Sunday, January 31, 2010

Restaurant Review - Blue Water Seafood

The whole B-Daddy family had a late lunch at Blue Water Seafood on India St. today. It is located a little north of Little Italy in an area of San Diego that I do not much frequent, even though it is fairly close to home. It was very crowded on a Sunday afternoon at 2:00 p.m. speaking well of its word of mouth reputation. It compared very favorably to my long time San Diego seafood favorite, Point Loma Seafoods on the Shelter Island waterfront on Scott and Emerson.

I don't know if they were consciously emulating the Point Loma style, but there were many similarities, from the very casual indoor/outdoor/patio dining style, to the display of fish on ice as one enters to order. They offer all of their fresh fish in three styles, Sandwich, Salad or Plate. Mrs. Daddy and I opted for the plates, with our halibut and red snapper, respectively, prepared in a style they called bronzed. It was the most lightly breaded manner I have ever seen fish prepared, and was perfect for keeping the fish moist and flavorful. From the taste, the fish was obviously fresh, as well.

In the beer department, they had a small but reasonable variety of bottled beers, and no PBR. But where they excel, is in the full line of Ballast Point brews on tap. Unfortunately, they were out of the Yellowtail Pale Ale, so we opted for a pitcher of Wahoo Wheat. It was perfect with the fish plate. Another way I prefer them over Point Loma is in the salad. They offer a nice mixed garden salad with fresh greens, much better than cole slaw. Also, the jasmine rice is a nice alternative to fries.

The youngsters were very please with their fish and chips and clam chowder. I should also mention that they offer a number of chilled shrimp and fish cocktails, ceviches, etc.

I have to rate this a bit above Point Loma, a place I have been loyal to since 1984.

Friday, January 29, 2010

The B-Daddy Channel

We subscribe to Rhapsody, which the whole family enjoys; tens of thousands of songs can be streamed all over the house through our Sonos system for a low monthly fee. (I might have been paid to make the comment, but maybe I wasn't, so I invite the FTC to investigate.) The one drawback is that not all artists allow their songs to be streamed, The Beatles and Led Zeppelin, being two famous examples. Also, sometimes the most popular hits are blocked from a band that is otherwise available. The one song that I have always liked in this category, from the days before they became wildly popular, is this little number from Fleetwood Mac:

Monday, January 25, 2010

Operation Aurora and Asymetric Warfare

Although the news about the events quickly died down, Chinese government hacking attacks on Google and other companies is an important moment in internet history that is not getting the analysis it deserves. First, a quick summary of what happened from McAfee's web site:
McAfee Labs identified a zero-day vulnerability in Microsoft Internet Explorer that was used as an entry point for “Operation Aurora” to exploit Google and at least 30 other companies. Microsoft has issued a security advisory and McAfee is working closely with them on this matter. “Operation Aurora” was a coordinated attack which included a piece of computer code that exploits a vulnerability in Internet Explorer to gain access to computer systems. This exploit is then extended to download and activate malware within the systems. The attack, which was initiated surreptitiously when targeted users accessed a malicious Web page (likely because they believed it to be reputable), ultimately connected those computer systems to a remote server. That connection was used to steal company intellectual property and, according to Google, additionally gain access to user accounts.
I included McAfee's self promoting language because they deserve some credit for their work. Notice that McAffee does not explicitly call out the Chinese government, but I have no such qualms.

Google's response has been masterful. But, first, you have to understand that the success of the Chinese attack threatens the very core of Google's business model. Google can only grow by persuading more consumers to put their data on line. Obviously, we must believe it is safe to do so, specifically, that privacy, integrity and non-repudiation of our data can be assured. The success of the Chinese exploit threatens that model. In all the hoopla over cloud computing, in which Google is a leader due to their massive lead in understanding commodity server technology, the need for security remains the cloud darkening the silver lining of the promise of vast amounts of cheap compute capacity.

For Google to fight back traditionally, by going to other national governments to complain, will hurt not only its brand name, but the trust in the very product at the core of its business line, (and it isn't search, despite what the average consumer may think.) Google instead attacked the Chinese leadership where it lived, by publicly embarrassing them over censorship and making THAT the big issue on the pages of newspapers. What they did was show the Chinese that the hack attack was too clever by half, and that Google had the capacity to strike back in a way that would personally offend Chinese leadership. This will certainly put more caution into the actual cyber-warriors conducting this espionage, because embarrassing the boss is never a good career move.

Meanwhile, I caution people to be very careful about what they store in cyberspace. While interacting on line is unavoidable, and sometimes even fun, taking basic steps to protect one's data are necessary. If you are a Windows user, you should have antivirus (like Norton or McAfee), anti-spyware (Spybot), software firewall (ZoneAlarm), hardware firewall (like a router, don't plug straight into your cable modem for instance) and turn on Windows automatic patching. Further, I think that local back up of data, while more less effective for disaster recovery, is better from a security perspective.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Restaurant Review - Old Trieste

Thursday evening, Mrs. Daddy and I got decked out on a whim and visited a neighborhood restaurant, Old Trieste. Mrs. Daddy also wore her faux fur and high heels, which turned out to be very apropos. Old Trieste pretty much defines what you would expect from an "old school" Italian restaurant. One should certainly dress up a bit to enter this establishment. They have plush vinyl booths, although white has replaced red. You are served by mature gentlemen waiters in tuxedos who are exceedingly polite and made me feel well treated. The menu is not extensive, they stick to what they know, veal, seafood, Italian pastas and Fillet Mignon. I actually like the fewer choices on the menu, it usually means the chef knows what he is doing with those dishes through greater familiarity.

We were one of only three parties that evening as the weather in San Diego that night was uncharacteristically windy, rainy and cold. The service was leisurely but attentive. We ordered wine right away, no wine menu; we just discussed it with the waiters. We had excellent lightly breaded zucchini brought out right away as an appetizer. It was very close to the highlight of the evening. They kept the breading to the perfect minimum to retain the moisture of the vegetable and lock in its flavor. For dinner, I had the Veal Marsala and Mrs. Daddy had the Veal Parmigiana. We were also served spaghetti with marinara sauce and a spoon to help twirl the noodles as the side dish. This spaghetti on the side is another characteristic of old school Italian. The veal was tender and the Marsala sauce creditable. I thought Mrs. Daddy's veal had a little more mozzarella than necessary, but was still tender and good. All in all the main courses were very good. For desert we split a nicely done tiramisu.

Even though we had an enjoyable evening with very good food, I am not sure we will visit again very soon. The prices are just a tad high for the quality of the meal and you have to be in the mood for a certain restaurant experience to go there.

Friday, January 22, 2010

The B-Daddy Channel

Sorry about the lack of blogging on this site. What little time I have had has been devoted to The Liberator as I have started another on-line class, working on my Chief Information Officer certificate from National Defense University. This course has been the most interesting to date, discussing intuition, creativity and framing so far. Unfortunately, as fabulous as the political landscape has been of late, my professional life has been as frustrating as any time I can remember since taking this job. To the core of my being, I feel compelled to believe that my number one priority, yesterday, today and tomorrow is delivering the IT services needed by my customers. Yet, it seems as though everything but customer satisfaction is what is important to the executives for whom I work, until the day that I don't deliver, which happened to be Tuesday of this week. Then it is suddenly my number one again. So this weekend's music is meant to match my mood. It is also music that totally changed my view of what constituted rock. Here are the Talking Head with Life During Wartime.

Friday, January 15, 2010

The B-Daddy Channel

Even though I don't watch this show on TV, we have been borrowing DVDs of the show or downloading them from Netflix. This is one of the funniest cartoon series ever, even better than the Simpsons, and a worthy successor to a long line of made for TV cartoon shows that started with Crusader Rabbit. For some reason I can't get its catchy theme song out of my head. So here is the theme to Futurama; maybe it will get stuck in your head.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Blinking and Thinking

I started a new online class this week, which will be eating into my blogging time. The class is grandiosely titled Leadership for the Information Age, but since I like grandiosity, just look at my blog mastheads, I figured this would be right up my alley. The very first reading assignment was from the book Blink, by Malcom Gladwell, a terrific read by a terrific writer. The excerpt we were asked to read is about "thin slicing" or rapid cognition, or what most of us call intuition. I guess the point of the reading was to make us aware of differing styles of decision making. But for me, I don't need to reinforce bad habits, and that excerpt from Blink does just that. Here's some quotes from Gladwell's web site for a taste of what I am talking about:

It's a book about rapid cognition, about the kind of thinking that happens in a blink of an eye. When you meet someone for the first time, or walk into a house you are thinking of buying, or read the first few sentences of a book, your mind takes about two seconds to jump to a series of conclusions. Well, "Blink" is a book about those two seconds,...
One of the stories I tell in "Blink" is about the Emergency Room doctors at Cook County Hospital in Chicago. That's the big public hospital in Chicago, and a few years ago they changed the way they diagnosed heart attacks. They instructed their doctors to gather less information on their patients: they encouraged them to zero in on just a few critical pieces of information about patients suffering from chest pain--like blood pressure and the ECG--while ignoring everything else, like the patient's age and weight and medical history. And what happened? Cook County is now one of the best places in the United States at diagnosing chest pain.
Now to my problem. The more complex my job has become, I paradoxically seem to have less and less time to just think and analyze. I believe that I am this awesome decision maker like those Chicago doctors, except I don't have the year's of experience in IT that they have in medicine. I make a lot of snap decisions in the course of the day, often based on an email description of a situation, but more often from a phone conversation. I realize how limited those sources of information can be, but I just don't have time to stop and think, and occasionally I make a mistake that takes time and effort to back out of. Now comes this book that is telling me this is all just fine, you can bat a high percentage based on limited information if you concentrate on just the right facts. (Which facts? The RIGHT facts.) Great, rather than impose a little self discipline and carve out time during the day to perform careful thought and analysis, this leadership class is reinforcing my bad habits.

Maybe if I knock out the homework for this course the same way that I make decisions at work, I'll have time to blog after all.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Listening To Your Customers

In How the Mighty Fall, Jim Collins talks about how once great companies fail by failing to listen to their customers. In my own work, I am finding that listening to my customers is both rewarding and frustrating. What's great is that they clearly have a great need for the services I am responsible for delivering. The frustration is the impediments in delivering those services in the bureaucratic environment of the Federal government. Interestingly, I was talking to a former employee of GM, who worked for them in the IT area, and many of these same problems occur in the private sector in big businesses.

But listen to customers management must, or you can go the way of Domino's, once a fast rising company. This video is being cross posted from a political article on The Liberator Today, but the lessons are as applicable to management as to politics.

The B-Daddy Channel - Update

I love all kinds of music, so with a second blog, it gives me a chance to post twice as much weekend music, a tradition pioneered by Dean with his "Radio KBWD is on the air" posts.

I like Tom Jones and both versions of "Mr. Jones" even though they are unrelated except for title.
First the Talking Heads who make as good use of trumpets within rock as anyone I can think of.

Now the Counting Crows

The Counting Crows have a line in this song that so perfectly captures our narcissistic age:
"When I look at the television, I want to see me staring right back at me."


And how could I forget this Mr. Jones?

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Vigorous Exercise and It's Detractors

Tuesday's print edition of the Wall Street Journal had three excellent articles on the benefits of exercise. They can be viewed on line here, here and here. I normally wouldn't write about this at all, but a few items really caught my eye. First, let me state that I believe that exercise does very little to assist in weight loss, based on my research and personal experience. So I am not promoting exercise for that reason.

However, I was astounded at how exercise reduces the severity and frequency of so many diseases. The other interesting fact was the seeming correlation between extremely vigorous exercise and improved health as demonstrated by Dr. Paul Williams. Here is where the controversy starts. From the WSJ:

While Dr. Williams is well respected by other exercise scientists, he is shunned by those in the public-health field. Dr. Williams is routinely excluded from committees charged with formulating exercise guidelines, and his grant proposals are often rejected as irrelevant because few exercisers want to hear the word "more." Public-health officials also worry that touting Dr. Williams's research could discourage the sedentary from doing any exercise at all, or lure them off the couch with goals too lofty to engender success.
Here is the nanny state at its worst and most pernicious, because it is the kind of low level controversy that never sees the light of day. Rather than just letting the truth get published, the public health czars think we are all too stupid to handle the truth. Of course there are down sides to very vigorous exercise, risk of injury and becoming demotivated among them; but for goodness sake, let free adults decide for themselves.

The last article talked about making the time for exercise and has some great tips to get people moving. My tip comes from what my youngest does; he really doesn't like exercise, but he often walks for an hour or more while playing a hand held video game. My research has shown that he gets as much benefit or more than I get from a vigorous 20 minute run.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

What is News?

Tecolote Canyon from the air, looking south.

I took my dog for a walk at 8:30 this evening. As I left the house, I saw two police helicopters circling over Tecolote canyon with their search lights trained on the terrain below. They made quite the spectacle and noise and I kept an eye on them as I made the long trek around my neighborhood. They were up for at least a half hour and eventually flew off. But it got me thinking, about what is news. If you're like me, you read the paper, the internet watch television and feel well informed. But this little event that unfolded before my eyes has not been reported anywhere that I can find. Knowing the canyon is a haven for the homeless (almost said bums) and illegals and that there has been at least one murder there, I have to believe that something was up.

Earlier in the day, my son said he saw two Border Patrol SUVs flying up I-5, an unusual sight. Same story, no news from that either. And I am not sure whether that was related to what I saw later in the evening.

It just makes you wonder what else is going on where you will never really learn the full story.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Performance Systems - NSPS

In 2009, Congress directed the Department of Defense (DoD) to dismantle one of Donald Rumsfeld's pet projects, the National Security Personnel System (NSPS), by October 2011. For those of you outside of the department, this system introduced pay for performance, much wider pay bands, and whole lot of extra paperwork for federal managers in the DoD. While the public employee unions may be happy, this was widely seen as payback from the Democratic Congress, as a federal manager, I am not that pleased with the system's demise.

I will be the first to admit that the system, as executed, with some fairly putrid Oracle based software, (sue me Oracle) was difficult to deal with. The amount of time spent mindlessly clicking through screens to accomplish the most basic tasks of entering and approving employee objectives was literally mind-numbing. Every six months, I calculated that I wasted a good four hours of non-value added click and wait time, and that's only because I figured out how to trick the system. (I used the back button on my browser to restore previous screen presentations, supposedly a big no-no. Actually it would error me out of the system occasionally, but was still worth it, time-wise.)

However, I really liked the systems use of performance goals for my employees. Before the start of each fiscal year, the leadership of my group would set goals that we at least attempted to align with the broader goals of our command. Then each supervisor was required to have at least three of the five objectives for employees match the group goals. The second level supervisor would review the goals to ensure compliance.

As the performance and fiscal year drew to a close, there were discussion about real problems that were preventing the achievement of some our goals. But I found that because the performance ratings of employees were tied to our group goals, there was much more focus. Now the system allows the supervisor to give "partial credit" if insurmountable obstacles got in the way of achievement. But everyone also knew that it was much easier to justify a higher rating to the performance review board if the goal was met or exceeded.

I have a talented and great team, but I found this system focused their efforts on what we all had agreed was really important for us to accomplish. We were not dogmatic either, sometimes in mid-year we changed goals as circumstances dictated. But this system helped us keep focus.

As we transition to a new system, I have the rare opportunity to have some influence on what shape it takes. (We are not going back to GS for those readers inside the federal government.) I will certainly push for a system that allows supervisors to set measurable goals for employees.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Norv Turner - Genius?

I admit to being a big critic of Norv Turner over the last two years. I have found his offenses unimaginative and predictable, not taking advantage of the amazing talent he has available. The current win streak has caused me to tone down my rhetoric a bit, as the results have been speaking for themselves. As Coach Parcells said, "You are what your record says you are." One of my theories about the NFL is that you need to go into the playoffs with momentum. I first formulated this theory in the mid-90s when I saw a San Diego team needing a final regular season victory over Pittsburgh, beating Pittsburgh, who had already clinched. Later in the playoffs, Pittsburgh, heavily favored lost to that same Charger team.

When Turner pull the starters with the lead only 10-0, I was apoplectic. Sure enough the hapless Redskins were ahead by halftime. But lo and behold, a Billy Volek led Charger offense was able to pull of the comeback and beat the Redskins 23-20. Amazing. Not only does San Diego get the win, but some quality playing time for reserves, who show the real depth of this San Diego roster by pulling out the win.

So I am compelled to ponder the unponderable, is Norv Turner a genius?

Maybe the playoffs will tell.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

This Won't Get It Done

Explain the following sequence:
102, 103, 118, 118, 108.

If you guessed, the Laker's pathetic defensive performance as evidenced by opponents points scored in the last five games, congratulations. I don't care that they managed to squeak out a 3-2 record over that span, this is not getting it done. They might not make it to the finals, heck out of the second round with this kind of defensive effort. I had to shut oFf the Kings game last night, even though I thought they might pull it out, because this lack of effort just offends me.

BTW, Ron Artest's "injury" doesn't explain the beat down put on by the Cavaliers, in case Matty or Dean care to comment.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Losing Weight

My New Year's resolution is to stop losing weight by mid-April. I have lost enough weight for people to notice and it has been an interesting experience. First, I have to admit that I loathe the whole process. I am sure that there is a better way than my method, because I often feel hungry and therefore cranky. My method is to track the calories of everything I eat on a the Live Strong web site's Daily Plate and keep myself 500 calories per day under a maintenance intake. This has resulted in a steady pound per week loss. I pretty much eat the same stuff I always have, just less of it. A few observations:
  • Knowing that I will have to record a snack is in itself an disincentive to eating between meals. It means I will have to take the time to look up and enter one more item.
  • I'm far less likely to eat something, because "it's good for me." Why waste effort on food I don't like.
  • Liquid calories mount quickly; beer, soda, fruit juice and Jameson's Irish Whiskey all add to the daily calorie bill; so do those tasty coffee creamers.
  • The whole process is much like managing a budget, except it's done on a daily, not weekly or monthly basis.
I am also concerned that I will not be as attractive to my mate, if I lose too much. She expressed some reservations at my goal, which would still put me at 16% body fat, not exactly slender. I have always been a bigger than average guy, both height and weight, and losing the weight starts to change that self image or at least contradict it, so I see a long time of still counting calories to maintain my weight when I get to goal. That prospect is not motivating at all.

All told, I can empathize with those who have trouble getting the weight off, there is a lot of challenge. One of my favorite sayings is: "Things are the way they are for a reason." That is really true for a person's weight.