Entrepreneurial Leadership and Management . . . and Other Stuff


My Annual Summer Injury

I spend most summers with my family on Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire.  This year, we haven’t spent much time at the “Lake,” but this hasn’t disrupted my pattern of yearly visits to the local hospital in Wolfeboro.  There was the summer with the broken neck (a smith machine fell over on me at a gym – long story) and another with a broken toe (kicked a door stop in bare feet).  And, last year, I fractured a couple of ribs (fell off my bike).  I’ve been there so frequently for broken bones and torn tissue that they take me aside to ask if I’m being abused at home.  No kidding.  Last year I said, “only psychologically.”  They didn’t think that was funny.

Mallet_fingerSo, for this year’s injury I ruptured my extensor tendon on the middle finger of my left hand.  The injury is commonly known as Mallet Finger.  What the hell is that?  That’s what I said too.

The extensor tendon is the tissue that basically holds up the part of your finger closest to the finger’s tip.  Without it, there’s nothing to lift that part of the finger.

I did it while cleaning, wiping down a completely flat surface.  The tip of my finger rubbed the surface, the finger bent back and I heard an audible (loud, actually) snap.  My stomach turns just thinking about it.  It grosses me out.  After the initial pain, I felt nothing.  And, this is from a guy who has the lowest threshold of pain on the planet.  When I looked at my finger, though, I saw the picture above.  Try as I might, I couldn’t lift the end of my finger.  I tried lifting it with my other hand and it moved up and down without difficulty.  Strange feeling.

The treatment is for the finger to be kept in this little sling thing for 6+ weeks.  The sling holds the tip of the finger straight so that the tendon can heal in the correct position.  Obviously, the sling has to be worn 24/7.  Pain in the ass.  There’s no real pain, but tying shoes, typing and shifting and braking a bicycle are a bit difficult.

Ya know, now that I think about it, I actually hope this is this year’s injury.  I hate to think that something worse might come along . . .

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 August 9th, 2009  
 Misc Thoughts  

I’m Likin’ Bing

While I’m addicted to search like most people, I’m not married to a particular provider.  I have a load of search engines in my Firefox search drop-down list which, conceptually, lets me choose the most appropriate one to get the fastest access to the best results.  That said, Google has been my default search engine for as long as I can remember and I’ll usually hack through what Google feeds back to me before I bother with others.  Just lazy.

Since I’m never happy with anything and feel the need to tinker with everything, I changed my default search engine to Bing a few weeks ago.  I like it.  It’s not life-changing or anything, but I’m impressed with the results and the flexibility it provides.  There are three things in particular I like. 

  • Each returned entry has more follow-on links than Google provides.  If I’m really just looking for the “Downloads” link, for example, I don’t have to navigate to the home page of the searched site and click on that link.  It’s in the Bing entry.  Yeah, Google does this sometimes, but it’s much more frequently done with Bing.  For some sites there is even a search box for the found site inside the the Bing entry (see below).


  • I like the “Related Searches” list in the sidebar.  In search, sometimes it’s all about how you enter what you’re looking for.  When I don’t get what I want, I often find that clicking on one of the related searches gets me there fast just because other keywords were better than those I entered.
  • Images.  I can’t imagine why, but Bing returns a much better list of images than Google.  They’re organized better, too.  When you see an image close to what you’re looking for, you simply click on “show similar images” and you get more sizes and varieties of similar images.  Nicely done.
  • Sports results.  I search for sports scores and standings frequently.  See below, Bing just does a better job.

Bing - Red Sox Google - Red Sox

Note here that I didn’t include the results themselves as a differentiator.  I think that the Bing results are slightly better, but it’s not yet clear to me that this is so.  The presentation of search results, though, is much nicer in Bing, IMO.  For now, I’m a convert.

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 July 6th, 2009  
 Misc Thoughts  

Wrong Direction Parking

Parking Ticket_Page_2

So, I was in Cambridge, MA last week and parked in a public lot while attending the TechStars Boston Mentor Dinner (really great group, BTW).  I searched the 10,000 little signs around the lot to find out if I needed to fill a meter somewhere and felt fairly secure that I didn’t when I found an obscured sign that stated that sacrifices to the parking lot gods were not required after 6pm – it was 5:58.

Imagine my dismay then, when I came back to my car later that evening to find this parking ticket on the car.  Not because I neglected to fill a meter, but because I backed into a parking space (see arrows).  I suppose I can dream of reasons why this is a rule, most of them having to do with bad drivers, but I can’t think of any logical reason why this should be a problem (Massachusetts requires front license plates, so that’s not it).

I had to hunt around the parking lot to find the small sign that told parkers that they had to park “head on” only.  It was there, but it wasn’t obvious.  It was posted and I was, therefore, wrong.  I just think it’s absurd – both the rule and the poor posting of it.

Anyone know why this type of parking restriction is mandated?

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 May 6th, 2009  
 Misc Thoughts, Stuff with a Motor  

Spring Haiku

Here in New England, the mercury in thermometers is reaching renewed heights and the great winter cleanup is taking place.  Seeing people poking at the ground with various forms of pointy sticks made me think of this haiku.

Winter turns to Spring.

Trading snow shovels for rakes,

man urges life back.

Special thanks to my editor, teacher and thesaurus, Dave.

 April 17th, 2009  
 Misc Thoughts  

When I Grow Up . . .

Like many a household this time of year, mine is consumed with angst waiting to hear which colleges my kid has gotten into.  And like many parents in a similar situation, I’m caught by how the educational system in the US forces many kids to pick a path before they really have any idea what their choices are.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I believe the system is terribly broken.  College students don’t sign a suicide pact along with their enrollment documents.  Majors can change, extra time can be taken and students can move to another academic institution at almost any time (One of the schools my son applied to has a 24% dropout rate after freshman year.  That is, 24% of the students who enter the school leave after a single year to go to another school).  Perhaps, though, we could educate happier people who are better at their chosen occupation if we spent the first year of their college experience showing them the huge menu of choices they have.  So at least they have a chance of not stumbling down an non-optimal, predetermined path.

This situation has made me consider if this is, in fact, a current generation phenomenon or was this the case 30-some years ago when I went off to college.  I think it is different today.  Certainly I didn’t understand the full smorgasbord of choices available to me at the time, but after a lifetime of experimenting with the world around me and taking things apart, I knew I wanted to be some sort of engineer.  I went to an engineering college (Lehigh University) and got exposed to the engineering disciplines and chose one.  I’m confident my path led me to the right choice.

Today, though, kids are so sheltered before entering college, their experiences tend to be very narrow.  They’re barely able to ride their bikes to the end of the street and mom and dad want a GPS bracelet and cell phone strapped to their children at all times.  Since there’s little freedom, there’s certainly little exploration and virtually no failure.  When I was a kid, I had no qualms about clamping an Estes D rocket engine to my mother’s bathroom vanity to see what would happen (she almost strangled me although that wasn’t the experimental result I was thinking about when I did it and, oh, rocket engines burn VERY hot).  Today, I don’t even know if a 12 year old can legally buy a D-size engine.  A kid certainly can’t purchase lightable fuse any longer.

Many kids are also entering college never having held a substantial job nor even having had any real financial responsibilities in their lives.  Do we really expect them to make life-long decisions after never having anything to base them on?

Of course, dumping this responsibility on colleges and universities is simply a patch for a problem that they didn’t create in the first place.  As impossible as it seems, though, I think it would be easier to change how some colleges function than it would be to change how parents are raising their children or, to alter the myriad of environmental factors that cause parents (me included) to shelter their children so much.

I realize I’m rambling and this topic deserves more thought and effort.  Any thoughts?  Comments?

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 February 25th, 2009  
 Misc Thoughts  

Really, Really Short Stories

Perhaps the most famous piece of very short fiction is the story Ernest Hemingway apparently considered his best prose:

"For sale: baby shoes, never used."

Like most things Hemingway, the few words expand into a massive picture in one’s mind.  A real work of art and, in this case, very sad.

While cruising around the ‘Net the other day, I ran into an old Wired Magazine blog post which had similarly short pieces by various sci-fi, fantasy and horror writers.

My favorites are:

“Failed SAT. Lost scholarship. Invented rocket.”
William Shatner

“Machine. Unexpectedly, I’d invented a time”
Alan Moore

“Internet “wakes up?” Ridicu –
no carrier.”
Charles Stross

For those that remember actually needing a carrier signal.

“It’s behind you! Hurry before it “
Rockne S. O’Bannon

“Easy. Just touch the match to”
Ursula K. Le Guin

Loads of fun ones.  Check ‘em out.

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 February 24th, 2009  
 Misc Thoughts  

Age Metrics

While I joke a lot about being old, I neither feel old nor think old.  A couple of hundred years ago, I’d be at the end of my life.  One hundred years ago, I’d actually be old.  Today, though, who knows?  I might actually still be young.  The story ain’t completely written ‘til it’s over.

Regardless, I remember how old I felt when I realized that Playboy Playmates had become consistently younger than me – not that I was a regular reader of the magazine, mind you.  And now, we have a President younger than me, an event I thought would never happen. 

Don’t get me wrong, I certainly think that Playboy should remain the domain of the young and for those medically enhanced enough to appear young.  The Presidency . . . it’s a role for the wise, whether young or old.  I think the wisdom of our current President qualifies him for the position, even though he’s younger than me (I being a person who would not qualify because of a failure to learn from my mistakes and a manifest need to repeat the mistakes of others).

So, while the percentage of the population that is younger than me continues to expand, I guess I’ll encounter more of these metrics.  As I’ve come to realize that magazines containing nudity are best when their pages are filled with firmer bodies, roles like the Presidency are also best when filled by relatively young people with boundless energy and their memories fully intact.  Let’s hear it for youth and for the fact that it’s not just for the young anymore. 🙂

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 January 21st, 2009  
 Misc Thoughts  

Bill Richardson’s Spanish Acceptance Speech

Yesterday, I listened to President-elect Obama’s nomination of Bill Richardson as Commerce Secretary.  Since I was just listening and wasn’t watching what was going on, I was very focused on the words used by both men and what was behind them.  First, I was struck by how casual the President-elect has become when talking with the media – something I like a lot.  Second, I thought Richardson gave a relatively content-free acceptance – not a big deal since it was clearly Barack’s show.  Third and, perhaps the words with the biggest impact for me, were those used by Richardson when he repeated his acceptance statement in Spanish.  Yes, Spanish.  My jaw literally dropped open.

Before the accusations of prejudice and racism fly, let me say that I think  President-elect Obama’s choice of Bill Richardson as Commerce Secretary is a good one.  There are few people around who have the combination of intelligence and broad experience that Richardson brings to the Cabinet.  Having been a cabinet member before (Energy) as well as a governor, congressman and Ambassador to the UN is one seriously broad set of skills and, more importantly, a boatload of wisdom to have in the new White House. 

My issue with Richardson’s use of Spanish has nothing to do with Richardson, the Cabinet role or his qualifications.  It’s that while giving his statement in English and Spanish might seem politically correct, at its best it is simple pandering to the Latino community and, at its worst, it’s completely divisive.  Not merging, but further separating the solely English-speaking community and solely Spanish-speaking community.

I can only hope that Richardson’s use of Spanish was aimed more at Latin American and Caribbean countries, sending a message about his support of an all-hemisphere-free-trade league, than it was at American citizens who only speak Spanish.

I think it would be great if every language on the planet were routinely spoken in the US, but there has to be one common language which, when used, is universally understood.  We have a perfect example of what happens when this is not the case just north of the US border in Quebec where the division between French and English speakers has caused a huge rift and constant turmoil in the Canadian province.

A good friend of mine, a native of Quebec now a US citizen says of where he grew up –

  • Half the people don’t talk to each other.
  • In practice, having two languages means institutionalizing a majority and minority, and in the long run the minority it is protecting gets disadvantaged.
  • Successful societies have as much in common as possible, and language is one of the biggest barriers to sharing a culture.

No, the US does not have an official language.  30 states do have “official English” laws, though, that state, at a minimum, that government business and records shall be conducted and recorded solely in English,  But these laws do not mean English only.  Nor should they.

If we don’t have a single language for public communication and governance, where do we stop?  Why stop at English and Spanish?  How about Chinese, Thai and Russian?  Won’t we be leaving those in this country who speak those languages exclusively out if we don’t set up some UN-style translation system where all communication, especially governmental and safety communication is broadcast in every language?  What about the street sign that states “SLOW – deaf child playing?”  We’re gonna need bigger signs for all the languages we need to cover.

Since this has turned into a rant, I’ll state again that I think it would be great if more, not fewer languages were spoken in the US.  There are too few American citizens who only know English and that’s a shame.  By not choosing a single, common language however, where English is the logical choice because it’s already spoken by the majority and it’s the most ubiquitous language in the world, we are setting ourselves up to live in a divided society.  It’s simply a fallacy to think that adopting multiple languages will bring people together.  It’s much more likely to split us apart.

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 December 4th, 2008  
 Misc Thoughts  

Intelsat’s Marisat-F2 Decommissioned after 32 Years – How Long will Your Engineering Project Hold Up?

On October 29th, Intelsat Ltd. announced that their Marisat-F2 satellite, designed to provide communication for ships at sea and scientists on the South Pole, was finally dying after 32 years of service.  That’s pretty impressive.  What makes it even more impressive, though, is that it was originally only designed for five years of service and in recent years has been used to provide internet connectivity (my guess is that wasn’t in the original early-1970s design specs) because it did it better than newer satellites.

Marisat-F2 was originally built by Hughes Aircraft in 1976.  I’ve been fortunate enough to meet several 70s-era Hughes Aircraft folks – all seriously studly engineers.  Like the Voyager probes and, more recently, the Mars Opportunity Rover, Marisat-F2 is an engineering marvel.  Not only has it lasted well outside its original service envelope, but it’s been repurposed along the way.  I have no idea if the engineers on these projects ever even considered this long a lifetime for their creations, but they are a testament to what can happen when things are designed and built well.

The decommissioning is happening because some of the satellite’s support systems are finally “nearing the end of operating life.”  To prevent it from colliding with the still functioning stuff orbiting the planet, like death lasers and nuclear weapon nets, Intelsat decided to use its remaining fuel to raise it about 125 miles to “disposal altitude.”  Think Spock being ejected from a photon torpedo tube.

RIP Marisat.  I hope your creators are now educating young minds everywhere about how to build good stuff.

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 November 4th, 2008  
 Misc Thoughts  

James Bond in HD

Comcast is currently running an ad stating that they are offering up all 21 James Bond films in HD On Demand through November 30.  To entice you and me (yeah, like I need to be enticed to watch a James Bond film), they have made said advertisement totally gadget and “Q”-esque.  A must see even if you decide not to re-watch the movies which you’ve already seen a dozen times each.

 November 2nd, 2008  
 Misc Thoughts  
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