Monthly Archive: September 2008

Where did my Robin Weigert go?

One of my favorite shows from last year was Life, starring Damien Lewis and, among others, Robin Weigert.  The show is back this year, but Weigert is not.  Donal Logue has taken her place.  Usually I very much like Donal Logue.

But so far, having seen the first episode, he is terrible.  Bring back Weigert.  Holy cow he’s terrible as this sweaty, attitude-filled, dorky, sketchy New Yorker.

First the market falls apart, now they start messing up one of my favorite shows…

On the Way to Work: Don’t Let a Chalk Outline Happen to You

After my 2 minute “I’m running so late I have to drive to work” commute, I saw on the sidewalk while walking to campus a chalk outline on the ground and the accompanying text “don’t let this happen to you.”

Now, while I think everyone understands the general meaning, I don’t think anyone really knows the true one.  “In general, try not to be killed” is about all I can get out of it.   Is it killed in a certain way?  Has there been a murder recently on that street (there was a stabbing elsewhere actually over the weekend, but somewhere else).  And what advice does that drawing give on how to avoid becoming a chalk outline?

Any, by the way, chalk outlines don’t “happen” to people.  They happen after people die.

Review: Dennis Moberg, Management, Santa Clara University Leavey School of Business

At a glance

  • Workload:  Heavy
  • Teaching Style:  Very interactive
  • Interest in students:Very high
  • Relevance to outside world: Very high

Overall Professor Rating:4.75

Overall Course Rating:5

If there is one elective to be taken during one’s time at the Leavey School of Business, it is Management 516, with Professor Dennis Moberg.  The course is on Organizational Politics and is not only about that, but is based on years of research, both practical and academic, that make it a truly powerful addition to one’s arsenal of skills and understanding.  I’ve taken other courses on leadership and management that all involve politics in one way or another.  Nothing like this.

The Review

This is the latest of my reviews on the professors I’ve had while an MBA student at Santa Clara University’s Leavey School of Business. There are lots of sites out there that provide feedback and rates – ratemyprofessor is the most notable. The SantaClaraMBA Yahoo group also has a big database of comments and lots of additional information in its message archive. That database can be a bit hard to wade through, and the comments are short and often just link to other threads, which are themselves pretty short and superficial. Only here can I write as much as I want  🙂

I review professors from a variety of perspectives.  First, I explain the context(s) under which I took the class.  Time of year, time of day, etc.  Then I talk about the quality of the class and the professor, and finally about the professor as a person.  After all, we are trying to learn about our interactions with people, so knowing that side of a teacher is critical, too.  So these would be interactions outside the classroom, etc.  I also just write whatever it is that I think is relevant or will be helpful to others.  That is my overall goal.

This is the second review I’ve done of a course I’ve just completed.  So at least its fresh :-).

The facts

I took 516 during the summer of 2008, when the quarter is very short and the classes are quite long.  There are two interesting things about 516, though, and how Moberg has designed the class.  First, while he generally only teaches it during the summer, someone who apparently took it during the regular year indicated that he actually modified the syllabus for the shortened term.  That is saying a lot.  And while I had trouble staying awake in my earlier class each night, I was wide awake, engaged, and energized for this one.  So the issues that usually plague summer term courses did not have an impact.

Tuesdays & Thursdays, 7:45 to 9:45, with a break in the middle.

Them’s the facts. Now read on for the review.

Lessons from “Good to Great,” part 2

Now that I definitely have a second thought on Jim Collins’ book Good to Great, this is now part 2.  No more question mark.

I’m a bit farther into the book now and I am getting the kind of feeling I got with Design for Six Sigma when I was learning about that process management technique.  Sure, it’s great if you can either start off from the get-go with Six Sigma, or, in the Good to Great example, come on board and fire all the wrong people and hire all the right people, but what about if you are not at the top (a “Level 5 Leader”) or in an organization that has a tremendous legacy of a slower pace?

I begin to wonder whether my only option is to start my own company in order to apply these principles.

Lessons from “Good to Great” (part 1?)

For one of my current MBA classes (IDIS 612, with Professor Kevin Walsh, to be reviewed later, surely), I am reading the bestselling book Good to Great by Jim Collins.  This is a nice breakdown of how companies managed to become great (based on a standard of beating the overall market by a factor of 3 or more over at least 15 years) while others stayed, at best, good and at worst dissolved entirely.

I’m in a chapter about strategy right now – right in the middle of it – and the point is being made that while both good and bad companies have strategies, the ones that ended up as “great” had simple, clear ones, that accepted the sometimes brutal truth, and then pursued those strategies doggedly.

I am currently wondering whether my own strategy at work is sufficiently simple.  This is not the right venue in which to write about that, at least not now, anyway, but it’s intriguing.  It’s not just about strategy or vision – everyone has a vision.  But is that vision clear?  Is the strategy simple and easily pursued?

* – FWIW, I’m finding some interesting parallels between the case studies in this book at those in Collapse, by Jared Diamond.  Collapse is about how civilizations basically choose, at some point, whether they will continue to exist or not.  Those such as the one on Easter Island that carved those amazing statues (moai) or the Anasazi Native-American tribe that built adobe dwellings in places such as Chaco Canyon then vanished long before anyone even knew who they were (“Anasazi” stands for “vanished ones” in the language of those that followed).  Kind of strange that I’d see connections between such seemingly different books, eh?

Review: TomTom One GPS Navigation system

So I’ve had the TomTom One GPS unit (link is for the latest version – mine is the original one) for a while now. I bought it technically for getting around to and from weddings. I was worried when I first got it because it used the European mapping information, rather than the US-based one that, for instance, Google utilizes.

Now, we all know that GPS units are getting more and more common as built-in systems in cars. However, if you look at costs, it makes a lot of sense to get a system separately. You can get a great system for $250-$500, depending on the features you want. Or you can spend $2000 on an integrated system for your car. I know that a system built into the audio system, etc is nice, but I also like setting everything up in my home before leaving, even for a multi-point trip, then having it ready. Something to think about.

There are a lot of things I like about the TomTom One, many of which have been taken out of the 3rd edition which really bothers me. Overall, if you’re looking for a solid, easy to use, easy to configure GPS unit that is very affordable (~$200), the One is a good deal. I am getting a more expensive (~$450) Garmin soon and will compare the two eventually. See more for the details.


The case against dual-boot labs

Caveat – I haven’t managed a lab in about 2 years so this is mostly my ponderings and thoughts rather than a state-of-the-art analysis of the setup of dual-boot labs.

Since Macs started supporting Windows via Bootcamp (not even bothering with a link here), everyone at all kinds of schools have been thinking about going all Mac with a Windows boot option.  I have not been a proponent of this idea for a number of reasons.

First, as many articles have mentioned, the OS is becoming increasingly irrelevant.  Throw a browser on some kind of OS, and then run all web apps.  Now, we’re not there yet, but I am comfortable saying that we’re getting there.  I’m also not saying that google apps or something specific is the answer – I have nothing specific in mind.  But there’s a lot of stuff out there that offer options.

My problem with dual-booting is two-fold.  Read on for more of my quasi-diatribe.

The first is that, in my opinion, students themselves generally don’t care about OS, either.  If all the macs are in use, they sit at a PC to use Word.  If the PC’s are in use, they sit at a Mac.  In a few surveys which I have read in relatively large computer lab installations, the primary reason why the labs are used, actually, is because there is software that is only available on those machines, and 99% of the time its a PC-based software (most developers will develop for the PC first, let’s be honest).  So, if you’re going to go one way or the other, then PC’s actually do make more sense.

* By the way – I refuse to get into the whole ‘but PC’s get infected all the time and are harder to manage’ argument.  I was involved (tangentially) in managing something like 400 PC’s spread across probably 90 locations and I know that a logical and simple combination of basic tools and methods kept the machines secured and safe.  And we weren’t in full lockdown mode as is the case at some schools (using DeepFreeze or something like that).

The second issue is boot time.  Right now, you walk up to a machine, possibly wake it up from the screen saver (a 1 second mouse wiggle) and have a login window.  Loading of all the scripts and whatnot that are inevitably utilized as part of large lab management probably gets you to a usable desktop on either OS in about’30-45 seconds on the very long end.  Probably more like 10-15.  I think that is a fair number.

But getting to that login window can take maybe a minute or more.

So now, while it’s great that you can buy all Macs for all your labs and give students the option of booting into one or the other, they have to wait 1.5 minutes or more to get to a usable desktop.  Or one has to start trying to speed up the boot process which is not an easy task.  If Apple continues its long-held habit of hiding changes to just about anything with their OS then any streamlining for Leopard (10.5.x) might not work for the next version.  Or maybe for a particular version of Leopard.

So.  To me, it actually makes the most sense to go one platform, and that all the management efforts go into that one platform.  And, in all honesty, Windows on PC’s seems to be that platform.


The Pickens Energy Plan

I’ll admit – I haven’t read T. Boone PIckens’ book yet.  But I’m listening right now to him live on and he’s making some remarkably intelligent comments about energy independence that really strike a chord with me.

During the Democratic primaries, I kept saying that my most important issue was energy independence.  Health care reform will take probably more than 2 terms – Bill Clinton made it one of his campaign points and didn’t get it done, not even close.  There is just too much to fight through, and, in reality, most people just don’t see the problem.  The people that don’t have insurance certainly feel it, but if you do, co-pays have stayed about the same ($15-30 for most people I know) and all we really see is that our paycheck goes down $40-$50 depending on the year.  The year-long amortization of increasing health care costs just doesn’t smack most people in the face.

But our energy issues do.  $4/gallon gas.  The amount of dollars spent on foreign oil is staggering but easy to comprehend (‘foreign’ always strikes people).  The debate about oil drilling in the US has been going on for years.  The concerns about natural gas, nuclear, and coal have been well documented.  The promise of fuel cells, electric vehicles, etc has been in the news for a long time, too.  It’s all back and forth but it’s there.

Pickens makes some simple and logical points.  I haven’t read his book so I’ll just summarize what I’m getting in this one broadcast:

  • We got a huge problem right now.  We are spending a tremendous amount of money on foreign oil.
  • We aren’t ready yet to go immediately to something like electric, solar, wind, etc
  • We can go stop-gap for about 10 years with natural gas on the big trucks alone.
  • If we were to go with natural gas on just new trucks (not all big rigs), they could go cross-country on just 10 fueling stations, and would decrease our oil consumption by something like 20+%
  • If you take the major wind and solar corridors and build like mad you could generate enough power to realistically hold up the grid, but they’d have to be built in the right spots, and start building them now
  • Natural gas is one of the biggest resources we have, and we don’t even have to touch ANWR or other contested areas to get it (people talk about how much oil is in ANWR but there is more NG our of shale elsewhere)
  • And aim realistic, don’t aim high.  Yes, off-shore wind gets you closer to cities, but they are too expensive.

I was just struck by his realistic approach to things.  I really need to read his book.