July 17th, 2014

Do Not Ever Ring The Bell


May 21st, 2014

Casey Carroll, 29 yo Duke lacrosse player, is one of my heroes.

He spoke to our USNA Alumni Assoc in November 2013. Son and brother of New York City firemen. Preparing for his meeting with us, he expressed his fear of public speaking. Doesn’t he hide it well?!


May 20th, 2014

Shot on Goal and A Shot into the Head

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Our son’s lacrosse team plays in it’s high school regional championship tonight. The winner advances to the state championship on Saturday. Owen has been part of championship teams since he was 7 years old on his first soccer team. I don’t really believe that he yet understands how rare and even lucky is that level of achievement. They’re not the favorites tonight which is fine because they were not the favorites in the three previous games either.

Despite the pre-season promise for this team, the odds turned against them when their All-American teammate injured his knee rendering him unable to play at all this season. So, they regrouped, wandered a bit and found their stride in time for these play-offs. Regardless of tonight’s score, they’re the darlings of the tournament and share a collective achievement that time and its sidekick, experience, will burnish.

I drove to a morning breakfast meeting thinking about this evening’s contest. I want to find the occasion to thank publicly the injured All-American who participates in every game by instructing and rooting for his teammates. If you are familiar with lacrosse, he’s the face-off man as well as scoring mid-fielder making his absence twice as deep. His father volunteered to fill the role of Assistant Coach when the actual Assistant Coach left for higher ground because he felt that the All-American-less team had few prospects (True!).

I envisioned telling the boys that their achievement reveals one of the keen messages of team sports: that the whole is almost always greater than the sum of its parts. I imagined myself thanking the Schmidt family for the superior example of finding a way to contribute to the team after Thomas injured his knee. I want them to know that perseverance in the face of adversity is the manifestation of character, individual and collective. How we compete describes our essence.

Then I had breakfast with the young woman who has a bullet in her head.

From a good family not far from our home, she was first curious then trapped by adults preying upon naive middle-schoolers. A calamity of compounding bad decisions led to a drunken binge, a flat tire in the middle of the night, a helping hand from a ‘man in a white SUV’, his robbery of her cigarettes and $4, his gunshot to the back of her head. This was in her second year of college.

Her junior year began with a crack addiction supported by a 24 hour per day concentration on lying and stealing to support her habit. Now she is a financial manager at TROSA in Durham, North Carolina having completed its two year drug rehabilitation program.

After the breakfast discussion, 25 local business types toured TROSA’s 470 bed facility and its $13mm per year revenue-generating enterprises including the landscape business, long distance moving services and frame shop. Their CEO, Kevin Mcdonald, is the most self-effacing executive that I’ve ever met despite his credential of building this business only aided by his wits and the commitment of the residents.

Again a moment for me where I was reminded, embarrassingly so, that my day does not consist of problems, my life is abundant with opportunities.

Kevin’s son is on the Jordan lacrosse team, one year younger than our son. Kevin and I sit together at the games because we like to compare ideas about what sports can mean and how sports can be interpreted to mean more than they do.

Now I’m wondering what did I learn at TROSA this morning? What is the essence of its achievements and success? It’s in the front part of the dictionary: acceptance and accountability.

Jordan High School’s lacrosse team began the year with bright prospects for success. Events conspired to derail the this path. I now believe that they accepted this and in a minor way, compared to the enormous change in behaviors demanded of the TROSA residents, and, maybe each in his own way, have agreed to a modified set of accounts and accountability.

There has to be a measurement to the contest tonight, aka the score; maybe there will be one more lacrosse game on Saturday night. That would be fun. What truly matters has revealed itself with the promise that many others, who may rely on these boys in the future, will benefit as a result.

Bonus comment: on one of the walls in the TROSA dormitories are handwritten phrases of resident advice and observation including:

Rule #1: Don’t Worry about the small stuff in life.
Rule #2: 100% of life is comprised of small stuff.

eYwIK.AuSt.156


May 12th, 2014

The Weekend of The Future: Ensigns, Graduates and Over-Time Goals

When it all occurs at once, it’s usually too much to absorb. On occasion, the confluence of events reinforce one another. As I journey into retirement, curious and unsure simultaneously, I wonder what it will mean, what defines it, when this phase will end. Am I gracefully approaching the can’t-be-too-distant shore or am I swirling in a whirlpool soon to disappear (I’m avoiding the image of heading down the drain)?

I feel as though mine has been a complete life even if the measurement is that I’ve done and seen more than I ever expected. If 40 is the old age of youth, then nearly 62 is the youth of age on my scale. My big thrills now stem from the victories of others. This past May weekend brought me a joy that one experiences when one is a child at Pontchatrain Beach or a teenager at an evening Mardi Gras parade or other precious moments that announce themselves in advance.

On Friday morning, I presented the George Herbert Leadership Award at the Naval ROTC Commissioning Ceremony at North Carolina State University. With treasured younger friends on Friday afternoon, I attended the NROTC Commissioning in the glorious Chapel of Duke University. My elder son flew from Naples, Italy to witness on Friday the graduation of his delightful girlfriend in Boulder, Colorado. That Friday evening, my younger son scored the winning goal, in overtime, to help his high school lacrosse team advance, contrary to prediction, into another round of the State Championship Series. On Saturday, I refereed 5 games girls lacrosse, ages 6 to 12; in the evening, we participated in a dinner for the seniors of Senior Prom, our final prom of four (2 boys x 2). The dinner felt like adult wrens awaiting the first flight of their brood.

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As I read the New York Times, I can persuade myself that “it’s all going to hell in a hand-basket’ wondering exactly when the adult world conspired to devour its young. My frustration and insight may be well-founded and it’s misplaced. The future is as bright and brighter than any other future. There are capable and motivated young men and women, the sons of Marines and the daughters of doctors, eager to serve their country; the bonds of love remain strong even from afar; sports are not life and they can teach you plenty about self-sufficiency to get through life.

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A dedicated paragraph about the Senior Prom. I’ve been the Grinch each year as I make fun of how involved are we helicopter parents. Closely on the heels of the modern rock-star quality weddings of the average couple are the Academy Award quality prom parties with photo shoots, pre-dinners, an appearance at the actual prom followed by the after-parties (I kid you not). Until Saturday evening, I considered this ceremony to be the Age of Everybody Gets a Trophy and An Orange Slice gone wild. As the handsome young men and the 18 going on 28? young women described to me their near futures – at Boston University to study electrical engineering (girl), bio-mechanical engineering at NC State (boy), medicine in Indiana, play lacrosse in Virginia – with bright eyes, deferential demeanor and sober enthusiasm, I grew up.

It’s going to be alright. It may be different. They may be challenged. And they are more ready and more capable than we, the adults or, at least, this one, may understand fully. I’m taking the point of view that what really scares the bad guys are these guys because they are so independent, optimistic and adventurous.

It may not be time to exit stage right or otherwise fade into the shadows; it is time to pass the torch to a newer generation of Americans. I know that I am and I believe that we are all better off for it.


May 7th, 2014

Blue Pane Produces Apps #67 & #68 for Blue Cross & Artsplosure Raleigh

HCS

Artsplosure


April 25th, 2014

Blue Pane Studio Delivers App #66

Both on iOS and Android. Android remains a complicated platform for our designers with so many variations in display as there are 4,000+ kinds of Android devices and versions. Really! We see clients leaning towards iPhone and iPad with conviction; Android is becoming the ‘if the budget permits’ item. Could be an opportunity for Windows phones and this device has a long way to come to catch-up. No one has yet asked for an app for a Windows phone.

App 66 is a simple one and we are grateful to our friends at The Special Event Company for this project partnership.

SAS #66


April 9th, 2014

Neopolis, Nettuno, 007 & Nordic Raiders

I marked or celebrated my post-IBM, 90 day Sabbatical with a visit with my son now stationed with the Navy in Naples. My trip began with an EZ Jet flight from London to Rome and ended with a couple of hours at The Viking Exhibit at the British Museum. I’m sure that the raiding from the far north required a hearty crew as they traded and plundered their way about Ireland, Scotland, England and the coast of France some 1,000 years ago. On the other hand, I doubt if there was much hassle about the size and cost of an extra carry-on bag as I saw a young Italian woman demolish one suitcase and abandon another at the gate in order to comply with the carry-on luggage policy. Maybe we’re not as civilized as we think.

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Italy quietly delivers a humbling and historically disorienting experience. Everything is supposed not to work the way that things are expected to work or the way that it works as it should in Germany. Except when one has a coffee or a pizza or shops for shoes or inspects the civic art or considers its foundational contribution to the lives that we each live nearly everywhere (I don’t know much about India and China). I got the sense that Italians measure time with amplitudes different from my own.

In Naples (named Neopolis by the Greeks), one refers to the Greek streets, the Norman protectors and the Bourbon kings all of whom cultivated this culture long before it became part of modern Italy. Then there is Vesuvius, Herculaneum, Capri and Amalfi. I had this notion that they’ve seen most of it already and experienced the rest. A generation here or a government there or an inevitable looming crisis of some fashion will be outlasted. I still can’t get over the sight of lemons the size of large grapefruits or small American footballs. I am cross with the Neopolitans now that I know what is the texture and which are the proper flavors of genuine pizza.

Enroute to Naples, I visited the American Cemetery in Nettuno where 7,500 are buried. Retirement from a large company marks some personal milestone causing one to wonder what has one accomplished and what could be accomplished with whatever months and years and decades remain. Walking the rows of graves of young men younger than my elder son was an inspiring experience. Seeing the Italian landscape crew carefully tending each site, even scrubbing by hand the green mold from the base of the individual headstones (actually, crosses in most cases), yet again reminds me of our collective good fortune. So, I had Kid’s Meal and an Italian coffee at the MacDonalds across the street from the cemetery’s entrance. Of course, it’s not what they died for and I feel they would have understood such an indulgence on a beautiful afternoon in a quiet place so far from home.

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I kid my friends that the genuine splendor of Italy is not another church -boy, did those guys have a 1,000 year racket! – nor another incredible sculpture and not another ‘how did they figure that out moment?!, which is how I especially felt as the train travelled alongside the lengthy stretch of still standing Roman Aqueduct, but the food, the food, the food and the myriad of visual pleasures, principally human. Every Italian seems to make a statement just by being and acting Italian. My joke was turned on me when a I visited the Sansevero Chapel and saw the sculpture of the Veiled Christ. This is art bordering on magic.

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I returned through London quickly touring the 007 exhibit at London Film Museum. No collection of rocket-firing cars will ever eclipse the first sight by a 10 year old boy in New Orleans of Ursula Andress in Dr. No. The splendid British Museum hosts The Vikings. After Rome and Naples, they seemed like such newcomers even with their tougher than James Bond aura and actual Q-like inventions.

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We’re good and not as novel as we think that we are. All that we’ve accomplished is predicated on what others have done and even failed to achieve. I read that Vesuvius collects a depth of five kilometers of molten material so that when it explodes, the scale will be similar to that of 79 AD. I suppose that Pompei will be resealed. Meanwhile, in honor of those who lived full lives, those who lived memorable lives, those who gave much and those who gave it all, we should treasure our individual amplitudes over coffee or a pizza.

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12 April: related editorial in today’s NY Times.


March 8th, 2014

Maybe I could pretend to be George Plimpton?!

High school lacrosse season began this week. As I coordinate my referee costume (don’t repeat this description to other men referees), obvious is that even though lacrosse is a spring season sport, one has to prepare for winter, spring and summer weather and, periodically, for all three during the same game. For last night’s game, I wore gloves, leggings beneath my lined pants, two pair of socks, a vest and two long sleeved shirts all of which were camouflaged by the familiar black striped shirt and hat. The game began at 7:45 pm in 32 degrees temperature. By 9:30, blowing the whistle was an achievement of lip, breath and finger dexterity. Monday’s game will be played in near 70 degree weather which will present the short ensemble: pants, socks, shirt sleeve length.

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I referee high school lacrosse games, both women’s and men’s. Same game, worlds apart. Anyone surprised? The men’s game is about managing contact as the boys wear helmets, thick gloves and thin pads on the arms and shoulders. The women’s game discourages, even forbids, contact. Their variant of the game is committed to skill which comes with rules, lots of rules. The boys have their rulebook, for sure. If a ref enforced every rule or called every foul, a boys game would last longer than a cricket match presuming that not all players had fouled-out of the game in order to last that weekend.

Sports develop character and teach us about ourselves, the Fields of Eton notion. Refereeing a sport can be equally revealing about our true selves as this role requires a mixed breed of self-love, servitude, leadership, intentional deafness and a smiling distrust of each and every human being on the field and at the sidelines that you volunteered your free time to be with.

There is one law of lacrosse that all referees are taught. When the game concludes, leave the field directly and immediately. Accept a salutation or a kind word of thanks as you keeping moving towards the parking lot. I know this to be valuable advice because of the one time that I paused on the way to my vehicle to congratulate one coach on a game well-played. Her school’s team was new to the sport, the outcome of the game required three overtime periods and her girls played well and fairly into the twilight of the evening.

“Good game, coach. Well played,” I said.

Without hesitation, she replied, “Do you know how many F@#$%G calls you missed today?!” It didn’t seem like she meant only 1 or 2.

I don’t think anyone heard her besides the 15 players on her team, 10 or 12 of their parents in the stands and a guy walking his dog across the street from the field. Incredibly, I was inclined to answer her non-question. Luckily, I realized that she was yelling at The Ref and not at Christopher. I nodded with diminished authority, pivoted and marched to my car. I want to believe that the radio and closed windows disguised my screaming at her in retort. Then I enjoyed a 90 mile drive from Greenville back to Durham.

A broad range of men and women qualify to be lacrosse referees. Many are school teachers and PhD candidates. Most played the sport at some level, particularly the women’s referees. How else could one learn the rules and the application of the rules! Many of the referee’s on the men’s side are also football, basketball and soccer refs as it seems that $55 to $65 per contest can add-up nicely. Some refs are confident of their knowledge of the rules and manage the game from this base; others rely on their own playing pasts, tending to ‘let them play’, although the attention to the potential of head-injuries in all contact sports has reduced such interpretive perogative. In short, there are mandatory fouls for hits to and about the head. Fields of Eton, indeed!

The best referees call the game as they see it. They are not looking for a game to turn-out a particular way as though there is a pattern to be followed. They would rather miss a call then to make an unnecessary call and players prefer this approach. They don’t want to be influential in the game or even noticed at the conclusion of the game (Mr. Perrien seconds the motion). The superior referees have compelling presence and are credible even when they are mistaken. All refs make mistakes in every game.

When the helmets and the eye guards are removed; when the crosses are put down; when the kids rush their goalies in celebration, they all become suddenly so young to me. Or I’ve just became twenty five years older as suddenly. The transition from armored athlete to high school, fun-loving jock is instantaneous.

A similar transformation happens to referees. They metamorphose from demigod and the keeper of the peace to a building contractor or a county employee in the distance between the goalie’s cage and the parking lot. A well refereed game is a combination of suspended disbelief and pursuit of common objective. I guess that character is built by characters.


February 25th, 2014

I Just Read This About Banking…Feel That It Applies to Many

The outside world is disrupting the very fabric of the business of banking.

The business as we used to know it over the past 50 years relied on several things:

Heavy and costly marketing and sales to acquire customers and build trust.

Locking in these customers so that switching to a competitor was hard*.

Investing in relationships with wealthy customers to provide custom advice, while at the same time treating the less-wealthy as a mass market, with one-size-fits-all products.

Generating repeat revenues through percentage and transaction fees, which resulted in banks’ preference for less frequent but high-volume transactions*.

Very costly investment in infrastructure: networks, back office, branches, compliance. This was an upfront investment that discouraged or blocked new entrants from the market*.

From American Banker, 22 July 2013. Author: MARIELA ATANASSOVA


January 30th, 2014

Australian Open: What did Wawranka’s win over Rafa say about Federer

For starters, his win got Roger to agree to play in Davis Cup starting tomorrow. We’ll have to wait until Roger and Rafa retire to argue about who is the better and who is the best ever. I’m of the mind, for now, that Rafa is the best on clay ever. And that clay is just a side-show surface compared to hard court. I guess that the immediate argument is that grass – Roger’s won Wimbledon 7 times – is an off of the circus grounds affair given that its season lasts only one month. Grass and hard court have more in common than either do with clay. BTW, I prefer clay to them all, having played on this surface regularly for the better part of thirteen years.

At the Australian Open. Stan won because he served well and returned serve well. Federer played well, perhaps his best since winning Wimbledon in 2012. It’s all about match-ups. Did Roger tire Rafa? How much did this match contribute to Nadal’s diminished play in the Championship? Would Berydich have fared better if he and Nadal had traded sides of the draw as he and Stan split sets, one break each, with Stan winning both tie-breakers. Could Stan have defeated Nadal in the Semis and Berydich over Roger in the Semis. Would Nadal have defeated Stan and then Roger in the Championship?

Whatever the parlor game, Stan won three difficult matches in convincing manner over Djokovic, Berydich and Nadal. Nadal seems to have played his Final versus Roger so was unable to elevate his game or his health for the Championship. It appears that last weekend was one version of Davis Cup; tomorrow begins another.

Most Aces
Wawrinka 81 #1 (11+ per match)
Federer 53 #9 (9+ per match)
Nadal not in top 20

1st Serve Points Won
Wawrinka 82% #6
Federer 79% #14
Nadal not in top 20

First Serve % In
Nadal #9 71%
Neither Federer nor Wawrinka in Top 20

1st Serve Receiving Points Won
Wawrinka 146 #1
Nadal 135 #2 (18 per match)
Federer 124 #4 (20+ per match, played 6 matches)

2nd Serve Return Points
Nadal 136 #2 (19+ per match)
Federer 119 #7 (19+ per match, fewer matches))
Wawrinka 109 #9 (15+ per match)

2nd Serve Points Won
Nadal #9 and Federer #10 at 59%
Wawrinka not in Top 20

Break Points Won
Nadal 27 #2
Federer 23 #7 (6 matches)
Wawrinka 23 #7