Posts tagged ‘reunion’

Back from the Big Floating Leisure Suit

I am back from the family reunion (my wife's family) which was held on a cruise last week.  The cruise was a really good venue for a family reunion -- small enough that you run into people, but large enough to escape them too.  Every night we had 4 large tables to ourselves in the restaurant.

The cruise itself was a little disappointing, but it was chosen more for being low cost and accesible to the entire group, so I can live with that.   There were way too many people in my space for my personal taste.  Someday I want to take a much smaller boat, maybe in the Greek Isles.

A couple of things amazed me.  One, the port of call in Mexico was really a dump.  And this is from someone who has spent time in Mexico, good places and bad, and has some fondness for the country.  I figured out the reason when I was laying on the deck and saw the Panamanian flag flying form the back of the boat.  By US law, for a non-US flagged ship to leave and return to a port (in this case Long Beach), it must stop in between in another country.  I am sure the cruise line would love to run four day cruises say between San Diego and Santa Barbara or San Francisco, but that would be illegal unless they took on the prohibitive cost of operating a US-flagged ship.  So we stopped in a little industrial town just over the border to make it all legal.

The other thing that amazed me was the decor of the ship.  I would have bet money that the ship was designed in the 1970's.  Our room, which had a balcony, was nice, but the common areas were right out of bad 1970's casino ambiance.  Amazingly, though, the nameplate said it was built in 1998.  Not sure what these guys were thinking.  I called it the great floating leisure suit.

Internet service was $24 per hour, so I did not do any blogging, but the good news is I got a ton of writing done on my new novel.

Gone This Week

At a family reunion (my wife's side) all this week.  Joy.  May or may not get to blog.

Where Is Coyote?

I am on vacation with my family.  We went to my 25th reunion at Princeton last week, and are now spending some tourist time in Washington DC.  Be back soon.

Introvert's Nightmare

I am at my wife's college reunion, basically 2 days of continuous cocktail party conversation with people I do not know and who are here mainly to see long-lost friends rather than meet anyone new.  Not my best milieu. 

More on the Teens as the New Seventies

For a while, I have been worried that the next decade may well be a return to 1970's economics, with bipartisan commitment to large government, ever-expanding government micro-management of... everything, growth-destroying taxes, and consumer-unfriendly protection of dead US industries.

Now, Megan McArdle points to an article that hints that the stagflation of the 1970's may be back as well.

Inflation and sluggish growth haven't joined in that ugly brew called
stagflation since the 1970s. They may not be ready for a reunion, but
they are making simultaneous threats to the economy and battling one
might only encourage the other.

Among a batch of economic readings today, the Labor Department
reported that import prices jumped 1.7% last month. The data included
troubling signs that consumer products, many imported from China, have
caught the inflation bug. The signs pointing to slowing growth included
a sharp deterioration in consumers' mood, as measured by the
Reuters/University of Michigan Surveys of Consumers, and a worsening
outlook for manufacturers, revealed in the Federal Reserve Bank of New
York's Empire State Manufacturing survey for February. The government
also reported that U.S. industrial production only increased slightly
during January, as colder weather elevated utilities output and offset
sharp declines in the auto and housing sectors. If indeed inflation is
teaming up with slower growth, it means big headaches for policy
makers, in particular Ben Bernanke. The Federal Reserve chief in
congressional testimony yesterday suggested that he is willing to keep
lowering interest-rates if the economy stalls. But, naturally, he will
have less room to do so if those lower rates would accelerate inflation
to unacceptable levels.

Off To Princeton, With Some Good News

Posting will be light to non-existent the next few days as I head back to Princeton for reunions (my 21st reunion, not an even year, but we Princeton grads can be goofy that way).

I will leave you with this good news about my alma mater, via FIRE:

PRINCETON, N.J. -- After being initially rebuffed by a Princeton University
official, a group of evangelical Christian students who wanted access to
facilities and the chance to apply for funds has won a victory.

After
the university's dean of religious life refused recognition for Princeton Faith
and Action, the group appealed to a campus rights group that successfully
lobbied the university to change its procedures.

"We found Princeton's quick and fair response very encouraging. We've found
other colleges who haven't been particularly fair to religious groups, sometimes
in an unconstitutional way," said Greg Lukianoff, an official with the
Philadelphia-based Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.

Princeton Faith and Action has now been recognized as a student group,
religious groups are being treated that same as secular groups, and the
university will conduct a review of procedures related to student organizations,
said Princeton Provost Christopher L. Eisgruber.

"We need to be
welcoming groups, even if their opinions are unorthodox, and that is the goal of
our review," Eisgruber said.

After sending this to several people, I got the odd response "gee Warren, I didn't think you were an evangelical".  I am not, nor am I a conservative, and the PFA would not be my cup of tea.  However, I think this response is endemic of a major problem we have in this country, that of "free speech for me but not for thee." 

Its great to see Princeton working to stay open to all points of view, which I think will make it a better university and give it an advantage over time vs. the Harvard's and Dartmouth's of the world that still resist freedom of inquiry outside the bounds of political correctness.  Someday soon I will have to write a post on how "freedom of association" absolutely requires the converse:  freedom not to associate with certain people.  Anyway, in the mean time, I will leave you with some reunions photos. 

Prade   R66

R34   R37

Does the Web Demand New PR Technologies?

Two different inputs recently have gotten me thinking about public relations and the web, and just how far behind the technology curve many PR departments may be.

The first input was a comment I got on one of my posts that I wrote while on vacation last month.  In this post I mentioned that I would be heading for Disney World for our traditional family reunion, but that growing crowds on Thanksgiving week would probably force us to try a different week next time.  I got a comment from someone who sounded like a Disney employee, recommending a better week.  Now, it turns out that it was not a Disney employee, just a helpful reader (one of my loyal 34 or so).  But it got me to thinking.  Are corporate PR departments keeping up with the web?  If Disney was not doing stuff like this, why aren't they?

The second input was this post in Reason's Hit and Run blog.  They point out TIVO efforts to manage the use of the TIVO copyright to ensure that they do not lose the rights to the name.  (Though the article mentions Xerox and Kleenex, my understanding is that Formica actually came the closest to losing its copyright on that name due to overuse as a generic term for, uh, whatever Formica is).  How can companies possibly keep up with their trademark usage on the web?

Back when I worked for a large corporation, we had PR people, either in or out of house, who would provide us with weekly news summaries of where the corporation was in the press.  This was particularly helpful to those of us in marketing, who wanted to make sure we saw all the reviews of our product (so we could use the good ones and refute the bad ones).

In the world of the Internet, this approach seems hopelessly dated.  In the "old days" I used to walk to school 20 miles each day in the snow, up hill both ways  (sorry, always feel like I am channeling my dad when I say "in the old days") the media might have 10  or 15 mentions of our product every two weeks.  Now, on the web, there might be 10 or 15 an hour. Every day employees may be talking about the company in a chat room, customers may be commenting on the company in some place like epinions.com or in Amazon reviews, blogs may be posting on the company, and authorized or unauthorized vendors may have set up shop to sell the company's products online.

How does  a company keep up with all this?  If I was a large company, I would be actively searching the web for key words associated with my company and competitors, looking for new posts or entries or reviews or even whole websites.   Employees spilling secrets in a chat room?  Need to tell legal.  New web site selling our product? Send it to marketing to make sure they are authorized and are using our trademarks and product descriptions correctly.  Blogs posting on us?  We might want to add our own comment to the post.

What we need is the modern technology version of the clipping service.  The technology would probably be pretty straight forward - a company wouldn't even have to build it's own search engine - it could just take a full snapshot of the Google results one day and compare those results to a search the next week, and look for changes.

Or, better yet, why doesn't Google provide this service to corporate accounts itself?  After all, they do need something to justify their sky-high PE ratio, maybe this would help.  Wouldn't Exxon pay $50,000 a year for this service?  Heck I pay D&B several hundred dollars a year for a credit watch service on my company's credit rating, I would certainly pay some hundreds a year for a PR watch of my small business and my competitors.

UPDATE:

One company that seems to be doing something ike this is BuzzMetrics.  Link courtesy of RatherBiased.com

Harvard MBA Indicator for Wall Street

Roy Soifer recently suggested, as reported in Photon Courier, that the percentage of Harvard Business School graduates going to Wall Street jobs can be used as a reverse indicator of the market (i.e. lots of graduates going to Wall Street means the market is peaking and due for a fall).

As a graduate of that HBS in 1989, I have a few thoughts.  First, the vast majority of HBS graduates go into Wall Street, consulting, or the corporate world.  The relative popularity of these three destinations tends to vary over time.  To some extent this variation is due to what's "hot", and to some extent its due to simply to what jobs are available and what recruiters are showing up on campus. 

Second, though pride urges me to agree with this statement from Photon Courier, I really can't:

But one would hope that MBAs from a leading school--who have certainly studied business cycles--would reflect more on the principle of "buy low, sell high" before deciding among their various offers.

When I graduated from HBS, I don't remember having a clue what I wanted to do.  Its all fine and good to talk about trying to get in early on a growth sector, but that implies I am taking a job to maximize NPV of future incomes.  If that were the case, I would have gone to Wall Street, or remained a consultant.  But I also would have probably hated it.

A more interesting HBS graduate job indicator for me has been "how has the jobs people have evolved since they graduated".  When I graduated, everyone seemed to be investment bankers and consultants.  At our fifth year reunion, everyone was posturing as to how successful they had been, how far they had risen, etc.  Most people were still in the same type jobs, with only a few outliers who had switched careers already.  Our tenth reunion was totally different.  At our tenth, no one talked about their job - everyone talked about their kids.  The contrast was dramatic.  Many people were in different careers, including a number who were testing the dot-com waters. 

At the fifteenth reunion, everyone seemed much more relaxed.  Job performance stress at from the fifth and family starting stress at the tenth were mostly gone.  Many, many people (including me) had their own businesses, and few of these were ones anyone would have predicted;  I don't think anyone was a consultant anymore.  Here are a few examples just from our 90-person section of businesses graduates are running now:

My observation - very few were the types of businesses that come recruiting at HBS.

My parting observation about career choices through life comes from Dan Simmons' great Hyperion series, where the prophet Aenea gives here famously concise advice to humanity:

Choose Again.

Certainly true with careers.

PR and the Web

A comment I got on one of my posts on Friday got me to thinking about corporate PR departments and whether they are really keeping up with the web.  In this post I mentioned that I would be heading for Disney World for our traditional family reunion, but that growing crowds on Thanksgiving week would probably force us to try a different week next time.  I got a comment from someone who sounded like a Disney employee, recommending a better week.

Now, I don't know if they were an employee, or whether they found the post by accident or through an active search program.  But it got me to thinking.  Are corporate PR departments keeping up with the web?

Back when I worked for a large corporation, we had PR people, either in or out of house, who would provide us with weekly news summaries of where the corporation was in the press.  This was particularly helpful to those of us in marketing, who wanted to make sure we saw all the reviews of our product (so we could use the good ones and refute the bad ones).

In the world of the Internet, this approach seems hopelessly dated.  Every day employees may be talking about the company in a chat room, customers may be commenting on the company in some place like epinions.com, blogs may be posting on the company, and authorized or unauthorized vendors may have set up shop to sell the company's products online.

How does  a company keep up with all this?  If I was a large company, I would be actively searching the web for key words associated with my company, looking for new posts or entries or even whole websites.   Employees spilling secrets in a chat room?  Need to tell legal.  New web site selling our product? Send it to marketing to make sure they are authorized.  Blogs posting on us?  We might want to add our own comment to the post.

So I got to thinking - was that Disney that found my site?  If so, is this what they are doing to manage their online PR?  And if not, why aren't they doing it?  You wouldn't even have to build your own search engine - just take a full snapshot of the Google results one day and compare those results to a search the next week, and look for changes.

Or, why doesn't Google provide this service to corporate accounts itself?  They need something to justify their sky-high PE ratio, maybe this would help.  Wouldn't Exxon pay $50,000 a year for this service?  Heck I pay D&B several hundred dollars a year for a credit watch service on my credit rating, I would certainly pay some hundreds a year for a PR watch.

UPDATE #1

See comments below - the original commenter apparently not a Disney employee.  Never-the-less, the idea still excites me.  A company like Disney rests almost completely on its reputation - why isn't someone out on the web every day monitoring what is happening vis a vis their company?

Headed for Florida

Headed for our once every two years (is biennial twice a year or once every two years?) family reunion at Disney World.  Years and years ago, when we first started this tradition, Disney World was deserted on Thanksgiving week - no one wanted to be away from their families.  Now, its a total zoo and about the busiest week of the year.  Though I am a sucker for tradition, I am going to petition the family for a date change before the next one.

Every time I go to Disney World, I think of this exchange from National Lampoon's Thats Not Funny, Thats Sick:

(fake) Mr. Rodgers: "would you like to go to the magic kingdon?"

Stoned-out Bassist (Bill Murray): "no thanks man ... I gotta drive." 

Employment Surveys

I am not an economist, and would rather not stray too far off track, but the recent payroll numbers are raising interesting questions about the nature of business and employment in this country. Recent jobs growth numbers and unemployment numbers have been fine, with about the same unemployment numbers as we saw in November of 1996 when both parties agreed that the economy was pretty good.

However, as the total jobs growth numbers have lagged GDP growth, a number of people have scratched their heads to wonder why. One interesting fact is that when you survey households rather than employers, the jobs growth numbers look substantially better. Many are pointing to this household survey to say that the economy is changing - that more people are starting their own business or consulting and so are missed in the payroll numbers. This is a good theory, but its force is mitigated by the fact that the sample size, survey process, and error rates for the household survey are all much worse than the payroll survey.

Heritage Foundation argues that the household data is right and is better reflecting reality. Economic Policy Institute argues the opposite.

As a relatively new convert from the corporate world to small business, I can tell you that anecdotally, a good number of the people who left (voluntarily or not) the corporate world early in this decade have not gone back, and are, like me, now self-employed. I just had my 15th business school reunion and the proportion of small people self-employed or running small businesses is up a startling amount since the 10th reunion.