Location: Columbus, Ohio, United States

Monday, October 27, 2008


I'm in Canada at a thing.
There is salesman for my client who is a devout Christian. I was talking about Anna. He politely asked me if I went to church, I said yes, and he gave me the following advice:
Teach your daughter what's worth dying for and you won't have to worry about what she's living for.
It's good advice, but I also like the fact that he gave it to me.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Why I Write About Politics

I've had some friends push me on writing about politics.
The question is basically this--you are most interested in faith, your family, and your company isn't it a ______________ to write about politics.
The blank is alternatively filled with:
1. Waste of time.
2. Threat to ministry.
3. Potential conflict of interest on certain projects.
Each of these arguments has merit.
To point 1, yeah but writing is fun.
To point 2, yeah but it shouldn't be, God is not a democrat or a republican and helping my Christian friends think more thoroughly about faith in the public square is a net positive.
To point 3, absolutely which is why I hardly ever write about environmental or energy policy.
These speak to the concerns, but there's one big reason I write about politics; I have a politically diverse group of friends, lots of them love god and people, lots of them are smart and hard working, and that's the club I want thinking about policy.
That's all.
Incidentally, if you can find one pick up a transcript of McCain's recent stump speech. There's some red meat that I think is crap, but there is also one of the most beautiful calls to action I've ever heard. Beautiful, well crafted writing.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Joe The Plumber

So as lots of pundits are saying, Joe the Plumber was the star last night. I've been pretty busy today so my guess is that by the time I'm done writing this 1000 other people will say the same thing.
This guy would get a tax cut under obama's plan.
A buddy of mine sent the Joe Video over to me.
Here's what I struggle with:
He says he wants to buy a business for $250K. Cool. Unless plumbing has 100% margin he's making less than that.
Obama's plan gives a tax cut to income under $250,000 each year, and increases the marginal rate for taxation for taxes above $250,000.
There are some variations in how businesses are set up, but typically any entity (LLC, S-Corp, C-Corp) flows money to the personal income tax through salary/owner withdrawals (i.e. take home money). Profit is also flowed back to the personal income tax. These entitities are the types of small businesses that create jobs.
So back to Joe:
If his new plumbing business would make $250K each year total, his take home might be good, and he'll have the pride of ownership, and blah blah blah. He would NOT be making over $250K each year.
Now, if on the other hand he's talking about profit than yes, if he owns a $2 or $3 million dollar plumbing business and walks away with $250,000 profit he'll be taxed more. That said, come on--you're making $250K in flowed through profit (presumably after paying yourself some salary) you're kind of rich.
Maybe there's room for a purely philosophical debate over taxes (I say purely philosophical because the preponderance of evidence points to a vibrant middle class as the driver of our economy) but some notion that Obama's tax plan would stop this guy from buying a business is nonsense.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Super Spiritual Faith-O-Matic

This is a video we did for church discussing a life of action rather than faking it.
Forgive the production value. We're still at the camcorders and living rooms phase.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Quo Vadimus

Before The West Wing and after A Few Good Men Aaron Sorkin wrote Sports Night. This was a show about a show about sports.
There's a scene from when the (real) show was pushing toward cancellation where this VC guy is talking to the Executive Producer.
He says
"Dana, I'm what the world considers to be a phenomenally successful man. And I've failed much more than I've succeeded. And each time I fail, I get my people together, and I say, "Where are we going?" And it starts to get better."
I love that.
In the last few days I managed to piss of my wife, mess up my engine, screw up a meeting with a friend, and marginally a flub a project of national scope that I can't talk more about (but will someday--it's fascinating).
We get pretty excited about success. Head to Amazon and count books within "Winning" in the title.
I'm not so sure success begets success. I think that on a spiritual level the call of Christ was "come and die with me" but even on a management level I'm pretty sure we do best when we evaluate based on process best practice, and line incentives up to encourage risk taking. For risk taking to be anything more than a bull-crap poster on the wall it means we have to be cool with the occasional failure.
And I hate that.
That's why the little Sports Night quote speaks to me.
Good Night Moon is calling.

Monday, October 06, 2008


There's a kid who used to be on my lacrosse team.
The other night he was out with some friends, walking home from a thing.
A guy came out and demanded their money.
Evan stepped in front of the girls he was with, tried talking down the shooter, helped them get away safely.
He got shot in the shoulder and the hand. I think he'll be OK; I worry for his parents, he'll probably get PTSD, his prognosis is good.
This sounds bizarre, but I think there's one thing that's great about this for Evan:
Lots of times in his life he'll have to decide how much he is. Sometimes knowing the full measure of his humanity will count big; he will be in situations where he needs to be taller than fear.
So he'll have a wicked scar, and PTSD, and he'll probably never be quite the same when people clap, but he'll also know that one time he stood in front of a gun.
Heroes are made in such ways.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Obama and Ayers

I've had a few friends ask me something like "You can't really be pro-Obama, right?" in the past few weeks so sometime soon I'll probably write an argument for why I support Obama and why I believe that's a sound vote for Evangelicals.
That won't be this post--for now I'll just say if you don't want to vote for Obama because you disagree with him on policy, cool. Just know that the guy doesn't "Pal around with terrorists."
Three points:
1. Obama is not friends with William Ayers and never has been. They last had contact 4 years ago and were never close.
2. Ayers has not been in the Weather Underground for a long time. That sounds funny (it's been a long time since I quit terrorism) but I know a fair number of 65 year old guys who did stupid, even detestable things 40 years ago.
3. Ayers has turned into a leading thinker on teaching social justice. I'm not a fan of his work, but his thinking has influenced teaching methodology for decades and is used in teaching everyone from poor kids to corporate training and culture programs.

1. Obama on Ayers (responding to a question from George Stephanapalous on his relationship with Ayers:

This is a guy who lives in my neighborhood, who's a professor of English in Chicago who I know and who I have not received some official endorsement from. He's not somebody who I exchange ideas from on a regular basis. And the notion that somehow as a consequence of me knowing somebody who engaged in detestable acts 40 years ago, when I was eight years old, somehow reflects on me and my values doesn't make much sense, George.
Here's how they know each other:
They lived in the same neighbor.
They taught at the same school (I think--although now Google tells me Ayers is at University of Illinois at Chicago and Obama taught at UC--maybe he was an adjunct?)
Both were part of two charities, the Woods Foundation and the Annenberg Trust.
Ayers held a house meet and greet for Obama to introduce him to other liberal friends when Obama was planning to run for State Senate.

2. Ayers is still a left wing nut ball, but now he's the normal kind. He's also a leading thinker on progressive education and most education students read his work on teaching poor kids. He is a leading member of "society" in Hyde Park where they both live, a prolific writer on co-constructed pedagogy (student and teacher co-create learning), and on all kinds of boards for causes like better public schools, poverty cessation, and social justice.

3. The third point isn't so much about why the Palin comments are silly, but more about how you can be wacko, and wrong, and still have something to offer to a discussion. I tend to think lots of silly crap gets bundled up into books like Ayers "Teaching for Social Justice," or "Pedagogy of the Oppressed" which tends to be taught with it, but they are worth a look. I think lots of his stuff is stupid in practice (i.e. unlike Ayers, I firmly believe that kids need boundaries, kids need to receive evaluation, kids need both cooperation and competition to name a few things I think he gets wrong.
I also think that some of his writing on the transforming role of the teacher in pedagogy in general, and on teaching people in poverty in particular, is innovative and frankly works. Notions like the "ownership culture" at Fortune 500 companies have roots in Ayers work on co-constructed pedagogy. I also find this quote inspirational:

Committed and aware teachers," Ayers observes, "are engaged in the struggle to understand the moral contract of teaching and must endeavor to accomplish two crucial tasks: to convince students that there is no such thing as 'receiving' an education as a passive receptor or vessel, and that all education is self-education. The other task is to demonstrate to students that they are valued, that their humanity is honored, and that their growth, enlightenment, and liberation are the teacher's core concerns."

I actually found this quote inspirational when I was developing Agincourt, a Christian (and microlevel entrepeneurship) based program to help students understand social science while impacting people in the developing world. I think Ayers is wrong about lots of stuff, but he has thought deeply and thoroughly about how to use education for healing poverty stricken areas. We should listen to him, even if we have to hold our nose about his past.

Debate is good, discourse is good, intellectual rigor is good. If you're dumb surround yourself with smart people. If you're smart, surround yourself with smart people who disagree with you and present a true diversity of ideas.

One more thing (more to the original point of this post)
I've got some conservative friends who are claiming that "the media" never talks about Obama "falsely claiming he was a member of the Senate banking commitee." They do this to refute Democratic claims of Palin's inexperience. "Oh yeah, while your guy lied and said he was on a commitee he wasn't."

The reason it's not being covered is because it's not clear that he lied He said, of a bill he helped, "The Senate banking commitee, which is my commitee, just passed bill XYZ." He later clarified through a spokesman that he misspoke--he meant to say "my bill." I've transposed words before too. Had he left the transposed words to stand it would be lying, but following up with a clarifying press release means he misspoke. Maybe he intentionally lied, but transposing words seems as likely.

Facts are the basis of decision making.

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Saturday, October 04, 2008

Past Tense Part 2

I posted earlier this week in "Past Tense" about checking out a facility that is going under. At the time my focus was almost entirely about this guy and his company.
I also did my best to isolate the sadness and try to do a little "forensics" on what caused this company to fail. Three things I noticed:
1. He had lots of stuff. There were a number of pieces of heavy equipment that probably cost around $100K each, but that seemed to have no strategic connection. This probably meant that he bought stuff he thought was a bargain and then the tail wagged the dog as he focused on capacity utilization.
2. He spoke only in the past tense. Initially I thought of this as the sad symptom of his failure, but after a bit of follow up I'm not so sure it wasn't also the cause. There's bunch of social science research that points to "locus of control"--one's self perceived ability to influence their environment--as a strong predictor of overall success. I think the past tense thing is a function of not knowing what drove his business when things were good, thus he couldn't modify strategy when the economy slowed.
3. There was no conspicuous effort toward selling. I don't mean not lots of sales, that's obvious, there was no system in place, nothing that looked like there once was. This is the one that scares me the most, because with our new shop I feel a big draw toward the nuts and bolts of running the shop; schedules, sweeping the floor, buying consumables, etc. This is one of the situations where the good is the enemy of the best; a disciplined approach to the whole project stream is important, and should be obvious when you walk in the room.
About a year ago we did a project where one of our products failed. I can't go into detail, but it turned out the problem was a goofy scenario that nobody envisioned during initial design. We modified the design to account for the new issue and ended up having a great relationship with the client. The cool (in retrospect) thing for us was that we brought in a team of outside experts and tried to figure out everything about our design that we might have screwed up. One of the consultants commented, "You can learn a lot looking at a dead body."
I think the same is true here. Monday I think we're going to pull in the leadership team and run through a hypothetical autopsy--if we fail what would be the cause.
There's a line that the founding fathers said to each other when the circle wasn't holding--We cannot guarantee success, but we can deserve it.
Good stuff.

John McCain and Cats

When I was in college I didn't care about politics. I felt as if the most important focus for Christians was the spiritual transformation of our friends, to the total exclusion of interest in political life. I don't believe that now.
Four things changed (These aren't in chronological order):
1. I took a class on Social Justice taught by Father Fitz at UD. This was the first time I considered the notion of structural sin.
2. I did an internship that became a job looking at Predatory lending. This was 2002, long before Predatory lending became a topic on the news at all, but it lent credence to the notion of structural sin.
3. 9-11
4. John McCain's maverick run for the Presidency in 2000.
I loved McCain, he spoke truth, he was candid, he was a little bit rough, he was what I felt like great leaders should be.
Watching McCain run this campaign makes me sad. It's like when you saw a beautiful girl across the room, and you start talking, and she can't stop about how much she loves her 8 cats.

Friday, October 03, 2008


One time I went to an event at a Church, at which some dude began speaking in tongues and telling me I needed healing. I like Jesus a lot, but that crap weirds me out still, and really weirded me out then. The conversation was like this:
Him: I'll pray for you.
Me: Thanks.
Him: Come here.
Me: Why?
Him: To pray for you.
Me: Yeah...OK (Touches my shoulder; begins gibberish)
Him: You need healing.
Me: I'm good.
Him: No, you need spiritual healing, you need to meet Jesus.
Me: Umm, I don't want to debate theology but I really kind of feel like I know him.
Him: Nope.
Me: Have a nice day.

That guy probably felt like he was reaching out to help my heart. At the time I thought he was a douche. Now I think he was just looking for significance and trying to be edgy.

I was reminded of this experience by google today. As an experiment for a play I was writing, I stuck ad words on my blog. It's always an interesting snapshot into what google thinks I care about. Google was like the guy.
Today's words (likely to change because of something in this post) sell me jockey underwear and the opportunity to meet mormon men.

I hope google doesn't know something about me that I don't.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Past Tense

My company is opening up our new shop. It's been an exhausting, fun, captivating thing.
Yesterday I went shopping at a fabricator down the way who's shutting down. He's old, and hurt, and business is bad, and his wife has cancer.
It was hearbreaking.
We walked through this guy's facility looking at welders and forklifts and bandsaws and a thousand other industrial gizmos that he referred to only in the past tense. We did, my guys used, that thing was...
I don't know what went wrong; I have some theories but who cares. I'll probably buy some of his stuff, we'll put it to work and I guess that's how this is supposed to happen. That doesn't make it not suck for this guy and his wife.