Saturday, June 27, 2009

House passes Climate bill

Been doing some reading of the 'House Climate Bill' or HR 2998 American Clean Energy and Security Act passed Friday June 26th, 2009 219-212. I have to admit it is very dry as with most bills, that and I have been distracted by doing other things today. A couple of interesting points of what I have read / discovered so far. The bill is ~1,500 pages with 300 of those pages added Friday morning at 3AM. A number of people asked to read the updated text when they learned of the amendment and were told a copy was not available at the speaker's desk or elsewhere. Another interesting point I've learned is the DoE once again has power to give money to automakers to help them transitioning to 'cleaner' automobiles. The exact amount of the new loan is from "SEC. 125. ADVANCED TECHNOLOGY VEHICLE MANUFACTURING INCENTIVE LOANS." changed from $25B to $50B.

The cartogram right is very interesting depiction of the votes by state and 'Aye', 'Nay'. From looking at this cartogram and other articles I have to wonder how much lobbying took place related to all the Smart Grid provisions in the bill. I know from previous articles both Google and GE have been actively pushing their SmartGrid technologies. In the same section of SmartGrid and electric distribution the bill states "The United States shall take no equity or other ownership interest in the qualified advanced electric transmission manufacturing plant or qualified advanced electric transmission property for which funding is provided under this subsection." I seriously hope they never revoke / undo this clause or we could be in for bigger trouble. As some might recall the Roosevelt administration tried to run the power plants under the TVA...They are however making changes to light bulb requirements. Starting in 2012 any new candelabra base incandescent shot not exceed 60 watts. So, I guess that means Congress knows how much light we need in our rooms to see, read, eat, etc. Additionally the bill also mandates that beginning January 2012 intermediate base incandescent lamps shall not exceed 40 watts.

The bill clears the way for some new jobs for 'Advisory' positions needing to be created for the Energy Technology Advisory Council. Those who are an advisor and do not already draw a salary from the federal government will be paid "for level IV of the Executive Schedule under section 5315 of title 5, United States Code" or, from what I can read $58K annum. Unfortunately I have only gotten through 350+ pages of the bill and need to move to some other topics, but my quick take is this bill is not in the best interest of the US. We can expect dramatic changes once this bill reaches the senate and they have had an opportunity to read and improve the bill. One last item which gives me pause is the potential for future problems with the proposed 'cap and trade' of carbon credits and their potential valuation. If this area is not handled properly it could turn into another bubble and companies in-properly placing valuation on their carbon credits.

Well gotta run, but I hope everyone stays cool, in the Austin area we tied another heat record today at 105 :-(.

Bryan Karp - from

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Interview between CNBC and Barney Frank on Exec pay

Typical Barney Frank...change the question, avoid answering what the interviewer asks and push his own set of questions and answers. Wish I could avoid the questions like he does, maybe if I do I could be in congress.

Once again this interview highlights it is painfully obvious Mr. Frank is unable to handle interviews with multiple people asking questions, even when they are asking one at a time. In this instance Rebecca Jarvis asked Mr. Frank a question which he avoided answering the root of her question. David Faber then proceeded to ask him a different but related topic, Barney then became confused and agitated how dare two people ask him questions in an interview. When he still hadn't answered the question good 'ol Mark Haines followed up and asked Barney a question, where Barney interrupted Mark repeatedly, and then decided he couldn't handle the question or complexity of the questions so Barney and Mark ended the interview pre-maturely.

So, interviewers, I guess your answer is either don't schedule him for interviews or only allow one person to ask him questions. Then let him pander to the direction the wind is blowing today as he chooses, then ask him the same question again. As we all learned from this episode and the many others, it is okay for him to interrupt the interviewer, but nobody should ever interrupt Barney.

Now just to show I'm being fair, my liberal co-worker overheard this interview and made it a point to step in my office and say she, can't stand this idiot!

Thanks CNBC, keep up the good work and watch the video below.

Barney Frank on Executive Pay -

Pictures of Kids from Chicago trip

Pictures from Julie of the boys and their cousin Iris during their Chicago trip. I'll continue to publish pictures as I receive them and have time.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Thanks to Walt Mossberg's review of the Kindle...

Thanks as usual to Walt Mossberg for his technical reviews of new gadgets.  I had been debating on a.) a kindle all together and b.) the new kindle.  Walt's review has helped me make up my mind that *IF* I do decide to bite the bullet and buy a Kindle to not buy the DX.

You can view his review using the link below.

The Latest Kindle: Bigger, Not Better, Than Its Sibling

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Leave our 401(k) alone

The following is a re-post from my FB page January 8th 2009.

Big Slide in 401(k)s Spurs Calls for Change -
Source: "The stock-market rout has ignited a crisis of confidence for millions of Americans who manage their own retirement savings through 401(k) plans."

Very strange...every time I ever take a allocation survey it always profiles your risk appetite and compares it to that of the 70's bear market. Now, I wasn't alive then and I am in my young 30's so while this does hurt I am willing to live with the short-term losses for the long-term gains. Congress should not touch or modify the 401(k) plans just because some people can't grasp the concept of doing their own research or hiring a financial planner (which I have not done nor do I have the resources to do so). In one sense it is very clear there is no 'true' educational program other than what I have learned from on what companies / funds to purchase. Therefore it is no surprise when employees make poor decisions we all think the system is bad because the people didn't make the right decision especially since they probably don't understand who they are investing in and why. We need to improve the education in our schools and workplaces of how to invest, why we should invest and forget about the late 90's and the high flying days of quick gains in a few days / months. Buffet probably has one of the best lines I have ever heard....I don't care what the market does today, tomorrow, or the next few years, invest in good companies (or in most 401(k)'s good funds) and periodically check on them and re-adjust as needed. Too many people are concerned with what happened in the market today vs. what is going to happen in the next 3 - 5 years. Oh and don't push me into SS considering as a previous poster stated it is no more than a type of ponzi scheme as I'm paying for my neighbors who are now retired...and given the current funding and plans for SS it will be bankrupt when I am ready to retire....and just for the naysayers...if that isn't true then why do we talk about reforming the SS system?!?! Stay out of our finances DC and leave the 401(k) system alone!!

Friday, June 5, 2009

Spring...huh..where did it go?

The past few months have been extremely busy and included lots of changes. As usual Pointserve has been consuming quite a bit of my time, though I have been able to learn and apply some new concepts, travel to new places, and on occasion relax.
Travels, Customers and thoughts...
Since my last posting I have been to Montreal twice, Chicago, Denver twice, Boston, and Albany. While it can be tough on everyone's personal life, I find it relaxing and exhilarating. During my travels I find I have more time to read the books on my reading list, listen more attentively to customers and prospects, and spend time reflecting on my personal and business life. In my opinion everyone should spend time visiting with customers once a year. Generally people think they know what their customers want and need...this is where I believe they fail and in some cases create products they want not what the customer needs. It isn't until you spend time with customers and/or prospects and walked in their shoes you can truly understand what they want and/or need. To that end I recently re-read the book Five Myths of Consumer Behavior: Create Technology Products that Consumer Will Love. Though the concepts are geared toward companies producing technology for consumers, I believe the process can be broadly applied. If you don't listen to what your customers are'll build products you want not what your customers need.
Blue Ocean strategy...
I have to begin this section by saying how great the book "Blue Ocean Strategy: How to Create Uncontested Market Space and Make Competition Irrelevant" is when building new businesses / product lines. I am in the middle of a few projects and can't stress how excellent this book has been in evaluating where we want to compete, helping us stay focused, and determining if we can indeed build a blue ocean vs. a red ocean. The overall concept of the book is to make you think long and hard about the product or service you are going to provide and how you will 'Eliminate', 'Reduce', 'Increase', and 'Create' features in the market you plan to attack. The book has several great examples including Cirque du Soleil, Southwest Airlines, NetJets, and Casella Wines also known as Yellow Tail. Though we have several iterations until our product launch the combination of Blue Ocean Strategy and agile development methodology we are making great progress. I would strongly suggest that anyone planning on a new business venture, product line extension, or product line update read this book. As we get closer to our product launch I will talk about more details and provide a link to the website...until then you will have to sit in suspense :-).

New executives...
I am always amazed when a company hires a new employee of authority how everyone changes their tune and moves into a 'defend my value / worth'. During my tenure, I have seen a number of senior executives come and go and over time, I have noticed a pattern that makes me laugh. I can't say if it is because I'm over-confident in my team and personal accomplishments, or my team and personal my team's and my track record, or that we (my team and I) get our job done and get it done consistently. What I have noticed is people who are either pessimists or those that have something to worry about go out of their way to make nice with the new executive. What tends to happen next is while they are trying to show their worth they speak out of context and on occasion, they speak to tasks they should have completed vs. tasks they are just starting or have not done. It is my opinion that if you do your job and do it well you will be noticed especially in a small company. That said you can not go far enough to on occasion to tweak your own horn. The last thing I have found is if you have your ducks in a row, a well documented a 'Continuous Improvement' plan in place you will be well served.

The weight lifted...
To add just a bit more suspense, I was able to get my employment agreement modified several months ago. This was a big relief as it now allows me to own my ideas / concepts outside of my day job (pointserve). Since that time, I have been involved in numerous discussions related to new product ideas, companies, and consulting gigs. The only problem now is keeping myself focused on no more than a few projects at a time outside of regular work and family life. If only I could invent a way to pack more hours into a day and sleep, fewer hours and still be productive :-).

Things to come...
Last section for this post and this summer is going to be busy again! I have yet to make up my mind, but I am tentatively planning to attend my 15-year high school reunion from Marmion Military Academy in June. During that entire time Julie and the kids are going to be in Chicago for an entire month so, I will be enjoying pseudo bachelor life at home while they are gone. Additionally Julie and I will be celebrating our 10-year anniversary this year and are tentatively planning a trip to Antigua or any other location that has an all-inclusive package. August might also bring another Chicago trip to attend the Hinckley Big-Rock 15 year high school reunion. While I did not attend HBR, I was good friends with almost everyone who went there and lived in the neighborhood. Of course as noted above, I will be busy with a few outside interests.

I will do my best to keep things updated as the summer progresses but feel free to ping me for an update :-).

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Austin360 bridge from friend's surprise party

The pictures below are of the Austin 360 bridge. These were taken during a cruise Julie and I took on "Austin's Party Cruises" for a friend's surprise birthday party. It was a nice night and I have to say the views and time spent with friends was nice and relaxing.