching concerts on my Blu-ray sound system there are songs that I really like and then there is the song that creates chills.  Bruce Springsteen Live from Dublin had several in each category.  So is it the musician or the listener?

Scientists found that people already familiar with the music are more likely to catch a chill at key moments:

  • When a symphony turns from loud to quiet
  • Upon entry of a solo voice or instrument
  • When two singers have contrasting voices
It is the listener who gives life to the emotions in music.  I believe that music can touch something spiritual in us.  It's why I love listening to the choir at church.  Clearly music can evoke strong emotions and memories.  It can also be healing, calming and soothing. 

I do wonder the flow - do the chills go up the spine or down the spine?  Usually it is for a moment in time - nor more than 3 seconds.  And on a rerun of the refrain can the chills be recreated or is it a combination of unique one time factors?  I think I keep a list of the times this occurs for me and do my own statistical analysis.

Whatever the answers - it is a touching moment to get every now and then to have that musical experience.  Keep listening to those concerts.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Taxing Procrastination

Well -  I just submitted my 2008 Taxes early (that is early to the extended deadline of Oct. 15)!   I guess it used to be August 15 (of which I was a regular in extending to that day also) and now we get another 2 months.  Thank goodness they didn't make it November or December to ruin the Holidays.   Given I am 6 days "early", I guess I am not considered the chronic procrastinator.
So are there any advantages of being a procrastinator?  For me, (the over analyzer) one advantage is that is forces the old 80/20 rule and prioritization of only the important items.  When you delay to the last moment, it requires you concentrate only on the most critical tasks as the deadline looms and the contingency time goes to zero.
According to It's About Time by Dr. Linda Sapadin there are six
types of procrastination that a person can be solely or a combination
of. The styles are The Perfectionist, The Crisis-Maker, The Dreamer,
The Defier, The Worrier and The Overdoer.  I will need to read the book but in the case of taxes maybe I am being The Defier - whatever that implies.
The second week in March is National Procrastination Week and Fight Procrastination Day is the first Wednesday in September. In fact you can find out more than you want about procrastination at

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Faithful Friend

My fortune cookie yesterday said "A faithful friend is a strong defense".   How do you define friendship?  Joe Ratterman said it well the other day -  A person who "has your back".  I think I agree - a true friend and network of friends is your safety net in the roller coaster of life.  Verizon tries to capitalize on this in their commercials with the army of people supporting your cell phone usage - quite a visual and subliminal message.  The reality is all those acquaintances in our personal network that we call friends are really not faithful - nor a strong defense. 

Write down the people you know who would drop everything they are doing to spend time with you in a time of need.  That's right - it's the currency of time that defines faithful.  Not just - I'm here if you need me rhetoric.  No it's  action in the form of time.  Nor is the people who show up at the funeral - which by the way you can only speculate on that one.

And what really is a strong defense - or I've got your back?   Would you open up your home to someone in need?   Would you walk with that person as they experience their dangerous journey?  Would you care for them during a sickness or injury? 

And whose list are you one?  Write down the list of people that call you a faithful friend.  Have they told you this?  How would that make you feel - safer, more secure?

So - today when you see or talk to that friend are you willing to tell them (and mean it) "I've got your back"--- " I will be faithful to you" ?   

I think of that songs "Stand by, me" Randy Newman's "You've got a friend in me" ,  the movie Scent of a Woman. 

Some believe friendship is a continuum vs the pure definition above.  Maybe the same is true of Love.  But to me a faithful friend is someone you Love. How many people have you told them you love them? In the guy's world this is not done and it requires other vocabulary and activities.  And other than family and your wife it can't be done male to female.  Too bad - it would be simpler and more direct to say it.,  

So until traditions change,  I'll just use Ratterman's phrase  "I've got your back".

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Blinking 12:00

It all started with programming the old VCR - which is why many people had blinking blue digital 12:00.  And it hasn't gotten any easier.  Jenna asked me why her new ATSC Flat Screen TV at college could only play the DVD player in black and white.  Naturally I said - no problem it's just a setup simple program command in the DVD ----- WRONG.

After bringing it home and spending a half hour fiddling (we males don't want to search for the user manual - not that there is any chance I could find it),  I did finally get it to work.  It's the old interlace vs progressive command - duh.

I reflect on my family room TV/Sound System setup and there is probably only one person in our family that could even get it to work.  Five different remote controls;  a three way switch for the digital Sony Surround Sound Headphones and I could go on and on.

So  why did this all happen?  To keep the males in business.  It is the area we can claim as our duties around the house - our contribution.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Melody or Lyrics

Are there two types of people? - those that pay attention to the melody and those who listen to the lyrics.  I'm definitely type 1 - melody only.  I'm interested in the instrumental harmony, the syncopation, and the beat.  In fact the vocal is just a variation of the instrumental.  There are obviously some songs you can't ignore the lyrics and as I get older I get more interested in the lyrics - and with the internet it is great because you can easily look them up. 
Tonight I sit her listening to Bruce Springsteen - Live in Dublin and excellent concert in Blu-Ray.  Bruce in his Tom Watts style plays some great ones -my favorite ---   O Mary Don't You Weep has some great instrumental - fiddle, trumpet, trombone, sax and piano sounding like a New Orleans funeral procession.  Obviously a negro spiritual that gives the theme of liberation.
Hard to ignore the lyrics on this one -

Well old Mr. Satan he got mad
Missed that soul that he thought he had
Pharaoh's army got drownded
O Mary don't you weep

O Mary don't you weep don't mourn

So this one ties - great melody - great lyrics!

Baseball Memories

Going to the Red's game today will revive the old baseball memories.  Naturally in the 60's my favorite team was the NY Yankees -  Why because I was living in a suburb of Salt Lake City -  Bountiful and there was definitely no major league baseball team there.  So why not go with the winner. 

The World Series was always exciting for me in those days.  It was a reminder of how fun Autumn was.  What World Series will I remember the most -  there are two. 

First was the World Series in 1963 with the Yankees vs Dodgers.  And it wasn't the games I remember since unfortunately the Yankees lost in 4.  No it was because during that series I had to write 1000 times that I would not talk in class (or something to that effect).  That was very painful in additon to the Yankees losing.

The second memory of World Series was the one I actually attended.  Cincinnati vs Oakland in 1990.  I was attending my second Partners meeting in San Francisco and Ed Harbach got tickets for Game 3 (Oct 19, 1990).  Actually later I found out the credit for those tickets might very well be given to Joe Ratterman.  Oakland fans had brought their brooms to Cincinnati for game 1 expecting to take out Cincinnati in 4.  The reality was Cincinnati won it in 4 and was the only team to go end to end in a season with a winning record.

Football may have taken the limelight lately but for me Baseball will always be America's game.