Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Wait a second!

Tonight, midnight arrives one second later. I just read in and BBC News that a leap second will be added to 2008 to adjust the atomic clocks. Apparently, the earth's daily rotation is not always exactly 24 hours. Disruptions to the earth's core, extreme weather, volcanic eruptions as well as earthquakes can influence the length of a day. Since 1972, there have been 23 leap seconds added.

I read that if you have an atomic clock, you can actually see the second being added -- or see time delayed. I'll be watching the one clock I do have that reads atomic time. According to the Official US Time, there will be a leap second (an extra second) just after 23:59:59 UTC on December 31st, 2008. That is just after 06:59:59 p.m. ET, 05:59:59 p.m. CT, 04:59:59 MTand 03:59:59 p.m. PT.

Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Need a Free 2009 Calendar?

The IRS has a downloadable tax calendar -- its FREE, and actually useful for small businesses. You can also download the useful IRS tax due dates and import into iCal and Outlook.

This calendar lists tons of tax links for small businesses and lists of related publications. It also contains an interesting help and tips section.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Simple Thank You

I made a quick dash to a small neighborhood community market this morning. I usually stop by this particular market about 3 times a month as their loss leader of bananas are consumed rapidly in my household. The prices on produce is amazingly low, although quality does suffer. The personnel at this store are not normally friendly (so it it is not always an enjoyable shopping experience). However, I wanted to purchase some milk and some inexpensive produce and avoid the long lines at the traditional grocery stores on the morning before Thanksgiving. After putting the produce in the car trunk I pushed the grocery cart back to the corral. The owner of the store happened to be outside and said, "Thank You." I left feeling much better about my shopping experience. Have you thanked YOUR customers? These two words are very important.

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!

Monday, November 24, 2008

100,000 Miles

Last week my 13-year old car odometer hit that magic number of 100,000 miles. Most cars residing in California would have reached that magical number years ago. I was hoping to buy a new car soon. I keep holding on for improved gas mileage and new electric car options. I hope they'll be more standardized in a few years. Can I hold on that long? Will my car fall apart? Luckily, my car is a Subaru and I'm pretty sure it will hold up. Now, if I had a car manufactured by those auto-makers who had their tin cans out last week I would have less hope.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Veterans Day

Tuesday, November 11, is a day to honor all the men and women who have served in America’s armed forces. As an American, I thank them for that service. Veterans Day is observed on November 11, regardless of what day of the week on which it falls. Veterans Day should be a celebration to honor America's veterans for their patriotism, love of country, and willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good.

In November 1919, President Wilson proclaimed November 11 as the first Armistice Day with the following words:

"To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations…"

The Library of Congress is working on a Veteran's History Project (VHP). Veterans of wars and U.S. citizen civilians who were actively involved in supporting war efforts (such as war industry workers, USO workers, flight instructors, medical volunteers, etc.) are invited to share their valuable stories. These collections of first-hand accounts are being archived in the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress for use by researchers and will serve as an inspiration for generations.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Favorite Board Games -- Or Games I Don't Regret Purchasing

Games are great for conversations and getting to know people -- and also for teaching and entertaining children. Games can provide hours of entertainment (What did people do before TV -- they played games to socialize!) You’ll may be amazed at what you learn about people when you play games — who’s competitive; who’s a gracious (or cranky) loser, and who’s able to laugh at themselves.

I have purchased some games I've regretted. What follows is a list of games I do not regret having purchased -- whether for my family, or for others. Some of these have made great Christmas Gifts. Maybe you know a game I haven't mentioned?

1)Dread Pirate

My kids just love this game and enjoy playing it with their Aunt and Uncle. I originally bought it for my kids, but was afraid they wouldn't like it. So, I gave it to their Aunt and Uncle. Funny, they play it whenever they get together. The came is competitive with the fun and swashbuckling adventure of Pirates of the Caribbean® condensed into a board game! Dread Pirate comes complete with cast metal doubloons, glass jewels, and pirate ship playing pieces. The rules of the game may seem a little vague, but that is what pirating is about! Avast Mateys!

2. Master Labrynth by Ravensburger

I gave this to my brother's family before I had kids. They told me how much they enjoyed it. So, when my kids got old enough, I purchased it. It is a game we enjoy playing. It teaches kids to think ahead about their moves. I think it was once on a Mensa list.

3. Ticket to Ride

My son, a train fanatic, loves this game. But you don't have to enjoy trains to enjoy this game. Game play is engaging for all levels of play. The game accommodates both laid back and cutthroat gaming styles. There are different versions of the game for different geographies -- US, Europe, Switzerland, etc. Players connect cities with trains. On their turn, players simply draw train cards, claim routes on the board, or draw more destination tickets. Players must balance drawing cards into their hand with claiming routes before opponents in this friendly, yet competitive board game

4. Apples to Apples

There are various editions of this game -- junior editions, party editions, jewish edition, etc. I've only played the party edition. My family plays this frequently -- even if we only have a few minutes. Why? Because we can get a few good laughs together, even if we only have a few minutes. Laughter is a good medicine.

5. Imaginiff by Buffalo Games

We think this game is hilarious. This game encourage interaction because the players are the subject of the game. Players pick a card that poses a question and has six possible answers (for example, "Imaginiff _____ were a crime. Which would he/she be?"). Read the question aloud, plugging in the subject's name. Then read out the six answers (in this case, they range from "homicide" to "indecent exposure"). Players pick an answer to fit the question. Players who pick the most popular answer move forward. Winning is obviously not the point: laughter is the point. My kids sometimes want to pick out the cards and just answer the questions as they are sometimes hilarious. If their is a subject they don't know about (like old TV shows), we just skip the question.

6. Blokus

This is a clever 2-4 player strategy game. Players take turns laying down pieces of different shapes on a grid, attempting to block their opponents and make more room for themselves. The player who places the most pieces is the winner. The play is fast -- about 10 minutes (unless of course people take time to think). I know people who sometimes play several plays of the game during their lunch hour.

7. Pictionary

Granted, I don't have the current version as I own the classic version from about 20+ years ago. I play it with the kids now. You dont have to be an artist to enjoy this game. Pictionary is sort of like charades with pencil and paper. Older kids, teenagers, adults -- everyone can play, and up to a fairly large group of people, too, because you play in teams. Its basically like the old TV show "Win, Lose or Draw?" The main point is to draw a simple picture within the time limit and have your team members guess what the picture is. It's pretty simple. Remember that you're not going to win for drawing the best picture. The "all team draw" comes up pretty regularly. That helps keep interest in the game. I think this game would be fun to do on white boards.

8. Dominoes

OK, so I dont have the particular version pictured, but I do have a double 12 set and I have played the Mexican Train game with our set and it is a blast. When my kids were younger they used to play dominoes and learn to count and match patterns. There are endless games that can be played with a good domino set. My husband and I used to play dominoes with his grandmother with a classic set. Dominoes is a classic game and it has many variations.

9. Rivers, Roads & Rails by Ravensburger

This game is for 1-8 players, Ages 5-adult. I'm not sure I've played the EXACT game in the rules, but my kids still like to play this game. I bought when my son, the train-lover, was young. By connecting illustrated tiles, players build roads, railroads, and waterways. Each player must try to add a tile that matches any one of the ebranching ends of the expanding network of rivers, roads and rails that emerge or discontinue during play. What I like is you can play competitively or play cooperatively. Since my kids were young, we played cooperatively since they hated to lose. Besides, building the roads and rails was like building a puzzle. This was more fun than dominoes for younger kids. Older players can challenge themselves to connect all the pieces in the most compact shape possible -- or try to block the other players! I have to be honest -- I usually love Ravensburger games. This early learning game prompts matching, visual discrimination, observation, sequencing, and making associations.

10. Scotland Yard (Ravensburger)

I haven't actually played this game yet. But my children and their friends have and they have enjoyed playing it. I couldn't stop hearing about Mr. X! Scotland Yard is a game that requires all players to think and communicate with each other while trying to capture one player, who has been selected to be Mr. X. The others players playas Scotland Yard detectives who search for Mr. X throughout London. If Mister X makes 24 moves without being caught he or she wins. Detectives move independently but cooperate to track down Mister X

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

2009 401K contribution limits

IRS announced last week the 401K plan contribution limits for 2009. However, investing doesn't seem too attractive in today's current economic climate. If your 401K plan has interesting options to choose from, then now can be a good time to purchase some funds at some low prices.

2009 401 K contribution limits are as follows:

2009 401k Contribution Limit: $16,500
2009 Catch-Up Contribution Limit (if you are age 50 years old and older): $5,500

You are also subject to the limits imposed by your company’s 401k plan. Matching contributions, if any, provided by your employer do NOT effect these limits. Check with your employer to see if they have any contribution limits.

You can find 2008 Contribution Limits here.

There is talk in Congressional committees about removing the tax benefits of 401(k)'s. So, take advantage of the tax benefits while you can -- especially if you have employer matching.

You can find the text of the IRS release and other Pension Plan limitations on the IRS Website. It lists contribution and income limitations for IRA's, SEP's and other such technical plans.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Authors and Dreams

I spent an enjoyable day at the Duarte Festival of Authors (put on to benefit the Friends of the Duarte Library). I brought my teen-aged son -- an avid reader. It was a wonderful event put on by a small town. Of course, living in Southern California, sometimes, we are fortunate to have access to local celebrities.

The authors we listened to were D.J. MacHale, Ray Bradbury, and Stephen J. Cannell. The authors didn't succeed immediately in their life. They all had various struggles along their path. Ray Bradbury (see photo) was such a treat to hear him tell his story of struggle and success: "Jump off the cliff and build your wings on the way down." Don't hesitate at the top. Just jump off. You'll build them on the way down. I blogged about him previously.

Stephen J. Cannell struggled with dyslexia (he wasnt diagnosed until he was 35 and he had one of his children diagnosed). He was working for his father during the day, but would go home each night and write for 5 hours. "If you're willing to assign a high priority to what you want to achieve, you can't help but succeed." This dedication and persistence paid off.

D.J. MacHale (Pendragon Series) started out in film before writing. I think he inspired my son who loves producing movies. He said the most often heard word for aspiring authors is "No."

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

iPhone crash Re-set

I have one of the first round of iPhones. It crashes more than others I've seen. The iPhone is stable, but it still occasionally crashes. These tips may come in handy if you have similar issues:

To force a program to quit: Press and hold the Home button for six seconds to force-quit a program that seems to be "stuck."

To activate a hard reset of the iPhone: Press and hold both the Home button and the Sleep/Wake switch for eight to ten seconds. You’ll see the screen go black, and then the Apple logo appears as the iPhone reboots. Sometimes, I've just had to re-install the software.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Earthlink DSL Sucks -- Again!

Previously, I wrote about my awful experience with Earthlink. So, we didnt cancel our Earthlink account because I didnt want to pay the early cancellation penalty and we didnt have any more problems. Until on a recent Saturday night all of a sudden, the DSL went down at 9pm. This time it only took 36 hours for them to fix. First of all they told us it was a "maintenance" issue. Oh -oh, I've heard this before (last time it was the same problem -- an upgrade of some sort). They would do nothing further for us but told us to check back in the morning. OK, first thing we check in the morning -- no internet. We call in again and we try to get a trouble ticket (this is different from a case number. Case numbers are useless and Earthlink does not track these -- YOU MUST INSIST ON GETTING A TROUBLE TICKET!). They cannot issue one and want us to call back. NO WAY! I've heard this before. So, my husband waits on the phone for 2 hours to speak to some senior tech who can FINALLY enter a trouble ticket. They do all sorts of tests, and no luck. But, this guy could issue a trouble ticket. He said someone would call us back in 4 hours. Nobody calls, so in 8 hours, we call back and they still dont know what is wrong (at least we can go through the customer service process faster because we DO have a trouble ticket). We find out they will have to get someone Monday to fix it. Luckily, Monday morning, it is fixed. But of course this wreaks havoc on kids trying to do research for homework (even my little one has to do research on current events).

This time, we have ordered another service -- Verizon. BUT, it has already taken to weeks for them to set a connection date -- with no guarantee they can provide DSL service. What a pain and a monopoly these DSL providers have.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Free Online MIT Course Materials

I've been thinking about the cost of education recently. I've read how the increase in the price of a college education is exceeding the rate of inflation. This is scary with the thoughts of 2 kids to put through college and with today's poor stock market performance.

I know several schools offer online learning for free. I was browsing and came across MIT's Free Online Course Materials. In 2000, MIT decided to put all of the course materials offered by MIT online, and offer them free of charge to everyone. The courseware of 1800 courses includes syllabi, lecture notes, assignments, and exams. MIT's online courseware also includes 1,000 hours of classroom instruction on video. The program does not offer degrees, nor access to professors.

According to MIT's website:"Each course we publish requires an investment of $10,000 to $15,000 to compile course materials from faculty, ensure proper licensing for open sharing, and format materials for global distribution. Courses with video content cost about twice as much, but your feedback about the significant value of these video materials helps to justify the cost."

I was amazed at the variety of disciplines available via the courseware. I notice they have some of the famous MIT Physics Professor Walter Lewin's courses. He rehearses his lectures (40 hours per lecture). That is amazing. He must have assistants to help him accomplish such fantastic demonstrations. Who wouldn't love to learn from a professor as dedicated as Professor Lewin? Unfortunately a MIT student would need to have a stellar academic record, fantastic college admission scores, and pay tuition of nearly $50,000 per year to get into MIT. Instead an earnest learner could visit MIT’s Open Courseware site and pull up Professor Lewin’s syllabus, lecture notes, assignments, exams, and videos of class lectures, all online, and all for free. An affordable price to pay to learn from extraordinary professors. Here's an interview with Lewin:

Monday, September 08, 2008

Books and Libraries

I went to the Huntington a few months ago and read this quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson.
Tis the good reader that makes the good book; in every book he finds passages which seem confidences or asides hidden from all else and unmistakably meant for his ear; the profit of books is according to the sensibility of the reader; the profoundest thought or passion sleeps as in a mine, until it is discovered by an equal mind and heart.

I kept thinking about this quote. I realized how true it is. You get out of a book what you are willing to put into it. Because reading is one of my loves, my passions, I typically get a lot out of books. But I've not read many books lately. I read online, but I'm not reading books. I feel a part of me is missing -- or a good friend is missing.

I was reminded of this quote again when I heard about the fight for Long Beach, California's main library. City officials, facing a general fund deficit of $17 million, had been looking to close the library as a means of saving $4 million a year. Somebody trying to save the library got smart and managed to light a fire and managed to get author Ray Bradbury to speak. Man, I wish I had been there to hear him.

"Without libraries, we have no true education," Ray Bradbury told people at Long Beach's main library on Saturday. (Friday the budget oversight committee recommended instead that the library be closed only on Sundays and Mondays -- maybe they made this decision after the public uproar?)

Bradbury reminded his listeners of how he wrote the first draft of Farenheit 451 on a typewriter that rented for 10 cents a half hour in the basement of a library at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). The novel, published in 1951, depicts a future in which books are burned to keep people in ignorance.

Bradbury grew up in a poor family and I have read that he did not have the opportunity to to pursue a formal college education. But he spent four days a week after graduating from high school at the public library, perusing the shelves, reading everything of interest to him, and exploring his own charted higher education. A motivated individual in my mind. What would he have done without a library? What would our society be like without the books?

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Online savings accounts

I have found that online banks offer higher interest rates for short-term savings compared to brick and mortar banks. My local bank offers a paltry .25%. ING gives me 3% without having to buy a CD (Certificate of Deposit) or without requiring a minimum deposit. I dont have to tie up my money for any lengthy period of time. However, it may take a week for my funds to be withdrawn. But, I usually plan ahead for that, so it is not too great of an inconvenience.

The online banks are offering higher interest rates because finally someone wants to compete for your money. Online banks also theoretically have lest overhead because they dont mail statements (reduction of paper).

I read recently that, offers a 3.75% interest rate on minimum deposits of $1,000. HSBC Direct currently offers 3.5%. HSBC Direct account also does not require a minimum deposit. These banks are FDIC insured.

Compare that to typical CD rates:

Saturday, August 23, 2008

JibJab political satire

JibJab has done it again with another entertaining political video.

Check it out.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Quicken (Intuit) Jingle Generator

Have you tried Quicken's Jingle Generator?

They must have been having a slow summer over at Intuit.

Intuit created an interactive jingle creator. Go online, enter your business name and a few other bits of information, choose one of 20 small business types (accounting, retail, tech, blogging) and a jingle is created for your business.

The jingle generator is hosted by “legendary music producer Tommy Silk.” Or not so famous because he is of course, fictitious.

The site is good for a good few laughs.
Here's the jingle I created just for fun.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Pickens Plan

Gas prices getting to you? I will enjoy watching T. Boone Pickens, the billionaire hedge fund manager and independent oilman try to facilitate changing America's energy plan. In a brief video, Pickens summarizes his energy plan. While it faces some tough hurdles, it certainly sounds more promising than anything Congress has come up with recently. He is also having town meetings in various areas of the country.

Click the image and review Pickens' idea to help free the United States from its increasingly burdensome reliance on imported oil, an expense he puts at a staggering $700 billion annually.

Will his movement have the same impetus as Al Gore's and global warning. I dont know, but we certainly do need to decrease our dependence on foreign oil. It will take a lot of work and money to change, but energy policy needs to change. Pickens certainly does have a good marketing team working to help promote his ideas.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Cliques -- good or bad?

Cliques or informal groups are found in every organization -- not just in school. Cliques are prevalent in the workplace. People who have similar interests will stick together regardless of any formal organization. People who form cliques or informal groups are often not even aware that they are members of such a group. They are just accustomed to hanging out together or IM'ing alot, or other such behaviors. People drift in and out of the informal group.

People who like to talk about movies will hang out together while company "old-timers" will lunch together and work together out of habit. This appears harmless, but to the "outsiders," these groups may be viewed with suspicion, fear, or even envy. For example, "old-timers" may "know the ropes" concerning company procedures, so may seem to get more privileges than others. Others who try to link up with this group may be accepted or rejected after being observed by that particular "in" crowd.

As a employee (whether or not you are a supervisor), you might as well accept the existence of informal groups. Mature people recognize that there is much to be gained by an expanded network of people. Extend yourself to others, especially to others who may also feel left out. Say hello to everyone, and don’t worry about who says something back. Try to sincerely connect with everyone, including those in the clique. Look for ways to include yourself. Ask questions and gain knowledge about the interests of the informal groups. So, when the time is right for you to influence change, you can sell the cliques on YOUR direction or agenda, rather than attacking or ignoring them.

Are you new to an organization, trying to fit in or break into cliques? Perhaps you might wish to read this posting. If you wish to read about junior high (middle school) cliques, my reflections are here, or about cliques and groupthink, read here.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

One Ending, New Beginnings

Friday was my last day of work. I was given 2 months notice and I thought towards the end that the day would never come. The last 7.5 years in a start-up definitely was a roller coaster ride.

My life changed dramatically through my experience, due to the people I met (employees, investors, customers, other entrepreneurs and vendors), the things I did (help create business plans, structure deals, recruit, prepare contracts) and the lessons I learned.

I just read a post by Roger Ehrenberg about the ending of Monitor110 that is very intriguing. The author tried to summarize the main points of his experience:
The Seven Deadly Sins

While we certainly made more than seven mistakes during the nearly four-year life of Monitor110, I think these top the list.

The lack of a single, "the buck stops here" leader until too late in the game
No separation between the technology organization and the product organization
Too much PR, too early
Too much money
Not close enough to the customer
Slow to adapt to market reality
Disagreement on strategy both within the Company and with the Board

I really appreciate the author's blog. It helped me bring closure to my experience and makes me think so much about my past few years.

I'm going to create something else, start my own company (probably without investors). I'm still in the planning stages, but who knows what I'll end up creating.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Scientific Advertising circa 1923

David Szetela and Clix Marketing have a blog from early January that has a download link for a public domain book called Scientific Advertising by Claude C. Hopkins. The book was first published in 1923--long before online advertising.

Hopkins's book is short by todays standards (57 pages) but it's filled with classic advice about topics such as salesmanship, headlines, samples, pricing, content, ad copy and much more. His thoughts apply to online marketing and sales and is well worth your reading it. I've not finished reading it yet, but the last paragraph of Chapter 3 is worth pondering:

People can be coaxed but not driven. Whatever they do they do to please themselves.
Many fewer mistakes would be made in advertising if these facts were never forgotten.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

2008 401K Contribution Limits

OK, since I have such a VAST amount of readers (you know who I am), you will forgive me for writing a note to myself. I keep forgetting the IRS limits for 401K contributions. So, I thought I would write a note for myself and others. For 2008, the maximum amounts you can contribute to your 401(k) plan, as set by the IRS is shown below:

2008 401k Contribution Limit: $15,500
2008 Catch-Up Contribution Limit (if you are over 50 years old): $5,000

These are the IRS limits, but you are also subject to the limits imposed by your company’s 401k plan. Matching contributions, if any, provided by your employer do NOT effect these limits. Check with your employer to see if they have any contribution limits.

Now, I wonder how many start-up companies offer 401 (k) programs. They are incentives that are valuable to some, but not necessarily all. I wonder how rare it is to provide any matching funds, and if data is kept on these sort of statistics.

You can find 2009 401k contribution limits here.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer

Where are the lazy days? I don't seem to have as much time to write in here in the summer. I'm running up and down the road during my lunch hours picking up my kids from summer camp and bringing them home. Then I rush back to work for the rest of the afternoon. I come home take my son to either soccer camp or boy scout camp, come home fix dinner. Before I know it, its after 8 pm. Meanwhile, I just want to lounge around the pool, bask in the sun and relax. But part of me wants to get into a project I am working on for after I terminate my employment in a few weeks.

Some of my current co-workers are "busy" taking vacations at periodic points during the summer. I know that a lot of New Yorkers go to the Hamptons during the summer and it is often impossible to make contact with them on Fridays (unless you have "personal" relationships with them and can call them on their cell phones.

What are your customers doing? Can you make deals during the summer, or are too many people away from their offices to get final approvals? I've been wondering how much business gets done before September. What sort of CRM program or analysis tracks when people take vacations and the optimum time to make a sale?

Monday, June 16, 2008

Social CRM

I just read a great blog blog by Brent Leary of CRM Essentials about Social CRM.

He indicates that traditionally CRM is usually broken into three main components:

• marketing automation,
• sales automation, and
• customer service.

Traditionally, most organizations utilizing "CRM" focus on elements such as contact management, opportunity management and activity management. Many of the CRM applications such as Sugar CRM and Salesforce (or even a simple database), concentrate on meeting the challenges that are inherent with these areas. These tools help businesses be more responsive to customer inquiries, close more deals (more efficiently), and more accurately predict when opportunities might result in cash.

But the modern small business is turning to the web and social networking sites (such as Facebook, Linked-in, or Twitter, to improve their reach to potential and existing customers. Knowing more about the customer increases the knowledge of how to reach out to customers. Before blogging became so popular and before the days of Facebook, I used to scour press releases, websites, and articles relating to potential customers in order to figure out how to reach out to the customers. Social networking sites can be such a valuable tool.
"Social CRM adds a whole new dimension to the traditional view of customer relationship management. The focus is undoubtedly on people and not technology. It’s about joining the ongoing conversations our customers and prospects are already engaged in — not trying to control them. It’s about using any tool available that will allow us to meaningfully engage with more people like them. It’s realizing people like doing business with people they like — and understanding we love doing business with people we trust."
So many sales managers think of CRM as a technology that IT implements and then the business miraculously has better customer relationships and increased profits. Businesses should be customer focused with their CRM strategy that is SUPPORTED by technology. Look at what the customer wants. The more a business knows about their customers, the larger the competitive advantage. Accessing social networks may provide a way to speak to customers in a way that is more relevant.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Father's Day

As I reminisce about Father's Day, I think of my own father who died over 20 years ago. I always think about how I didnt really know him as an adult. I think how my husband is with my own kids and about my own parenting. As I was thinking about this, I couldn't help but have the words of Harry Chapin's "Cat's in the Cradle" come to my mind. Cat's in the Cradle" reached the top of the Billboard music charts in December 1974. It sold millions of copies and earned Harry Chapin a Grammy nomination.

The song's lyric have been fodder for discussion for years. Even my own kids have commented on the words when they've heard the story -- or when they are missing their father when he is on a business trip.

The song tells the story of a father who is too busy to spend time with his son. The son repeatedly asks the father to join in activities and the father always responds with a vague promises of "soon." While the son grows up loving and admiring his father, he picks up his father's habit of putting his own family on the back burner. "My boy was just like me..."

Harry's wife, Sandy, had a hand in writing the words. Its a great read here. The story ends with this quote:

The whole point of the story is that we learn our lessons in life by making mistakes, by trial and error, by experience," she said, adding, "It would be great if we could learn about the future ahead of time, but we have to learn the hard way. It's like the old saying--too old too soon, too wise too late."

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Flag Day

Do you know that June 14th is Flag Day -- a day to commemorate the stars and stripes? This date has slowly disappeared in significance.

On June 14, 1777, the Continental Congress approved the design of a national flag.

In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson issued a proclamation establishing a national Flag Day on June 14. Before 1916, many towns and a few states had been celebrating the day. Congressional legislation designating that date as the national Flag Day was signed into law by President Harry Truman in 1949. The legislation also called upon the president to issue a flag day proclamation every year.

Per the Library of Congress: "According to legend, in 1776, George Washington commissioned Philadelphia seamstress Betsy Ross to create a flag for the new nation. Scholars debate this legend, but agree that Mrs. Ross most likely knew Washington and sewed flags. To date, there have been twenty-seven official versions of the flag, but the arrangement of the stars varied according to the flag-makers' preferences until 1912 when President Taft standardized the then-new flag's forty-eight stars into six rows of eight. The forty-nine-star flag (1959-60), as well as the fifty-star flag, also have standardized star patterns. The current version of the flag dates to July 4, 1960, after Hawaii became the fiftieth state on August 21, 1959."

Here's a song sung by Bill Murray to make you smile. This song is popularly known as "You're a grand old flag," but was originally called "You're a grand old rag" when George M. Cohan created his musical, "George Washington, Jr."

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Here Comes the Judge?

According to Wired Magazine, Sandra Day O'Connor is becoming a Game Designer. She is spearheading the development of a game called Our Courts, which she described as an
"online, interactive civic education project for seventh- and eighth-graders" that familiarizes students with the legal system. O'Connor believes that America's youth aren't learning enough about civics, and thinks that the educational power of videogames is just the thing to change that.
Our Courts is a digital game that will be available September 2009 that lets students engage in real issues and real problems, allowing them to step into the shoes of a judge, a legislator, an executive -- teach them how to "think through and analyze problems, take action and voice opinions to their elected representatives."

This should be interesting. Teens are very hooked into computer games and its great to see ones where they can actually learn something at the same time as having fun.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Walk the Talk

I just read a very interesting blog that elaborates on some of my ideas on informal communication.

What Goman says is that
"if the individuals in an organization don’t agree with the stated rational, if they haven’t been involved in developing the strategic plan, and if they don’t trust the messages they hear from leadership, there will be no successful change."
What people see is more powerful than what is said.
". . . nothing is more depressing than watching corporate communicators struggle to convince an audience with words that run contrary to organizational symbols and leadership behaviors. If an organization is filled with signs of executive privilege (corporate dining room, over-the-top executive compensation, reserved parking spaces, etc.) and the change message is: “We’re all in this together!” — that message will be derailed by the far more convincing corporate symbols. Likewise, if the stated message is “Let’s all collaborate!” and employees sense that senior leadership does not work well together, the collaboration message hasn’t a chance."
Companies need to be mindful of informal communications when trying to create change. Informal communication is often more powerful than formal communication. Employees need and want speeches from senior leaders and official communications in newsletters or internal company blogs. Formal communication delivers messages the company WANTS to deliver, WHEN management feels is right. In contrast, informal communications, such as the grapevines delivers the messages (whether correct or incorrect) when the Employee is ready to hear the message. If the grapevine controls the communications, it is not always delivered in the well-rehearsed or planned scope that management may desire. Employees may pay attention to what ISN'T being said. In the absence of communications, employees will try to explain things in their own way.

Managers will do well to remember this quote from the blog:
If leaders at any level of an organization want to be perceived as credible and forthright, they have to think “outside the speech.” That’s where they’ll recognize the importance of what isn’t being said, but is being communicated.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

The New Woman on the Block -- Or How to Fit In

As graduates are flooding the market and I am also training a new employee at work, I am reminded of Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz.

Dorothy had to learn how to follow the yellow brick road before she could get help from the wizard and learn how to return home to Kansas. She had to learn that things were different in the land of Oz and had to learn some accepted behaviors as well as learn about the value of friends and what friends could do for her. Before she was accepted by the Munchkins, as well as the people of Oz, she had to prove herself. She had to learn the proper way to travel down her yellow brick road before she could reach Oz. She also had to determine the use of her magic slippers, a tool she already possessed before she could reach her goal of returning to Kansas.

The Land of Oz was a new world for Dorothy. She was accustomed to Kansas where she fit in and where she was familiar with her surroundings. Beginning with Munchkin land, all along the road to Oz, Dorothy was continuously learning new things about her environment. By the time she left to return to Kansas, she had made friends and felt comfortable in Oz.

When students graduate from college and take that big first job (or anyone switching to new jobs), the new company can be like Oz. Like Dorothy when employees first enter the organization, new employees need to learn how to fit into a new environment. They may possess necessary skills to accomplish tasks and learn to fit in, but nobody is going to tell them unless they ask.

Like Dorothy, any new employee needs to learn what behavior is acceptable and decide whether to conform totally, conform somewhat, or rebel. New employees should determine for themselves what behavior is acceptable and how to fit into the organizational scheme. Employees will possess many motives behind their behavioral decisions. Some of their motives are based on their backgrounds, needs and aspirations, attitudes, characteristics and a host of other factors.

As employees join new organizations, they undergo a socialization process. Socialization is the process by which individuals learn and acquire the habits, beliefs, values, norms, and accumulated knowledge of the culture around them. This is a dynamic learning process in which individuals interacting in a specific culture or organization can be active participants. Some of the individual or personal factors which influence the socialization process may be psychological, motivational, or ability related. Pulling on the organizational side are structural or systemic factors (ie., interdependence of subsystems, hierarchical positions, organizational policies) as well as social factors (ie., group acceptance, organizational culture and social relationships). These various factors intermix and become instrumental in the socialization of new organizational members.

Socialization and learning to fit in to groups is critical for new employees because the way their careers are managed by organizations influence the quality of their life. Also as the success of companies become increasingly dependent on the commitment of members rather than on traditional control systems, this learning process becomes increasingly critical to companies. The stability and productivity of companies depends a lot on the way newcomers to positions come to carry out their tasks. The socialization or learning process has impact for the newcomer as well as for the organization.

If socialization is optimally performed, new employees will not become too conforming and maintain creativity. New employees can be valuable contributors through informal as well as formal means. Read the office policy manual. Listen to the grapevine. Go to lunch with other employees and listen, listen, listen. Ask questions. Get to know management. Who are the winners and who are the goats in the organization? Why? Where is the company succeeding? Where are they struggling? Where is the opportunity to shine and help out?

Formal (do start-ups have time for new employee orientation?) and informal socialization process are important in bringing new employees along the yellow brick road and to the land of Oz--a new world. Like Dorothy, new employees may possess their magic slippers, but they need to learn how to use these slippers in the specific environment.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Memorial Day

Originally, Memorial Day was declared a day to honor war veterans who bravely fought in the Civil War. After World War I, the day was expanded to honor those who have died in all American wars. In 1971, Congress declared Memorial Day a national holiday. The holiday was also placed on the last Monday in May, as were most other federal holidays.

The observance of Memorial Day likely had many origins. Many towns planned or had spontaneous gatherings of people to honor the war dead in the 1860's. Stories exist of different localities in the US creating a "Day of Remembrance" and honoring veterans. There is one story of a springtime tribute that first occurred in Columbus, Miss., on April 25, 1866. "A group of women visited a cemetery to decorate the graves of Confederate soldiers who had fallen in battle at Shiloh. Nearby were the graves of Union soldiers, neglected because they were the enemy. Disturbed at the sight of the bare graves, the women placed some of their flowers on those graves, as well." [US Department of Veteran Affairs]

Memorial Day is not about the division of the North and the South; it is not about being for or against a particular war. Memorial Day is about reconciliation and honoring those who died serving our country.

Traditional observances of Memorial day have diminished over the years. Many Americans have forgotten the meaning and traditions of Memorial Day. The graves of the fallen are often ignored or neglected. Some people think the day is for honoring any and all dead, and not just those fallen in service to our country.

As Memorial Day 2008 approaches, let us remember all those brave soldiers who have given their all for our country.

Thanks to the US Army Band for this moment of reflection.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Microsoft Yahoo -- the saga continues

"Microsoft is considering and has raised with Yahoo an alternative that would involve a transaction with Yahoo but not an acquisition of all of Yahoo," the statement said. "Microsoft is not proposing to make a new bid to acquire all of Yahoo at this time, but reserves the right to reconsider that alternative depending on future developments and discussions that may take place with Yahoo or discussions with shareholders of Yahoo or Microsoft or with other third parties."

As an interested observer, I bet Yahoo is trying to appease Carl Icahn and other shareholders.....It sure is interesting to watch.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Music History

I've been thinking lately about the history of music and how history in general is reflected in our music. According to Wikipedia"

"A culture's music is influenced by all other aspects of that culture, including social and economic organization and experience, climate, and access to technology. The emotions and ideas that music expresses, the situations in which music is played and listened to, and the attitudes toward music players and composers all vary between regions and periods. "Music history" is the distinct subfield of musicology and history which studies music (particularly western art music) from a chronological perspective."

I was thinking of my visit a few years ago to The Experience Music Project in Seattle. So much of our culture and history has been shared in music: Jazz and the blues, war time patriotic songs (or war-time protest songs), etc. "Where have all the flowers gone?" or "Born in the USA." When we look back at popular songs, what does that tell us about history?

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Yahoo in the news again

I knew the Yahoo saga wasn't over yet.

In a letter to Yahoo Chairman Roy Bostock, billionaire investor Carl Icahn said he had snapped up 59 million Yahoo shares, worth about $1.5 billion, and was seeking permission from the Securities and Exchange Commission to amass up to $2.5 billion worth of shares. His holdings constitute about 4.3% of the Sunnyvale, Calif., company's stock.

According to the LA Times he wrote:

"It is unconscionable that you have not allowed your shareholders to choose to accept an offer that represented a 72% premium over Yahoo's closing price of $19.18 on the day before the initial Microsoft offer," Icahn wrote. "I and many of your shareholders strongly believe that a combination between Yahoo and Microsoft would form a dynamic company and more importantly would be a force strong enough to compete with Google on the Internet."

The song and dance will be interesting to watch.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Mothers Day

Did you know there was a Working Mother's Day? September 5, 1982. I wasnt a working mother then, so I did not even know the day existed. Does anybody celebrate it now?

Since today is the traditional Mother's Day, I salute all Mothers -- whether they work outside the home or inside the home. They all have a tough load.

Proclamation 4957
by Ronald Reagan
Delivered on 4 August 1982.

By the President of the United States of America
A Proclamation

Over the past half century a great change has been taking place in the social and economic structure of the United States: mothers are joining the labor force in ever-increasing numbers. At the present time, over half of all the children in America have mothers who work outside the home.

Over forty-three million women are now employed in every area of public and private employment and are continuing to develop new opportunities. They have made, and continue to make, increasingly important contributions to the Nation.

Of these forty-three million working women, over eighteen million simultaneously perform the vitally important role of mother.

These women make substantial contributions both to the Nation's economic growth and to the increasing strength of the American family, often at great personal sacrifice. They deserve our recognition and gratitude.

Most other mothers are working full time in the home. Their work is no less important. The guidance they give their children and the maintenance of a strong and cohesive family unit also contribute to the Nation's economic growth.

By Senate Joint Resolution 53, the Congress of the United States has authorized and requested the President to designate September 5, 1982, as "Working Mothers' Day."

Now, Therefore, I, Ronald Reagan, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim September 5, 1982, as "Working Mothers' Day" and call upon families, individual citizens, labor and civic organizations, the media, and the business community to acknowledge the importance of the mothers who work inside or outside the home and to express appreciation for their role in American society.

In Witness Whereof, I have hereunto set my hand this 4th day of Aug, in the year of our Lord nineteen hundred and eightytwo, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and seventh.


[Filed with the Office of the Federal Register, 10:50 a.m., August 5, 1982]

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Rumormongering, Grapevine, Modern journalism and blogging

As I experiment with this blog, I am often reminded of papers I wrote in graduate school (too many years ago). I once wrote an in-depth research paper on the Grapevine. Now, blogging did not exist back then, and the internet was in its infancy. I would love to have done some of my research based on today's rumor and grapevine mechanisms -- Twitter, facebook, texting, IM, etc.

I currently know someone who works in a small start-up, where one would think there would not be too many communication issues. But, time and time again, the company hires remote employees, and formal and informal communications don't occur at frequent intervals. In the early stages, they sometimes developed patterns of only speaking via IM, even if the person was only a few offices away (or MILES away). Currently, they have many changes going on in the company and changes in product focus again. Yet, still people are seeking direction (uh, there are other issues here, but that is not the focus of this blog). Much of the communication is informal and often based on second-hand reporting or the grapevine.

Grapevines can provide a number of valuable services in the workplace. For management, they can provide feedback about almost anything going on. Roman empires used to send rumor wardens, called "delatores," out into the street to collect scuttlebutt because it was useful. For employees, the grapevine translates formal company orders into their own lingo, spreads information about job performance and employment opportunities and makes the workplace more close-knit and cohesive. In addition, it is a great source of entertainment, conferring special status on those who pick up on the juiciest nuggets.

To some extent, productivity in organizations depends on spontaneous cooperation and coordination through informal contacts and relationships. Also, the "informal" organization can make less tangible, but equally valuable contributions. Properly guided, it can help build teamwork, loyalty, and motivation that makes individuals desire to do their best. Have you had group Skype "chat" sessions?

Some managers use the grapevine as a tactical maneuver (a common device in collective bargaining). The grapevine is also a primary source of upward communication, especially information about what people are doing and how they feel toward certain situations. The grapevine brings both facts and feelings, rumor and truth, and it is the managers task to sort and interpret them. The grapevine is a useful emotional safety valve. When individuals get irked at their boss, they are NOT likely to tell him or her -- but they do need to tell someone in order to the the problem off their minds. They best not write it down in e-mails, but many will "text" it to others, or leave mood messages in their IM tools.

Grapevines and rumors thrive during periods of uncertainty and when formal communication is missing. Upper management has not announced my pending departure (nor the reasons), yet most people seem to know I am leaving and I am left to "explain" the "unexplainable nonsense." This is an example of how the absence of clear communication from management can leave employees with the need to explain the reasons themselves...

Managers can use these informal systems to their advantage if used correctly. I know a president of a company who developed informants in lower echelons. He knew he sometimes needed to ignore the lines on an organizational chart to develop relations and to help him view the organization as a whole. He also used these relationships to communicate "downward" informally. Although no executive can totally control the grapevine, he or she needs to think about how employees use the grapevine to fill information voids.

UPDATE: You might also want to read this later post of mine here.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Document Edits and Business Plans

One VC I know had a very funny post yesterday regarding Business Plans and editing. The Business Plan submitter didnt strip out the edits and comments. Its worth a read for a good laugh. My favorite part was the following:

"I'd delete this section since we don't have these features on the roadmap and haven't figured out how to code this unless you believe the investors won't catch this."

I've forgotten once myself to strip edits in a legal document. I only forgot once before I learned to always create PDF's for important documents.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Warner Music to Charge Variable Prices

I was reading one of Wired Magazine's Blog today. Warner is going to start a test that will alter the price of songs on some online music stores to reflect supply and demand. Sales data will be gathered real-time and set prices where consumer demand and market potential meet.

I know labels are tired of playing Steve Job's 99 cent pricing structure game and will try anything to try to squeeze money out of a dying market. Personally, if I know prices could go down, I am enough of a cheapskate that I'll try to guess when the price will be lowest. It will be interesting to see the results. Other companies have failed. How many people will wait to buy the music -- or just file share?

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Amazon Kindle and Digital Books

I logged in to Amazon today and the announcement on the main page is that Kindles have been tough to keep in stock. I know that people are not reading physical books as much any more. I myself have been reading more digital documents and articles, but less physical books. I signed up for some free e-books to be delivered via e-mail to read on my iphone, but I still didnt have time to read them. Digital books seem more appealing as we culturally switch to a digital age full of ipods, blackberries, and other digital PDA's.

Microsoft and Yahoo

Where will Yahoo's stock end up Monday now that Microsoft has dropped its bid for Yahoo? This poll came from Fred Wilson, A VC. If the deal had gone through, I can just imagine the culture clash.

Friday, April 25, 2008


My youngest has been away at a school camp for 3 days. The house was quiet without her. I should have taken advantage of the time and spent some time with my son. He was busy doing homework, which made the house even more quiet. I've never had so much uninterrupted time in the evenings. I did have some good dinner-time conversation with him since my husband was always home later for dinner.

My older son and my husband are going away to a scout camp-out this weekend. The house calls me to clean it and I need to go grocery shopping. But I think I'll be sure and spend time with my daughter. Time is passing by quickly and they are maturing so quickly.

Where have the past 7 years gone as I was buried working in a start-up, basically ignoring other parts of my life -- my family (both immediate and extended) and friends? I am motivated to change my life as I ease out of my current role in the company. I was a workaholic. I'm not sure however that I could still want to do a job at a "regular" company. There is something exciting about working with talented people in a fast-paced environment.

Sunday, March 30, 2008


I spent the past week partially working and partially spending some much needed time with my children. We went on some lovely excursions, checking out Southern California in a simple yet adventurous manner. Thanks to a co-worker, we discovered Letterboxing. We went on several adventures hunting for hidden boxes and checking out old favorite parks as well as tried and true parks (Like the Huntington in San Marino). We went hiking in hills I've never even noticed. This was charming and great exercise. We didn't always find the boxes, but the hunt was still fun for the kids. We even played frisbee golf at one park. We got use out of those disks we bought on Mt. Bachelor several years ago that we had been storing. It was a great way to entertain the kids on a shoestring budget. We packed picnic lunches and lots of water and sunscreen. All we spent was money on gas.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Earthlink DSL Sucks

I swear I wasn't going to do this. But I have to. I'm going to rant. EARTHLINK DSL SERVICE IS THE WORST! We've been 20 days without internet connection at my house. The DSL went down and Earthlink can't fix it for some strange reason. First its Covad's problem. Then its Verizon's problem. We've waited for service people over and over. Nobody takes the blame. Each day they tell us to check back in 4 hours or 24 hours or 48 hours. Meanwhile, we've ordered service from another service provider. They'll take 2-3 weeks to set up. So, no hope of internet at home until April. And can you believe it? Earthlink wont let us out of the contract without an early cancellation penalty. Talk about terrible customer service. (Never mind that I depend on the internet to do so much these days -- work from home, help kids with homework, etc). The DSL/internet providers have a monopoly going on. We switched only 4 months ago from Verizon DSL because Verizon couldn't offer as fast of service. Well, at least Verizon was consistently slow, instead of consistently dead.

NOTE: I found a great website with similar feelings:

UPDATE: Read about my latest experience here.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Perpetual In-Basket

Have you relaxed today?

During the beginning of my week-long jury duty (interesting medical malpractice case), I was panicked about all the work I needed to get done at work. I started reading Don't Sweat the Small Stuff--and it's all small stuff (Don't Sweat the Small Stuff Series) by Richard Carlson. Do you know someone who stays up late, gets up early, avoids having fun, and keeps their loved ones waiting? Waiting to have fun, waiting for help, waiting for whatever? As items are checked off on the never-ending list, new ones simply replace them.

Your in-basket is meant to have items to be completed in it -- its not meant to be empty. There will always be To-Do's , phone calls, etc. that need to be done. Carlson notes that nothing is more important "than your own sense of happiness and inner peace and that of your loved ones. If you're obsessed with getting everything done, you'll never have a sense of well-being."

The purpose of life is to enjoy each step along the path. We need to enjoy the journey. "Remember, when you die, there will still be unfinished business to take care of....Someone else will do it for you!"

Tuesday, February 12, 2008


"If you can dream it, you can do it.
Always remember this whole thing was started by a mouse."
Walt Disney

"Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it.
Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it."

"You gotta have a dream. If you don't have a dream, how you gonna make a dream come true? (South Pacific)"

That last one I used to sing as a kid. I do remember the song more than the movie. OK, maybe I'm showing my age. I've been thinking about lately about dreams, goals, ideals, courage, and reality.

Success can be measured by actions and NOT by what you say you will do. When do you expect to achieve your goals? Today is the day to take responsibility and begin actions to reach your goals and dreams, because tomorrow is only a possibility and still a dream.

Sunday, February 03, 2008


Another great post by Guy Kawasaki. His post is entitled, "Everything you should know about me as an entrepreneur you could learn from my OB/GYN." He got an e-mail pitch from an entrepreneur. You should go read it. After living with a start-up the last 7 years and having my kids grow up taller than me now, I can appreciate the entrepreneur's comment. I just wished I was a few years younger now to start my next venture experience.

My favorite line is the end, "Children are the ultimate startup. And when they leave for college, it’s their IPO. And when they get married, it’s an M & A deal. And like most startups, these milestones usually take longer and cost more than you predicted. Parental success rates, however, are much better than even the best (seed-stage) venture capitalist’s."

Friday, February 01, 2008

On Target

I have to join the bloggers in complaining about this Target advertisement (photo on flikr) What was Target thinking? founder, Amy Jussel, contacted Target, complaining about an advertising campaign that depicted a woman splayed across a big target. This Target ad is bad on so many angles -- and Target's response is even worse. And Target is ignoring bloggers because blogging is not traditional media. But they arent ignoring the traditional media who is writing about the blogging. Hence the NY Times article, "Target Tells a Blogger to Go Away."


Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Jury Duty

I've been experiencing the joys of Jury Duty this week. Today I went into the office for 2 hours then I dashed to the court house to finish the jury selection. I couldn't get out of it. I found it interesting that out of all the jurors selected that I've spoken with, nobody wanted to serve because they have too much to do at work. Many get paid time off of work, but still feel too busy with work (and the lawyers excused the retiree who has time!!!). We live in a country where we appreciate the right to a trial and to be heard, but nobody wants to participate due to time and money constraints (and I understand this!!) Now that I've accepted the fact I'm on the jury and cant get out of it, I am going to try to "enjoy" my civic duty.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

It LOOKED like snow....

This is what we woke up to this morning. Southern California "snow." I had to grab my iPhone and take a picture as I got out of the car this morning. Little balls of hail.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

The Blind Leading the Blind

I was having a conversation with my junior-high school aged son about "seeing the whole elephant." He read the parable in the "Dark Hills Divide."

I decided I wanted to look up the legend myself.

John Godfrey Saxe's ( 1816-1887) version of the famous Indian legend,

It was six men of Indostan,
To learning much inclined,
Who went to see the Elephant
(Though all of them were blind),
That each by observation
Might satisfy his mind.

The First approach'd the Elephant,
And happening to fall
Against his broad and sturdy side,
At once began to bawl:
"God bless me! but the Elephant
Is very like a wall!"

The Second, feeling of the tusk,
Cried, -"Ho! what have we here
So very round and smooth and sharp?
To me 'tis mighty clear,
This wonder of an Elephant
Is very like a spear!"

The Third approach'd the animal,
And happening to take
The squirming trunk within his hands,
Thus boldly up and spake:
"I see," -quoth he- "the Elephant
Is very like a snake!"

The Fourth reached out an eager hand,
And felt about the knee:
"What most this wondrous beast is like
Is mighty plain," -quoth he,-
"'Tis clear enough the Elephant
Is very like a tree!"

The Fifth, who chanced to touch the ear,
Said- "E'en the blindest man
Can tell what this resembles most;
Deny the fact who can,
This marvel of an Elephant
Is very like a fan!"

The Sixth no sooner had begun
About the beast to grope,
Then, seizing on the swinging tail
That fell within his scope,
"I see," -quoth he,- "the Elephant
Is very like a rope!"

And so these men of Indostan
Disputed loud and long,
Each in his own opinion
Exceeding stiff and strong,
Though each was partly in the right,
And all were in the wrong!

Though they each were correct, none of the individuals had the full perspective.

Life sees much of conflicts, where narrow perspectives ruin possibilities for experiencing the "elephant" together.

It is fortunate indeed when you are involved in a project and all members see the elephant together. This type of process produces the rare experience of being able to see through each other's eyes. At the end of the project, perhaps you may have felt your group could tackle "the world" together. If you were not successful in achieving this "shared vision", you probably hope you'll never have to experience that again.

I like to think that good communication and participants willing to share perspectives help to see "the whole elephant." Willingness to listen and attempt to see another's perspective can help open the picture of the elephant.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

iPhone organization

So, how am I going to organize my iPhone home page.

Apple's iPhone page says:

When you find a web app you like, you can put it front and center on iPhone. Just open the web app on your iPhone, tap the plus sign, and then tap "Add to Home screen." iPhone will make a Web Clip and add it to your Home screen automatically for easy, one-tap access. You have up to nine Home screen pages for all your Web Clips and you can organize them any way you like.

So, will I find my favorite sites and put them on one of my nine home pages? I've already experimented with adding "pages" but I don't want it to be so overloaded I cant find anything. What are the most important sites when I'm out and about with my phone?

Monday, January 14, 2008

I hate Power Point Presentations

I just read a great blog by Guy Kawasaki. He has 10 (really 13) questions for Garr Reynolds, the author of, " Presentation Zen: Simple Ideas on Presentation Design and Delivery (Voices That Matter)."

I especially liked the following question and answer:

Question: How did we get to this place where most presentations suck?

Answer: There are many reasons. First of all, presenting exceptionally well isn’t easy. In fact it’s hard. That’s why we find great presenters—and great communicators in general—so remarkable. They are all too rare. Many professionals simply have never had much practice and just follow conventional wisdom and do it “like everyone else” instead of doing it effectively.

This reinforced my observation of why I inwardly grown at the beginning of most power point presentations. Poor presentation slide decks and too much text on each page just make me cringe. People tend to load the slide decks up with too many words because they don't practice and are afraid of speaking without the crutch of words on the power point page. So many people think that poor presentations is what is normal.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Abiline Paradox

I was reminded today about the Abilene Paradox related by management theorist Jerry Harvey. The paradox begins during a terribly hot Texas summer day. A man and his wife were relaxing one afternoon with the wife's family when someone suggested a trip to Abilene (several miles away) for dinner. The man was was not too keen about driving across a desert, on a scorching summer day. Others seemed keen for the ride, so he kept his objections to himself.

When they arrive in Abilene, the food is bad and they return home exhausted, several hours later. One of the family members dishonestly says, "It was a great trip, wasn't it."

The mother-in-law says that, actually, she would rather have stayed home, but went along since the other three were so enthusiastic. The husband says, "I wasn't delighted to be doing what we were doing. I only went to satisfy the rest of you." The wife says, "I just went along to keep you happy. I would have had to be crazy to want to go out in the heat like that." The father-in-law then says that he only suggested it because he thought the others might be bored.

The group sits back, perplexed that they together decided to take a trip which none of them wanted. They each would have preferred to sit comfortably, but did not admit to it when they still had time to enjoy the afternoon. (Note thanks to Wikipedia for providing me the final details and quotes).

Sometimes it is human nature to not want to go against the grain, or not want to "rock the boat." Harvey's point was that individuals in organizations are often concerned about standing out and being the "odd dissenting person," that groups can end up acting on decisions that don't necessarily reflect the views of any of their individual members, often defeating the very goal they are out to achieve. Another example of irrational decision-making.

What behaviors in your group or organization discourages individuals from openly voicing their feelings or pursuing their desires? If your group or family is on the road to Abilene, then you may arrive at a place where logical values can fall victim to group dynamics.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Storage Organization

From construction equipment and yard care equipment to toys and sports equipment, the storage of goods has become a burden for most middle-class families. There is a storage crisis in California. One UCLA study indicated 75% of families studied had so much in their garages, that cars would no longer fit.

So, do these so-called families have an excess of goods they just have to keep around? But is it organized? I would guess not. In my house, we're always in PURSUIT of organization. I need to get rid of the clutter.

A recent wall street journal article said the following:

"According to the International Housewares Association, closet and storage items were the fastest growing housewares category over the past five years, with consumer spending increasing at an average of 20.5% per year. The association's latest HomeTrend Influentials study ranks home organization and home storage among the hottest housewares product categories through 2010."

What's new in organization products? I'll need to look. I see organization companies popping up, but I have not found the ideal solution for me.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Test Technorati

I'm doing a test. Is anybody reading my blogs? I am actually trying to discover what blogging is really about. I've read blogs for years, but never really considered writing a blog. But during the end of December I was doing some inner thinking and deciding I wanted a change, but I dont know what is yet on the horizon. So, I thought I would experiment with a blog, and see what I ended up writing about. So this particular blog is my experiment with linking to Technorati.

UPDATE: After testing, I decided I didnt want to use the account I set up in Technorati. I didnt realize the member name I created would show up on my blog. I would have created a different name. So, back to the drawing board.

Files, files, and more files

I'm cleaning out the desk of someone who was layed off after several years. I am trying to organize her "stuff," which was really some of the company's important papers. Some papers, she seemed to not know what to do with. As a company, we tried many organization systems -- scanning everything, filing some things, etc. I loved it when we scanned most documents as I seem to be able to sort folders electronically better than I do actual physical files (plus there's always "spotlight" search on my computer).

Today I read about 2 sites: and will scan your receipts for you for $19.95/month. I dont know what a company rate pricing is, but I'm curious. FileMyReceipt has you scan in the receipts yourself and will store them. This doesnt seem to be much use, as I could store them myself -- even using Amazon storage services if needed. But having someone scan my receipts? Hmmmmm. Sounds like a good idea to me. I wish I knew someone who had used their services.

Monday, January 07, 2008

All-Digital TV is coming....

I knew it was coming. I read a blog that reminded me. On February 17, 2009, federal law requires that all full-power television broadcast stations stop broadcasting in analog format and broadcast only in digital format.

So, I hopped over to the government website that gave me the scoop. I guess my 10+ year old TV wont work. We don't use cable, but rather use antenna. But then, I don't remember the last time I turned the TV on. I'm more content watching DVD's of movies and old TV shows using a big screen projector. Or, I'm watching YouTube on my iPhone. I seem to get all my news via the internet. Maybe I don't much care that All Digital TV is coming.

Of course, its another issue as to whether the government will be ready for February 2009.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Great Communicators

I read an interesting blog today by Bert Decker: Top Ten Best (and Worst) Communicators of 2007. Communication is so important today in so many aspects of business and life. There are many lessons to be learned if you think about why these communicators were chosen.

Puzzle Pirates

My favorite online multi-player game is Puzzle Pirates. Even my kids are "addicted." Its a great game. It has a little "economy" going where you can earn POE (Pieces of Eight) performing different "missions" like sword fighting, sailing or bilging -- just to name a very few. POE can be exchanged for Doubloons. The exchange rate changes constantly, so its like a mini bank. Players use the POE and doubloons to buy all sorts of things -- clothes, buildings, ships, merchant stalls, etc. Characters are anonymous, so you dont have to disclose who you are.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Costa Maya Dreaming

It must be all the Southern California rain today. I can't help but think of the sunshine in Mexico. Although I just had a vacation, one of the best vacations I ever had was at Mayan Beach Garden. Mayan Beach Garden Inn is located 20 km north of Mahajual. They had great cabanas and the food was excellent. Check out their recipe for chocolate molten cake and banana pancakes. Yum Yum. If cabanas aren't your style, the wonderful hosts there can help locate other places for you to stay. And speaking of wonderful hosts, Marcia and Kim are great examples of good customer service. They go out of their way to make your stay the best it can be.

Pessimistic Moment

OK, so 2/3 of the people in our company will be at CES this week. I know trade shows are stressful, yet there is still an emotional high at being at one -- working the booth, talking to real customers, discussing deals, etc. BUT, as one of those who get left behind to take care of the office and end of the year fiscal details, I hate the feeling of being left behind and not being part of the action.

Speaking of politics

I read this in a Reader's Digest magazine I found at the airport:

"Like all federal workers, members of Congress (and their dependents) are eligible for the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program..... For less than $1,000 a year, they and their Senate colleagues can also drop by the office of the Capitol’s physician, where a $2 million-per-year staff of nearly 20 doctors, nurses and technicians is at their service. For major operations, they’ve got access to top-notch government facilities like Bethesda Naval Medical Center, where Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell had his heart bypass surgery a few years ago. "

Unless congress gets to live like the rest of us, we'll probably never see health care reform in the US.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Goal Misalignment

I've been thinking of an old classic management article I read in graduate school. Steven Kerr's, "On the folly of rewarding A, while hoping for B." I found an updated shortened version of it here.

This article is still pertinent and relevant today. I keep thinking about it as I work in a start-up.

What about start-ups? What is the reward system -- options and buyouts? Bonuses? Does management and shareholders have long-term goals in mind? Or are they rewarding just short-term earnings? Is long-term profit being sacrificed for short-term advantages? Are Investors goals in alignment with employee goals? Investors, Managers, and Employees will seldom seek the same outcomes, thus controlling investors and management may need to be aware of what they are rewarding.

Consider the example of investors wanting the company to be "cost conscious." But investors (or management acting on investor wishes -- and this distinction is important) may not really be explicit in describing how that goal is to be achieved, neither do they reward effective cost consciousness. This is really an intangible goal that isn't really very specific and may result in a a different outcome than really intended. Costs may be "cut" for appearances sake to show an effort is being made to reduce spending, without thinking through all the implications of a cost cut. A cut may be made that actually reduces productivity.

Differences in perceptions can cause goal misalignment. Different individuals may receive different cues from the environment than others and many perceive different behavior as a necessity to accomplish avowed ends. Perceptions of how the company may fulfill an individual's goals may also be incongruent, leading to unfulfilled expectations and misunderstandings.

I also think about this article we hear so much about politics (OK, so who is going to win in New Hampshire?) . Politics drive me crazy. Most voters are united in one great purpose: "More." Few individuals can be elected who promote "Less." Thus, politicians are elected who have promised more -- more police, more schools, bigger pensions, etc. The political reward system is designed such that it is irrational to produce less. Who wants to vote for someone who promises less? Yet, voters are crying for less expenses, budget cuts, etc. This conflicts with the way individuals vote. Are we as a people rewarding the behavior we want? Are we rewarding "more" while hoping for "less?"