Tuesday, 7 September 2010

A Nickel's Worth of Knowledge

For several weeks....I've been watching news analysts explain how companies are sitting on a huge amount of cash and refusing to take action to hire new employees or move out on a positive business situation.

I keep waiting for an analytical reason for this....and all I ever see is some dopey 60-second bit where the answer doesn't fully fit. So I've sat and pondered over this and come to this moment of analysis that I will offer.

Two things have come to meet at an intersection and they weren't ever supposed to meet.

First, risk analysis. About a decade ago....this was a key management phrase which was being introduced to the big guys...and over the past ten years....it's drifted down to every management level (the board, HR, Budget & Finance, Sales, Production, Logistics, the Warehouse crowd, and even the janitor crew).

Every company now offers classes in risk analysis. The key feature? You bring up statistics and graphic charts....then look for your problems and things which could hurt the company. You analyze. You compare data. You draw the connecting lines. And then you come to this moment of truth....you do something with the data provided. But you can only do something...if you comprehend on what the data contains.

Everyone gets into risk analysis now....even the military uses it to compare and improve their operations.

Second, Congressmen and Senators are writing pages...if not volumes...of new government laws and tax code.

In the old days....guys wrote up twenty-five pages of a bill, and they put the entire emphasis into the first two pages, thus making an interpretation very simple.

Over the past four to six years...these laws and tax changes have gone into a spiral situation. 2,600 pages were written to the health care bill. Presently, no Senator or Congressman has ever admitted that he read the whole thing.

It's just one of dozens of things that have affected business operations.

Naturally, today, the business guys have been going back to ask for risk analysis for the past couple of years, and their crowd of experts is shrinking. In fact, even when they step out and hire folks now....from a 150-page new law....the out-sourced expert basically writes a 30-page document to explain this...and the simplicity simply isn't there in the law...or the produced document to explain things.

So risk analysis kicks in....at second gear, and it stays there.

Under this great management tool....you do nothing, unless you can establish what happened and what you need to do to counter-balance the situation.

I can sense your grin right now.

Yes, we've finally reached maximum turbo, in second gear. The CEO won't do nothing unless the board agrees completely. The board wants risk analysis from the various effects of dozens of laws and tax changes. The HR, budget, and operations folks can't comprehend this....so they sit there without a true compass to point toward a true risk analysis.

In the old days...the boss would see huge profits coming in....then the budget guys would suggest a dividend check to the stockholders and a bonus check to the board members. The boss would want a bigger profit, thus hiring another hundred employees, and putting a second shift on the line.

The old days are long-gone, so the boss won't make a decision to add more employees and go after more business because he can't see a true risk analysis in place.

Neither of these events were ever supposed to meet head-on. Both conflict with each other....and with the current spiral of added bulk in every law....there's no way to get out of the mess unless both parties stop writing law to such a degree.

Yes, it's a lose-lose-lose scenario....with no alternate solution. I'd prepare for a long period of drinking for everyone and some acceptance that this mess is more than what your crackerjack journalist for ABC or NBC can comprehend.

From the President's Speech

Rapid rail from Milwaukee to Chicago? This topic got brought back up yesterday during the Presidential speech. Folks cheered and I pondered over this idea.

First, you have to compare Milwaukee and Chicago. It's kinda like comparing Rochester to NY City....you've got a dead town with everyone wanting to escape from....to NY City.

Who in Milwaukee hates this idea of rapid rail? All the sports teams in Milwaukee hate it because it tempts folks in Milwaukee into being a Cubs or Bulls fan. Big-name stores in Milwaukee hate it because folks might want to shop for name-brand stuff in Chicago. Parents hate it because kids might beg for $60 just to run over to Chicago for a Friday night....to get into trouble there instead of Milwaukee.

Who wants it? Mostly folks in Chicago. They think they can take in another $100 million minimum a year....from folks coming in from Milwaukee. Why bother flying out of Milwaukee's airport?

After a while...you start to laugh over this deal of a rapid rail.

Now, if you wanted to make this interesting....run up a rapid rail 45-minute line to Rochelle and then watch 100k Chicago folks pack up and move out of Chicago. Home prices in Rochelle would explode overnight as folks could finally live their lives outside of the Chicago shadow.

A Saudi Ad

This video attached is the Saudi version of Viagra pills...being advertised.

To translate, Muhammad comes home after a long day at the office...and the wife has the kids busy doing homework. Then the wife says "come to me, you big hot Saudi stud". Muhammad thinks for a second, then remembers that he's got the funny blue pills.

A Man's House

For my entire life....I've had this short list of historic places that I've always wanted to visit. I got a chance to cross one off the list. I did a tour of Jefferson's Monticello today.

First, I have to say this. It's about three miles outside of the city of Charlottesville. The town has only two things that matter in life, the university and Jefferson's house. Signs around town to point to the right direction? Forget it. I wasted almost twenty minutes driving around before I happened to see one brief sign. The city does a lousy job in pointing you in the right direction.

So I arrived and rode the tour bus up to the house. It is an astonishing $23 for the tour, which I felt it was a bit more than what you'd expect.

But at that point when the bus dropped us all off, I came to a magical moment. This was something that I probably should have seen as a kid because it would have had a tremendous influence on me for the rest of my life.

Jefferson is this oddball character of American history. With a private tutor for a couple of years, he was probably more intelligent and capable at age 13 than most kids coming out of college with a master's degree at 23.

He had a vast knowledge of Roman history, Latin, Bibical history, and full knowledge of math & engineering.

When he finally came upon to build Monticello, it was an unusual pick for the location. Typically, if you built a mansion in this grand period of the late 1700s....you built near a river. Jefferson did the complete opposite and built on top of a hillside that likely doubled the whole approach to constructing the house.

The thing you have to appreciate about the house, is that it was always an unfinished deal. Jefferson added new features on a yearly basis.

After exiting the house, I stood in awe of the thousand features that he put into the effort. This was not a house...it was a work of art. There's not a man living today who thinks in such a fashion and his family would allow him to spend forty years tinkering with the house and adding unique features yearly.

This trip to Monticello led me to examine Thomas Jefferson in a very unique fashion. I made my decision to drive up this morning and spent one-hundred-and-forty-minutes on the road. If Jefferson had decided to come and visit me in Arlington....he would have spent a good four days traveling by horseback to make the same distance.

A guy simply didn't travel on a whim in those days. A guy had patience and acceptance. This thought of "acceptance" came to bear heavily on me as I walked down from Monticello, past Jefferson's grave, and to the Visitor Center.

Acceptance is a difficult thing to describe to a guy today. You could be a father and have a wife with six kids.....and by age forty see your wife dead and only one child living because of fever's or ailments. You didn't have this human issue of heavy emotion and a professional mental health guy to visit to get over your emotional pains. Acceptance was necessary to preserve your sanity.

A letter describing the death of an old friend from six weeks ago....would arrive and you'd sit by the fireplace...sipping a whiskey and remembering his words of wisdom. You had no chance to attend the funeral from two hundred miles away, and you simply accepted your friend's demise as part of life.

On a hot summer afternoon, your greatest thrill was a cool dip of water from your well. You accepted that, and that was better than ice cream or an air conditioner.

Someone could show up at your door on an October afternoon and engage you in three hours of conversation over the best manner of brewing beer or distilling whiskey, and then you'd offer up supper and maybe even a bed for the night. Acceptance went the extra mile as you just wanted a bit of company and accepted anyone at the door.

We are a society that has lost something over two hundred years. We've lost acceptance. We've added various thrills and adventures to our life....and never think a moment over the acceptance of what has occurred.

A trip to Monticello is something that every kid ought to accomplish. It drives you think over alot of things that involved Jefferson, his fascination with a house that could never be truly finished and with a factor in life that we've lost....acceptance.

"They talk about me like a dog"

I ended up hearing the President's Milwaukee speech today. We basically learned two things.

There's a new stimulus program. I realize they don't want to call it that....and that's fine. But it's kinda amusing if you paid attention. Over a six-year period, $50 billion will be poured into this project. Now, I quickly used math and came to realize that amounts to barely $8 billion a year. That's not really alot of money, if you think about it. Then you have to realize....this might not even pass until January, and if it does...the money won't be out and about until April or May. So jobs gained from this won't be seen until June of 2011.

That doesn't help anyone today, if you think about it, but it does help the President win re-election in 2012. If you little Democrat players in Bama are upset, you might want to think about this deal.

Then I came to think over what this is supposed to pay for. The deal is to rebuild 150,000 miles of roads, 4,000 miles of rail, and 150 miles of airport runways. $8 billion a year....spread over these projects?

I paused and considered what it cost to pave a runway. For your regular runway repaving deal...you'd probably need to put down $300 million for everything. For a mile of rail? You can figure around $200k to pick up the old track, recondition the rock, and lay the new track....per mile. I won't even get into the cost of roads.

This plan is basically a half-loaded deal. You could do all the roads....but not the other two. You could probably do all the runways and half the railway miles....but nothing with the highways.

Then I came to this fascinating detail. It helps construction workers but not much of anyone else. Unemployed insurance guys are screwed. Unemployed women are screwed. Unemployed truckers are screwed. The list can go on and on.

The final part of this presentation is where I started laughing. At some point....the President uttered the phrase: "They talk about me like a dog".

About half of the speech was like some southern Democrat talking at a pep rally before an election....so this "dog" utterance probably did fit into that category, but then you consider that we are two years away from his next election.

I tried to imagine Andrew Jackson uttering this. I tried to imagine FDR, Jimmy Carter, or even Bush trying to utter this. I even tried to imagine Warren Harding or US Grant uttering this phrase. But I just don't have that kind of imagination.

I tried to imagine Castro, or Merkel, or even Yeltsin uttering this (mostly when he was drunk), but I just couldn't dream up the moment. Then it hit me.....the only guy who would say something like that....is Hugo Chavez....of Venezuela. I thought about this for a minute....opened a beer, and then decided it was best not to think in that fashion.

So, there was that old song "....walk like an Egyptian", and I'm thinking this will end up as some pop song (probably with Lady Gaga)..... "They talk about me like a dog".

It's pretty sad that we've come to this. I really don't want to say we'd like Bush back. And I really can't say I'd wish on that McCain guy. It is a strange world that we live in.

A Day Out

I had the day off.....and decided to rent a car and see a couple of things in Virginia (outside of the beltway). There are four observations I came to make by the end of the day.

First, just as I got to the outer boundary of the beltway on the interstate....at barely 7AM....here were the police cars and motorcycles. Over a twenty-mile area, I must have observed at least twenty-five of these guys out and on patrol. At least a dozen folks were pulled over and getting tickets already at 7AM on a holiday. I hadn't seen a concentration like this ever in my life.

Second, once you get twenty miles away from Arlington...out into the real country region of Virginia....you notice this change in the ratio of cars to trucks. Out in real Virginia....it's one car for each truck. Even in Bama, you don't come close to that ratio.

Third, I must have seen a dozen RV's pulling massive trailers that were way heavier than what the law allows. In the old days, most folks had their RV toting a two-wheel trailer with scooters or a golf cart. All RVs are capable of handling that. Today, I observed folks pulling four-wheel trailers with three to four thousand pounds onboard. Way more than a Winnebago can handle. In one case, here was a Winnebago pulling a horse trailer and the Bago rear bumper was barely six inches from the road. It was begging for an accident.

Finally, if you ever get a chance to run up and down the Shenandoah Valley....do it. I did a 70-mile stretch of it and have to admit there is nothing on the face of the Earth more beautiful than than this Virgina hill country. There's practically no traffic and every single town has a Dairy Queen where you can rest your soul on a hot afternoon and have some great ice cream. Folks are awful dang proud of their area, and probably the friendliest folks you might ever meet (outside of Bama).