JimPinto.com - Connections for Growth & Success™
No. 259 : 27 January 2009

Keeping an eye on technology futures.
Business commentary - no hidden agendas.
New attitudes, no platitudes.

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Whither the automation business?

The industrial automation business seems to lag - still showing some growth (in the past quarter). But this week, ARC Advisory Group, the premier automation analyst published "A Series of Unfortunate Reports" by Larry O'Brien.
    "Clearly, the global manufacturing environment is in the midst of a big contraction. Projects are still proceeding in many sectors, but many are being canceled and/or postponed. We at ARC still feel that despite overall market contraction in North America, Western Europe, and other developed economies, there will still be growth in the Middle East and emerging markets, such as China and India, although this growth is probably less then half the levels we saw between 2007 and 2008. Nobody gets a free pass this year, and even the market leaders are going to find it a challenging business environment."
The automation leaders are all undergoing shrinking pains, some worse than others. Large companies are all driven top-down, by organizational management and budgets based on ratios. There's very little real innovation, and minimal agility. When revenues shrink, the bean-counter ratios demand shrinkage to protect the bottom line. If that's not preserved, the companies' stock declines and the dominoes begin to fall.

Click A short history of Automation growth

Click Tomorrow's Automation Leaders

Click Top Automation Companies

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Quit your job - become an entrepreneur

As reduced budgets begin to bite, employee stress and uncertainty shoots up. Consider what happens: The bean-counters' cutback formulas result from simple spread-sheet calculations. Managers are told, "Your budget must be cut by X%". Few eliminate themselves, and so the next level in the hierarchy reviews the cuts.

Most often, the lowest-level workers are laid off, and the best higher level people quit. So management becomes more remote, closeted in endless meetings, and more work is expected from the remaining few. It's a downward slide that cannot be stopped. Go read the JimPinto.com weblogs.

If you've been fired - laid-off, made redundant, reduction-in-force, restructure - it should NOT come as a surprise. Surely you saw it coming. The weblogs are filled with complaints, many accepting that they are probably the next to go from cost-cutting and offshoring. More and more "head counts" will shrink as they scramble to meet shrinking budgets. This is a signal that serious change is here.

This is a wake-up call from illusions of "the good old days. If you're one of the growing number of people who have lost their jobs, or can clearly see the writing on the wall, what are you going to do? Where will you look for another job?

The old question, "How much experience do you have?" does NOT apply anymore. If I was at Emerson, I would avoid hiring someone who's just been laid-off from Rockwell, Honeywell or Invensys. Indeed "experience" in any large company is a liability in the new economy.

If you're out of a job, count yourself lucky to get an early signal that CHANGE has come. Being out of work destroys your self-respect and makes you cynical. Instead of just looking for work and finally accepting some stupid low-paid job to make ends meet - think of something different.

Why wait? Why not just use this opportunity to be your own boss, start your own company? Become a self-motivated entrepreneur. Take the quiz "Should you quit your job?" (weblink below). Make your move.

Look for good chemistry with others who are in similar positions, with complementary skills, and START something. Necessity is the "mother of invention". Find good, growing needs - and fill them.

Think outside the old box. Look at the kid who wrote software that shows beer slopping inside the Apple iPhone - they're selling' millions at $1 each. Now, why can't YOU think of something?

You do NOT need big capital to start - the money goes primarily for big salaries. Pay yourself and the founders drastically cutback living expenses, and share the ownership - stock in your new startup. Be your own boss. Work hard to build something for yourself. You'll be happy you did!

Hey, I've been an angel-investor for over a decade. Send me a (non-confidential) one-page summary of your idea, and I'll give you my opinion.

Click Take this Quiz: Should You Quit Your Job?

Click Top Ten Reasons to Quit Your Job

Click Knowing it's Time to Quit Your Day Job

Click Advice for the laid-off engineer -
There's no better time to become an entrepreneur

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Gateway to India

I arrived in Mumbai, India after a comfortable non-stop flight (9 1/2 hours) from Johannesburg, S. Africa and was quickly catapulted by my brother Jude into the hustle and bustle of the world's second largest city and fifth most populous metropolitan area.

The Mumbai scenery has recently been made famous by the Academy Award nominated movie "Slumdog Millionaire". Several people asked, but sadly no, the lead actress Freida Pinto is not a relative.

My visit to Mumbai was about a week before the infamous terrorist attacks which dominated the news for several weeks during my visit. Happily, I was not directly affected, though security at airports was extra tight during my entire stay in India.

About 100 miles from Mumbai is Pune, one of India's major techno-centers. There I spoke to about 150 attendees at the opening of the new offices of Softdel, in Cyber City, transformed from an old farming village into the campus of high-tech leaders that rivals anything I've seen anywhere in the world.

Bangalore (now officially Bengaluru) was my hometown 50 years ago, now transferred into a traffic jammed, overcrowded city of more than 6 million, India's third most populous city.

After a great family visit (later musings in this eNews) I launched my bucket-list trip #3.

Click Gateway of India

Click Poona (Pune):

Click Bangalore (Bengaluru)

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Pinto bucket-list report #3

My sister Dora and I are intellectually and spiritually close; our bucketeering boosted our bonds with endless hours of stimulating conversations.

First we went to Kerala in the South, where I'd never been before, traveling by "luxury bus" at night, to avoid the heat and traffic of the day. Kerala means coconuts and the name becomes evident, even at night, with the thickening forests of coconut palms.

We arrived in Ernakulam, previously my sister's home for many years; she speaks Malayalam, which sounds like gargling to me. Across the bay was picturesque Cochin, with beautiful backwaters everywhere. Many good stories, backed up by thousands of pictures.

We went by train to Trivandrum - I love trains in India, because you can view the scenery while you keep being served with tea and snacks. We drove by taxi (including driver, $50 for the day) through endless villages and coconut forests and exotic scenery till we got to the southernmost tip of India, formerly Cape Comorin and now called Kanyakumari. This historic area has become completely commercialized; you have to walk through the gauntlet of shops to get to the long lines to board the boats which ferry you across to the two small islands just off the cape. Pretty soon you get used to the jostling of the crowds, made more enjoyable by friendly smiles and constant chattering. Bucket-list experience.

On the way back, we stopped at famed Kovalum beach. I walked end-to-end - just a few miles in a sheltered cove - to trace the tracks of my son David who had been there with his surfboard in years past. The blessings of a beautiful sunset crowned this part of my bucket-list.

The next day we traveled by "deluxe, luxury" (it was NOT) bus to Salem; my sister made the needlessly thrifty booking ($5 ticket for 300 miles). The trip took 10 hours because the bus stopped at all the towns along the way. It did have bucket-list qualities, because we saw and sampled everything along the way.

During one fairly long section, I needed to go, you know, fairly urgently, and discreetly asked the conductor's advice. He yelled, "Aaah! You want to go urine!" They stopped somewhere (not-so-isolated, because Kerala is crowded) and several men (no women) joined me in watering the landscape.

Our niece Patsy and her husband Suhas picked us up in Salem, to drive up 17 hairpin bends into "hill-station" (mountainous) Yercaud; chilly compared with the hot plains of Tamilnadu. After a restful and reflective three days, they drove us back to Bangalore, to spend a joyous Christmas with family.

After all these years, I'd still never seen the Taj Mahal, one of the 7 Wonders of the World. This time I was determined to visit, as part of my bucket-list. And I did; on New Year's Day, 2009. New Delhi is the nearest major airport, more than a couple hours flying time (most flights cost about $100). We took a taxi (with driver, $100 for the day) to drive 125 miles to Agra, where the Taj Mahal is located.

With heavy traffic and a fleeting view of Northern India's scenery, we arrived at the Taj at about 4:00 pm, recognizing that we'd have only a couple of hours before sunset, when the doors closed. The next day was Friday, the Muslim Sabbath holiday, which left us no choice. Being New Years' day, it was crowded - I mean jam-packed entry lines half-mile long. Expediency dictated that we accept, for a small fee, the services of an "Agent" who pushed us into the front of the lines, fairly near the ticket-inspectors and entry-police, evidently "friends". Well, we got in.

I have heard many people say that they were surprised at how big the Taj Mahal is. I was expecting BIG. But still, I was surprised - it was more gigantic than I imagined. And more beautiful. Built in the mid-1600's the Taj Mahal is considered the finest example of Mughal architecture, combining Persian, Ottoman, Indian, and Islamic architectural styles. It's an integrated complex of structures; the white domed marble mausoleum is the most familiar.

I took pictures on "Clinton's Bench" (which doesn't show crowds, except in the distance). And another popular pose - pretending to hold the Taj between my finger and thumb....

There was lots more that happened during this bucket-list trip in India. But the reflections related to those will take time to seep though my consciousness, and they'll seep out in future issues of eNews.

Click Pinto Bucket-list trip

Click Bucket List Report #1

Click Bucket-list report #2

Click Fun, Food and the Great Outdoors - Patsy/Suhas website

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Pinto family musings

In Pune, I enjoy staying with my brother Peter and his wonderful wife Meena at "Peter's Paradise" in a luxurious condo setting. His daughter Lolette and her husband Leslie Lewis of "Colonial Cousins" fame (Youtube video link) live in the same complex. Our baby sister Joan also lives in Pune.

In Bangalore, I always stay with my brother John, now the patriarch and center of gravity for our extended family. The home where we were born has now been replaced by a high-rise hotel, and John has moved with his lovely wife Clarrie into a luxury apartment not far away. As host, John gives me first-dibs to relax in my Dad's old easy-chair, an iPod-like cradle which re-charges my batteries.

In India, people never phone when they visit - they just visit. When the doorbell rings, it could be family, friends or just about anyone. I got to enjoy the warmth, love and friendship of countless cousins, nephews, nieces, aunties, uncles (in India, everyone older than you is called aunty, or uncle). Of course, it felt strange when some cute young things called me "uncle". Whatodo?

We celebrated John's 75th birthday, and my 71st, at the Bangalore Club, a thriving throwback to the days of the British Raj, where memberships are still restricted only to those who know somebody who knows somebody. Of course, John is a bigwig and we got the full treatment. John told me it was a "small party with close friends"; but in India "small" doesn't mean 10 or 25 - more like 250.

Gosh, it was wonderful to see close cousins and boyhood friends, and their kids (now grown up) and grandkids. Many affectionate "Jimmy, do you remember me?" queries received only my blank stare, till suddenly the neurons clicked with recognition. I've gotta tell you, there were some cute chicks who had turned into fat, ugly old ladies. But, there were lots of cute old girl-friends around too.

Taste buds have long memories too. There was always a tantalizing array of foods, served up at home by John's wife Clarrie, and by family and friends during the endless chain of visits and parties. In India, Love is demonstrated with food, and hospitality means second and third servings; if you don't serve yourself, you'll be served. And then, just when you think you're completely full, John (who loves sweets) brings out hot jilaybis and ludoos made for him specially at the shop owned by the son of one of his golfing buddies. Delightful gastronomic torture!

Just a few days before I left India, I attended a wedding. Mind you, not just any wedding, but the joining of two historical Bangalore families. My parents (Albert & Rosalie Pinto) had 10 children; and the locally well-known PG D'Souza family had 17. I knew several PG children, and am probably the only outsider who can recite all 17 names (it's like an old poem that I can't forget). Anyway, AM Pinto's eldest daughter's eldest daughter's eldest daughter was getting married to PG D'Souza's eldest son's eldest son's eldest son. The bride and groom are the handsomest couple you can imagine, both with juicy jobs in England.

Everyone who is anyone was there - about 750 gathered in the grounds of a luxurious hotel. I've gotta tell you, it was a bucket-list dejavu experience. My class-mates and close friends from 50 years ago were all there, and I could imagine myself being one of them. But still, I'm glad I'm me.

This love, warmth and affection of my extended family was a significant part of my bucket-list. Of course, since I don't plan to 'kick the bucket' anytime soon, I'll be back again and again, for more.

Click Pinto prognostications - Booming Bangalore

Click My month-long visit to India (previous visit):

Click "Colonial Cousins" Hit song - "Krishna Begane Burroo":

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Paul Grignon [pgrignon@island.net] the originator of the video "Money as Debt" (enews 4 Nov. 2008) wrote:
    "I am gratified that my video has spread so successfully over the Internet. Thank you for mentioning my website as I do depend on DVD sales to keep going.

    "My source at the American Monetary Institute (monetary.org) tells me that the fractional reserve requirements in most common use in the USA are: ZERO on the first $7 million in deposits; 33:1 on the remainder.

    "Here in Canada, our central bank abandoned statutory reserves in 1991 and no longer sets fractional reserve requirements at all. Banks manage themselves."

Click How money is made - a film by Paul Grignon

Jim Pinto Note: 'Money as Debt' has been watched by over 2 million people (est). Versions are available in many languages: Spanish, German, Dutch, Italian, Slovenian, Czech, Russian.

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Joe Waszgis [joseph.waszgis@att.net] on the financial mess:

    "I do not approve of the US Govt. bailing out these companies with my money. Where did Uncle Sam come up with $700B+ anyway? More loans that we can't and never will pay off. We borrow and borrow. It's time in this country for us to live within our means.

    "I make my house payment every month on time, every time. I pay all of my bills on time. Those who took out housing loans that they can't afford, deserve to lose their house. And those institutions that made loans to people who were not credit-worthy should also lose as that is the dice they rolled.

    "Those people who run Freddie Mac, Fanny Mae, and AIG need to be shamed in the public light. But they will get millions and walk away. There is something seriously wrong with all of this. And yet no one has the balls to say so. Shame on us!"

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Will Lane [will_lane@comcast.net] writes about ISA's uphill battle:

    "I sure hope you are correct about the changes to the ISA. In recent years many of the large instrumentation and automation suppliers have bailed out of the ISA show due to dwindling attendance and the exorbitant cost that ISA wanted for booth space. Most have set up their own "exchange" shows for themselves and their support suppliers.

    "From the instrument engineer's perspective, the cost to attend the show is high, and the cost of classes even higher. The cost for ISA books seems to be very high to me personally, having recently paid $45 for a 1/4 inch thick, paperback book on loop-tuning.

    "If ISA does not again become the well respected society for instrument and automation professionals, we will likely see new organizations start up to fill the needs of professionals that they no longer effectively serve."

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