Friday, August 31, 2012

Digging to China

Whenever digging a deep hole, we would say "We're digging our way to China".  So I began to wonder - if I could dig to the other side of the earth where in China would I be.  Naturally this thought is not unique and there are numerous web sites with this capability.

First - where exactly is my front door?  Well that was easy - with the GPS Visualizer my front door is N 39.15509 and W 84.32427.  I wonder when we will begin to address the mail that way.

Next it was off to There was really no need to fix it so exactly to my front door - since tunneling to the other side of the earth would plop me somewhere deep into the Indian Ocean to far to swim to any land!

Click for larger view.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012


Are you a realist or an idealist? Daniel Gilbert's book "Stumbling on Happiness" talks about the actual blind spot in your minds eye - the spot on the back of your retina where the optic nerve connects your eye to the brain.  You don't see that blind spot because the brain fills in the spot - sort of a touched up picture.

"We feel as though we are sitting comfortably inside our heads, looking out through clear galss windshield of our eyes watching the world as it truly is" - the realist.  Instead, the brain is filling in the blanks - assuming things, jumping to conclusions, using memory to readjust, and imagining - the idealist.

Yet it takes realism to practically survive day to day where the idealist could endlessly spin in a conflict of perceived fraud.

"Perceptions are portraits, not photographs, and their form reveals the artist's hand every bit as much as it reflects the things portrayed"

What are you painting today?

Monday, August 27, 2012

Life Changing Events

For her social studies class, Ellen is developing a pamphlet about herself.  So like a good reporter she began asking fact about herself - birth facts, early childhood etc.  Then tonight she asked me about what life changing event she should document.  Hmmm  since she has only been around 4749 days (of which she probably remembers only 25%), she wanted some ideas from someone that has been around for the duration - namely me.

So I began the challenge of giving her choices - a key memorable trip; making the tennis team; overcoming a fear (e.g. recital; bicycling; speech in school; etc.); a class or a new skill learned; a medical emergency; getting a new pet; losing a pet; getting lost; first trip away from parents; first day of school and the bus; a teacher, coach, friend or family member and the list goes on.  It will be interesting to see what she picks.

What would you pick for yourself?  Graduation, wedding, birth of child, death, religious conversion, career (first hire, fire or retire), medical emergency, first car, a move from home, first house?  Michael Gates Gill's book "How to save your own Life" is basically a narrative of his own life changing events which he describes in 15 inspiring lessons of life. Most of those events involved a relationship - other people.  The key is to remember your event - and learn from it and apply that learning continuously.

The game of Life has events we can choose that become life changing or events that just happen to us without our choice.  How we accept and/or deal with the change is what defines us - it becomes our story.

Tell your story to others - not only is it life changing for you, it can be life changing to others.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Wait a Sec

As Ellen and I returned from the mall with her friend, the cell phone provided the instant synchronization of the rendezvous point.  I said "We're only two minutes away".  But how well do we estimate time and when do we fudge the time to keep someone emotional calm while waiting?

One of the most irritating things is when your time (and inner duty of promptness) is different from the connecting parties time.  How patient are you in waiting for someone when they don't appear at the designated time?  I think normal etiquette is to allow for 5-15 minutes but it depends on the circumstances and the person.  When I am meeting someone for lunch, I usually allow 30 minutes.  Wait times while on hold with customer service reps can seem like eternity. 

Naturally when you are waiting for someone or something, time slows down.  When you are late and rushing to rendezvous time speeds up.  Hence the mind is creating greater divergence in emotions for the wait-ee and the late-ee.

So there is no need to say wait a second - since the time has already passed.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Visual Touch

"You are the only person whose life touches all the people you know, work with and meet every day"

I wrote this down on a piece of paper and forgot to identify the source.  It brings to light the importance of each and every connection you make with anyone you see and interact with.  Like a ripple in the water, your impact looks small at the beginning but expands exponentially in size the moment the touch begins.

While this "responsibility" addresses "all the people you know", your impact of touch has a broader audience.

Take the example of a smile to a stranger.  It's impact is unknown to you but the small invisible visual touch received by the person unknown previously to you could change that person's immediate attitude, outlook, and next interaction. Even eye connections can touch people.

Your visual touch extends beyonds an actual connection with eyes.  When someone (or two) sees you from a distance, stop to pick up some litter and place it in the trash, you have touched them without knowing.  As Mom would say - "Remember to set a good example". 

On whose watch are you?

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Rainbow raining

Ellen is now 13 today and a smile came to her face when she opened the final present with the Disco Magic Showerhead. After a quick installation, her regular shower was transformed into a brilliant display of innovative LED colors.  The colors change (by only using the water pressure) about every 30 seconds from red, pink, lavendar, green, blue, orange, yellow and cycles back again. 

The key question was - did she pin it?

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Segway Fun

It was a morning of Segway fun through the streets of Cincinnati.  After some brief training and a near fall, it wasn't long before the mind and body figured the gyroscopic logic inside the Segway.

The Cincinnati tour was suggested by K.C. and it lived up to the hype.  There were areas of Cincinnati that I had not seen (even after living in the area over 35 years).  The German architecture and traditions in Cincinnati were all described by our tour guide - Chris.  Key to Cincinnati's success was the Erie canal and Ohio River commerce.  In fact the only reason Chicago became the Midwest largest city is because of the railroads - a key reason to change with the technology!

Mark Twain was rumored to have a quote about Cincinnati - “When the end of the world comes, I want to be in Cincinnati because it’s always 10 years (sometimes quoted as 20 yrs) behind the times.” 

So let's see ---  the Segway was introduced Dec. 3, 2001.  I guess 10 years is about right for me to try it out in Cincinnati. :)

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Exponential Browsing

I loved to walk the shelves in the Library - just browsing for books.  A title would capture your attention, or even a color on the binding.  You reach over pull the book out and skim the contents. If that captured your interest you might even read a section.  Finally it might make it to your collection of books to check out for the day. Then after reading the book you might recommend it to a friend.  That might start the chain of reader views and viral marketing.

The internet is becoming the new browsing activity.  There has always been the "Favorites" and "History" capability on browsers but recently I have discovered some interesting "browser/collector" (that's my word) apps -

The fads on the internet are interesting.  Will Facebook and Twitter fall into that category?  Ellen introduced me to pintrest today - pinning a snapshot on various boards of interest you have.  Like pearltrees you can follow other people who have liked the same web page and begin to follow people with similar interests - hence an instant community of possible "kindred spirits".   Also an ability to use other people to find web browsing nuggets - a virtual browsing partner.

So put your browsing into exponential mode.  Find a browsing partner.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Gospel according to Apple

It's fitting that after arguing about technology with D.M. the other day, that Apple has become the largest company in the world (based on market capitalization).  My daughters (Jenna and Ellen) have become Apple addicts.  Susan just "caved" and now has a Mac on her desktop  (although it takes VM Ware to run her dinosaur XP financial software).  The rumours about Apple TV and the iphone 5s continue to keep the hype going and the stock price of Apple up.

The number of ipads I see people with is becoming  nauseous.  I asked D.M and N.M whether they would be buying the iphone 5s and received a resounding cry of exuberant YES!!!!!   Why asked I?  "Because we looooovvvvvveeeee our Apples" was the emotional response.  Just take a look at anyone with their iphone.  You can look because you don't have one - everyone else  can't because they are either looking down at their screen or tapping away.

Clearly Apple has won the hearts of the consumer.  The purely technical nerds are more objective (naturally they think from the head not the heart).  It is the look, the feel, the "I don't have to understand what I have', the "I don't have to understand how it works", that keeps the consumer in love with Apple.

Talking with E.W. (my technical buddy and advisor) we both "just don't get it".  Then E.W. said it all -  "Garen, the arguments about Apple vs Windows is like talking about religion."

He's right.  Better not bring it up unless you are converted.

Summer Ends

Sitting by calm Lake Chautauqua this morning is the picturesque setting of a vacation.  Better than your own cabin is having a family member with the grace of opening theirs to your family.  The entire family (aside from me) is out on the boat taking advantage of the calm water with skiing.  There are two kinds of vacation people - the active, busy kind and the slow, passive kind.   I fall into the second category - enjoying the quiet muffled sounds of the excitement.  A gentle breeze delivering the faint rumble of the speed boats with an occasional bird reminding me that nature rules here.

I have found memories of being here at Lake Chautauqua.  I was first introduced to the location when I was invited by R.M. to his parents cabin near Bemus Point.  Later, Susan and I spent many summers inside the Chautauqua Institute enjoying the topical themes, religious program and music/arts.  There was a wonderful PBS special chronicling the history of the Chautauqua movement.  We are lucky the original founding location is just six hours away. 
Susan and I stayed at the Hotel Lenhart that had been servicing visitors to Bemus Point since 1880.  Our 200 sq ft. room with a bathroom attached (most rooms must use the common hallway bath) has a simple elegance (two small twins with a dresser) that puts you in mind of an 1900 visitor (no air-conditioning).  At breakfast the young college help are dressed in full 1900 attire with their exquisite politeness and respect.

A wonderful conclusion to this Summer!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Fellow Economists Unite

When G.M. (a Miami U. Economics Graduate) emailed me yesterday that he was looking for company driving to Miami U. (the first Miami University in Oxford, Ohio) to hear Paul Ryan speak at a rally, I said "I'm in".  So was Susan, and his wife N.M.   The line to enter was a 45 minute wait in the hot sun  and by the time we entered the secure area the line was backed up to Millet (near the football field) and over a 1 hour wait.  The heat did the paid protesters in, but those that supported Paul Ryan would not be dissuaded. 

A fellow Red Hawk (Class of 1992) and Economics major, Paul Ryan was introduced by his Economics professor.  Not a name I remember from my Economics days in the early seventies (Class of 1975/1976).  Our neighbor, K.K. was one year behind Paul and knows him also.  So Paul Ryan felt close in a number of ways. 

Paul Ryan was a decent speaker, a clean cut guy (typical Miamian), and has a great smile.  I was approached by a young reporter from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and asked a few questions.   The most interesting question was whether Paul Ryan's addition to the ticket made any difference to me (e.g. was I already a Romney supporter).  I consider myself a moderate (leaning to libertarian tendencies) and Romney's moderate image was already acceptable to me so I said no.  But on further reflection and after Paul Ryan's closing comments about liberty and limited government, I would now answer differently.  Ryan's addition was "icing on the cake".  Clearly he has galvanized the Tea Party advocates - after all Susan was there. 

The single issue that will determine this election can be summarized in three words - Economy, Economy, Economy.  This was reiterated by Governor Kasich and Senator Portman during the introduction. I liked Paul Ryan's moxy - just like his budget plan encounter with Obama -  "Bring it on"!

Thank goodness Paul Ryan was schooled in that revered College of Economics in Oxford :)  just like me :)

PS   I told the reporter that I only vote for Miami  Economic Graduates.  G.M. interjected - "Yeah, he really was a Benjamin Harrison supporter!" 

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

You've got mail

No - not the movie, nor the  AOL computer alert - it's the volume of letters I just received (30 today) as the new Indian Hill Booster Treasurer. The fall membership campaign started last week with 1100 solicitation letters.  My home address is listed for the return of the membership forms and since last year's membership was over 340 people, in the next two weeks I can expect  approximately 340 letters.

For the first time I can now see the value of a letter opener and could even begin to justify and electric opener (wow they range in price from $125 to $5K for businesses).  Here is a great application for efficiency with technology - email the offer and accept payment from your web site.  The problem with this is the cost of accepting credit cards - 1% to 3% with transaction fees.

At the Board meeting the Bravesline store volunteers would like to accept credit cards.  As I researched different options on Merchant Payment Systems it was clear there are numerous hidden fees - setup fees, monthly fees, transaction fees, returns, unauthorized card user risks, settlement clearing time etc.  But it won't be long before the iphone will be our ecommerce credit card substitute.  Starbucks just did a deal with Square (the new upstart merchant processor) in the mobile payments war against Intuit.  It will be interesting to see how fraud creeps into this process.  Security will be what makes or breaks this technology.

So the small non-profits like Indian Hill Boosters will limp along with volunteer muscle and dinosaur technology.

The check's in the mail :)

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Is it really you?

The other day either me or the computer caused the financial website to ask me a personal question.  You know one of those three questions you selected (along with a picture, motto and password that contains at least 8 characters, one special character and one large capitalization) that uniquely identifies you.

Who comes up with these questions?  Favorite Candy, boardgame, author, ethnic cuisine, comic book, dessert, vacation destination, college proffesor. rock band  or make/model of first car, your senior prom date, name of eldest cousin (father's side), first job boss's first name, street where you lived at age 10, name of first pet, city your oldest sibling got married ......

and the one I was asked (after selecting) - name of your first grade teacher.  Confidentiality now prevents me from revealing that person's name.  At Caldwell Elementary school in Wichita Kansas, with some research someone could figure this out - but it would take some time.  If it is answered wrong or too much time elapsed then another personal question will pop up. Then with "three strikes and you're out" the system will lock you out.

I'm sure these questions are designed to limit the misuse of people giving their passwords to others for financial data.  But in some cases it tests your memory when queried. 

Here's the real problem.  Let's say you have five or six web sites that require this hyper security level of access.  That means 18 unique questions that they believe you have permanently in your memory banks. The problem is on any given day I might change what my favorite color, candy or dessert etc. might be. 

So just remember it is really you if you answer 18 questions correctly.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Surprise Spirits

P.S. hosted the family for a wonderful evening of food and conversation.  Susan gets an assist as the two of them prepared dinner a Greek feast.  

An appropriate celebration of Jenna's 21st birthday (alittle late) with a complete history of Spirits from an expert.  Stories about early medicinal uses, the reason for alcohol measured in "proof", the scientific methods of distillery, and the etymology of the word "cocktail"  added to the charm of Jenna's "first" legal adult beverage.

It was fitting to see P.S. around this time since he was a welcome addition to the family tradition of watching tennis (the tournament starts August 11) for many years.  Each encounter with P.S. reveals something new - a new story, a  new fact, and always interesting and entertaining. Even hearing the familiar stories again (I asked P.S. to reveal his new hire story at Accenture to Paul), I learned new details. 

 It says something about the element of surprise and discovery - it tickles the spirit.

P.S.  Thanks  :)

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Persitent Patient Parnoia

The recent trading software glitches has created a buzz about testing computer systems ( e.g. Knight loses $440 million).  I was fortunate to be trained at Accenture in proper system testing.  It was always a battle of cost benefit trying to convince clients on the proper way to assure a smooth conversion of a new computer system.  The potential business disruption, impact on employee confidence and acceptance, and even revenue loss factored into the risk of less testing.  There were unit tests, string tests, integration tests, user tests, volume tests, stress tests, and complete system tests to perform.

Obviously testing every logic path in a system is impossible (and not practical).  But only testing the most probable paths is equally not practical.  Many clients just wanted to use historical data to test the new system.  Typically this was the worst test methodology as it tested millions of transactions within one logic path instead of fabricating unique test data that would test thousands of logic paths once.

Susan has always commented on my intense skeptism and lack of confidence in so many things.  I think this comes from a career of testing and discovering system bugs. 

It takes patience, persistence, and partial paronoia.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Sleepy Sultry Summer

Congress is leaving town for a five week vacation. Back to School schedules are still four to five weeks away.  The lethargic feeling of heat weighs on both the physical and mental faculties.  Corporate decisions are difficult to implement with staffs at half mast and no wind available.  Traditionally everything in Europe stops while people vacation for the month.  Should we just write off August as a Rip Van Winkle month?

Source: Newsweek

Check out these dog days of August historical events - war, death, riots and hurricanes.  Clearly not a time to go to sleep.