A Welcome Inspection by the TSA

Recently, the TSA inspected the suitcase I checked with the airline.  The funny thing is, I wasn’t the least bit unhappy about it.

This isn’t the first time I’ve had a bag inspected.  It won’t be the last.  I’ve done a lot of travel in my time, including nearly a decade as an international consultant, traveling 3-4 weeks a month.  I’ve had security officials inspect my bag at the security checkpoint, at Customs, even at the entrance to the jetway.  Once, years ago, a TSA official inspected my suitcase so carefully that she unwrapped all three of the cough drops I had in my toiletries case.  (She attempted to rewrap them and put them back in the case, but I decided to let them go.)

The recent inspection was the best one I’ve ever had.  As soon as I got to the hotel, I could tell that the bag had been opened.  I always zip my bag from bottom-to-top, so that I can stuff in the last minute items.  So the first thing I noticed that the bag had been zipped from top-to-bottom.

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Is Syria Becoming a Quagmire?

Quagmire Sept 2013

Is the trouble in Syria becoming a quagmire?  I fear that it is, creating an intractable mess for the US, and for the portions of the international community who choose to engage in a fight.

At heart, I am a pacifist and want us all to choose life and beauty and freedom.  But in looking at the pictures and video from Syria, I know that these actions are uncivilized… abominable.  This is not the first time we have been confronted with atrocities.  But we – all of humanity – must firmly say, “this cannot be tolerated.”  And then we have to find a way to protect the innocent while we pursue the guilty.  Foreign relations is a tricky business.  There’s no doubt we have to tread cautiously, but we cannot turn away.

In the US, we know – and often resent – that we are the world’s policemen.  But we are less alone than we think.  Continue reading

Working in the Matrix (Organization)

Centuries ago, there were landowners (managers) and there were peasants (workers).  That management structured worked up until roughly ten years ago, when we began to see the rapid move toward the “matrix organization”.

I know… it already sounds like I’m skeptical of the matrix.  I’m not.  But I’ve seen it plenty.  And it doesn’t always work as well as it could.

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The Sad Personal Truth of Big Data

We’ve been talking about big data for quite some time.  In conversations with sales and marketing professionals, I have spent more than a little effort discussing how “big data” is much more nuanced than just predicting sales.  (Although it’s really good for that.)

I read a piece on Wired today about the Netflix algorithm.  It’s a discussion about how Netflix uses data from your viewing history to predict what you will want to watch next.  In the article, Carlos Gomez-Uribe, VP of product innovation for Netflix says, “A lot of people tell us they often watch foreign movies or documentaries. But in practice, that doesn’t happen very much.”

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Anti-Disparagement Starts with Trust

An article in today’s Guardian mentioned some details of a deal between Microsoft and former Windows chief Steven Sinofsky.  The jist of the deal is that Sinofsky, in exchange for a payout from Microsoft, will not seek employment at Apple, Google, Facebook or Amazon until post-2014.

That’s certainly understandable.  Although I think that technology is moving quickly enough that a 6-month hiatus from one of Tech’s Big 5 would clear out any useful info, Sinofsky was a senior exec and a one-time confidante of Bill Gates.  So the extended period makes sense.

It’s the second part of the agreement that makes me sad.  The agreement includes a “mutual non-disparagement clause” which prevents Sinofsky from being publicly critical of Microsoft.  (One can presume that Microsoft would be perfectly comfortable with public praise.)

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The Speed of Knowledge

Genetic Code June 2013In 1987, the US Department of Energy announced a 15-year project to map the human genome, with a projected start date of 1990.  By 2000, scientists working on the project submitted a draft of the human genome, and submitted the final fully-mapped genome by April of 2003.

Yesterday, Eric Lander spoke about the project at the 2013 Aspen Ideas Festival, illuminating the stunning progress that has been made in the decade that has passed since we completed the first map of a single human being’s genome.

That’s what I want to write about here.  Not just the progress of this particular scientific achievement, but the exponential speed of progress when a community is focused on a goal.  And the economics society experiences as products and services move from invention to mass production. Continue reading

Unexpected Delight: Pope Francis Shines

Here’s something I wasn’t expecting:  to make my first official post on RemarkableIdea, discussing the thoughts of our relatively new Pope.  But here we go…

On Wednesday, the Pope was speaking after his daily morning mass, to those gathered in the chapel at his residence.  My understanding is these gatherings are made up of invited guests, mostly Vatican staff and visiting dignitaries of the Catholic Church.  Every day, the Pope delivers a “homily”, which is a short sermon, usually unscripted remarks on a topic of interest.  During this particular homily, the Pope mentioned that God “has redeemed all of us…not just Catholics.  Everyone.”

He went on to talk about the nature of performing good works, saying, “If we do good to others, if we meet there, doing good and we go slowly, gently, little by little, we will make that culture of encounter…  we need that so much.  We must meet one another doing good.”

Huh?

This is not your average Pontiff.  Continue reading