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Category Archives: Random Thoughts

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

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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


Was This Me?

I recently shared an old poem I’d written. A short little ditty that rhymed and everything, though it was – as I said – short. Here’s another I wrote about twenty-five years ago, when I was a mere pup in my late forties. I had fallen desperately in love with a woman who, as it turned out, had a few too many problems. It didn’t last, but it didn’t end ugly either. None of my relationships has ever ended ugly. I’ve been able to fall “out” of love, but I’ve never been able to stop loving someone I once loved.

!Warning!

I think my writing style here was heavily influenced by Kahlil Gibran. I’m not sure I did a very good job but, in the interests of preserving my old writings, I’m willing to risk being embarrassed.


What wonders have I known since first I met you
I have tasted of your lips
Yet it is the thoughts they have expressed
Which ring in my ears
I have suckled at your breasts
Not early as a babe
Yet it is the aroma of your flesh which haunts me in my reverie
And the sound of your sweet sighs which fills my memories

To taste of the flesh is a simple thing
Too easily exalted
Too frequently abused
To taste of the soul is a wondrous thing
Too seldom found
Too seldom used

It is not just your eyes I see
But the depth which lies behind them
It is not merely your lips I crave
But the ideas which they convey
These remain with me during the days
And calm my evenings
That I may lie
With images of you to lull me
Softly as I drift to sleep

Your smile floats before me even now
Your laugh softly fills my mind
And I crave your presence
Even as its memory fills me with joy

I have found in you a person worth cherishing
A woman whose value I deem boundless
And who soul I have already partaken of
I ask for little more
Than to entrust me desires
My hopes and dreams
With one
As sharing
As giving
As you


Did Someone Say Newsletter?

I suppose you could say newsletters are in my blood. My father was the radioman aboard the USS William H. Webb during the second World War and one of his duties was to publish a newsletter for the crew. I remember looking through and reading his saved copies of each edition as I was growing up. I may even have some of them in a box in the garage somewhere, though I doubt they have held up all that well. They were printed on some pretty flimsy paper to begin with. I don’t think archival was part of their thought process.

Over the years I’ve done my share of newsletters, ranging from merely creating a SoCal edition of The War Bulleting, a publication out of Berkeley, California, that documented what was happening in Vietnam and Southeast Asia and the activities we were engaging in to protest our nation’s involvement, to a newsletter I created for my local golf course that garnered me lots of free range balls and rounds on the course, sometimes with a pro who couldn’t help but give me some instruction during the course of a round.

So . . . a series of events have convinced me it’s time to go through all my papers—and I have a ton of ’em—and organize, scan, and recycle as many of them as I can, memorializing what I find here on my blog. I also intend on gathering some of it into book form and see if anyone cares to read it.

Here’s the only saved edition I have of a newsletter I put together for the Student Bar Association of the University of San Fernando Valley College of Law. I’m a bit miffed to discover I didn’t put a date on the damned thing, so I can’t be sure if I published it in 1974 or 1975. Now that I think about it, I believe I was the 2nd year, full-time representative to the Student Bar, so that would have been ’75 . . . a mere 44 years ago.

Note the simplicity. There was no computer involved in any aspect of this publication, as PCs did not exist at the time. I’m pretty sure the headlines were stick-on letters I had to apply one at a time, and the copy was all done on a typewriter, though it may have been an IBM Correcting Selectric, because I was working as a secretary/clerk in a small law office in Beverly Hills at the time.

I’m surprised the paper held up as well as it has over all these years. It’s yellowed a bit, but it was still reasonably malleable; not brittle and parchment-like, as I suspect my father’s newsletter would be if I could find them. Then again, they’d be around 75 years old now.

I have also found a bunch of newsletters I created for Rocketdyne, as well as menus and promotional items I designed over the years, when I wasn’t working at Rocketdyne. I’ve also found some strange things I created as jokes during my tenure at what we called “The Rock.” I intend on sharing all of them.


What Would We Do Without Our Fur Babies?

I’ve always loved dogs (and cats), but I hadn’t had a dog in my life for something like 40 years after I had to put my beloved Heinse down when he developed an inoperable lesion on his spine, which paralyzed him. I suppose I could have developed some kind of wheelchair for him, but I didn’t have much money and I’ve never been terribly handy.

During the interim, I’ve had lots of cats; they’re easier to take care of and deal with, IMO. However, about two and a half years ago, Linda (my wife) came across this little sweetheart and she entered our lives. I’m very pleased.

I learned something interesting in the last few weeks. I was going through a bit of “empty nest” syndrome issues following my oldest daughter’s final dance recital in High School. The reality of her growing up and leaving really caught up with me, but the part that hit me the hardest was my sudden fear I’d screwed up; I hadn’t done the right things or I’d done some of the wrong things and I would never be able to make up for it! It was debilitating for a while. I’m better now, thank you very much.

Before this all happened, though, I was lamenting the reality that I could no longer hug and kiss my little girl, as she was a teenager (and had been for some time) and wanted nothing to do with that sort of thing, though she will let me kiss her goodbye . . . sometimes. What I realized was that I was able to get some of the closeness and the satisfaction of showering affection on Angel, our dog. Harder to do with a cat, but dogs can be super affectionate. This has got to explain why we have so many pets in this country. We can shower affection on our fur babies for their entire lives. They never lock themselves in their bedroom for days, ignoring those who labored mightily that they may have a good life.

So . . . let’s hear it for fur babies.


An Interesting Age

Kind of interesting to be spending part of my birthday waiting for my younger daughter to get out of school. I hadn’t quite put my foot on what always feels just a bit strange every time I’m here.

It finally hit me. It’s the knowledge I’m at least 54 years older than the oldest kids here. I’d venture to say the vast majority of parents here are no more than 30 years older than their kids. I mostly don’t feel like an outlier, but I am.

I’m also processing the reality that Alyssa had far more challenges than Aimee, who also has three friends who’ve known each other since kindergarten or the first grade, and whose families we have spent a lot of time with over the years. Alyssa doesn’t have any friends like that, which troubles me deeply.

I guess I’m living in interesting times. All I have to do is stay healthy and productive for about another eight to ten years. Slice pie!


The Original Social Media

Do you remember hand turn signals? The cars my parents owned when I was a child didn’t have turn signals, which had been introduced by Buick in 1939, eight years before I was born, but didn’t really make it onto most vehicles until much later. Also, my family was not wealthy, and their cars were usually at least 10 years old. I’m not certain, but I don’t think electric, flashing turn signals were required until sometime in the late fifties or early sixties.

Nowadays, all vehicles are required to have turn signals, but you’d be hard-pressed to know it based on how often people don’t use them. Let me say here that I’m well aware there are lots of circumstances when a turn signal is functionally unnecessary, but in the last few years I’ve noticed lots of people just don’t use them at all, regardless of the situation.

I like to think of these simple devices as one of our earlier forms of social media. A method for people inside their vehicles to (you’d think) effortlessly announce their intentions. “Hey! Check it out. I’m slowing down for no apparent reason, so I’m letting you know I plan on turning off this road very soon.”

Or “I see you sitting there at the bottom of that tee intersection, expecting me to continue along the road, so I’m letting you know I’m actually going to turn onto the street you’re on and you can pull out now instead of waiting for me to pass.”

This type of signalling is, it seems to me, a simple, easy-to-do form of showing respect for others on the road — kinda like a “golden rule.” Unfortunately, as our society seems to be slipping deeper and deeper into the abyss of unprincipled narcissism, led by our erstwhile POTUS, the sociopathy inherent in ignoring simple, respectful customs is increasing and serving to further coarsen our driving (and all other, it would seem) discourse.

I’ve been noticing this for over a decade, and I’m a bit ashamed to say it didn’t fully occur to me how representative such a seemingly small thing could be of the direction our nation was heading in. I had a blog for a while I called “The Cranky Curmudgeon” and I wrote mostly about things that were pissing me off, like people who leave their shopping carts adjacent to, or in the middle of parking spaces, rather than taking a moment to return them to a collection area; or those who decided they really didn’t want that frozen meal they put in their cart, so decided to just leave it on an unrefrigerated shelf in some random place of the market; or the driver going much slower than you changing into your lane when there’s nobody behind you.

I noticed these things and used my blog to complain about them. Mostly it was personally cathartic, but I don’t believe any of my writing has captured much attention. Nevertheless, I enjoyed doing it and it really was a good method for getting things off my chest. I just wish I had made the conceptual leap from the everyday degradation of common decency, to the complete lack of responsibility toward the “general welfare” so evident in our national political leadership, especially the Republican Party and conservatism in general. I’m not sure it would have changed anything for me, but it does feel — in retrospect — like I missed some rather startling clues.

At any rate, since I drive my youngest daughter to school, as well as pick her up, every day of the week, I see this behavior (or lack of what I consider to be appropriate and legal – activity) constantly. As I noted earlier, clearly there are time when using one’s turn signals is not really necessary, but I think getting out of the habit ends up with lots of people just neglecting to ever use them. It’s an epidemic of disrespect for one’s fellow drivers. So, please, get in the habit of using those damn turn signals. They’re a social signal as well . . . and wouldn’t it be nice if we could all respect each other a bit more than is currently done?


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