Archive for April, 2012

Year of Dragon, Day of Favorites

Wednesday, April 25th, 2012

I should think about 24 April or is it 424 which 4+2+4 = 10, which is my lucky number, which is a 1 and a 0, which may be why the IT industry tolerates me?!

Yesterday began with a breakfast in Raleigh hosted by the local Naval Academy Alumni Association. Retired Admiral Benny Suggs spoke about Leadership based upon his 30 years of naval service including 1,264 carrier landings and 10 years at Harley Davidson as a senior Marketing Vice President. A colorful man, as are most successful aviators, he described the attributes of leaderships as vision, passion, values and velocity (this is is different one). Working with others, through others and for the benefit of others is the underpinning of successful leadership. Segue for inside joke: the opposite of cost-cutting to achieve arbitrary financial results such as EPS in some year in the future. Inspiring way to begin a day with the reminder that what matters is what matters and not what is measured. Mine is not an entreaty for fluffy hopes for world peace but my conviction that, indeed, thoughts are things, which can lead to inspired achievements which can measured.

Speaking of Apple, their second quarter financial performance exceeded the expectations of all. The ‘market’ was so nervous that Apple would not continue to lead that it dropped Apple’s stock price nearly $70 over the past 2 weeks. My interpretation of these jitters: ‘they are good and no one is close but can they keep it up?!’ I revere this company because it knows what is about: vision, passion, values and velocity – with 0 carrier landings.

The day ended with our annual cook-out for the military veterans graduating from Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business and Sanford School of Public Policy, about a dozen attendees. They’re off to Wal-Mart, ATT, John Deere, Google. Ages range from 28 to 32; Green Berets, Combat Engineers, Submariners, Infantry Officers, SeaBees, males and females. All with recent combat duty.

Inspiring assembly of our young. Easy to laugh; give and take comfortably. Figuring-out the transitions to civilian work because theirs has been a world of mission focus and this side of the fence is fixated on earnings-per share as a measure of collective achievement. Biggest laughs were the stories told from their job interviews: ‘have you ever held a leadership position?; please describe a difficult decision that you had to make that affected the career of another'; what management challenges would you expect if you had to lead a team of 3 to 6?; how does your GPA (grades) reflect your sense of integrity?” They wished that they could have answered about receiving mortar and rocket attacks; what armies really do when they confront enemy combatants; and what it feels like months later to know that your purpose in an organization was to put people’s lives at risk for the benefit of a perceived greater good. If only a couple of beers and a few burgers could thank them properly.

Blue Pane Studio’s new web site.

Tuesday, April 17th, 2012

Thanks to Tessa, BPS Art Director, and Ben of Blue Pane Labs, Blue Pane’s site reflects its portfolio of web sites and mobile apps. All done in more time than it took Instagram to cash-out for $1b of Facebook investment! Oh well and we are proud of our client portfolio too.

I wonder if there will be a day when we say, ‘we used to design web sites where one searched for lots of information in one place before apps offered specific and much smaller sources of information.

Next step is delivering our first series of iPad-based apps. It is fun exploring the potential of tablets beyond their obvious use as readers or e-books.

USS Enterrprise, CVN-65, sails on final deployment

Wednesday, April 4th, 2012

Beam me up, Scotty. Not quite the same as this one that sailed the oceans on nuclear power. Quite the coincidence of name and missions: one a starship and the other the epitome of US Naval prowess. Aircraft carriers required five years to build so vastly complex are they. A friend put himself through Hampden-Sydney College working for four summers in the paint department in the Newport News Shipyard. He painted the same aircraft carrier each of those four summers!

Although her final voyage began in Norfolk, Virginia, the Big E was home-ported on the West Coast for most of her life, including a stint at the Alameda Naval Shipyard in Oakland, California. So was I and so was the USS Wiltsie, DD 716, my first ship. The year was 1975 and one week the Enterprise and the Wiltsie shared the same pier. Please imagine the comparative sizes of our two warships. If you’re in a hurry, just know that the Wiltsie could have sat on the flight deck of the Enterprise with room to spare or maybe even to launch planes. The Wiltsie was 390 feet long and the Enterprise is 1,100+ feet long, a factor of 3x amongst friends. In addition to its complement of 5,000 sailors, airmen and marines, the Enterprise, powered by two nuclear reactors, required its own fire department including trucks and other related emergency vehicles. Fires on an aircraft carrier are vicious occurrences and an aircraft is a floating repository of ammunition, aircraft and aviation fuel, all in well coordinated, seemingly chaotic motion. Get the set-up?!

One afternoon, about 1600 or 4pm, I stood the quarterdeck watch with a couple of sailors. Our purpose was to screen those boarding and departing Wiltsi as a ship’s in-port routine is a normally quiet one. Most of the crew and officers were ashore with their families or just off of the ship. About 5pm, we heard the fire alarm aboard the Enterprise which is loud and long. After all, it must be heard at sea amidst the noise of aircraft launchings. A component of a fire alarm on a nuclear capable ship is for the Marine detachment to secure the ship meaning no one comes aboard and no one leaves. From the fantail (rear) of the Wiltsie, our mighty quarterdeck watch observed Marines taking their stations in full combat gear. The width of the pier that separated us might have been 30 yards. It is worth noting that the highest point of our destroyer, the radar units and radio antenna, barely reached the level of the flight deck of the Enterprise. This means that we had to look up with strained necks to see the action on their deck.

Within a very few minutes, the lime or fluorescent green fire trucks of the Big E came charging down its flight deck. These vehicles looked small on that large ship. We didn’t see smoke or fire and wondered if theirs was a fire drill or an actual alarm. We felt like spectators with front row seats. I instructed the Petty Officer of the Watch to log the alarm on the Enterprise and to be observant of related activity on the pier. What else could we do?!

An important element of in-port security is the duty section’s, those who remain aboard overnight, capability to prevent fires and flooding. The duty section Engineering Duty Officer is responsible of mustering, training and keeping honest his fire team. Although every ship tries its best to develop proper in-port fire-fighting teams, there is only so much that one can expect of a complement of mess cooks, sonar men, boatswain mates and boiler technicians. Prevention is, indeed, the preferred course of action.

Which is why I was surprised that pleasant afternoon in Alameda as we peered at the scrambling fire trucks on the flight deck of our enormous sister ship to hear to my unobserved right side, “request permission to go ashore, sir.” I turned to see our full-time Damage Control Assistant and present Engineering Duty Office, Ensign Bill Dunn, rigged in his fire-fighting gear as were 4 or 5 other crew members of our Wiltsie. I remember that one held a extinguisher suitable for smothering oil and gas fires; another was outfitted in an OBA, an apparatus for breathing in smoke-filled environments.

I presume that I would have said something like, “where are you going, Dunn?” To which, I am certain of his reply: “to render assistance to the Enterprise, Sir, as is required of the ship’s in-port security manual.”

The Petty Officer of the Watch and I gazed up at the Enterprise, noting the particularly the well-armed Marines on their quarterdeck and at intervals across the side of the ship facing us- we could still hear the fire trucks – and I suggested that we first call the Enterprise before rushing our team over without invitation. “Aye, Sir,” was his reply. He informed me that his team would stand-down near their equipment locker awaiting further instructions.

We waited several minutes, allowing the Enterprise to return to order, and then dismissed Ensign Dunn’s team from stand-by. I speculate even these many years later what would have been the reception aboard CVN-65 of the five firefighters from the USS Wiltsie. Had it not been for those sincere-looking Marines, I was tempted to find out.

Noble Death Song

Monday, April 2nd, 2012

At a certain age, the eyes weaken and, yet, we are able to see more clearly. The conjunctions of my life, at present, are met by the May graduation of our elder son; the bleak news from around the world even though events on our 1/2 acre in Durham seem only remotely affected (visions of Downton Abbey abound); the sight on the horizon of my sixtieth birthday (in 2020! not really; doesn’t bother me.. and I just wish that the others of my circle and demographic would set a different example for me, like, quit dying) so that I am attracted to those who knew what they were doing early and often and able to find others like themselves.

Two Navy friends recommended Act of Valor. Couldn’t believe it as the trailer for the film looked so typical of ‘the best parts of a bad movie.’ They persuaded me that the film was made with SEAL cooperation with the hopes that the film would contribute to their increased recruiting requirements. Actual SEALs performed all of the terrific stunts and some of the weak acting. Happily, they did well at what they are paid to do. I wonder if we can really respond so effectively, and expensively, to dilute the malicious intent of so many cheaply armed bandits and thugs?! And can the SEALs truly carry enough ammunition for such firefights?! Anyway, watch the Behind the Scenes clip at the site.

Our audience of forty left the theatre in a quiet mood even though the film’s action scenes were exhilarating.

I admire the well-conceived obituaries in The Economist if only for the broad and interesting range of its selection. Lyn Lusi’s obit saddened me because of her achievements in face of daunting circumstances in a dangerous place (Republic of Congo). Courage may be manifested in many ways.

Photo courtesy of The Economist 31 March 2012

Tecumseh figurehead; US Naval Academy.

This poem of Tecumseh was central to the plot of Act of Valor. I walked or marched passed this figurehead thousands of times over a four year period, never investigating the purpose and meaning of its presence.

“So live your life that the fear of death can never enter your heart. Trouble no one about their religion; respect others in their view, and demand that they respect yours. Love your life, perfect your life, beautify all things in your life. Seek to make your life long and its purpose in the service of your people. Prepare a noble death song for the day when you go over the great divide.

Always give a word or a sign of salute when meeting or passing a friend, even a stranger, when in a lonely place. Show respect to all people and grovel to none.

When you arise in the morning give thanks for the food and for the joy of living. If you see no reason for giving thanks, the fault lies only in yourself. Abuse no one and no thing, for abuse turns the wise ones to fools and robs the spirit of its vision.

When it comes your time to die, be not like those whose hearts are filled with the fear of death, so that when their time comes they weep and pray for a little more time to live their lives over again in a different way. Sing your death song and die like a hero going home.”