JimPinto.com - Connections for Growth & Success™
No. 214 : 10 August 2006

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

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Invensys Q1 good results & stock reverse-split

Someone on the Invensys weblog asked on Monday, 7 August: "Am I seeing right? Did ISYS go to 175p this morning?"

Actually that was correct. One has to dig it out, but evidently Invensys shares did a 1-for-10 share consolidation effective 7 August 2006. This was approved by shareholders at the Annual General Meeting on 3 August 2006. Trading in the new shares on the London Stock Exchange commenced on 7 August 2006.

At the AGM, the company reported good performance at both its process and rail systems businesses and posted a 55% increase in Q1 operating profit for continuing operations to £45M ($84M) in the 3 months to end-June on revenue up 7% to £598M.

On May 25, Invensys turned in its first full year pretax profit for more than six years and unveiled its second major refinancing plan in two years - a rights issue to raise £341M and lower-cost banking facilities worth another £700M.

On the Invensys weblog, an investor reported talking with Ulf Henriksson at the AGM and was complimentary. Perhaps he was impressed just with being able to talk with the CEO, oblivious of the fact that very few Invensys employees have actually met the man, and probably wouldn't recognize him if they saw him.

Click Invensys confident as Q1 operating profit up 55%:

Click Insert your own views on the Invensys weblog

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ISA - the melting iceberg continues to melt

The decline continues at ISA - the Instrumentation Systems & Automation society. Many members and local-section leaders are concerned that the real issues are not being addressed.

Ken Baker, the current President considers that good progress is being made and provide this list of accomplishments:

  • Re-branding: Tagline, mission statement, promise to members
  • InTech magazine Re-design
  • New Executive Director and Marketing Director
  • Automation Federation launched
  • Manufacturing Interoperability Guideline Working Group
  • Dick Morley's Innovator's Alley
  • Global Business Partner Model
  • Certified Automation Professional (CAP) program
  • Enhancing Standards and Access
Behind the good intentions membership continues to decline, the primary indicator of the "melting iceberg": 28,937 in 2005, down from 30,109 in 2004. Walt Boyes, editor of CONTROL magazine insists that even these numbers are padded.

ISA has $30-35 million in the bank, which is simply collecting interest and providing a false sense of security. This significant nest-egg, plus major real-estate assets in RTP in N. Carolina, would allow ISA to make a lot of BIG moves. But the society is stuck in "instant indecision".

The big, hard decisions are not being made; perhaps, with the present governance, they cannot be made. The volunteer office holders are mostly engineers and mid-level managers, completely inexperienced in a business sense. Senior corporate executives are not interested in being involved.

The Cleveland Section recently sent an "open letter" to Ken Baker. The executive summary starts with this provocative statement: "ISA is on a collision course with irrelevance." It concludes with the following:

    "A daringly simple plan is proposed: Join together with as many of the major US technical societies that are willing. Propose to significant National resources that they underwrite a program to re-invent technical societies. When that’s done, take the work product from that effort and implement, in whole, within ISA.

    "There is not much time. To make matters even worse, we are growing a whole generation of technical players to whom technical societies are a thing of the past. Even if technical societies were to become magically reinvented tomorrow, the perception barrier remains high. It will take time to have new visions and new roles established. It will take forever if we don't start soon.

    "The way forward for ISA involves three steps: (1) Clear and unambiguous recognition by Society leadership that we have a problem, what it is, and that we are committed to solving it. Do this now. (2) Set up a blue-ribbon commission to report to the President and the Society with a plan to fully address the problem. Do this within six months. (3) Diligently work the plan as business number one, for as long as it takes."

Terry Molloy from the Northern California Section, the second-largest (after Houston) has long been an activist. He writes:
    "ISA's history in the NorCal section shows the users drove its early successes. Initially we were a technical society supported by the user community that had a need to solve real problems in industries. We (the members) are a volunteer professional society primarily interested in advancing our own abilities and the technology we use.

    "ISA will only survive as a professional technical society if we go back to the basics - Standards Development, local technical conferences, local training and networking events."

My own concerns are about the longer term prospects for ISA in a fast-moving global environment. I do indeed recognize the good efforts and progress that have been made, but I see this as only incremental. My advice – make some big moves:
  • Clear change in governance
  • Strong international membership drive
  • Automation Federation: combine with major member organizations
  • Make serious acquisitions
  • User Conferences instead of Exhibitions
John Berra, President of Emerson Process Management, is a significant industry executive for whom I have great respect. I asked John what he thought of ISA. His response, "I believe in ISA!" Perhaps it's best to conclude on that high note.

Click Automation.com - ISA – The Melting Iceberg Continues to Melt

Click Automation World (June 2006) ISA – only incremental progress

Click Antique Governance Plagues Cash-fat ISA

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Journey to the edge of America - Traveler's Tales

I had a lot of feedback about my planned trip to Rhame, North Dakota with comments, suggestions and advice on how to get there, what to see along the way and what to do when I got there. Thanks to all who wrote. I'm back, and I thought you'd enjoy some of my traveler's tales.

I was taking my sister, Dora Pinto, to see some of her many friends. We started and ended our automobile trip in Chicago, the round trip totaled 2,400 miles in 8 days. The benefit of unlimited mileage with the rental car was offset by high gas prices, mostly $3+ per gallon, costing more than the car rental. Detailed instructions from Mapquest proved very accurate and dependable.

Our first stop was Mankato, Minnesota - 400 miles and a relatively easy trip. We did about 300 miles on excellent Interstate highways and the balance on local roads through small towns. Driving around the picturesque source of the mighty Mississippi was spectacular.

The next morning, just as we were starting out, we were introduced to the sudden and spooky summer storms of the Mid-West. We were just about to leave when all hell broke loose - thunder, lightning, black clouds looming and then a tremendous downpour. "Don't worry," they said, "it'll stop soon!" And true enough, it stopped within about an hour and we continued as if nothing had happened.

More small-town America for a couple hours (to bypass Minneapolis) and then another smooth Interstate with not much traffic and an easy 70/80/90 mph speed - my sister didn't even notice as I inched past 100. Actually, I was lucky during the whole trip - we never got stopped for speeding in 6 states. We crossed into N. Dakota just before Fargo, and carried right on towards Bismarck - total of 600 miles for the day. Not bad for the first day.

Interesting anecdote: I'm careful not to let my gas fall below 1/4 tank, so with about 200 miles still to go for Bismarck, we decided to stop for gas. There was a small sign on the Interstate, an arrow pointing to gas/food 5 miles - nothing visible from the highway. We past a scattered clump of buildings, post office, fire-department, but no sign of any gas and no people around. We finally saw a friendly fellow who said the gas station was "back there". We went back, but no sign for gas. We asked another friendly native, who said turn left. Still no sign of gas. We went in to what seemed like a store to ask where was the gas, and the man said, "Right here!" pointing to a tiny gas pump. "But," we asked, "Where is the sign?" "Oh, we don't need a sign," he smiled, "everyone knows where it is."

After spending the night with friends, we set off for Rhame - the 200 miles now seemed close. N. Dakota is flat, nothing but straight roads and browned grass, spotted here and there with cattle (mostly black-Angus, which give the best beef) gathered around the green spots. There were clusters of trees with the ranchers' homes. Our hosts said they had visited Minnesota, and felt "claustrophobic" with too many trees around. Later, in Virginia, I wondered how our N. Dakota friends would feel about the super-abundant foliage.

Rhame (population 139) was some 20 miles West of Bowman, a tiny town which itself is some 30 miles South of the main Interstate. And our hosts' 3,000 acres ranch was an unpaved road, marked with a small sign, "Njos Ranch" (pronounced Nace - Swedish origin).

I spent a day on the Njos cattle ranch - lots of pictures & stories. They don't use horses to herd cattle anymore - just "4-wheelers" and dogs, and sometimes they coax the stragglers on foot.

One unusual story is worth telling:
It turns out that a cow and a calf had "foot rot" - a bacterial infection that occurs with any open cut in wet mud and manure. They limp at first; if left untreated it could get progressively worse. An antibiotic must be administered, preferably at a neck artery. This is done by coaxing the affected cow into a pen with movable walls force them into something called a "head-gate". When the cow tries to escape through the head-gate opening, the exit gate is narrowed with a lever, clamping the head. Without the corral and head gate, it is only hit-and-miss with a syringe at the end of a long stick.

Well, we did the calf in the head-gate relatively easily. And then there was the cow - really huge when you get close up, and hard to hustle into the pen; they can head-butt you out of the way. We managed to force the cow in, got it's head locked in the head-gate and administered the injection. But then, big problem. It's foot was jammed in the slider opening so that it's head was locked, and the lever couldn't get it open.

The rancher's daughter, No. 1 cowgirl, tried to get the cow to move its foot by hitting it on the foreleg, but it wouldn't budge. Then the top-man himself got a crowbar, pushed it under the hoof and tried to move it. But it wouldn't budge. Then the rancher's wife, with all her experience, hit it really hard on the fore leg - ouch. But it didn't budge - it just stood there, with its head locked in the head-gate and its foot locking it in.

So, I said I'd try. They stood back politely and smiled. I thought, there's no use me trying more of the same - so, what to do? Well, I had a flash-thought about Walt Boyes' wife Betsy who speaks with animals, and they listen (different story, ask Walt about it). So I tapped the cow lightly on its foot and said gently, "Oh, c'mon cow. We're trying to set you free. Take out your foot!" And the cow moved its foot. The head-gate opened and it ran off. Just like that. They are still telling the story in Rhame, ND....

Well, after a few days of ranching and seeing more of my sister's many friends (who are now my friends) we set off for Omaha, Nebraska - distance 700 miles. We went South to S. Dakota, rushed past Mt. Rushmore, and zoomed past Sturgis (the motorcycle Mecca) and then hell broke loose - another storm. I mean lightning, thunder and hail-stones the size of big marbles. The rental car rattled like a tin can and I visions of big damage bills. We tried to stop at any convenient shelter, but others always seemed to be there before us. And when we did stop for a while, the storm stopped. But then it started again. We must have done this start-and-stop running-for-cover a hundred times; but then how long can you stop when you're heading for Omaha, 450 miles away?

And the problem was not just hailstones. Visibility was often just a few yards. We'd be moving quite fast, when suddenly things would go blank; of course, the danger was hitting someone in front who might suddenly stop, or being hit from behind. Whatodo? Hey, no one warned me about the crazy storms. And when I tell them now, they just smile.

We finally got to Omaha with a little patience and a lot of luck - several hours late (about 11:00 pm in the dark). The return to Chicago (another 500 miles) the next day was uneventful. Oh well, I'm going on too long and my editor (me) says I must stop.

Click Rhame, ND on Google (Maps and Satellite images):

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America's dead-end problem

Because I love my country, I experienced the biggest emotional disappointment ever in my life when GW Bush was re-elected President. I stopped my eNews political editorials with the comment, "America has elected the President it deserves". I am sorry I wrote that. We do not deserve what we got.

Anna Quindlen writes an essay on the back page of Newsweek. Here are extracts from the July 24, 06 issue:

The calls for withdrawal from Iraq grow more persistent, countered by warnings that chaos will be the result: If American troops leave, all hell will break loose.

Americans don't know quite what to do. Recent polls indicate that 60% are against the war, and about 33% want to pull out immediately. The rest accept political strategies that include "stay the course" and "finish what we started". But the course was never clear, and what we started doesn't have much relationship to what we'll end up with.

A president who leads his country into war has a special responsibility to forgo oversimplification and partisan politics. The Bush administration has gone the other way, beginning with the MISSION ACCOMPLISHED banner that now seems like a pathetic boast.

Last month there was a specious congressional debate on withdrawal. Much of it was a series of position statements, looking not toward bloodshed in Baghdad but the ballot box in the midterm elections.

So our elected officials find themselves threading their way among the opinions of American voters who haven't really been told enough to have an informed opinion. Like "Ring around the Rosy" there are no leaders, just a circle of followers. We all fall down.

Last week the Government Accountability Office released a report saying the war strategy was murky, the effort poorly planned and the $1.5 billion pumped each week by the US into Iraq is chronically mismanaged. In other words, the government has its own chaos.

The sad thing is that everyone now knows how this is going to end: little by little, acknowledging a stupendous error in tactics and judgment without ever acknowledging it at all, the United States will pull its troops from Iraq, leaving advisers and aid workers. The civil war will continue. So will the killings. There will be chaos no matter when we leave. But the politicians will find a way to claim victory.

Iraq may even be better off. But will the United States? The deaths of nearly 3,000 American women and men have been used for purposes of posturing and politicking. For shame.

Click Newsweek (24 July 06) Anna Quindlen - The War as Wedge Issue

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My sister Dora Pinto [lorettapinto32@yahoo.co.in] has a Ph.D. in Psychology and lectures on feminine ethos in the modern world. She read our discussion on whether or when there will be a woman President in America, and wrote this feedback for eNews:
    "Over a century of battling for women's rights has resulted in women getting not just the right to vote and freedom to join the work force, but has brought a subtle shift of forces - women have become masculinized.

    "I saw a magazine on women entrepreneurs and the cover had a hard-faced woman, arms folded and gaze level. The caption said, 'Move over buddy!' Women like this can show men that 'anything you can do, I can do better!'

    "However, the result is that men feel threatened and subtly intimidated. And women feel turned off. No wonder both sexes don't want to vote for a woman President. The several women Presidents and Prime Ministers you mentioned were strong, and could hold their own in a male-dominated society.

    "Unfortunately, this is no solution. Women should not trade in their feminine ethos for equality with men. Women's power is their feminine soul. A woman who can remain truly feminine while she gets educated and qualified to cope with a technological world, can make head-level judgments tempered by the heart. That is truly human. Such a woman can be strong enough to make an excellent President in a macho society as the US appears to be today.

    "Bear in mind that men also have an element of feminine in their personality - when a father cares for his child, expressing the feminine in himself. So, even a male president who has a well-developed feminine side to temper the masculine in him can be a better President."

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Fr. Kenneth Vavrina [STRSCHURCH@aol.com] who I met in Omaha, Nebraska, provided this viewpoint from America's heartland:

    "We live in a climate that celebrates a distorted individualism at the cost of human dignity and the collective good - the pillars of social justice. This is the modus operandi of the "gimme" generation.

    "If your politicians or talk-show hosts do not espouse compassion, forgiveness, non-violence and mercy, vote them our of office, or turn them off.

    "Why did it take Hurricane Katrina to wake us up to the outrageous poverty blighting American cities? It is unbelievable that the war of choice in Iraq called forth such little contesting. I know clergy who invoked God to bless our violence. What about the glaring and growing inequalities in American wealth?

    "We need to control our borders and pass comprehensive and fair immigration reform. But we are first and foremost brothers and sisters, and only secondarily citizens of a given country. We cannot hold Third World children ransom for the debts of their grandparents, or withhold medicine that could save lives.

    "God will not accept these violations of human rights and social justice. Mine won't. Will yours?

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Piercarlo Romano [promano@avidsolutionsinc.com] has this perspective which covers several of our threads:

    "Warren Buffett and Bill Gates believe that every life has equal value. Do you? If so, consider the following questions:

    1. Our minimum wage is $5.15 per hour. Mexico's is $0.50. Is a closed border with Mexico aligned with the concept of every life having equal value? Is closing our borders really just the opposite - increasing (arguably) our standard of living at the expense of Mexicans'?

    2. Would you spend $1,000 per year on an American high school student, to help ensure that she attends college? What if the $1,000 ensured that ten elementary school children in the third world attended high school? What about donating to the American Heart Association to extend the life of overweight American smokers, instead of spending a fraction of that money to protect hundreds of third world children against malaria?

    3. How does this affect your personal spending habits on items like vacations and wide screen TVs?

"Now, do you really believe that every life has equal value?"

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