mm406: Boston, Day 2

June 10, 2008

MUDGE’s Musings

Quite a bit earlier in the day, as I summarize today’s sessions at the Enterprise 2.0 conference in Boston.

Another interesting and useful day, with lots of new and or interesting information, and one really dazzling presentation. Overnight, my lap didn’t get any bigger, and still doesn’t accommodate my laptop computer. Sigh.

Once again, I have six pages of handwritten notes, and I went through two pens! We pick up where we left off yesterday.

4. Keynote: Rob Carter, FedEx

Mr. Carter, the CIO, was a very polished and graceful speaker. FedEx is one of the great innovative companies of the past 35 years, and we didn’t need Rob Carter to remind us. They invented the concept of overnight delivery of small packages, realized with a small fleet of Learjets flying out of their Memphis hub. And now look at them. Although Carter couldn’t help but show us an FAA model of recent overnight traffic at Memphis airport, together with the all too true admonition regarding staying at the airport hotel.

FedEx innovations have been just as paradigm shifting in the information area, as they were one of the first organizations to realize that their true product, not just their tools, was information. In that light, Carter showed us the first true Internet application, the 1994 page that let consumers and business track a shipment without telephoning. Lately, such marketing tools as the playful “Launch a Package,” a Facebook application, keeps the FedEx name and message in front of the next generation of shippers. His message: enterprise walls are coming down, to make way for customer connections.

5. From the Bottom-Up: Building the 21st Century Intelligence Community, Don Burke and Sean Dennehy, Central Intelligence Agency.

Yup, the CIA has gone all social media on us. The Intellipedia, built on Wikipedia but with some security enhancements, is the product for which both are the technical evangelists. They set the tone for the process-altering nature of their tool by displaying their presentation via Intellipedia pages, rather than the more usual PowerPoint.

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mm405: Boston, Day 1

June 9, 2008

MUDGE’s Musings

Whew!

Just finished a very long day, the first day attending the Enterprise 2.0 conference in Boston.

I don’t go to so many conferences. In fact, in the nearly four years of employment at the Heart of Corporate America (not its real name), as well as the three years of contractor status that it, this is only the second conference that I have attended under the HCA aegis. How ironic that it is also located in Boston, the site of the event that I attended last summer. Of all the towns in the world…

But, I do like Boston, even though, as alluded to last post, I feel stranded in the middle of a desert, located as we are in a concrete jungle of a redeveloped industrial district. Boston is a wonderful town in which to be a pedestrian — but not in this corner, not that I could pedestre very well anyway. [Looks like I may have coined another word — the ‘r’ is silent; but it does sort of look like pederast, doesn’t it. Oh, well, back to the drawing board.]

Although I title this Day 1, the event’s organizers, as is often done apparently, treated today as Day 0, Monday being the more popular business travel day than Sunday. The sessions today were lengthy tutorials. A choice of two each, morning and afternoon. 9am to 12:30pm; then 1:30pm to 4:45pm. Then a further two hour panel discussion that finally ended at 7:30pm. The real action starts tomorrow. I’m already worn out.

I do take copious notes. Now, many of my fellow attendees today, perhaps most of them, brought their laptops to the sessions. There were even power strips scattered along the floor, for the first half-dozen lucky people each who got to them.

Now, yr (justifiably) humble svt would have been happy enough to note take via laptop, but as there were no tables, just rows of chairs, and as I, uh, don’t have a lap for said laptop, just a short slippery slope as it were, that might result in a potentially lethal slide for same, I took my notes the old fashioned way, pen on notebook page, six tightly printed pages to be exact. I have a lot to show for 8-3/4 hours of conference. But it all has to be transcribed.

I wanted to keep up with this daily; perhaps even transfer some of this post into the event’s blog that I’ve heard exists although I haven’t found it. But, as I type this it’s already 10pm; had too much to eat at the hotel’s surprisingly good restaurant (surprising mainly because they have no competition for at least the half-mile radius until another hotel appears in this wasteland called the Seaport neighborhood); and I was up early. Never sleep well in anyone else’s bed except my own, and the hotel is justifiably proud of its comfortable bed. I’m just a crotchety old curmudgeon.

Anyway, there are six pages. Let’s see if I can summarize, while it’s all still fresh.

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mm404: Boston, Day 0

June 8, 2008

MUDGE’s Musings

Flew out of O’Hare this morning headed to Boston for a conference.

We all complain about air travel:

The “Transportation Security Agency” that doesn’t look or act like it could secure its way out of a paper bag.

The airlines who cram people tightly together into smaller and smaller aircraft, and can’t raise prices fast enough to cover their high altitude fuel prices so they’ll soon be charging you to check your luggage (what’s next? air fares denominated in dollars per pound of passenger weight? if it comes to that, guess I’m driving to Boston next time!). And of course, by charging for checked baggage, American (soon to be followed by all the others) are merely incenting hapless travelers to resort to larger and larger carry-ons, for which there is already too little space on those smaller and smaller aircraft they insist on using.

The air travel system in general, with too many of those small airlines crammed into too small terminals, resulting in “weather related” delays and, in some really ugly cases hours sitting on taxiways without food or drink or ventilation.

But, today, I can’t complain.

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mm403: Blast from the Past! No. 26

June 7, 2008

MUDGE’s Musings

We embark this weekend on a business trip to a conference in Boston. As conferences usually take up a great deal of uptime, without the downtime associated with a normal schedule, we will probably cover many of our daily blogging deadlines with Blasts from the Past!

The conference itself, designed to illuminate the social networking phenomena in the context of business and corporate conduct, may provide the opportunity to blog, as blogging in the corporate environment is one of its key topics. So we may be able to mix business interests and responsibilities with our avocation in this space. Should be interesting!

There’s most read, and then there’s favorite. This is a post which yr (justifiably) humble svt is, regrettably, but not regretfully, not at all humble about.

lhc250x46_thumb2

Blast from the Past!

A post we really, really loved to write, and read, and re-read…

From last summer, originally posted September 10, 2007 and originally titled “China – Two interesting aspects”.

MUDGE’S Musings

China is always in the news. Two stories from the past few days illuminate why in some interesting ways.

First, from the LA Times, a look at how we have become victim’s of our unlimited appetite for everyday low prices.

latimes_thumb2

Analysts expect prices in the U.S. to creep up as safety standards are reevaluated. Buyers and retailers may share the impact.

By Don Lee and Abigail Goldman
Los Angeles Times Staff Writers
September 9, 2007

SHANGHAI — Get ready for a new Chinese export: higher prices.

For years, American consumers have enjoyed falling prices for goods made in China thanks to relentless cost cutting by retailers such as Wal-Mart and Target.

But the spate of product recalls in recent months — Mattel announced another last week — has exposed deep fault lines in Chinese manufacturing. Manufacturers and analysts say some of the quality breakdowns are a result of financially strapped factories substituting materials or taking other shortcuts to cover higher operating costs.

Now, retailers that had largely dismissed Chinese suppliers’ complaints about the soaring cost of wages, energy and raw materials are preparing to pay manufacturers more to ensure better quality. By doing so, they hope to prevent recalls that hurt their bottom lines and reputations. But those added costs — on a host of items that include toys and frozen fish — mean either lower profits for retailers or higher prices for consumers.

“For American consumers, this big China sale over the last 20 years is over,” said Andy Xie, former Asia economist for Morgan Stanley, who works independently in Shanghai. “China’s cost is going up. They need to get used to it.”

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mm402: Brigadoon year for the Cubs?

June 6, 2008

MUDGE’s Musings

This nanocorner of the ‘Sphere© doesn’t touch on issues in the world of sports that often.

But today I feel compelled.

I’ve spent all week sleep deprived, as the Chicago Cubs have been playing games on the West Coast, and those don’t begin until 9:05pm Central time. And the way baseball is played these days, only one of the past four night’s games has ended before midnight my time.

So, baseball has been on my mind.

They’re playing the Los Angeles Dodgers this weekend. L.A. is the home of my daughter and her family: my son-in-law, and my two grandchildren.

My 7-1/2 year old grandson lived in Chicago for the first four years of his life, and somehow caught Cubs fan-itis, following the team on TV when available (and his mom and dad say it’s okay) and on line.

Last time we were together, he showed me how he logs into MLB.com on his Mom’s Macbook to get the latest scores and stats, and he grabs the L.A. Times sports section first thing to study the box scores. And his interest and enthusiasm, especially for all things Cubs, re-ignited mine. It doesn’t hurt that they’re off to a terrific start this season.

As I reflected on baseball, an enthusiasm that waxes and wanes for me, but which was a lifelong enthusiasm of my father, and which my older son inherited, and now, apparently, my grandson, I had this thought.

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mm401: Here’s one cure for blistering gas prices

June 5, 2008

MUDGE’s Musings

We have written appreciatively on the topic of working from home (most colorfully, courtesy Stanley Bing, here; more philosophically, here).

Telecommuting is a fancier term. Telework is the jargon chosen by Stephen Barr of the Washington Post, reporting on a bill working its way through Congress to permit federal employees to do so.

washingtonpost

Telework Bill Cleared by the House

Federal Diary | By Stephen Barr |Wednesday, June 4, 2008; Page D03

A bill that would permit many federal employees to telecommute at least two days every two weeks was approved by the House yesterday on a voice vote.

Under the bill, federal agencies would be required to create and implement policies to enable eligible employees to work from home or away from their regular office as long as telecommuting did not hamper their performance or interfere with agency operations.

Telework advocates and union officials have been pushing for expanded telecommuting programs in the government for two years, and the House action enhances the chances of Congress sending a bill to the president this year.

Similar legislation has been approved by a Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, but a committee report has not been released, a step needed before the bill can come to the Senate floor. There are some differences between the House and Senate bills that will have to be resolved, but a compromise is likely because the concept of expanded telecommuting in the government has drawn substantial bipartisan support.

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mm400: A trend that I can really support

June 4, 2008

MUDGE’s Musings

As faithful reader no doubt recalls, health issues are always taken quite seriously here in this nanocorner of the ‘Sphere©. Indeed, we have devoted quite a number of posts to health topics, most recently here (you might also be interested in this recent post; it contains an ambitious link table that lists many previous stories).

Yr (justifiably) humble svt is hardly a serious drinker. Beer, especially in its American incarnation, is boring and bloating. Don’t frequent taverns, even the gigantic outdoor ones called ballparks and football stadia. Spirits with an adult taste, like Scotch, are an acquired taste I’ve never bothered to acquire. Whiskeys that can be masked with sweet ingredients have on a few, thankfully long ago occasions, led to public displays of an embarrassing nature.

Oh, through the years, I have relished a good glass or two of wine at a decent restaurant, but I have not made a study of wine, nor do I maintain a pretension toward oenophilia. When wine is consumed, I’m Goldilocks: not too sweet, not too dry: just right.

But, like any serious imbiber (of popular media, at least), I’ve long heard of the purported health effects of red wine. A glass of red wine daily is supposed to help with cholesterol levels, and mitigate other common conditions of middle age, even to constrain the aging process. This is news usually taken, not with a grain of salt (salt! the devil!), but with our usual, curmudgeonly skepticism:

Something that can be expensive, and that can easily get careless consumers drunk is good for you? Nice try, Napa and Sonoma!

Au contraire, mes amis! ( <– French reference for my really serious oenophile readers.)

nytimes

New Hints Seen That Red Wine May Slow Aging

Research | By NICHOLAS WADE | Published: June 4, 2008

Red wine may be much more potent than was thought in extending human lifespan, researchers say in a new report that is likely to give impetus to the rapidly growing search for longevity drugs.

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mm399: On the cusp of history

June 3, 2008

MUDGE’s Musings

As I begin to write, shortly after 8:00pmCDT, CNN is telling the world that Barack Obama has amassed sufficient delegates to clinch the Democratic party’s nomination for president of the United States.

As an interested observer of history, notwithstanding whatever personal feelings one might have or not about Obama the candidate, one cannot help but be quietly amazed at this turn of events, once so unlikely and tonight so inevitable.

I was born in 1948. Yeah, okay, old enough to be your grandfather, perhaps. But, take it from me, 1948 was not that long ago.

In 1948 racial segregation was a fact of life for most African Americans. That year, President Harry Truman signed an executive order ending racial segregation in the U.S. armed forces, although it took several more years to take effect throughout the military. Less than a year before I was born, Jackie Robinson became the first African American to play for a major league baseball team. Today, we take for granted our integrated military force, and our integrated sports teams, in fact both would be curiously empty otherwise.

Now, a majority of voters in this endless Democratic primary season that began 18 months ago after the mid-term election of 2006, have chosen an African American candidate to campaign for the U.S. presidency in November.

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mm398: Military intelligence — time to start using some

June 2, 2008

MUDGE’s Musings

We have devoted a number of posts in this space to topics military. And why not? We are fighting wars in two far-away nations simultaneously, and have done so for nearly seven years.

That’s quite expensive, and it has been downright draining of our expensively trained manpower.

But, beyond the cost of prosecuting the “global war on terror,” we have been spending overwhelmingly on defense programs that, while lucrative to the home states of the military contractors and their congressional representatives, are impossible for a rational thinker to justify based on the nature of current and future threats.

Making this point most eloquently in an opinion piece in the LATimes was Robert Scheer, of truthdig.com.

latimes

Indefensible spending

America’s massive military budget is irrational, costly and dangerous. Why isn’t it a campaign issue?

By Robert Scheer |June 1, 2008

What should be the most important issue in this election is one that is rarely, if ever, addressed: Why is U.S. military spending at the highest point, in inflation-adjusted dollars, than at any time since the end of World War II? Why, without a sophisticated military opponent in sight, is the United States spending trillions of dollars on the development of high-tech weapons systems that lost their purpose with the collapse of the Soviet Union two decades ago?

You wouldn’t know it from the most-exhausting-ever presidential primary campaigns, but the 2009 defense budget commits the United States to spending more (again, in real dollars) to defeat a ragtag band of terrorists than it spent at the height of the Cold War fighting the Soviet superpower and what we alleged were its surrogates in the Korean and Vietnam wars.

The Pentagon’s budget for fiscal year 2008 set a post-World War II record at $625 billion, and that does not include more than $100 billion in other federal budget expenditures for homeland security, nuclear weapons and so-called black budget — or covert — operations.

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