Category Archives: Random Thoughts

Gloomy

A Little Spring Backtrack

I didn’t really realize until Linda pointed it out, but helping my youngest with her classes is forcing me to relive High School . . . and I hated it! I cut so frequently, it took me an extra semester and two excruciating terms of Summer school to graduate. And she’s only a sophomore!

Concurrently, time is beginning to exert itself. I had no trouble keeping up with my kids through my sixties, but my energy level is waning, probably exacerbated by the need to stay put, which results in lack of exercise and eating a little too much . . . of some of the “wrong” things.

Oh, well. It’s raining (actually, mostly drizzling) outside, so gloomy seems to fit the moment.


Thank You, I Think

This post is from my old blog, The Cranky Curmudgeon. It was written nearly 14 years ago, shortly after my oldest’s fifth birthday.

Well, Hallmark Thinks It’s Important, And They Have No Vested Interest . . . Right?

So what is it with Thank You cards? When did they become de rigeur . . . a fixture of every child’s birthday and gift-giving Winter solstice celebration?

My daughter celebrated her 5th birthday recently and we had a party for over twenty children and adults. We provided entertainment for the children, lots of food and drink for everybody, really nice loot bags for the kids, a large cake, and a pinata filled with lots of candy. My wife spent around a week’s worth of her spare time researching and purchasing everything necessary to make the kids feel special. This included purchasing inexpensive cowboy/cowgirl hats and bandanas, as the party was held at a nearby farm where the kids could feed animals and enjoy some really fun and clever rides. I spent a good 10 – 15 hours running around and picking up things and making arrangements. We really wanted everyone to have a good time.

Now comes the aftermath. My wife is not the best at sending out Thank You cards, and I have virtually no experience doing it at all. I mean, isn’t it against the law for men to do this kind of thing – no matter how sensitive they are? So . . . here it is, a couple of weeks later and the cards she took the time to purchase are still sitting on the table . . . in their original box. They’re taunting me. Like chocolate in a candy dish, I sometimes hear them calling out my name.

Isn’t a sincere “Thank You” at the party’s end enough for everybody? I don’t know; maybe she feels better about not doing it than I do, but why do I have this sinking feeling we must carry some sort of guilt because we have yet to send a hand-written, personalized note written by us as though it was our child channeling Emily Post or Martha Stewart?

Here’s an example of a Thank You we received the day after a 5-year-old’s birthday party:

Thank for coming to my birthday party. I was really happy you could be there. The Spiderman backpack will be really useful next year in Kindergarten to carry my laptop as I’m learning how to post covered calls without the help of my broker.

Now how are we going to follow that?


Less Than Perfect

The following is a post from an earlier blog of mine, The Cranky Curmudgeon. It was posted on February 27, 2006.

Why do people, perfectly rational in other ways, defend the indefensible? Why do they continue along a path that is demonstrably wrong and easily abandoned? I’m not talking about the barbarous torture being carried out in our name, with our money, by our government. I’m talking about the indefensible butchering of the English language by educated, enlightened people.

I’m talking about people who are scientists, who make their living off understanding and precisely defining physical properties of phenomena in order to reshape the world and our relationship to it. People who demand, and thrive off of, minutiae – accurate minutiae.

I heard three words in a meeting the other day that just drove me crazy. These three words were:

  • Libary (for library)
  • Ec Cetera (for et cetera), and
  • Hierarchial (for Hierarchical)

Hearing these words butchered gives me the chills, but I learned a long time ago not to question an Engineer’s pronunciation of any word, lest one wishes to be the recipient of a surprised, somewhat pained expression followed by a derisive comment on one’s propensity for detail. Something like “Well. You knew what I meant. What are you? A Lawyer?”.

Well. Maybe. Maybe I knew what you meant and maybe I am a Lawyer. The latter part of the question is of no real consequence, and can be safely ignored as the silly attack it is, but the former isn’t necessarily all that clear. I knew what you meant? Could I be certain?

One of the simpler equations in physics is f = ma (force = mass x acceleration). Would an Engineer complain if I expressed it as f = na in a paper or in an analysis of a design or test results? Would it be OK if I said “Well, it’s only off by one letter and, after all, you know what I meant” (hee hee)?

I suppose, to be fair, there is the tongue twist factor to take into consideration. After all, library, et cetera, and hierarchical take a bit of concentration and practice to say properly. But here’s the real issue. Language is used to – now get this – communicate. Good, accurate, complete communication requires precision. It ain’t horse shoes or hand grenades.

So here’s what I have to say to those sloppy speakers who complain about merely being asked to correct their butchered pronunciations and complain they’re close enough to being “there”.

They’re ain’t no there their. You’re turn to figure out where your going (sic.)


Casual Everyday?

I wonder if this pandemic, and our response to it, will change how seriously we take ourselves. If you’ve been watching television—and I’m going to go out on a limb here and assume most everyone is—you may have noticed some changes in much of live news and late night programming.
Since nearly everyone who’s reporting is at home, by themselves, it’s obvious that the women anchors, reporters, and pundits are having to do their own hair and makeup. Regardless of how well they might do it, it’s not the same and it’s noticeable. I haven’t noticed how much, if any, makeup the men are wearing, but I have noticed a whole bunch of them has decided it’s not worth shaving right now (I’m one of them.)


So . . . what I’m wondering is, after we are able to return to some semblance of a normal life, where we can gather again so that newscasters and performers can return to the studio, when knowledge workers can return to their cube farms . . . will we? Better yet, should we? I spent the last few years of my career at Rocketdyne working from home. I’d like to think I was at least as productive, if not more so, than I was when I was going in to the office each day.


When I first started working there, I wore a suit and tie each and every day. By the time I left, the only time I wore a tie was if the “customer” (usually NASA) was visiting and we had to blow smoke up their asses. Knit polo shirts and chinos became acceptable and, on Fridays, everyone wore denim. I’d like to think one of the lessons we’ll glean from this (and there will be dozens, no doubt) is that we can be a lot more casual and still perform at a high level. And there are numerous ways to communicate, connect, and collaborate, especially if we’re not hamstrung by unnecessary and awkward notions of propriety.


What do you think?


More Sorrow

Today’s COVID-19 death toll in the U.S. jumped 45% over the previous high, which was last Friday. As of a few minutes ago, there were still about six or seven states (and D.C.) that have yet to report their identified cases and deaths, but they shouldn’t add significantly to the overall figure as they’re smaller states, population-wise, that have yet to see a real outbreak.

I cried a little today, watching a couple of tributes to police officers who died from this virus. One was a woman, the other a couple who had both retired and were just beginning to enjoy being together. They died within a week of each other. None of them were able to have family with them during their last moments, though the woman’s family were able to record their last thoughts and have them played to her, even though she was unconscious. It was reported that she experienced an elevated heart rate while they were playing them.

Since nobody has truly come back from the dead yet (sorry, Jesus. Hit me up if you return “again,” please) we’ll never know if that wasn’t actually more painful for her emotionally or whether it uplifted her spirits. I wish we could know how she felt in those last moments. I want to believe she was comforted by hearing the voices of her loved ones. I know that’s what the HCWs had to be thinking. I’m having a hard time dealing with imagining what everyone is going through. It’s difficult when you’re empathetic. There’s going to be a lot of PTSD in this country when this is finally put behind us.


A Forgotten Limerick

Faux Snooze

Looking through some of my old writings, many of which have never been published (some because they’ve never been finished,) I came across this limerick. It’s dated December 3, 2013.

Fox newscasts, so chock full of hate
Render truth an impervious gate
They so often dissemble
We can’t help but tremble
With hope they will soon meet their fate


For My Eyes Also (Part 2)

https://www.sonhslks.com/knowledge-management.html

A (very) Brief History of Knowledge Management

Although the current move toward gathering, cataloguing, storing, and disseminating information and data for widespread organizational use is a fairly recent development, the basic concepts of Knowledge Management have been with us for as long as humans have gathered in communities. Humans have always struggled with the need to pass on information gathered through hard experience and disastrous failure.

In his new book, to be published this fall, Steven Denning sets forth a brief synopsis of the human activities which have preceded our current drive toward Knowledge Management. In it he states, “The pursuit of any significant human activity typically leads to the acquisition by those involved of know-how and expertise as to how the activity may be successfully conducted. Insofar as what is learned in the process can be captured, and communicated and shared with others, it can enable subsequent practitioners – or even generations – to build on earlier experience and obviate the need of costly rework or of learning by making the same repetitive mistakes.

In the village, from time immemorial, the elder, the traditional healer and the midwife have been the living repositories of distilled experience in the life of the community.

“…

Interactive knowledge-sharing mechanisms have always been used – from palavers under the baobab, village square debates, and town meetings, to conclaves, professional consultations, meetings, workshops, and conferences – all functioning to enable individuals to share what they know with others in the relevant area of knowledge. “[1] (emphasis the author’s)

In 1988, as the pace of change was accelerating with the rapid development and deployment of large-scale information systems, Peter F. Drucker observed, “Information responsibility to others is increasingly understood, especially in middle-sized companies. But information responsibility to oneself is still largely neglected. That is, everyone in an organization should constantly be thinking through what information he or she needs to do the job and to make a contribution”.[2]

Drucker understood then the pivotal dilemma with respect to data and information now being faced by many organizations, that of understanding its power and devising the methodologies whereby it can be harnessed and used to the benefit of the people who need it to perform their jobs properly.

In referring to information specialists as toolmakers, Drucker said, “They can tell us what tool to use to hammer upholstery nails into a chair. We need to decide whether we should be upholstering a chair at all.

“Executives and professional specialists need to think through what information is for them, what data they need: first, to know what they are doing; then, to be able to decide what they should be doing; and finally, to appraise how well they are doing. Until this happens MIS departments are likely to remain cost centers rather than become the result center they could be.”[3]

Today, MIS departments are still struggling with the notion of becoming “result centers”. Too frequently, they concern themselves with the infrastructure of the organization’s data processing capabilities, and completely ignore the role Knowledge Management (in its broadest sense) can play. Instead of leading the way through the morass of competing needs, whether perceived or real, they find themselves being led around by various departments seeking to have their agenda legitimized, often to the detriment of the MIS department’s ability to serve the company as a whole.

At Rocketdyne, which employs a large percentage of well-educated, highly computer literate individuals, there exists a great deal of enmity between the users and the Information Systems (IS) department. There are many who feel the department should fulfill the role only of providing the infrastructure, i.e. the telecommunications backbone and the hardware, and maintaining its reliability. These people believe IS has abdicated its responsibility of providing guidance for software development and acquisition, through an historic ineptness in performing this function.

Whether this view is accurate or not, it demonstrates a division which has long been developing and will not soon go away, especially without visionary leadership schooled in the concept of Knowledge Management. Many knowledgeable workers at Rocketdyne believe they must have the freedom to purchase software which will support their needs, or to develop that software without interference and second-guessing by the IS department.

The question which looms now for most organizations, and certainly for Rocketdyne, is how can the data which is both created and collected be harnessed for the purpose of continuing a company’s pursuit of its goals.

What we are experiencing, I believe, is a time of challenge and opportunity. Historically, humans have always valued the hard-earned wisdom of our forebears. We rightly believe in the inappropriateness of “reinventing the wheel”, and we have continuously improved on our methodologies for categorizing and memorializing the lessons we have been taught or have learned through experience.

Knowledge Management is merely the application of this historical pursuit of know-how and expertise to the comparatively new tools we have developed. The concept itself is nothing new, The question then becomes one of how do we go about harnessing these tools to our advantage; how do we make that quantum leap into an entirely new way of viewing an old problem.

In the next section we will look at a little bit of the background of the present day approaches to Knowledge Management, and see how companies are beginning to recognize the necessity of understanding and utilizing this approach to conducting business and running an organization successfully.


[1] Stephen Denning, “The history of knowledge management-The idea of sharing knowledge is not new“, in “The Springboard“; available at http://www.stevedenning.com/history_knowledge_management.html (accessed October 27, 2000)

[2] Peter F. Drucker, “The Coming of the New Organization”, Harvard Business Review on Knowledge Management (Boston: Harvard Business School, 1998) p. 11

[3] Drucker, Op, Cit, . pp. 11 – 12


For My Eyes Also

California Lutheran University Campus

I’ve begun work on something I have wanted to do for a long time but, for numerous reasons (some of which actually make sense in retrospect) have not been able to accomplish. I’m speaking of writing a book. Actually, I’ve had three books in mind for a few years: One sharing my blog posts; one about the years I spent in the Peace & Justice movement, with special emphasis on the movement against the war in Vietnam; and, my memoirs. I can say with reasonable objectivity, I have had a rather unconventional and interesting life.

Since the beginning of March of 2018, I have been working part-time as the business manager for a small AI software development firm. In doing so, I transitioned from my Mac to a PC laptop in order to comply with the company standards. Today I moved my Mac out into a place in our living room where I can sit quietly and write. Since this is the first time I’ve actually spent a while at the Mac, I have been going through my files and am somewhat pleased to discover there are a lot things I’ve written over the years that should prove helpful in writing (at least) my memoirs. Some of the things I’ve written are only a couple of sentences or a paragraph or two, but they convey the essence of a thought I can expand upon. On the other hand, some of them are completely unintelligible.

What I’m going to do here, however, is use this blog to publish a term paper I submitted 19 years ago, when I was attending classes at California Lutheran University, in their Center for Lifelong Learning offering, ADEP (Adult Degree Evening Program.) It’s 22 pages long, so I’m going to post it in sections, as I wrote it. Today I’m sharing the intro. As I’ve re-read parts of it, I’m reasonably certain some will end up in at least my memoirs, as they are part of my unusual education.

Introduction

Although this paper is being written as part of the requirements for a grade in Organizational Management, its impetus and content are driven by a real life situation at the company I work for, Rocketdyne Propulsion and Power, a business unit of the Space and Communications Division of the Boeing Company. As suggested in the course syllabus, I selected a subject which I felt had some relevance to my company’s activities and my position within it.

As with many organizations throughout the world, mine is struggling with understanding and implementing the concepts of Knowledge Management. These concepts, and the issues surrounding them, are numerous and complex. As an example, one question which must be asked is how does an organization determine the importance of the information it uses and how does it weight that importance? How does it determine who needs it, who wants it, who might benefit from knowing of its existence, or whether or not it should be available to everyone who might wish to make those determinations for themselves?

Furthermore, there are numerous software developers who are touting their particular method of capturing data and making it available to a company’s workforce. Each of these developers will attempt to convince you their method is best for your application. Of course, this situation is hardly different from that faced by anyone who has to determine what method they will use, or what software they will purchase, for any task. Nevertheless, at this early stage of the game it doesn’t make the task any easier.

I propose, in the following pages, to set forth some of the history of Knowledge Management, from tribal times to today, and the perceived need for Knowledge Management, both in general, and with particular emphasis for my company, Rocketdyne. I will look at what knowledge management means, and briefly mention some of the tools which are being used to develop its use. The definition of tacit knowledge, and the importance of understanding it when implementing Knowledge Management will be discussed, along with a brief look at how we acquire and share knowledge. I will close with a glance at what is probably the most daunting task facing a company which desires to utilize Knowledge Management to its advantage, the need for dramatic cultural change.

Before beginning, however, I would like to quickly explain the nature of this paper’s subtitle, “Breaking the Information Bottleneck”. Here, the word bottleneck has the same meaning we use when speaking of a traffic jam. Most of us have experienced being caught on the freeway when suddenly we come to a crawl or dead stop. Usually there is an explanation for the delay. Sometimes, however, there is no apparent reason.

In the same way that freeways experience bottlenecks, so too does any system which requires the smooth flow of some activity or commodity. On the shop floor, it is generally components, though it can also be tooling, raw material, or usage hardware. In the office it is generally data or information, and when its flow is restricted the organization suffers.

I believe, with the advent of computers, and their widespread use through Local Area Networks and intranets, and with our increasing dependence on technology to solve our problems, we have forgotten how sharing knowledge actually works and, in the process, created huge information bottlenecks which will not go away until we learn once again how to manage knowledge.

Unfortunately, the scope of this paper is woefully inadequate to fully treat all the issues involved in this major change now occurring. It is my hope that I will be able to expand upon and use it to help melt the glacier of resistance which surrounds my organization at present and makes change painful and tedious.


The Farmdale Boyz

This pic was taken in about 1972 or 1973. I lived for about two or three years with these guys in two three-bedroom homes, side-by-side in North Hollywood, CA. Two sets of brothers and two close friends. In the background, at one time or another, those two tanks held a couple of snakes. One of them was named “Ellis A. Piary” (because that’s where he/she was rudely captured by one of our number) and the other, naturally, was named “Lefty.” Two of the people in this photo are not on Facebook, but everyone’s still alive!! — with Rick London, Loren Goetz, Stephen Ladd, Tom Shannon and Mark London.

Sometime after this picture was taken, I traveled to Cuba with the sixth contingent of the Venceremos Brigade and, shortly after my return in the Summer of ’73, I began attending law school. There have been some changes over the years, and a couple of us don’t talk much with each other, but for the most part we’ve all remained friends.


What’s In A Name? III

It’s no secret I have a complicated relationship with the game of golf. Not so much with actually playing it (though that’s a bit of an issue as well, having to do with injury and becoming a father) but more with the history and cultural positioning of the game and its adherents.

Golf has never been a game “of the people”. It can’t be played on the street on in a sandlot. There’s no such thing as a pickup game of golf. It takes up a lot of space; generally fairly expensive space as well. If you figure a starter can get out a foursome onto the course every fifteen minutes, then during the longest days of the year, it’s still only 256 golfers per day. Hardly a huge contingent of users. I’d wager an average-sized park, which likely takes up less than one-tenth of the acreage a golf course requires, provides recreation for more than that number.

So, let’s essentially agree golf is somewhat exclusive, even elite in some ways. And, rather than belabor the point, check out this article in Ebony magazine from 2016. It may still be fairly exclusive, but it’s also quite lucrative, considering how many people play.

However, all this is merely setup for my point, which I will now address. I was watching the final round of the 3M Open yesterday (I still record most golf tournaments in case I want to watch) and noticed something that has always amused me somewhat. I’m referring to the names of many of the players. There are a lot of them who have what I think of as rather strange, somewhat hoity-toity, names.

I’ve looked at the elite players of other sports and there just aren’t names like many of these. And, I think I’ve figured out what makes a lot of them stand out. Many players have first names that are generally used for last names, e.g. Johnson, Mackenzie, Davis, Grayson, etc. Here’s a list of the ones that stood out to me the most, taken from the PGA’s FedEx Cup rankings as of today.

What this has to do with race and class, I will leave to y’all to suss out. I’m not interested in making too fine a point here. I merely wanted to share this minor bit of trivia that has stood out for me. Besides, doing a truly good job of opining on diversity and economics would require more time than I’m willing to put in at this moment. Also, this is the first time I’ve tried to put some sense to it. It likely won’t be the last . . . as I’ll likely refine my thinking over time. I’d be happy to hear what you have to say.

PS – I only used American players (with—I think—one Canadian).

Below are some of the names I’ve noticed.

Beau Hossler
Bronson Burgoon
Brooks Koepka
Bryson DeChambeau
Charles Howell III
Chase Wright
Chesson Hadley
Chez Reavie
Cody Gribble
Davis Love III
Grayson Murray
Harris English
Hunter Mahan
Johnson Wagner
Keegan Bradley
Kramer Hickok
Mackenzie Hughes
Morgan Hoffmann
Patton Kizzire
Smylie Kaufman
Webb Simpson
Wyndham Clark
Xander Schauffele


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