Category Archives: Management

Founding Fathers vs Today’s Leaders

In my many years, I have come to a conclusion that one useless man is a shame, two is a law firm, and three or more is a congress.

John Adams

The Founding Fathers, for all their myriad imperfections, did manage to design a workable form of government. The operative word is “work.”

The Congress was tasked with making laws, the President with either signing or vetoing those laws—although the President’s veto could be overridden with a two-thirds majority of Congress—and the judiciary with interpreting how the laws should be applied.

Congress is made up of two houses; the House of Representatives, with 435 voting members elected for two years, who represent the states and 6 non-voting members, who represent the US territories. The House focuses on the latest legal or social fad.

Each state has two senators, who are elected for six-year terms and are expected to be more deliberative and sophisticated. However, the Senate has spawned members like Joe McCarthy, who are generally dangerous to the country.

Sometime in the last century, Congress decided that certain laws would be unpopular, meaning that a member might not get re-elected and have to get a real job, so many laws were made by virtue of the decisions of the Supreme Court. This gave the members of Congress more time to pontificate and profess their principles without actually doing anything, other than raising campaign funds and running for re-election. Since this gave them more time to talk, even (if you ever watch C-SPAN) if most of their colleagues were not in attendance, they were happy. They rarely had to do anything, except talk, talk, talk. Making sense was optional (and rare).

On those occasions that Congress did pass a law, the law was prepared by lobbyists and most members of Congress were ignorant of most of its content (except for pork barrel amendments inserted to get them re-elected).

Eventually, the President wanted to get in on the action and began to issue Executive Orders. Even though the Constitution stipulates that Congress has the power to declare war, it has not done so since 1941. The Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Gulf War—and the sequel to the Gulf War, and the War in Afghanistan were not wars but “police actions” initiated by various presidents. While it may have been war to those who fought, were wounded, or died, Congress maintained plausible deniability by not declaring them as actual wars.

Executive orders worked so well that presidents began issuing them for whatever issue caught their attention at the moment. Some were good, some were not. The problem with executive orders is that they can be issued by one president and cancelled by the next.

How do we fix it? All we have to do is follow the US Constitution. If you haven’t read it within the last year, please do. It has been amended 27 times to reflect changes in society and its needs. For a copy, go to https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/CDOC-110hdoc50/pdf/CDOC-110hdoc50.pdf.

Labor Day

According to the US Department of Labor, Labor Day was first celebrated in New York City in 1882, although there is some disagreement as to whether the machinists’ union or the carpenters’ union can claim credit. It was a municipal holiday, and other cities were invited to follow suit. After 23 states recognized it in 1894, the US Congress passed legislation making it a national holiday.

As one trained in management, it was repeatedly pointed out to us in college that the real job of management is to remove the roadblocks that prevent workers from being productive. Except in very small businesses, managers and owners produce no products nor do they provide services to the customer. Everybody’s paycheck comes from the efforts of the workers.

In many ways, we seem to have forgotten that and tend to believe that the people in the big offices and the expensive suits are the producers. Meetings don’t generate revenue. PowerPoint slides, slickly bound and printed reports, consume a lot of resources, but belong solely to the Expense side of the ledger.

Even as automation takes over many jobs, reports are that the demand for workers is increasing. The workers may perform different functions, but they are still critical to the process, no matter how much the elites may wish to believe otherwise.

Today there are many industries that produce nothing. Instead they move money around, mix it up, and in so doing make a profit. Some of this “profit” is virtual—it exists on paper, but may never translate into cash. Other profits occur when money is moved from one owner to another; this is a transfer—profit means that there is more, not that we’ve moved it around.

We are becoming a banking and finance nation, which is one of the places where a nation moves when it ceases to be great. The great nations of only a few centuries ago—The Netherlands, Spain, Portugal, France, Great Britain, etc. are only a shadow of their former selves.

So, to those of you who build, grow, design, or otherwise create, thank you. It’s your day—enjoy.

It’s Good to Be the Tsar!

putin

Vladimir Putin, according to reports, is wealthier than the next two richest people combined with a net worth of $200 billion. Pretty good for someone who grew up as Communist with enough commitment to work for the KGB.

His career with the KGB was unremarkable (his highest rank was lieutenant colonel), but once he got into politics, he found his niche. Trained as a lawyer, he adopted the Don Corleone business model (“One lawyer with a briefcase can steal more money than 100 men with guns.”–The Godfather). When the Soviet Union fell, various Russians began to acquire wealth. Putin apparently made many of them an offer they couldn’t refuse.

It might be good to keep that in mind before considering doing business with Putin.

Goodbye to an Old Friend

Long before my time, Theodore and Milton Deutschmann started a business to cater to the new field of wireless—specifically, amateur radio. They called their business Radio Shack.

rs

Why? Ships were among the first to adopt wireless communications, and since early transmitters created a signal by generating a huge spark, there was the risk of starting a fire. To minimize risk, the radio equipment was placed on the main deck, in a separate small building, which came to be called the radio shack.

Ham radio operators (no one knows for sure why they’re called “hams”) tended to call the place where their radio station was located as the radio shack, or ham shack. Amateur radio was shut down during both world wars, but hams returned to the air as soon as it was legal to do so. The end of the Second World War provided an added advantage with huge selection of inexpensively priced military surplus radio equipment.

When I was a youngster, there were a few radio stores around town where you could buy components or tools. However, periodically the mailman would deliver a catalog from Lafayette, Allied, or Olsen Electronics. The Sears Christmas toy catalog couldn’t compete with these for the pure lust they generated. I remember building a set of Knight Kit walkie talkies, purchased from Allied.

In the late 1960s, Allied began opening stores in malls, outcompeting most the other companies, which gradually faded away. Allied purchased Radio Shack, but the combined Allied-Radio Shack was determined to be too monopolistic, and the two companies were split up. Allied became the industrial supplier while Radio Shack stayed as the retailer in the malls. Radio Shack sold things that you couldn’t find elsewhere. The TRS-80 computer was one of the first personal computers. They introduced a pocket-sized computer and one of the first laptops. Radio Shack had a niche market—the nerds—but nerds were paying $2,500 for a radio shack computer before the general population knew personal computers existed.

You could find all the parts to build a stereo from tuner to speaker wire. How about a multimeter and a soldering iron? They sold CB radios, of course, but also some ham radio transceivers. Most everything was manufactured by someone else, but carried one of Radio Shack’s brand names.

If you were working on a project and need a 47 ohm resistor (usual price, 10 cents—Radio Shack price, two dollars) you could drive to the mall on a Sunday and finish your project before dinner, even on a Sunday afternoon. Yeah, their components were overpriced, but the convenience made it worth it.

Then, one fateful day, the brainless
pencilnecks management of Radio Shack decided to sell the same products (e.g., cell phones) that you could buy for less money at Best Buy, WalMart, RiteAid, etc.

I’ve been told by Radio Shack managers that the really profitable part of the store was the parts section with those overpriced resistors, capacitors, and semiconductors. You know, the ones you could buy whenever you needed them? The parts selection went from a large section of wall to a metal cabinet with multiple drawers. I think the cabinet got smaller, but in any case, there were fewer and fewer parts available. Cell phones—no problem. Parts? Sorry.

I hear that Radio Shack is still sort of, kind of, in business, but you couldn’t prove it by me. The last local store is now empty. Like Bigfoot or the Loch Ness Monster, you only hear about someone who knows someone whose brother-in-law saw one. It’s too bad—they could have coasted a few more years just on what I spent there.

Fixing Healthcare – Part Three

Physician’s Assistants (PAs) and Advanced Registered Nurse  (ARNPs) are helping lower costs and increase access. While some nurse practitioners, can operate relatively independently; other nurse practitioners and most physicians’ assistants, cannot. Why?

Physicians are adamant that they maintain a high degree of control over these and other healthcare workers. This is a throwback to the nineteenth century—which is kind of interesting in a weird sort of way. The story, and I cannot vouch for its accuracy, although all my research seems to support it, is that the country was besotted with traveling medicine shows hawking patent medicines (You’ve seen it in the movies—“One for a man, two for a horse”). The physician industry supposedly promised to get things under control if they were put in charge of medical practitioners, i.e., physicians and surgeons (MD). It, at best, minimized, if not blackballed, osteopathic physicians (DO), chiropractors (DC) and chiropodists, now known as podiatrists (DPM).

A physician, at the time, could authorize any hireling under his license to perform any duty under the concept that the doctor was “the captain of the ship” and was responsible for everything. Therefore, he had authority to authorize any employee to do anything—hopefully, but not necessarily, after some training.

Today, many non-physician healthcare workers are licensed in their own right; in most states this includes nurses (of all levels), therapists (of all varieties), and technologists (ditto). These people are trained and possess technical skills that physicians do not. Generally speaking, only television doctors leave their practice in order to operating high technology devices. It’s good theater but bad economics.

Many of the other healthcare careers such as nurse practitioners, physicians’ assistants, etc., have made significant advances Unfortunately, old attitudes die hard, and there are too many physicians who try to maintain an inordinate control over everything, including these other professionals. Nurse anesthetists and physicians’ assistance must be “supervised” by a physician, although such supervision does not require actual observation or even the presence of the supervising physician.

Efforts to keep others under control have led to some bizarre arrangements. In radiology, for example I’m told that the technologists are now required to periodically retake the examination that initially proved their competence even though there has been continuing education requirements for 40 years. If true, I believe this is a unique requirement, but a warning to all others. Of all the physicians’ assistants, only those specializing in radiology are not permitted to interpret x-ray or other diagnostic images.

Why?

Some blame the American Medical Association, a very powerful organization with effective lobbyists. However, it apparently speaks for a self-selected group of physicians. Out of 923,308 practicing physicians, the most recent numbers available indicates that only 228,000 belonged to the AMA. If you don’t round, that’s just less than 25 percent.

Nobel Laureate Milton Friedman and his wife, who wrote the book Free to Choose, asserted that the AMA functions more like a guild with the goal of increasing physicians’ wages and fees by limiting both the supply of physicians and the competition from non-physician groups.

This is yet another issue that must be addressed if we are truly interested in fixing healthcare.

Fixing Healthcare in America

First in a series

To correct healthcare and get costs under control, we must first acknowledge, then change the healthcare industry’s unique and outrageously dysfunctional business model.

  1. Physicians and other practitioners who decide which resources will be used in a hospital are often neither the direct provider, the one who pays, nor the beneficiary of the service. Basic economic rules, therefore do not apply. Medical tests, which are intended to provide information that will in some way impact the patient’s course of treatment, don’t. Many test and other procedures are ordered even when the outcome of the test will in no way affect the treatment of the patient or its results.
  2. Medical products and services are priced without any rationale. Often, prices are set artificially high in order to allow large discounts to insurance companies. This means that patients without insurance can be charged list price; eighty dollars for an aspirin or $100 for a BandAid®. Hospitals, which were once a ministry, stewardship, or public service have changed their priority to the bottom line. Some hospitals now own and operate their own collection agencies augmented by a small army of lawyers to guarantee that they collect what they have billed. This is why it is not uncommon for a small-town hospital to have millions of dollars in the bank—and still retain their not-for-profit status.
  3. And the insurance companies that get those big discounts? The hospital needs a staff of trained bureaucrats to generate the paperwork that is sent to the insurance company in order to receive payment. Payments may not be received for several months (for the MBAs out there—remember the first rule of finance—a bird [dollar] in the hand is worth two in the bush [accounts receivable]). When payment does arrive, administrative staff must reconcile the payments and file additional paperwork as necessary. All this adds to the hospital’s costs without adding any value. The insurance companies, on the other hand, are usually quite profitable, even after spending a lot of money on lobbyists. But just like Don Corleone said, “It’s nothing personal, it’s strictly business.”

So, what do we do?

First, it would be valuable to have the physicians evaluate how tests really affect the outcome for their patients and develop appropriate protocols. Malcolm Gladwell relates an excellent example in his book, Blink. The cardiology staff at Cook County Hospital was able to reduce tests while simultaneously improving patient outcomes.

[Gladwell, Malcolm (2005). Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking. New York: Little, Brown.  ISBN 0-316-17232-4 (Especially the chapter on Cook County Hospital Cardiologists)]

Second, revise medical pricing so that it reflects reality—and that must include adequate margin to offset costs for necessary but expensive services. Emergency rooms are expensive to operate while an intensive care unit for patients suffering from burns is actually cost prohibitive. However, hospitals have an obligation to the community to provide necessary services—either directly or by affiliation—to the community. The community, in turn, must ensure the hospital is resourced to provide a wide range of services. If hospital prices reflected cost plus a reasonable margin to offset other costs, and everyone paid the same price—patient or insurance company, it might lead to more rational decisions—outcomes first, but economics as a consideration. If Grandpa—God love him—is a 96-year-old heavy smoker with high cholesterol and other morbidity factors who was hospitalized because of a stroke, a battery of tests that will not affect his quality of life or his longevity are not appropriate, and the insurer should not be expected to provide carte blanche payments. However, if the prices are realistic, the family may decide that they would be willing to pay for those additional procedures on their own.

Third, emphasize cooperation over competition. Is there any other business, other than hospitals, that would allow someone to work in their facility AND directly compete with it? Radiologists have their competing imaging centers, surgeons may have their private surgery centers, etc. Should specialty practitioners be entitled to benefit from the hospital’s patients and compete with the hospital for those same patients? It should be the practitioners’ choice—one or the other, but not both.

Two excellent resources for these issues are:

Brill, Steven (2015), America’s Bitter Pill: Money, Politics, Back-Room Deals, and the Fight to Fix Our Broken Healthcare System. New York. Random House. ISBN 978-0812996951

Rosenthal, Dr. Elisabeth (2017). An American Sickness, New York: Penguin Press. ISBN 9781594206757

If you want to fix American healthcare, pass this along to your friends, neighbors, doctor, etc. I’ll get a lot of hate mail, but we need to have the discussion.

More to follow.

THE Interview

Today, an interview with a man who needs no introduction. Good evening sir.

Good evening. It’s a pleasure to be here.

The world today is chaotic, yet in other ways, not so much. It was not that long ago—less than a century—when a number of nations were either at war or threatening war.

It has calmed down a bit, but one never knows when some radical leader will appear, appeal to those who have nothing to lose, and create all kinds of mayhem.

As the leader of the world’s only superpower, you have, in many ways, a responsibility to keep some semblance of order in the world.

That’s much easier to say from the chair you’re sitting in than from my chair. It’s a lot of responsibility to commit our blood and treasure to some fracas in a far-off land. Maintaining a military that can accomplish that is expensive and complex. When we station troops in some trouble spot, we still have to keep them supplied with everything from food to weapons. That supply train itself is expensive. People forget that our troops are stationed around the world—Europe, Asia, Africa.

Not to mention the fact that your primary duty is keeping the people back home happy.

The economy is always a major issue with the citizens. Everyone wants protection, good roads, and plenty of fresh water, but no one likes paying for those services through their taxes.

And then there’s politics—a truly demanding and dangerous game.

Dealing with politicians is different than dealing with any other group—they’re all trying to hang onto their power, and line their purse. I swear, there are senators that would stab me in the back, if given half a chance.

Well, let’s hope that they never get such a chance. I know your time is precious and your schedule full, but I do wish to thank you for taking time today.

The pleasure is mine.

Ladies and gentlemen, let’s have a round of applause for the most powerful man in the world—Julius Caesar.

My Computers Are Out to Get Me!

I may have mentioned that I had to rebuild my desktop computer and replace my notebook/laptop/whatever they’re called this year computer.

I try to backup my data regularly. I have a scheduled routine to backup my laptop to one of the large hard drives on the main computer in the house. I also have a separate hard drive especially made for backups that I use about once a month.

Suddenly, with a number of computer based issues staring at me, I get the message on my laptop that the hard drive is full.

Now, I know Windows 8.1.a.(3)[4]—or whatever—is a memory hog. So is Norton 360. And then there’s Office 2013, and I did start my taxes with TurboTax, but c’mon!

I usually have to upgrade the hard drives and RAM in computers, so this was not the biggest surprise, but still… so I ordered a 1 terabyte disk to replace the 500 gigabyte. When it arrived, I turned the computer over, ready to open the little access panel that laptops have so you can replace the hard drive. The one next to the panel to upgrade the memory chips.

No doors.

It turns out that this major manufacturer* of home and office computers has decided that the consumer really doesn’t need to be able to upgrade. The entire computer must be disassembled; the bottom removed, the keyboard removed, the upper case removed. Therefore, they must expect us to purchase new computers every few months or send the unit out for professional repair.

You have got to be kidding me.

I Googled how to disassemble and reassemble the computer and figured that if I had to take the whole thing apart, I might as well expand the RAM as well, so I ordered the memory chips.

When the chips arrived, with my son’s help, we got the computer disassembled, upgraded and reassembled.

Take that you customer hating engineers and bean counters!

Oh, and the reason the hard drive was full so quickly? Remember how I conscientiously backup my data? Well, the special backup drives have a program included; and if you do not have the hard drive connected when it’s time for a backup, it just copies all the data on the C: drive to the (ready for this) C: drive. I erased all these convenient programs and reverted to Windows built in “Backup” program.

 

 

*I won’t name the company, but since IBM was known for having signs on the wall saying, “Think,” this company put signs on the wall that said “Invent.” There’s no proof that the signs now say, “Screw the customer.”

New Laptop–My Discussion with HP & Microsoft

In the middle of my last on-line class, both my desktop and laptop computers died. I scrambled, and I first purchased a laptop while rebuilding the desktop. The desktop stays on my desk, the screen is larger (important for old eyes) and is closer to the printer (important for old knees). Both computers have their place, along with my weather computer (http://wx.com/ke8yn), my microcontroller and ham radio programming computer and my tablet. Having this pompous opinion of myself and my knowledge of computers, I thought that the mega-giant-oligopolistic-corporate-executive business typhoons would appreciate a customer’s honest reaction to their products.

The review I wrote was straightforward. I sent it to Meg Whitman, CEO of Hewlett Packard, and to Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft. I told them that I would be printing my letter and their response in my blog in a week. Actually, it’s been slightly over a week.

Here’s what I wrote:

An Open Letter to Microsoft & Hewlett Packard:

My old computer (a hand-me-up from my wife) started having issues. It began to claim that its CPU usage was too high; guess what? So is mine.

So I purchased a new HP Computer using an Intel CORE i3 with Windows 8.1. I found one computer online, but it wouldn’t be delivered in time. So, in order to get the computer in a timely manner—in other words, so I could complete some work before I got in trouble for being late, I stopped at the local store. The computer I was originally looking at was an online item only, and they had nothing similar, so I ended up spending twice as much as I intended. Mechanically it is sort-of, kind-of a nice computer with touchscreen, reasonable battery life and everything.

So, given that I ended up with a new toy, why am I not totally jazzed?


Windows 8.1.

When Windows 8 came out, I paid for 4 licenses, all of which I eventually removed, returning the computers to Windows 7. One computer did not have Windows 7, so I had to spend between one hundred and two hundred dollars to get a copy of Windows 7. If you have to do that, might as well get Windows 7 Ultimate—the top of the line.

The new computer came with Windows 8.1, and I did not have time to find, purchase, and load Windows 7, so Windows 8.1 it is.

I have tried to use Widows 8.1 as intended, using the tiles and applications. Unfortunately, the applications in Windows 8.1 apps are much, much slower than accessing things directly on the Internet. This does not seem like progress.

Incidentally, I have a Kindle and a cheap Android tablet, both of which I use regularly and neither of which operates so slowly.

Now I’m sure you can give me a thousand reasons why this happens. I’ll save you the trouble – I don’t care.

If something is inconvenient, I don’t like it. I don’t care whose name is on it. I don’t care that Bill Gates is still alive and Steve Jobs is dead. I wouldn’t even care if Grace Hopper, Ada Lovelace and Alan Turing reached back from beyond the grave and were the primary authors.

I know that Windows 10 is coming out soon. However, after paying for copies of Windows ME, Windows Vista and Windows 8, I can’t help but wonder if you release lousy products on a regular basis, just to force us to upgrade to something that works.

I’m getting better at Linux, but is it too much to ask for Microsoft to produce a customer friendly product and not charge and arm and a leg for it? Are huge corporations like Hewlett Packard held hostage to Microsoft and unwilling to either seek out an alternative or to pressure Microsoft into producing a quality product?

I anxiously await your reply.

Sincerely,

Steve Nowak

steve@sfnowak.com

http:sfnowak.com

 

Ms. Whitman did not personally reply, but one of her people did. The original reply had a small typo, as opposed to my note which was rife with typos. They corrected theirs. Here’s the response from Hewlett Packard:

Hello Steve Nowak

Hewlett-Packard Executive Customer Relations received your message along with the attached letter providing feedback about your experience with Windows 8.1 plus other operating systems you’ve used in the past, and your disappointment in the functionality and performance of the current software that was preinstalled on the HP notebook you recently purchased.

Thank you for your communication. We appreciate input from our customers. Your concerns and comments will help as the company makes marketing, service, or delivery decisions in the future.

To get assistance for a product/and or warranty related situation, the phone number to call HP’s support division is 1-800 474- 6836 or you can refer to HP’s website via www.hp.com

For other company inquiries, the phone number to reach our office is 1-800 756-0608 option 7 Monday-Friday from 8:00am-5:00pm Pacific Time and our agents will address or direct the matter accordingly.

Kind Regards,

Yun Sil

Hewlett-Packard Company

Executive Customer Relations

Email: email.ecr@hp.com

The response from Microsoft, on the other hand was, ” .”

Mama Jo

Jo wasn’t really her name, but only a few of us knew her real first name and kept it as an insider’s joke and a secret among friends. However, Jo soon became “Mama Jo” to thousands of Sailors and their families.

Around 2007, I had returned from overseas and many Sailors were sent to work “boots on the ground.” It became apparent that the rules, regulations, procedures, and administrivia weren’t equipped to handle Sailors operating outside their normal channels. “Sailors belong on ships, and ships belong at sea!” we were told. Unfortunately, the enemy didn’t agree, and the war was in the desert. Dirt sailors took on whatever duties their nation required. Unfortunately, this meant they no longer fit neatly into the Navy system.

Families no longer had a command to which to turn when there were problems with pay, military housing or whatever. Add to that the wartime toll on marriages, and it was a mess. The Navy Times had articles and letters describing how Navy families whose sailors were serving in the sandbox had nowhere to turn and how they felt—and were—abandoned.

I happened to be in command when we had over one thousand Sailors in theater, so I was suddenly “the expert” for “Boots on Ground Sailors.” The wife of the Chief of Naval Operations saw the problems and took the issue of family problems personally (and my sincere thanks to you, Mrs. Mullen, for caring) and so I was told, “You’re our troubleshooting expert – fix it.”

I confess, throughout my career my Sailors were more important to me than the officers. The officers were my friends and colleagues, and I love them as brothers and sisters. It was my Sailors, on the other hand, who got the job done. They depended on me to shield them from the bullshit but missions that were successful were due to the Sailors, not the officers. I was committed to the Sailors and their families, but this war presented a Herculean task. There was almost no one who could help me tackle this.

Then came Jo.

Jo’s husband had been an Air Force Colonel. She was the only one in the command who was (slightly) older than me (I think). She had been a successful business consultant who shut her business down immediately after 9-11 in order to help our men and women in uniform. There is no one individual who has done more for our men and women in uniform than Jo.

Now there are some who believe that Jo hated me. I love this; if she didn’t get the cooperation she needed from a particular command, she would explain to them, “Well, I’m sorry that we haven’t been able to resolve this, because my Captain is going to be calling your commanding officer and it’s going to be ugly. I have to work with this guy every day, and I can tell you that when this is over, you and I are probably both going to both be in big $#!+. What? You have an idea? Why, yes, I think that might work!”

“Sir (always Sir, dammit), if you hear that the USS Whatever thinks you’re the world’s biggest pain in the ass… (add smile here) it’s my fault,” and I knew that some family had been taken care of.

Jo always threatened to buy a parrot and teach it all the things she said to her kids so when she died the parrot would be passed on and continue to repeat (in her voice) her favorite sayings. She never bought a parrot.

I did. I’ve had parrots before, but Jo provided the tipping point.

There are families who have survived storms, wildfires and tornadoes, thanks to Jo. Together we set up systems to meet returning Sailors as Thurgood Marshall in Baltimore, Norfolk International, and Naval Air Station Norfolk. Not everyone appreciated the importance of this, and it was an uphill battle, but Jo was there.

Sailors who worked with her know she was the first one in and the last to leave. When others arrived, there was coffee already started, and her desk always had a jar of candies. I preferred peanut butter cups, which mysteriously appeared in the freezer of the mini-fridge at my end of the building.

Some people are known for great discoveries and inventions. Others leave great wealth. The best way to describe Jo is with a prayer often attributed (albeit incorrectly) to St. Francis of Assisi; the author doesn’t matter – what matters is that Jo made it happen.

Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace;

Where there is hatred, let me sow love;

Where there is injury, pardon;

Where there is discord, harmony;

Where there is error, truth;

Where there is doubt, faith;

Where there is despair, hope;

Where there is darkness, light;

And where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master, Grant that I may not so much seek

To be consoled as to console;

To be understood as to understand;

To be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive;

It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;

And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

 

Jo, when we meet again in the next life, we’ll pick up where we left off, except we’ll know our men and women are cared for, and I’ll finally get to meet your husband. In the meantime, know how much everyone appreciates the footprints you left behind.

Fair winds, following seas and peace, Jo.

Oh, and by the way, Mr. President, if for some reason you might be reading this blog and you’re looking for a hero to acknowledge – Jo Carter.

CDC and Ebola

Spanish flu treatment center Smithsonianmag.com

Spanish flu treatment center
Smithsonianmag.com

My congressman ran a poll asking his constituents if they were confident in the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC’s) ability to combat Ebola. He’s probably sorry he asked, because this is how I responded. Obviously these are my own opinions (aren’t they always?), although I did try to check basic facts (number of dead in World War I, etc.)

I spent 30 years in the healthcare industry, starting off in a technical clinical discipline, and later, after completing my graduate degree I moved into management and was a Fellow in the American College of Healthcare Administrators. My current position includes support for emergency management.

CDC is very good at doing certain things, but their best work has involved basic research, which doesn’t mean “simple” but getting to the root issues behind a scientific question. Basic research is often the most result oriented because instead of jumping to a search for the solution, it instead focuses on learning about the problem without preconceived notions. The classic example was when Dr. Fleming noticed that something was affecting the other bacteria in his experiment. By studying this “something” he discovered penicillin.

It appears that in recent that the attention of the leadership of the CDC has been drawn away from basic scientific research and become more focused on political issues, which well may have impacted their effectiveness. For example, there are reliable reports that CDC has spent significant effort to shut down doctors who believe in treating chronic Lyme disease. Some physicians believe that the organisms that causes Lyme disease, and an associated disease, babesiosis can become dormant in a patient, but when triggered by trauma, or other events, the symptoms become active again. Although not scientifically proven, patients have reported improvement when treated with a regimen of certain antibiotics and anti-parasitic drugs.

The CDC has not proven these conditions do not exist, which is understandable given that it is impossible to prove a negative. However, they have taken this issue on as a crusade and allegedly gone so far as to classify this as a Homeland Security issue in order to justify the use of legal authorities and law enforcement techniques.

Unfortunately, they have not been quite as enthusiastic at adhering to basic, proven infection control techniques they haven’t exerted the same amount of effort to adhere to basic protocols resulting in the exposure of CDC personnel to anthrax and the loss of at least one container of viable small pox. Incidentally, small pox was the first chemical weapon when the blankets of small pox victims were given to Native Americans, thereby intentionally introducing the disease to the indigenous population of North America.

I’ll give the CDC the benefit of the doubt. I think they can handle this IF the politically appointed and wanna-be-police types get out of the way. Should we cut off contact with western Africa and deprive them of essential expertise, medicine and equipment? I think not. While it may be politically unpopular, until effective treatments or vaccines are perfected, quarantine may be the most logical step. The health professionals actively working with Ebola patients at the handful of designated hospitals are the best trained and equipped. However, mistakes are made, equipment fails, and while the doctors, nurses, therapists and technologists may follow the protocols correctly, is it possible for a housekeeper or a maintenance person to become infected? I think so.

It may be wise to quarantine people who have been exposed to Ebola. The Ebola hospital staffs may just have to live and work within the confines of the facility for the duration. It’s an inconvenience but our military men and women have been living with such inconveniences for the past eleven years, all the while being shot at, rocketed, mortared and the target of suicide bombers and IEDs.

If the USNS Comfort and USNS Mercy – the Navy’s 1200 bed hospital ships are not being deployed elsewhere, they could provide medical care as well as quarantine. Those exposed and being monitored would not have to live in military austerity, but instead could be housed in nicer accommodations to make the experience less painful; a hotel leased by the government, or perhaps a cruise ship. Nice accommodations, but safely out of circulation until everyone is sure that the individual is not infected

If everyone exposed to Ebola were quarantined for 28 days, it just might prove to be significantly cheaper to pay for lost wages and accommodations for these people than to let the disease spread. If the CDC puts the science and safety first, they’ll succeed. If the politics and power struggles take precedence, stand by. Those who do not study history are doomed to repeat it. The “Spanish” flu of 1918 is estimated to have killed between 50 million and 100 million; by comparison, the total death toll of the Great War (World War I)— all military and civilians—is estimated at 43 million.

Bottom line—let the scientists do their job.

Windows 10

Not the real logo  - or is it?

Not the real logo
– or is it?

After the fiasco of Windows 8, Microsoft has decided to forego Windows 9 and jump right to Windows 10. There may be several reasons for this:

  1. By skipping a number they can bypass all the customers who would suggest that Windows 9 was just the repair for the Windows 8 disaster and should be free.
  2. They’re emulating the observation that until the reboot, fans had noted that, “Even number Star Trek movies don’t suck.”

Good luck with that.

Here’s my well-worth-the-price free advice.

There’s a time for a tool that has a wide range of capabilities. I love my Gerber that fits in a small holster on my belt and can be configured as pliers, wire cutter, screwdriver, bottle opener, knife, etc. If you reference “Swiss Army knife” people immediately visualize the hand red handled tool and the concept of versatility. Both are wonderful products, but if I were being wheeled into surgery and saw either of those on the tray, I’d run out of the room, even if already under those high power pre-op drugs.

Neither a man nor a tool can be all things to all people.

So, last night I rooted my tablet that I use for software defined radio to allow it to speak Linux as well as Android.

Maybe Redmond should review the following educational video (85 seconds).

Shimmer

https://screen.yahoo.com/shimmer-floor-wax-000000185.html

Logic Is a Pretty Flower that Smells Bad*

Star Trek "I, Mudd"

Star Trek
“I, Mudd”

We’ve all been in this situation.

Dealing with someone who is immune to logic, whose mind is made up and doesn’t want the facts to dissuade them.

Someone who has neither our experience, education nor knowledge, but who has some modicum of control which they assume to be legitimate authority. As the old saying goes, “The person with the least amount of authority exercises it to the fullest.”

The clerk at the oil-change counter at Wal-Mart.

The Department of Motor Vehicles.

The United States Postal Service.

Instructors.

It’s so frustrating dealing with these situations, but in the giant scheme of things they are meaningless; nevertheless like a paper cut they are so irritating – all – day – long!

 

* “Logic is a little tweeting bird chirping in a meadow. Logic is a wreath of pretty flowers which smell BAD. Are you sure your circuits are registering correctly? Your ears are green.” Spock in “I, Mudd” from the original Star Trek.

Leaked Operating System Memo

From: MicroHard Executive Suite

To: Software Engineers, Designers and Other Assorted and Sundry Geeks

We keep hearing about features in our 8.x operating system that customers actually like. We cannot allow this to continue. Our Operating System 7 was far too popular with customers. Why in the world would people spend hundreds of dollars every other year for a new OS if they’re happy with what they’ve got? We’ve successfully discontinued support for our successful Expee system. Its successor “Scenic” was a phenomenal success in that every user couldn’t wait to replace it. However, Seven continues to haunt us with users who refuse to upgrade because they’re happy.

Our founder and guiding light, “Willie” would not approve. Just because he’s helping people in Africa doesn’t mean that we are to stop, shall we say, “having conjugal knowledge” of our customers.

Let me make this perfectly clear – if you don’t make it so that everyone (and I do mean EVERYONE) is happy to drop a couple of hundred bucks on our next operating system, the following steps will be taken IMMEDIATELY!

  1. All software employees will work from 8:00 AM until 5:00 PM with an hour for lunch. No eating at your desk, so you’ll have to leave the building and mingle with other people!
  2. There will be NO telecommuting, so kiss your bunny slippers goodbye.
  3. Daily baths/showers will be mandatory; the company nurse will conduct inspections as appropriate.
  4. A new dress code will be implemented requiring pressed and starched white shirts, dark dress trousers for males and dark skirts (1″ below the knee) for females with practical black leather POLISHED shoes.

In other words, make our customers seek happiness in our NEXT software release.

Got it?

Good

Continued Discussion on “The Persecuted Rich”

As I’ve mentioned before, Rick and I go way back. His comments are always thoughtful and lead to further exploration of an idea. His comment on yesterday’s post needed to be featured.

———————————————————————

Thanks, Steve, for a very interesting and provocative topic: The wealthy in America feeling threatened–especially by the current liberal administration and particularly now at election time. I agree with Perkins–even though I am certainly not bucks up myself. We look at this in two ways–”giving to God what is God’s and giving to Caesar what is Caesar’s.”

The bible tells us it is not in “our” power to explain either the prosperity of the wicked–or sufferings of the righteous. That we shall not render an unfair decision: do not favor the poor nor show deference to the rich; judge your kinsmen fairly (Lev 19:15).

We are told: Be not a lender nor a borrower. Owe no one anything except to love one another. Be a giver (Romans 13:8). The lender makes the borrower a servant (Prov 22:7).

God’s economy is based on blessing and giving to others, while the world’s economy is based on hoarding and accumulating. And, we are to hear and contemplate this great refrain: A poor man…shames us ALL!

Yet, unhappy poor people at least have the hope and imagination of happiness, while rich people have everything and thus have nothing else to look forward to and no hope for happiness.

Now with respect Caesar and man’s wealth disparity. America is no longer the land of “haves” and “have-nots” –everyone has two or three TVs and two cars, and multiple coats and sweaters. America’s issue
is not really about the wealthy, rather about the givers and takers.
To put the issue and the opportunity in proper perspective: Interdependence needs to replace independence! We can’t survive, let alone thrive, unless we cooperate with each other.

If we look back and examine what gave rise to the great societies or civilizations (China, Persia, Greece, Rome, Spain, Maya, Inca, Egypt, and now America), we can readily see it was creativity, interdependence and mutual support that provided the synergy where the whole was always equal to the sum of all the parts. Today, China, for example, is at the peak of its success, and “takers” are in the distinct minority, because people are committed to the necessity to be “givers.” In other words, givers always created and contributed more to society. But as each society flourished, more and more people became materially well off. The failure has always been the people to stay committed as givers…so that all might thrive and survive. When survival is no longer an issue, it is very tempting to indulge in selfish, even hedonistic pleasures. As more and more people succumb to this temptation, there become fewer and fewer givers to society, and more and more takers.

Ultimately, internal and external disaster always begins with even one person’s philosophy of doing less and wanting more. The result is what repeats itself in history: A shift from a team effort to a struggle between takers and givers. This continues until the society falls apart in moral decay and material bankruptcy, and the takers become the majority.

They’re Baaack!*

hor.

A few thoughts now that Congress is back in session:

  1. The skills and capabilities needed to be an effective elected official have nothing in common with the skills needed to get elected.

    During the campaign, voters are attracted to a combination rock star and rich uncle,

    But a good public servant is closer to a Benedictine Monk (complete with vow of poverty) who is also a Certified Public Accountant.

  1. Our servicemen and women gain our respect because they are willing to die for our nation;

    Our politicians, on the other hand, earn our disdain because they are prepared to sell out the rest of the nation to benefit their own congressional district.

    *and you put them there.

Bob Peters, Teabag Congressman, and a Really Great Guy

Hi, I’m Congessman Bob Peters, and represent the third district of Pennsyltucky.  I’m here today to remind you that I’m proud to be a teabagger and am fighting for you by fighting against big government and government spending.  This is no game.

Speaking of games, what about those Red Dogs?  What a great game last Sunday. I sat there in a beautiful loge with some lobbyists and Political Action folks eating a gourmet meal and the finest bottle of wine I’ve ever tasted.  I love sharing the benefits of the upper 1% and am committed to keeping their taxes as low as possible.  No sitting on cold bleacher seats for me!

The stadium is beautiful and a benefit to the community, which is why the city used taxpayer money to build that stadium and subsidizes our football team.*

I left the game and drove miles on our federally funded interstate system on my way to the airport, which is also built with taxpayer dollars.  Government funded Transportation Security Agency people checked me through while others x-rayed the baggage to be loaded in the cargo hold.  Soon I was boarding my flight.  That airplane and the pilots are certified by the Federal Aviation Administration, and our entire flight was tracked and directed by Federal Air Traffic Control.  We were delayed in taking off because the federally funded National Weather Service predicted some turbulence after an Air Force Reserve stormhunter plane flew through a tropical depression in the Gulf of Mexico and reported its findings to the federally funded National Hurricane Center.

Our arrival into Reagan National Airport – an airport maintained primarily to make life easier for us members of Congress was almost delayed as federal authorities checked a suspicious package left in the terminal.  I got into my car, parked in the special ‘reserved for Congress” section of the parking lot and drove over taxpayer supported streets to my office in the federally funded Sam Rayburn Office Building. I picked up a few things and took the federally funded Capitol Subway System to the US Capitol. This special and exclusive subway system helps me be more efficient.

I walked into the hallowed halls of the Capitol and headed over to the Congressional gym for a quick workout and a shower.  Thank heaven that the gym is essential and kept open during the government shutdown.

Now I’m ready to make my next speech against government spending.

* Incidentally,thanks to Congress, the National Football League is considered and taxed as a non-profit philanthropic organization.  http://www.sportsonearth.com/article/62280950/

Thinking Out Loud

balloon

Sometimes ideas in my mind sound totally different when I say them out loud.

Often, I’ll have a great idea when in the shower, and after getting to work I excitedly share it with someone.

But once I say it out loud, it sounds like the stupidest thing I could have ever said.

That’s why I like working as part of a team. Bad ideas can be dispensed with quickly, or better yet, someone will respond with something like, “That’s stupid, but if we turn it sideways and paint it blue, it just might work.” That’s how ideas grow.

Yesterday on my way home from work, I was talking with my father on the telephone. Like everyone else who works for the government, I’m less than enthralled with Congress. As we were talking, I blurted out that even though it was disruptive to be furloughed again, I’m still blessed to have a job when many of my chronological peers are not so blessed.

It’s easy to forget the good stuff.

My advice – Don’t.

Time for a Little Political Philosophy

It’s a bit long – sorry.

After the Civil War, the South had a habit of avoiding Republicans. Lincoln was a Republican. After the war, the radical Republicans in the US Congress wanted the “Reconstruction” of the South to be as long and painful as possible. Oh, and profitable for them and their cronies.

Until the mid-1960s – literally a century after the war, elections in the South often dispensed with any Republican candidate in the general election leading to a runoff between the Democrats. The “Solid South” could thus be counted on to elect many Democrats to local, state and federal offices.

Not all Southern Democrats were alike. There were radical conservatives like the Dixiecrats, who were anti-black, anti-Catholic, anti-Semitic and some say the political arm of the Ku Klux Klan. However, most Democrats were moderates or liberals.

This was an advantage in politics. If two people or two parties are going to strike a deal, they have to negotiate an arrangement that each finds acceptable. With Democrats representing a range of attitudes, it was the idea that drove political negotiation, not the political affiliation. This was repeated to a certain extent in the mid-1990s, when conservative Democrats caucused as “Blue Dog” Democrats. Once again this provided the opportunity for successful negotiations within the Congress.

Today, too many politicians – screaming liberals and the ultra-conservative Tea Partiers alike – are so focused on performing political theatrics for their political base that they ignore their duty to do what is in the best interest of the nation as a whole.

Why do I bring this up?

I’m seeing a trend among both voters and candidates who are leaving the Republican Party in favor of becoming moderate or even conservative Democrats. In discussions with them, I am led to believe that these are critical thinkers. This is a key point.

In our system our system of government, correctly called a democratic-republic the people vote for their representatives who go to Washington DC to, well, represent. When we elect these people, some voters will never waver from their position; they are loyal to the party or position regardless of any other circumstances. This may be due to a single issue (abortion, gun rights, marijuana) or to an overall stance (think Archie Bunker.)

The decisions, therefore, belong to those “swing voters” who make a decision based on other factors. They are the key to winning, which is why, during the last presidential election, both the candidates and the media focused to an extraordinary degree on the swing states. The Democrats didn’t worry about New York and the Republicans didn’t worry about Texas. Instead, everyone focused on the swing states of Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia and Wisconsin.

We may be seeing the emergence of swing voters who are moving from the Republican Party to the Democrats but representing a more rational than ideological position.

Could be interesting.

Workers’ Day

Labor Day was not created to mark the end of summer. Those who labor to produce the products and services that fuel the American economy are far more important than we often think. We fall into the trap of thinking that my job is important, but the guy or gal who does [fill in the blank] is not quite as valuable.

We need to celebrate and honor all honest labor. If you don’t believe me, ask someone who’s dealt with a strike by the garbage collectors.

We college graduates like to think that our great thoughts are important, but compare that to someone who can make a car engine purr, or work with structural steel hundreds of feet in the air. How do you compete with that?

You don’t. You learn to stop and look and appreciate such work and those who can do such things.

There’s an old saying that “The worker is worth his wages.” We were taught that by a carpenter, who learned his trade from his father. He worked with his hands, then went on to change the world.