Archive for August, 2010
Read three daily newspapers on this Thursday. WSJ describes nearly unstoppable drug violence in Mexico; NYT reports that the STATE of New Jersey accused of pension fund fraud by federal government; and the local News & Observer outlines systematic mishandling of evidence by our State Bureau of Investigation.
I’d prefer to think about the highlight of the summer vacation which was our trip to Topsail Beach in North Carolina with four 14 year old boys: surfing, Monopoly, fishing from the pier, football on the beach, learning to throw a baseball, incessant snacking, Manhattans on the deck, dinners out, concluded with Casino Night amidst the downpour at 10 cents per matchstick. Youth is our best opportunity.
View from the Fishing Pier. Ours is the small, yellow house.
I met with a senior executive in Durham this morning to discuss how the stressed national economy could affect our normally resilient regional economy. Highlights of our discussion:
– the RTP of 2060 will, of course, be entirely different than the 50 year old RTP of today. And the RTP of the near future is not guaranteed to remain as relevant or exemplary as it is today due to the ease with which capital, commodity goods and labor are priced around our globe. Co-location is not the advantage that it once was.
– as reported by the local press on the 11 August 2010, there is an opportunity for the three major universities in the RTP to employ new technologies to help to commercialize their research efforts. And to be successful, such an effort will require a level of inter-university cooperation and business skills that are not usually the strength of academic institutions.
– the customary channels of regional economic development are affected by the
reduction in funding for state and local governments and entities. There will be fewer scouts and promoters for new business. Like their counterparts in the commercial world, customer retention and finely tuned customer identification will be areas of keen focus.
– more spending? less long term debt? no one is certain what is the answer or even the proper mix of solutions as the nation’s economy and integrated global economy travel in uncharted waters. Those well educated and well established seem able to ride out the stormy weather. Those entering or re-entering the job market or in industries not essential to a functioning economy are in a long line of pessimistic hopefuls.
– the curve of economic recovery, like that of General Motors (soon to IPO) could have been V shaped (good to bottom to good) had banks been forced to fully declare their financial positions in 2008; instead, we cut-off the bottom of the V by salvaging essentially dead banks, turning the V into a hoped-for U. At present course and with the public’s exclamatory distaste for more debt, the U recovery may be taking the form of an L (good to bottom without return to good in focus).
– new problems must be solved with fresh thinking and the willingness to experiment and to practice.
Gish and Door attended the change of command at our Naval Academy last week. Here is a compilation of their observations.
Port visit on 2 August to Annapolis for the relief of Admiral Fowler by Admiral Mike Miller. For starters, if the traffic up I-95 gets any worse or any more aggravating, sea-borne conveyance along the coast may be revived. Took good ‘ol 301 home; stopped in Bowling Green, Va for lunch (BG remains renown as the ultimate landing place of John Wilkes Booth in April 1865. He ‘landed’ after failing to dodge a fusillade of mini-balls from the highly irate Union soldiers in pursuit of the assassin of A. Lincoln). Delicious open face roast beef at the cafe’ on Main Street.
Annapolis, as we never knew while wearing WUBA, is a lovely town with a pleasant breeze – except if you lived on 6-3 in starched white works – and plenty of good chow and rum vendors. Quarters at the State Circle Inn, a kind of an upscale drag house. I tried to persuade my one&only after we returned home from dinner to make-out in the parlor for old times sake, but she suggested we return to our room- mainly to watch cable tv.
Alas, the Maryland Inn is no more and, incredibly shocking is that Johnson’s, on the corner of Maryland Avenue and State Circle, is empty except for a suggestion to visit their web site to buy all of those fuddy duddy, now funky clothes that only retired admirals seemed to wear. Is everybody wearing cargo shorts now?!
The Yard is as before with the variety of monuments that I never seemed to get straight except that I forever find something special and moving about JPJ’s crypt. JPJ made more of a difference and was less appreciated in his lifetime than even the many of those who tried also to keep the country on course despite the chaos of their economic, political and intellectual seas. There were plenty of fourth class mids about: young, tall and healthy looking as any class before. Whiteworks remain standard issue except that every plebe has to carry a canteen affixed to his/her/its bayonet belt or a plastic bottle in hand if sporting gym wear. Stunning is the sight of the nametag, Gish ’14. Figure it out: our graduating class of 1974 is getting to be equidistant to 14 in both directions, 1914 and 2014. Note to self: accelerate plans for next Ho-Jos (rent room at Howard Johnson’s; chill beer in bath tub evolution) party as time, indeed, waits for no man.
The Change of Command or the meat (maybe crabcake) of my epistle
Remember when Admiral Zumwalt became CNO on 1 July 1970 in T-Court? Now these sorts of occasions are conducted in Alumni Hall, the basketball gym, where a stage is set at one end so that the audience looks down on the occasion. I prefer a staging of looking up to the occasion. Notable was the near complete absence of midshipmen ( I saw one) and the invitation-only nature of the occasion. Are not towns people, aka townies, welcomed? Is this a by-product of 911 security requirements?
I’m sure that our WWII vintage dads would recognize the ceremony, especially the part where the E3 could not master the bell welcoming and off-boarding rank. Bells inside are incongruous in my opinion. After all, the Navy is an all weather entity, is it not?! The PA system is the one used at most such occasions. You know, the model where it cuts in and out in opposition to the adjustments of the dials. The charming young lady singing the National Anthem was either on mute or supremely ‘knocking them together’ if you know what I mean (being heard at Fort McHenry).
We sat in our respective cheering sections: Admiral Miller’s class of 1974 to his side and Admiral Fowler’s class of 1978 opposed. 74 outnumbered 78 and out-cheered them when encouraged to do so by the guest speaker, Vice CNO Grenert. Former commandants were present as was Mrs. Rickover and the first African American mid and a handful of WWII vets, selected congressmen, federal officials, family, friends, every constituency, demographic and voting block – except for mids.
The remarks of the guest speaker, VCNO, were notable on two points: how nearly everyone in the audience was acknowledged in some way and the persistent lighthearted humor. Admiral Fowler specifically acknowledged all those that the Vice CNO might have overlooked with an emphasis on Team Fowler to include his wife and children. The inbound Supt smiled, nearly beamed the whole time as the other two spoke. His punchline paragraph combined leadership, trust, ethics and innovation. And these remarks address what really bothers our alumni more than the slush fund buzz. Multiple Honor Offenses are given a pass (used to be one and out for same); oops, that was a joint? Marines from USNA cheating on Quantico exams; and simply the sense that the general decorum of the Naval Academy has diluted much of what made it special as it strives to look like America with its heavy emphasis on football success. The goal of the season needs to be well educated, hard working, self reliant, willing and able to help others with an understanding that unfunded debt, insincere legislation and polarized politics is pretty much the antithesis of why this country was founded in the first place.
We visited the recently renovated Yard Museum which offers a vibrant history of US seapower. Who needs the Potter book, History of Seapower!? As we meandered about the cemetery, observing the grave sites of Admirals Kidd and Holloway, enlisted marines, ancient mariners and the touching children’s section, turned a corner into the recently sodden plot of Admiral James Calvert identified only with its name, date and submarine emblem. No mention of his Skate and the North Pole; no indication of his own tour as Supt. A well lived life is impossible to capsulate on a grave marker. I believe that it is best if our deeds and even our misdeeds live in the memories of those we truly leave behind.
The Mrs. commented that the ceremony surprised her for its absence of gravity and celebration of the occasion. Maybe this is the way that submariners want it; maybe this is what the Navy insisted be afforded the outgoing Supt under the shadow of the slush fund fubar. She felt that a recent, local NROTC graduation offered the appropriate ceremony as she envisions such military occasions.
The Naval Academy’s advantage is that each midshipman should be able to readily understand his or her purpose. In short, able to answer the question, what does it mean to be a midshipman? This is not true of nearly the rest of our national institutions. What does it mean to be a graduate of Princeton? or Harvard? or to be an employee of Wells Fargo? The innovation that Mike Miller referred to his brief remarks doesn’t need to be better sub reactors or flight controls or sonar systems. The innovation that our country needs, and desperately so, is leadership founded upon unyielding principle that the right thing must be done for no other reason than it is the right thing.
Another in the series of iPhone apps designed for scientific conferences. Good work by Seth and Ben. Good partnership with Marty. Download here.
My friend, Mort, supplied me with an voucher to a one of a kind, 5 star hotel in his community. Prior to my arrival, he offered the following advice for my stay. There is some inside baseball sorts of referrals in his comments, but I bet you know what he is talking about.
You can have transportation provided to the LaQuinta if you’d prefer their breakfast bar. Please note that as a guest of the AsItShouldBe Hotel, there will no need to pack any foods or bring your own liquor. It may interest you that this hotel will provide towels and linens. Your room will have a view into the natural light and surroundings, without the sound of HVAC equipment, which corporate travelers tend to find unsettling. Finally, you may encounter casually other people similar to yourself, e.g. the elusive line of business executives, as they tend to congregate in venues such as these, particularly in the dining, cocktail and fitness areas. A suggestion is that you not begin the conversation with ‘how’s the purchase order renewal process going?’ or ‘would you like to discuss your company’s Oracle take-out opportunity?’ as they tend to leave these conversations and details to staff members who, shall we characterize it, stay at the LaQuinta.
On the other hand, they are the ones who write the checks for such investments and prefer to discuss technology in terms of market conditions and associated business opportunities that our kinds of technologies can afford. I know that this is kind of complicated and really not covered on weekly sales calls, but I just thought you might want to know what the ‘pin-heads’ and the ‘geniuses’ in the corner offices tend to be preoccupied with. As well, you may see people using small, elegant devices made by the hippies in California… the fruit company. Macintosh or Apple or such.
Our IT contacts tend to keep the typical LoB guest away from the high horse-power devices such as the Chinese made PCs and those state of the art cell phones with the thumb-wheel and key-board which only receive email that no one really uses any more except those involved in gambling, spam, porn and corporate email (which is really a combo of the other three). You may see something resembling a tablet computer – it’s called an iPad – but it’s not for real and our internal market analysts believe it to be only an Etch-a-Sketch with a black border. Who needs mobile computing if a) you can drive to the office to talk on a phone and access the web via the corporate Intranet (who needs more than 350 megs of storage anyway?) and b) if these devices were so modern and truly promising, our telco clients would be making them. See what I mean?!
Enjoy your stay. Wear long trousers when in the common areas. Leather shoes are a plus. Maybe leave your company branded knapsack at home. Other guests will be interested in your business and employer. As you introduce yourself, I suggest that you not include the batting order of your First and Second layers of management and which specific department that you represent as such preambles reveal that no one that we know or work for really ever decides anything and has even less association with genuine P&L (not a power company but an accounting format for keeping track of sales and costs – don’t worry about it).
Finally, as you have polite conversation over your $14 martini, er – cab ride, and should the terms IT or data center or even computers (the opposite of the devices that these people will be carrying (you can identify these cause most begin with an i )be mentioned, raise your eyebrows and smile faintly, commenting that CIOs are such bozos and really have no idea about what drives the business and are slaves to their vendor communities with the dope of endlessly recurring contract renewals.
Keep the discussions short – please repel the urge to show them ‘just a few charts’ – unless you can show them something on one of these iThings. If asked about marketing campaigns addressing intelligent global initiatives, refer to unsubstantiatable references like traffic zooming around a Nordic country (all 200 cars of them) or some incredible sounding improvement in medical technology like RFID tags on each of our skin cells. They get this level of abstraction because it reminds them of how they write annual reports, 10k filings and other SEC required docs (btw, SEC is an agency of the government so do not follow up with a comment about the how the BCS (this is not the former name of our consulting services) should determine the best college football team. Usually the best reply to SEC is ‘they are the real crooks.’ You’ll get plenty of free booze this way, saving you cab fare – if you know what I mean.
The rest is up to you provided that you remember not to ask ‘what time does the city bus arrive to take me back to Trailways Station?’ or whatever mode of transportation was selected that best fit within the most cost-effective travel guidelines.