JimPinto.com - Connections for Growth & Success™
No. 297 : 5 September 2011


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

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Bucket-list - Machu Picchu, Peru

The "irregular and irreverent" JimPinto eNews has certainly been irregular over the last couple of months - the last one was published 23 June 2011, more than 2 months ago. Thank you to those who have enquired - via email, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

I've been away, happily going off on bucket-list trips. You remember the movie "bucket-list" where two friends dying of cancer decide to go to all the places they wanted before they "kicked the bucket". That's my model. Well, I'm still in good health, so I keep going off on these bucket-list trips... Please allow me to provide a summary - if it bores you, simply skip down to following items.

After my visit to Brazil (on a speech, reported in eNews 23 June 2011) my lady Deborah and I went to Peru. We started in Lima, the capital city, where it was always drizzling, though there were no umbrellas or rain-coats in sight - because apparently it's like that much of the time.

Lima was just our starting point for a visit to picturesque Cusco, elevation about 11,000 feet where you drink cocoa-tea to combat the thin air, and are introduced to the always colorfully dressed Peruvians, and the spectacular architecture of the Incas.

About 50 miles away is Machu Picchu, the "Lost City of the Incas", a 15th-century Inca site located about 8,000 ft above sea level, one of the most beautiful and mysterious ancient sites in the world. Legends and myths tell that Machu Picchu ('Old Peak' in the Quechua language) was revered as a sacred place, and the Inca turned it into a small (5 square miles) completely self-contained, secret ceremonial city surrounded by agricultural terraces and watered by natural springs.

We were on an educators' tour and visited two schools. The first was an elite high school in Lima, with bright, uniformed students and impressive facilities, compared with the best in America. They even had a "Department Of Entrepreneurship". The other school was in a village near Cusco, where everyone was dressed in their colorful Peruvian costumes and sang Peruvian songs for us. Deb is an avid photographer and took hundreds of photos.

Here's an interesting Peruvian tidbit: They have compulsory voting; an eligible voter who does not vote is subject to fines, community service and even jail, perhaps the best way to avoid voter apathy. Hmmm, one wonders if we can do that in America, to increase our usually apathetic voter participation.

Click Peru: History, Geography, Government, and Culture

Click Come to Peru: Culture, Nature, Adventure - Travel

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Bucket-list - Ayer's Rock & Great Barrier Reef, Australia

It was hectic, but after being back home for just 10 days, we went off on another bucket-list trip - to the Australian Outback and the Great Barrier Reef. Deb is a teacher, and so we tend to cram all these BL-trips into her summer holidays.

First stop Melbourne, Australia's second-largest city, socializing with the warm-and-friendly Ozzies, to prepare for our trip to the Outback.

Next Alice Springs, popularly called "Alice", located near the geographic center of Australia. After seeing the Outback desert flora and fauna, we witnessed boomerang throwing (the whistling missile really returns to the thrower), dined on giant steaks and sang, "Waltzing Matilda" and other favorites round a camp-fire. At night, a million stars are visible in the clear Outback skies.

And then Ayer's Rock, also known by its Aboriginal name 'Uluru', one of the great wonders of the world. Uluru is a large magnetic mound, a large sandstone rock formation, more than 986 ft. high, 5 miles around, extending 1.5 miles into the ground. The area around has plenty of springs, waterholes, rock caves and ancient paintings.

Next on the bucket-list was Cairns and the Great Barrier Reef. This is the world's largest reef, composed of over 3,000 individual reefs and 900 islands stretching for over 1,600 miles over an area of about 133,000 sq. miles. This is the world's biggest single structure made by living organisms, larger than the Great Wall of China and the only living thing on earth visible from space. It is one of the seven natural wonders of the world.

We went snorkeling and I must tell you - as much as I expected, my first jump into the water was startling. There was beautiful coral waving in the natural currents, and a multitude of fish of every imaginable color and size. To snorkel (rather than dive) is like laying on a bed of water, watching the panorama below. Well over one thousand species of fish inhabit the Great Barrier Reef - heck I didn't know what they all were, but simply watched in awe.

While others in our group went off on other tours, we went back for more on another whole day, moving around to several locations to experience the tremendous variety of coral and colorful fish. We took underwater pictures, wrestling with a huge, friendly Wrasse as it hovered around, with a turtle floating by effortlessly. This was surely one of the best experiences in my life!

Now my editor (me) is complaining that I'm exceeding my word budget. So, it's hard to tell you about our visit to the fabulous Sydney Opera House and Symphony Hall. And I can't dwell on our visit to New Zealand, the Maori's, and Rotorua the spectacular geothermal wonderland where steam seethes from cracks in the streets, bursts from geysers and bubbles from cauldron-like mud pools.

But then, that may have to wait for another opportunity to tell more bucket-list stories.

Click Ayer's Rock - Uluru

Click National Geographic's Great Barrier Reef - Image Gallery

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Life questions - 6 Billion Others

During our June visit to Brazil, we chanced on the Sao Paulo Museum of Art and saw an exhibit which was a significant experience because it was completely unexpected.

We entered a large room where we were surrounded by video mosaic displays featured on four enormous screens, about 50 feet x 30 feet, with hundreds of faces of people from different countries, with different appearance and dress, all speaking silently. Then one of the portraits grows larger and you can hear that person talk in their own language, with text in Portuguese and English so we could follow.

The display is titled, "6 billion Others". It is a moving experience to follow the video testimonies of 6,000 people as each person is asked, "There are 6 billion of us on Planet Earth. What message would you like to share with the Others?" Their messages are sometimes funny, sometimes disturbing, sometimes sad, but always touching and moving. You hear their laughter, their dreams, their fears and their joys.

Here are some of the questions asked during the interviews of 6,000 people. It's worth reviewing them and reflecting on your own answers.

    What is your first memory?
    What were your childhood dreams?
    Are you happy? What is your greatest joy?
    What is your greatest fear?
    Do you feel free?
    What did you learn from your parents?
    What do you want to pass on to your children?
    Have you suffered from discrimination?
    What angers you the most?
    In your opinion, what is war?
    What do you think happens after death?
The "6 billion Others" project affects each and every one of us. It is an incentive to really get to know our fellow humans. To make it, several cameramen went to 75 countries over 4 years to question those living on Earth. These were questions that have always been asked by Humanity everywhere.

Take a look at some of the weblinks I've provided, and reflect on your own answers.

Click The "6 billion Others" website

Click The people-pictures, and some of the interviews

Click Youtube - Happiness. 6 billion Others

Click Book: 6 Billion Others: Portraits of Humanity from Around the World

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Invensys for sale

For you industrial automation mavens, I've got to get back to the automation prognostications which you expect.

I continue to point out that Invensys is for sale, and this is near. CEO Ulf Henrikkson suddenly exited and CFO Wayne Edwards was appointed in his place, promptly announcing that the 3 divisions (Rail, IOM and Controls) would be run separately and autonomously.

Someone on the omnipresent Invensys weblog pronounced that the reason no explanation was given about Ulf's departure was that he is still somewhere in the background, orchestrating a Chinese buyout without any conflict-of-interest. Hmmm, we'll wait and see.

Indeed, it is clear that the path is being prepared for sale of the company. Financial expert Wayne Edwards' main focus has been to carve out the pension liabilities, hitherto the primary blockage to any buyout. According to its annual report, Invensys has £ 5.46 B pension obligations, about £ 437 M more than the value of the plan's assets.

Profit is projected to decline in 2012. After the stock fell to a 2-year low last month, Invensys was valued at £ 1.8B ($3B). Analysts value the company at more than £ 3B if the pension liabilities are offloaded. So, that's what Wayne Edwards is doing, clearly blessed by the Board.

The company will be sold, either as one piece (the buyer will decide what to keep and what to divest), or the two dis-similar businesses (Rail and IOM/Controls) will be sold separately. China's CSR is supposedly interested and sorely needs Rail; and Siemens wants IOM. The weblogs continue to spill the beans - who would want to buy leaderless, unprofitable and non-growing Controls?

As if on cue, the news was out via Business Week (weblink below) that big-gorilla Siemens, flush with cash, was hovering around ready to buy. They have a Rail business, but China may buy that. Once the bidding starts, others (Schneider, Emerson, GE) will join the game.

There is lots of rattling in the Invensys weblogs. The newly appointed CEO of Rail, Kevin Riddett is ridiculed continually as a bigot and inept hatchet-man with no real understanding of the business. IOM CEO, Sudipta Bhattacharya, is considered more of an intellectual than an effective manager. As for Controls, there seems to be no CEO as the business drifts. All three Divisions remain in a holding pattern, awaiting the news of who their new bosses will be. Most employees wisely welcome the change.

Click Siemens Circling Invensys in Breakup Means 80% Boost

Click Siemens bid talk sparks Invensys frenzy

Click Read the Invensys weblogs

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Steve Jobs & Apple Innovation

As I've told you, after decades as a PC user I finally got a 27" iMac on my desktop. I struggled in agony for the first month, switching between my old PC and my new iMac, till I finally got the idea - Apple does things the easy, intuitive way, while the PC is a hodge-podge. Today, a few months later, I'm a confirmed Mac addict and my desktop PC is in storage.

The iPhone and then the iPad introduced me to Apple. During my recent bucket-list trips, instead of lugging around my PC laptop, I took my iPad, checking my email whenever I was in WiFi distance. And we review our daily crop of photos. And I read TIME, WIRED and other magazines whenever I want. I don't read printed magazines much any more.

This week, after my return from my trip down-under, I walked into a local Apple store and purchased a MacbookPro laptop and and an iPad2. Hey, I'm hooked!

In August 2011, Apple overtook Exxon as the company with the largest market-capitalization in the world. How's that for climbing to the top? In August too, Steve Jobs, announced his exit as CEO.

The TV channels and news shows all had special programs which featured Steve Jobs driving Apple to preeminence. I specifically remember him saying in one interview, "If you make good products, go home; you must make insanely great products!"

Even if you don't use Apple products it's easy to see the influence Apple and Jobs have had on society, especially in the last 10 years. It's hard to imagine the personal technology landscape without him.

Steve Jobs' exit has been coming for a long time and it's been no secret that he has been struggling with various health issues since surviving a bout with pancreatic cancer in 2004 and more recently, a liver transplant in 2009. He has looked thin and gaunt in a number of public appearances over the last few years. Despite taking a medical leave in January this year, he appeared at the iPad2 launch in March and at the Worldwide Developers Conference for the iOS 5 and iCloud announcement in June.

Jobs gave the commencement address at Stanford University in 2005, shortly after being treated for pancreatic cancer. His 3 messages are inspirational and I suggest you watch the video (weblink below). His closing message for the students was "stay hungry, stay foolish."

Click Steve Jobs Stanford Commencement Speech 2005

Click 7 insanely different principles for breakthrough success

Click Steve Jobs' Best Quotes Ever

Click Harvard Business Review - Build Brands Apple's Way

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eFeedback

Tom Nelson [TomNelson@RacineFed.com] commented on "Insourcing" and the future of Chinese manufacturing:
    "For us, the last couple years we have seen severe “quality fade” from our Chinese vendors mated with price increases and newly unreliable delivery. Additionally, minimum quantities have increased dramatically and in some cases ten times past annual quantities. Obviously we’ve been bringing these parts back to local sources.

    "What will China’s manufacturing future be? Will this affect its worldwide competitive position? One of our sourcing partners believes the country is destined to go through cycles of low-cost to high cost exports driven by resulting demand changes, and thus inflation and deflation.

    "The analogy he made was a comparison to Japan. In 1955 'Made in Japan' meant junk. Over a period of decades Hondas and Toyotas eventually became viable low price alternatives, then low price competitors, then peers and then aspirants to leadership. Today, Japanese products compete very well worldwide against all competitors.

    "Japan’s post WWII culture development was heavily influenced by the West (even its constitution). On the other hand, China’s culture development was (and is) heavily influenced by Russia, a communist country, and of course China is still communist, in spite of its slogan 'Capitalism with Chinese Culture'. Russia, a country with a large army and a space program, has never successfully competed worldwide. Where will Russia and Communism lead China?

    "It will be interesting to see how China develops in the next couple of decades."

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John Yolton [John.Yolton@skf.com] enjoys his regular visits to Brazil. John commented on my recent visit to that country:

    "I visit Brazil every year, sometimes more than once. In fact my current passport has five Brazilian visas, and I finally got my 10-years visa last August.

    "I've already been once this year and will return in October for their Pulp & Paper Industry Association conference and exhibition in Sao Paulo. That conference is one of the largest P&P Industry conferences and exhibitions held globally, in keeping with Brazil's tremendous growth. They are building world-class, state-of-the-art $US 1B+ pulp mills continuously in order to keep up with global demand.

    "The attitude and behavior of everyone I meet in Brazil reminds me of ourselves here in the USA, back in the 60s and 70s when I started my career. It is a 'No problem, I'll just do that' response to any situation at hand.

    "The big difference between our culture then and theirs now is the Brazilians' immediate grasp and embrace of technology and its significance in their rapidly industrialized world. Just as our rapid economic expansion created a whole new middle-class, so now a huge middle-class is being created in Brazil through the use of technology.

    "You had to notice that every vehicle can run on either gasoline or alcohol (ethanol made domestically from their sugar cane) and that every gas station has both fuels to pump. And you had to notice the traffic on the rodovias traversing through Sao Paulo."

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Norm Plummer [nplummer@haeiwacom.com] had these observations on my recent discussion of "Automation in the Cloud":

    "Customers are becoming more comfortable with the security aspect of Cloud-based systems. I think it is a function of the 'on-demand' nature of things like smartphones, IPads and the Internet.

    "The main concerns we see from prospective clients revolve around system availability and responsiveness to program change requests. The argument can be made that a managed cloud environment performs better than in-house systems in those regards, although the perception of better control using in-house systems still seems prevalent.

    "Your point about complex and fragmented value chains will become the trump card. Developing applications that provide global (but secure) visibility is not a trivial task for any in-house development staff."

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