Where do Ideas Sleep?

I have always wanted to create a resting place for my ideas.  Next to my stack of papers that need sorting.  Close enough that I can reach my ideas when I want to play.  Available for others who want to play with my ideas when I’m not around.

This is that place.  Feel free to roam around, play with the ideas, and please feel the freedom to leave some of your own ideas playing here on the shelf.


Microsoft’s Next CEO

If there were a list of all the things I do not actually know, it would be long, and it would most certainly include my not knowing who the next CEO of Microsoft will be. Yet since no one else actually knows who the next CEO will be, and since rampant speculation on the subject appears to be an international sport – I add my guess to the veritable morass of speculation.

First, from the headlines: Microsoft recently declared it is a Devices and Services company. They reorganized the senior executive leadership team, abruptly parted ways with the perfunctory CEO-heir apparent Steven Sinofski, and bought the Nokia mobile phone business. Steve Ballmer, their second CEO after Bill Gates, announced he would be retiring sooner than later in 2014. There is also commentary that Microsoft faced an activist investor who threatened a very public “proxy” fight to oust Ballmer and focus Microsoft away from devices (including Xbox). Public filings by Microsoft state the activist investor will soon have a seat on the Microsoft board of directors (led by Chairman Bill Gates), but it appears Gates, Ballmer and the rest of the board may be able to install the new CEO before the new investor joins the board. As such, the race is on.

Rampant public speculation of who will fill the CEO role after Ballmer includes Stephen Elop, short-time former president of the Microsoft Office product team, and more recent CEO of Nokia.  As the Nokia merger finalizes, Elop returns to Microsoft as the head of the Devices business.  Other CEO contenders appear to be Tony Bates, former CEO of Skype and current executive VP of Microsoft; Satya Nadella, who has been a long time Gates and Ballmer team player, and current EVP of Microsoft’s Cloud and Enterprise business; and Terry Myerson, Microsoft EVP of Operating Systems. There are others from inside Microsoft, as well as a stunningly eclectic list of external candidates. The most ludicrous tabloid-selected external candidates include former Boeing Aircraft CEO and current Ford Motor’s corporate hero CEO, Alan Mulally, as well as former Googler and current nurse CEO to the largely irrelevant Yahoo!, Marissa Mayer.

As to each of them I respectfully say no, not on my fantasy CEO league team.

I should state that I am a fan of the Devices and Services strategy, and I also am among those who believe that Microsoft needs to be led by someone who will be perceived as a renowned engineering leader. Microsoft also needs to deeply appreciate the perspective of the users outside of the United States, including the billions of potential users in China.

Enter the new Microsoft CEO, Dr. Qi Lu.  The quiet spoken Microsoft executive VP and former President of Microsoft’s Online Services Division (OSD). Known for his staggering work ethic and twenty-hour work days, Dr. Lu was born and raised in China, earning a bachelors and master’s degrees in computer science from Fudon University.  Lu then earned a Ph.D. in Computer Science from Carnegie Mellon University, and holds twenty technology patents. Dr. Lu’s history includes time at IBM research, and as the former executive vice president of engineering, Lu built the search, advertising, and publishing platforms for Yahoo! (before Jerry Yang tried to cut a deal to outsource search to Google – leading Lu to Microsoft to ensure Google was not the only global provider in search).  Dr. Lu has a successful track record inside Microsoft, is still largely considered an “outsider” from a company history perspective. Equally notable, he has a deep and extensive understanding of China, and he is genuinely an engineer’s engineer. If one could re-make Bill Gates as a younger, exceptionally talented Chinese software engineer with a brilliant vision of how software as services will shape the world, that would be Qi Lu.

So what of the rest of the deck chairs.

Satya Nadella, continues as EVP of Cloud and Enterprise. Nadella worked for Lu when Qi Lu came into Microsoft (over Satya) to run Online Services Division. They have a proven track record of working well together, and as CEO, Dr. Lu would continue to rely on Satya’s ability to execute a consistent business strategy for the hugely profitable Enterprise business and the critical Azure cloud.

Terry Myerson, would continue turning the Windows operating system into the ubiquitous “one Windows” or “Windows 365″ offering that makes all Microsoft devices (Desktops, laptops, tablets, phones, Xbox and cloud) a consistent, trustworthy and ubiquitous computing experience. I will add in my guess that Microsoft will introduce a free (Android equivalent) Windows mobile operating system which mobile and tablet manufacturers can use royalty free. This Windows (lite) will be an entry point into Microsoft services, and enable deeper penetration into burgeoning global mobile markets (including China).  Perhaps this “Windows lite” will be the new operating system for the Nokia Asha line of entry level mobile phones.

Tony Bates, would replace Qi Lu as the EVP of Applications and Services.  In that role Bates would resume stewardship of Skype, as well as the other critically acclaimed hybrid software / software as a service (SAAS) offerings, including Office 365, SharePoint, Exchange, Yammer, Lync. Bates would also then run the suite of Bing services (built by Satya Nadella and Qi Lu).

Stephen Elop, would continue as projected to be the EVP of Microsoft’s Devices (and Studios) business. With purported aspirations of returning to the role of CEO, Elop has the opportunity to execute on his vision for Nokia mobile devices, and show that he adds value after the first few years of any business strategy. If the new activist board member eventually sways Microsoft to divest itself of the devices business (possibly including Xbox), Elop could be the CEO of that spin-off company.

So there you have it, my Microsoft team.  I happen to think that Steve Ballmer did (mostly) an excellent job as chief executive officer of the company that (essentially) he and Bill Gates founded. He has always shown a deep and profound commitment to the “customers” of Microsoft, both to their corporate clients and their end users. Ballmer was also both advocate and cheerleader-in-chief for the “developers, developers, developers” who made Microsoft what it is today, by using Microsoft’s software, tooling and platforms to create and manage our digital world.

Oh and nice work Bill on the whole malaria thing.

Time for some Windows 8 Color Commentary

Everyone who has used Microsoft’s new Windows 8 for less than one hour seems to have the same opinion, they hate it. Although most change their mind after a few hours of using it, it seems worth acknowledging that something seems all too familiar about this vitriol en masse.

I find myself harkening back to many years ago when I needed a few extra college credits. I ended up in a history of television class which fit the open 9:30am slot in my schedule. What I remember in particular from that class was a discussion of early television viewers being very angry when “normal” black and white television was “colorized.” Suddenly their favorite characters had the wrong hair color, and even Little Joe’s eyes were the wrong color. It was all just wrong damn it, wrong I tell you. Fix it back!

Without meaning to spoil the end of the story, television is now in color and very few people remember anything else. Black and white exits as option to fill the occasional niche, but television now more closely reflects the “Technicolor” world we actually live in. Like black and white television very few of us were using PC’s before Windows, and even more would be shocked to see what a “PC” looked like before Microsoft DOS (look it up on Wikipedia if you don’t know what DOS means). Times did change, however, and you can probably surmise the next part of the story. People hated the “new” Windows when it debuted. Hated it and then hated it again. They vowed to remain at the command prompt forever. Viva la “dir”!

So flash forward to 2012 and Microsoft has colorized the world again. Damn you Ballmer!! What seems to be missed, however, is that the change is not just cosmetic. Those changes under the covers are the reason you SHOULD switch to Windows 8 and get accustomed to what Little Joe (or Lil’ Wayne) is going to look like for the foreseeable future. Spoiler, it won’t be DOS, CPM or even Windows 7. Some devices will be Google Chrome and Android, some will be whatever iOS and MacOS get combined into, but most will be Windows 8. Time does march on, but very little of that change is about what you now see on your Windows 8 screen. To really appreciate what Windows 8 really means to the future of computing one has to endure some tech information wrapped in normal-person speak. Buckle in and keep your hands inside the car while the ride is moving.

Some quick context:

What we think of as software is now called an “app” (derived from application, and incorrectly used as a synonym for the “boxed” software we used to buy on a CD). Traditionally software had to do everything itself and that was a high hurdle for most software developers. For example, each software application had to track who you are (and keep others out). Software also had to play nice and respectfully in the same sandbox with all other software running on your PC. In short you largely had to trust every software maker with much of your privacy and security. As it turns out bad people write software too, and they are less interested in playing nice, respecting your privacy, and not stealing the money out of your back account. Microsoft has taken a huge leap to resolve those problems for you, all under the hood of the newly colorized version of Windows (Windows 8).

One could argue that Windows 8 is really two different operating systems. The old one, which Windows users call the Desktop, is still in Windows 8 and it runs almost identically to Windows 7. In Windows 8 you can simply go to the Desktop “tile” and you will have 99% of your familiar (dare I say black and white) Windows 7 life back. The Start button (called the Jewel) is gone, but you only have to learn to click the Windows icon key on the keyboard (“oh so that is what that key is for” I hear you say).  Just press that key and then type the name of the application you want. Windows key plus typing “Word” brought me into my familiar Microsoft Word program to type this article. Go on, give it a try while I wait for you.

Two mints in one:

The second Windows operating system is (well “was”) called “Metro” (referring to the simple, easily readable signs in a subway station), and it runs the unhelpfully named Windows Store apps. Metro apps are often free or less than $5 each, and are all pre-screened by Microsoft to be malware free. More importantly, under the covers of Windows 8 the Metro apps cannot reach into each others “sandbox.” This new design keeps each apps information safely separated. No more simply trusting software developers to respect your privacy.

In addition, Microsoft Store (Metro) apps are built to make use of Microsoft’s massive cloud infrastructure (called Azure) to do things which no five dollar software could ever have done in the past. Let’s look at a few reasons you should care and switch to Windows 8 to get these benefits.


Windows Store apps can use Microsoft Azure to let you use your Facebook, Twitter, and Microsoft Windows Live credentials (user name and password) to log in to any Windows Store app. To maintain your privacy the apps and their authors never have access to see your credentials. Microsoft Azure hides them and just reports that a user with a long gibberish looking serial number just logged in. This means Windows 8 now protects your Twitter and other account information from the app you just ran, even when you use Twitter, FB, or Live/Hotmail to log into the app. This is a huge step toward your being protected from identity theft. This is all built in when you use a Windows Store app, and you don’t have to do anything other than run Windows 8 to get the benefits.

When Windows is not a PC:

We have been trained by Microsoft to think of Windows as PC software,or more specifically as an “operating system.” Now, however, Windows 8 runs on PCs and laptops, on touch screen tablets and even the Microsoft “Windows Phone.” Your Windows Store apps work everywhere (technically software developers still must produce a slightly different version for the Windows Phone, but that too becomes part of the same Windows 8 ecosystem in the middle of 2013). One app works on all the different Windows devices and you can log onto any device with your Microsoft Account (formally known as Windows Live ID) to download any app that you already purchased from the Windows Store. So for those keeping score Windows Store apps are more secure, keep your privacy, you can load apps on many devices that you bought only once from the Windows Store.  In addition, since developers can now target ALL of Windows 8 devices with one software app the ecosystem is attracting all major software authors.

Search and Share:

Although difficult to explain without technical terminology, Windows 8 also makes it easy for apps to expose their data so you can find that information when you perform a search on your computer. That means a basic recipe app can now let you search your whole PC, tablet or phone for “tofu” (or “beef”) and each recipe will show up in your search results. It does this while maintaining your privacy and letting even amateur software developers add that Search functionality to their apps. Similar to Search, Windows 8 now offers something called “Share” which enables you to send data to any app that offers a way to handle it. So when viewing your Cajun Tofu Wings recipe you can just click “share” and choose from email, Facebook, Twitter, and any other apps which can help you share. Again all of this is done in Windows 8 in a way that protects your privacy and security.

And on and on:

These are just a few of the major changes which are now built into Windows 8. Like colorizing, the changes can seem jarring at first and you may find yourself occasionally missing the slate grey eyes of Colombo (yes, I know, another old TV reference).  Has Microsoft done a great job at marketing these benefits?  In a word, no.  That’s clearly not their strong suit, unlike Apple.  Does bad marketing make a bad software product?  Of course not.

Windows 8 and the Windows Store apps will be how we think of software from now on. You can follow the lead of the Apple fan-boy ‘bloggers’ who continually whimper that everything Microsoft is bad as they try to make names for themselves by publishing pictures of Windows 8 tablets in a trashcan (because it is junk you know – how clever). By and large those talentless hangers-on to the tech industry literally have no idea what they are holding in their hands, but they know it must not be good without a picture of fruit on it. As you stand in line with the other lemmings following the Microsoft haters off the “I’m so cool” cliff, consider if there might be something to this color stuff. Who knows, they might even add color to the movies someday, and sound too. Wouldn’t that be a brave new world?


Proof of Bubble Monsters

Exceptional People

The shape was unmistakable, the square corners and distinct boxy shape were rigid and iconic.  It looked densely structured enough to repel the Newtonian forces of freeway collision, yet rigidly sleek and angular on the planes of each of its sides.  The outer cover challenged my perception, but only slightly.  The denim was taught against the flat surfaces as it followed the crisp lines of where the back end turned to the sides.  “What do you think?” my wife of then more than fifteen years asked.  “Do they make my ass look fat?”  I paused, but only for a brief second to take in the full view.  “Hell no,” I said, “but your ass makes them look like a blue jean car cover on a Volvo wagon,” I said in a genuinely contemplative tone.

As your shock settles in, let me pause here to briefly note that since that time my wife has led our family, including our child, to a much healthier lifestyle of more informed food choices, including her now multi-year quest for her own physical fitness.  And while that pair of jeans never made it home from the vintage clothing store, I have always adored my wife in any form, including her sense of humor and love of irony that helped us decide to recount our memory of that day.

Back to the day in the store, my wife took the news as intended.  Her face adorned with her dimple-dipped grin, she closed the gap between us, gently kissed me on the lips and disappeared behind the hippy bead and aborigine colored fabric drapes of the dressing room to change back into her vacation clothes.   I stared at the curtain, wondering if anyone would see me slip inside the dressing room with her.  As I surreptitiously glanced side to side, I found a woman appearing to be in her mid-fifties, dismissing unsatisfactory garments at a wall rack some ten feet away.  My sense was she was incongruously dressed to make unambiguously clear to others how structured and righteous her life was.  She had donned a practical dress of appropriate length, hosiery and sensible rubber soled shoes, her ensemble topped with a plastic raincoat the color of mayonnaise which has been left to brown in the sun.   Her face shone with the conviction of someone who has rarely spoken anything in absence of moral certainty.  In just that moment’s glance I could see she was preparing to enlighten me with the fate I had evidently assured myself, brought about by my morally reprehensible private comment to my wife.  “You will end up in hell,” she informed me with the tone of someone who had just documented an irrefutable fact.  Her manner and tone were clearly chosen to ensure I understood that I was to gratefully accept the words of eternal damnation, as if the veritable morning sky clouds had suddenly parted to allow the disembodied voice of Charlton Heston to bestow them unto me.  Just as I was about to engage this God’s angel on Earth with one of the undoubtedly witty retorts I was mentally selecting from, my lovely and graceful then-Rubenesque wife slipped from the dressing room.  She was as she had been when we arrived, infectiously engaging, beautifully dressed in beach wear, and every bit the women that I still deeply love to love.  She grabbed my hand, my heart raced and I instantly forgot about the morality prophet.  She and I bounded out of the store to continue our vacation together.

Strangely I found myself thinking of the other woman in the store that day.  I should note that have no new fondness for stale mayonnaise colored rain ware.  Rather, as our United States Constitution requires, President Obama came before Congress a few days ago to deliver the State of the Union address.  He spoke of our need to do, as we have done more or less (sometimes much less) since our founding, to take on the hard challenge to invest in our future, and to dig deep within ourselves to contribute to our shared success through valuing education and science.  What he did not do, although I must admit it was not cognizant of this fact until the choral drone of the pundits so informed me the next day, was to say that we Americans were an “exceptional people.”  Quite literally, from their ego-bruised vantage, he failed to state as fact that we are a people who are blessed by our Judeo-Christian (but of course not Muslim) creator with fundamental characteristics that make us individually and collectively an exception to the rule of the lamentable commonness. Such commonness, they were careful to note, which evidentially exists everywhere outside our one chosen country.  The President did use some pesky data to note how we have abysmally fallen behind in our health care and education systems as compared to other industrial countries, but like the servant of a higher moral plane that found me that morning in Vintage Rags, exceptional people need not be burdened with facts.  We are, because we say we are, and not because of any rational data-driven comparison to others.

Is this truly who we have become?  Are we now the laughable naked Emperor who tirelessly stands on the public stage professing the beauty of our exceptionally fashionable clothes?  Does anyone else feel the draft?

Over the last decade I have studied and lead corporate programs designed to bring about product and process development innovation.  This work and my study have enabled me to explore what are some of the reasons for the failings of so many organizations’ attempts to bring about the creative best from their teams.  One distinct and repeating pattern, I have come to learn, is that we are an exceptional people.  You see exceptional people do not have to learn how to do things, neither through burdensome science, nor elitist methods for improving how we do our work and create ideas.  Exceptional people are, as I have now seen so very many times, capable of divining the “one right answer,” and are then more than capable of explaining to others that no additional work is required to refine that answer because each idea was, as with its source, also exceptional.  I am constantly astounded how often genuinely intelligent people come to the conclusion that hard work and, dare I say, a course of rationally challenging one’s first thought is simply not necessary.  Why follow a multi-hour or multi-day methodology to produce results when one can just think one exceptional thought, and then go about their day spreading the joyous news that we, who are exceptional, do not have to dig deep and find the intestinal fortitude to work hard. What a time saver that is.

Although I recognize such facts would have been wasted on my exceptional eavesdropping co-shopper, what my wife was really asking that morning was, “I know these are the wrong size pants and will look bad. On a scale of, let’s say a tightly wrapped Costco-size package of fifty rolls of toilet paper, to perhaps a cargo shipping container stuffed into a lunch sack, how bad does my otherwise voluptuous rosy bottom look in these pants?”  In essence, my wife was asking me a gag question, because the irony of the response was one of the joys of being married to someone who loves you for who you really are, sense of humor and all.  She was spending time with someone to whom you can display ill-fitting clothes on a vacation day romp, simply because the experience is amusing.  Of course our divinity-as-a-sword wielding onlooker had no use for such inconvenient information.  Because she believed, as you might have surmised, she was exceptional.  She was imbued by the universe’s one and only God with the moral right and capability of passing judgment on anyone who was far more common than was she, without that nasty information and context that elitists seem to love.

So who were those exceptionally well compensated pundits preaching to about our need to be told we are exceptional?  I’m certain many of their target audience spent part of their day standing in line at a local fast-food spot to consume a week’s worth of calories at a single sitting of refined starch, near limitless quantities of sugar, water, gas bubbles and food coloring, all topped off with nutritionally devoid, but decidedly tasty fried sticks of what look disturbingly like potatoes.  Now I am the first to say have been known to filet o’fish now and then, but what I do understand is that by ingesting twelve to twenty times the calories I can utilize in a day, I will become obese and generally unhealthy.  If that is at all a frequent experience for me, I will, without a doubt, cause myself to be super-sized.  I also realize that I have more than enough information to come to that fact-based conclusion.  Do I have some secret knowledge that the line filled with three to four-hundred pound people cannot have?  Of course I do not.  Should I conclude that each of those massively obese people desire to live a shortened and burdened life of disease?  Again, I do not believe that is the case.  I think the problem may be far more sinister, and that is that by thinking of one’s self as exceptional, it suggests that one is relieved of the burden of understanding information, occasionally making harder choices and taking the less trodden path of knowledge, learning and practice.  Is there an app for that?  How about a pill, which of course someone else should pay for, but definitely not through universal health care? That would be Socialism. (Scamper away now pesky facts about what Socialism really is, exceptional people “don’t need no badges.”)

When President Obama noted in his State of our Union address that American industry in the 1950’s had been lifted by the government infrastructure investment in freeways and power grids, this seemed a simple fact to understand.  This infrastructure had, as he noted in part, been used to easily move commerce around to consumers, and to inexpensively power factories and stores built for the local consumerism that such factory salaries created.  He further noted that our failure to continue to invest (much less maintain) that infrastructure now makes it much harder and more costly to create and operate businesses in America. That too seemed easy to understand.  His was a cry for investment in us.  Work which could be done by our unemployed and under-employed workforce, which would also make it easier and more cost effective for Americans and others to build and operate companies in America.  I thought this was a message we could all understand and rally around.  I was, as you might have again surmised, quite mistaken.  Evidently exceptional people do not invest, which I learned is really called raising taxes (silly Democrats), nor do they care about what it takes to create jobs in America (silly unemployed people).  Surely by now there is an app for that which doesn’t require effort.  Clearly there must be a pill that our divine creator can provide to us, so as not to be burdened with the effort of understanding, compromise and (oh please forgive me) some hard work.

Am I an elitist when I state that Americans are not exceptional?  Does this bit of electronic pen to paper drip of bitterness directed at those who have divine faith or body weight challenges?  In both cases I would sincerely say no.  I believe religion is only harmful when it asks one to put themselves above others.  When it suggests the members of the speaker’s religion are not bound by the same cosmic burdens of others by virtue of being somehow righteously special.  I believe everyone can stand in line at McDonalds and see that this is not a place where healthy people congregate, and perhaps they should wonder why.  I also believe there are millions of people who stoically work hard more hours each day than I can imagine, and then come home and into their communities extol the virtue of education for themselves and children?  I also believe these dedicated souls are the rule, not the exception.  What I find tragic is the pervasiveness of the talk of exceptionalism, as though it is an effort free cure (like fat-free salad dressing at McDonalds).  I find it tragic when used as an excuse that takes people away from digging deep within themselves to stop pretending that fast and cheap food is really going to be healthy, when nearly every consumer in the restaurant is so tragically and obviously on a path to obesity and death.  I find it nearly beyond comprehension that politicians can walk their districts without exclaiming our health care system needs all of the overhaul it can get, and that left to our own devices most will so clearly not make the best choices about what we need to be healthier.  You want fries with that?

What is exceptional to me is that there are “political” commentators who make multi-million dollar salaries by convincing people in need of having faith that it merely takes someone to tell them that they are exceptional to make everything in their often painful lives better.  What is exceptional to me is that so many intelligent people of means and access to nearly limitless fact-based information can look at the tasks before our country and conclude that something other than a dedicated course of hard work will get us back on a sound economic track.  What remains exceptional to me are those who think saying they are exceptional actually makes them superior to those who ignore the temptation to suggest they are better than others.  What I also find exceptional are those who can pass judgment without any thought that a quest for knowledge might help one appreciate a long hard journey of learning before judging.  And finally, what is truly exceptional to me is a desire to want to be pacified with mere words and simple labels, so one can be easily convinced someone else will provide.  How exceptional indeed.

I am proud that I am not exceptional.  I want to be educated and thoughtful, and I am willing to gain less excess for myself if I can help others reach their aspirations of success through hard work and continuous self-improvement.  Thank you, but no, I do not want my President to tell me that I am somehow exempt from the burdens of my fellow Americans, nor exempt as a member of the community of beings on the Earth.  I wish to be part of the rule that says we must help each other learn more; to invest for our children and in our communities, so they can employ our families.  I wish to surround myself with those who dedicate their lives to learning, doing and then teaching.  My sincere hope is we, as a society, will embrace the notion that to pretend we are better than others is foolish, childish, and destructive.  It is my hope that these sad and close-minded souls are the genuine exception, and not those who will bring about the rules that my family, my community, my country and my planet will be bound by.

I will stand for my judgment and profess my willingness to have been of the people who did what they could to help when they had the opportunity.  I will sink or swim with those who believe that knowledge, dedication and effort are my path to a better life.  And I will try to understand those who stand apart from us, espousing their exceptional superiority, while they thoughtlessly benefit from the increased burden and efforts of others.  I will do these things in part because I believe it would be the more tragic result if I were to live in a land of exceptional people who become the general rule.

RFID Explained Visually

RFID’s are both a classically geeky topic and, as an extra benefit this four minute video is one of the best simplified stop-motion style presentations I have seen so far. Feel free to share it.

What is RFID?Animated Explanations

What is migraine?

Do you have migraines? Do you know someone who does?

This is really a fascinating three minute video describes what a migraine is, even in the very early stages. I actually came across this in my work on how to present concepts in visual ways. I can’t speak to the source, although it seems very accurate at least anecdotally based on my wife’s and my very different experiences with migraines. I have no idea why they pronounce it “mee-grain” but I presume the British lilt of the speaker has something to do with it.

I think this is a great set of easily consumable information about migraines.   I also have an OnTheShelf.com post on the related topic of migraine treatment and prevention.

OnTheShelf.com: Migraine – Medical Cannabis Information
Hemp for Headache: An in-depth historical and scientific review of cannabis in migraine treatment
by Ethan Russo, MD, a clinical child and adult neurologist

[From the publisher] More than one person in 10 suffers from migraine, a complaint that can have a serious impact on daily life. Migraine, therefore, is more than just a headache. In this short film we explain exactly what migraine is and what you can do to limit or even prevent the symptoms.

What is migraine? Animated Explanations

Migraine – Medical Cannabis Information

Brain Candy – Free From Space

I really love finding short media that just makes my mind feel good.  Kind of like doing some light exercise on a late summer afternoon.  Not too much exertion, and a perfect excuse to have a gin and tonic.   Oh sorry, out-loud voice.  So I was pleased to find this short brain candy video asking what would you and others do if satellite access to and from space was FREE.  What a world it would be.

Damn, I’m out of lime.

What will the world be like when personal, custom satellites — or
“cubesats” — are as cheap and easy to launch as websites are today? Help us
uncover ideas about the future of science and technology at the Signtific
Lab — launching February 18, 2009. Brought to you by the Institute for the
Future. To get updates when Experiment #1: Free Space launches, pre-register
now at lab.signtific.org

Signtific Labs Experiment No. 1: Free Space from Signtific on Vimeo.

A Creative Language even Politicians Understand

I spend a good bit of time trying to understand how creative cultures organically grow within business organizations. Many argue that creative organizations never grow inside entrenched non-innovative environments, but I don’t accept that conclusion.  CEO’s are not antagonistic as they once were, and many are genuine proponents.  The notion of “innovate or die” in American ‘Fortune 500′ companies is palpable.  I actually think it is a great thing and a necessary condition for an invigorated workforce.  I believe that every group of people running organizations would rather feel innovative and creative than not feel that way.  The risk of innovation is simply too high in most organizations.  However, leaders are often happy to embrace something that is already been proven, at least to a limited success.  With their support often comes funding and perhaps some company-paid time of others.  Take those win-win opportunities, and be sincere to the deals you make.  It helps them come again.  I love opportunities to teach small groups of people how to plant the seeds of innovative change.  If you kick-off the right idea the stored potential in the workforce will sustain it.  Finding which one will work for any given group usually requires some experimentation, but they don’t have to be expensive.  Some things will help the process along, and a common language is one of them.

To fire that igniting spark, creative business cultures often rely heavily on a common language.  They are the verbal secret handshakes of those sharing in the hard work.  We love our TLA’s (Three Letter Acronyms), littering the frontal lobes of everyone who has ever been part of a tech company, or the legal or medical communities. They help keep our minds engaged and are used to speed up conversations.  Lessons learned if you have ever known the nightmarish first month at any lingo-centric business, if you are not speaking the same language as everyone else, you are not fully communicating.

I think one could contend this is what Omar Ahmad has tapped into in his very short (6 min) TED Talk. Is there a common language which will work to truly communicate with politicians? It seems almost too unlikely to accept, but it is worth your keeping an open mind, Ahmad is persuasive.  In a linguistic conundrum, Ahmad contends the common languages of email and voice mail are not working.  Rather, he says here the common language of genuine communication with Politicians is by the nearly flickering art of – handwritten letters.

“Politicians are strange creatures, says politician Omar Ahmad. And the best way to engage them on your pet issue is a monthly handwritten letter. Ahmad shows why old-fashioned correspondence is more effective than email, phone or even writing a check — and shares the four simple steps to writing a letter that works.” – TED.com

Inside the Head of a Hoarder

Everyone knows someone who may be an over-the-top collector. There are no stones being thrown in this cluttered glass house, many of us have our secret junk closets or garage-brimming sets of collections.  It appears, however, there may be a fine line between serial collectors and true hoarders.  This short article from DISCOVER Magazine was a fascinating glimpse into hoarders and includes some recommendations for helping them.  At the end there is a link to what looks like a new book for those interested in the deeper topic.

“Hoarders cannot stop themselves from accumulating stuff—even if they live in fetid, rotting homes that ruin their lives. Visit Discover Magazine to read this article and other exclusive science and technology news stories.” – DiscoverMag

A Musing about Muses

Of all of her five years of life, perhaps the last thirty minutes had been the longest for her to live through.  Frustration had begun half an hour earlier and had been slowly building.  Now the the frustration had risen to the level of a pressure cooker, evidencing itself by the pained look on her very red face and the tears welling up below her eyes.  As parents we knew she was in no mortal peril, but from our own childhood recollections we knew the pain from her frustration was very real to her.  We watched in suffering silence as time and again the ball whisked lazily unaffected past the bat, seemingly indifferent to the dedication and the energy she invested into each swing.  By then her level of emotion had blocked the value of any suggestions we were making.  Her determined quest to beat the ball had become equal to to her to slaying the most terrible of her comic book dragons.  This was tense stuff for us at the time, and quite frankly it wasn’t looking promising for the home team.

You can imagine how were elated we were then when her cousin, younger by a few days and watching from a different vantage, offered the minor correction to finally connect ball to bat.  “Aim a little higher,” were her cautious words of intended encouragement.  That moment time moved in slow motion.  Our daughter’s upper arm moved almost imperceptibly more than before, her raised elbow caught the gleam of the summer sun, and the bat followed a plane only two inches higher.  For a moment the ball lay quietly motionless in mid air, pressed against the face of the iridescent green plastic bat. The sound alone told us she had done it, even before our eyes found the unexpectedly vacant space behind our daughter.  We scanned our heads around trying to take in a new reality.  There in the warm hazy air of the summer day, the ball seemed to take the time to stretch out its arms in the sky before lazily falling to the ground.  From at least a Dad’s perspective, it fell to the ground a very satisfying distance away.  Moments later our daughter and her cousin had returned to where we had been sitting.  The sky was a little bluer, the air was a bit sweeter.  We were giddy.  She mindlessly played with the ball in her palms like a Labrador puppy ensuring that it had adequate slathering of saliva before dropping the trophy at our feet.  “You did it!” we whaled and hugged, “Great job you two.”

Now I can’t say with certainty that the temperature actually dropped to freezing, nor can I recall if cartoon steam actually poured from our daughters ears before the tears ran down her cheeks, but in that instant we knew things had changed.  Various emotions surged in competition to take possession of her face; Shock, betrayal, anger and perhaps a smattering of disgust.  We only had the most fleeting of moments to ask ourselves what had we done before a tiny finger was aimed between the eyes of her cousin and the trembling words, “What did she do?” made it past our daughter’s quivering lips.  And there it was; A foundational life question.  In an instant we had moved beyond a batted ball or the smart advice from a childhood peer.  Unknowingly her question was foundational to all moments of inspired creativity and brilliance. Her life question to us was a seemingly simple one, “What credit for success is owed to the Muse?”  Her question has been with me ever since that day.

What credit to the Muse?

Wikipedians tell us the ‘Muses’ in Greek mythology, poetry, and literature are the goddesses or spirits who inspire the creation of literature and the arts. They were considered the source of the knowledge contained in poetic lyrics and myths. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muse

What an interesting time it must have been for someone creative, innovative, or one of the other wonderful terms we have for those who are modernly credited with inspiration.  How natural it must have seemed to credit something so undefinable as inspiration to a supernatural source.  How comforting to attribute a lack of inspiration to want of the help of a muse, and still allow personal ownership of the hard work it takes to bring an inspiration to fruition.  New York Times best-selling, and notably first time author, Elizabeth Gilbert talks of the pressure to be “brilliant” in what would be her second book. She uses her circumstance of prior success and now potential peril at having to repeat that success when she speaks of the ancient notion of a “genius” as being an external force like a muse.  That someone or something with whom she shares the credit and also the burden of creativity.  [See Elizabeth Gilbert in the OnTheShelf.com video post The Burden of Genius]

Gilbert’s perspective distinctly inspired me.  She was not my external genius, nor did she reach me in the form of a Greek Muse.  She was a genuine inspiration to me, however, and is deserving of some shared credit.  Gilbert’s ideas caused me to think about others who perhaps deserve inspiration credit for much of my work.  When I first set fingers to keyboard this post was originally to be entitled, An Ode to Shelia.  An account of how a brief email from a relative of mine inspired this whole site, OnTheShelf.com/journals/.  Shelia was the muse of my creative work, and for that she deserves both some credit and an expression of my appreciation.

Shelia’s Ode

This brief ode to Shelia takes the form of a chorus of my appreciation to all of those who inspire me to personally aspire to be even just slightly better at each thing I do, each time I do it.  In leadership contexts we describe this reaching to do each thing a little better each time we do them as continuous improvement, but we have few words to describe those who inspire our action.  In life we occasionally call these people mentors, but more commonly they go unnamed with their ode’s unsung.  It is my contention here that these people are our modern day muses, as fleeting and ethereal as any inspiring apparition and equally worthy of praise and my appreciation.  And so to Shelia.

After a lovely Sunday spent with my wife, undeniably one of my most trusted and valued muses, I wrote a blog-post entitled The Memory Collector.  [Read the OnTheShelf.com post The Memory Collector]  At the time I had no blog space, so for my want of feedback I posted it to Facebook where, as you might have surmised, Shelia read it and commented.  It was not the genuinely appreciated acts of her actually reading my work nor her effort in commenting that so moved me.  Her inspiration was the term she used to describe my work.  “This was lovely,” she wrote.  “You should write more.” Her words offered no recitation of my labor (‘you must have spent a lot of time working on this’), but rather she offered  a few words that described my work as a thing which was, in her kind words, worth admiring.  I was quite taken by the thought that my idea had become a thing which could now exist.  In a way it was now on its own, and it could have an existence potentially beyond me.  It was a thrilling notion to have once again created a thing from an idea, but with it came a burden that to have such an existence it required a place to live.  This was the motivation for creating OnTheShelf.com as a place for my ideas.  It would be a place for those things which, in part I owe in part to my muses, to live on without me.    In this way it has become our museum.

The Burden of being Inspiring

As with many things in the complex nature of human interaction, there is a second edge to the sword of being someone’s inspiration.  As we can inspire without intention, so to can we crush inspiration from others without the realization that we have done so.  As parents, as managers, and when we act as mere sounding boards in conversations with others, we routinely have the opportunity to inspire.  All too often, however, we miss that mark of being a muse and we recklessly snuff the spark of inspiration.

I have the pleasure of working in a company filled with exceptionally smart people. I have experienced the contrast of working in intellectual wastelands, and I am thankful each day to have arrived at such as place.  My exhilaration is tempered, however.  As a company we suffer from regulating inspiration and exercising a prowess for killing innovation.  This is the cultural fluency in our dialog about innovation.  In the last few months alone I have listened to senior executives bestow the virtue of “copying the features” of other successful companies, I have listened to them describe part of our product creation workforce as “creatives” and the remainder as “non-creatives” (this was said to someone that the manager deemed a non-creative), and witnessed another leader comment that one should not speak truth to power until one had been with the company for “at least ten years.”  Each of these callous remarks killed ideas and dissuaded future inspiration and innovation from the recipients of those messages, and the people those recipients would no longer inspire.  In some cases their snuffing of innovation will have been their recipient’s final straw, an the case of those for whom this was one in along string of subtle rebukes this is merely an affirmation that they are simply not innovators.  Those messages were wrong, and at their best irresponsible.

Innovation is a team sport, and inspiring others should not be limited those that someone arbitrarily decides are or are not creative.  The beginning of a team opportunity to score does not start with the person that cracks the ball with the bat nor the one who puts the ball into the net.  There is a tendency to mistake group effort with the last mile scorer, the designer who ultimately dressed the concept well, or the programmer who produced good quality code on time.  The reality is that each, but no more so than any other, had the opportunity to foster tens of dozens of other ideas and use the best ones contribute to the best final success.  To the extent the executives in my example wantonly killed the start of a thousand ideas, they did so in the misconception that you can identify where a good idea starts from.  You simply can not.  It is impossible to tell what idea will be used as the stepping stone to create another, perhaps the latter one closer to a product the company can benefit from. When we kill good seeds of innovation and inspiration we fail to recognize that in nature we don’t evolve into exactly the next perfected version we need to survive, but rather a million good ideas are given room to grow and evolution takes it from there.  When we unnaturally select who will be selected to create our next great concepts, and extinguish the spark from everyone else, we are left with the least innovative and most repetitive producers.  We rob ourselves of improved results, but far more insidiously, we rob people of the inspiration to listen for their muses.  Individuals no longer presume they have the ability to create and so they stop listening for the seeds of ideas that may grow into truly wonderful things.  Eventually those seeds become scarce to a point of being exception and not the rule.  It is incumbent for each of us to look for opportunities to be inspiring and to help grow ideas from others.  Review by others is often enough of a reward.  When appropriate, a kind word of encouragement may change that person’s life or may even give birth to what will be the next seed of something wonderful.  We need not walk through our lives stomping on the ideas of others when encouragement is so easy and ultimately holds such incredible rewards.

A final salute to my muses

It has been several years since that summer day when the ball journeyed with new freedom into the sky.  The tears are dried and the moment has been nearly forgotten.  Perhaps we were remiss in not giving the muses their due. And so to the muses, I thank you for more than you may know.

To my niece who was the muse of that nearly forgotten day; To my daughter who inspired this post and a thousand things more; To my wife who inspires me beyond my measure; to Shelia for her effort in reviewing my work and in taking the time to encourage.

This is to those muses and perhaps to those future muses, both at my work and in my personal life, who encourage others to create through their support and inspiration. Yes it is time consuming work.  It is often that much more difficult to find ways to encourage others and to even teach processes which can produce innovation.  It is, however, what genuine leadership is all about.  For those like me who occasionally fail to reach their goal of being someone who inspires, I implore you to reexamine your biases, habits, expressions and understanding of inspiration and innovation.  The rewards for encouraging ideas from others are too great to not risk a bit of self-reflection.

While it is likely that no one may ever view my work and wonder if there was a genius inside or beside me, please know my pride of creation is shared with all of you who have encouraged, inspired, tolerated my early ideas and ultimately trusted me to listen to your ideas, each of them, good and bad.  Thank you for all you have done and I hope you will continue to do.