“Quincy Magoo” You’ve Done It Again…

Do you remember Mr. Magoo?

Magoo says ” I should have known your type…” as he yells at himself in the mirror.  He is angry for all of the things that were done to him and he was the cause.

“Don’t waste your time and money..”

Magoo wanted to get dance lessons as he misread a letter in the mail.  He was thinking that he was invited to a dance when he read an advertisement  for something totally unrelated.  He was yelling about the mess he got himself into and was advising others that weren’t there not to waste their time or money on the dance lessons.  After all, the place he was in was run” like a gym.”  In other episodes, there were times that Magoo would run aimlessly into something that was not harmful.  Most of the time he would get himself into a situation where he affected others.  That is the point of the blog today.

Simply complex but simple.

I picked up a habit of carrying a whiteboard marker with me.  By chance you may have a whiteboard that I should write on and muddy.  The circles and lines that connect them are all simple thoughts.   I draw the line from here to there and tag it to show what the line means.   As the lines and circles start to grow and I am standing in front of the board, I am telling a story.    If you aren’t there from the beginning and you walk in towards the end, the board looks to be full of lines and circles and words written between.   It is impressive and complicated looking.   The truth is that it isn’t complicated.  It is just the whole story without all of the words all smashed together in a frame.   It is not meant to be understood without me.  Unless there was a video taken, you would be lost and you may wonder.

If you were to walk into the room and look at the writing on the wall, you would automatically take what I have written and frame it.  You would apply meaning in areas where there wasn’t any or you would rationalize the connections and relationships based on your perception.

In a sense, we all have some Magoo like tendencies.

The Magoo Problem

We frame the world actively at every moment and sew together a picture based on what we believe we see.  David Eagleman in his book “Incognito” pointed out that our brains are locked into a fully enclosed and dark space.   That is the physical case, but we see or perceive light.   It is manufactured by our input, our sensors.

That is our world.  We think that things are something when they may or may not be.    We have the unique understanding of the world from our perspective.  The problem is that our perspective if skewed too far can cross boundaries and have unintended consequences.   That is why it is important to understand “intent.”   Who could be mad at old Magoo?  He was just trying to learn how to dance?   In this story, he wound up destroying the gym.

The thinking person rationalizes everything to make sense of it.  We are forced to simplify the complex.   The complex as we see it, may become the world of Magoo.

Magoo Conflict

We are wired for the world.  We are wired to frame and create context and we are also wired to inter-relate to others.  Daniel Goleman writes about it in his Social Intelligence book and other places.

Excerpt  (http://www.discoveringtherealme.org/resources/book-review/130-social-intelligence-by-daniel-goleman.html)

The first example Goleman gives of social intelligence is that of a group of American soldiers in Iraq paying a visit to a cleric to enlist his aid in distributing relief supplies. The local populace feared the well-armed soldiers. They were afraid they were going to arrest their cleric or profane their mosque. A mob quickly surrounded the soldiers. One can imagine what would have happened should a soldier, threatened by a gesture, shot off a gun. 

No one got shot and no one got hurt. In fact, the mob encounter ended amicably due, Goleman says, to the social intelligence of Lieutenant Colonel Christopher Hughes, who gauged the myriad social factors involved in record time and implemented a series of steps designed to defuse the situation: he ordered his men to kneel on one knee, point their weapons at the ground, and—most importantly—smile. Since a smile is a universal expression of friendliness, the confused Iraqi people began to smile back. The reverential posture and the signal that the weapons were not to be used also reassured them. Some of the now peaceably departing Iraqis even dared to pat the soldiers on the back. What could have been an ugly incident of resounding personal and international repercussions turned into a positive one because of the leader’s instinctive social intelligence.

It is a confusing world we live in.   We seem to stumble like the baby in the construction lot.  Somehow we make our way from girder to girder or we don’t.   When we don’t make it or we are victims of some event we are conflicted.  It seems to be the cause of so many problems that we have.   We can’t smile our way out of some of these things but we are naturally inclined to be connected and that is a good thing.   Oh, where was I going?  

Magoo Advice

I just watched him again this morning.  I initially had plans on writing about something else.  Maybe I just stumbled into Magoo?   He first appears in Ragtime Bear 1949.  He couldn’t see a thing and was pretty angry.  His perception of the world was always very far from what we see around him.   He only wanted “Peace and quiet, a man needs his rest.”   In 1956  Puddle jumper he bought a full-out electric car.   It is funny how he believed that the electric car was the better machine to drive.   How easy it is to think that Magoo has it wrong.   Magoo isn’t just nearsighted, he is perceptually mis-aligned.   His view of the world creates confusion, anger, cross talk, lack of clarity, and seemingly made him a bit crazy to us.   Although that is what comes across,  Magoo is forward thinking and has some old wisdom, he believes that his perspective of the world is the world and that others around him see it as he does and if they don’t, he instructs them accordingly.

What he is missing is the alignment to others.

The short of it

How Magoo relates to you.   We all see the world through our own eyes and though it may be obvious to us, the things we see and believe may be wrong.  If we consider that we are in some ways like Magoo; blind to things that we believe we see.   This may be a step in opening ourselves to other possibilities.  If we can manage and have the patience, it is possible for us to learn and teach.  In other words, Magoo didn’t always have it wrong.  After all, he loved the electric car in 1956 and we are just a few short years behind him.   He didn’t always have it right either and his mis-perceptions of the world caused devastation in a lot of episodes.  It takes a balance of ideas, knowledge, and patience and the ability to recognize that we individually may be wrong and further that we can only learn that we are wrong though discussion , open dialog and empathy.  If we open ourselves to this, we may wind up being wrong together or right together, regardless maybe it would lead to more happiness.

These are some of my thoughts this Sunday morning.   Cheers

Sequestration – Read___React___Respond

US Joint Force Command

Anyone who has worked at JFCOM knows what is coming with sequestration.   They had a preview of how our government handles this sort of business.  For those of you that don’t know how this works, here is a story for you.

Just a few years ago while working at (USJFCOM) US Joint Forces Command as a Consultant, I was a witness to a slow-moving train wreck.   It is amazing that although devastating to many, it essentially unheard of in any public discussion today .   The other very interesting part about the JFCOM closure was the psychological impact and the potential case study that was once again seemingly ignored.   As a person who was there through it all from beginning to end, I would like you to know what really happened and why it is important today.

I was working on a project that helped senior leaders and decision makers by creating simple to complex patterns known as Architectures.   From my perspective the work was and is important.  For years I had watched and learned from military and civilian leadership the process of knowledge transfer to  better our DoD Enterprise from end to end.  Unfortunately, even though they saw the economic and political situation coming there was nothing that anyone could do to stop JFCOM from closing.

It started with rumors

Pss Pss Pss.. Buzz.  “I hear JFCOM will be losing some funding.”

“I heard JFCOM could close”

“No, that could NEVER happen”

It happened slowly, day after day.  We heard rumors every day, they were everywhere.  Our government civilian leadership didn’t know what to tell anyone because they didn’t know.  Our military leadership started to learn what was going on but they couldn’t tell anything to anyone.    I don’t know if anyone else has termed this phrase but I would like to call this “The Milton Effect” like Milton from the movie Office Space.   Essentially, the Bob’s came in and just fixed the accounting error.  Unfortunately none of us knew that was happening or at the time knew what it meant.

Some people were just outright convinced that nothing was happening and that we should just relax.  Most of those folks were senior contractors or consultants that had seen and heard rumors over the “good” years, where the government just spent money and prosperity ensued.   I remember August of 2010, my civilian client just got handed a job that he had been preparing for years to execute.   We had a plan and mission that was to save the DoD millions.   The day he was given permission to execute his plan was a Friday, on that following Monday Robert Gates released “THE MEMO” which basically was the kiss of death for the great Combatant Command.   All of the planning and hard work that went into this work was stopped immediately and all bets were off.  What followed after the release of the memo was a domino effect of chilling and devastating personal and economic pandemonium.

Those damn contractors, they aren’t employees of the government and don’t deserve any considerations.  How do you treat those who mow your lawn?  And so, it began.  The quiet rooms and whispers in the halls, the separation of people in unexpected and surprising ways.  For all purposes, it was just like “Survivor.”  Who was getting voted off the island?  Would there be an island?   There were tears in cubicles and there was anger in the air.  Short tempers were everywhere and people snapped at each other .  The conditions continued to degrade.   One of my favorite stories was when a Senior General Officer called us into a meeting to tell us that he would “Always be open and honest and tell everything he knows.”    Except that he couldn’t and when the situation degraded and we met again he said ” I have to honest with you, I lied.”    Contracting and consulting companies didn’t know what to tell employees and panic was in the air for some, really for most of us.

JFCOM was a think tank in a lot of ways.  People are out fighting wars and those who support them are thinking about how to help those people.  It could be said that JFCOM needed to go, but I know the hearts of many that supported our war fighters.  I know their love for America and for the men and women that sacrifice their time and lives.  There was value that came from JFCOM, it was measurable, it was documented.

If someone walked up to you and punched  you in the stomach and took your wallet and as you went down put an elbow to the back of your head, it would have been an easier blow than this.   This was long and drawn out.  Day after day of not knowing and being fed misinformation from trusted sources.  They were misinformed too.

It wasn’t the economic situation that was most devastating, it was the emotional toll.  It was coming home and telling our families that we don’t know what is happening and that we don’t know at all anything that will happen.  It was the unknown of the abyss and that is what it was,  a dark time looming.  As people started to push each other away, others started looking for other options in terms of work.  We met with our company leaders from all of our organizations and we started to think about what the world would hold for us.   You see, we don’t work for a factory that is closing or a business that is going out, we work for organizations that support the government.  More specifically the defense industry.  Is it even possible that someone could close down the American defense machine?   The short answer is “yes”, the long answer is “no.”

My uncle tells a story of my cousin working for a large company closing down one of its factories.  He said that everyone was handed a pink slip except my cousin. My cousin was very worried and he knew that with his skills he could transfer somewhere else in the company.  He went to his manager and asked what would happen to him.  His manager looked at him and said “We can’t let you go, we don’t know what you do!”

Funny but true, JFCOM was very similar except that the DoD was betting that JFCOM didn’t do many things that were worth holding or for that matter studying.   All of the initial studies that looked at JFCOM were lacking information.  They really only looked at dollars at the moment.  They didn’t look at all of the implications and they never asked the questions that would clearly show the value of JFCOM.    With that they didn’t care about JFCOM and made the cuts.

When Hostess Brands closed its doors http://hostessbrands.com/Closed.aspx I am very sure that all of the workers were upset and with the sheer number of workers cut, it would hurt the economy.   The difference is that Hostess wasn’t telling their employees that rumors of the company closing are just rumors or that Hostess will change the signage on the face of the building and be something else.   For certain, Hostess employees know that they need to go and find other jobs.   This is not the case in our industry.   “Listen, JFCOM will just change to YRfriendCom and we will continue the mission.”

Continue the mission?  What the hell does that mean?  What mission? Eventually, the flow of funding started to end.  The money stopped coming and the people started walking.  It was a dead man’s walk to the door.  It was tearful lunches, every week.  Every Friday, we toast old friends and wish them well as they start on their journey.   Civilian leaders are shifted and the sign is taken down.  Some of the work was transferred and the leadership is able to keep the civilians employed by moving them around.  If a civilian knew how to spell something that a contractor in another division was doing, that civilian could find him or herself in that position as a subject matter expert.   One friend went from Public Affairs Officer to Internet Expert.

It ended

And so, after many months of people being laid off or moved around or finding their own way out and onto something new they went from one ship that sunk to another.   In this industry it is clear that no one is safe.  If you aren’t growing, you are sinking, there is no such thing as “stability.”   The emotional toll of the JFCOM closure was severe in that we were a witness and victim to the true nature of political games that our Washington representatives play.   It boils down to the fact that we were and are being undermined by the people who are elected to help us.   You think I am being long-winded?  Maybe, I haven’t said enough.   You are already feeling the effects of this bad behavior.

This year YOU are subject to a raise in taxes.  This year our military takes a pay a cut.  This year programs are going to run out of money and our government officials don’t even really know the implications.

Sequestration will

It will be slow.   It will be painful for people in waves.  It will go noticed in only the community it has an effect on during the time that it hurts the community.  It will result in emotional and economic pains that will impact cities and states in ways that could make America the Detroit of the world.    The problem isn’t that funding is being cut or that our programs don’t have money.  The problem is the sneaky and procedural way that this is happening.  It is blow after blow and blow and our memory as country is so bad and we are so distracted by other things, we are losing everything and don’t know it while it is happening.  It is like Congress, the Senate and the Executive office is pickpocketing America.

How do I know?   Well, not only because it happened and history repeats itself but also because I am watching it happen in slow motion again.    Last week a friend of mine was away on military support business in a far away foreign land providing support and maintenance for a very important military activity.  In the middle of what he was doing, he had to stop and travel home from this very far away place.   His contract is out of funding and the work that is important is left undone until they can possibly sort out the funding.

As I talk to friends and neighbors in places near and far I hear the echos of General So and So telling me that he is honestly going to tell me everything he knows.   I am seeing people losing their work, contracts being defunded, the whispers and the infighting for whatever government crumbs that appear to lay at the top of the fish tank.  I hear of the uncertainty from people in many companies and people discussing their options on a daily basis.

Lastly,  I see our government leaders go on vacation and our President hanging with his friends in Florida.    If you think for a minute that you or I could look the other way and say that this is not my problem or that this will not have any affect on you, take some time to think about the history of our world and the history of our country.

We need to talk about this… We need to work together to change this.. 

Curse of Blessings – A quick reflection on the Jewish experience in Hampton Roads.

A Little Background

I didn’t grow up in Hampton Roads and prior to my coming here from the Navy, I didn’t have any knowledge of the Jewish community in this area.   I came to Hampton Roads when I joined the Navy let us say a few years ago.   As I have written in previous posts, I grew up in the integrated community of Co-op City, Bronx, New York.   My community had a lot of Jewish heritage, we had I think at least 3 Synagogues in the local area mostly conservative or traditional.  Being a Jewish kid was essentially accepted or known and on occasion there were racial or ethnic issues but they weren’t an all day every day occurrence.  I experienced just as much anti-human behavior as the next person.

Not until I joined the Navy did I learn about how much I am truly hated for who I am.  There are a lot of stories that I can tell about this but the point I want to make is that it was my first taste of what was to come as I moved into being an adult dealing with the “hate that isn’t there.”

You see, I am white but not really.  I am white by skin color and I can shed the error of my ways by rejecting who I am and my genetics.  I can become one of the European whites.  I can blend in if I hide.   I can’t be black or hispanic and the only box I can check on the form is “Other.”

I can pass for Italian or Romanian, Russian, Polish or some other group.   My family comes from what they call Russia/Poland and of course other places like England and Romania.  I heard stories of other places as well but I think mostly this Russia / Poland ancestry is the primary source.

I don’t know much about Judaism although I have been to Hebrew school for a very short time.  I have a book about being Jewish, actually a few books about it.   I went to Synagogue over the years on occasion.  Let me be clear on what that means, Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah.  Mostly because my neighbors are Jewish and they invite me to go.  I enjoy going with them and I like the marker during that timeframe that helps me reflect on the previous year.   I am a cultural Jew (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cultural_Judaism)  I believe in possibilities see David Eagleman http://www.ruthlee-scribe.com/post.cfm/david-eagleman-on-possibilitism

This doesn’t mean that I am Atheist or Agnostic, it means that I am a thinking person that believes in G-d  and that G-d lives.  That doesn’t really matter because people from all faiths have questions for me.   Not just questions but comments.

And here it is..

I have lived in Virginia now since 1999 and I have in these years experienced the most painful times because I am an adult dealing with racism and curiosity that goes beyond the boundaries of right and wrong.  Because I am white and because of my conditions at work, it is not a situation that I can avoid or easily deal with.  I had this discussion not long ago on a work related social site and it went south quickly because of this recent culture of intolerance to discussion.  You see it is estimated that about 2.1% of the US population is Jewish http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/US-Israel/usjewpop.html and with that estimate some people think that all 2.1% of us are rich bankers or lawyers.  (I seriously just put “most people” then I backspaced and put “a lot” of people then I backspaced and put “some people” think that… ) This subject is very difficult to talk about because G-d forbid I offend someone.  Well, I am offended and I am tired of it.  I am offended by being asked what the Jewish community thinks of something.  I am offended by people asking where my Yarmelke is.  I am offended that I am not allowed to be offended.  If I were gay, I would have people standing up and yelling ” no no.. you can’t talk to him like that”  or I if I am black or hispanic, it would be understood easily that offensive behavior shouldn’t be tolerated.   No, I am a Jew and I have to deal with it because I can hide who I am if I want.. right?  Because I am one of G-d’s chosen people.  The evangelical christian will tell you that you know.  I am chosen, but for what?  I don’t believe that Christ is my savior, so I am chosen but wrong at the same time.

It is a travesty.  The inequality and lack of tolerance or understanding is flat out bologna.  When I wrote on the social site that I could be homosexual and have less challenges, it was like I lit a fire on the board.  I was scorned by private messages.   My point was that I don’t have to tell anyone who I have sex with.  It doesn’t have to be an issue.  Just like them, I can’t help what I was born into.  Individuals should have the same rights across the board.   I should have the right to live and work with respect. I shouldn’t have to talk about it at work if I don’t want to.   Some could say that I could hide my religion, but I am a Cohen, if I weren’t Jewish by religion, I would be somehow associated or connected.   A few weeks ago on CNN they were lambasting Obama because he had a bunch of white old men on his cabinet.  How many women are on the cabinet?  How many women are in his administration?   It didn’t matter that some of the most highly regarded and powerful people in the administration were and/ are women.  What mattered is that 5 white guys are advising the president.    How many of them are Jewish?  Maybe most or all because you know how those Jews embed themselves in everything and how they manipulate everything.

I am not privy to all the special considerations of being a minority, but I am the beneficiary of the gifts associated with being different.   Unless I live in New York, my holidays are not considered.   I grew a beard and received so much shit for it relative to being Jewish that I shaved.

Jews are taught to be tolerant and to just let it go.   It is better to ignore the comments and ignore the lies and ignore the inequality.   I don’t want to ignore it.  I don’t care if you don’t like me because I am Jewish.  Keep it to yourself.  I don’t care if you are a woman, gay, straight, black, white, indian, muslim, roman catholic, etc. I treat you as an individual and like or not like you as an individual.   The thing I am worried about is my children.  They don’t know anything about this but they have my name and they will deal with this non-sense.

Here is Hampton Roads, a military hub and a place for tolerance and togetherness; the lack of knowledge and understanding bleeds through the fabric of this place.  It is a shame and it is wrong.

Moving forward if we are to be all equal, we need to be treated equally.

How Microtransactions are Making you Bankrupt

It isn’t just In-APP

Microtransactions are commonly mentioned in or referenced in mobile computing.  For this blog I am saying that this is the transaction model for more than just mobile devices; this is now our way of life.   We need to collectively stop this from being the business model of our future.

Definition:

A “Microtransaction” is

Microtransaction (also referred to as in-app billing or in-app purchasing) is a business model where users can purchase virtual goods via micropayments. Microtransactions are often used in free-to-play games to provide a revenue source for the developers, although they can also occur in non-game software. While microtransactions are a staple of the mobile app market, they are also available on traditional computer platforms such as Valve Corporation‘s Steam platform.

Free-to-play games that include a microtransaction model are sometimes referred to as “freemium“,[1] although applications offering microtransactions should not be confused with free applications that offer additional features via subscription services. “Pay-to-win” is sometimes used as a derogatory term to refer to games where paying for in-game items can give the player an advantage over other players, particularly if the items cannot be obtained by free means. The objective with a free-to-play microtransaction model is to get more players into the game and provide desirable items or features that players can purchase if they are interested in them – it is hoped that in the long-term the profits from a microtransaction system will outweigh the profits from a one-time-purchase game. –Source Wikipedia

… dolla

Microtransactions — In-Everything

  • Our payroll taxes went up 2%-That isn’t bad, right?
  • Cable goes up by 6% http://www.omaha.com/article/20120414/MONEY/705139987
  • Power company (here in Virginia) “the typical residential customer’s bill will increase by $1.85 per month”–Power Company.  Some articles show increases of 18 spread over the course of a few years.
  • Water
  • Sewage
  • Food
  • Bank fees
  • Phone fees.. phone taxes

The cost of everything is going up just a little.   Our taxes are going up and our salaries are staying the same or actually going down because of health care going up and other factors.

We all know about http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Middle-class_squeeze but this is beyond that.  This is about everyone.

You start adding up all of the services that you have that only cost $7.00 here or $5.00 there.

We are getting taken to the cleaners.

Cloud Computing  

From a business perspective, we are facing the same issues but the business media would have you believe that cloud computing, web services and other fee based services will save your organization money.

I say.. do the math.. we are getting lifted.   If you take the time to perform total cost of ownership and return on investment analysis that accounts for microtransactions, you may find that doing in the business in the cloud can cost you more.  This is especially true if you factor in a risk assessment.

Sure AM pointing out the obvious

At home, my wife and I look at all of our expenses on a regular basis.  It is almost a full-time job to account for all of the microtransactions.   If you don’t do it, you will simply wonder where all your money is going.

“How could we have spent so much money this month, we didn’t do anything different?”

This is different from budgeting for your monthly expenses because you now have to account for your son or daughter buying $1.99 worth of coins on Temple run.  The amount of money that is outgoing from small almost unnoticed transactions is insane.

Summary of considerations

  • Check your bills every month.
  • Look at the history of what you spent every month.
  • Call your service companies every few months and ask them about decreasing the service fees or current specials.
  • Set a budget for your normal expenses and put that money in a separate account . Note- You will learn quickly when you are spending too much or things went up because you will be out of money in that account. 
  • Learn to coupon.
  • Think about the small things. (Don’t look at $1.00 as “only a buck” , look at it as a part of your whole budget.
  • If you are in a relationship where you are working together on your income, talk to your partner about money.

I hope this helps.. people ask my wife all the time how she manages to save us so much.  I jokingly call her the “Executive Money Spender” but the fact is she is “The Executive Family Saver” and because she is diligent and persistent in watching our in and outbound flow of money, we can do the things we love to do as a family and have some left over for savings.