mm320: Soothing the savage, etc.

March 17, 2008

Danger! Western Cultural

Treasures Content!

Run Away!

MUDGE’s Musings

Sunday, actually got off of my lazy — uh, seat, and made the effort to attend a cultural event: a concert in town of our community orchestra.

Over the course of 10 months 11 days of daily posting, yr (justifiably) humble svt has been circumspect about his identity, as well as specific locality.

If one was paying attention, one might find some references in this nanocorner of the ‘Sphere© to north-eastern Illinois, and especially Chicago, the source of the energy driving this 3rd largest U.S.metropolitan area.

Well, my suburban town is hereby outed.

Read the rest of this entry »


mm308: Do you live in the right city?

March 7, 2008

MUDGE’s Musings

What I love about today’s electronified world is that you never know when and from where the next great thought is going to emerge, but you know darned well that it’s coming.

placeyoulive

“Why the Place You Choose to Live is the Most Important Decision of Your Life,” by Richard Florida is today’s great thought. Here’s the first page of his presentation:

Read the rest of this entry »


mm234: Poker — International Pastime

December 27, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

Among the long-form year-end articles in this week’s edition of the best magazine on the planet, The Economist was a truly unexpected one.

Not the one by the intrepid reporter (an old-school publication, authors of Economist stories are anonymous) who spent a week in a squalid slum in Mumbai squalid is far too tame a description.

Not the short, but compelling in its implications, observation of the looming shortages and price increases for that major food group for so many Americans, beer, as highlighted in our previous post.

No, the eye-opener was a lengthy view of tournament poker, pegged to the recent £1million win in the first World Series of Poker (WSOP) competition held outside of the U.S., in London, Economist’s home town, by a 19-year-old Norwegian woman, Annette Obrestad.

The contrast is with the ultimate symbol of poker’s old guard, the giant Doyle Texas Dolly” Brunson, still playing and occasionally winning tournaments in his 70s, and the man whose books have taught two generations of players.

Poker is a very big deal these days, and the emergence of youngsters such as Annette Obrestad is startling (19 years old! a woman!) only if you haven’t been following the trend, as you can see:

pokerdollyannette

economist

A big deal

Dec 19th 2007 | Poker is getting younger, cleverer, duller and much, much richer

DOYLE BRUNSON (above, left) is a poker legend. Twice winner of the game’s most prestigious annual tournament, the World Series of Poker (WSOP), held in Las Vegas, the cowboy-hat-clad southerner affectionately known as Texas Dolly also wrote what many consider to be the bible of poker theory, “Super System: A Course in Power Poker”. His reputation among card-shufflers borders on the superhuman. Indeed, after fighting off supposedly terminal cancer in the 1960s, he celebrated his return to the cardrooms with 53 straight wins. Adding to the mystique, both of his World Series titles were won with exactly the same cards: a full house of tens over twos.

Now in his mid-70s, Mr Brunson is still going strong. But not strong enough for Annette Obrestad (above, right), who beat the old master and 361 other entrants in September to win the first ever WSOP event held outside America. Miss Obrestad’s victory, which netted her £1m ($2m), shows how much poker has changed since the days when Texas Dolly, Amarillo Slim Preston and Jack “Treetops” Straus held sway. She is only 19 (making her the youngest ever winner of a World Series bracelet) and she is, of course, a woman. She hails from Norway, not Nevada. And though she had previously won over $800,000 in internet tournaments, the event at London’s Empire Casino was the first time she had encountered serious opposition in the flesh. The poker press refers to her by her online moniker, annette_15.

Two factors have produced the wave of amateur players and winners such as annette_15: on-line poker gaming sites such as Full Tilt Poker and PokerStars; and television, through its broadcasts of such programming as the WSOP on ESPN, and the made for television World Poker Tour on the Travel channel, which The Economist says have made poker

… the third most watched sport on cable television in the United States, after car racing and American football, trumping even NBA basketball. In America, it is regularly aired on ESPN and the Travel Channel, while Britain has its own poker channel. ESPN’s World Series shows regularly get more than 1m viewers, and numbers hold up well even during the busiest sports periods, such as during the major-league baseball play-offs and the NASCAR motorsports season.

So, now we can understand why the poker phenomenon has left the back alley and penetrated the main stream: it’s the money. And the kids, learning on-line, have followed the money.

Poker professionals are fond of describing Texas Hold ’Em, the tournament game of choice, as taking five minutes to learn to play, and a lifetime to master. Television, and especially the on-line sites, have compressed that equation.

The story is pursued into academia (which also has a talent for following the money) and spends time illuminating the debate: luck, or skill?

This of course leads to the hot discussion in the U.S. regarding on-line gambling sites, chased off-shore and still under attack by anti-gambling forces, who somehow have managed to grandfather in horse racing, fantasy sports and lotteries.

This last is right-wing hypocrisy at its typical best. Your pastime is a vice which we will endeavor to prohibit unto the last righteous breath in our body; mine is good, clean, re-election campaign contributing fun.

Altogether a fascinating story.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Poker | A big deal | Economist.com

MUDGE has played the game with family and friends for over 40 years, mainly poorly. I’ve read some books; have a primitive Texas Hold ’Em PC game where I waste some time; even for a while dared to venture on line, but always for play money, not real.

The one and only time I found myself in Las Vegas I was attending a computer conference on my employer’s dime, thank you very much.

It was more than seven years ago, before the game’s recent explosive glamorization, and while I had no difficulty avoiding Venetian’s slot machines, the dice and blackjack tables, but its and Bellagio’s poker rooms were a magnet I couldn’t resist.

Should have. Gambling with strangers, even at the $3/$6 table, is dangerous for this particular player, and figuring odds and especially the whole psychology thing (especially trying to read the craggy locals who I’m guessing make nice unreported supplements to social security off of fish like me) is apparently way over my head.

All told, it was about a $300 lesson, that included one winning session that somehow has remained clear while the other stuff has faded into obscurity in my memory.

So I’ve never been tempted to return to Vegas, even in this age of big money and cheap entries to tournaments for amateurs via the on-line qualifiers.

But, like so many of life’s experiences, I like to watch.

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE

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mm209: Happy Birthday, Dad!

November 30, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

I wrote a note to my children today, and I’m just self-indulgent enough to share it with you.

My father was always proud of the fact that he shared a birthday with Winston Churchill, one of the giants of his time.  Churchill has been gone for 42 years, and the world is a lesser place for his passing.

Dad was no Churchill, but he was student enough of history to aspire to make a difference in the world, and with his optimism and generosity, he did.

His own father died when Dad was a small child, but he once related to me that, well into middle age, he would meet someone who remembered his father, gone for 40 years, as a respected businessman, scrupulous and fair.

In the years since he’s gone, I’ve had that same experience about him.

At the age of 31 (eerily close to the age his own father had died) he was afflicted with a brain tumor. The art of brain surgery was pretty rough in 1956; my mother was told to prepare for widowhood. Yet, he survived, recovered fully, and went on to lead a worthy life.

He sold paper boxes all of his adult life, first for other people but later running his own small company (in which I worked for 15 years), but politics was his first love and avocation.

As our township’s committeeman, he managed to carry the town for a Democratic presidential candidate for the first time in its history in 1964.

Later, he served as our town’s first Jewish alderman, and narrowly lost his race for mayor, He once told me, after seeing a picture in the weekly paper of the victorious opponent officiating at a Veteran’s Day ceremony in cold driving rain, that losing that election was absolutely the better outcome.

If politics was his first love, baseball was next. Time and money were in short supply during my childhood, but he made up for it while my children were growing up by sharing many a Cubs and White Sox game (he maintained season’s tickets to both for years) with his grandchildren.

He sponsored a Little League team in town (the first individual to do so), and my brother still does. It’s a blast during the spring and early summer to see kids biking to the park with Dad’s name on their backs.

His love of baseball took an unusual turn when his close friend Gus, whom he had had known for many years, revealed that he had been a promising rookie with the Cubs before the war, until his arm blew out.

Attending many games on Saturdays with my father and my older son relit the fire for Gus. Comfortably retired, he purchased the Triple-A farm team in Omaha, and one year that team won the Triple-A World Series. My father, who served on the team’s board of directors, always cherished his World Series ring.

Dad moved from elective office to appointments, and after spearheading the fundraising campaign to create a still thriving cultural center from a shuttered school, served the town’s recreation board for a number of terms, including as its president.

A recreation center he had helped the city build was named for him shortly after his untimely death from heart disease at 67.

That was 15 years ago, and his family misses him every day.

Oh, yeah, the note I wrote my kids today.

Hi, Children,

Today, November 30, would have been Grandpa S—–‘s 82nd birthday.

He was an extraordinary man and we’re all fortunate that he’s been in our lives.

He, along with dear Grandpa J—–, remain examples for all of us of integrity, generosity, optimism and courage facing crippling illness, and, most of all, the importance of family.

Grandpa S—–, as you’re sure to remember, used to love to give gifts to his children and grandchildren on his birthday.

I hope that his memory serves as that gift today, and every day.

Love,
Dad

Happy Birthday, Dad.

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE


mm202: November 22, 2007: Thanksgiving day, and so much more

November 22, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

Thanksgiving day, the U.S. holiday, is celebrated by statute on the fourth Thursday in November. This places the holiday on a varying schedule. It can fall on any date between Nov. 22 and Nov. 28.

Unvarying is the other, deeper implication of this Thanksgiving day, Nov. 22, as this particular day, in 1963, is one of the defining incidents of my generation’s lifetime: the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

This self-congratulating student of history is ashamed to admit that he had to be reminded of the importance of this day by a story in Wired.com.

By Tony Long   11.22.07 | 12:00 AM

President John F. Kennedy and Texas Gov. John Connally ride in a motorcade in Dallas Nov. 22, 1963, moments before a sniper’ would shoot the two men, fatally wounding Kennedy. Photo: Bettmann/Corbis

1963: President Kennedy is assassinated as his motorcade passes through Dealey Plaza in downtown Dallas. Texas Gov. John Connally, riding in the same car as Kennedy, is seriously wounded.

The Warren Commission, set up by order of President Johnson to investigate the assassination, concluded that Kennedy was killed by a lone gunman, Lee Harvey Oswald, firing from the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository. Although the report was widely accepted at first, skepticism grew as more information concerning possible conspiracies leaked out.

Oswald denied having anything to do with the shooting at all, let alone being part of any conspiracy, but he was killed — and silenced — two days after the assassination while in the custody of Dallas police.

That, coupled with the FBI’s miserable handling of the initial investigation, did nothing to quell the suspicions of those who believed Kennedy’s assassination was the work of (pick one, or more than one): the CIA, Johnson, the mob, Fidel Castro, the anti-Castro Cubans, J. Edgar Hoover.

Defining events for a generation. For my parent’s generation, if it had to be boiled down to a single day of so many eventful days, it would be April 12, 1945, the day President Franklin D. Roosevelt died. He was the only president they had known their entire life, and his passing, my mother has said, was like losing one’s father. Anyone alive then can tell you exactly where they were, and what they were doing when they learned the sad news out of Warm Springs, Georgia.

fdr

For my children’s generation, there is no contest: September 11, 2001. Can’t you tell us exactly what you were doing, and where, when those shocking images started to appear on CNN?

elegy2

For we boomers, upper half, JFK’s murder changed everything. And yes, I was sitting in my junior year English-Journalism class when we heard; school was immediately suspended as we all rushed home to watch the continual telecast that dominated the entire weekend. (BTW, I believe that this event coverage certified the new ascendancy of television news over printed newspapers and magazines. The boob tube was capable of delivering more than Jackie Gleason and Ed Sullivan.)

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Nov. 22, 1963: A Magic Bullet, a Grassy Knoll, an Enduring Mystery

For an explanation, or at least a description, of what changed, the Wired story links to this article that appeared the week of what would have been Kennedy’s 90th birthday last month:

John F. Kennedy would now be 90 years old — a circumstance virtually impossible to imagine, for those of us alive on November 22, 1963. When Lee Harvey Oswald’s bullets killed the 35th president of the United States, our memories of him were frozen in a kind of memorial amber.

It’s hard enough to picture 60-year old JFK as the proprietor of a great newspaper (a post-presidential career he was considering). It is simply impossible to conjure up images of him at 75, much less 90. He remains, forever, young, at least in the memory of those who remember his presidency.

Do we understand why he died, though? And does the regnant interpretation of the Kennedy assassination mask the truth about his presidency, and about his place in the spectrum of American political opinion?[…]

Why did John F. Kennedy die? According to the interpretation advanced by admiring biographers (and former Kennedy aides) Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., and Theodore Sorensen, JFK’s assassination was the by-product of a culture of violence that had infected the extreme American right-wing: thus right-wing paranoia about communism and civil rights activism had turned the city of Dallas into a seething political madhouse where something awful was very likely to happen.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

The-Tidings.com

The interpretation advanced in this last article resonates with me; things changed. Optimism, born of victory, born of world leadership, born of that post-war prosperity that built the suburbs and the interstate highways that wove them together, took a terrible blow that November afternoon.

The American century, at that precise moment, began to unravel. And we boomer inheritors were not destined to enjoy the triumph our parents earned for us after all, but only to ride that plunging elevator into some other nation’s century — China’s?

And shame on me for having to be reminded!

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE


mm165: Junkfood Science: Obesity Paradox #13 — Take heart

October 9, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

Welcome to one of the newest members of the Left-Handed Complement blogroll, Junkfood Science.

Sandy Szwarc seems to have the credentials, and she has a point of view.

Points of view are not lacking in the blogosphere (although credentials may be!), but I was attracted to hers immediately.

Anyone glancing at the rendition of Yr (Justifiably) Humble Svt that graces the top of the sidebar of this nanocorner of the ‘Sphere© can probably tell that one might charitably describe MUDGE as horizontally challenged.

Fat.

Obese even.

A war fought over all but six decades. Oh, a battle won here or there, but the trend is lousy. And, the implicit message has always been: get skinny or die early.

Well, heredity and Snickers bars have long impaired my ability to do the former.

And over the past decade, the promised life-shortening chronic diseases have appeared as threatened: diabetes, hypertension, dyslipidemia, all controlled as well as can be expected through (to some extent diet, but mainly) the wonders of the pharmaceutical arts, which is pretty well indeed.

This past summer, a promising exercise program that played to the only exercise MUDGE can comfortably handle (other than blogging!), walking, turned into Achilles tendinosis, and the pounds lost so arduously over the past four years are packing on again, as the recreational and therapeutic walking halted while various medical professionals in MUDGE‘s life attempt to figure out how to end the annoying ankle pain.

Then, the other day, thanks I believe to reddit.com, I encountered Sandy Szwarc.

For the first time in MUDGE‘s time in the ‘Sphere was I tempted to write: “WTF!” But I won’t.

Take a look:

junkfoodscience

What is most amazing is how long it has been known that body fat doesn’t cause heart disease or premature death, yet how vehemently people hold onto this belief. “The notion that body fat is a toxic substance is now firmly a part of folk wisdom: many people perversely consider eating to be a suicidal act,” wrote Dr. William Bennett, M.D., former editor of The Harvard Medical School Health Letter and author of The Dieter’s Dilemma. “Indeed, the modern belief that body fat is a mortal threat to its owner is mainly due to the fact that, for many decades, the insurance companies had the sole evidence, and if it was wrong they would presumably have had to close their doors.” That can still be said today, although the obesity interests have since grown considerably larger.

But the evidence that fatness is not especially harmful has been shown from research that dates back to the 1950s — more than a half a century ago. While many remain incredulous, the soundest body of evidence has shown, and continues to show, that being fat is not a risk factor for heart disease or a cause of premature death, even controlling for the effects of smoking or cancer.

The people of the U.S. are simultaneously getting fatter, and living longer.

Well, knock me over with a feather (not too likely in practical terms; you probably would be more successful doing so with a 3,000-pound bale of feathers).

Quoted is Dr. William Bennett, former editor of the Harvard Medical School Health Letter:

“Detailed epidemiological studies, too, show no impressive connection between obesity and cardiovascular disease.

The occasion for Szwarc‘s article is another new, very underreported study, published in the current issue of the American Journal of Medicine, led by cardiologist Dr. Seth Uretsky, M.D., at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital in New York, showing the same counterintuitive findings: fat people survive cardiac episodes better than thin ones!.

Take a look at the full story:

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Junkfood Science: Obesity Paradox #13 — Take heart

Is it really possible that I’m supposed to be losing this lifetime battle against obesity?

And if so, why have I been lied to– er, misled all of these years?

Bears researching further I’m thinking, and Sandy Szwarc‘s Junkfood Science blogroll2 blog will now become a regular read.

Because, funny thing: Except for this pesky ankle, I feel pretty good.

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE

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mm130: Our Intangible Riches

September 6, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

Submitted in the spirit of: MUDGE takes well written good ideas where he finds them. And riffs from there. Hang on!

Oil, soil, copper, and forests are forms of wealth. So are factories, houses, and roads. reasononline But according to a 2005 study by the World Bank, such solid goods amount to only about 20 percent of the wealth of rich nations and 40 percent of the wealth of poor countries.

So what accounts for the majority? World Bank environmental economist Kirk Hamilton and his team in the bank’s environment department have found that most of humanity’s wealth isn’t made of physical stuff. It is intangible. In their extraordinary but vastly underappreciated report, Where Is The Wealth Of Nations?: Measuring Capital for the 21st Century, Hamilton’s team found that “human capital and the value of institutions (as measured by rule of law) constitute the largest share of wealth in virtually all countries.”

The World Bank study defines natural capital as the sum of cropland, pastureland, forested areas, protected areas, and nonrenewable resources (including oil, natural gas, coal, and minerals). Produced capital is what most of us think of when we think of capital: machinery, equipment, structures (including infrastructure), and urban land. But that still left a lot of wealth to explain. “As soon as you say the issue is the wealth of nations and how wealth is managed, then you realize that if you were only talking about a portfolio of natural assets, if you were only talking about produced capital and natural assets, you’re missing a big chunk of the story,” Hamilton explains.

Intangible capital accounts for 77 percent of the wealth of nations!

Not what one would expect is it? We think of capital as natural resources, or manufactured products. But human labor, knowledge and social institutions comprise 3/4 of all of the wealth of the world. Striking, isn’t it?

The rest of the story goes off in a somewhat different (geopolitical) direction than I want to take this concept (Reason being whom they are), but feel free to read the interesting interview:

[Per L-HC’s reformed process, please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Reason Magazine – Our Intangible Riches

I’m going to place this in a corporate context, for after all, MUDGE is this latter day convert to corporate life.

Years ago, attended a conference discussing the then new and hot topic: Knowledge Management. The consultants running the event, we’ll call them members of the class: wizards of all that is new and hot, tossed out a stunning statistic at us: 80% of the value of a corporation walks out the door every evening at 5pm, hopefully (as far as the stockholders are concerned) to return the next morning at 9am. 80%. It’s the people, of course. Bricks, mortar, research and manufacturing hardware, unending banks of air cooled servers humming away in the bunkers: 20%.

Flesh and blood: 80%. Or, have it World Bank’s updated way (it’s been 10 years, after all, and their wizards are undoubtedly newer and hotter) and call it 77%.

I dare say, though, that it takes a particularly forward thinking set of corporate leaders to truly own that statistic in any meaningful way. And MUDGE doesn’t consider management forward thinking if the extent of its reflection in that sphere is hiring those “wizard” consultants. Nope, those new and hot guys will be onto the next new and hot concept before the gig is over.

Leaving management remaining ready willing and able to discount the value of its flesh and blood assets by, let’s figure, 75%.

Yes, I’m thinking that if you held a typical CEO’s hand in the fire and said, “All right you (more than likely unqualifiedly) outrageously wealthy captain of industry, what percentage of value of your organization is its human capital?” do you honestly believe that she’d [we’ll be PC today, defying the statistics, I’m afraid] apply a value of more than 25%?

I think not. The evidence is all around you.

And I mean this literally.

Walk down your block any weekday morning. Take a look at the number of cars in driveways. All those people operating from their home offices? Some of course are fortunate as MUDGE often is, working from home for a corporate giant.

But increasing numbers are what we should call CDPs, corporate displaced persons, refugees from the Corporate Bulimia© that cheerfully spews out that human capital as readily as people deal with slightly too elderly seafood.

So, our CDPs, of an age that for considerations such as health insurance costs makes them unattractive as new hires elsewhere, set up shop in their dens as “consultants” themselves. Only these aren’t the McKinsey style wizards of all that is new and hot — these are the gals and guys who know how to analyze market trends to predict supply chain requirements in sufficient time, or who know how to write (and better yet fix) COBOL programs, or know the transportation industry from railhead to 40,000 feet cruising altitude.

In short, this is human capital. Rehired at consultants rates, and finally valued as a result.

Captains of Industry! You could have had these guys for a song — you did have these guys for a song, and at the first blip in oil prices, or at the burst of the first Internet bubble, or lately, the disquieting rumblings of financial uncertainty due to the mortgage derivative crisis, you cast them out.

Or, in the direst twist of all, their jobs are surplus, because you’ve found the folks in Galway or Bengaluru or Manila who will do what they promise is the same work for 70% cheaper.

And when times seem better, you’ll hire again (corporate bulimia don’t ya know — should I copyright that term? Corporate Bulimia©), although the good ones you laid off will be long gone, and you’ll happily hire the inexperienced (but health insurance wise, golden) and empty young to fill the ranks.

How long before you figure out that the World Bank has it right? That the accumulated institutional knowledge that you blithely lay off (yeah, right size) or outsource because you value it so cheaply is the engine driving your success?

Some of our CDPs drop out of corporate life altogether, and corporations are the poorer for it. Perhaps they accumulated or salvaged some capital of their own before they were evicted from their offices and cubicles.

These are the ones you might find owners of (i.e., cooking, scrubbing toilets, entertaining strangers) that charming new bed and breakfast near the town center that they poured so much sweat equity into, working the same killer hours or more, but now at least with a boss who appreciates those efforts, themselves.

Great place to stay next time you’re in town. A terrible waste of 25 years of hard-earned, hard-learned experience, i.e., human capital.

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE

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mm113: Elderly Staying Sexually Active – washingtonpost.com

August 23, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

I am not, nor do I ever aspire to be, Jay Leno (although I probably wouldn’t mind glomming onto a few of his classic autos!), or even Conan O’Brien. It’s so tempting to try to be humorous about this story (and you just can guess that all the late night blather will jump this story’s bones!), and yet, a joke is the (second) furthest thing from my mind.

In these perilous times, where one doesn’t know where to look the news is so unrelentingly bad, if not downright frightening (U Pik M: Iraq, North Korea, Iran, Gaza, subprime mortgages, diminished 4th Amendment rights), comes this story that just has to brighten your day.

It did mine:

washingtonpost

Elderly Staying Sexually Active

By Rob Stein
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, August 23, 2007; A01

Many people maintain rich, active sex lives well into their 80s, according to the first detailed examination of sexuality among older Americans.

The nationally representative survey of more than 3,000 U.S. adults ages 57 to 85 found that more than half to three-quarters of those questioned remain sexually active, with a significant proportion engaging in frequent and varied sexual behavior.

Sexual problems do increase with age, and the rate of sexual activity fades somewhat, the survey found. But interest in sex remains high and the frequency remains surprisingly stable among the physically able who are lucky enough to still have partners.

“There’s a popular perception that older people aren’t as interested in sex as younger people,” said Stacy Tessler Lindau of the University of Chicago, who led the study, being published today in the New England Journal of Medicine. “Our study shows that’s simply not true. Older people value sexuality as an important part of life.”

Take a look at the entire story:

[Per L-HC’s reformed process, please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Elderly Staying Sexually Active – washingtonpost.com

Finally, a principle MUDGE can live with (hopefully, a nice long time):

lifelesson69

What a beautiful equation. I hope it’s been a day-brightener (or night warmer) for you, fearless reader.

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE

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mm102: Fast Cities 2007 | Fast Company

August 15, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

I’ve always been a city guy, happier (even in its suburbs) than when away in some rural village, or bucolic resort. In fact, some would call my suburban home town more of a city than a suburb, and that’s just the way I love it.

And, I’ve always been secure in the knowledge that, no matter at what altitude and attitude I find myself on this breathtaking roller-coaster that is my life, I can count on my city to, eventually, provide me a livelihood. There’s just too much going on not to.

And during some extended times of un- or underemployment it was a matter of adjusting my own assumptions — the city was creating jobs every second, and I finally came to understand that I had to recreate myself to match up to one.

So, even while my faith in my home town has never wavered, even while one emotional center of gravity has shifted 2,000 miles west, it’s fun to encounter some more objective analysis about why my city makes me stay, no matter what.

And that brings me to the following story, first encountered in hard copy form (which means I’m probably 2 months late — an Internet eternity — in discovering it). I call special attention to the following tidbit:

Worldwide, the pace of urbanization is only accelerating. This year, for the first time, more of the earth’s population will live in cities than in rural areas–a cool 3.2 billion, according to United Nations estimates.

Take a look at the top of the story here:

fastcompany

Fast Cities 2007

From Chicago to Shanghai, urban centers that are shaping our future.

From: Issue 117 | July 2007 | Page 90 | By: Andrew Park


You’re smart, young, newly graduated from a university with the whole world before you. You could settle in a small town with well-tended lawns, pancake suppers, and life on a human scale. Or you could truck it to the big city, with all its din and dog-eat-dog lunacy. Your choice?Fuhgedaboudit: There is no choice. For all the challenges cities face–congestion, crime, crumbling infrastructure, environmental decay, plus occasional issues with basic civility–they are still where jobs and youth gather, where energy begets even greater energy, where talent masses and collides. Worldwide, the pace of urbanization is only accelerating. This year, for the first time, more of the earth’s population will live in cities than in rural areas–a cool 3.2 billion, according to United Nations estimates. “In a world where we can now work anywhere, we’re tending to concentrate in fewer and fewer places,” says Carol Colletta, president of CEOs for Cities, an advocacy group. “Smart people are choosing to live near smart people.”

Of course, not all “urban agglomerations,” in the parlance of demographers, are created equal. Rapid growth has a way of laying bare the gap between cities that merely get bigger and those that actually flourish. For every Karachi, which is on pace to double its population every 20 years but mired in poverty and violence, there’s a Shanghai, the emerging creative engine for an entire continent. For every Havana, which looks pretty much the same as it did 40 years ago (except worse), there’s a Curitiba, which has spent 40 years mapping its extremely livable future. For every St. Louis, a spot as bland as a flat Bud Light, there’s a hip joint like Fort Collins, Colorado, a high-tech hub that’s also the microbrew capital of America.

In other words, there are winners in this battle for the future. We call them Fast Cities. They are cauldrons of creativity where the most important ideas and the organizations of tomorrow are centered. They attract the best and brightest. They are great places to work and live.

I’m not sure that people who know me would describe me as “fast,” but I live in one of Fast Company’s Fast Cities, so I must be, right?

The rest of this introductory article is linked just below; take a look, and explore their expanded lists. I was fascinated; hope you’ll be too.

[Per L-HC’s reformed process, please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Fast Cities 2007 | Printer-friendly version

I know lots of people who’ve toured China. They talk about the Great Wall, the Yellow River cruise, the Forbidden city, etc. But I’ve long said that the only part of immense China that remotely interests me is Shanghai — the Chinese Chicago. Of course, it is or will be soon more accurate to describe Chicago as the North American Shanghai!

Now, admit it, who among my reader have ever heard of Curitiba, Brazil, or even Chandigarh, India (everyone’s heard of Bengaluru — formerly Bangalore — but Chandigarh?)?

I still recall a stint during one of the low-altitude aspects of afore mentioned roller-coaster when I was a temp secretary in a corporate HR office, putting together a diversity presentation. BTW, that experience helped me understand that in corporate America, “temp” is a contraction of “contempt,” which of course is how temps are treated, mostly.

But I digress. The point I was going for is that as part of the diversity training, it was presented that in a list of the 10 most populous cities in the world, New York doesn’t make the cut. Cities mostly in Central Asia that I still haven’t really heard of since made the top 10 — I wonder if 12 more years of our global roller-coaster have changed that.

And after a little research, here’s an update. Seems that the diversity propaganda I helped spread might have bent the facts a bit to prove a point, because there’s NYC a strong No. 4, and not one of those dusty Central Asian megalapoli made the list.

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It all depends on how the metropolitan areas are defined, I’m sure, but I’m glad to see that my town, Chicago (had you guessed?) made the top 27(!) in this list I found courtesy of that other search engine, Ask.com.

But of course, (she keeps telling me) size isn’t everything…

Anyway, I’m happy to live in a Fast City — no question that it has helped keep me gainfully employed (at least mostly), intrigued, inspired and manifestly not bored (and I hope not boring!) for almost six decades.

But, I’d sure like to see Shanghai. And, maybe Curitiba…

It’s it for now, thanks.

–MUDGE

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WcW005: Four-Hundred-Thirty-One!

August 13, 2007

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Web Conferencing Week

Once again, real life events overtake sketchy plans. Isn’t life like that, though? (Now I’ll need to find the quotation about life being the thing that happens while you’re planning your life.)

Got lots of interesting clipjoints to share; got a professional conference in Boston to write up (for my boss, as well as for faithful reader).

But this is too good to pass by.

I do web conferencing. You’ve more than figured that out. As a grunt in a corporate IT department that supports various collaboration technologies for a global enterprise, technologies whose common bond is its vendor, IBM, I am the informal “manager” of the customer experience for our web conferencing and instant messaging tools, IBM Lotus Sametime.

As I’ve explained, in this role I teach the use of our tools eight to 10 times per month, having developed the courseware, and delivering the classes using the web conferencing tool. One learns while using it.

Another hat worn is that of electronic meeting facilitator. As in those only semi-irritating BASF advertisements, I don’t run the meetings, I provide the technological expertise so the meetings run better. And that’s the role I was playing today, when the routine suddenly became extraordinary.

Our diversified enterprise has a tentpole product, and much of the work I’ve done over the past three years has been in support of that product’s US field sales training organization.

Today’s meeting was not another in the regular series, but rather was put together rapidly over the past few days as a new strategic initiative needed to be launched right now!

Ordinarily two meetings are presented with identical content and presenters: one at 9am or so for the central and eastern time zones; the other at 4pm or so for the western half of the country. Demographics have caused the morning meetings to routinely be quite large for our technology, often in excess of 150 connections and sometimes 200 or more. The afternoon sessions are about one-third the size of the morning ones.

Now, put this in the perspective of the technology and our experience. First, the technology: Last week at our vendor sponsored conference, several of the technical experts supporting Sametime (including the wizard who helped write the original code before Lotus bought it) confirmed that one server is designed to handle 1,000 concurrent users, with no more than 200 in any one meeting.

Now, our experience: In a typical month with several thousand scheduled meetings, more than 20 separately connected participants (and of course, some connections may represent entire conference rooms of people, but we’re talking physical connections) in a meeting is good sized, and meetings of more than 100 connections occur only two or three times per month if that, one of them no doubt being that month’s tentpole field sales morning events.

The largest meeting I’ve ever seen, and without false modesty I can say with some degree of certainty that if I haven’t seen it directly, or consulted with clients about it, it probably didn’t happen, was a division’s “all hands” meeting a couple of years ago in which I noted 296 (global!) connections at the peak, a meeting which I ran and which as a result went smoothly.

Why the emphasis on the number of connections? Web conferencing is a particularly network sensitive application, and in our current version of the software, the responsiveness of the conference rests in great measure on the number of connections, and the quality of the network through which the connections are made.

So, today’s meeting, where in order to cover all the bases (much behind the scenes work with management required to launch this complex new initiative) someone decided that the meeting should not be duplicated, but rather the entire organization should gather at noon, to get everything started without time zone delay.

Frankly, I hadn’t paid much attention to the ramifications, but as the troops gathered in the small conference room from where we originated the “broadcast,” and the field started logging in, I began to be a bit excited, concerned but excited. 100 was passed; 200 went by; 300 and the concern started to overwhelm the excitement.

By the time the sales vice president kicked off the meeting a few minutes past noon, nearly 400 people were connected. Remember network sensitivity? These were field sales people connecting via broadband from home offices, or managers in small local offices connected to the enterprise network through a secured enterprise VPN (jargon alert: Virtual Private Network).

Then, as I was quietly marveling over the still growing size of the meeting, the dire message suddenly flashed on my screen (and of course on the big screen in the conference room to which my laptop was connected): Disconnected. With the vice president seated and emoting right next to me.

[I’ve indicated before that my technologist colleagues wouldn’t have my job for any compensation, due to this up front and personal exposure when things (inevitably) go wrong.]

As I routinely do in small less equipped conference rooms, I had set up a powered mini-Ethernet hub for the benefit of others in the room; I keep this mainly for my own use, when I have one connection and two computers. Today I had one computer, but going in I wasn’t certain if one of the sales organization functionaries in the room was also going to need a connection to our meeting, and two or three others had connected to the hub.

Anyway, this less than year old piece of plastic clothed electronics chose that precise moment to crap out. Remember Murphy’s law?

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Of course my first thought was that the meeting itself had been clobbered, that the server, which had experienced its first serious failure in over four months just the previous work day (during a class I was teaching that was truncated as one unhappy result), had died under the load.

No, it was the mini-hub; the meeting on the server itself, still growing, was fine, although without yours truly connected it wasn’t going anywhere, since one of the little details that can tip a meeting into the success column is that such a large meeting is locked for all but its Moderator. In other words, in a Moderated meeting, no one but the authenticated moderator can push any of the buttons to move the presentation slides. (For completists out there, the other choice is Collaboration, in which all connectors can push all of the buttons — a total no-no for a meeting larger than five.)

But at least the meeting was running. While the Veep vamped for a few moments, I pulled the network cable out of the back of the now worthless hub, plugged it directly into my laptop, performed the three-finger salute on Internet Explorer to kill it so I could restart a new instance (fortunately I didn’t have to reboot, a much lengthier process on my elderly laptop), and in a couple of tense minutes (it’s tough not to pay attention to the man behind the curtain when I’m sitting right at the conference table NEXT TO THE VP and everything going on on my PC is projected for all to see!) we were back in business. Whew.

From there it was nearly anticlimactic. In the end, I spotted 431 simultaneous connections at the peak, an absolutely stunning performance, 135 more than the previous record. Once my connection was restored, the meeting went smooth as glass, again because of network issues not always a given regardless of the number of connections. Amazing, and wonderful.

Now there are wonderful commercial alternatives out there, even for our internal people whose requirements don’t always fit the hammer I wield. But for this meeting alone, the capability of using our in house tool allowed my clients to save at least $2,500; in a billion dollar enterprise a drop in the bucket of course, but I’m a shareholder too.

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE