Category Archives: News

Dinner with a Stranger in a Strange Land

I had a random dinner with a stranger last Friday night while bellied up to the bar at the Legal Sea Foods mothership in Boston, MA. I was on my iPad. He was on his iPad. Out of the corner of my eye I noticed scribble on his screen, like cursive manuscript. This caught my eye. On a glance I noticed it looked like Arabic. Introducing myself, I questioned about how well non-English characters, particularly Arabic characters were rendered and how easy it was to read Right-to-Left. It was surprisingly easy.

After a bit of chit-chat, and upon learning he was studying at a local university, I broached the topic of religion. I simply asked, “I make no assumption about whether you are religious and if so if you are Muslim; however, I recently spent some time studying the [Holy] Qur'an as part of a study of World religions. I downloaded an electronic version of the Qur'an and didn't find the application and presentation very easy to navigate. Would you know if there is a iPad app that is easy to use with English-Arabic interlinear so that I might better understand what the Qur'an says?”

This led to a two-hour discussion of religion, the foolish Zionist movement and by extension the powerful Pre-Millennialist lobby affecting foreign policy decisions and the U.S. meddling in the affairs of other Nation States. It wasn't long until we began to discuss related current affairs, the inflammatory anti-Islamic video that caused the recent outbreak of violence, and then the subsequent attack on the Libyan Embassy, the Death of the US Ambassador to Libya, the Information Officer and their security detail.

My new acquaintance made two very sobering points as we sipped our iced tea surrounded by those imbibing. They were:

  1. Muslims abroad don't hate Americans. They hate our government.
  2. The U.S. Government has consistently and repeatedly allied with the “wrong side” of peace and civility, exploited that relationship to command or provide a presence in the region largely to influence trade relations, often for the purposes of consuming natural resources such as oil, precious metals, and rare earth minerals.

For me these were two painful truths.

There was a third painful truth that my Egyptian dinner guest had failed to grasp, or maybe that I'm naive about.

The truth is that because we are representative Republic, you can't separate Americans and the government of the United States of America. Either this is the truth, or we are no longer a representative Republic made of citizen officials, citizen soldiers and citizen servants serving an involved citizenry. If it is the former, then an attack on a U.S. Embassy, its Ambassador and diplomats is an attach on Americans. Or, we are no longer a representative Republic and our government is an organization bordering on authoritarian rule over its subjects. Of course this is two extremes of a condition and the truth lies somewhere along the continuum between the two extremes.

It does beg the question… towards which end are we currently leaning?

An even more interesting question is what cognitive bias are you bringing to the opinion rolling around in your head. My dinner partner was bringing the cognitive bias of an outsider looking while being inside the very object he was attempting to articulate from an outsider's perspective. Myself, I am an insider looking out through the perspective of someone that has clients and associates in the U.S., Europe, India and China.

I think the jury is out and likely with return with a “hung jury” verdict. There is a part of me that wants to come down on one side or the other, but for our Nation to stop its obvious duplicitous message to our fellow sojourners on this special ball in space.

I dedicate this post to the late Foreign Service Information Management Officer Sean Smith and Ambassador Chris Stevens. Two visionary servant leaders who never gave up hope that the People of Libya could rule themselves peacefully and provide a beacon of stability in an ever-destabilizing region. My heart goes out to their loved ones. I can't imagine the pain they must be feeling. For me personally, I do feel a loss having served them in their work.

 

Live Blogging Emma’s Black Belt Test

Showed up early and Emma was really nervous. She will be testing alone.

11:05
Already started. Incredible pace of jumping jacks.

11:08

Being judged on accuracy. Emma is really popping her moves. I’m nervous like crazy but confident.

11:09

Just did first form and nailed it! Her face is getting red though.

11:10

Now the Champion form.

11:14

More exercises.

11:15

Scores for the first part… 15 minutes… 100 push-ups and 100 jumping jacks, two forms with minor bobbles, blocks passed, kicks… above average, self-defense… above average.

11:20

Will have a couple questions coming up at the Black Belt Ceremony, on July 7th.

11:21

She PASSED!!!!

11:25

We’ll have to come back for the ceremony on July 7th. No worries about that.

BibleReader for Mac

OliveTree BibleReader for Mac

Showing the BibleReader Notes Pane

OliveTree gave us Christmas on Thanksgiving this year with the release of their incredible Bible software, BibleReader for the Mac OSX platform.

OliveTree has been around since 1998. Admittedly, I’ve been using their eBible software on the Palm, the Windows Mobile, the iPhone, and the NookColor for since the first release for each platform.

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Agile Groups in the Washington DC Metro Area

I often get asked about where are the Agile groups in the Washington DC Metro Area. Here is my list as of the publication of this post.

Agile Leadership/Management

Technical Practices

Events

 

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Getting started with Applescript

AppleScriptI’ve started writing quite a bit more lately. My tools of choice are OmmWriter for short pieces or parts of larger projects, a specific playlist in iTunes, Apimac Timer (to timebox myself), and Scrivener for larger projects. Me being lazy in a productive way, I was looking for a way to just lauch and setup all of the above for writing with a short couple QuickSilver keystrokes. Enter Applescript. In order to make it all work, I had to first LEARN enough Applescript to pull it all together. That is where this site came in handy for learning the basics of Applescript. I’ll grab a quick video later that shows how it all works, but for now, enjoy learning how to automate a lot of the repetitive things you do everyday.

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Two Mail.app plug-ins all Exchange users need

Mail.app

Mail.app

If you are using Mail.app with with MS Exchange, you know the frustration of sending attachments and opening those dreaded winmail.dat files (the sender sent a MS Exchange email file as an attachment). Grr.

To get around dealing with Microsoft’s refusal to comply with email standards, I recommend two mail.app plug-ins:
Lokiware’s Attachment Tamer and Christopher Atlan’s Letter Opener Pro. Both programs will end the your MS Exchange email attachment problems. Here’s what they do:

Attachment Tamer (from the Lokiware product description):

  • Display (and print) images, PDFs, audio and video as icons with an optional file size limit and exceptions;
  • Send messages compatible with Microsoft Outlook, Exchange and other software, preventing the superfluous “ATT0001” attachments;
  • Send images as regular attachments, making it easier for the recipient to manipulate the image files;
  • Send images embedded in HTML layout and safely mix embedded images with other attachments;
  • Display full attachment names regardless of length instead of truncated names;
  • Automatically display attachments at the top of messages;
  • Prevent unwanted image resizing or set a default size for automatic image resizing.

Letter Opener Pro:

  • Allows Browser addachment of a winmail.dat file
  • Adds the capability to add appointments contained in winmail.dat files directly to iCal
  • Adds the capability to create contacts contained in winmail.dat files directly in Address Book
  • Adds the capability to display those dreaded nested messages
  • Allows you to convert attached winmail.dat Outlook Notes to plain text
  • And reads and delivers MS Exchange receipts (for those nutbags that subscribe to Level 3 Leadership)

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Where are the jobs now? What does that mean for your future and your business’ future?

Chicago Willis Tower

Chicago Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower)

I was looking up a reference to 37 signals approach to software and couldn’t resist looking at their entire portfolio of products. One product that I noticed is the 37signals Job Board.

Look at the jobs listed.

Now notice where the jobs are located.

Now think about where they are NOT located: the South East. Why is that?

I use this type of business intelligence when thinking about hiring actions. I also keep things like this in mind with life/career planning. Shouldn’t you?

Next, go over to the CNN/Money Magazine’s list of Best Places to Live. What do you see? Essentially the same locations.

So if you are thinking about starting a business or expanding your business, what are the implications on where you should locate your business? We like to talk about globally distributed teams, virtual teams, telework and all sorts of wishful thinking. It turns out that science is telling us that people work best in co-located teams of 5-7 people. This means you should plan on hiring locally to your office and expect the people to be local (within 20 minutes or less) of their team’s work area.

Now what does the two aforementioned lists tell you about the strategic location of your business?

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4 Hour Body Mindhack for Ice Cream Cravings

Moooooooose Tracks

Image by keira-anne ♥ via Flickr

I just figured out a very obvious but probably not popular mindhack for getting through the week on the slow-carb diet.

I love ice cream. Every night before going to sleep I love to have a big bowl of the stuff.

Since I am glucose sensitive, the bowl usually put me in a nice sugar-coma… which was no big deal because it was bed time. I inherited this learned behavior from my father who in turn learned the behavior from his father. The net result for myself and my grandfather was a nice layer of fat in my mid-section. Not-Good.

What I discovered was a mindhack to break out of the cycle of self-destruction.

Here is how the mindhack works:

  1. Rid your home of everything that you crave using your binge day. This will likely take several weeks, so have faith and patience.
  2. On binge day, eat out at some place that has that which you crave. For me, simply having ice cream after a nice meal was all that was needed.
  3. Pray for the strength and self-discipline to get past the cravings. Pray for forgiveness for not being a good steward of the body the Lord has given you. And pray to give God thanks for the incredible richness of life you have been given.

That’s it!

See? Wasn’t that easy? If items aren’t in your home, you can’t cheat… except for that stop for gas where you go in to pay and have to pass the ice-cream cooler on the way to the cash register. Curse you, 7-Eleven!!!

 

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Getting Value out of Checklists for Quality Improvement

Pre Trip Checklist By Oregon Department of Transportation, via Wikimedia Commons

Pre Trip Checklist via Wikimedia Commons

Just finished reading the excellent article, Amazing Checklists by Ian Whittingham, PMP over at projectmanagement.com. Ian gives a brief history of checklists used in business and then tracing them back to early checklists found in the palace of King Minos at Knossos for regulating the palace’s administrative processes. Ian then brings us a great case study about using checklists for patient care in Intensive Care Unit (ICU) patients, patient safety and prevention of secondary infection prevention due to use of catheters. The Keystone Initiative, the results which were published in the New England Journal of Medicine, showed that the use of checklists saved an estimated 1,500 lives and approximately $175 million in costs in the first 18 months of operation. Amazing results when you consider that we are talking about saving lives, not delivery of products.

I’ve seen both the PM and SQA value of checklists, but the when I started into Health Informatics the value went off the scale in terms of patient safety and risk mitigation.

What I’m curious about is how many organizations adopt the “right kind” of checklist that really reinforces quality control instead of just being quality assurance focused. This is of particular interest in non-manufacturing industries. It seems to me that there should be a blend between checklists for quality control and quality assurance. The reason for needing a blend is due to the very real danger of creating a bureaucracy created to compensate for incompetence and lack of discipline. It’s when checklists are designed to reinforce the art and science of the crafts within each industry that I see the biggest improvements of quality and process adherence.

So there are several “smells like” tests that I’ve run across that could be used by business leaders to determine where on the spectrum of process adherence focus vs. value delivery focus your checklists are.

The organization is likely creating a bureaucracy if any of the “smells like” tests are true:

  • Checklists call out the structure of process supporting documentation instead of the quality of the content of process supporting documentation
  • Checklists are being used and there is no understanding of the purpose of the checklist by the checklist user (e.g. just checking the box because that is what will get the product or service delivered).

The organization is likely using checklists correctly if any of the “smells like” tests are true:

  • Checklists call out that the work product has met the threshold of the definition of being a quality product and has met the acceptance criteria created by the user of the product
  • Checklists are being used to prevent risk of major defects or errors when implementing the product or service (e.g. Process steps were followed).

The latter should be used judiciously. A good rule of them is to determine if using the checklist causes more that a 0-3% in efficiency.

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Is it your job or your craft?

US Unemployment Figures

US Unemployment Figures

There is a lot of talk about the number of unemployed people. Over the course of this recession the United States has lost some 10 Million jobs. These jobs simply went away. They weren’t outsourced to another country. They didn’t transition to another type of role. They simply went away and it will take 10 years to get them back.

So who are these unemployed people?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics is now detailing the fact the largest preponderance of people that are unemployed fall into two categories:
1. Those who’s skills are not in demand
2. Those who do not have the education level needed to acquire good paying jobs

As an organizational therapist, I have started my own non-scientific studies and have come to a single conclusion. The two factors highlighted by the BLS, wrong skills and not enough education, don’t really tell the whole story. I find people the for a while didn’t have skills that were in demand who are still able to find people to demand their skills. I find people that don’t have the “requisite education level” or “necessary certifications” that are still able to find employers who cherish their labor.

So what truly divides those that are able to find employment even after being down-sized, and those that living on Government unemployment payrolls trying to hold on to their homes and lifestyle?

I can only conclude one thing: it is the way each of the groups fundamentally approach their labor. The gainfully employed see their labor as their legacy and their craft. Whether they are street cleaners, brick layers, front-desk receptionists, or software engineers, they all have this singular attitude about serving their employer and obsessing about creating work that any person is ecstatic to purchase… often at above market rates. In contrast, the people that were laid-off and then struggle to find new employment seem to treat the “job” only as a means of paying the bills.

I can’t deny… I’ve taken positions just to make sure I am fulfilling my duty to my wife, kids and community. It is my contract with society. One element that has remained true, though… I always have treated my work as my legacy. I fret over my work just as a painter does, never satisfied until I have perfected each body of work in such a way that generations from now someone will say, “Wow!”

Are you frustrated at work? It is because your job is taking up too much of your time, or because you aren’t allowed to practice your craft? If it is former, you may find out the hard way that you are making yourself outmoded. If it is the later, you will find peace in learning to be creative in being the best you can be within the constraints you are under. Make the best of every situation and only do excellent work. There will be no end of demand for your craft.

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