Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Countdown to Disney

When I was in the fifth grade, I went on a family trip to Disney World to experience the magic of, well, the Magic Kingdom. Funny how I can still remember frolicking in the park on Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, the Pirates of the Caribbean, the Haunted Mansion, and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. For a boy of 11 years young, this was great stuff to light up the imagination.
Perhaps I had let myself get too old, as I put away those memories in a box labeled "long ago childhood" and forgot about it. Thankfully, Wendy brought up that box again. From the earliest days that we knew each other, she expressed quite an interest in all things Mickey, and we have been planning and planning to go. And now that my inner child is back out of the box, I figured the present is as good a time as any to build on those memories.
It turns out that prices were too good to pass up, and our two-year anniversary fell in the following week, so we're going to Disney World! I cannot wait to frolick in the park again and make some new memories. Leaving on a jet plane tomorrow, it's now a countdown to Disney.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Another Day, Another Slide

Some of you might relate to the daily agony that is modern corporate life. Our digital world comes replete with fancy tools that allow anyone with a computer to create all kinds of fancy documents and publications. Of course, in comes the business manager who uses these tools to help spur economic activity. That usually means that any number of fancy-tooled employees with half a brain are asked to produce any number of reports, presentations, briefings, and white papers to sate the desire for information on corporate initiatives and operating performance.

This is all fine and good. Progress is what some call this novel ability to digitally communicate. What we have not remembered, however, are the old-fashioned principles of moderation and prudence. You see, there was once a time in an analog world far, far away when people physically approached each other to talk face-to-face and engaged in iterative dialogue. Talked things out. Let ideas seep into the sub-conscious and stew a bit before deliberation. Of course, I over-simplify. Of course, human beings have applauded and bemoaned their technological inventions from the start of the modern age (read up on the doomsday talk surrounding Alexander Graham Bell's first exhibition of the telephone back in the late 19th century). But somewhere, a line must be drawn - and I choose to draw it in my little monologue before the superfluous powerpoint presentation.

Perhaps it is because this inocuous little Microsoft invention for displaying images and light "decorative" text for purposes of display and communication has become the bane of my existence. Ah, yes, it is the tool of choice for the discerning senior executive who wants to "cut to the chase" and "get real" about her strategic options. Action items anyone? You can capture those devilish little project killers on one slide. State of the industry? Another slide. How about competitive pressures? Knock yourself out with three slides! Before you know it, another 20 slides have gone by and the requests keep on coming. But what does that stack of powerpoint slides collectively mean, exactly?

Who knows. By this time, no one seems to care - just fix that bullet on slide 3 and re-color slide 9's chart to suggest more aggressive market response (red is good, I should say). Then, tie a bow on that deck because it is done - and make some space for the next three decks coming through! I wonder if anyone actually reads this stuff and if I could just slip in some random bullet point on slide 16, if the executives would even notice. I doubt it because I hardly notice the revisions myself - but then again, there was a vicious rumor that circled at some other employer that someone who tried that trick got a nice treat when the president discovered the gaffe mid-sentence at a well-attended analyst conference. Something about women's trousers for a software company. But I digress from the latest train wreck on my desk - that killer of a 25-page deck that needs to get done pronto for the next chairman's meeting. Another day, another slide - I should get back to the communication at hand.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Get out to vote

Today is primary day in the United States, the day when candidates are selected to represent their parties in the election day on the first tuesday in November. Since this is what is called a mid-term election - ie. the interim period between presidential elections - the campaign activity is much more subdued. This is the time when certain senate seats get vacated, some politicians retire, and others look to run for school board or county executive. Don't tell these local and state politicians that this off-cycle election is not important - the results directly impact their livelihood for the next couple of years.
Perhaps my post is mundane in mentioning the news for today; after all, these are politicians of minimal importance globally and voter turn-out will likely reflect that thought; 25-30% voter turn-out would be considered normal. But I think there is something important about getting involved in the political process, even at the most basic level of participation. Voting is essential to sharing the voice of the public so that politicians do better reflect what the public wants in terms of government services and public policy. Ideal, I know - but so are thoughts of freedom and democracy. And the path forward to support such a system requires people to make their voice heard and get out to vote.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Just Another Day

News reports today will trumpet words commemorating a tragedy of immense proportions as symbolic buildings in Washington DC and New York City were ripped open and torn apart. In the United States, the day of 911 has taken its own shape as a second Memorial Day, remembered chiefly to appease the psychological pain that has seeped into a national consciousness that no longer feels utterly removed from the rest of the world. Since that fateful day five years ago, Americans hear more about Islam, Pakistan, and a whole series of internationally minded topics than they did before (whether they actually know more as a collective public is a debatable point). And since that fateful day, a whole number of other activities carried out by the US government have placed this country within a new context in world affairs that will affect nearly everyone on the planet for years to come.
Dramatic words, I should say. Closer to home, it is my sister's birthday (poor thing that others around her consider it such a downer day). It is raining gently as I look out towards the windows in my office building in semi-rural Maryland. I hear that the weather in New York City is eerily similar to the conditions on the day that the World Trade Center buildings fell. I guess it is just as well. Although today is just another day, something does feel a bit different as the news reports on 911 memorials continue to gush forward.