Tuesday, January 31, 2006

New article: Fighting cannibalization

Imagine my excitement at this e-mail subject line: New article: Fighting cannibalization. I receive daily updates from The McKinsey Quarterly, a business journal. Perhaps the article was about how to do business in developing countries where workers ran the risk of being made the main course at a "business luncheon"?

No such luck. Here's the full title of the article: Fighting cannibalization: Optimization techniques used to plan operations can also be applied to sales and marketing.

The article is about cannibalization of the business sort:

In marketing, cannibalization refers to a reduction in the sales volume, sales revenue, or market share of one product as a result of the introduction of a new product by the same producer.

For example, if Coca Cola were to intoduce a similar product (say, Diet Coke or Cherry Coke), this new product could take some of the sales away from the original Coke. Cannibalization is an important consideration in product portfolio analysis.

Oh well, back to my lunch.

Frogs in January

Just read this on my birding listserv:

While birding in meadows and fields in Ramsey County in the Twin Cities on Saturday, January 28th, we came across a small frog hopping in the tall grass. I would estimate snow coverage to be about 15% in this area. Later, around 12:30 PM, we heard two brief but unmistakable trills from Western Chorus Frogs. How common is this, Frogs in January?

About 2 weeks ago - when it hit 40 somthing, I saw a caterpillar crossing the walking path at work. It was going very slowly, no doubt enjoying what heat the black asphalt path provided. Yesterday, I saw a smushed ladybug on the sidewalk. Perhaps it died several months ago, and its final resting place was recently uncovered when the snow all melted, and it was then blown onto the sidewalk. But now that I read about frogs, perhaps it was alive yesterday, just moving too slow to avoid the foot of death.

The warmest January since 1846, according to a report I heard on MPR this morning. We've averaged something like 16 degrees above normal.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Blogging - Fad?

Is blogging a fad?

One way to distinguish a fad from a trend is to ask what would happen if you reversed the order in which technologies were invented. For example, suppose that we had all of the highly-touted electronic technologies for distance learning, and then someone came along and invented the book. My guess is that the book would be greeted as a technological marvel--easy to hold, convenient to carry, outstanding resolution, and so forth. This thought experiment leads me to suspect that electronic distance learning is a fad.

[emphasis mine] . . . .

From the standpoint of pure efficiency of disseminating information, it is not clear to me that the mass media model beats a blog-based model. However, I believe that many people consume news for entertainment value, and the mass media seem better suited at presenting news as entertainment.

My prediction is that in niches where the ratio of information value to entertainment value is high, blogs will prove to be superior mechanism for disseminating news. For example, local politics tends to have lower entertainment value than national politics. To me, that implies that at some point we will start to see elections for school board or city council influenced more by coverage in blogs than by coverage in newspapers.

Hat tip, Marginal Revolution.

Maybe that's my niche - I should cover the next school board elections.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

The Demands - They're Incredible

How long can two five year old boys (shown here in photo from last summer) go between feedings? It seems about 22 minutes if today's feeding schedule is any indication. The Dude's friend is visiting, while the friend's sister and M are off doing "girl things" - lunch and a Chinese New Year celebration.

The two boys are watching movies and ordering food every 22 minutes. I allowed Mac & Cheese for lunch, vetoed PB&J for post-lunch "snack", and just caved to popcorn.

$5 - Not Bad

The poker night only set me back $5. That's acceptable. I started out winning and had accumulated a small fortune in the first two hours, only to see it dwindle as my attention span failed. I can handle an hour or two of poker, and when it gets on to 4 hours, mistakes happen. Oh well, now I have some more games to teach M, the 8 year old card shark of the family.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Poker Night

Getting ready for the semi-annual poker night. My brother and his friends (John, Chris, Jim, et. al.) - - most of whom are old cross-country and track buddies - - are kind enough to invite me along. Given my lack of poker skills it means more money for them.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Fish Breath

Gawd - the awful burps. I've been popping these darn fish-oil supplements several times a day. The directions indicate one with each meal. They give me the burps and taste like fish - - not surprising since that's what they are.

Hope it brings down the old cholesterol.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Eat Dirt? After you

Robert Paterson's blog (which I discovered last week) has an interesting piece on new research into dirt, cleanliness, etc. .

Research is finally bearing out my own pet theory - that our immune system needs a challenge, just as our muscles and our minds do.

Many mammals eat dirt. I have seen many people in West and South Africa eat dirt. Why? Because it is good for us. Dirt, as in soil, is not just bad stuff nor is it dead.

Now I feel better that I only dusted the family room and Saturday, and got distracted before I finished all the living room. Better keep some of those good germs around.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Go Pia Go!

Here's the latest on my former colleague, the awe-inspring Maria Pia Sass,

She was in a coma through the summer of '04. She suffered a broken leg, a shattered hip and lung, and arm and shoulder injuries. And that was the mild stuff.

Most frightening, a tendon was all that was keeping her skull connected to her spine. Coming out of the coma in September 2004, she would discover her speech, sight, taste, mobility and memory all had been shattered by the crash.

And of course, these stories always have a laugh-line:

"Pia tells our friends about how she woke up and thought, 'Oh, my God, all of this and I'm with the least nurturing person in the world.' "

Pia and I attended the same law school and were law clerks together at the Minneapolis City Attorney's office back in the early 90's. She was amazing back then. My favorite story was that despite Pia's rather left-ward political leanings, she arranged for a shooting lesson with the office's resident second-amendment expert (some would say gun-nut). Perhaps she wanted to understand where he was coming from a little bit better.

Pia showed up on a Saturday morning, apparently having never fired a weapon before. She proceeded to nail the targets - impressing even the gun-guy.

Weekend Edition

The Hobbled Wife is off on yet another 40th birthday celebration - this time the destination was Duluth with three friends. Dad and kids have kept busy. Highlights include yesterday's musical practice. While the Hobbled Runner prepared lunch, M was playing her latest piano pieces, the Dude was playing Freres Jacques on the violin, and all the while, the metronome was banging away loudly to a completely different beat.

The boys had the house to themselves last night while M had a pre-school "reunion" sleepover at a friends. The boys watched Scooby Doo and the Loch Ness Monster - again.

This AM we picked up M very early at the sleep-over and proceeded to the Dude's swimming lessons. M was upset because she was the first one picked up, but quickly recovered when we hit the road.

I just finished giving a demonstration of the proper under-arm fart technique, threw in a load of laundry, and will now prepare brunch - french toast - before heading off to M's ski practice.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Darn Kids

Lots of chatter in the blogosphere about this one lately:

Your kids aren't hyperactive or autistic, anti-social or out of control, egotistical or angry. They're not brats. No, they're highly evolved "Indigo children" come to save the world from pollution and war.

Are you an Indigo Child? Take the survey.

I Like Ike

Last night I dreamed that Dwight Eisenhower lived next door. He had lived there since leaving the White House, but he was hardly ever seen. He had adopted a more nocturnal life-style, only coming out a night to putter in his yard.

I needed to talk to him about something, so I got up around 1:00 am and went outside to find him working on a new fence between our properties. Seems he was moving it about 1 foot over into our yard. Sneaky guy!

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Boys and Girls in School

Ann Althouse has an interesting post about the latest "gender gap" in our schools research.

After so much attention to helping girls overcome their educational problems, it's difficult to believe we need to change things to cater to boys, especially when the primary complaint about the boys seems to be that they aren't motivated to work as hard as the girls.

I was just talking to the Hobbled Wife about our own little gender gap - differing styles of our own two kids.

Learning Something New - almost every day

Caught some of this last night. Fascinating stuff - this is a period of history I know almost nothing about. While I was aware that my knowledge of the Revolutionary era contained huge gaps, I had no idea how little I actually knew about the "French-Indian War".

Everyone's a critic, so here's my two cents: It's a little hokey when one of the characters steps out of the scene and addresses the viewer/camera to offer some personal insight, then steps back in. I guess that's the best "special effect" PBS has to offer - besides Ken Burns'sepia photos, mournful music, and famous actors voicing historical figures.

On the plus side - love the narrator, Graham Greene.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Bundt Cake and Job

I've been a busy guy lately. Nothing too dramatic, but here's a run-down of recent events.

Saturday afternoon- MHS Open House exhibit. The Hobbled Wife has been very busy at work lately. Seems they are entering the blog world. See here post on the Bundt cake pan.

Sunday afternoon, M had cross-country ski lessons at Como Park Golf Course. That meant I had 90 minutes to kill. What better way to use 90 minutes than to ski myself. It would have been a beautiful day for a walk, but at 42 degrees and sunny, it was not the best day for skiing. I took a nasty spill on an icy downhill stretch, landing on my “bad” knee.

Now off to HOH to pick up M at choir-school. I usually arrive at 6:00 for dinner with the kids, then sit in the quiet, semi-dark sanctuary to listen to the last 30 minutes of rehearsal. Truly, the quietest time of my week. Lately, I’ve been picking up the “Good Book” in the pew - the only parent who does - actually it’s only a few mothers who knit and myself. Last week I was reading the Book of Job - poor bastard.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Working Hard

You can tell I'm working hard by the sound of my typewriter (with carriage return)! Courtesy of iSerenity.

Bring Your Wife To Work Day

Haven't followed the Alito hearings all that closely, meaning I haven't seen/heard them "live" but learn about it via the news re-caps on NPR, and of course the blogs. Here's a great comment by Ann Althouse regarding Mrs. Alito's crying incident:

The hearings do need to be tough. They don't need to be as obnoxious as they've been, but they should be vigorous and searching. The odd thing is that we expect a wife to sit behind her husband, unable to participate, just a backdrop of support. It's strange the way wives are used in politics to create an image for the man. In the business world, a man bringing his wife along to sit with him for a job interview would be out of his mind.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Butt Time

As always, I remain interested in finding something that lets me work from home. For now, I live vicariously, enjoying reading about others who work from home.

Devclue points to an interesting WSJ piece on those who work at home. My favorite quote:

It's as if they believe that the people working under their noses don't waste a tremendous amount of time talking about last night's college basketball game, making bids on eBay, or reading only like-minded blogs while on company time. The misconceptions are yet another indication that vacuous symbols of productivity, rather than productivity itself, are all that really count.

A lot of what passes for "work" is just "butt time" - you are expected to put in the 8+ hours at the desk. Don't get me wrong, my present job is one where you have to "be there" - but I often wonder how productive we really are.

Today was a very busy one for me - putting out fires, running off to meetings. I spent the afternoon in what was billed as the "January Channel Launch" meeting. Sound thrilling? Not really.

It had nothing to do with the English Channel or TV Channels. Alas, it was only about Sales Channels. I put on a game face and went down for a listen. The first speaker talked about "creating leverages". Is that possible? I am fluent in "corporate-speak", and I've never heard of "creating leverages." Oh well, apparently we've been doing it - - and quite successfully I might add.

In the end I learned a thing or two - - you always do. But whew-boy - "creating leverages" - maybe "leveraging your creativity" - but - oh well.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Blogs - an Echo Chamber?

Saw a few blogs pointing to this piece recently, Are Blogs an Echo Chamber?

Frank Athens of the Washington Posts makes an accusation that one hears often cast against blogging:

"[The most] troubling trait of the Internet [is that] Rather than opening minds, it can close them, thanks to echo-chamber Web sites and blogs. We like to read Web sites and blogs that we agree with and that reinforce our opinions. Aside from the few of you who practice "know your enemy" browsing, how many of you liberals read National Review? How many of you conservatives frequent The Nation?

His implication is that blog consumption is ideologically self-referential: liberals read Daily Kos; conservatives read powerlineblog and so on. And never the twain do meet.

But why limit that accusation to blog consumption? I don't know of many people who subscribe to newspapers or magazines that directly challenge their own point of view. Most liberals I know steer far away from "right wing" talk radio.

Don't most people seek out that (blogs, media, even other people) which affirms their own world view? I know there are exceptions, but it seems a general rule that people seek out opinion that confirms their own.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Every 17 Years

Just when I want to give up on blogging, I find something cool like this to share:

On June 17th, every year, the family goes through a private ritual: we photograph ourselves to stop a fleeting moment, the arrow of time passing by.

Discovered via Reddit.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Giraffe Pee

Giraffe urine – [whoa I can’t even imagine the Google Ads for this one] – can’t get the smell out of my nose.

Let me back up. The girls were out of town – Leader/Daughter weekend at Camp Lakamaga – so the Dude and I were solo for two nights. After our DI meeting Tuesday, we took off for Como Zoo. It was a nice place to spend a few hours since the sun was finally out.

First place the Dude wants to go is the Giraffe “house”. God the stench. When the giraffes aren’t pacing back and forth, they are marking their territory or something. If I close my eyes, I can smell it - - no taste it - - still.

Other highlights – we took down the Christmas tree. Sort of sad – but it had to happen eventually – so there’s the feeling of satisfaction with a job well done.

This afternoon we all went to see Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. This marks the first movie we saw as a family at a movie theater. Amazing – probably says tons about the role movies play in our lives – at least Mom and Dad’s life. Kind of scary and creepy for the Dude, but his biggest challenge was not falling asleep for the almost 2.5 hours we spent sitting in the second row starring up at the big screen. Ahh – my achin’ neck.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Partridge Family Post

As a kid, I had a short-lived fascination with the Partridge Family. Probably I was amazed with the effect David Cassidy had on 4th and 5th grade girls. I was pretty uncertain about the whole girl thing back then - - but he sure "had something" they liked.

Anyway - - reading about the death of Barry Cowsill, I read this paragraph with great surprise. I had no idea:

The Cowsills -- the inspiration for the TV series "The Partridge Family" -- recorded a series of top hits between 1967 and 1970, including "The Rain, The Park and Other Things," "Indian Lake" and "Hair." [Emphasis mine.]

Partridge Family - inspired by real life people - I had no idea.

The Morning Commute with Abe

This morning I drove to work with Abraham Lincoln. A little background: I received Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book, A Team of Rivals, for Christmas. Every night before bed I’ve been reading from this fascinating book. [Word to the wife’s “historical” colleagues - - Yes, I know Doris - the popular historian, blah, blah. Well, I’ve never read anything by her before and I’m really enjoying it.]

Anyway, I’ve got Abe on the brain. As I leaned forward to change the station, from MPR/NPR which was doing a profile of Maine Republican Senator Olympia Snowe, there was Abraham Lincoln sitting in the passenger seat. He held up his hand, and whispered, “No, wait a minute, don’t change it.” The piece was in the midst of a lot of political crap: Sen Snowe - the moderate Republican. White House uncomfortable, right-leaning interest groups don’t like her - predictable. Abe (this was 1840’s Abe) wanted to continue listening.

After the piece he had a lot of questions. First, I had to explain radio. We switched around to different stations. [Thank God the oldies station wasn't playing that horrible Dion song, Abraham, Martin and John.] He was quite amazed. Oh - and had to explain cars, etc. Abe was amazed at how fast we were going and that no one was getting into any "mishaps". He was interested in the Mississippi River when we crossed it on 35E. I pointed towards downtown St. Paul.

It was a very odd experience. It’s been a long time since I’ve had these “driving dreams” when someone else is with me and we are holding a conversation.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Lawyers - Never Early Adopters

Lawyers are never on the cutting edge of technological change. Oh yes, some are very cutting edge, but most are dragged kicking and screaming into whatever tech changes their new associates force on them.

The Legal Underground has an interesting dicussion, with some good side-trips (links), about metadata and whether it's "ethical" to looking at metadata in electronic documents that opposing counsel share amongst themselves. Here's the telling bit:

According to the article, several of the Florida board members hadn't heard the word "metadata" until the meeting in which they swiftly voted to take action against it.

Economists and Physicists

Sometimes a quote just hits you. So I offer the quote, and the link as well - though I got a little lost with all the economic arguments - - being neither an economist or a physicist:

I like drinking with economists, because they're funny. When I go drinking with, say, physicists, I usually end up mired in rants about string theory, which is tough on me because it makes my already limited pool of brains start rattling around in my otherwise empty skull.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

"Bad Barista Index"

Meant to post on this earlier. Heard Mark Rovner's piece on NPR about what he calls the "Bad Barista Index". Rovner argues you can gauge the health of the economy by the quality of your coffee drinks.

When the economy is in the tank, coffee shops are ably staffed by highly talented baristas who are biding their time just waiting for a "real" day job to open. When the economic picture starts to brighten, they leave the coffee shops for jobs in teaching, accounting, the law, whatever. This leaves less-qualified folks to pour your drinks. Rovener argues that the economy must be looking up because the quality of his drinks is diminishing.

I agree, yesterday I got a very wet, heavy cappuccino. This is bad. Cappuccinos should be heavy at the bottom (the espresso) and lighter on top (the steamed and frothed milk). A heavy cappuccino means they just poured the hot, steamed milk into the espressso, with little or no froth/foam to top it off. This is bad. If I wanted an au-lait or whatever it's called, I would have ordered it. Good baristas know that it's the foamy part that makes the cappuccino.

Rovner makes a great generalization. But I've located one coffee shop where they pour good drinks regardless of the economy. You know you've discovered caffeine nirvana when the barista asks if you'd like your cappuccino "dry".

Monday, January 02, 2006

Papa John's - a job meant for me

Driving past the local Papa John's this afternoon, and the Dude commented, "When Papa John (as if he's a real guy) sells that place, you could buy it."

He went on, "You have the same name, and then you'd have a 'real job'".

Again with the "real job".

High Achiever - No doubt

Discovered a very interesting site this evening. This particular post caught my eye:

Have you ever had the feeling that you’ve really only got where you are by a mixture of luck and bluffing? Such feelings are often experienced by high achievers who believe they’ve successfully deceived others into believing they’re something they’re not, and so fear that their true lack of ability will be discovered.

[Emphasis mine.] That's me - I've no idea how I got where I am. Must be one of those high achievers.

Hat tip: Marginal Revolution.