Author Archives: Rick Ladd

About Rick Ladd

Born in 1947, I am an officially retired pensioner who remains intensely interested in, and fascinated by, Systems Thinking, Decision Intelligence, Knowledge Management, and Business in general. I am also conversant in such concepts as innovation and ideation, collaborative tools and strategies, crowd sourcing, and the use of social media to accomplish goals ranging from improving business processes to promoting small retail businesses. Recently I began a new career as an editor/proofreader and have done a bit of technical writing as well. There's lots more where that came from. Need some help? Perhaps another set of eyes? Contact me. The first one's free! ;0)

What Didn’t You Say?

Horn Antenna

I’M ALL EARS!!

I think most anyone who finds their way to this blog, whether for the first time or if they’re regular visitors, knows I’m not really trying to promote myself or to make money off of it. Since I use the WordPress.com engine for this, I know there are occasional ads that pop up, but I don’t receive any compensation from them. I’m really not interested in it. I guess it’s a vestigial behavior related to my actually having a real job for over two decades. I’m not terribly adept at promoting myself, though I will surely have to improve if I’m to accomplish anything of value from my latest endeavor. More on that below.

Nevertheless, I am interested in making a difference; in reaching people and sharing something of my unique perspective on things. Because of that, I do look for one thing other than remuneration . . . feedback. Unfortunately, I get precious little of it. Certainly much less than I get on Facebook. One of the reasons I have a hard time tearing myself away from FB is the engagement I receive. There’s almost always a conversation going on and I get a fair amount of likes, comments, and shares for a guy who is far from well-known for anything.

As far as this blog is concerned, I do watch my stats, which WordPress does a damn good job of providing. I also try to promote most of what I write here using the share buttons and the automatic sharing the engine does when I publish. It’s gratifying to see how many people read (or, at least, visit) my blog, but there’s one thing missing and I’m hopeful that can be remedied somewhat.

What I’m referring to is comments. I get very few comments. I’m not sure why and I do worry sometimes it’s just because I’m not all that interesting. :/ In some respects, it shouldn’t (and mostly doesn’t) make one whit of a difference in terms of whether or not I speak my mind. However, I think that’s about to change.

I’ve announced I’m working on a book. It will be my memoirs of activities I was involved in during the period 1967 through about 1976. This was the period in which I was most active in the Peace & Justice movement, especially the effort to end the war in Vietnam. I am currently in the process of connecting with some of the people I worked with back then and am discovering it is difficult. I need to do a lot of research, as my memory is like a steel sieve. I remember a lot, but it was nearly four to five decades ago and I’m not sure I completely trust what I recall happened. Additionally, I want to include as much as I can from others who experienced some of the same things I did, either with me or in similar circumstances.

This means I need to reconstruct what took place during that time. I spent time working with lots of different organizations and people and there are details I’m hoping to get fleshed out by others. Some of the groups I worked with were the Peace Action Council, Indochina Peace Campaign, Los Angeles Women’s Liberation Union, The Resistance, Vietnam Veterans Against the War, The Committee to Free Angela Davis, the Brown Berets, La Brigada Venceremos, and the Black Panther Party. I’m sure there were more I will either remember as I get deeper into my research or that others will remind me of.

Some of the people I worked with were Dorothy Healy, Irv Sarnoff, Tom Hayden, Jackie Goldberg, Ron Kovic, Holly Near, Jane Fonda, the law firm of Margolis, McTernan, Scopes, Sachs, & Epstein, Daniel Ellsberg and Tony Russo, and many others. Some I spent a lot of time with and with others I was involved in one or two engagements and that was it. Since I did a lot of security work, some of those engagements were — shall we say — quite exciting.

I will be sharing more and more of what I’m doing, including posting portions of the book as it progresses. What I’m really hoping to see, and what I’m asking readers of my blog to provide, is a little feedback. If you or someone you know was involved in any way, e.g. anti-war demonstration, march, rally, love-in, teach-in, cultural event, or concert, etc., I’d love to hear from you and, if you are willing, I’d like to talk with you. I suppose you could call what I want to do an interview but, in this case — since I was so involved at the time — I tend to think what I’m seeking is an opportunity to reminisce.

Feedback. It’s what I need right now. After the book is complete everyone can go back to ignoring me. ;)


Navigating Facebook

I joined Facebook on July 3, 2007, which means I’ve been a user for over seven years. It wasn’t terribly difficult to go through my Timeline and discover the date, but neither was it all that easy. I think I got lucky in finding the entry. Actually, since my retirement, I’ve been pretty much a daily user of Facebook. I’ve always been a little disappointed that it’s all but impossible to search your Newsfeed or your Timeline. This is especially egregious given that you can search in groups.

I’ve also been pissed off so many times because of how FB works, both in a browser and on my iPhone’s app, that I’ve found workarounds to deal with the way I get bounced around and have trouble returning to where I was when I decided to read something a little more in depth. So, the other day a friend of mine posted a description of what I had been feeling and I thought it was perfect. I told him so and I want to share what he said. Here ’tis:

I swear Facebook timeline is practice for a serious freaking bout of Alzheimer’s. You read something of interest that is cut off, so you click “… more” and read or watch something that makes you feel marginally more human and connected, you click back or close the pop-up and and they have redecorated, painted the walls (the lovely picture a friend took of a sunset or an odd shaped peanut) isn’t there but something sort of just as interesting is, and the dog you though you had (well the video of a puppy) is gone, and the thing your friend shared you wanted to like is also… POOF!

I swear Facebook is created by people who time travel and the time travel booths are sponsored by some sort of Alzheimer’s Anonymous reject group or something and want to inflict their version on the world as if that can be the new normal.

On the other side of the coin, there are lots of things you can do to organize yourself and the people and pages you follow and care about. One of the ways to do it is by building lists, or subscribing to lists others have built. One of the people who is, in my opinion, the most informed and engaged in using Facebook effectively, is Robert Scoble (aka Scobleizer). Here’s a blog post of his from nearly two years ago. He manages to stir up a lot of controversy, as evidenced by the comment from “mindctrl”, but also has a lot of really useful advice and analysis to offer. Not just for Facebook, either.

I’m still struggling with the “working out loud” thingy, but Facebook is definitely part of it. The main problem for me is that it also sucks me in and I use it to avoid doing the other things I want to do. That’s another story for other days. If anyone has thoughts about how Facebook works (or doesn’t) for you or how to make it more useful, I’d love to hear them. 


Breaking Away from HuffPo

Recently, I wrote about my frustration with the Huffington Post’s online presence, due mostly to the length of time it takes for the page to load and the number of refreshes one experiences while numerous pieces are fit onto the page. What I find most frustrating is the constant resizing and repositioning of what I’m trying to read as it’s loading. I’m not one to click on a link, then walk away for a minute or two waiting for the page I’m being served to settle down comfortably in my browser. I start reading the moment there’s a word in front of my face. BTW – I currently use Google Chrome and I am not going to spend time testing Safari, Firefox, or Opera to see if there’s a difference, though if someone tells me there is a substantial difference I might check it out.

Apolo Ohno

Yep! Just Like my Politics.

HuffPo is no longer the force it was when I first joined it over eight and a half years ago. At least it isn’t for me. There are plenty of alternatives, many of which are simpler and also a bit closer to my politics. Meaning, they lean to the left like Apolo Ohno entering a turn.

Yesterday I received a comment from a reader (also a friend) who said he experienced the same thing and was wondering if I could point him to some possible replacement sites for learning from a similar outlook. I should mention I know this person does not share my politics, but I’m glad to hear he’s interested in seeing things from more than one angle. The hallmark of an open mind is the willingness to see things from perspectives different than one’s own. I respect that a great deal.

Now, I go to quite a few different sites, each of which would be considered Leftist, but which are also somewhat different in how they approach the news and their reporting and analysis of it. For instance, there is a distinct difference between a site that is run by liberal Christians and one run by secular leftists. They report the same stories, frequently in similar fashion, yet they each have a particular slant on how important they consider these stories and what they think is behind them and how they ought to be resolved. These show up in how their posts are written, where they’re placed, or when they are attended to. There are numerous other nuances that I think differentiate many of the sites I get my news from, but the bottom line is I still have to sift through what they’re telling me, as well as what others are saying. Then I have to hold it all up to the lens of my knowledge and experience over the years. Did someone say critical thinking?

So . . . here’s a list of some of the sites I would recommend, along with a little bit of my thinking as to why they matter:

  • Daily Kos – What I like about Daily Kos is that many, if not most, of the stories (which they call “Diaries”) are written by individuals who have an interest in the subject they’re writing about. Some of them are excellent journalists and some are merely passionate individuals who have something to say. Diaries run the gamut from well-researched investigative pieces to highly opinionated diatribes. The page loads quickly and is customizable to your tastes, including subjects and authors. You can also create a fairly detailed profile. It’s very participatory. I post there once in a while; usually by copying over one of my blog posts from Systems Savvy.
  • Mother Jones – In addition to politics, MJ covers environmental and cultural news, much like HuffPo. They also have lots of photo essays and blogs. Pages load up quickly, yet there’s lots of info to choose from, all of which is presented pretty clearly. I’m not a web designer, so I don’t know what the ultimate is when it comes to ease of access, etc., but MJ looks pretty good to my eyes.
  • The Raw Story – I’m not that familiar with this one, but I do read some of their stories when I’m pointed to them via a friend on Facebook. The site loads up quickly and offers snippets to lots of different stories. In addition to the front page, their menu (easily accessible at the top of the page) offers U.S. and World News, Science, Tech, and a few other special areas of interest.
  • Slate Magazine – Visually, Slate is considerably different than the three above, though I think they just changed and it looks like they’re trying to create a paid subscription issue with some special content. The home page is somewhat visually appealing, but looks a little confusing if you’re just wanting to find specific types of information. There is a menu, but it wasn’t apparent to me (it’s at the top right and the icon for it is three horizontal lines. What I like about Slate is many of its articles are in-depth. They take a bit of commitment to read through, but they’re generally quite well-written and literate.
  • Truthout – Interestingly, I’m not all that familiar with this one, yet their Senior Editor and Lead Columnist is a Facebook friend of mine. I read a lot of his stuff directly on Facebook, where it is easy to engage. Doing so on any of these sites isn’t anywhere as easy or as immediate, let alone satisfying. Truthout is a non-profit and you will see far fewer ads than on some of the other sites. They also have a section called “Progressive Picks” where they offer books for sale, a portion of the proceeds (tax-deductible) going to their organization. They also provide articles, excerpts, and interviews related to their weekly pick. Everything loads quickly and there’s little superfluous junk on the pages. Truthout also has a sort of auxiliary site called “Buzzflash”, which has loads of headlines (sortable by freshness) as well as commentary.
  • Liberal America – This WordPress-driven site is one I am somewhat familiar with, as I was accepted as an author for them. I ended up not writing anything because I was admonished that it wasn’t an opinion site, yet it was clear to me there’s a very opinionated slant to all their articles. I’m fine with that, but I found the position confusing and, since the pay was very minimal, I decided to concentrate my efforts elsewhere. Nevertheless, the site is reasonably clean, loads quickly (without all the garbage that makes HuffPo so damned infuriating nowadays) and, with the exception of a tendency to republish older material (at least on their Facebook page), is timely and pertinent. The publisher and at least several of the writers are left-wing Christians.

Now for a little confession. When I read the comment asking my opinion of sites similar to The Huffington Post, which was last night, I did a Google search on the term “news sites similar to huffington post”. It was a bit disconcerting to find most of the hits returned were about HuffPo itself. I probably could have changed my query to get a more targeted set of responses, but I was able to find one site on the second page of hits that was what I was looking for. It’s entitled “Huffingtonpost.com – 50 Similar Sites and Alternatives” and I used it to navigate to most of the sites I mention above. I could have gone to most of them independently, but I wanted to check out some of the others.

In the list of 50 similar sites, there were a few that are not similar; at least not for the purpose I was asked to consider, which was sites with a definitely liberal, progressive, left-wing slant. Obviously, there are quite a few sites to check out and I suggest anyone who is interested (including my friend who requested my opinion) use this site to check them out. You can even vote on whether or not you agree with their picks.

My analysis is not terribly extensive, but I hope it’s helpful. I would like to reiterate what I mentioned in most of what I wrote about these sites. None of them take longer than a few seconds to load and, therefore, in addition to being left-leaning in content and position, they are also superior for ease-of-use and lack of irritating, multiple refresh instances. As always, I welcome any feedback others may wish to provide.


Tweaking Facebook

Facebook Like Icon

Use the Like, Luke.

I am — at least, I was — a Knowledge Management professional. It’s what I did for over a decade at Rocketdyne, starting when it was a business unit of The Boeing Company, up through my retirement from Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne, a division of United Technologies. Pratt & Whitney paid for me to earn a Masters Degree in KM online from CSUN’s Tseng College. It’s such an exclusive degree they don’t offer it anymore. :)

I mention this because it affects how I share information, especially here on my blog. One of the tenets we tried to drill into people’s heads, and follow ourselves, was to avoid reinventing the wheel. That is, make it a habit to reuse information and knowledge that’s already been won at some cost to one or more individuals and the organization in which it was produced. This means, among other things, I am not interested in rewriting what others have written, while adding my own twist to it. This doesn’t apply when how I perceive an issue is substantially different than others, but it does when I’m sharing things I mostly agree with.

Yesterday and today brought me two great, and related, examples of things that need sharing and for which there’s little for me to do than announce them. The first I will actually place second, below, as it’s the subject of the second, which is a post by Dennis Howlett, which he published today in diginomica. What Dennis discusses is a Google Hangout Robert Scoble conducted, wherein he described what he has learned in thousands of hours of tweaking Facebook’s algorithms — primarily through his educated use of lists, likes, shares, etc.

Both Dennis and Robert are still far more embedded in the business world than I am and, rather than attempt an explanation through my eyes, I want to leave it to both of them to help you out. If you are using Facebook for your business or profession, or even if you just want to have a much better experience when using Facebook personally, I suggest reading the post and watching the video, which I am also including here. As Dennis points out, Robert is very generous with sharing his knowledge, something this KM pro really admires. You really should take advantage of it.


The Beat Goes On

Cartoon

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

One of the reasons I’ve decided to write about my experiences with the peace and justice movement in the late sixties and early seventies – specifically about a group of peace activists who dedicated huge amounts of time and energy providing organizational and security expertise – is because I believe there’s a concerted effort to marginalize those activities and their contribution to ending an unjust and predatory war.

Tom Hayden was one of the people I spent those years working with . Here’s a recent post from Tom’s website/blog. He writes, “We must call for inclusion in the memorial dialogue to prevent a false narrative of Vietnam [that] will lead to Vietnams without end.” Here, also, is an excerpt from a response to a request from Vietnam Veterans for Factual History, located in Missouri City, TX. (http://vvfh.org/):

“One reason I believe it’s hard to arrive at a true reckoning is that it would require an admission by too many authorities in the government and media that they lied – or distorted the truth, or were ill-informed themselves – when they sent millions of young Americans into dubious battle.

“But I believe it’s possible at grass-roots level, all across the country, for people like ourselves to engage in honest truth-digging and exchange of perspectives about those most intense years of our lives.”

My intent is to tell the story of a group who fought very hard — and who risked much — to bring an end to that war, from my perspective and through the recounting of my experiences. Knowing my memory has probably faded and, in any event, is incomplete because I wasn’t everywhere, I am contacting those people with whom I worked back then. Tom is one of them. You can read more about it at his Peace and Justice Resource Center. Here’s a link to the post I’m quoting from.


HuffPo Has Become a Steaming Pile of AOLbage.

I keep making the mistake of clicking links that lead to The Huffington Post. Big mistake. Their website takes so long to completely load – and is impossible to navigate while it’s doing so – I just can’t stand going there anymore. The only other sites that come close are fly-by-nights that essentially don’t load at all. The way HuffPo works is far more aggravating. The only way I could handle it would be to click on a link and walk away for a couple of minutes to be sure I can actually read something without it beginning all over again or bouncing around the page. ‪#‎HuffPoStinks‬


Making Contact

VVAW Button

An Honorable Organization of Good People

Since “announcing” my nascent book project the other day, I have communicated with four people who were part of the action back in the time I am writing about. One of them reached out and reminded me of some of the things we were involved in that had yet to cross my mind. Two of them I had been in touch with previously and they just happened to answer emails I sent out a couple of days ago. One I called today to give him a heads-up.

Of these four, two are Vietnam veterans; one an Army Engineer, the other an RTO with an Army LRRP team. They both played major roles in my life back then, as their opposition to the war they had fought in strengthened both my belief it was wrong and my resolve to do something to end it. I have a hard time putting into words just how much their friendship meant to me, but I’m going to try.

Right now I’m working on an Introduction; an attempt to explain what I want to accomplish in the body of the book. This is all kind of new to me. Not entirely, as I’ve had the honor and experience of working with a few other people (as an editor or proofreader) on books they’ve written. It’s just that I’ve never done the actual writing before and those books were business books (and a couple of Zombie Apocalypse novels). I’m hoping once I get going a lot of it will just come pouring out. Those were eventful times.


The Vietnam Anti-War Movement: A Participant’s Perspective

Below is the text of a post I just made on Facebook. Rather than spending the time to edit it, I’m pointing this out so you understand why it reads the way it does. I welcome feedback here as well.


Vietnam war protestors

Protesters making their sentiments known on the streets

I am on the verge of taking on what I believe to be an important project. I’ve been thinking about it for well over a year and I have discussed it with several old friends who were part of the experiences the project will speak to.

I plan on writing a book. It will be a combination of my memoirs, as well as a history, of a part of the peace & justice movement, specifically in Southern California, from about 1968 until 1973. At the time I was part of a group of amateur, yet reasonably well-trained, people who provided much of the security for rallies, demonstrations, and numerous cultural events. We provided building and personal security, including occasional armed bodyguard work, for people like Jane Fonda, Daniel Ellsworth, Tony Russo, a group of Vietnamese students studying in the U.S., Roger McAfee and family (they put their ranch up for Angela Davis’s bail after Jonathan Jackson’s disastrous attempt to break his brother, George, out of the Marin County Courthouse), Mrs. Salvador Allende, and cultural groups such as Quilapayun, Arco Iris, and Holly Near – to name a few.

The book I propose to write would be a combination of my memoirs and those of many others (some of whom I have recently contacted and who expressed great interest in seeing this happen) who I worked with. I was a member of groups such as The Peace Action Council with Irv Sarnoff, The Indochina Peace Campaign with Jane Fonda, Tom Hayden, and Bruce Gilbert, Vietnam Veterans Against the War with Ron Kovic, as well as individuals such as Dorothy Healey, Frank Wilkinson, and others – many of whom I will need to do some research on to refresh my memory.

Part of this piece will be aimed at setting the record straight. Part of it will be pointing out the many sacrifices lots of people made in speaking and acting out during that time. We thank members of the military for their “service”, regardless of what they did and what their motives truly were, yet the people who risked so much during those difficult times were – and frequently still are – vilified as traitors and un-American. I’d like to help set the record straight.

Those of my friends who have any experience or thoughts about those times and the activities I will be addressing are welcome – actually, encouraged – to share them with me. While I am willing to read, even address, contrary opinion, anyone who attempts to engage me in frivolous argumentation will be asked to stop and, if that doesn’t work, will be unfriended. I am interested in useful, thoughtful opinion even if it doesn’t agree with how I see or remember those days, but only if it helps me understand my perspective more completely. I have a well-established POV after all these years and I’m not interested in useless argumentation over its validity.

This also means I will be incrementally backing off of Facebook; posting far less and paying less attention to others, even with the all-important mid-term elections looming. I want to get this done while I’m still able to and I will have a lot of reading, interviewing, and writing to do.

I’m also thinking of using Kickstarter to raise some money so I don’t have to worry about further depleting what savings we’ve managed to accumulate prior to my somewhat forced retirement. I’m thinking, if a guy who’s merely making potato salad can raise $70,000, I might be able to find enough interest to get $15 – $20,000. I’m anticipating the need to travel for some interviews. Many of the people involved at that time likely won’t be available via online technology.

I will probably share this more than a few times in the next couple of days or so. Knowing there’s only a small percentage of my friends who will see this at any given time, I think it will be useful to share it at different times. Please forgive me if I annoy you. Feedback is, of course, more than welcome. I’ll also be sharing my progress as I go along.


Miss America Fail – Help!

Two Convict Waiters

Simi Valley’s Police Chief and Some Other Reprobate

I need some help from my creative friends. Ideas . . . no money. I have volunteered to be a “Celebrity Waiter” at the fundraiser I’m linking to here. Here’s the back story for my role. I am a reject from the Miss America Pageant. Why that would happen is beyond my comprehension, but it’s all I have to work with.

I need a costume, one that I can put together for free or very inexpensively, that demonstrates why a person of my obvious high quality would be rejected by those morons on the Judge’s Committee. I haven’t worn a costume for anything in at least thirty years and my creative gene has lost some its sparkle and heft. Please help me out here. It’s for a good cause, too!


Chasing Earned Value

Recently, I was given the task of writing a short (4 – 5 page) paper on the basics of Earned Value Management (EVM), and why it’s useful for medium to large organizations in managing their projects. The idea was to deal with the “why”, not the “how”. I worked in a large aerospace organization for over two decades and we used EVM extensively. It is, after all, a requirement for all government contractors.

Earned Value Terminology

A Plethora of Acronyms Revealed

Having retired from that industry a little over four years ago, I was a bit rusty. However, you can’t have that stuff drummed into your head without it engraving itself fairly deeply on your consciousness. It didn’t take me long to come back up-to-speed. In fact, the biggest problem I had was knowing where to stop. EVM is full of acronyms and formulae (BCWS, BCWP, ACWP, SPI, CPI, etc., etc., etc.), all of which I’m fairly certain are useful . . . when used intelligently. As with most things, how valuable they are depends a great deal on what you’re trying to accomplish, how prepared and disciplined you are, and how well you execute over time.

Now this brings me to a somewhat vexing problem and the reason I’m sharing this. I could swear there’s a good argument somewhere as to why EV is not a very good method for managing a project. However, when I searched for problems or reasons not to use EV, all I could find were lists of where organizations go wrong because they don’t plan properly, they don’t pay attention to detail, or they don’t use tools as they’re designed to be used.

So I have a question, which I am now going to throw out into the aether. Assuming some who read this actually know about, and have experience with, Earned Value Management and maybe one or more of the systems used to facilitate its proper application, are you aware of any reasons NOT to use EVM and, if so, could you point me to a resource or school me on the subject? Thanks.


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