Posts Tagged ‘passion’

Merry Christmas! 2012 will be an Interesting Year!

December 26, 2011

I’ll also say, “Happy Holidays!”, but, you know, I just prefer “Merry Christmas!” It is what has rolled off my tongue since I was a child. I sincerely hope everyone I know has a really great 2012 – and for that matter, I hope that everyone I Don’t know has a great year, too. I think that 2012 will be a very interesting year to watch pass.

I haven’t blogged for several months – just realized that my last post was in October – SHAME on ME…

I still have my nose pressed against the TV watching the politics parade pass us. This is theatre. President Obama has cleverly let frustrations fester among the voters – he couldn’t point at an ineffective Congress for 24 months, or he would  sound tired, and his message would be lost at election time. He has timed his attention to the problems at hand to suit the short attention span of average voters, and he will not only point to an ineffective Congress throughout 2012, but he will prove that they are ineffective when they accomplish nothing of note in the months leading up to the election. This may be a very effective strategy – perhaps the only effective strategy for him in his reelection campaign.

In the Republican “tent” of this circus, we still have a side show worth watching as the Republicans point to the “obvious” failures of the Democrats, though I don’t see it in the same light. Gingrich isn’t registered for the Virginia primary? What were his people doing? Perry, too? My forecast is that Perry will drop from sight, and Gingrich will find some wily way to climb back into the Virginia primaries. Just you watch! Mr. Paul doesn’t mince words, and he sticks honorably to his principles – he is still refreshing, but his views are much too far from the main stream for any affect. In this right wing of the circus tent, I still like Mr. Huntsman, but I am afraid that his cause is ultimately lost. My money is still on Mr. Romney to survive the primaries contest – he has nice hair.

Just the political fro of the Presidential elections will make 2012 an interesting year. And Congressional contenders have yet to make a peep… I’m listening…

Zakaria’s Christmas day program segment on CNN about leaders with an interesting Pulitzer price author raised a few ponderous thoughts in my mind and a friend’s in Palo Alto:

1) Four years is a long time to suffer a bad leader when the rest of the world spins so fast around us – do we need a Lack of Confidence vote mechanism like Canada and many other democracies in the world have?

2) Congress and much of the rest of the Federal government struggles to assure a failure and not a success as the parties fight each other (Boehner said he “fought the good fight”) for influence and affect. A leader would find a significant common cause worthy of all of Congress passionately fighting for a success.

3) The value of human life and the role of the United States in the world has changed wildly over the centuries since the founding fathers wrote the Constitution, and that makes the Tea Party’s call to return to the values of the founding fathers highly questionable and naively ill thought. We wonder what the Tea Partiers talk about over dinner (the days before the Modet T?)…

4) Law is “additive” – Congress creates new law continuously – that seems to be their present day mission, and Congress does not easily or often abolish law – and every law has a price or a burden, and the total burden of our laws is mounting! Should every law expire?

Not much leadership is required to “sail the present course”, but a leader of exceptional quality is required to change course and transition society to avoid a crisis or respond to one.  Zakariah’s commentary on leadership said that History has a kinder view, and that is quite correct, but he didn’t address the recognition of or solution to poor leadership in the present. That’s the problem of the average voter, and I am reminded of an old saying I have:

“The average person is very average.”

Well, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! 2012 will be an interesting year, indeed. I sincerely hope we all have a great year!


10 Crazy Ideas – one is likely to be BIG!

June 12, 2011

I have ten crazy ideas. One of these will be a big life-changing or work-changing idea – maybe just for me, but perhaps for many, many people. Here they are:

  1. A spam filter for my phone. If your number is “Unavailable” or “Telemarketer” or “Insufficient Data”, my phone will never ring, and we won’t talk! Optionally, if your company is unknown to me, we won’t talk, either. And optionally, if you are on my “black list”, we won’t talk – ever – we do the black list today, but that’s the extent of a spam filter for the phone.
  2. Streaming media that follows me wherever I go. When I leave the kitchen where CNN is on the TV and step into the breakfast room, CNN will automatically stream to the family room TV when I get there. When I leave my house and get into my car, CNN will stream to my car through my car speakers. When I get to my home office upstairs, CNN will stream to my desktop there. CNN – or whatever I am watching or listening to – will stream to the media system of my choice wherever I go – the best media system wherever I am. Automatically. Without missing a beat.
  3. A universal media license for my own content. If I own a DVD, I should be able to stream it from any source for a data fee if there is one without paying another license fee. Apple is doing this to some degree with iTunes that will stream your music library to any iTunes-compatible device you own without uploading your media to Apple. Sweet. They beat me to this one… We’ll see how this works.
  4. Free education. I am certain that information creation and discovery will happen at an ever increasing pace in the future – hold on to your seat, because this will be a wild ride. How do you manage this? Keep current in your career? Learn new ideas that shape your life and the lives of those around you? Ideas that could be key to a long and happy life? You consume education, that’s how. The pace of change will become so fast that comfortable survival will demand continuous education of everyone. If education costs money, a great many who’s priorities or finances don’t support a learning mission will be left behind. Unless education is free for the taking, that is, and then anyone who wants to learns things of importance – for their entire lives. On our present course, though, a smaller and smaller portion of the population will be able to afford an ongoing education for their entire lives.
  5. A shower and an aerobic exercise machine like a StairMaster on commercial airplanes that cross an ocean. Charge extra for that? Sure, why not. I’d pay.
  6. Virtual movie actors that members of the audience become. What? If you are one of the first in line for a movie, you choose a character in the movie to direct – to become – to act. In a sense, you become one of the characters. You make decisions about the actions of that character within certain bounds, and so do a number of other people in the audience for other characters. Every running of the movie would be a unique experience.
  7. An instant, real-time language translator. Not really so crazy. People are working on this – maybe my good friends at Google… When I phone my good friend in Japan and talk (in English), he should hear MY voice speaking Japanese. And I should hear HIS voice speaking English. Effortlessly.
  8. Local environmental control in the home. Huh? When I am in bed at night, why control the temperature of the rest of the house to the same temperature like we do today? When I am in my home-office, why control the temperature of the bedroom to the same temp? There is so much opportunity to make improvements in energy usage patterns in the home… Someday, we’ll catch on to this. Environmental control should follow people. We do this with lights in some homes today, but anything more extensive demands new construction techniques to isolate spaces. control airflow, and facilitate control from more locations than just one or two thermostats.
  9. A new focus on mental health. Treat the homeless and criminals for their mental illnesses that presently destroy their lives (and the lives of others around them) and diminish their future value in society. Everyone has potential – everyone has unmet potential. Between 15% and 25% of the population suffers from untreated mental illness that impacts their lives, limits what they do with their lives, and often adds a burden to society where these people live. That’s a lot of lost productivity, expense, and a lot of misery we simply allow to persist by being passive with regard to these ill people.
  10. Flush cancer cells from the body. One day, nanomachines will scour the body entangling themselves in cancer cells they have an affinity for and eliminating these cells from the body. Everyone is walking around with cancer cells in their body. Rather than killing these cells and many more in the body to fight cancer after a few of these cells become active and tumor-producing, just “round ’em up and head ’em out!”
  11. A bonus, since several ideas aren’t so crazy or so far “out there”. A motion-based battery charger that you wear to charge a cellphone or an iPod while you walk. How far to fully charge a cellphone? A couple of miles? I could get rid of my “wall warts” and never need to plug in again… Do that for my iPad, too. If I can carry it, it should recharge when I move about.

Well, there are eleven  crazy ideas. Time for smart people to “git crackin'” on some of these. And for a few dedicated people to promote these ideas – oh, that would be me… Write back with a crazy idea of your own!

PunchCAD – Great People & Great Products

August 7, 2010

I love to praise – I really do. It seems as though there is less opportunity to praise these days, but today I am compelled to praise a terrific company with great products, and more importantly with great people working hard for their customers.

Punch Software

In my “hour of need”, this company treated me as though I was one of their most important customers, and they solved a “sticky” problem for me in short order. This is the third time – out of three support calls – over three years when I was treated very well indeed AND my problem was completely resolved. With a license for only one seat for a mid-scale CAD product, I am clearly not “the big kahuna”, but this company treats me as though I am their most important customer when I call. And at the end of the day, they solve my problem, too – every time.


You folks are exemplary. and I would like everyone I work with to know that. I can tell that you are passionate about your products and your customers.



Footnote: Punch Software and PunchCAD products were recently acquired by Encore Software. I hope that this is a good marriage for everyone!

The Passion to Learn is still with the Youth

August 1, 2010

This afternoon, several local alumni and I greeted dozens of freshman students on their way to Rice University. For these talented kids, school starts in just two weeks. Their faces were painted with excitement, and their parents wore a mix of pride and trepidation. I attend this “send-off” party every year to “shine” just a bit on the students and their parents and tell these new students that they have tremendous experiences to look forward to. I remember this very event when I was just 18. These kids will do just fine – they had the proverbial spark of youth. But this year’s entering class of Rice students displayed a spark – a passion to learn that I have not seen for a number of years.

Over the past several years, when asked, these new Rice students would answer that they were going to study (fill in the blank), but they uniformly preferred to speak of what they wanted to do after their formal education. Some wanted to become politicians or lawyers or doctors of scientists. For many years, these bright students have expressed a broad swath of interests and inclinations – and more importantly they were excited by their career ambitions.

This year’s new students were much more specific about what they were going to study, and much less specific about their career ambitions. To my surprise, none who I spoke to were going to study electrical engineering – one student was excited about chemical engineering and a career in the energy industry. The vast majority were going to study “bio-sciences”. Yes, this year’s students were quite different from past year’s.

“Bio-sciences” – what is that? Not just biology – not just bio-engineering – not life sciences – I gather it is a mix of all three domains. While many of these kids were on a premed path to medical professions, most were almost completely vague about their career ambitions. Just “bio-sciences”… They were uniformly focused on learning. They were excited about their prospects at Rice. And they were optimistic about their vague futures.

It is great to see the spark of youth, and it is invigorating. It is reassuring to see the passion to learn again, too. To some degree, I think it is important to milk the “here and now” for all there is – to focus on studying hard in school, for example. To some degree, if you do that, a good future will just come to you – and I think it will make for a better adventure along the way. These students have terrific futures in store.

16 Questions – Answers, anyone?

February 18, 2010

The Economy – is there a paradigm shift happening that we don’t see, yet? One that will impact us in the future? One that gives us new opportunities?

1. Economic modeling – why did the economists miss the recent global economic crisis? What should the average person look for and change in their own mental models of the economy? What is changing at the macro level and the micro level that may not be apparent to the casual observer – or maybe it is apparent, but we don’t see it very well as individual participants in the economy? Can a major economy shed almost all manufacturing, retain managerial and oversight functions, add to the service sector, maintain the current standard of living and still be a sustainable economy? Does a vibrant economy have to manufacture?? Hyper-Inflation could cure this country’s debt load (but ruin the value of my savings) – is that likely? What will potentially high future inflation do to retirement planning, and how does one insure their future financial security today?

2. Workforce – is the US workforce transitioning from an army split between sole proprietors and “W2” corporate employees to an army of “1099 mercenaries”? How do you evolve from a “W2’er” to a “1099’er”? What will the workforce look like in 2025? How do you recast your career at mid-career? What is the risk to a company that sheds experienced staff and chooses to retain larger numbers of cheaper and less experienced skilled workers? Will mentoring return to professions as a new way to utilize experienced workers?

3. Geopolitics – is China a threat to the US? Will the US economy play very well/very happily as second fiddle to China? Will the US economy even play second fiddle? To China? To Europe? Will there be a new rise of Russia in the world economy? Does a capitalist system tend to decompose into a communist system just like a communist system tends to decompose into a capitalist system? Is China really communist? Russia really capitalist? What is the economic “steady state” – a socialist system of some kind? Are the Scandinavian countries at a real macroeconomic “stable point” compared to the rest of the world?

4. Global Warming – what is the real economic impact of global warming? The real social impact? To me? To my city or State and country? To the world? Where/when is the” tipping point”, and just what is the tipping point?? What is the real cost to curb global warming? How does curbing global warming impact my lifestyle today? Five years from now? Twenty years from now? Is there a net financial gain or loss due to the paradigm shift required to curb global warming? On a micro-scale and a macro-scale? Will it matter in our lifetime? Does it matter at all – in the big scheme of things (over eons)? Is Global Warming a real problem? Is attacking global warming like adding a stoplight to a busy intersection – you have to have a significant accident before you can justify acting to fix things?

5. Healthcare – roughly 1/6 of the US economy is in the health care sector forecast to grow to 1/3 of the US economy in the future – is this a realistic forecast? Is this an unhealthy concentration of industry in the economy? The healthcare industry wants every dollar in my pocket – and when it is all gone, then I can die, I guess… I want to spend zero dollars on healthcare, not 1/3 of my personal wealth (or more) – is a 1/3 concentration on healthcare in the future economy essential for a sustainable future economy? Do we have to adopt this spending habit at this level to be fiscally healthy in the future? I want this industry to treat me like a consumer – what will it cost (tell me beforehand) – if I am not satisfied, is there a guarantee or warranty? Why should I pay for ineffective treatments or medications? Should the compensation model for healthcare change – should we pay to stay healthy, and not to get better, for example? Should we tax consumption of unhealthy food ingredients such as saturated fats, sugar and salt and health-impacting products such as cigarettes and alcohol to pay for the medical cost to society that results from the consumption?

6. Taxes – what is the real impact of the average person being unable to do their own taxes? How many people do their own taxes by following the IRS publications that the IRS mails out? Should the taxpayer be able to allocate a portion of their taxes to specific programs? What are the real consequences of a consumption-based tax system or flat tax system compared to the current progressive tax system? What would be the “ripple effect” in the economy, in other words, with different tax systems – would spending habits change significantly with a different basis for taxation?

7. Disruptive technologies – where does future opportunity lie, and what current opportunities are in decline that will be replaced by these disruptive technologies? Will “Local” and community power generation (windmills and solar panels) actually replace centralized power generation on a large scale in the future? What about miniature nuclear reactors? What about backyard fuel cells? Will nanotechnology change “everything” – paper and pens, paint, medical instrumentation and medicine delivery, food production and processing, new pollutants and new approaches to pollution management?  When will homes become “super-efficient” and LEED-certified – how will “going green” affect established housing and new housing? Ubiquitous computing and “ad-hoc” computer networks – how will computers invade our clothing, appliances, cars, homes, businesses, bathrooms, grocery stores and workplaces? How do you “jump on the bandwagon” and pitch a business plan when banks are risk-averse and VC’s are reluctant to invest, too?  Who has been successful and how did they succeed – what was the nuance that they exploited and the critical difference they brought to the market? Social networking on-line – how do you build and manage an on-line presence? Are Internet-based social networks going to change the “face” of local, State and Federal governments? Of education? Does a Tweet deliver enough context and information, or is tweeting harmful because it stifles deeper thinking and communicating en-masse?

8. Intellectual Property – is there really value in patenting inventions? For the individual inventor? For the corporation? What are the flaws in the system that must be repaired? How does the individual best protect their intellectual property today and tomorrow? How does “open source” impact the future of intellectual property ownership and its exploitation by the creator? By others?

Odds and ends – a hodgepodge of curious mishmash – with tangible impact to our prosperity and well-being…

9. Education – is there a beter way to learn? The US spends more per student on public education than any other country in the world, but ranks in the middle ground on measures of success in the K-12 programs – why is that? How can schools better engage students? Parents? Teachers? What is the impact to the future economy of the US if our children are poorly educated compared to the rest of the world?

10. Privacy – do we actually have a Constitutional guarantee of privacy – a “real” right to privacy? Is privacy now a “thing of the past”? How do you protect your privacy? Should you even worry about it? Do you want to be bombarded my “meaningful” advertising and promotion in the future instead of the mass-mailings received today because a marketer knows more about you that you know about yourself? Do we need to sacrifice our privacy for the sake of our security? Is there a shifting balance in privacy vs. security that needs to be recognized and arrested or even reversed?

11. The law – I can’t read the law and understand it (and I am pretty smart) – is that ultimately damaging to a democratic society? There are so many laws – how do you remove from the body of law when the compulsion of legislators is to add to the body of law? Is it harmful to have laws that are inconsistently enforced, or laws that are unpopular or onerous and simply disregarded by the public? Why isn’t computer or network hacking treated like criminal trespassing, and identity theft treated like burglary? The law tends to focus on the tail-end (the consumer end) of an illicit “food chain” and not the head-end (the producer) or the middle (the distributor) – why this enforcement focus when it isn’t effective to stop the flow of illicit goods and the resulting profiteering?

12. Prisons – roughly 10% of the US lives has lived in prison at some time – what is the cost? What is the lost economic contribution of the prison population? What is the ability to constructively reintegrate convicts into society? The ability for a convict to be reformed? What is the opportunity cost of the “war on drugs”? What is the cost to incarcerate individual consumers for “victimless” crimes and “possession” crimes?

13. Terrorism – can technology ever really protect us effectively from terrorists? Full body scanners, ariel drones with cameras, particle detectors for bio/rad/chem threats? What’s next? How do you evacuate a city?  What is the real threat of “cyberterrorism” – what will it look like, and how would it impact us? What is being done about cyberterrorism, and how are we protected today? How will be better protected tomorrow? Is ID theft really a dimension of cyberterrorism – should it be considered as such?

14. Religion – has the notion of “separation of Church and State” disappeared from our culture? Is the US really a “Christian State” just like Iran is a “Muslim State”? What does the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights really say about the separation between Church and State?

15. Media and creative self-expression – how do you self-publish a book or magazine or blog and make it a business? Amazon and Lulu publish individually generated physical media (paper, CD’s and DVD”s) on demand for anyone. WordPress and Blogspot publish on-line media on demand for anyone. How do you market and prosper with these relatively new capabilities? What is the business model? How do you get started?

16. The power of volunteering – is volunteering a new future wave of economic contribution for the individual? Has it ever been measured? What is the total economic value of volunteerism today locally? Nationally?Globally? Are some cultures reluctant to embrace volunteerism? Which, and why? How to “infect” uninterested individuals and cultures?

If you know the answers, please let me know…

National Parks are Sacred

October 14, 2009

A recent series on PBS was a “must see” not to be missed. PBS and sponsors generously made this series available online for free for a short while, too. I want to thank PBS, their sponsors and Ken Burns for this wonderful series of documentaries.

National Parks – America’s Best Idea

This is a program about the passion of a few people beginning 150 years ago or so who were determined to preserve our unique scenic wonders and historic treasures for the ages, and for everyone. This series of documentaries is about people – the story of greedy politicians and opportunists vs. the naturists. In some sense, we have greedy politicians and opportunists today who are financially destructive, and I fear that we don’t have a passionate community of idealists to fight back for the good of our society as the naturalists did more than a century ago. I am thankful for our National parks.

I have three particularly powerful memories in my life in our National parks. I remember several weeks working in Yellowstone one October in the 1970’s installing a microwave network to provide telephone service to the park offices. Several times I walked past a large herd of bison gathering in a valley for the coming winter, and I could hear them breathe and move about – these animals were magnificent and some not much more than an arm’s length away. When a group moved, I felt a rumble in my legs and stomach. When they looked at me walking past, I was certainly the one who did not belong there.

I remember a technology meeting in Yosemite in the 1980’s where a number of the telephone industry’s network planners and manufacturing product planners gathered to define aspects of SONET standards. If my memory serves me, I think I was there to help define an esoteric notion of a path and a trail. Our first day in the park was spent walking together in small groups throughout areas of the park close to the lodge. The second day, we walked outside after a brief time in morning meetings to marvel at the landscape that surrounded us – we all disappeared into the park until dinner. The third day, we ate breakfast outside the lodge and soaked in this awesome park for another precious day. That night, many of us worked through the night until dawn to complete our deliverables so that our time in the park would not be wasted. But truth be told, it would not have been wasted if we returned to our desks with nothing but the experiences we shared in this park. Some of us to this day still talk among ourselves about that special meeting in Yosemite.

And finally, I remember a day in Big Bend with my father in the 1990’s. We had driven to Midland, TX with several great friends for a ham radio convention, spent a day in Ft. Davis, TX to see the observatory and the new solar and wind power generation projects under construction. And on our last day of our trip, we took the “long way” back to Midland driving through a portion of Big Bend. We stopped at a scenic vantage point for lunch and stayed much of the afternoon amazed at the remoteness and massiveness of this desert. My father and I ate sardines, stale French rolls, cheese and apples for lunch, and we talked about things a father and son should talk about – the only time my father and I talked about such things – the desolation of Big Bend was inspiring and beautiful and truly special – and a wonderful place for a “father and son picnic”.

I hope that society continues to value our National parks – they are sacred places and the source of lifelong memories for many – and for me.

Paradigm Shifts – My EE “ain’t EE No More…”

August 15, 2009

Electrical Engineering or EE has lost its focus, and I believe that engineering disciplines in general are mired today, particularly in the United States – distracted by a search for purpose. It is not clear what EE encompasses today, and it is even less clear what EE will evolve to in the future. What is certain is that my EE “ain’t EE no more…”

My career has moved through several paradigm shifts over the years. Some career counselors suggest that a high-tech career for someone entering the workforce today will likely undergo at least three “tectonic” paradigm shifts over a span of between 8 and 11 employers before retirement. I believe it! But I find it a little worrisome that my particular field of engineering has changed so much, and worse, seems to be currently “stalled” in a transition to something that is still a fuzzy target. Engineers don’t deal with fuzziness very well – that is one reason why this career field is currently mired mid-stride in its evolution…

It seems for some of my clients that high level project objectives are less well defined than in the past, that low level objectives are defined (often erroneously) to an inappropriately fine degree of detail, that engineers contribute less to decision making than I recall I did, and that engineers are insulated from customers more than I was early in my career. Further, when I consult with a client on hiring, the list of certification credentials and expertise elements for a position is typically huge – an overly long checklist of specific knowledge that leaves little room for “creative” or “inventive”. And often, the engineer who is hired has knowledge, but is uninterested in looking past that boundary of knowledge to learn by creating or inventing. Worse, creating and inventing have become less a part of the engineering job, or disappeared entirely for many engineering positions. From the perspective of the student/intern, I have been told time and again that engineering looks dull and uninteresting: “we all just turn a crank… I’ll be glad when it is 5:00!” Yes, many of these budding engineers are unchallenged in a job that has little opportunity for the “fun” of creation and invention. If only my profession had a mentor to instill character in the profession and point to the fun…

Let’s look at a publication that caters to the EE profession:

IEEE Spectrum 08.09 (the August 2009 edition of the magazine of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers). This magazine “bills itself” as “the magazine of technology insiders” – is there some kind of exclusive club of technologists? Does the readership feel isolated from the EE mainstream? Why isn’t IEEE Spectrum “the magazine for engineers building the future”? In my brain, that is what engineers are charged to do – what engineering is!

A quick survey of articles in the 8/09 edition of IEEE Spectrum includes substantial content that is not EE-oriented (not from my perspective, at any rate):

Update: Jordan’s Radioactive Water Problem – not EE at all…

Update: How Software Found the Air France Wreckage – this article simply described the application of a physical model of oceanic drift – not EE at all…

Update: Foundry Giant Sees the Light – about Taiwan Semi’s compliance with Taiwan and China government LED and solar cell priorities and initiatives, and not EE aspects at all… What are US foundries doing, and what are the US Government’s priorities and initiatives, by the way?

Careers: The Rise and Fall of the Quants – about the departure of engineers to the finance industry and the impact of the finance industry collapse on these engineers – all about engineers who abandoned engineering (huh?)… I guess that these engineers didn’t see a bright future for engineering… What about the engineers still doing engineering?

Invention: What makes you an Inventor – ever wonder why your boss and also your CEO are listed as inventors on your patent? On the EE periphery…

Technically Speaking: Brave Neuro World – about the nonmedical use (misuse) of beta blockers such as Ritalin – not EE…

The LED’s Dark Secret – the cover story on a newly realized failure mode for the LED – focus on semiconductor physics – not quite EE, but close enough for me…

Empire off the Grid – about how the inventor of the Segway powers his island off the coast of Connecticut – he has lots of gadgets to generate power and strategies to use less power – not really much engineering here – this article was EE for the lay person… I want an island, too…

CPU: Heal Thyself – very interesting – about strategies to avoid computational errors when CPUs are overclocked – this Is EE!

Seeing is Not Believing (Doctoring digital photos is easy – detecting it can be hard) – purely for the lay person – not EE at all…

The Data: Europe comes to Bury CO2, Not to Praise it – no EE here, either…

This is all rather curious. Half of these articles focus outside of the EE fields, and many are written for the lay person and not the technologist…  I see, now – IEEE Spectrum “the magazine for the technology manager (who is really not an engineer)”

So, I apologize for my sarcasm. I really went overboard, I know. But what I hoped to demonstrate was that the EE profession is “championed” by a society that reflects a body that obviously includes technologically removed managers in industry, but not the engineers working in industry who are charged with building the future. All you have to do to realize that is to look at the IEEE Spectrum magazine – much of it is not about engineering or engineers, and even less is about EE. None the less, I enjoy reading this well written magazine.

What about the other IEEE publications – who do they cater to? There are plenty of excellent IEEE publications: Society Proceedings, Society magazines (there are a dozen or more societies) – they tell a story, too. What you will notice is that more than 80% of these articles are scholarly submissions sprinkled with evidence of some minor industry collaboration. There is some relevant “meat” here on these bones, but by and large, it mostly comes from academia and not industry. These articles rarely provide a good glimpse into the nuances of the engineering problems or solutions discussed – they deliver context and tell the “what” but not the “why”. I want to know the “what” and the “why”.  In a sense, the “what” is the context, and the “why is the story about the engineering – the insight into the engineered solution. The “why” is often missing in these publications…

Who champions the electrical and electronic engineer in the United States? IMHO – in my humble opinion, it is not the IEEE… No society really does, and that is another reason why the engineering profession in the US is in the doldrums – electrical engineers have no advocate… The manager is served, and the researcher is served, but the working engineer? Who cares… Who wants to be an engineer? Well, I do, and I hope that a lot of others do, too! I am afraid though that interest in the engineering profession is declining as are the rewards for doing good engineering in the US. Without an army of talented, passionate engineers, who will build the future? I think that the engineering profession is crucial for our future economic prosperity.

My EE “ain’t EE no more…”  That is quite unfortunate. The EE profession needs a mentor. And an advocate. Badly.

I’ll sit on the Apple BOD

August 14, 2009

Yup – I’ll do it!  ME – ME (raising my hand)! Pick ME!

I will be happy to sit in the seat that Mr. Schmidt vacated.

My Experience:

16 yrs – CEO / Business Owner

– Technology Consulting Corporation

21 yrs – Product Manager / MBA

– SW Apps and Telecom/Datacom Products

24 yrs – Project Manager / Multinational (MEA)

– Communication Networks up to about $100M

29 yrs – Systems Engineer / BSEE

35 yrs – Passionate and in “the industry”

I think that these corporate boards would benefit greatly from the perspective of an ordinary person who is not a windfall millionaire, a lawyer or a politician – someone who has enough experience to “speak the language” of the business and still appreciate the product or service from the consumer perspective. Yes, there is tremendous benefit from a board member with an elite social network, experience managing $B’s (not just $M’s), and the experience of a few “hard knocks” in the stratosphere of business finance. Wisdom does indeed come from extraordinary experiences that these board members usually have, but missing in the mix is the wisdom of someone who walks more naturally beside their consumer.

So, I’ll toss my hat into the ring!

Steve Jobs: This is a genuine application for this position. I want that seat on your Board! You NEED me! All I ask is that you shield me from litigation so that I don’t pay my attorney more than Apple pays me…

I’ll sit on the Apple Board of Directors – just ask.

New Work Ethic: “Do It for the Credit”

July 27, 2009

I am appalled by a conversation today with a much younger good friend about our jobs who quipped, “Why do it if you don’t get the credit?” I replied that, “… there are some things you do because they need to be done!”  To which my friend replied, “If I don’t get credit, I had better at least get paid, or why do it?”

There is a wide divide here between the two of us – it is a good thing we aren’t “joined at the hip” because we would pull in quite different directions at times.

In my job, I invest in “good will” and I invest in friends, and I invest in learning, and I invest in inspiring someone who might hold some promise. In my spare time, I invest in endeavors that simply “need” someone to do something to propel a small part of the world forward – I am President of my neighborhood HOA, and the sys admin for my local university alumni association. None of this pays me money, and little of this garners me any credit of note.  It generally feels good, and often there is a measurable benefit if one looks from just the right point of view.

Yes, there are days when I step away from my office thinking to myself that I did something meaningful – maybe even remarkable. And when I step outside into the company of a city full of strangers, it is apparent that none of these people will ever know what I did, or even care if they could know.

But I know.

Sometime, I “do it” for the credit – that only I can measure.

We went to the moon… Now what?

July 19, 2009

40 years ago tomorrow after lunchtime, we landed on the moon. I recall being home in front of the TV all day and into the night with my face almost pressed up against the picture tube. My mother brought me lunch and dinner so that I wouldn’t miss a moment of what was surely history in the making. Humankind landed on the moon six times, and it became “old hat” and uninteresting to many if not most of the tax payers in the US. And then, human space exploration just stopped. Sure, people go into space fairly often today, but now we stop at Earth’s orbit.

The Apollo space program inspired me for a lifetime. I read about the solar system and the stars, and when I ran out of technical material, I cracked the spine of a good Asimov or Heinlein or Clarke sci-fi novel. When the elementary school library went to order books every month I submitted my request list, and over the years the “complexion” of the subject matter in the library evolved to a reflect my science interests. After a few years, the school Principal started to take me to the nearby high school library over lunch several times a month to check out their books on electronics, and I built a radio receiver that could receive the transmissions from the Apollo capsules in Earth orbit to the ground while the astronauts were immediately overhead. Yes, I was inspired. I still am, and the historical TV programming about the first lunar landing I watched today gave me goose bumps!

And sadly, Walter Cronkite, the newscaster I watched who covered every space launch died on Friday.

In my business, I recognize that there is value in promotion. I council businesses that have an exciting idea on where to introduce their products and services, and where to socialize potential extensions of their wares. Sometime, it is essential to fully socialize good ideas before they are ever born to elicit a buy-in from partners and customers and arrange for participation ahead of time. But sometime, it is necessary instead to stand up and say that you have a dream and to reach for it and let people simply get swallowed up in it with you and follow behind you as you pursue your objectives. The exceptional leader, though, follows both of these approaches simultaneously and uniquely with different audiences to launch a truly inspiring idea. Marvelous things rarely happen AIBM – as if by magic – there is invariably orchestration required to realize success. I think that President Kennedy must have been a brilliant leader to have put us on the road to the moon.

We went to the moon… Now what? What will truly inspire the world? Who will “sell it”? I am afraid I don’t know, but I’ll “think on it”. I don’t believe that going to Mars is the next “biggest thing”, but I for one would sure like to go there…