fighting the lack of good ideas

fact of the week

From the `fortune`-powered, motd on my server this morning:

Here is the fact of the week, maybe even the fact of the month. According to probably reliable sources, the Coca-Cola people are experiencing severe marketing anxiety in China.

The words “Coca-Cola” translate into Chinese as either (depending on the inflection) “wax-fattened mare” or “bite the wax tadpole”.

Bite the wax tadpole.

There is a sort of rough justice, is there not?

The trouble with this fact, as lovely as it is, is that it’s hard to get a whole column out of it. I’d like to teach the world to bite a wax tadpole. Coke – it’s the real wax-fattened mare. Not bad, but broad satiric vistas do not open up.

— John Carrol, The San Francisco Chronicle

note to anyone who sent models to the freight yard in phoenix

Reprinted from the NYO&WRHS Yahoo Group (owrhs at yahoogroups dot com).

To anyone who sent any model locomotives and/or rolling stock to The Freight Yard in Phoenix, AZ for custom painting, please be advised The Freight Yard closed its doors in May and the proprietor made a midnight raid on his shop and removed all inventory to his home in Anthem, AZ including all stock delivered to him by us for painting. His shop phone is disconnected, his website is down, he doesn’t answer emails, and his business is no longer listed in Model Railroading magazine. He made no notifications to any of us consignors, gave no address nor phone number such we could contact him to recover our models. I had delivered an MKT brass EMD NW2 Phase IV for custom painting in NYO&W livery in February.

After repeated failures in June to learn status on my consignment (I phoned the shop monthly in Mar and April to check on status, was out of state in May), I drove the 90 miles to personally check on his shop, found it empty and stripped of all inventory, shelves, counters. The property administrator had posted an inventory seizure notice and lock on the store’s door due to unpaid rent but the proprietor had first cleaned out the store before the notice was posted (dated 18 May 2010). The notice had the administrator’s name and phone number and through the property management company (Paula at Lynn Morrison Co, Tucson, AZ) and Google searches, I was able to track down the proprietor’s home address and phone number:

Martin Cohen
3868 W. Links Dr.
Anthem, AZ 85086
PH 623-551-8842

Martin does not return phone calls as he promises. He’s a smooth talker, very pleasant on the phone, makes a lot of promises but follows through with none of them. After I requested he return it to me, he twice said he mailed my locomotive (unpainted – he said he couldn’t paint [in his garage] at least until October when the weather cools off). My own feeling is he hopes the consignors will give up (if no contact from consignee after a period of time, he can claim the engines as “abandoned property” and that he could sell the engines on eBay or whatever). After securing his home phone number, I pestered him with phone calls from June through the end of July when, after one last call this past Sunday evening, he told me that the Postal Service had “returned as undeliverable” my locomotive the previous Friday. He did not phone me to advise me that he had the engine. I told him I’d be down the next morning to pick it up. He tried to put me off by claiming medical appointments but I preempted him by showing up at his door at 7AM Monday. He handed me my loco, I checked it out (all OK), and was on my way. One other consignor of six locomotives in the Phoenix area to whom I provided Cohen’s home contact information was able to do the same thing. Anyone who shipped a locomotive to The Freight Yard likely does not have the advantage of proximity. I had also reported the engine as stolen to the Phoenix Police Department (602-262-6151) the previous week (I notified Phoenix police of its recovery. I declined to press charges.). Also, if the Police had contacted him, this might have hastened the sudden reappearance of my locomotive.

I also suggest keeping detailed records of any communication/contacts with Martin Cohen. If by mail, send a letter with Signature Confirmation or Certified Mail. If he says he will return the locomotive by mail, insist he send it by Priority Mail with the above SC, CM, or, at least, with Delivery Confirmation; each will have a tracking number. Demand he tell you the tracking number. This will prove he actually sent it. Insurance is up to you. Good luck in getting any deposit back; I just wrote off my $116 deposit. All I wanted was the return of my locomotive.

If anyone needs further information, please feel free to contact me onlist or off or phone me (# below).

Anyone know of a reliable high quality custom model RR paint shop?

Good luck!
Fred Stevens, Arizona Division of the New York, Ontario and Western
Prescott, AZ

Fred’s comments about this post (and my request to reprint it here) to the mailing list:

I posted the same message to all six of the model RR Groups to which I belong including the large HOrailroading Group (about 2900 members).

My intent was informative rather than to drive the guy out of business (not that he has much, if any business left and he drove himself out of business) nor defamation of character (he defamed himself). While I declined the Phoenix detective’s question of whether or not to press charges (grand larceny aka grand theft locomotive), the perp was standing on the gallows platform with the noose already tightened and the platform would be released if he didn’t return my NW2. I have little use for con artists…

Fred Stevens

Another member (Ed H) of the group said the following, too:

I was involved, as a victim, in an Issue like this a number of years ago.
I Contacted the District Attorney in regards to the Restitution of Monies. They Contacted all the Victims, got the Notarized Statements & Receipts, and saw to it that the Full Amount paid, was returned.
Sounds like a Good Idea to do with this Unscrupulous Felon.

john stossel’s show last night

want to reduce gas consumption?

Buy better tires.

I referenced Seth Godin earlier today in regards to investment in developing countries.

Why is it, then, that a marketing blogger would talk about wanting to reduce fuel consumption? I think it’s because it’s easier to relate to than streamlining other processes you may have in your business or development cycles. It’s something we can relate to directly.

If we assume that all the cars drive the same number of miles, which would be a better investment:

  • Get new tires for all the Suburbans and increase their mileage a bit to 13 miles per gallon.
  • Replace all the Priuses and rewire them to get 100 miles per gallon (doubling their average!)

That’s right – spend a little bit of money on the Suburbans, and cut fuel usage more than you could by doubling the efficiency of the already-efficient Prius.

Why? It’s because we think in MPG rather than GPM. What does thinking in miles-per-gallon do to our brains that gallons-per-mile would make clearer? Well, here’s the math:

  • Let m be number of miles driven by a car…
  • Let s be the gas consumption (in gallons) for Suburbans (= m/10)
  • Let p be the gas consumption (in gallons) for Priuses (= m/50)
  • Let T be the total consumption (in gallons) (= s + p = m/10 + m/50 = 6m/50 = 0.12/m)

So in Scenario #1, we have T = m/13 + m/50 = 50m+13m/650 = 63m/650 = 0.097m

And in Scenario #2, we have T = m/10 + m/100 = 11m/100 = 0.11m

Scenario #1 reduced consumption by 0.12-0.097 = 0.023; Scenario #2 only by 0.01; Scenario #1 is 2.3x more efficient!

This is due to a power-curve relationship early on in the MPG table, where a minute improvement (1 MPG on 10) is a huge percentage improvement (10%) at the front end whereas later-on it’s minuscule.

I thought it was neat 🙂

Original article –

The math as to why it works – or

the best middle name. ever.

While I typically don’t repost, Seth Godin’s post was awesome.

The best middle name ever

It’s not Warren or Susan or Otis or Samuel or Tricia.

It’s “The.”

As in Attila The Hun or Alexander The Great or Zorba The Greek.

When your middle name is ‘The’, it means you’re it. The only one. The one that defines the category. I think that focus is a choice, and that the result of appropriate focus is you earn the middle name.

Jordan’s Furniture in Waltham was the place to go for that sort of thing. Bocce Pizza and the Anchor Bar were the places in Buffalo when I was growing up. Google is more appropriately called Google the search engine.

Seek the.

Of course, Winnie the Pooh is the exception that proves the rule.”

kelly johnson’s 14 rules of management

Johnson’s famed ‘down-to-brass-tacks’ management style was summed up by his motto, “Be quick, be quiet, and be on time.” He ran Lockheed’s Skunk Works by these 14 rules.

Kelly’s 14 Rules:

  1. The Skunk Works manager must be delegated practically complete control of his program in all aspects. He should report to a division president or higher.
  2. Strong but small project offices must be provided both by the military and industry.
  3. The number of people having any connection with the project must be restricted in an almost vicious manner. Use a small number of good people (10% to 25% compared to the so-called normal systems).
  4. A very simple drawing and drawing release system with great flexibility for making changes must be provided.
  5. There must be a minimum number of reports required, but important work must be recorded thoroughly.
  6. There must be a monthly cost review covering not only what has been spent and committed but also projected costs to the conclusion of the program. Don’t have the books 90 days late, and don’t surprise the customer with sudden overruns.
  7. The contractor must be delegated and must assume more than normal responsibility to get good vendor bids for subcontract on the project. Commercial bid procedures are very often better than military ones.
  8. The inspection system as currently used by the Skunk Works, which has been approved by both the Air Force and Navy, meets the intent of existing military requirements and should be used on new projects. Push more basic inspection responsibility back to subcontractors and vendors. Don’t duplicate so much inspection.
  9. The contractor must be delegated the authority to test his final product in flight. He can and must test it in the initial stages. If he doesn’t, he rapidly loses his competency to design other vehicles.
  10. The specifications applying to the hardware must be agreed to well in advance of contracting. The Skunk Works practice of having a specification section stating clearly which important military specification items will not knowingly be complied with and reasons therefore is highly recommended.
  11. Funding a program must be timely so that the contractor doesn’t have to keep running to the bank to support government projects.
  12. There must be mutual trust between the military project organization and the contractor with very close cooperation and liaison on a day-to-day basis. This cuts down misunderstanding and correspondence to an absolute minimum.
  13. Access by outsiders to the project and its personnel must be strictly controlled by appropriate security measures.
  14. Because only a few people will be used in engineering and most other areas, ways must be provided to reward good performance by pay not based on the number of personnel supervised.

Note that Kelly had a 15th rule that he passed on by word of mouth. According to Ben Rich’s book Skunkworks, the 15th rule is: “Starve before doing business with the damned Navy. They don’t know what the hell they want and will drive you up a wall before they break either your heart or a more exposed part of your anatomy.”


an oldy, but a goody…

(For proper rhythm, the symbol “@” is pronounced “at” and “$” is pronounced “dollar”.)

‘Twas BRKPT and the I/O queue
Was SYMMING FASTRAND like the wind.
All idle was the CAU
As the last run had just FINNED.

“Beware the UNIVAC, my son,
Its FASTRAND and its high-speed drum,
And FIELDATA, and listen for
The CTMC’s hum.”

He quickly dialed a low-speed line
And then keyed in his SITE-ID.
He typed @RUN and then sat back
To wield his CRT.

NO ACTIVE RUN, it answered back,
And then just SYMB 03.

“I’ll fix you now,” he shouted out,
“You’ve finally got me ired.
I’ll use a systems terminal:
1200 baud, hard-wired!”

“I’ll write a loop in SSG
To make your ferrite holler
1000 runs, and in each one
Ten ER’s to FORK$.”

“Each fork,” he smiles, “@ADDs 10 files,
Each file starts 10 runs more.
Each run contains 10 COBOL jobs
To grind along in core.

“Each job will write 10 9-track tapes,
And then rewind and read them.
Each tape, of course, is punched to cards,
For backup, if I need them.”

As fast as light his fingers write:
@SETC, then @TEST, @JUMP,
@XQT, and then for spite,
A full post-mortem dump.

He wiped his hands upon his shirt
And then he FINNED his run,
And scurried to the console
To sit and watch the fun.

MEMORY FAULT, the system cried,
And ERROR 53.

“Oh frabjous day, callou callay;
I’ve made the system stall.”
He tore it from the PAGEWRITER
And hung it on the wall.

‘Twas BRKPT and the I/O queue
Was SYMMING FASTRAND like the wind.
All idle was the CAU
As the last run had just FINNED.