Thursday, December 31, 2009

One of Navy Football's Best Seasons Ever

Congratulations are in order for Coach Ken Niumatalolo and the Navy football team for the impressive 35-13 win over Missouri in the Texas Bowl. The midshipmen played an impressive game from start to finish. I was most impressed with Navy's second fourth quarter drive that effectively won the game. They had just stopped the Tigrers on downs, but had a 15 point, two score lead. Ricky Dobbs piloted the midshipment down the field in a demoralizing, almost 6 minute drive that ended with Dobbs literally pushing the ball over the goal line himself to seal the deal. That's the kind of drive that champions execute. These midshipmen also played well on defense, holding Missouri, a pretty potent offensive force to 13 points and picking off Gabbert twice.

This certainly ranks as one of Navy's best seasons. Seldom do they get to 10 wins, but beating Army, Air Force and Notre Dame, all in one season is especially sweet. I know that coming close doesn't count, but their play against Ohio State was especially admirable. I thought the departure of Paul Johnson to Georgia Tech would end Navy's dominant possession of the Commander in Chief's trophy, but coach Niumatolo has proved a worthy, even better successor.

I root for three different college football teams, because I can and it's fun. USC was my boyhood team, I went to Navy, and I sort of adopted the Cornhuskers during a stint at STRATCOM in the 90's. (Nebraska had great people who really love the game of football.) I never thought I would see the day when Navy arguably had the more successful season of those three teams.

Finally, do you think we can get some love and get a final ranking for Navy in the top 25? I doubt it, even if I think they deserve it; but at least it helps them sneak up on opponents.

UPDATE: This was Navy's first 10 win season since 1905.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Mac vs PC - Unique Problem with Youtube - Update

Just a little more on the whole Mac vs. PC controversy. I like to embed video in my blogs, and most of the good stuff comes from YouTube. Over the last several months, I have been getting the following dreaded error:

Hello, you either have JavaScript turned off or an old version of Macromedia's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.

All browsers I used, Chrome, Firefox or IE, would show the same error. No matter how many times I reloaded javascript or Adobe's Flash player and plug-ins, this would bedevil me. I finally found a link that suggested I look at my ad blocking software. I uses LavaSoft's Ad-Aware. When I "unloaded" the software, lo and behold, I could once agains play videos on youtube. (By way of accuracy, I could always play YouTube videos embedded on other sites, just never on the YouTube site itself.) I then re-loaded the software, and after some initial difficulties with the load, everything is working great. (The technical detail is to help anyone else with the same issue and I know I am not the only one.)

But it begs the broader question. Why do I have anti-spyware software in the first place? This is because Windows is more susceptible to malware than a Mac. I need anti-spyware, antivirus and separate firewall software to keep my computer safe. Sometimes they don't play nicely with Windows or each other. (Last year a Windows XP upgrade trashed ZoneAlarm for instance.) In my corporate environment, we now have the following products all running together:
  • Managed Antivirus (from Symantec)
  • Host Based Security System (ePolicy Orchestrator from McAfee)
  • Windows Server Update Services
  • Data at Rest encryption
The complexity of managing the separate systems means that the support costs for Windows dwarfs that of a Mac. Support costs for Windows in a research environment can run up to $1000 per year per machine more. Something to think about in one's total cost of ownership calculation.


Well for no reason that I can figure out, my problem with YouTube returned. Unloading the Ad-Aware as before did not fix the problem this time. How maddening.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Turning 21 - Guns and Liquor

My oldest turns 21 this week. He commented that he will now be able to buy guns and liquor, not necessarily in that order. But I wonder if we really do our youth a favor by keeping both off limits until they are this age. I have a theory that responsible use of both at a younger age would go a long way to a lifetime of responsibility. Proverbs 22:6 comes to mind:

Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not turn from it.
I have read that countries such as Italy where children can drink with their parents at meal time have a much lower incidence of alcoholism than say Ireland, where both teetotalling and alcoholism rates are much higher. I think glamorization or a forbidden fruit syndrome contributes to higher rates of youth drunkenness and underage drinking.

But we also can't forgot the allure of danger and swagger to young men. Being able to handle one's liquor is a phrase I learned early in my stint in the Navy. It proved you were tough. The redneck culture of some of my friends carried this to an extreme. I remember driving back to Seminary one fine evening, with my roommate at the wheel of an orange Dodge Charger. We both might have had a few beers in Georgetown and the woods around Highway 50 seemed deserted enough, so he thought nothing of popping off a few rounds from his .22 pistol into the woods. It all sounds incredibly stupid in hindsight, but for the life of me I have never been able to muster up any guilt over it.

No way to put a bow on this article, just some things to think about.

H/T to A Keyboard and a .45 for the photo. Maybe best name for a blog, ever.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Is A Mac Really More Expensive?

Recently, my youngest got a virus on his aging Toshiba laptop. I had wanted to hold off buying him a new computer until his graduation, but I looked at the condition and performance of his machine and thought the time was right. I asked him if he wanted to switch to a Mac, but he was content to stay with Windows. I was happier in the short term, because the price of a Sony Vaio with 4Gb RAM comes in at $700, about half the price of a comparably equipped Macbook Pro. But is it really a bargain?

Consider this, before I let the new machine on the internet, we need to make sure that we get anti-virus, firewalls, and anti-spyware all up and running. Furthermore, there are potentially ongoing subscription costs for that software. All the extra overhead makes me wonder why the corporate world is not moving to the Mac more quickly. With my son wanting to major in computer engineering, I am turning more of the systems administration duties over to him. Hopefully, his time will be taxed, not mine.

And that virus on the old machine. The prospect of living without a computer for a month got him motivated to eventually find the fix for it and get it eradicated on his own.

Friday, December 25, 2009

The Power of No

I was given "How the Mighty Fall" by Jim Collins for Christmas. I loved his previous work, "Good to Great," so I started reading even before all of the presents were unwrapped. I was struck by his discussion of the fall of Bank of America in the 1980s. Our preferred narrative for how large institutions fails is that they are overcome by complacency and overtaken by more nimble rivals. While that can certainly happen, that was not the case the BofA. In fact, one might argue that too much change was a factor in their demise.

In my own work, I am struck by how much change and process improvement is shoved our way, with no understanding of its applicability to our environment. We currently have the following improvement programs allegedly in progress simultaneously (I won't spell out the acronyms, I don't want to be sued for your depression): HPO, CMMI, ITIL, LSS, BSC, PMG (offshoot of PMBOK), CAO/IPT, Baldridge.

In fact none of these efforts have produced any measurable results. Maybe if we just subscribed to one, we might make improvements. What really works, however, is understanding the nature of your own business and intelligently improving it. But that is really the hard part. In a mid-size government corporation such as ours, understanding the whole of the company requires constant effort and monitoring by senior executives. By chasing change management to the nth exponent, they have no time left for understanding the nature of our work and performing the key customer relations role that only senior executives can perform. In fact, that is probably the key danger of so much change, it takes the focus off of the paying customer and that can kill the company.

This is why the word "no" is so powerful. Their are always reasons to divert management attention from its primary focus on customer results. "No" is the decision to turn away from all of these non-value added efforts by management. Deciding what one won't work on can be the most important component of success.

For an excellent summary of why I loathe such programs, see Jim Collins' article on the subject of corporate greatness here.

God's Nature

Christmas reminds me of God's goodness. He sent his son, Jesus, which proves his goodness for all time. Through Jesus, we are given the gift of transformation into new men and women. Over the ages, millions have testified as to the power of this transformation. I am also witness to it; Jesus changed the direction of my life and I am both more joyous and happier for it.

Atheists deny the reality of God, but the testimony of millions belie their claim. A militant atheist is someone who claims that God does not exist and further claims that all the problems of the world are His fault.

On a lighter note, it is also said that beer is proof that God loves us, as if we needed more, proof that is.