JimPinto.com - Connections for Growth & Success™
No. 240 : 25 October 2007

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

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12.5 mins.

San Diego & California firestorms

The news spread quickly in the global village. I'd like to thank the many friends who telephoned and emailed and Skyped and text-messaged to find out how I was doing. I appreciate your concern. Very much.

The dry conditions and high desert winds in Southern California have contributed to widespread fires. This is the largest natural disaster in the US since Hurricane Katrina. San Diego, where I live, is the hardest hit.

Property damage has reached at least $1 billion in San Diego County alone. Now in their fourth day (as I write this) the fires have destroyed 1,200 homes just in San Diego County, and triggered the largest evacuation in California history. 16 wind-driven blazes spread through Southern California, from Malibu to the Mexican border, and forced a half-million people to evacuate.

In San Diego County alone there were about 9 or 10 different fires. The largest is the Witch Creek fire, covering an area which extends to just a few miles of where I live. I must hasten to tell you that my own home and close neighborhood remains untouched.

Just 4 years ago (Oct. 2003) a major fire destroyed 8 homes in my immediate neighborhood (Scripps Ranch) as well as about 200 homes within a radius of about 5 miles. My home was still being remodeled and was very vulnerable. But it remained unscathed because my neighbor Big-Ed stayed behind and used his pool pump to spray water in the face of the approaching fire. (Weblink below)

This time, when we received the reverse-911 telephone call to announce mandatory evacuation, 3 neighbors (including Big-Ed) and I decided to stay behind to protect out homes. We had a large fire-hose connected to a fire-hydrant, plus a water-truck as backup. And Wade, my neighbor, figured out how to keep the sprinklers spraying on the hill behind our homes.

Fortunately, our neighborhood was spared. On Tuesday afternoon the evacuation order was lifted and our Scripps Ranch neighbors returned. So the immediate danger has passed for my home.

But now I'm concerned about friends and family in several other areas around San Diego that are still threatened as the fire continues to blaze. The winds have died down a bit, so hopefully the fires will soon be contained.

Click San Diego Union - Fire damage severe, but worst may be over

Click Struggling with San Diego's Fire Storm: Gratitude and Frustration

Click San Diego firestorm 2003

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The Cisco factor in the wireless wars

Most companies in the automation industry recognize Wireless as a new "inflection point" which will generate significant growth and market share for leaders. The Wireless Wars are marketing ploys to gain market-share through the differentiation of standards that support the majors' market strategies.

It's little more than three months since Honeywell announced its "OneWireless" solution at the Honeywell User Group meeting. Honeywell president Jack Bolick claimed that "OneWireless was the only wireless network a plant needs." The implication was that users who adopted other vendors' solutions would find themselves having to manage a plethora of protocols and several potentially conflicting wireless networks. Emerson, which was already selling its HART-based wireless networking, was the primary target against which this marketing volley was aimed. Honeywell suggested that by focusing solely on field device networking, Emerson was not giving its customers the opportunity to take advantage of the wider possibilities offered by Honeywell's much broader OneWireless in-plant wireless networking solutions.

Now Emerson has responded by announcing an alliance with Cisco, which offers users pretty much everything that Honeywell's OneWireless offers AFTER the ISA-100 standard is released, plus the added bonus of WirlessHART-based wireless networking NOW.

Cisco, the mainstream networking "big gorilla", is once again (previous alliance with GE-Fanuc fizzled) eyeing the industrial automation arena. CISCO sees the growing convergence of the IT and automation worlds, and hopes to extend its reach from the corporate level to the plant, not quite recognizing the intricacies in the fragmented industrial markets.

In April 2007 Cisco announced an "alliance" with Rockwell, with plans to develop what they called a "common technology view". No one really understands the sweet-nothing words that were used to introduce that alliance, beyond the fact that CISCO wanted to play in the industrial arena.

This is clearly a marketing game of ping-pong, with CISCO playing all sides. Honeywell must soon come up with a response to the latest Emerson initiative. Or, take my advice: Forget it, and simply focus on gaining market-share - which is the real prize.

Click The Industrial Wireless Wars

Click InTech eNews - The wild, wacky, wireless wars

Click Alliances keeps CISCO moving up the application stack

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Let's have some fun and make some money

In his 1978 book, "The Gamesman," Michael Maccoby describes four types of business personalities: Craftsman (or Artisan), Organizer, Jungle Fighter (or Warrior) and Gamesman. No individual is purely one type, but rather, includes a mixture depending on the circumstances and personalities.

The Artisan values detailed analysis, skill and experience - typically engineers. The Organizer is most effective at developing policies and retaining the status quo - typically financial people. This type of person is needed in times of stability, but is often a big impediment to organizations that require courage to take risks in times of fast-moving change. The Warrior is useful during times of turmoil, when tactical changes must be enforced and personnel reductions become necessary.

The Gamesman values strategic overviews and thrives on rapidly moving tactical changes. In today's rapidly changing business environment, Gamesman strengths are most recruited for top-level positions.

Today's business is a game on a global playing field. Employees are not hourly-paid pawns, but sophisticated knowledge-workers, actively involved to win against fierce worldwide competition. They want to know the game-plan, to see how they can participate and contribute. They want to be challenged - to have fun.

At Action Instruments, the employee-owned company I founded, we had a basic theme, "Let's have some fun and make some money." It's important for businesses to have fun. All things being equal, a business that makes money consistently is much more fun. This is an attitude that feeds on itself - the businesses that win have fun, and businesses that have fun tend to be winners.

Focus on creating a positive and productive business environment, help individual players to flourish, and have fun. Wins will come.

Click Review & Buy - Michael Maccoby's Book, The Gamesman

Click Automation World - Winning in a new business environment

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Poetic justice prize

There are many who still believe that Al Gore won the 2000 US presidential election, which was handed to George Bush by the strictly partisan 5-4 Supreme Court decision. Justice Stephen Breyer's dissenting opinion still reverberates - look it up.

Too, there are many who believe that the 2004 re-election of Bush was stolen in Ohio. It was just recently reported that 2004 Ohio election records have been "accidentally" destroyed, despite a federal order to preserve them. You tell me what this means.

Now in 2007, while Bush is considered the worst president in US history, Al Gore was awarded the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize, on top of winning popular Oscar and Emmy awards. If there was a prize for poetic justice, Al Gore would win that too.

Bush's power derives not from his intelligence or talents, but from his continued harping on fears of terrorism, plus support from the dominant military/industrial establishment. His presidency is a monument to the perils of shortsightedness.

By contrast, Al Gore has finally been rewarded for taking the long view. Many are agreed that not since Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson has America seen a political figure with such a keen, scientific mind. He is on the board of Apple and is a senior adviser to Google, among many other business and teaching involvements.

I'm NOT advocating that Al Gore should enter the 2008 presidential race. However, I think he can and should use his political cards to maintain recognition of his long view of American politics and global warming. If you haven't read his recent articulate and passionate book, "An Assault on Reason", read it!

    Note on Global Warming: A majority of scientists now agree that humans are contributing to global warming. Of course, there are the contrarians who point out the Gore's movie had gross inaccuracies. A British judge recently ruled that there are 9 scientifically unproven inaccuracies in the movie. Of course, this also means that there are an overwhelming number of facts. The remaining dissenters have roots traceable to funding from fossil-fuel industries, and they are rapidly being shot down. The scientific debate is over.

Click Al Gore is finally rewarded for taking the long view

Click The Worst US President Ever?

Click Al Gore's Book - "Assault on Reason":

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Generation Q - the Quiet Generation

I'm angry. And I'm angry that more people are not angry about some of the really important things that are going on today.

I always enjoy author and NY Times columnist Tom Friedman's writing. It's insightful and thought provoking. Here's a summary of recent Friedman thoughts, interspersed with my own comments & views.

Young people today are more optimistic and idealistic than they should be, and also much less radical and politically engaged than they need to be. Friedman calls them "Generation Q" - the Quiet Americans.

Generation Q is not paying attention. They should be angry. They are being dumped on - with huge budget deficits, Social Security deficits and ecological deficits. They will likely spend their entire adult lives digging out from the holes that this present generation - Generation G (for Greedy) - is leaving them.

Generation Q would be doing itself a favor, and America a favor, if it demanded that every candidate for political office answer 3 questions: What is your plan for climate change? What is your plan for Social Security reform? What is your plan for dealing with financial deficits that will make us China's slaves?

Generation Q is the most technology savvy group that this country has ever produced. They're always connected to iPods and Blackberries, and keep text messaging, e-mailing and blogging. They're on MySpace, YouTube & Google. They've got Nintendo Wiis, Game Boys, Play Stations.

But Activism cannot be uploaded to a blog. It can only happen when young voters speak the truth to power, face to face, in big numbers, on campuses or in marches to Washington. Generation Q needs a jolt of the idealism, activism and outrage that Kent State students showed when they rioted to changed the course of the Vietnam war.

Gen-Q must get organized in ways that will force politicians to pay attention. Beyond just blogs that are drowned out by a cacophony of competing conversations, we need their practical Idealism and dynamic Activism. We need in-your-face Change!

In the words of Buffalo Springfield's 1967 song:

    There's somethin' happening here,
    What it is ain't exactly clear.
    There's a man with a gun over there,
    Tellin' me I gotta beware.
    I think it's time we stop,
    Hey, what's that sound?
    Everybody look what's going down.
University Campuses of America - where are you? America needs you!

Click Tom Friedman - Generation Q

Click Defending 'Generation Q'

Click The Generation of Generation Q

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Patrick Gouhin, [pgouhin@ISA.org] ISA Executive Director and CEO explains what the Society is doing to generate success:
    "We are working hard to reinvent ourselves and position ISA and our partnering organizations in a way that we can be the voice of automation all around the world raising the stature and credibility of the overall profession we represent to a level that has never before been realized.

    "This is not easy and it will not come quickly, and while that journey should have begun long ago, we can't wait any longer to organize the troops and lead the charge and we are fortunate to have a strong foundation on which we can build. That is what we intend to do. And we can't do it without both individual and corporate support. Times have changed and so must we.

    "I do not believe that the individuals and corporations, which claim a stake in the field of automation, can spend our time and attention focused solely inward looking at each other. We are competing for talent, dollars, and every other imaginable resource with many other professions that have been better coordinated and with more history behind them.

    "In order for us to realize the potential we have and receive the credibility we deserve as a legitimate and understood market power, we must elevate our thought and goals and unite to show the essential critical mass.

    "When we are successful as a profession, the world will understand all of the various technologies of automation and how they impact humanity in a positive way on a daily basis and they will aspire to be part of the movement."

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S. Chandra Sekhar [Chandras@kockw.com] comments on the futility of name-changing:

    "After reading about the ISA name change debacle, I started wondering whether all this hoopla is really worth it. It reminded me of several other name changes which had resulted in a negative effect on the morale of the people involved. Basically a company name gives pride to those involved. By its very nature, pride cannot be given in the 'future tense', meaning that nostalgia and pride should be seen together.

    "I can now recollect my disappointment, in fact, when 'Instrument Society of America' became what it is now. I am not sure if any future name changes would result in any more pride in its members. On the other hand, the existing members might feel a bit confused, to say the least.

    "Compare this to what the previous 'Computer Maintenance Corporation' of India did. At one point of time they realized that they were doing much more than mere 'maintenance' and simply changed the name to 'CMC'. What was an acronym previously became simply a 'name' now. They are happy forever.

    "Enough said. My proposal is to change the name to 'ISA' and define what ISA stands for, with a suitable slogan."

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Gary Mintchell [gmintchell@automationworld.com] suggests that healthcare must indeed be government-run:

    "The commenter on healthcare about if there is no government regulation and we all have free choice to choose the best health plan is living in a dream world. Theoretically, the idea sounds hard to beat. But, who has time in the midst of earning a living to study in detail the complex (purposely so) offerings of health insurance?

    "What we'd all have to do is find a trusted advisor. Between the over-hyped offerings of providers and the often tainted advice of advisors, who is going to step in and tell companies that they've gone over the line? Actually, your opening rant is sufficient rebuttal to the 18th century theories of leave the government out of it."

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