Monday, September 15, 2008

Yet another bailout

I'm probably as confused as the rest of America this morning. How did all these super smart, freakish even, Ivy League grads screw this up so badly? Aren't they America's best and brightest on Wall Street? I'll tell you how. Hubris, greed, complete and utter ignorance to what is happening in the world, you name it.

When you start receiving pay packages north of $1M per year, things get a bit fuzzy and unclear. When $5M is the norm, prices don't even matter anymore. Past $1oM and you probably don't even consider what is happening to the price of gas in NJ let alone what the summer house in the Hamptons is going to run you for maintenance over the course of the season. Seriously, let's talk about being disconnected from reality. That's what happened to these massive, over bloated investment banks on Wall Street.

Now they are receiving bailouts for their poor performance in the fashion of either a Fed infusion or a lucrative buyout offer from BofA. Talk about the rich keeping the rich afloat. It's not about what's good for the economy at this point. While there will be painful results from this, we'll live. It's about keeping all their prep school buddies in their S550s and in the stands for the US Open. Its' about screwing the little guy again who is left holding the tax bag to help out these idiots who took too many risks and are now paying the price.

If there is one thing that I have shown in my writings on this blog, I'm all about the survival of the fittest. If your coffee sucks, you're going to lose business. If your cars suck, people will go elsewhere. Well, in finance, if your decisions suck, you should go out of business. Pay the price and hold yourselves accountable dammit!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Can we all just look at the glass as half full for a bit?

I must agree. Most of the stories you read are gloom and doom out there. It's pretty bad when everywhere you turn, there is a picture of a line at the bank, $5.00 gas, a foreclosure sign, filthy jalapenos, etc. It's getting a bit ridiculous and seemingly only getting worse if you believe the prophets of doom in the media. I say ENOUGH!

Let's look at the positives that we get to experience every day:

  • We get to live in the best country in the world, hands down. Although with less Starbucks on every corner, we're just not as caffeinated.
  • The bowel pains from salmonella will help remind you to watch what you eat.
  • We get to experience freedom like nowhere else. Let's give it up for EZ-Pass!
  • We'll all be in much better shape as a result of biking and walking everywhere since we can't afford to fill our SUVs.
  • Fear, mistrust, self-loathing is all a state of mind. Stay positive about the stock market and invest now instead of selling off! Fortunes are made in people with more money than you.
  • We are much better off than our forefathers were 50 years ago. I mean they didn't even have blogs to tell us what to think.
  • The internet provides every potentially laid off worker an outlet to make money from home. From Ebay to WOW to Second Life, the possibilities are endless.
  • Once this down period is over, it can only get better! Think of the good times ahead! Now I'm not saying put it all on plastic to pay it off later but we're not as far away as you might think.

Seriously though, I think that a little positive attitude will really help this country get its act back on track. We haven't had a crisis like this in 25 years where we need to band together, show some grit and remind the world who we are! It's time to remember that we are the big dog on the block and not some sniveling little bichon frise that we've been acting like for the last 4 years.

Monday, July 14, 2008

The salvation of Freddie and Fannie

What else do we need to do at this point to bolster our fledgling economy. This morning's move by the Treasury and the Fed to save the two large mortgage giants is just another tiny step to fixing what's wrong with the system right now. Granted, stricter lending requirements and more oversight into the secondary credit markets will help in the long run, but let's face it, rules were meant to be bent and broken.

Regardless of what is done to fix the problem now, it will only breed a new level of creativity from shyster brokers and credit lenders. We have to correct the problem, not the symptom. If I'm Dan Mudd from Fannie Mae and this is how my ineptitude and complete ignorance of a problem is rewarded, why am I going to change? If I keep printing money for myself and the other executives while getting a handout from the government to prop my failing business model back up on wobbly legs; why bother doing it differently?

Maybe it's time to send a message to this whole industry. There is no safety net or security blanket. You have to make your business work or it will fail. Along with that, many people will go broke and have misery thrust upon their lives. When faced with adversity, it's either sink or swim and now is the time for some adversity in the American public. A panacea bailout is not the solution.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Alright dammit, back to blogging!

Well, I've been a bad blog friend. You had me for a few months on a weekly basis and then, BAM! I take a month off just after I promised that I was back. This time I truly am.

Let's review what's happened since I last wrote. The economy is still tanking, houses are still foreclosing, Starbucks still can't sell coffee to caffeine addicted worker bees, oil is still hovering near $20000 a barrel, gas is still overpriced, people are still stupid and we're still only a few months from being more like France and Canada then we ever thought we'd be. So what do I have to write about that's new and novel?

How about the new iPhone that effectively screws all the previous owners by selling at 1/2 the price with three times the speed? How about the Tampa Bay Devil Rays who are shocking the baseball world? What about my hometown Celtics finally winning #17? Nope, I want to talk common sense.

What is America doing with all it's new found wealth (our lucrative tax rebates...) in the last few weeks? Spending it to stimulate the economy? Saving it to stave off future debt? Paying off high interest credit cards? No! They are basically handing it over to Big Oil and the rest of the fossil establishment. They're paying more for food, clothing and getting to work than they ever have! While a tax rebate is nice, wasn't this just a correction for how bad everything has been screwed up in the economy lately?

My common sense thought of the day is this. First the question, what can we all do to lower the impact of fuel costs on our lives? Stop eating so much! Stop driving so much! Stay home with your family and get to know them! Work from home if you can! Stop driving your Humvees and SUVs one mile to the post office! Send an email, not a posted mail! Send a message that we don't need as much as we're currently consuming and watch the prices fall. Simplicity is king in life and if you don't have it, get some.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Back in the house!

Well it's been a crazy couple of weeks here in Sticky Jello world but now its back to the task at hand! Good current event satire.... I'd like to think of myself more as an astute media observer but I keep getting hung up on "astute". That being said, today is more of a personal post.

The family and I are gearing up for a big operation for our son this Friday and that has really captured the majority of our focus. It really makes you prioritize things in your life quite myopically. I don't want to say that work, hobbies, etc. have taken a back seat but I don't think about them nearly as much as what my son is going to endure the next few weeks.

How do you cope with this 24/7 world when someone you love is in crisis? What is the first thing that you cut out? The last?

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Consumers are leaving in droves!

What are we going to do? First we give everyone a tax rebate, then all the market sages say "Save it, don't spend it!", then consumer spending drops. Go figure!

The vast majority of the US populace knows the equivalent of nothing about economics. Any advice that is given to them is going to be followed, at least half the time. Everyone is talking about a recession, high gas prices, mortgage failures, so everyone is buckling down. When it costs more than a year's tuition at Yale to buy gas to go to Walmart, is it any surprise that people aren't spending money?

What I would look for with all this economic goodness is an increase in online spending (correlated with a significant rise in shipping costs) as consumers look for alternative ways to shop.

The larger issue is that we have to come to grips with the fact that this isn't going away. Our dollar is cheap, goods are expensive and life is harder right now. Life on a budget isn't fun and America is finally learning this fact.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Join the smoking club? Get some!

Just released, if you ever smoked a cigarette in Florida, regardless of whether or not you knew it was bad for you despite ALL of the information available, you can get a slice of $600M! Is it just me or is this litigious group getting a bit out of hand? One suit after another for cigarette smoking, french fries, trans fats, etc. Get a clue people!

What happened to the adage, "Too much of a good thing is bad?" or "Everything in moderation" as governors for our habits or ingestions? I'm tired of our society blaming others for their misfortune or better yet, their STUPIDITY! Mortgage bailouts, welfare, lawsuits for cigarette smoking, illegal immigrant allowances, ENOUGH already.

America has always been the land of opportunity and a place where its citizens can make a better life for themselves. We have turned into a socialist society where if you don't want to get off the couch or don't want to pay your mortgage, no problem, here's some cash. Start smoking because you somehow, with myriad pamphlets, commercials, studies etc. telling you how bad it is, lit one up, no problem, here's some cash. Eat French Fries every day because you somehow thought they were a vegetable, no problem, here's some cash. Cross into our country illegally and expect free health care without paying taxes, no problem, here's some amnesty.

It's time that we start to change our society back to what made us so successful in the first place, a capitalistic society. One where people work hard and save money. Where people are expected to take care of themselves and their families first before looking to the government.

We have been corrupted enough and I for one am sick of it. How about you?

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

We need a hero!

I can't tell you how humdrum the world is sounding these days. Food prices at all time highs, oil / gas price spikes, recession, housing slumps, credit markets down, the Yankees are only .500, candidate verbal sparring, all of these things just make you want to look inwardly and find a happy place to hide in for a couple of years.

We need a hero dammit! And what do you know, a potential figure just landed in Maryland. He wears a costume, speaks multiple languages, holds sway over an army of followers, that's right folks. The Pope! Who cares if you're not Catholic or you think the dogma of the church is dated? Just because you're jaded from the touchy-feely priest scandals or collusion with the Germans in WWII or the fact that they have more money than most African countries, doesn't mean we should turn our back on our friend Benny.

He's here to help folks. Benny's going to unify us in more ways than one. Some of you will be unified in your piety. Others will be unified in your hatred of what he stands for. Regardless of what impact he has, he'll get you all focused on something other than the current noise in the news. The arrival of a Pope in America has a galvanizing effect on our populace and brings out the right type of conversations. It elicits thoughts about higher powers and belief systems (and no, I don't mean Google and Facebook).

So take a moment today and reflect on how the Pope can help you escape from the drudgery of current events. Let him be your hero for the next few days as he spreads his message around the US.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Boo MicroHoo

Alright already folks! Enough with the posturing and the dancing. Let's just end it. What do you all think about that? The folks at Google must be laughing behind closed doors while eating their catered lunches. This is making you both look like immature freshmen.

I understand that there is a mating ritual to these large deals and something like this is somewhat unprecedented in the software world but please! End the squabble already.

As a completely uninvolved outside observer, this is like watching two novices trying to bluff each other at a World Series of Poker entry tournament at a Native American casino.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Only so many new ideas?

I have to disagree with Jim Romanesko's comment today about the MyStarbucksIdea site. He said, "I think that's going to be one of their problems ... and something my readers have noticed: It's become redundant after three weeks. There are only so many good ideas." Jim, have you ever realized how definitive statements like these typically get thrown back in your face in the not too distant future?

Just because there is a lack of originality on this board, having the opportunity to interact with thousands of customers directly is a huge advantage/opportunity for Starbucks. Facebook, CNN, Google, Microsoft, Krispy Kreme, all of these entities were formed by a single idea that generated at a point in time. If we had just ignored all of these ideas because they weren't included in the first three weeks of a brainstorming session with ten thousand of your closest friends, where would we be?

I say, leave the board up and more often than not, a good, if not great, idea will surface periodically. If nothing else, customers who feel they have a voice with the companies they conduct commerce with have been shown to be far more loyal than not.

Let's give it more than 3 weeks before we label this valiant effort by the folks in Seattle as "redundant".

You can read more from Jim at his Starbucks Gossip blog.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Is this high school?

You can all remember back to high school when to that guy in high school who was so infatuated with some girl and he spent all day talking about her. He'd talk about how cool she was and how cute she was. Then he'd talk to his friends about her and find out what she liked and what kind of music she was into. He'd start to hang around her lunch table and get to know her friends and do nice things for her. Then he'd start to "be friends" with that girl and try to impress her with how cool he was.

She would think "Wow, this guy is really nice". What a great guy and he seems like a great friend! I never really knew him for what he is. He seems smart and intellectual, worldly and funny. I'm really glad that I listened to all of my friends and finally paid attention to him. I hope he asks me out....

Well, then the guy finally works up the nerve to ask her out, and she says, "let's just go for a movie and see what happens". The guy pulls out all the stops, not sparing a dime to try to impress her. He even buys a large popcorn and her own soda!

The date goes swimmingly and day goes by, and nothing happens. Then two days. A week. Neither one calls the other because they're afraid of what could happen. They pass in the hall and make awkward glances. People whisper, "What happened? They were so into each other!" And sooner or later, the flame dies and people move on.

Are you both still living in High School MicroHoo or are you just going to make it happen???

Friday, April 4, 2008

Best Speaker

I have to report back that I performed admirably last night during my "Enhance your speech with gestures" lesson at Toastmasters. So much so that I won Best Speaker. I can honestly say that getting involved with TM is one of the best personal investments I've ever made.

If you or someone you love has trouble presenting, speaking on the spot or just socializing, I can't recommend investigating a local club enough. Our local Loudoun Toastmasters crew is welcoming, very helpful with their constructive feedback and most importantly, a lot of fun.

Let me know if I can help out with recommendations or questions if you're interested in finding a local club.

See you all on Monday!

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Nothing new today

I'm working on my fifth Toastmasters speech tonight. Wish me luck everyone! Halfway to my CTM.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Are you receding?

While the global economic focus is on the US and our impending downturn, I wanted to see how my scarce readers were doing individually? How is this "recession" impacting you? Are you spending less? Monitoring your accounts more regularly?

I personally don't pay too much attention to it right now as I can't control it. I have a good job, a solid economic footing and finally got rid of my gas-guzzling SUV. Overall, things are fairly status quo. I do know that there are a lot of folks not in that same situation and was curious how it was impacting them.

There are the standard ways to belt-tighten in this go-round of economic madness but this time the overriding factors do cause more concern than normal. For instance, gas is extremely pricey, the technology tax we each face is dear each month (cell phones, cable, etc.), the dollar should be called a peso and even rice is at an all time high. Where do you begin to cut in order to make up some ground?

Just curious.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

BTW, Happy April Fool's Day.

No tired pranks here or malicious misinformation. Just good wishes and may you be loved enough for someone to want to prank you. :)

Is work really that hard?

I often run into situations where if a person had put just a little effort into solving a problem, it would've been fixed instead of languishing unsolved. Every day though I hear colleagues say, "I'm too busy to deal with that" or "I would if I had the time". What is so difficult with work anyway?

What do you find difficult about work? Why?

What have you done lately to think about fixing that problem?

Did you follow through on your suppositions?

I'm willing to bet that even though you may be a terrible organizer (like me), or a distracted info junkie (like me), you can still make a lot of stuff happen in a short amount of time and boost your personal productivity.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Rare times indeed

The NCAA tourney results from this past weekend got me thinking. How often do the best companies deliver the goods when it really counts? For those of you that missed it, all four No. 1 seeds made it to the Final Four for the first time in the 30 year history of the tournament. This is quite a testament to all the other teams that rose up, played beyond their talent, skill, etc. and knocked them off along the way.

Just because your company is a No. 1 seed doesn't give you a pass all the way to the promised land. You still need to wake up every morning, stay focused, work extremely hard and also get a little bit lucky (yes, I'm referring to you Kansas!) to stay No. 1.

Many companies have forgotten this recently and have paid the price for it. Big name brands like Motorola, Coca-Cola, Starbucks, and even Google lost their focus and grit and are now paying the price by being nipped at the heels by underdogs.

Can this be said about your company? Are you currently in a market leader spot and untested? What would happen if you were tested by an upstart that had drive, determination and "good enough" talent? Could your team deliver the goods?

Friday, March 28, 2008

Linked In Tips

If you're like me, you have a drive to know a lot of people through networking. I personally try to hit 1-2 industry / social events per week to get to know peers in my region. My favorite tool for online networking is Linked In. I've been amazed to see who I'm one degree away from.

I wanted to give all of you Linked In novices a couple of tips to get the most out of your experience and leverage it to build your contact base.

1) Set up a complete profile - The more items in your profile, the more accessible you will be to people searching for "X". Whether it is school, past employers, technologies, groups, etc. their AI will help to pair you up with people you used to know.

2) Load your contacts - Dumping your contacts into LI will allow the application to do a lot of the heavy lifting for you. You'll be surprised at who you already know.

3) Write personal invitation letters - The people you want to link in with may not remember you so a personal note with the invitation goes a long way. It also helps to have a photo in your profile.

4) Write personalized thank you letters! - This little bit of civility goes a long way the next time you ask for recommendations, introductions, etc. You'd thank someone for their time and say "Nice to meet you!" if you met them at a reception wouldn't you?

5) Write recommendations for others - The first rule of networking is never ask your contacts for something first. Do something nice for them and recommend them! This a very powerful tool for staying top of mind, relevant and to build a very positive online brand.

6) Pass along introductions - If someone asks you to introduce them to a contact, first read their profile and if you feel comfortable, pass them along to who they asked. Good things come back to those who help!

7) Join Groups - This was a puzzler for me when I first joined but a simple solution was to just click on the Group logo and you can ask to be a member. Only join Groups that you feel you can contribute content to but it is a great way to meet people with similar interests.

8) Don't be afraid to ask - Business people of all levels use LI and the only way to link with them is to ask. See Rules #3 & #4 above when dealing with execs but you never know unless you ask. They will be getting something out of your contacts as well.

9) Politely decline when you don't want to connect - Bad karma travels fast in the online space and you can get blackballed pretty quickly if you're just not a nice person.

10) Answer Questions - This is a great way to build your online reputation and get to know people on LI. Answer a lot of questions and you'll get a ton of invitations by like-minded individuals with huge amounts of contacts for your network.

Best of luck all and if you want to Link In with me, check the link on the right. Happy networking!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Daily stressors?

How do you deal with daily stressors? What tricks do you use to calm yourself back down?

Here are a few ways that I try:

1> Go for a walk about around the building.
2> Shut the lights and take a mini-snooze.
3> Walk to my car and blare the radio for 10 minutes.
4> Coffee break. The ritual of stirring my Splenda laced beverage calms me regardless of caffeine.
5> Hit the gym. If I have a longer break in my schedule and I can get away, a 20 minute circuit workout will cause me to relax.
6> Minesweeper. An oldie but a goodie to phase out for a bit.
7> Read the Always a good humanitarian story or two to make you realize there are other sad saps out there.
8> Cube chat. Find a work friend and vent for a bit about something other than what you're stressing about.
9> Daydream about starting a business and striking it rich. While coming back to Earth sucks, it's a nice diversion.
10> Lastly, switch gears. Start a different project and put the current one on hold.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The Coffee Wars: Coke vs. Pepsi Redux?

As a coffee aficionado, I've watched with keen interest the battle between Starbucks and Dunkin' Donuts over the last number of years.  The competitive pressures that they have placed on each other has been great for consumers but not so great for stockholders of SBUX.  That being said, I'm torn as to where to put my allegiance.   

It seems as if I'm being forced to choose a side as a customer.   SBUX has always been perceived as the high-brow, espresso pouring, intellectual big brother to DD's middle-class, approachable, large-regular coffees.  However, with the advent of latte's and other pseudo barista-like drinks, DD encroached upon SBUX's turf with the subtlety of a bull in a china shop. 

Now, I grew up in New England and it was almost viewed as heretical to select SBUX for your morning coffee.  It was and is part of the culture of the region.  Legions of commuters, both train, car and boat, make Dunkies their first stop of every day.  I was one of them for a very long time and still think fondly of my hot cups back then.   Then I began to travel the US, and confound it, I couldn't find DD on my morning commute to a customer site or remote office.  There weren't 75 different stops that I could feasibly make depending on the lines.  I had to resort to *GASP* Starbucks.   

And you know, it was good!  Real good!  I couldn't believe that somebody other than Dunkies could make coffee taste so good.  I was hooked.  Well, try finding a Starbucks in New England 7 years ago.  You would've had better luck finding a Bostonian who pronounced his R's.  I went through withdrawals and couldn't wait to go on my next business trip to find a venti cup of Verona or Gold Coast.  I struggled through my morning rituals until the boys and girls from Seattle finally made a big push into the Northeast and started taking up some real estate.   

Fast forward to the present and I'm being forced again to make a similar choice.  I still love my morning coffee (although I drink the Starbucks at work) and I still prefer my Komodo Dragon over a  regular from DD's but if I want to take my son for a donut, I feel like I have made a conscious decision to "dumb myself down" and go to Dunkies.

The brand wars between the two java giants are taking the wrong approach in my opinion.  Coke vs. Pepsi was one of the great brand wars of all time and made consumers decide on choice.  The brand recognition for both was extremely high and you could argue that both benefitted greatly from the publicity.  Why take the choice to an intelligence or sophistication place?  Can't I have a high degree of culture and still enjoy a hazelnut coffee and jelly donut now and then?  Can't I enjoy a venti cup of bold coffee without being viewed as a stuck up snob?  

Consumers shouldn't be made to feel embarrassed about the coffee choice they make.  They should only be made to feel welcome and satisfied with the hot, steamy cup of caffeinated goodness in front of them.

Where do you go for your java in the morning?  Why?

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Is that my Face????Book?

After a security breach opened up personal photos on Facebook, it has left many users questioning the security of online social networking sites. About a month ago, I posted an entry called Social Copycats where I talked about users stealing online profiles. Perhaps this could be a burgeoning form of identity theft.

First I'll steal their professional identities by aping their online profiles and then I'll find additional personal info on Facebook and MySpace. Then, I'll truly become them! There can only be one Derek Tomlinson! (Kudos to the Highlander movie series)

Seriously though, what's next? Are we going to have a bunch of Zeligs stalking around trying to imitate people as their form of making a living? How do you combat this and still stay socially relevant in today's world?

It's almost anti-semantic web to reduce our footprints in the netherspace but we need to have more stringent controls over social information that we are posting out on the web just like we have for our financial information. Currently, it's "Poster Beware" similar to our well-known caveat emptor in commercial situations. I'd like to see one of the big social networking sites come out with more advanced security controls and lead the way in this initiative. Any thoughts?

Monday, March 24, 2008

Tough summer job market

For those of my readers that have teenagers, it could be a tight summer market for jobs. According to MSNBC, the economy is really stretching small business owners for labor costs and additional headcount to handle the summer rush. Waiting until the summer to search is not an option and the motto, "the sooner, the better" is very cogent advice.

That being said, there is always another option: start your own business. For teens who have an enterprising streak, starting their own business is perfect preparation for their budding professional lives. Prospective employers will no doubt be impressed with the entrepreneurship, management, sales and marketing skills that go hand-in-hand with a new business.

During high school, myself and two friends had a window-washing business and I can say it was the most profitable and best experience I had during summer work times. I learned a ton, had a great time, managed myself essentially and had a great story to tell during interviews.

If you are further looking to separate yourself from the herd later on during interview sessions at your college, start your own business and make your mark now. Perhaps it will be you that is interviewing for open positions at your company.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

How DO you focus today and tomorrow? 5 Options for coping

Well today kicks off the largest productivity drain in American business. More eyeballs will be off of work today than all the collective Solitaire games played combined in a year. The NCAA tourney. I'm in a pool (of my creation) but that's it as I do have a lot of things to get done. However, I know that a large majority of people in my company and others will be tuned in elsewhere.

How do you get your teams to focus today?

What else can be done to keep people away from ESPN every 10 minutes?

I propose a few solutions for nervous business owners:

1) An offsite in the Yukon territory. Not only will your people be disconnected from the games, they'll also be far enough away from civilization that the need to watch college basketball will be far outweighed by the desire for indoor plumbing.

2) All day Firedrills. While not effective to keep people productive, it does reduce the drain on network resources for the executives who want to keep an eye on the streaming video of the games.

3) Unplug the power. Invite your team to "Work like we used to!" and force them to huddle around windows and the emergency lighting to review mimeograph copies of ledger entries.

4) Draconian Network Shutdown. Only allow your employees to send outgoing email, access the internet site, and shut off all telephony. This will enhance productivity and only slightly enrage the resources you hold dear.

5) Lastly, just give in. Face it. Your people are going to find a way to watch the games, manage their brackets, go on extended liquid lunches and completely ignore work for the next two days. As Agent Smith in the Matrix said, "That, is the sound of inevitability."

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

How many kid photos are too many?

Well, I think I've become one of those people who has too many photos of their kids in the office. You know the people, they have 17 photos throughout the office showing off their kids taken during various family vacations, graduations, etc. I'm just the baby picture guy. Between the great candids of my 2 1/2 year old coupled with the multiple shots of our new baby girl, I've got my office well adorned.

How many is too many for your liking? Where should professionals draw the line? What other pictures are acceptable? How about office toys? What do you have?

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

A sight for sore eye(s)!

You never really know how involved the internet is with your daily life until you can't access / read / interact with it, do you? Yesterday I was down and out for service with a scratched cornea and I was going through serious info withdrawals! Even today, with my ultra-cool clip-on shades perched on my nose in the office, I can only stay focused on my monitor for limited time which severly limits my time "plugged in".

So, while I was wrenched with angst yesterday trying to get my RSS feeds and news quota filled, I reflected as to how this information age must appear to those without immediate access to information, or the freedom to distribute it like we have, or the ones who can't interact with it. What a bunch of absurd people we must look like to people who don't have food, healthcare, schools, etc.

Has the onslaught of information really made our life better or worse? What can we do to "live in the moment" more? I know that I was much more inclined to spend time smiling and laughing with my 5-month old yesterday and playing on the floor with my 2 1/2 year old since I couldn't see anything beyond 10 feet.

What would you do if you couldn't use the internet for news / information / entertainment anymore but you knew it was there? How would you change for the better / worse? What's the worst / best that could happen?

Friday, March 14, 2008

Ideas from Supervillains

Keeping with the theme of my blog, you have to check out this site of 20 Insane Supervillain Schemes. Very well done folks!

Ideas on what to do with your US Dollars

What amazing times we live in today. Information flows like a fast moving river and any potentially impactful news hits our financial markets like a freight train run off the track. I find it particularly discouraging how little faith the American populace has in our economy, will to succeed and good ol' American capitalism in general.

Since our good old greenback is dropping like a rock in the world currency markets, many people are asking me, "What should I do with my money???" I have a few suggestions that might prove constructive:

          1. St. Patrick's Day wrapping paper. It may, in fact, be cheaper than a $5.99 roll of paper to wrap up that pint of Guinness for the ones you love.

          2. Smoke it. Come on, you know you've always wanted to roll up a couple of bills and smoke it just to see what happens. On second thought, with all the residual drugs on the bills, you might OD. Scratch that.

          3. A measuring device. In case you have the need to measure out the exact weight of a gram, the dollar would be a perfect tool to have handy. Otherwise, you could use it to approximate distances on a road map which might actually save you gas money.

          4. For household uses. You could use a dollar in myriad ways around the home. In the bathroom as well, you know, in the kitchen as a pilot light lighter, in the bedroom to throw over the bed instead of expensive rose petals, in the attic shredded for insulation, in the basement as a dryer sheet.

          5. At work. You could actually use this virtually worthless currency to bribe your co-workers to perform work for you. You know the ones I'm talking about, the folks who haven't seen a newspaper in weeks or know what the internet is. They still think we're an economic powerhouse.

          6. At the store. Exchange it for as much non-perishable food as you can before you need their grocery carts to carry it in the store. While you're there you could ask for old coupons since their exchange rate $1/100th is on par with the greenback.

          7. At a casino. This is the time to gamble. Like the old saying, "Play like you've got nothing to lose!"

          8. For your health. According to my Hotmail inbox, there are a ton of Canadian pharmacies that will still sell me male enhancement drugs at $1 per pill.

          9. On i Tunes. You can still get one song per buckeroo.

          10. At the gas station. At a price of under $1000 per tank, gasoline is still a phenomenal steal here in the US compared with Europe.
          I hope some of these will assist you with your quest for fiscal responsibility.

          Thursday, March 13, 2008

          Run and hide investing

          I've had a number of conversations lately with co-workers, friends, etc. about the stock market. Obviously it's been top of mind given the dismal performance we've seen in the last 4 months. It's amazing to me the lack of confidence among professionals that the economy will come back. They are all scaling back investments and going to cash. I understand the need to ensure an emergency fund but cutting back on long-term investments now is the wrong move.

          While I have no real empirical data to offer here, I do remember 2003 being a very strong year after the doldrums of 2000-2002. I personally scored some nice bargains of companies that were beat up and very cheap to own.

          My only idea / advice today is that keep pouring money into your 401k, IRAs, etc. as the dollar cost averaging will catch up and you'll have a much larger investment in the same great companies when the economy upturns.

          Monday, March 10, 2008

          No experience necessary?

          A story this morning on MSNBC talks about the dwindling impact of MBA's and the lack of correlation between the degree and career success. The demise of the MBA has been reported before in many different outlets. However, have you noticed the demand for the advanced degree decreasing? It seems as if you can pick one up on the way to the corner store now as they are available online, at extension colleges, at workplaces, in vending machines, etc.

          Perhaps the issue of declining impact or value in the degree is the proliferation of options available. I would argue that just because you can get a cup of coffee anywhere these days, a good cup is still hard to find. You just have to put in the effort and the rewards from that good cup are quite satisfying. The same could be said for an MBA, just because anyone can get one from Western Virginia Polytechnical Ecumenical College doesn't mean it will carry any weight.

          Due to the increasing proliferation of MBA's minted each year, the statistics will undoubtedly show that the degree is less of a prediction of career success. That said, an MBA from a top school is still a rare commodity and will, with a lot of hard work, luck and networking, provide you with very successful career options.

          You don't need an MBA to be successful and true, having one doesn't guarantee riches, but having one and working your tail off will definitely get you somewhere.

          Go Babson Beavers!

          Friday, March 7, 2008

          Please, someone save my McMansion!

          Now I realize that the housing crisis is much deeper than what I will portray here, but I'm tired of all the folks who bought into the hype five years ago and thought that by paying $1,600/month they could afford a 7ooo sq ft. home just outside a metropolitan area. Now, all of these folks who are having a tough time meeting their monthly mortgage payment (and the Escalade payments as well) are crying foul and looking for relief.

          I can certainly understand helping out people who had good credit but were duped by shady brokers or unscrupulous lenders. I can also understand helping out people who have lost their jobs, through no fault of their own, and need some short term assistance. It is the overspenders and wannabes that spent wildly because they could and nothing was checking them.

          I have a few messages of self responsibility here for such people:

          YOU didn't read the fine print well enough.
          YOU overspent to keep up with the Joneses.
          YOU underestimated the swings that the economy can take.
          YOU didn't budget adequately for house expenses.
          YOU don't deserve help from the government because of carelessness or stupidity.

          Perhaps I'm being harsh but it's time the government says no to all of these bailouts to individuals through bankruptcy, foreclosure assistance, welfare, etc. The more we enable our citizens to make costly mistakes and not pay for them, the more we weaken our country, our economy and our future. It is time to step up and take responsibility for your actions!

          What are your thoughts on this crisis? How would you deal with it other than with a government bailout program?

          Thursday, March 6, 2008

          Yahoo in talks with Yugo to stave off MSFT bid

          Really folks, just get it over with already? How many different suitors are the folks at Yahoo going to drum up in this process? Who's next, Sara Lee or John Deere?

          $31 is a fair price for your company, take it now before it drops lower. In reality, with the recent accelerated decline of the greenback, this deal is worth less today than it was a month ago. What this means Jerry, is that coupled with the time value of money means you can buy fewer Ferraris today than you could last month with the money from this deal.

          I, among millions of others, really don't want to see this thing drag out any longer than it should. Shareholder expense and media hogging aside, this will be a good thing for search and for the internet as a whole. It's time to let the positives start outweighing the negatives.

          Wednesday, March 5, 2008

          Oil at $104! Start raiding the friolators.

          I can't imagine what is going to happen when we hit $200 or $300 a barrel. What the public doesn't realize is that inflation adjusted and currency adjusted, we are paying roughly the same for oil as we were when it was $70/barrel. Why don't we focus more on the value of the dollar instead of the petro markets. If our dollar was stronger, the price would go down, simple enough.

          Tuesday, March 4, 2008

          What's a good capitalist to do today?

          Well, it's no surprise I have Republican leanings given my b-school background and business-centric mentality. I still can't really get behind McCain but I can help to put off the demise of our country from a socialist uprising. Today's primaries are a true watershed moment for the US. If Obama wins Ohio and Texas today, you better open up your checkbooks America. Social spending and tax increases will be just around the corner. I'm not saying that Hillary will be much better but she will at least support corporate America in many more ways than her opponent.

          Sen. Obama is riding a populist wave of support that I haven't seen since, oh, Bill Clinton and should sweep to victory today. I just hope that the people of America don't fall for him for all the wrong reasons. Look at what has happened in economies like France, Canada, England, etc. that have fallen for the worker first mentality. It's not good for business! Just ask GM what it has done for their bottom line.

          Many people subscribe to the pro-worker camp but fail to overlook the main point. If businesses don't make profits, jobs will be cut. So putting undue pressure on labor costs, health care premiums, corporate taxes, etc. all the prosperity that is promised by the Obama campaign will be for naught.

          Let's hope that common "cents" saves the day today.

          Monday, March 3, 2008

          Landing a job in tough times

          Today's MSNBC site has an article about how to get a leg up in today's job market. Given that a colleague of mine was recently let go and doesn't really understand the social networking world, I thought I'd give some tips for would-be job seekers. Here are 10 solid helpful hints for folks looking for their next opportunity.

          1) Update your resume and then have it looked at by professional resume writer. This might seem costly at first but it is the best $500-$1000 you'll spend. These folks understand what hiring managers are looking for and will provide you with multiple versions of your resume based on the jobs you are looking for.

          2) Get your profile up on Linked In! What are you waiting for? There are 19M other users out there on this site and it gives you the unique ability to get references for your past work and pass those along to recruiters who live on this site. This was one of my primary tools during my last job search and I was able to leverage my network to interface directly with my ultimate manager prior to the interview.

          3) Clean up your MySpace and Facebook sites. Some of you have avoided temptation to be "friended" or post up your intimate details on these sites but those of you that have put your affinity for 80's glam bands and hot pink hair streaks should really clean it up a bit.

          4) Create a 30 second sound bite for what your ideal job is. If you can't articulate it, why would anyone want to hire you? In today's fast paced, info economy, you need to say it fast, loud and clear. I would also send this to your network contacts so they can clearly describe what you're looking for to their contacts.

          5) What is your personal elevator pitch? A two-minute spiel on your background, experience and history will show that you are prepared, knowledgeable and concise to any potential contacts or hiring managers.

          6) Network, network, network. You can never know enough people. You never know what the person next to you on a plane, at Starbucks, in line at Target or at the playground could help with. But the ultimate rule for all networking is that you should be the first to offer assistance and your network karma will come back to you.

          7) Be very careful with videos. You may think that you come across really smart looking and polished but let's face it, you're not on TV for a reason. Think twice, and three times, before sending a video to a company.

          8) Research. If you don't know what the company does, how on earth would you know that you'd like to work there? Do your homework dammit. Nothing is worse than an interview candidate showing up and not knowing a thing about what my company does.

          9) Did I mention networking?

          10) Get a new suit. Clean yourself up and get some new interview clothes. They will not only help you feel better about yourself but they will show that you take pride in your appearance and that you are a professional. And guys, don't be afraid to go get a manicure, sans polish, before you show up. The military knows what's up with the spit and polish thing.

          I hope these things help those of you that might find yourself in the lurch. I've got a lot more so if you're interested, drop me a line and I'll assist. Also, if you want to Link In, hit my contact button on the right.

          Friday, February 29, 2008

          New tricks for old dogs? I don't think so....

          Have we all learned that sometimes the "Founder's Touch" is not what the doctor ordered? With apologies to Steve Jobs, it's rare that the founder of a company or original leader can recreate the magic that spawned a successful company in the first place. Dell reported disappointing results yesterday and it seems as if the world was surprised by this. Michael is just another in a long line of founders / original pioneer CEOs including Howard Schultz, Joe Gibbs, John Mack and Jerry Yang that tried and ultimately failed to deliver the same results they did the first time.

          This should be an important lesson for corporate boards trying to revive their once-lusty brands, perhaps you can't teach an old dog new tricks. Market conditions, pricing power, industry stage, consumer awareness, all factor into the success of a company and CEO's often (but not always) benefit immensely from their effects in driving success.

          The times they have a changed for ol' Mike down in Austin and he may or may not be able to pull this one out. I hope that he does for the sake of many at Dell but if not, they should've seen it coming.

          Tuesday, February 26, 2008

          Enjoying the Caymans

          Spending time this week at my company's President Club event in the Cayman Islands. What a beautiful spot and an amazing reward. Thank you for the nomination and win folks!

          Friday, February 22, 2008

          Snow news is good news

          So, what do you do on snowy, icy days that keep you out of the office? How bad does it have to be for you to stay home? Being a hearty New Englander, I'm typically undaunted by weather of all types on work days. I actually look forward to the challenge of braving the elements, scraping Kevlar-like sheets of ice off my truck and gingerly navigating the roadways on my way to the office. Getting into work is like a badge of honor and the reward is an empty office with plenty of conference rooms.

          I can't say the same for many of our fellow workers out there in the Arctic-like former Confederacy. One mention of snow or freezing rain and you might think that the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse were spotted outside the Shenandoahs. Thank goodness for virtual workspaces or the region's economy would grind to a screeching halt.

          What is your work like? Any ideas for making snowy days more palatable and productive with your co-workers?

          Thursday, February 21, 2008

          Microsoft playing nice in the software sandbox

          Interesting announcement today from MSFT by releasing documentation and easing the restrictions and limitations that have haunted open source and third party developers who wanted to work with their commercial products.

          On the surface, this seems like a giant olive branch to the open source community but in reality I would argue this is the first step in their next world domination strategy. By opening this up, they are directly throwing the gauntlet down to Google and their Google Docs applications.

          These two proverbial rams on a mountainside are just coming to a head yet again. This is just another battle in the overall war. Stay tuned!

          I wonder now if MSFT will remove all OEM fees to developers who utilize their core and repackage or include in other shrink-wrapped products.

          Wednesday, February 20, 2008

          Overwired? Overtired? Spread too thin? How do you simplify?

          An article on MSNBC today talks about a reporter that claims to be "Over-wired". What do you think? Are you entangled with massive cables and cords and constantly plugged in? How do you cope with the relentless stream of information that hurtles at you during the day? What strategies do you use for managing your day that you can share?

          I recently participated in a program called "Speed with Purpose" led by a great instructor named Jeff Irby. His premise is that by slowing down your intake and by using a defined system, you can effectively become more productive in your day to day life. I've incorporated many of his tools and techniques and have found enhanced productivity and focus on my core values.

          This program is one of many approaches to simplifying and managing our lives in this hectic, digital age.

          What is the best tactic that you use on a daily basis to organize and simplify your digital life?

          Tuesday, February 19, 2008


          Is there anything to the rumors that Microsoft might start offering Netflix movies through the Xbox? This would be a big coup for Netflix as it struggles to maintain ground in the movie rental business now that Apple, Amazon, et al are cutting into the market that they previously owned along with Blockbuster. However, the real question is this, of the 40M households with an Xbox, how many of them already get their movies via Netflix and/or Blockbuster. Does this represent a significant enough boost to invest in this technology addition? Also, do you think that Jr. is going to let Mom and Dad use his Xbox to download movies when he wants to be on Xbox Live playing Halo 3 with his friends?

          Friday, February 15, 2008

          Social Copycats?

          I just read about the "mashup" phenomenon of social copycats today and it really blew my mind. Who are these people? What is it about humanity that they are so enamored with being someone else instead of themselves? Now, don't get me wrong, if someone was truly fascinated by my impressive background and wordsmithing skills and decided to do a little drag-n-drop onto their Linked In page, I'm cool with that. Just don't start taking too much credit for my accomplishments and especially not my children.

          Where is this going to stop though? Will someone start taking complete sections of Exec bios off of websites and founding virtual copies of companies? Will someone start a virtual sports league using fantasy football data and pictures of the players? I can appreciate that immitation is the finest form of flattery but for real folks, time to get a life of your own. My life story is not a Wiki to pull from. To contradict Dr. Evil, "The details of my life are quite consequential."

          Thursday, February 14, 2008

          Special Visit

          Just got a special visit from my wife and beautiful little girl Samantha as a surprise for Valentine's Day. Certainly a great mood lifter for a strong finish to the day. Thanks babes!

          Here's looking at you Cupid!

          This morning I actually got to see Valentine's Day through the eyes of a child. The idea that we bring candy and cards to friends at school or work is so far away from what most typical adults would consider acceptable behavior. I'm probably one of the millions that feel V Day is so overhyped and commercial that there is no meaning behind it. However, my son was so excited to hand out his good wishes to all his friends and teachers that it was really refreshing.

          I submit that perhaps the only idea today is to be kind to others and surprise them by doing something nice for them. Hold the door, get them a cup of their favorite tea, send them an interesting news article or even, god forbid we do this in DC, let someone into traffic ahead of you. Maybe that can be our politically correct Valentine to others.

          Wednesday, February 13, 2008

          For whom the bell tolls

          Will it be the Democrats or Republicans this year? I can't honestly say at this point. Our primary was held yesterday in VA and being a Republican supporter, I found few reasons to actually get out and rock the vote. At this point in the game, either candidate remaining is a losing option for me. The good ol' Red Staters are seemingly mailing it in this time with McCain or Huckabee as their options. Neither is a strong option against the Democrats IMHO.

          Obama has been rallying his "cult of personality" zeitgeist to dizzying results in recent primaries and he handily trounced Hillary yesterday around the beltway. This is a disturbing trend for Republicans and is eerily reminiscent of what Bill C. did back in late '91 and early '92 building momentum that couldn't be overtaken.

          How do you feel as business people and technologists about the possibility of an Obama regime? How will your strategy shift if he is elected to the Presidency given his policy leanings? Do you think it is too early to add a Maple Leaf to our Stars n' Stripes?

          Monday, February 11, 2008

          Yahoo, Yahoo, Yahoo....

          What are you waiting for? I can understand that you are trying to maximize shareholder value but really folks! Take the bid already. Counter with a share price that you would take and get moving already. By dragging your feet and basically hitting a forehand over the net back to MSFT, you're being a slow, inefficient monolith just like they are further illustrating why you two should be together in the first place.

          Here's how a negotiation should work between you two. "Hello Yahoo, this is Steve B. at MSFT. Care to sell your company for $31/share (way more than what you are currently worth btw)?" You, "No thanks Steve, but how about $35/share?" Steve B, "Sure, let me check with my bank, hold a sec.....OK, let's do it and get to work."

          See how easy that was? The idea is merge quick, be nimble and attack Google. Not slog through it, kill the morale at both companies, muddle the brand and die a long painful AOL/TW death.

          Thursday, February 7, 2008

          Who's snooping who?

          According to a story in the WSJ today, we are more exposed than we previously thought when online. The intelligence community, foreign police services, even teenagers who are still wearing braces can tap into your Skype communications, private chat room trysts and see what color your underwear is from a satellite.

          The funny thing is that those most concerned with privacy are the same people doing things that they wouldn't do in public.

          I am a firm believer that privacy is a relative term. You must be able to hide in plain sight and stop worrying about who or what is looking into your business. As most parents of young children can agree, there is nowhere in the home to just "get away". Work calls, emails, chats, etc. are monitored. You can't sit at a coffee shop on WiFi without worrying about an over the shoulder snooper or password sweeper. If you want to truly be private in your life, the wild hills of Montana are a great place to start. That being said, you might be even easier to pick out without the masses protecting you.

          I find that if I want to get away, I go to work or off to exercise. That allows me time to just shut my office door or pound some treadmill miles to truly unplug.

          What do you do to get away and gain some privacy?

          Wednesday, February 6, 2008

          The invevitable FBOP and what to do about it.

          You've all had it happen to you. You saw it coming and couldn't do anything about it until it was too late. Then you didn't have the heart to pass it to someone else. Now, I'm here to tell you how to avoid the FBOP. That's right, the Flaming Bag O'Poo.

          My creative thought of the day really surrounds some short term strategies to avoid the FBOP:

          1) If the attempt is made in person, suddenly begin speaking in tongues and ignore the handoff.
          2) If the attempt is on the phone, immediately hang up and dial in after a 5 minute "underground parking garage exit" interlude.
          3) If you can't avoid it, receive it and find a minion to quickly "assign" it to.
          4) If you are alone, immediately spill your drink on them and run.

          How would you avoid the FBOP?

          Worker Productivity Drops??? GASP!

          What to do? What to do? Perhaps I should blog about how I'm not working at this moment and thus contributing to the national epidemic of falling worker productivity. Is this a surprise to any of you out in work land? I know that I struggle every day to keep ahead of the slogging pace of my company, competitors and co-workers to actually produce something. It seems that to actually invoice someone or quote someone for work, it takes 2-3x what the actual work ends up being. But does that mean I'm not being productive? I still end up producing work and money at a profitable clip for my company.

          There is a Sisyphus-ian feel to all of this worker productivity hype. For a long time now, the US has been the leader in services-based business around the globe. As we continue to lose our services economy edge to other countries, isn't this a good thing? There is only so much leverage we can exert on individuals to perform more and more work? The real pressure is to innovate, create and identify new areas for growth in our economy otherwise we might all just spontaneously combust from the adverse friction created by our commute gridlock.

          What have you done recently to make yourself more productive? What tips can you offer that have made you a better contributor?

          Thursday, January 31, 2008

          Bluetooth's Second Wave

          Could there possibly be a more overhyped consumer technology in the last 20 years? The promise of Bluetooth has just not panned out. I've tried, and returned or sold, three different headsets for my cellphone. I've unpaired the phone from my wife's car. I've unpaired my cell from my Powerbook. My Bluetooth mouse never worked properly for anything that resembles mouse pointing. What is it with this technology? Now, we're promised the next wave? How about fixing the first wave?

          As far as ideas go, Bluetooth was an amazing one....but it never lived up to its promise. I certainly don't have my hopes up that the second wave will live up to the bloated expectations set by the first.

          My idea for Bluetooth is that it should be utilized sparingly, perhaps in the home or office. Pair your coffee mug at work with all the full pots in the office and you'll know whenever you're in range of a full pot. Or perhaps, put Bluetooth on every sock you own so you'll know where it's twin is within 5 feet.

          Tuesday, January 29, 2008

          iPhone "Unlocked": Why more companies don't follow Apple's lead

          I can only imagine the "concern" that Apple must be conveying to AT&T who is signed up as the official distributor of iPhones in the US. The news release today that 25% (over 1M units) of all iPhones have been "unlocked" to work on other networks is terrible news to their partnership. Who knew that all these savvy gear jockeys would deconstruct the security and proprietary network schemae only to use their new ~$500 gadget freely across the wireless provider spectrum? Do you think that Apple will be kicking back some of that $500M in product revenue to AT&T to cover their losses?

          This is the future folks. More companies need to break down these solo partnerships / distributorships and use open-source product release models so that our gadgets are not locked to an oligarchy or monopoly of service providers. I'm sure that the Linux crowd will agree with that. Now if I could only download DRM free music from iTunes...