mm067.1 Why I love the Internet!

July 14, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

I wasn’t going to post again today, conserving my “bank” of interesting stuff, and responding to the fact that I do have a life outside the ‘sphere.

But, this I could not resist. Found courtesy of Thoof. blogroll2

Imperial History of the Middle East

middleeastmap.jpg

WordPress.com did not let me embed this video; probably due to its size (i.e. it didn’t fit into the column width of the theme I use). Notwithstanding, click the link, please!

The capacity to educate using these pipes is awe inspiring. I don’t know who Maps of War is, or what is their agenda (hoping for the best on this one, I gotta say!), but I’m certainly on the track to discover it, thanks to this example of their work.

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE

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mm067: By the way, I do earn a living!

July 14, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

I realize that it has been some time since I broached the topic of my career, and what I do to afford the leisure to pursue this blogging thing. Lot’s of Bloomberg here; just not in this post, sorry!

Faithful reader will remember that what I do is web conferencing, an increasingly useful tool that should be adopted by more and more corporate entities due to its transformative capabilities.

My employer in the Heart of Corporate America (HCA) is a grand old conservative organization, proud of its financial performance measured over generations (a quarterly dividend paid without interruption since before my late father was born!). It seldom moves quickly where infrastructure technology is concerned, rightfully (I admit with admiration and affection that I have come to see it as rightfully) expending whatever fleet instincts it possesses towards the tooth of its tiger, not its tail.

Which is a long explanation for the fact that HCA has only been using web conferencing for a few years, mainly the five-plus years that I have been there. That’s an interesting tale. I found myself “at liberty” after my previous employer, having entered into a “merger of equals” disappeared utterly, as far as most of its human capital is concerned.

I had been part of a vigorous corporate information technology department of 155 people, getting real work done, largely supporting a marketing organization that had just launched a blockbuster product. Our “partners” swept in shortly after the “merger,” and told us there were jobs for each and every one. 1,000 miles away. Five of us took them up on their kind offer; the rest of us took a severance package.

So there I was, with a lengthy résumé, but not much current IT experience, but what was current was useful: Documentum, a complex but growing document management system, and Lotus Notes, the collaboration environment beloved of many large corporations for its rock-solid email system as well as its rapid database development feature.

The Documentum piece got me a 4-month consulting gig at HCA, doomed to frustration as the hiring manager, whose vision had created the opening I filled, cheerfully moved onward and upward (and to another campus) about a week after I reported for duty.

After a two-month interval, I was interviewed for a business analyst position by another team in the same division, and what got me the consulting gig, six months long but renewed several times, was tucked away on page two of the position description: experience with telephone and video conferencing.

I had that experience. Our Documentum team at my previous employer had outposts in several cities in the US and Europe, and, while I didn’t create the bi-weekly telephone conferences (and the occasional video conference) that the head of the corporate team had established, I did a great deal of the heavy lifting there: I published the invitations, agendas, prompt minutes; and led most of the meetings with a relaxed and welcoming style that created esprit de corps among people who had never met. We weathered the Y2K circus with ease, thanks to the cooperation and collaborative successes engendered in those bi-weekly (in 1999, weekly) sessions.

Yes, I could talk the talk about conferencing. And almost immediately after I started, additional to the conventional Lotus Notes business analysis work I had been assigned, I was asked to go see the division’s key contact for a web conferencing pilot then underway, using Lotus’ product called Sametime. The manager in question said, “thanks for coming over. Have a seat at my desk. Here is hard copy of the presentation. We’re about to demonstrate the tool in a web conference. Why don’t you lead it?”

With that sudden immersion, I never looked back. Indeed, I have led countless demonstrations since (with a good deal more assurance than that first, sweaty session). I have taught over 3,000 students the tool, all using the technology to teach the technology, in order to provide tactile, experiential learning, key for adult learners. I have surveys from 130 of the most recent of those classes, going back nearly 18 months, and my composite score is 4+ on a 1-5 scale. I facilitate key meetings, remotely from my desk as well as on location in offices and conference rooms on-site and offsite. And yes, both my corporate email signature, and my business card contain the title, “Mr. Sametime.”

My passion for collaboration created a niche for me in HCA, and by the way, has led to significant cost savings. Using IBM Lotus methodology for an analysis earlier this year, I made a believable case for $5 million in travel avoided last year; a number I think is conservative. HCA has over 60,000 employees in 130 nations around the world. Imagine not having to fly 16 regional managers from Latin America to Miami for training just as effectively delivered and received in one’s office! Just eliminating cross-campus and cross-county travel to meetings large and small in and around Corporate HQ must provide hundreds of hours of productivity savings daily.

Finally, I try to keep my passion pure, as it were. Yesterday, I was asked to participate in a bi-weekly telephone conference with a group of field-based high powered advance-degree technical managers, as there were questions about the web conferencing tool they were concerned about. The upshot? I cheerfully directed them to a third-party outside resource. Yes, a more expensive solution than my in-house one. But in their field application, the outside resource is, I believe, the more effective answer. As I told them, just because I have a (most wonderful) hammer, not every client’s problem is a nail.

Finally, I did apply for my soon to retire manager’s position, as I previously reported I would. And, as is their wont, HR never communicated one word to me beyond the automated receipt of the on-line application (don’t you dare call us — we’ll call you).

I’m not management material at HCA, that is obvious, and of course I’m disappointed, but as I said previously, I do love what I do, and where I do it. Some would ask: why on earth would you screw that up by moving into bean-counting-obsessed management?

Why, indeed.

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE

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mm066: Michael Bloomberg’s Knightly Ambitions – Newsweek Politics – MSNBC.com

July 14, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

Today’s Bloomberg fix, courtesy Newsweek as found on MSNBC.com, a week or so old, but a useful summary all the same…

Bloomberg’s Knightly Ambitions

Illustration by Steve Brodner for Newsweek

By Evan Thomas and Jonathan Darman

Newsweek

July 2-9, 2007 issue – He is a short (5-foot-7) Jewish man from Massachusetts in a mostly Christian nation that is moving south and west. He has so little conventional star power that as mayor of New York City he can take the subway to work without other straphangers’ really noticing. While he can be dryly witty, he sometimes turns wooden behind a podium. On the other hand, he can spend half a billion (if not more) of his own dollars to get elected. He is beholden to no interest groups. And he is very, very competent.

Michael Bloomberg is the latest rescue fantasy to tantalize the American public (or at least its representatives in the media). The country is adrift; people feel threatened by forces beyond their control. One political era seems to be ending, but a new one has yet to begin. At 26 percent in the new NEWSWEEK Poll, President George W. Bush has the lowest approval rating since Richard Nixon during Watergate, and Congress rates slightly lower. The voters are sick of politicians and partisan bickering. Why not elect an outsider who can get things done?

By renouncing his ties to the Republican Party, Bloomberg has stirred up speculation that he will run for president as an independent. Smiling, seemingly enjoying himself before a crowd of reporters, he declared that he had no plan to seek the White House and that he intends to serve out his mayoral term, which runs through 2009. He has told friends that he is sticking his toe in the presidential waters to stay relevant, to avoid becoming a mayoral lame duck, and that he will run only if he feels sure he can win. But from the way he jumps up to hold forth on the fate of the world at even the smallest gatherings, it is hard to believe that he does not want to be president. More than anyone, he believes he may be the White Knight who can save the country.

  History is against him. No independent candidate has ever won the presidency. Still largely unknown to the American public, Bloomberg, at 11 percent in the NEWSWEEK Poll, would lose badly to Hillary Clinton (47 percent) and Rudy Giuliani (36 percent). The voters may be alienated from the political parties, but the two-party system is entrenched in American life. Independent candidates have long been dismissed as cranks or kooks, and not without reason. In the past, they have tended to be dreamy, slightly prissy do-gooders (John Anderson, 1980) or angry renegades playing on popular fears (George Wallace, 1968).

Before going into politics he founded the New York Bloomberg financial markets company

AP

From Moneyman to Mayor: Before going into politics he founded the New York Bloomberg financial markets company


But Bloomberg does not fit easily into old models. He is hard to label, which is one of his attractions. He is ambitious and loves control. At the same time, however, he has been effective at creating workplace cultures that are open to ideas and that are essentially democratic. Employees and voters tend not to like him very much, at least at first, but they come to respect him. While most politicians are needy and histrionic, Bloomberg is self-possessed and cool. When you look back at his career in business and public life, it is not hard to see why he believes that he is the right man to run just about anything, including the United States.

A beer-drinking frat boy and indifferent engineering student at Johns Hopkins University, he headed to Wall Street after an ego and résumé polish at Harvard Business School. At Salomon Brothers, he thrived in the fierce, profane world of the trading pits. Second-guessing his bosses a few times too often, he was forced out in 1981, though with a $10 million parachute. Bloomberg was able to see that the clubby world of high finance was breaking down—that technology could open up the marketplace. He started a company to rent special computers that funneled financial data to stock traders and analysts. The computers were called Bloomberg Boxes, or just Bloombergs, and he has made billions off the information empire they spawned. (Bloomberg is low-key, but not exactly self-effacing: he called his $20 billion company, in which he still owns a controlling interest, Bloomberg L.P.; he named his financial-news service Bloomberg News, and his memoir is entitled “Bloomberg by Bloomberg.”)

Bloomberg demands loyalty. Employees who leave are seldom, if ever, welcomed back. At Bloomberg News, security is strict. All employees must wear identity badges at all times; a fingerprint identification is required to log on to computers. Cameras survey the newsroom, in part to make sure no one is leaking sensitive financial data. To encourage communication and fraternity, free snacks are available in an office food court. To some Bloomberg staffers, it all seems a bit Orwellian, though they say that ethics standards are high and that hard work is fairly rewarded.

Since his election to succeed Rudy Giuliani in New York in 2001, Bloomberg has become known as the Nanny Mayor. In a city noted for smoky pubs and greasy spoons, the mayor banned smoking in bars and small restaurants and the use of trans fats in eateries. (Bloomberg had two coronary stents put in before he became mayor; an associate, who didn’t want to be named discussing Bloomberg’s medical status, says his health is excellent.) But he was eventually praised for restoring a city shaken by 9/11, and was overwhelmingly re-elected in 2005. He showed an admirable willingness to take on sacred cows: he pushed aside the crony-ridden Board of Education and began directly trying to tame the teachers union, with some results measured in record high-school-graduation rates. When Giuliani left behind a $4 billion deficit, Bloomberg raised property taxes and made across-the-board spending cuts, even closing some firehouses. Thanks to the taxes thrown off by the Wall Street boom as well as Bloomberg’s good management, city finances are now sound.

Bloomberg with predecessor and possible rival Rudy Giuliani

Robert Spencer / AP

Frenemies: Bloomberg with predecessor and possible rival Rudy Giuliani


Though Giuliani’s endorsement was essential to Bloomberg’s election in 2001, the two men soon began sniping at each other over the responsibility for the city’s shaky finances. Giuliani’s backers say that Bloomberg’s only success has been, as Fred Siegel, author of a pro-Giuliani biography, “The Prince of the City,” put it to The New York Times, “not to screw up” what Giuliani achieved in his two terms. Bloomberg partisans point out that major crime in the city has dropped an additional 30 percent since Giuliani left office, and that Bloomberg has been able to govern without the in-your-face shouting matches that Giuliani seemed to relish.

Bloomberg has learned, partly by painful experience, when to keep his mouth shut. In his early days at Bloomberg L.P., he was known for the sort of macho talk that is still the lingua franca of Wall Street traders. Female employees sued Bloomberg’s company—and in one suit, they named Bloomberg—alleging sexual harassment in the workplace. At a deposition, Bloomberg tried to walk out after being asked embarrassing questions. There were claims that Bloomberg had pointed to multiple women in the office and boasted, “I did her.” According to news reports confirmed by a knowledgeable source who declined to be identified discussing sensitive matters, Bloomberg later said that if he did use such expressions, he did not necessarily mean that he had had sex with each of the women. (Bloomberg’s city hall office declined to comment on details of the lawsuit. A Bloomberg company spokeswoman says the firm goes “above and beyond the norm in providing family benefits” and that it’s “an incredibly family friendly culture.”) The lawsuit that named Bloomberg was settled months before his first run for mayor in 2001. (The terms weren’t disclosed.)

  There has been no whiff of scandal surrounding the Mayor Bloomberg administration. He’s developed a knack for heading off problems before they become public brouhahas. (When a NEWSWEEK reporter went looking for Stu Loeser, who conducted “opposition research” for Bloomberg’s 2001 Democratic opponent, Mark Green, the reporter learned that Loeser had become Bloomberg’s press secretary.) Bloomberg favors an open-management style. At city hall, his desk is in the middle of a “bullpen.” Bloomberg used the same setup in private business. The cubicles are all about a culture of meritocracy, says Lex Fenwick, the CEO of Bloomberg, who has worked with the now mayor for two decades.

Bloomberg's management skills would be a plus

Richard Drew / AP

The Man in Charge: Bloomberg’s management skills would be a plus


Bloomberg’s aides say the openness means less backstabbing and intrigue. “You can walk over to him or you can just yell across the room,” says Dennis Walcott, a deputy mayor. “There’s instant access.” Conference rooms have glass walls. Bloomberg is “fairly fond of pointing out that there’s basically been zero leaks out of our administration,” says Dan Doctoroff, another deputy mayor. “I think a part of that is that everybody knows what everybody else is doing.”

There is something a little creepy about this enforced togetherness under the all-seeing eye of the Nanny Mayor. But the atmosphere is not so much Big Brother as Big Daddy. Bloomberg is like the grown-up who tells his teenage kids to stop whining and clean up their room, but who also pays a generous allowance. Americans, spoiled but also fearful, may be in the mood for such a leader. Security is a good thing to offer in the age of terror and nuclear proliferation. Bloomberg might even be willing to ask Americans to sacrifice: in New York, he has decided to push for a “congestion fee,” basically charging drivers $8 to visit traffic-clogged areas like midtown. Bloomberg has told reporters that he enjoys the edge of danger—a pilot, he has walked away from helicopter and small-plane crashes (neither his fault). Doctoroff says Bloomberg encourages “a culture of intelligent risk,” meaning the willingness to take political risks after carefully laying the groundwork.

Americans might follow a leader who is not fearfully poll-driven. But they are going to have to believe that the candidate can relate to them on a personal level. Bloomberg is a mix of regular guy and master of the universe. He comes from humble roots: his father was a bookkeeper in middle-class Medford, Mass., and Bloomberg still has a trace of a “Baw-ston” accent. But he likes to live rich. He has lavish houses on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, and in Westchester County, London, Vail and Bermuda. He chose not to live at the mayor’s public residence, Gracie Mansion, which had not had a face-lift in a long time. (Bloomberg partially paid for one out of his own pocket.) At first, he said that reporters had no business knowing where he went on his days off, then wised up after gotcha stories began appearing about his slipping off to Bermuda to play golf on the weekends. Bloomberg has long enjoyed throwing dinner parties mixing tycoons, opera stars, media moguls and socialites.

Although a multibillionaire, Bloomberg still rides the subway to work with commuters

Bebeto Matthews / AP

Living Large: Although a multibillionaire, Bloomberg still rides the subway to work with commuters


Bloomberg does not exactly have a save-the-family view of marriage. A father of two, he was divorced in 1993; his ex-wife remains a close friend and political adviser. When someone on his staff would happily announce that he or she was engaged, instead of offering congratulations, he would say, “Is it too late to change your mind? Can I talk you out of it?” When gay marriage first surfaced as an issue, he would respond by saying, “I don’t think anybody should get married.”

  Bloomberg does not seem to be motivated by fame or riches so much as power. “He’s not a guy who’s going to run just to run,” says Joel Klein, Bloomberg’s schools chancellor. Bloomberg will likely survey the field after the Super Tuesday primary on Feb. 5. If the Democrat and Republican nominees have high negatives, and if vast numbers of people continue to tell pollsters the country’s on the “wrong track,” Bloomberg is a good bet to make the jump. At the White House, where top aides still believe that Ross Perot’s third-party candidacy cost the president’s father’s re-election in 1992, Bloomberg is described as a “spoiler.” But there are rumbles in the land suggesting that Bloomberg is not the only one weighing his chances for 2008. An organization called Unity08 has no formal ties to Bloomberg, but it is preparing for the arduous process of getting a ballot line in all 50 states and plans to hold a nationwide, Internet nominating process for an independent candidate next spring. Don’t be surprised if the name selected is Bloomberg.

With Eleanor Clift, Mark Hosenball, Richard Wolffe, Johnnie L. Roberts, Eleazar David Melendez, Sanhita Sen and Roya Wolverson

© 2007 Newsweek, Inc. |  

Michael Bloomberg’s Knightly Ambitions – Newsweek Politics – MSNBC.com

You haven’t asked me, I know, but it seems to this observer that the U.S.A. is more than ready for a Nanny President! Not a pejorative at all, for me. We’ve been benignly neglected into misery thanks to Bush and Cheney, ask the suffering residents and refugees of New Orleans.

But, Mike, resist the blandishments of those wolves in sheep’s etc. at Uxxxx08.

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE