Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Chinese Proverb of the Day

If you want to know your past, look into your present conditions. If you want to know your future, look into your present actions.

A Little Bit of Inspiration

Sometimes, words cannot encapsulate cleanly what a person feels. Even with reams of effort and diligence, the meaning is lost in the imperfect shuffle of word choice and tense. Even still, a writer's first impulse is to capture something, however imperfect, to share on to the next person - or as those deep-seated impulses really push for, to leave on as legacy to the following generations.

Posterity is worthy for ambition's sake, but something simpler leaves me breathless before I try to ease into bed - that is, the fellow words of fellow writers who can - even for a small instant - capture a distinct feeling and a moment worth sharing. As I try to resurrect my own musings and find a voice buried amidst day-to-day work and personal life (who would have imagined the wonderful burdens of adulthood, like homes and weddings and relationships), I find a little bit of inspiration from others who also follow the same path. The timeless nature of the human experience can bring us together in ways that I will forever try to unravel.

Thanks, Michelle, for a little bit of inspiration in recounting your adventures in Spain from a year ago... it is wonderful to see life's journey working its own magic...

Monday, October 30, 2006

10% Citizen: Dealing with Iraq

My professor from IMD proposed that we should be 10% citizens - in other words, give 10% of our time to help build community and create a better world. If such a balance could exist, the world would be a better place.

I agree with the concept, and to that point I address a global topic worth thinking about and addressing in some form to find better solutions - dealing with Iraq:

I'm not an expert on oil, but I do know that established markets reach an equilibrium and balance based on stable market conditions - something that economists yearn for but businesspeople and situations never allow due to dynamic decision-making and changing market conditions. When instability occurs, speculators come in, businesspeople take advantage of the situation (for better or worse), and regulators & economists analyze six months on to see what actually happened.

Although the decisions by the Bush administration to enter into its situation with Iraq was not fully about oil, the incursions that have followed have affected global oil prices due to the war's reduction of aggregate global oil supply, taking net 900k oil barrels off the market daily from Iraqi production - and more than this at the onset of the incursion. Granted, OPEC producers keep fairly close control of supply to match certain demand levels, but when a shock like Iraq occurs, markets react - first speculators that trade on future expected oil prices and then the big players in oil production.

Iraq contributed to the situation, along with political insurgency in Nigeria that slowed output from some pipelines in that country, Venezuela cutbacks on production from state-controlled enterprises, and impact from lost oil production in the Gulf of Mexico due to the affects of Hurricane Katrina on refineries in that region. Sure, it's not much, but added to the constrained environment that the world oil economy has been experiencing in terms of little production surplus in the aggregate global system, Iraq did contribue to the fluctuation in oil prices. Here is a link to some additional information on news releases and press reports in the US:

What I believe is that oil was one of several reasons for decisions made about Iraq; I'll list some as a starting point for furthering discussion:
1) spreading of democratic ideals in a region that would help create better equality for women, political stability (a wish of the neocons), and overall economic growth
2) protection of Israel from regimes in the area that are threatening that country's security
3) foothold in the region and soem traction from which to better pursue the first two objectives
4) more direct pressure on Iran to help influence those political actors to come in line with international sentiments
5) assistance for Iraqis to overthrow Saddam and his history of oppression
6) longer-term, more secure access to oil reserves in the region and overall stability across global oil production to minimize future potential shocks to the system

Iraq is about oil in a broader sense, to guarantee aggregate supply in the longer term and necessarily exploit Iraqi oil reserves for American benefit in the near term; in fact, the Bush administration has advocated getting the oil fields up and running at more-than-full capacity to generate revenues for the Iraqi government to support its push into freedom from oppression and democratic ideals.

With that in mind, I think it is helpful to look forward in generating some solutions to better the current situation.

Here are a couple of solutions that come to mind:
-better education on the interests and perspectives of regional factions: Americans in particular need better understanding of the Sunni vs. Shia situation to better address competing groups
-more troop support for the region: unpopular in the US, but the Bush administration has committed more troops just last week to help stabilize the situation long enough to get competing parties to the table for further dialogue and understanding; as ludicrous as this may sound, more international support would go a long way towards helping the international situation

I encourage others to build on and contribute more to these starting thoughts in order to come up with a better stance on how to help create the best situation possible in Iraq moving forward.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Boy Scouts and Anti-Piracy

I had to comment on this bit of news that I came across today. The Boy Scouts of America (a little background here) has struck up a relationship with the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) so that boy scouts can earn a patch in anti-piracy (press release here). That's right - little Johnny can be recognized as a good citizen for not ripping CD's and DVD's to his heart's content. And if he's real good and makes the grade, the MPAA will give him a tour of a real-live movie studio! Hip, hip, hooray kids!

Now before boys across the land get too excited about this one, it is only Los Angeles-area boy scouts who will get the chance to visit the movie studio, although all lads across the land can work to sport this 21st century badge of honor. As with all Boy Scout badges, there is some effort required to earn it; in this case, a boy needs to either create some sort of propaganda extolling the virtues of copyright or go online to uncover pirated content to share back with the troop leader.

It appears that the MPAA has found its policing efforts returning no results, so what do they do? Hire the whole of the Boy Scouts, of course! And all they need to pay is the holiest of currencies - the Boy Scout badge. I just hope it is copyrighted, lest those wily Boy Scouts go out and start pirating those badges too!

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Better Luck Next Time

Last weekend was wonderful, going back to Ohio with Wendy, seeing the parents, and just chilling out. All good feelings - except for the UCLA football game. Now, I am not a sports fanatic, but I have a rooting interest in college football for Penn State (my father's tried-and-true alma mater) and UCLA (ah, so many years ago in Westwood now...). When Saturdays roll around in the fall, I keep my mobile phone close at hand - if I'm not in front of the television at some point - to keep tabs on game results. What happened over the last weekend was a cock-up of mammoth proportions, as UCLA went down to the wire and lost in stunning fashion to Notre Dame.

I also have to admit another thing - there is something about Notre Dame that really gets on my nerves. Maybe it is the rabid adoration of their fans and alumni. Maybe it is the "holier-than-thou" feeling that emanates from Touchdown Jesus and the lore of their football team. Maybe it is just plain frustration at not having a few more interesting football stories to tell about days gone way past (Notre Dame was America's team back in the 1950's, a legacy that seems to linger even when modern-day realities suggest differently). But that feeling is there, which compounded my feelings about last weekend's game.

In short, UCLA lost on a last-minute drive consisting of three Notre Dame plays culminating in a touchdown pass that found an elusive receiver shirking tackles like Donald Rumsfeld takes responsibility for the Iraq debacle. But that is beside the point. What I do know is that 20-odd seconds was all it took to wipe out 59 minutes of glorious football where UCLA was able to play convincingly well as to think it has a shot to win out the rest of its games and get into a very good bowl game. The reality is that I'll have to wait another year to feel like we've got a shot at the Pac-10 title.

Oh well, it's all in good fun anyway - better luck next time...

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Remembering the Magic

It is already a few weeks on from that wonderful Disney World weekend with Wendy, and I am still remembering that fateful trip. All the icons - Cinderella's Castle, Space Mountain, Splash Mountain, Pirates of the Caribbean, It's A Small World, Carrousel of Progress, and the rest - seem to seap into the subconscious and leave a small impression that carries forward. Sure, it is a series of amusement parks - Magic Kingdom, Epcot Center, MGM Studios, and Animal Kingdom the quartet - but it has become a national institution. You can realize this by stepping back and watching the passersby, all those park visitors who come from Sheboygan and Fargo and St. Louis and Paris (Texas, that is - and France, too, for that matter); they are, for the most part, a perfect cross-section of Americana. I got that feeling from the market research volunteers that show up from time to time at the gates to ask for guests' zip codes and impressions they have of the park.

Just a momentary thought, but I dwell for long enough to savor the memories. I'm sure Walt Disney anticipated this sensation, as his creativity - along with the creativity of his imagineers - would thrive on this reaction of sensory recall. Remembering the magic is fun over and over again as the memories return for happy interludes of a few days at the Magic Kingdom and beyond.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Have No Fear

Some days can be tough. Little sleep, heavy thinking, pressure situations, and unforseen circumstances can bring us down when we least need the heat. And when we cannot stand the heat, we are told to "get out of the kitchen" - or so the expression goes. It is in such a moment that I find myself today, being called out by my manager in a meeting for veering dangerously close to the land of nap time. It is ok because I explained my long hours of driving this weekend and odds & ends that come from buying a house and planning a wedding. Still, it is good to take stock of a situation before it gets out of control.
The one thing that I will not do, though, is to let this all-consuming march into a new life get me down. Sure, it is tiring - but it is also fun to change gears and open a new chapter. What I will not do is freak out and lose my mind. I figure one simple thing - have no fear and the good times will inevitably follow.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Singin' in the Rain...

...I'm singin' in the rain / what a glorious feeling / and I'm happy again...

For some reason, I feel like Gene Kelly dancing with an umbrella in the classic 1952 film, "Singin' In The Rain"; I just got engaged a few weeks ago at Disney World, I've had a few nice trips traveling around the area the last couple of weekends (Williamsburg and the Penn State-Michigan college football game), and now I am working on some cutting-edge strategies for my company. This feeling is a far cry from certain feelings over the last few years - where was I going? What did I want to do? What would it look like? Now that all these things are starting to take shape, I am contented with the results - and it only gets better from here. So there you go - the drizzle cannot get me down. I'm singin', singin' in the rain...

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

When You Wish Upon a Star

I'm exhausted yet very happy. After a beautiful, amazing weekend at Disney World, I am four hours by car removed from my home and typing away quietly in an empty office after 7:30pm. I am almost done for the day and certainly done from a weekend of veritable excitement.
Why the sentiment? Simple - I got engaged this weekend in a storybook fashion (Cinderella's Castle at the Magic Kingdom). Yes, I am a sopping romantic, and yes - my girlfriend (I mean, fiancee' - imagine that!) did say yes. I have the pictures from the weekend to prove it.
That leaves me sitting at this desk. I'm just checking in and keeping too busy to notice all the changes happening around me. It's all good, though - when you wish upon a star, magic does happen.