Sunday, October 30, 2005

Throwing Things Away

From "Counting on Kindness" by Wendy Lustbader -

"We all want some portion of our lives to "live beyond its midnight," yet selectivity is the only way to keep from amassing garbage. The labor of choosing what to keep and what to throw away is fundamental to creating anything of value. A diarist who fails to choose and instead tries to record everything on the page soon resembles the woman who saves everything in her house; when everything is valuable, nothing in particular is of worth."

Contemplative Prayer

I've been slowly reading the book "Open Mind Open Heart" by Father Thomas Keating over the last few months.

This passage struck me as meaningful this morning -

"Contemplative prayer fosters a whole different attitude toward one's feelings; it puts them in a different frame of reference. Most extreme feelings come from a sense of insecurity, especially when we feel threatened. But when you are being constantly reaffirmed by the presence of God in deep silence, you not afraid of being contradicted or imposed upon. You might be humble enough to learn something from insults and humiliations without being overwhelmed by feelings of self-depreciation or revenge. Negative feelings toward oneself tend to be prevalent in our culture due to the low self-image people develop in early childhood, possibly because of our highly competitive society. Anyone who does not win feels that he or she is no good in this culture, whereas in the quiet of deep prayer, you are a new person, or rather, you are you."

Grace and Denial

I'm a firm believer in grace.

The idea that certain - things that happen, people I meet, places I go, small and big things in life have a meaning.

My job is to find that meaning and arrange it in a pattern, mosaic or juxtaposition of some sort that helps me to learn and evolve as a human.

You have to be a little careful with the "grace" idea or you can sound a little woo-woo or become a little coo-coo. Not every thing, person, place, has a deep meaning, but sometimes we find meaning in unexpected ways.

The word grace is a little hard to get your arms around. Princeton WordNet provides us with this on grace -

* Grace, saving grace, state of grace ((Christian theology) a state of sanctification by God; the state of one who under such divine influence) "the conception of grace developed alongside the conception of sin"; "it was debated whether saving grace could be obtained outside the membership of the church"; "the Virgin lived in a state of grace"

* Grace, gracility (elegance and beauty of movement or expression)

* Seemliness, grace (a sense of propriety and consideration for others)

* Grace, good will, goodwill (a disposition to kindness and compassion) "the victor's grace in treating the vanquished"

* Grace ((Greek mythology) one of three sisters who were the givers of beauty and charm; a favorite subject for sculptors)

* Grace, blessing, thanksgiving (a short prayer of thanks before a meal)

* Grace, grace of God, free grace ((Christian theology) the free and unmerited favor or beneficence of God) "God's grace is manifested in the salvation of sinners"; "there but for the grace of God go I"

* Decorate, adorn, grace, ornament, embellish, beautify (make more attractive by adding ornament, colour, etc.) "Decorate the room for the party"; "beautify yourself for the special day"

* Deck, adorn, decorate, grace, embellish, beautify (be beautiful to look at) "Flowers adorned the tables everywhere"

Grace is a beautiful word, with lots of meanings. It's a high compliment to say someone exhibits grace, or is filled with grace, or is graceful and a wonderful name for someone ala Grace Kelly. It's also somehow akin to the thought of Serendipity, finding something unexpected and useful, while looking for something else entirely.

Grace, and it's meaning, is a topic of many discussions by thoughful people. For this discussion I'm using the word grace in the sense "by the grace of God".


The opposite of grace may be denial. Refusing to accept that there is meaning in many things (particularly painful or unpleasant things).

One of my defense mechanisms is humor. It works pretty good in many situations in helping to keep me sane. On the other hand I can see times when I've used humor to deny a feeling that if accepted, and examined, might help make me stronger, wiser, more centered, compassionate or more self-aware.

A person I recently met was talking about someone close to her who has Alzeimers. As I listened to her speak I began to think how sad it is to have someone you love slip away, while still being physically present - in this case no longer speaking.

I had a revelation of sorts while listening which brought me to tears. Not only for this woman but for my self.

I was very close to my grandmother. She was a teacher who loved kids. Her occupation was her avocation. She had lost her husband before I was born and lived much of her adult life as a single parent supporting her two daughters. One of her daughters had juvenile onset diabetes which eventually caused her to die a painful difficult death. When I lost my father at age 3 we lived with my grandmother who in some ways had more to do with raising me then my mother. My grandmother had experienced her fair share of suffering and come through it with grace, humor and a strong will.

I loved Gram. Not only was she a great teacher to a lot of students she was a great teacher for me.

She developed Alzheimers in the last years of her life and was in a nursing home. My wife and I went to visit her infrequently because she was in a different state. On one of those infrequent visits Gram said, "Oh Betsy (my wife) so good to see you. And who is that person you have with you?"

I've treated that as a joke. It isn't really. By recognizing that I can hopefully gain some compassion for others.


From "Kitchen Table Wisdom" by Rachel Naomi Remen M.D. -

"Life is the ultimate teacher, but it is usually through experience and not scientific research that we discover it's deepest lessons. A certain percentage of those who have survived near-death experiences speak of a common insight which afforded a purpose; to grow in wisdom and to learn to love better. We can do this through losing as well as through winning, by having and by not having, by succeeding or by failing. All we need to do is to show up openhearted for class."

Saturday, October 29, 2005

You Don't Know Me

I had an encounter with someone today that has occurred various times over my life and leaves me with a sense of sadness, a bit of anger and a feeling that I've seen hypocrisy in action. Maybe prejudice or stereotyping are words that help describe this experience.

Here's the deal.

Someone says something to me like, "Oh so you're an engineer."

This might be followed by "that's what I thought" or "assumed" or "guessed". Today it happened before I had said anything, so I guess the person who said it based their assumption on my appearance.

I've seen this happen with people who become enamoured with pyschological profiles like Myers-Briggs or other schemes where people begin to think they could somehow encompass the wonder of a human being by some sort of labeling system.

The unsaid part is what hurts - I have inferred that I know who you are, or what you are, what you care about, or in general what type of person you are because I have given you a label.

You Don't Know Me.

The thing that bothers me most about these encounters is that they have occurred with people in an academic, sometimes social, or other non-work setting where the topic under discussion had something to do with humanity (in general) and nothing to do with occupation or labels. The difficult part for me is that the people making the comment profess to be feeling, caring, open minded, non-judgemental, open to alternate lifestyles, religious beliefs, political viewpoints etc.

The next time you are in a setting where what you are talking about has nothing to do with a person's occupation, it's probably best to withold prejudging and not comment on what "label" you have attached to a person.

If you are in a Math class it's probably okay to say, "Oh from the way you answered that question I assume you are a mathmatician." If you are in a theology class it's probably not appropriate to say, "that sounds like something a mathmatician would say." if you get my drift.

There's an element of "political correctness" at work here. Of course a person wouldn't say in a gathering of open minded caring people, "oh so you're gay, that's what I figured" or "you look like a liberal democrat to me". That same person unfortunately might not think twice about making some inference about who you are because you are a man/woman, young/old, formally educated/self educated, or your avocation/occupation.

You never know who someone might be...and you aren't going to find out if you climb the ladder of inference too quickly.

You don't know me. I might be working as an engineer, or a cook, a teacher, a preacher, a social worker, nurse, policeman, a farmer, truck driver or a student...I might be gay or straight, a Republican or a Democrat..I might be poor or rich or young or old - but those are just words. You have no knowledge of what I've lost, what I've gained, what I've studied, what I care about, what gave me joy and what caused me sadness.

Next time you see me...just say, "Oh so you're a fellow human being."

"That's what I thought."



Luke The Physician - On Humilty

In the Daily Reflection from Creighton University learn why one man's mother told him on the first day of school that he should get to know the school cook and the school secretary rather than the teacher or principal.


Luke 14:1, 7-11

On a sabbath Jesus went to dine
at the home of one of the leading Pharisees,
and the people there were observing him carefully.

He told a parable to those who had been invited,
noticing how they were choosing the places of honor at the table.
“When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet,
do not recline at table in the place of honor.
A more distinguished guest than you may have been invited by him,
and the host who invited both of you may approach you and say,
‘Give your place to this man,’
and then you would proceed with embarrassment
to take the lowest place.
Rather, when you are invited,
go and take the lowest place
so that when the host comes to you he may say,
‘My friend, move up to a higher position.’
Then you will enjoy the esteem of your companions at the table.
For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled,
but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

New American Bible

Thoughts for Tots

Ten things to think about..maybe a start for a short essay or blog entry -

1. LBJ and Lady Bird's Great Society vs. George and Laura Bush's What?

2. Who's running this country anyway? Letter in this week's "New Yorker" to the American People from Dave (CEO of Chevron) informing us that we are running out of cheap oil and need to do something.

3. The amazing ability to blow things totally out of proportion by using a combination of self-centered limited-perspective thinking and email/web. Recent suggestions by some well known webites that the solution to the Splog issue would be shut down Blogger. Everyday examples from Emailage in workspaces everywhere.

4. What's newsworthy?

Boring stuff - Conservation, banning SUV's in cities, raising the mandatory miles per gallon for new cars, global warming, the take over of government by corporations


Exciting stuff - the OJ Trial, Bill Clinton's peccadillos, the girl lost on Aruba, who outed the CIA lady and why.

4.1 Where do you go to find the news? Assuming you have no internet access and depend on T.V. and maybe a newspaper...

5. People over sixty know a lot of stuff. We should use them. Kids should have more chances to interact with oldsters. Everyone should...when can we start building the kibbutz's in the U.S.

6. Breathing - why I like it.

7. The wonder of stories.

8. Why can't we have a talk radio show where real people talk? tell stories? debate? discuss issues we think are important? And a show where someone just talked about good thoughts (non-denominational/ecumenical/non-religious/religious). I'd love one of those 24 hrs/day but particularly at night before bed.

9. Pets - Stress relievers or stressors?

10. Will cuddle parties catch on in Lake Wobegon

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Harmony Motel: Lodging in 29 Palms / Joshua Tree Park

The Harmony Motel looks like an interesting place to stay in the desert.

I found the link in a usual ciruitous way by looking at 43 Things and then traveling over to the creator's blog The Robot Co-op where Daniel Spils is listed as one of the Robots...and on his page found the mention of the Harmony Motel.

Going down to Twentynine Palms when it's rainy and cloudy up here in the Pacific Northwest sounds pretty good. The pictures look nice and the rates amazingly low 55 for a single, 65 for two and 80 for the The Jack Kerouac Cabin.

Daniel Spils says of the Harmony Motel, "Don't expect much and you'll be pleasantly surprised".

Cut Fuel Costs

I found this picture of a group of people who've found a solution to the dilemma - "What do I do with my SUV now that gas is so darn expensive?"

Archie McPhee Toys, Gifts & Novelties

Archie McPhee's is a great place to check out, for Halloween stuff or any time of the year for fun things.

Archie McPhee's is located at 2428 NW Market Street in Seattle's Ballard neighborhood.

A set of Cowboy Boot Sideburns or a Red Fez could be the start of a Halloween costume or good for everyday office attire.

These guys always look cute wearing a fez.

For practical everyday use the Internet Urinal looks like a good pick for those long chat room or Webex meetings.

The ceramic Smoking Baby is a good reminder for all of us to keep cigarettes away from tiny tots.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Bringing Out the Absurdity of the News - The Colbert Report

Another good review of the Colbert Report. This one from the New York Times.

The article mentions the hilarious "Truthiness" Word of the Day skit, and says, "On his regular feature "The Word," Mr. Colbert routinely mocks the kind of anti-intellectual populism perfected by Fox News. "Trustiness" was his word of the day, he told viewers with a poker face, sneering at the "wordanistas over at Webster's" who might refute its existence. "I don't trust books," he explained. "They're all fact and no heart."

Monday, October 24, 2005

I ran across while looking for information on Vegemite. I think I'll run over to QFC and see if they have it. Salty yeast sounds good to me right now.

There's a lot of fun looking stuff at cockeyed....just a couple of examples -

How much cheezy whiz in a can?

Trophy Night, May 26, 2001

Oscar Wilde

You can read the complete short story "The Remarkable Rocket" by Oscar Wilde at The Literature Page to understand the context of these two quotes:


"The only thing that sustains one through life is the consciousness of the immense inferiority of everybody else, and this is a feeling that I have always cultivated."


"She was one of those people who think that, if you say the same thing over and over a great many times, it becomes true in the end."


From The Quotations Page - Your Source for Famous Quotes from Oscar Wilde and many others.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Worst Names For a Beauty Shop

I've been thinking about possible worst names, or signs, for a beauty shop.

I assume this is a competitive field but here's my starting list:

Hed Shed
Snip and Snarl
Wack Job
Van Gogh Look
Bowl Cuts
Hair Butcher
Bad Bobs
U Do It
Smokin Scissor
Hair Assassin
The Hairminator
Mostly Mohawks
The Ziegfeld Follicals
Rusty Scissor
Hairy Carey
Hair Doo
Cut Up and Dye
Comb Over - Here
Dread Locks
Clipto Maniacs
Al's Sip and Snip
Trusses and Tresses
Teeze Me Pleez Me
Clippin and Trippin


Offering Walmart's Newest Service - "Haircuts - While You Shop"

"_____ Days Without an Accident on the Job"

"We Specialize in Good Looking Spray On Hair"

"Genuine Flowbees Used Here"

And finally possibly the weirdest real beauty shop name I've ever heard of, and it's a real place...

"The Beaver Look"


Tracy Kidder - "My Detachment"

I just watched Tracy Kidder talk about his book "My Detachment", a memoir of the time he spent in the Vietnam war, on C-Span2. I was impressed by the conversation, his humor and thoughtfulness, as well as the breadth of things he has written about.

The only book of his I'm familiar with is "The Soul of a New Machine" which tells the story of a team of engineers at Data General working on a new mini-computer in the late 1970's. It's a good book. It won the Pulitzer Prize for non-fiction literature and a National Book Award. Ref - New York State Writers Institute - Tracy Kidder

The book "My Detachment" has gotten mixed reviews, as in this clip from Bookmarks magazine -

"At its best, My Detachment resembles classic wartime satires like Catch-22 and M*A*S*H in its demonstration that the worst battles many soldiers face are against boredom and mindless military bureaucracy...It's an honest account of his military life. Yet it’s also one that some critics considered pointless, as though time had failed to give Kidder the perspective to appreciate his sacrifice in fighting a war he could easily have avoided, as well as his good fortune in avoiding the combat that cost 58,000 American lives."

It was very interesting to listen to Tracy Kidder talk about his book "My Detachment" at a bookstore in Washington D.C. It made me want to read that book and some of the others he has written as well. He seemed very honest and thoughful when answering questions from the audience. I imagine writing the book was a cathartic experience of sorts. It is one person's point of view. I'm sure it ticks off some Vietnam veteran's who have vastly different experiences to report.

He mentioned writing, getting things out, as a way to live with himself at 3 am. He talked about one recurring dream he had, in which was being called back to serve in the war. He made an interesting comment about being friends with a police officer, who on occasion would be told by lawbreakers that they had gone "bad" because of something that happened in Nam. The problem with that reason, was that some of these people were in diapers at the time Saigon fell. At least Tracy Kidder has a first person account to tell - not everyone's story - his story. Given his writing skill I think it would be worth reading.

My Detachment : A Memoir
Mountains Beyond Mountains: Healing the World: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer
Old Friends
Among Schoolchildren
The Soul Of A New Machine

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Sweet Orange Pear Delight

This is a great simple recipe if you have some oranges that aren't so good (not too sweet, or woody, lots of seeds..etc)

Prepare a simple syrup of sugar and water by placing a 1/2 cup of sugar and 1/2 cup of water in a small sauce pan and bringing to a boil. While the syrup is gently boiling..

Peel your orange and carefully place the orange slices in the simple syrup.

Cut some small pieces of the orange rind and place in the simple syrup.

Quarter a good pear, remove the peel and place the pear slices in the simple syrup.

Let the mixture simmer for awhile. After it's cooked a few minutes you can mush up the pear to give the mixture a thicker consistency...or you could halve the pear and try to keep it intact...for a nice presentation.

Take the orange pieces out of the simple syrup and serve with a little cinnamon sprinkled on top.

The orange will taste great! Nice, simple, clean and good.

Use the rest of the syrup on ice cream, in a tea, on waffles/pancakes or whatever sounds good to you.


I've been thinking how hard it is to listen.

Genuine listening takes concentration, inner quiet, humility, practice - and is therefore generally hard work.

In lieu of truely listening we could listen to respond, practice autobiographical listening, competitive listening, pretend listening or not listening at all i.e. interrupting, non-stop talking - having a monologue rather than a dialogue.

Listening to respond - I have an idea in mind. You go ahead and say what you like and then I'm going to say what I have in mind. Doesn't matter so much if it's related to what you just said.

Autobiographical listening
- This is where you tell me something about yourself. Maybe you lost someone you cared for. Rather than listening, I'm thinking while you talk - how does that relate to me? Then when I get a chance to speak I say something like, "I know what you mean I lost my father when I was young...let me tell you about that."

Competitive listening - Related to autobiographical listening or listening to respond. You'll often see this in a group of experts. The goal is to listen and come up with a response that's most "expert" "smarter" or "wiser". Again not so much interested in what the speaker said, and building on it, or just listening..but in maintaining my expert status.

You'll also run into this in conversations where there is a power structure to be maintained. Possibly in a Manager/worker, Doctor/patient, Husband/wife, Teacher/student exchanges. Another name for this kind of listening might be "Mr. know-it-all" or "Ms. know-it-all"

Pretend listening - I look at you, maybe nod every so often, all the time thinking about what I'm going to have for lunch.

Not listening at all - At least this is honest. I either just ignore you or won't let you get a word in edgewise. I guess it's great if I have a speech or sermon, or an endless supply of fascinating stories...otherwise not usually too pleasant for the recipient.


I used to work with a guy who was a terrible listener and oddly enough a manager of people. I was in his office once talking and he turned around to read his email and said, "Go ahead and keep talking I'm listening."


You've probably seen this chart or something like it -


I've taken classes in listening, read, thought and wrote about listening. In the abstract it's all's when we get into the real world that it's a bear.

I was in a class once where a woman said being a good listener came naturally to her. She is very lucky. I think that is a rare, almost saintly, characteristic.

For most mortals genuine listening takes concentration, inner quiet, humility and practice.

Concentation - It's hard enough to concentrate on anything let alone a person speaking in a more or less intelligible way, with various sometimes mixed or mixed-up messages, maybe boring, maybe sad, maybe makes me angry. Learning to concentrate or getting to a point of being able to concentrate...very hard. But the next three things can help us to concentrate; inner quiet, humility and practice.

Inner quiet - Monks, bodhisattvas, meditators of all stripes work on finding inner quiet. Calming the mind to the point where we don't latch on to thoughts that constantly flow in our stream of consciousness. Many of these thoughts are fascinating or at least much more appealing that what we want to concentrate on in the moment. This is hard in a quiet space let alone with someone talking and you trying to listen. Most meditation involves some form of conscious breathing. For listening it can be as simple as taking a deep breath between the stimulus (what the person said) and your response. For more advanced practioners perhaps several deep breaths (don't hyperventilate though...becoming unconcious is not generally a sign of good listening ;-)

Humility - Another tough one. Especially when you're as smart as you and me. Seriously though...humility is so difficult. It takes inner strength, confidence in your self, and courage. You might not look so smart if you don't give advice, provide solutions, or illuminate the speaker with your illuminating knowledge of all things...I'm talking to myself as I write those words, since I see myself being a Mr. Know it All / Smartypants quite often.

Practice - This is easier if you can find a group of people who practice listening skills. If you find yourself in the fray of a group of non-listeners, practicing your listening skills takes some advanced skills. It can also be frustrating, since you may feel although a lot of words are flowing, not much is being communicated...on the positive side your presence may make a difference over time.


As we get to be better listeners we can hear (and also share) stories about life, love, loss, birth, rebirth, death, parents, spirituality, religion, sex, good people, bad people, beauty, ugliness, pain, joy, laughter, nature, children...and still keep in mind not every story has to be heavy, deep and real..we can share stories about fishing, parties, bumper stickers, TV shows, football games, food, lawn care, politics, pets...anything - and every so often, in between the lines, catch a glimpse of some thing truely meaningful - a fellow human being.

Listening, being present, is perhaps one of the greatest gifts we can give one another.

May you and I find inner peace so we can begin to hear the stories we all share.

Friday, October 21, 2005


The word of the day on the new Comedy Central show The Colbert Report a couple of days ago was "truthiness".

Stephen Colbert's bit made me laugh until I cried.

You can check out the video clip for "Truthiness" on the webpage (once Comedy Central's web gurus's get it fixed). Right now the "Truthiness" video brings up the "Gravitas" video.

Stephen Colbert's new show is funnier if you are familiar with "Bill O'Reilly's No-Spin Zone" on Fox news network.

Salon has an article on Stephen Colbert's new show where they opine -

"In a nice play on O'Reilly's "No-Spin Zone" foolishness, Colbert wants us to know that even though his name is all over the place, the show isn't all about him. "No, this program is dedicated to you, the heroes!" he bellows. "And who are the heroes? The people who watch this show -- average, hardworking Americans. You're not the elites, you're not the country club crowd. I know for a fact that my country club would never let you in. But you get it! And you come from a long line of it-getters!"

Note to Reader: You have to watch an ad with a car spinning around for a second before Salon lets you read the whole article.

On the other hand...

The Kansas City Star asks if this may be too much of a good thing?

The one show I saw had some funny bits. Watched some last night and then gave it up...he seemed tired and the writing was flat.

Hoping for some more funny stuff as the show goes on...

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

:: Death Cab For Cutie ::

I heard the song Soul Meets Body by the group "Death Cab for Cutie" earlier this week on

I like it a lot.

You can listen to part of that song, and others, on their website.

Rachel and Becca went to see them play awhile back and I just assumed from the name that they wouldn't be my cup of tea.

DCFC originally formed in 1997 in Bellingham,

3 Random Blogs - No Splog

I wanted to test out my suggestion to click the "next blog" button to demonstrate for yourself how much splog there is on Blogger.

My first three clicks came up with -

Katrina's cycling to Sydney expedition diary 2005-2006


crunk and disorderly | | reloaded

Crunk and disorderly | | reloaded doesn't have a "next blog" button so I had to settle for a sample size of 3.

So much for my suggestion that clicking the "next blog" button would land you in page after page of random spam blogs filled with crappy links.

Those three random blogs are cool. Hmmmm.

Maybe, hopefully, the people at Blogger shut the gates on the spambloggers.

Spam blogs have been a hot topic this week, see Blogger Buzz: Spam Barriers and VeriSign Tackles the Scandal of Splog.

I had pretty much quit using the next blog feature a few months back because there was so many spam pages showing up.

From this users knothole, it appears Blogger has made some definite improvements to filter out spam blogs when using the next blog button.

I'm glad to see human created content again and would like to thank the people who came up with the solution with a spoem (a poem about spam) -

Blogger gurus working through the night
Making sure everything works all right
Cleaning up the sphere
We hold so dear
Thanks to you there's no more splog to fear
Don't we know it
Now if you could only do something to help this poet

Cows Jump on Bluetooth Bandwagon

It was only a matter of time.

People, and now cows, who want to know stuff find it at Dave Barry's Blog.


The Daily Show

The Colbert Report

Does The Web Make You Smarterer?

I'd originally titled this post What Is Web 2.0?

That question is interesting to many people hence the second annual sold-out Web 2.0 Conference 2005. It's fun to look at the speakers bios and think about what got them on the speakers platform. There is a preponderence of white males...not to say it isn't an egalitarian gathering, but it's interesting to think about who's getting the graduate and doctorate degrees in engineering and computer science nowadays vs. who the movers, shakers and thinkers are that made it to the podium.

Over here, in my miniature Cafe, far away from the conference I'd like to present a few ideas about the WWW for my reader(s)/myself to mull over.

~  Years ago Bill Gates said that the challenge of the internet would be to provide "content", likening appeal of the internet sans content to the appeal to average citizens of citizens band radio.

That's a big 10-4 good buddy.

The internet could easily become a heap of miscellaneous bits and pieces of mostly useless data.

The latest spot where garbage is being heaped is the   splog   pile. If you want to get a feel for the problem use the "next blog" button up there on the right and keep clicking through to see what comes up. You'll see a lot of splog, and some well-meaning but boring or ugly or extremely self-centered content and occasionally something of interest and rarely something really cool.

~   Barry Diller recently commented that editor's are important and talent is rare. I was going to try and make a case that (a) human editor's could be replaced by machines and (b) the aggregate "talent" of a bunch of "untalented" or "sort of talented" people could be combined to make a masterpiece. It's interesting to ponder those ideas but I can't make a case that even gets close to being convincing that we could somehow replace editors and talent.

~   I came up with three ways to view the impact of the web.

Here's an excecutive summary -

The web makes us - dumber, has no impact on our intelligence, or makes us smarter.

Can I get you a cup of coffee? Maybe some nicotine?...a piece of lemon pie? Something to help keep you awake?

1. It dumbs us down.

Wiki articles are great, but they aren't the Encyclopedia Britannica (maybe that's okay..I could never finish those anyway, plus they needed more color pictures). The danger of the wiki concept is if we start to accept the content as the epitome of knowledge but the vetting process doesn't support that level of trust. Then we all get dumbed down.

We are all good at processing web information though; we know .edu .gov .org and .com can mean certain things - for example we don't take medical information from to be the same as something we find on


The web is ideal for promoting short attention spans and instant gratification.

On the plus side it can be interactive to a greater or lesser degree to help exercise our brains. It will always be more interactive than the biggest mind-killer of all, television.

Fran Lebowitz has absolutely no use for TV. I tend to be more of a middle of the roader, liking a little mindless junk TV, some great entertaining TV (Boston Legal for me right now) and some PBS things but try to avoid spending much time staring at the tube.


Another way to consider how we may be getting dumbed down by the web is to think about how we learn.

We learn from stories.

At least the important stuff of life. The web is not a replacement for sitting across the kitchen table and hearing about your family, telling jokes, sharing values, dreams, perspectives across generations.

We learn experientially, a 2 dollar word, meaning we learn by doing. We learn to manipulate the web by doing stuff with the web...we learn about life by living.

"Ceçi n'est pas une life."


As an aside..I was watching Ross Perot talk yesterday and he said there is a Texasism that goes something like,

"If you're talkin you aren't learning anything new."

He was promoting the idea of listening and hearing what people have to say.

Ross Perot's comment about listening, borrowing a phrase from Jim Hightower, shows me

"that guy is smarter than a tree full of owls."

I'm very guilty of being a constant "talker" on the web. I like to write in my blog...I rarely read anyone elses...very egotistical and self-absorbed. I like to jump around the web and read a bunch of stuff (maybe on a blog) so I guess I listen some too.


Finally on the "why the web makes us dumberer" thread - consider this - the web is to thinking what the car is to physical fitness. Isaac Newton wasn't surfing the web when that apple hit him on the head. He was thinking - hard. That's how any new, interesting thought comes about - by hard work.

There's a danger that out minds get so flabby that we can't really think...hopefully by that time machines will have taken over thinking for us so I can spend all day watching cartoons or telling myself jokes.

2. The Web neither increases nor decreases human knowledge.

It's just a repository. Smart people make tools that allow us to sift through that repository to add to what we know, integrate it, hopefully build on it, and thereby contribute to the world's knowledge base.

The talented people involved in web development are good at making tools. Not necessarily at using those tools to provide useful content (I'm defining useful content very narrowly as building upon knowledge that aides the human race in the long view...not how much ad revenue Google can generate in the next minute.)

Web 2.0 tools might be a really nice set of paintbrushes, but it takes an artist to paint the picture. In other words being talented at making a tool is not the same as putting that tool to a good (read furthering knowledge for the good of society) use. That's why diversity is so wonderful. It's how nature survives and why mono-crops fail..anyway..back to planet internet.

3. The Web increases human knowledge.

The web helps diverse talented people work together to come up with smart ideas that will aid society. Not so sure about this one. It might help a little but the web isn't going to feed the poor, clothe the naked or soothe the suffering. It isn't going to develop a person's roadmap to the "good life". Not to say it can't help. But nothing will every replace the real world thank God.


Just one final aside....

Yesterday I was sitting in an office, no outside light or air, for nine hours. At the end of that nine hours I walked outside into a damp, cool, foggy day - IT WAS GREAT!

Just amazing how my mind and body perked up as I got outside.

The web can never replace that...or the smile of a child, the touch of a loved one, the kindness of a stranger.

Sometimes it's all about perspectives.



Rene Magritte, The Treason of Images ("This is Not a Pipe"), 1928-29, Los Angeles County Museum of Art

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Talk Latin to Me Baby

I made it to the mycological show.

And yeah baby it's so hot when you talk Latin to me.

Actualllllly I was talking to a nice mature lady who was painting scenes on a
fungus called an "artist's conk" or "artist's pallette".

It's a big hard fungus that grows on trees, one side looks like bark or wood
and the other is a nice smooth surface for an artist. She told me the Latin name
and it sounded really cool.

I used to know a couple of Latin phrases back in my life as an altar
boy...Dominic Go Frisk Em and things like that.

Hiker's Notebook: Artists Conk has a good picture of a type of conk and tell's us:

"Ganoderma applanatum is a perennial polypore that can live as long as 50 years. It has been used for a variety of dietary and medicinal purposes for millennia by hominids and is considered a delicacy by modern gorillas, which have been known to fight over it, causing intragroup dissention until solved by the silverback."

Author's Note: Conks are a favorite food of gorillas in the Amazon rain in the Pacific Northwest Bigfoots like them.

A couple of interesting points I learned from one of the mycological society members:

1. Mushrooms are not disappearing because of over-harvesting by wild mushroom hunters. Picking a mushroom is like picking a fruit off a tree. Mushrooms are harder and harder to find because of (a) sprawl/development and (b) logging.

2. People can gather wild mushrooms for commercial sale but they need a license.

Mushroom hunters, like members of Duck's Unlimited, Trout Unlimited or other groups that have interest in preservation of the wild outdoors really have an important role in promoting ecological thinking across a diverse, and hopefully politically powerful, group of citizens.


I think there were probably a hundred or more types of mushrooms at the show. They were classified as Edible, Maybe edible (don't taste so good), and Poisonous. Some of the edible ones look quite a bit like the poison ones. Some of the ones that are edible don't look like something you would eat...

I took a single picture of this huge fungus that is classified as edible choice. It looked and felt nice. I wonder what it would be like cooked..

Hericium Ramosum
Colloquial Name: Delicate Hericium, Comb Tooth
Edibility: Edible, choice
Time of Year: Fall and winter
Habitat: Solitary or several on fallen hardwood branches,
logs, and stumps (mostly live oak).


I won a drawing for a mushroom farm at the show.

Well not exactly a farm it's a plastic bag with straw or wood and oyster mushroom spores inside of it. This is a picture of it after I hung it up.

I was going to just set it on the ground but Betsy thought it might turn into a slug hotel so I made the tripod affair to keep it away from them.


I didn't grow these chantrelles. I bought them at the 25th Street Market. They are really nice and 3 something a pound (cheaper than some plain old white mushrooms). They made a nice cream of mushroom soup, using green onions, a little fresh garlic, olive oil, soy milk, salt and pepper, nutrional yeast, crunchy toasts and a little fresh parsley for color.


These are just a few random shots...

Posted by Picasa

Mushroom Club - Open House Today

I'm going to head up to Forest Park to check out some shrooms today. The Snohomish County Mycological Society is having their annual open house at Floral Hall in case you are in the area.

It's a nice cloudy rainy day here in the Pacific Northwest, perfect for mushrooms.

Maybe I'll make a cream of mushroom soup later, if I can find some chanterelles somewhere, otherwise I might just cook up a big pot of psilocybin stew.

Just seeing if you were paying attention ;-)

Erma Bombeck Quotes

"Graduation day is tough for adults. They go to the ceremony as parents. They come home as contemporaries. After twenty-two years of child-raising, they are unemployed."

"Guilt: the gift that keeps on giving."

"I come from a family where gravy is considered a beverage."

"I never leaf through a copy of National Geographic without realizing how lucky we are to live in a society where it is traditional to wear clothes."

"I've exercised with women so thin that buzzards followed them to their cars."

"I was too old for a paper route, too young for Social Security and too tired for an affair."

"It takes a lot of courage to show your dreams to someone else."

"The only reason I would take up jogging is so that I could hear heavy breathing again."

Erma Bombeck Quotes from

Slowing Down Time

Sunday is a good day to write about slowing down time. The day of the week when people traditionally take time from work to relax and recreate, cook a nice breakfast, take a walk, go to church, watch a football game, read the paper.

While we are engaged in scheduled work the thought of free time sounds great. Every Sunday night the thought of just one more day off sounds wonderful to a lot of us.
Or for that matter how great it would be if every day were Saturday.

We know at our core that is not what we really want.

A continuous expanse of time with nothing to do would not be heaven so much as hell.

We could check that theory with a prisoner. Free time doesn’t equate to having nothing to do. Free time is time available to do the things we want to do. Hopefully we spend the vast majority of our time doing what we want to do…which means we already have a bunch of free time. If not, we might want to change jobs to find work we like, switch off our cell phones, take a news break or change our physical or mental scenery (by going outside or reading something we normally would not).

People who reach retirement can be surprised, and disappointed, when the great expanse of free time they find themselves with, which seemed so appealing when they were working, turns out to be a prison.

The idea of alternating days of work with day(s) of rest is important to us in marking time, or perhaps a better way to put it, as a way to tether memories.

If every day is the same we lose our markers and hence our ability to find order and meaning.

We need the alternating rhythm of work/play to appreciate either one. We need contrast to find meaning - ups and downs, good and evil, happiness and sadness, peace and war, contentment and pain, light and dark, order and disorder all help us appreciate and learn about life in our never ending goal of finding what each of us defines as the “good life”.


When one day is like all the others, then they are all like one….Habituation is a falling asleep or fatiguing of the sense of time; which explains why young years pass slowly, while later life flings itself faster and faster upon it’s course. We are aware that the interspersing of periods of change and novelty is the only means by which we can refresh our sense of time, strengthen, retard, and rejuvenate it, and therewith renew our perception of life itself. Such is the purpose of our changes of air and scene;…it is the secret of the healing power of change and incident.”

Thomas Mann – The Magic Mountain


Learning to alternate doing with being is an important lesson.

In the world of work people define themselves by what they do, in the whole wide world who you are (being) shapes your experience of life.

At work, and for some of us away from work, we define ourselves by a job description; fireman, taxi driver, administrative assistant, editor, teacher, farmer, social worker, nurse etc.

Outside the sphere of work when interacting with human beings, or alone, it really doesn't matter what you do for a living, but who you are.

People who find themselves with unlimited amounts of personal time can be perfectly happy, depending on how they spent their time prior to retirement, illness, or unemployment.

There are people who never stop what they are doing and wouldn’t want to. They never separated work from life. I tend to think those people never thought of work as a job. There is a distinction between a job with extrinsic rewards (something you do to get money to do something else) and work with intrinsic rewards (something you would do because you love it and if it pays, that’s great too).

For those people who don’t stop what they are doing ever…what they were doing was something like play, or a game, a creative endeavor of some sort, but not what we might consider a job and certainly not dragged down by the drudgery or monotony associated with some jobs.

If we don’t consider the lucky folks who have meaningful work that lasts a lifetime, it can be devastating for some of us to lose that center, whether it be an away from home job or a role as caregiver/life-sharer inside the home. We all know people who died, or made a sharp down turn, not too long after retirement or losing a loved one that centered their life.

People who find themselves with unlimited amounts of free time, tell stories of making vain attempts to order their days by waiting for the mail, meals or a visit from a friend or relative.


The best way to live is to prepare to die.

Think of your own eulogy and how you wish to be remembered by our family and friends. What are the top 3 things? Perhaps being a good; mother, father, brother, sister, daughter, son, friend, sharing your dreams with someone(s), realizing your potential, having courage and compassion, helping people find humor are near the top. These are things that last, things you will take home with you.

It’s not that the lasting things in life are necessarily mutually exclusive with being good at, and dedicated to transitory things, such as a job or work….but if we aren’t self-aware we may find ourselves trying to balance deficiencies in our personal life by overcompensating on the transitory things. Balancing work, life, social, emotional, mind, body, spirit is a great goal but I’ve never been able to achieve it. It’s more of an ongoing journey than and end. You don’t want to devote your whole life climbing the ladder to your dreams (success) only to find it was leaning against the wrong wall, as they say.

We will all, unless we die accidentally, reach a time in our life when we can no longer "do" but will have to be content with "being". Very hard, particularly when that being also includes being taken care of.

We need to find a way to order, and more importantly find meaning, in our life outside of the workweek.

Helping/caring for people or animals, gardening/growing, individual games or with others, writing, knitting, quilting, painting, making music, scrap booking, letter writing, emailing, story telling, joke sharing or any number of activities provide some greater or lesser degree of order and meaning.

It's important to choose some things that provide both order and meaning since we could find a perfectly ordered and perfectly meaningless life if we weren't careful e.g. I watch the Today Show at 9, Days of Our Lives at 10, One Life to Live at 11,etc.

We need the chaos of nature, of life, not only to keep things interesting (show me a clean house and I’ll show you a boring person as Erma Bombeck said), but to give us an opportunity to evolve emotionally, spiritually and philosophically. We can pick and choose out of that chaos those things that help us define the meaning of a good life.

All these things serve as a prelude and a transition to the end of life. Enjoy them while you can and hopefully they will lead you to a calm quiet center that will serve you well when the time comes that you can no longer do some or all of them.

The hardest, and therefore probably the most important thing of all, is to appreciate (dare I say love) your self.

This will help you separate who you are from what you do for a living and when the time comes, allow you to accept help from others. Again very hard..but you deserve it, and it's a compassionate thing to do not just for yourself but for those who will find meaning in their own lives by helping you.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Process Development - A Means to End

One Webster's definition of a process is "a series of actions or operations leading to an end."

We sometimes lose sight of the fact that a process, and process development ie. writing procedures, is a means to an end, not an end in itself.

One thing a process can do, is free people, who have the capability and desire, to perform activities requiring skill, judgment, knowledge and adaptive thinking, while allowing people not so inclined, or capable, to perform certain discrete tasks defined by a process.

If a task is discrete and can be defined by a series of actions leading to an end it doesn't particularly matter who does it, where it's done or in some cases if a human needs to perform the task at all.

This is all good. It makes things more efficient and allows businesses to employ people with varying degrees of skill, knowledge and judgement while paying appropriate wages for work based on the ability to proceduralize a set of rules for getting that work done, as well as the complexity of the procedure and the potential implications of failing to follow the procedure.

Even a complete procedure (a written process) doesn't eliminate the need to employ skilled workers, with appropriate pay, to perform certain tasks.

For example the steps required to fill the milkshake machine at McDonald's or many other tasks where workers can be interchanged, require no particular skill or judgement, and the pay is in accord.

The steps required to paint a car could be recorded but to accomplish that work requires a degree of skill and the pay is in accord.

The steps required to land an airplane with an engine out, or shutdown a nuclear powerplant in the event of a potential core meltdown can be recorded but we don't pay McD or bodyshop wages because the potential implication for mistakes are loss of human life, and more importantly even though the "steps" can be recorded we can't take the human element out of the equation and ensure safety...yet.

Thus we begin to step into the grey area of following a process vs. thinking.

It's interesting to think of a seemingly simple task like tying your shoe, or a tie, and try to write a process for how to do that. Even with pictures and good instructions it can be hard to master those tasks.

If we step from a simple task involving only inananimate objects to any task involving human interaction we are immediately faced with the challenge of predicting how a particular human will react to our procedure/script/recipe.

Generally any attempt to script human interaction is doomed to failure. We are quick to pick up an attempt to mimic human interaction using a set of rules, for example the millisecond it takes to recognize a telemarketer's call.

Our human nature is to avoid the false (artificial) in preference to the true (real) as a matter of survival. In human interaction, being true - being real, is the basis for trust...without trust we have nothing (or maybe in the case of some business operations we have to write a procedure? or for a marriage prepare a pre-nuptial agreement?)

High value professional occupations are not conducive to being proceduralized, although they may involve following many procedures, the distinction is the ability to think, to consider, to integrate facts and intuition, work on a case by case basis, in real time, in an adaptive way - "what works best right now?", "how can we get this done given our current set of constraints?"

I don't want a doctor to operate on me, or a lawyer to represent me, using a script, but I want him or her to know the procedures. What I pay them the big bucks for is their ability to think.

Ditto for any professional occupation...

of course there are exceptions to any rule.

Future Work - The Declining Role of Managers

The global marketplace is changing how we manage work in businesses whose mission is to design, create and integrate high value tangible (goods) or intangibles (ideas), those businesses that employ knowledge workers.


“If you don’t like change, you’re going to like irrelevance even less.”

General Eric Shinseki, Chief of Staff. U. S. Army


Competitive businesses of the future will accomplish their mission with teams of creative people working collaboratively. These teams will "truly" value diversity, listening, ethics, synergy, relationships, understanding systems thinking, and the ability to either lead, or rapidly adapt to, change.

Think about a start up enterprise for a moment. A start up needs to get a product or service to market fast enough to avoid running out of capital. The person or small group of people who originated the concept for the enterprise will choose the people to add to their team and exercise a certain degree of "management", until the team becomes self-managing - if it's to survive and thrive.

In the global economy of innovate or die, jobs for pure "managers", will be limited to large bureaucratic organizations that can only exist in an artificial environment such as government, government subsidized businesses, or divisions within an overall profitable private enterprise, that are insulated from market forces.

This is not to say that administrative jobs will cease to exist. Depending on the size of the company there will be needs for people to file, order supplies, take care of insurance, payrolls, accounting, training, travel management, etc. These tasks can be outsourced to companies specializing in this type of work to make for maximum efficiency.

There will not be a hierarchical "chain of command" outside of a team and consequently the command and control structure jobs will become unnecessary.

Military, hierarchical, patriarchal models will be discarded because they will not work. They are too slow, too rigid and don't utilize people's talents. Of course this is happening, or has happened in leading companies, but it is trickling down to Fortune 500 companies who are fighting to survive.

One area you see this trend occurring is with more and more women being assigned to lead teams that are assigned very challenging, and sometimes seemingly impossible, tasks.

Women are better than men at some things (not that men can't learn). Women are better listeners, better at intuiting, less enamored with work based on titles and more receptive to work based on relationships.

Back to the quote by the General at the top of this post, "if you don't like change, you are going to like irrelevance even less." Yes..yes..yes.

The flip side of that is that a lot of fearless change agents are really very afraid of change. Why?

Because their job as "speaker for change", (as opposed to doer of change, or maker of change, or changer or changee) might go away if things really changed. True fearless change agents would be fine with their job going away and redefine their role, and reincarnate themselves. Speakers for change on the other hand profess their belief in change as long as it doesn't eliminate their job. Were all for preaching to workers about accepting change or becoming irrelevant (i.e. unemployed) why not do the same for management?

Chew on that for a while and see if it makes any sense where you work.

In general a team needs a captain, or leader, or project manager, although there are creative teams where this would not be necessary or desirable.

A designated leader becomes necessary when there is a timeline, a specific end product, a need for an arbitrator or when the need to fill/replace team roles arises, as the team and it's work evolves. This person is not separate from the work or the people doing the work and will act as a facilitator to attempt to reach a consensus (general accord) on important items (such as who to add to the team) and make a unilateral decision only when that is not possible...and be responsible for those decisions (as contrasted to a bureaucratic organization where no one is in charge thus no one is responsible).


There's an old saying that "Chief's run the Navy" that is interesting to think about when considering the role of management and workers.

The Navy is made up of two classes; officers (management)and enlisted people (workers). Officers generally have a four-year college degree (warrant officers are an exception) but the vast majority of officers start their service with a four-year degree. Enlisted people generally must have at least a high school education or equivalent GED. Enlisted people who apply themselves and are suited for the job can rise through the ranks to become Chief's after 20 years or so.

I know a Navy pilot who loved to fly in the Navy (he still does love to fly as a civilian). He was happy as can be flying a Navy jet but when they assigned him to shore duty as an officer in charge of a group of sailors he no longer enjoyed his Navy job. Why?

He was an officer, and when assigned to shore duty he was put in charge of a group of people who in some cases had 20 or more years of experience doing the things he was "managing". He saw the flaw in that concept.

The people who were actually "managing" the work being done by the group were the Navy Chiefs. They were intimately familiar with the day-to-day operations and what was needed to get the job done. The Chiefs would take care of business, make sure tools and supplies were available, people were assigned to the appropriate tasks and that the team ran smoothly. My friend having come from a job flying on and off carriers had no clue. He was a smart guy and very motivated but he saw the ethical dilemma with pretending to be in charge of something he could not possibly control as essentially an outside observer.

Chiefs on the other hand were members of the team who had hands-on knowledge and involved in the team's work everyday.


If you want to know which way the wind is blowing what do you do?

That's right...

Watch T.V.

What does the television tell us about the workplace of the future?

How does the Trump Co. or Martha Stewart Inc. implement their workspace on their Apprentice shows?

With Donald and Martha's apprentice the focus is on collaborative teams with a Project Manager (not a pure manager in the sense of a large bureaucracy) but a working member of the team who has the responsibility to ensure the task is accomplished.

The team’s work is evaluated by a very small group and the team itself either remains in existence or is slowly dissolved based on their ability to excel at completing a task. Dysfunctional teams dissolve, creative collaborative teams thrive.

There's a key point to what those shows are teaching though that's a little more subtle than the creative collaborative team, with a project manager, concept.

The team that "wins" is not subjected to any management.

They are self managing with a Project Manager (PM) responsible for guiding people into roles that fit them best based on real time real world data.

The fact that the winning team did better than the competitor gives them all "immunity" from management scrutiny, gets them a nice bonus, and even gives the P.M. immunity from getting fired on the next task.

So lets review what those shows teach -

Provide a team a task

Let them accomplish that task in the way they decide is best

Use non-subjective criteria to evaluate the success of the two teams - whoever makes the most money wins.

Fire people on the losing team based on team input concerning that persons ability to function as a productive team member.

One caveat to the team input rule, is that the PM is always subject to scrutiny in the event of a failure but may be spared the chopping block if the team, and Donald or Martha, decide some other team member was more responsible for the failure.

The title "project" manager indicates someone responsible for getting some thing done as opposed to the fuzzy identification of a pure manager's role in a bureaucracy; as being a coach, champion, mentor, roadblock remover or whatever other phrase we could come up with to describe a role that isn't really defined and for that reason will not be possible to maintain in competitive markets.


"We have a ‘strategic’ plan. It’s called doing things.”

Herb Kelleher


This is not to say that there won't be lot's of fuzzy jobs in the future where you define and redefine your role constantly, just that the structured bureaucratic hierarchical model is nearing extinction and will be completely gone as fast-changing global and technological factors will favor those able to adapt quickly.

Besides the two "Apprentice" shows, "The Office" is probably helping condition people for the future irrelevance of pure managers as much as anything...showing Michael the manager and his suck-up Dwight as self-important, insensitive, unintentional buffoons and the workers as cool funny people.


Just as the internet eliminated the need for middle management to disseminate company goals and procedural information to workers, information technology will help speed up the process of creating self-defined, self managed work groups...further reducing the need for middle management to manage either "people" or "projects". Once you take people and project management out of the equation you are left with the need to manage commodities (accounting, travel, training, insurance, payrolls), which can be outsourced to efficient independent companies that may or may not reside in the same country as the company.

The days of having a job because there's a spot on an organization chart (regardless of the benefit to the bottom line of the company) are nearing an end and will end as global market forces grind through the inefficient and reward the efficient.

There's a counterpoint to that of business schools, the media, universities, consultant businesses - the dominant paradigm is that there is a "class" of people who are born to be managers of other people. The beauty of pure capitalism, which will be inescapable in the global marketplace, is that any preconceived notions of "class" mandates that businesses retain a certain number of managers, will either stand or fall based on it's pragmatic success.

In other words if it is truly the case that a class of people are destined to be managers, and to employ those so destined, companies need to retain a boatload of middle managers regardless of the actual need for those positions, that truth will be borne out by the cool economic precision of the global marketplace.

This is a well worn argument but many people theorize that knowledge workers don't need traditional managers.

It doesn't matter if we are talking "lean" principles borrowing from Henry Ford's ideas for mass production, or Fredrick Taylor's Scientific Management principles, which are still deeply ingrained in many supposedly future-thinking management practices.

These management techniques from the early 1900's have little or no relevance to knowledge workers in the 21st century participating in diverse, creative, collaborative, empowered teams able to rapidly adapt to changing conditions.

Finally...this isn't to say that the global marketplace will not further class division in some areas. In the case of a business that produces a tangible mass producible or labor-intensive craft item, the factory workers will be further removed from the management class as capitalism forces businesses to search for the lowest labor costs. But that's a whole different story...


There is another aspect of command and control, rigid hierarchies, that is detrimental to business of the future.

They are too good at what they do.

They are great for implementing a plan and marching the troops forward...which is why the military needs such a structure. Side note - If nothing else happens, I'll personally be glad when people stop calling people in technology offices "troops" because it just serves to reinforce the whole military structure concept.

In a rapidly changing environment chaos is inevitable. We pick things out of that chaos and try them out. If they work we keep them, integrate them into a greater whole, if they don't work we discard them.

In any complex system, depending on the accuracy of our modeling ability, we have a lesser or greater degree to understand the impact of a change. Many businesses have Zero modeling ability, either because they are in uncharted waters or they don't have the tools and knowledge, and yet make changes to complex systems without understanding the consequences. That works fine in a nimble organization because they either rescind or modify and improve a change that has unintended can be disaster for a behemoth BigCo.

Once the command and control hierarchy gets a direction it can't be stopped, and even making small course corrections can be extremely difficult. The train has left the station as they say.

The Dark Side of E-Bay

It all started with this -

I like to play around with stuff to see how it works. I was interested in how online selling worked so I've been selling used books off and on on Amazon (which is really easy by the way) and decided to give E-Bay selling a try awhile back.

It all went fine - for all my Amazon sales, and my first five or so E-bay sales, I had a perfect customer satisfaction rating.

That is until I decided to sell that used Sony cell phone that Becca didn't need anymore.

After any number of angry accusing email's from Joe (name changed to protect the innocent), the cell phone buyer in Kentucky I have begun to wish Betsy would have taken the phone to her pre-school and let the kids play with it like we've done with other old cell phones.

Here's the deal.

I put the phone on E-Bay with a starting bid of 1 cent. I included the picture you see above of the phone.

My ad read -

"My daughter got a new phone and doesn't need this one.

It was used for about a year.

As you can see from the picture, it has some minor nicks and scratches.

It works fine, just need to plug in your sim card."

Joe the buyer, has sent me any number of E-mails accusing me of duping him into buying a phone, that should have included a charger, with "more than minor" nicks and scratches on it.

I didn't say it was a phone and a charger in the ad but he assumes that absent an explicit note that I was NOT selling a charger, a charger should be included.

I couldn't find the charger before I placed the ad (hence no mention of a charger in the ad). After Joe bought the phone and began to tell me he was an unhappy E-bayer in need of a charger, Betsy and I looked all over the house for it, I emailed Becca and Rachel to see if they knew where it was - alas...all to no avail.

"Minor" nicks and scratches is a subjective evaluation of course, but I was surprised Joe is now accusing me of deliberating showing a photo of the front of the phone to hide the fact that the back has nicks and scratches.

The first picture in E-Bay is free and you pay for additional ones. Call me crazy but I chose the front of the phone for my free photo. You can also choose to use a stock picture of a new phone, with the caveat that it is a stock picture.

To make a story that should be short even longer - for awhile I had a daily running correspondence with Joe to the point where I was thinking of telling him if he wants me to reply to anymore emails he will need to sign up for my "Gold" customer service package.

That's where he sends me some gold (money) and I spend time quibbling with him about what "minor" scratches and nicks are, and if an ad offering a used cell phone really means a used cell phone and a charger.

So the dark side of the E-bay deal is I get my hackles up and waste time and energy arguing with some twit over 8 bucks and some change. It's become the principal of the thing I'm afraid...and what a silly principal to waste time on.

The latest in our saga is that Joe has threatened to turn the sale over to PayPal saying the item was not as described. That sounded good to me, getting a second opinion and all, so I encouraged him to use the wise arbitrators at PayPal to solve this dispute.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Interlude: Meditation of the Week

This week's meditation by Tom Barrett is Love and Chaos.

It's a nice pick me up.

3-wheelers - Viable Commuting Vehicle?

Fuel efficient, cheap to purchase, 3-wheelers might be a good way to deal with the decline of cheap oil.

3-wheelers will keep you dry and out of the wind (big advantages over a scooter). They also look cool, would be fun to drive, and can be fuel efficient, making them a good alternative to a big car for short commutes or hops to the grocery store, library, local brewpub/coffee shop.

You could have a bigger car, or maybe rent or share a bigger car, for longer trips with the family and friends.

I'm thinking something like what a meter maid drives, or the guys who pick up the trash (vehicles like a mini-pickup), with a nicely shaped light fiberglass or composite material body.

The challenge would be to design one that's relatively safe, comfortable, reliable, costs less than half what you'd expect to pay for the cheapest small car (a Chevy Aveo is $10,000), and gets significantly better gas mileage than a fuel sipper like a Toyoto Corolla that gets 30 mpg around town and 40 mpg on the highway.

Small and light doesn't necessarily correlate to good gas mileage.

People don't necessarily buy a motorcycle for fuel economy, but just as an example a 130 hp, 1200 cc, BMW K1200GT motorcycle is estimated at 32 mpg and a scooter like the 360 pound Honda Big Ruckus with a 250 cc engine only gets 58 mpg, plus the Big Ruckus MSRP is $5500.

______________________ is a web page with over 1000 pages of information on 3-wheelers. It's created by a gentleman from the U.K. by the name of Elvis Payne. It's got some funny pictures and a lot of historical information.

Bajaj 3-Wheelers has street legal vehicles for the U.S. market. Think how fun it would be to take your friends to lunch in this. These rigs aren't cheap at around $6500 a pop. I couldn't find the estimated miles per gallon, on the tech spec page, and I'm kind of guessing the reason is they aren't that impressive.

The California Commuter got 157 mpg on a trip from L.A. to San Francisco in 1980 and could cruise at 55 mph.

We've come a long way since 1980 with advances in composite materials and gas/electric hybrid technology. It will be great to see what smart entrepeneurial people come up with in the way of personal commuter vehicles in today's world.

A basic set of design criteria might be -

Fuel Efficient - at least 100 mpg in town

"Safe" - visible to other cars, good handling qualities, good brakes.

Low Price - less than $5000

Seats 2 (optionally could be a 1 seater...since the vast majority of cars are only carrying one person today)

Reliable - expected life of at least 5 years before major repair/replacement of parts.

Carrying capacity of 400 pounds

Top speed 45 mph and able to maintain 35 mph on hills fully loaded.

Ergonomically designed - easy to get in and out of and comfortable to ride in

DC power jacks and space for a nice portable sound system and a laptop or tablet computer for navigation/mapping/meet-ups etc.

Good coffee cup holders - holders deep and wide enough to hold a cup.

Various compartments/cubby holes for easy storage/retrival of papers, keys, change, makeup, sunglasses etc.

Fun! - easy to customize with lots of colors and various body shapes you could make or buy as after-market add-ons (rocket, fish, clown car, covered wagon, locomotive, tractor, horse, etc.., option to purchase the car without a body, or a blank-canvas body, for those who wanted to make, or paint, their own.

I'd go for designing a new around-town vehicle since a highway vehicle brings in design constaints that might cause you to end up back at a Corolla (not a bad car..but's already been done).

Thursday, October 13, 2005

43 Things

43 Things is one example of a trickle becoming a torrent in the world of cyberspace.

So far, for me, it's an unidentified torrent but thanks to a comment left by Mike from MindValley Blog and BlinkList I've been looking into some fascinating blogs and websites.

You can look at the Wikipedia articles on "Web 2.0"and ""Folksonomy"" to get some feel for the torrent.

These concepts/tools allow for collaborative knowledge development as well as tagging that knowledge allowing for retrieval, further refinement and growth. We're just seeing the tip of this iceberg.

It's a whole new ballgame...and it's going to be very exciting and fun. I'm really looking forward to learning more about the concepts and seeing how they play out in the furtherment of human knowledge sharing and growth.

Here's just a few related links for further investigation...

The Virtual Handshake Blog

TECHNOSIGHT Google Search is so Web 1.0

Visualizing Roundup Solution Watch

Emily Chang - eHub

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Studying the Media - Noam Chomsky

Studying the Media from a talk by Noam Chomsky at the Z Media Institute June 1997.

A nice clean look at how mass media, government and universities form a triad of power to make sure those who have power keep it.

It isn't a big conspiracy rant, but rather a well reasoned essay, that traces the origination of propaganda and public relations as a tool to allow a small elite class to control what the majority is exposed to (and therefore what they believe to be true).

You won't find a wild-eyed theory that a select group of evil men is pulling the strings, but an assertion that the socialization of people (rich and poor, powerful and powerless) is so complete that they don't recognize their own participation in a system that works just as one would expect.

It keeps the elites who control media, politics and universities in power and the rest of us dopes at home watching football on T.V.

Maybe that's for the best...

Go Seahawks!

Chris Elliott - Funny Man - A.V. Club Interview

I've always thought Chris Elliott is a funny guy. and his dad Bob Elliott, from the Bob and Ray comedy duo, as well.

Haven't seen much of him lately. I thought his TV show "Get a Life" about a 30 year old paperboy was occasionally hilarious and even liked his movie "Cabin Boy" which was like watching the TV show except it was an hour and a half.

Glad to hear those are getting a bit of a cult following according to the Onion A.V. Club article.

I'd never heard of his book "Daddy's Boy" (a parody of Mommy Dearest). It sounds funny. I think I'll see if I can get a copy from Amazon

The readers reviews of Daddy's Boy: A Son's Shocking Account of Life with a Famous Father give it a perfect 5 stars.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Tom Peters Rocks!

Tom Peters rocks in the business consultant world anyway.

I watched a videocast today of Tom Peters talking about the need for businesses to focus on seeking and keeping Talent. Three key points I got were (a) make sure you have enough freaks/weirdos/eccentrics (read creative people) on your team (b) women are the managers of the future and (c) bow to the power of youth (they have the keys to the kingdom).

He has what some might consider a bombastic style of speaking that might be a little off putting at first but if you go with the flow his spiel is worth listening to.

Tom Peters has been in the consultant biz for a long time, his classic book In Search of Excellence came out in 1982. Even though he's an old codger he has some fresh, radical, interesting, helpful and exciting ideas.

You can get an idea of what he's talking about nowadays at his website, plus he has a lot of cool links on his blogroll, like this one to Dave Barry's Blog.

If you have Powerpoint you can view this presentation he gave this May at the
Snohomish County Business Excellence conference. There's a lot of slides (over a hundred) and a Powerpoint is not too great without the speaker but you can get a feel for what he's communicating. Some interesting quotes from the Powerpoint -


“Thomas Stanley has not only found no correlation between success in school and an ability to accumulate wealth, he’s actually found a negative correlation. ‘It seems that school-related evaluations are poor predictors of economic success,’ Stanley concluded. What did predict success was a willingness to take risks. Yet the success-failure standards of most schools penalized risk takers. Most educational systems reward those who play it safe. As a result, those who do well in school find it hard to take risks later on.”

Richard Farson & Ralph Keyes, Whoever Makes the Most Mistakes Wins


“The last few decades have belonged to a certain kind of person with a certain kind of mind—computer programmers who could crank code, lawyers who could craft contracts, MBAs who could crunch numbers. But the keys to the kingdom are changing hands. The future belongs to a very different kind of person with a very different kind of mind—creators and empathizers, pattern recognizers and meaning makers. These people—artists, inventors, designers, storytellers, caregivers, consolers, big picture thinkers—will now reap society’s richest rewards and share its greatest joys.”

Dan Pink, A Whole New Mind


“Over the last decade the biggest employment gains came in occupations that rely on people skills and emotional intelligence and among jobs that require imagination and creativity. … Trying to preserve existing jobs will prove futile—trade and technology will transform the economy whether we like it or not. Americans will be better off if they strive to move up the hierarchy of human talents. That’s where our future lies.” —Michael Cox, Richard Alm and Nigel Holmes/“Where the Jobs Are”/NYT/05.13.2004


“Ninety percent of what we call ‘management’ consists of making it difficult for people to get things done.” - Peter Drucker


"To grow, companies need to break out of a vicious cycle of competitive benchmarking and imitation.” - W. Chan Kim & Renée Mauborgne, “Think for Yourself —Stop Copying a Rival,” Financial Times/08.11.03


What do, Four Seasons and Motel 6 possibly have in common? Or Neiman-Marcus and Walmart? Or Nokia (bringing out new hardware every 30 days or so) and Nintendo (marketing the same Game Boy 14 years in a row)?

"The thing that all these companies have in common is that they have nothing in common. They are outliers. They’re on the fringes. Superfast or superslow. Very exclusive or very cheap. Extremely big or extremely small. The reason it’s so hard to follow the leader is this: The leader is the leader precisely because he did something remarkable. And that remarkable thing is now taken—so it’s no longer remarkable when you decide to do it.” —Seth Godin, Fast Company/02.2003


“If you don’t like change, you’re going to like irrelevance even less.” —General Eric Shinseki, Chief of Staff. U. S. Army


"We have a ‘strategic’ plan. It’s called doing things.” — Herb Kelleher