Sunday, February 12, 2017

Portland Metal

Recently I went out to lunch at a great restaurant called "Doug Fir" in the Hotel Jupiter on Burnside Avenue on the East Side of Portland (across the river).  At the restaurant was a more than usual Portland-esque mix of folks - tables of 4-6 people that looked like a band with an occasional groupie mixed in, having breakfast / lunch around noon with drinks.  Many of them had shirts and hats or jackets with various band logos and I thought of the "Unreadable Band Logo of the Week" post series over at I was even able to kind of guess which type of band they might be by how they were dressed - doom metal, death metal, or more punkish metal, etc...

Lo and behold - while walking down the street I saw this flyer and indeed - there was some sort of metal band fest in town at the Bossanova Ballroom which was on Burnside right near the hotel. Thus my instincts turned out to be right.

According to one of the local weekly papers (that you typically grab for free out of a paper box on the street, or check online if you aren't old like me), the Portland Mercury, Portland is the most metal city in the country. They adjusted another poll that had Cleveland as the most metal city by noting that Cleveland's metal scene was mostly in the 1990's and those bands were defunct so when adjusted for "live" bands, Portland was #1.

I will have to check out some shows here and let you know.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Where's The Lane?

I recently traded in my old Acura MDX for a new one.  What a long, long way we have come in the 7 years since I purchased a new vehicle.  I now have an air conditioned seat, something I am looking forward to using this Spring and Summer.  I also have a heated steering wheel now, which is great during Winter.  Quite the creature comfort.

It also has a feature called Auto-Idle Stop that you can enable and disable that shuts the car off at a stop to save gas.  The Acura dealer says that is will save a mile a gallon.  At first I didn't like it, but now I am used to it.  I remembered it from when I was in a Prius cab once.  When you take your foot off the brake, the car fires up and off you go.  While you are stopped, all of the climate control and audio/whatever else you have on is still functional.  It automatically turns back on after around a minute sitting there if you haven't moved.  I have no clue how this actually saves you gas but if they say it does, I guess they can't really lie about it.

Outside of all of the comfort things, the new vehicle is a technological powerhouse.  I have had it for almost a month now and am still figuring out all of the features and tech stuff.  It has 16 gig of memory to store music onboard.  I don't use that much since I love my XM, but there it is if you want it.

Of the greatest interest to me are the next steps auto manufacturers have made to get everyone used to the idea of the inevitable autonomous vehicle.  Three things work in concert on my vehicle.  They are Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC), Lane Keeping Assist System (LKAS) and Lane Departure Warning (LDW).  At first I turned all of this stuff off, but decided to one day read the manual (I know) to understand how it all works.  It is interesting to say the least.

ACC is basically "smart" cruise control.  You set your cruise and it will keep the speed, but will also compensate for cars in front of you.  You can set the distance that you prefer between your car and the car in front of you (there are four distances to choose from).  In the city, I choose the closest distance so as not to clog traffic.  The car will actually go all the way down to zero, braking at a light, and will start moving again when the car in front moves forward.  There is a bit of a delay when you re-start, so you may look like you have no idea what you are doing, but to heck with everyone else, you don't have to accelerate or brake and they do.  Oh yes, the Auto-Idle Stop feature works with this as well, but you have to hit the accelerator to resume again if you are Auto-Idle Stopped with the ACC in charge.

LDW is, from what I have figured out, just a warning system.  It wiggles the steering wheel and shows a display when it feels you are out of the lane.

LKAS is where the rubber really hits the road.  When you enable this along with the ACC, the car literally drives itself.  LKAS keeps you centered in the lane at whatever speed you are going.  I have taken my hands off the wheel, but there are apparently sensors in the wheel because after a few seconds, the car says "you have to drive" and shuts down the auto systems.  So just a light pressure on the wheel is all you need and you can let the car do the work.  Sometimes the delay takes a bit and it would seem to the car behind you that you are drunk driving since you are weaving back and forth a bit in the lane.  This typically happens when you are on a curved road.  It isn't perfect, but when the road is straight, it works very well.


The cameras for all of this are only as good as the ROAD MARKINGS.  We had a snow storm recently and my car was caked with snow and ice and the car just said on the display "cameras blocked" and you are on your own.  In addition, I live in rural Wisconsin, just outside of Madison.  In the city, there are much better lane markings.  In the country, the roads have NONE.  No smart driving for you in the country, although the ACC always works wherever you are as long as the camera isn't blocked by snow.  Even in the city, the lane markings deviate and/or are in bad shape in areas, and the car will beep and tell you that "tough stuff, you have to drive", we can't see the lane.  This means that you have to pay attention because at times, you can see the lane markings, but the cameras can't.  There is a part of the display that lets you know if the camera can see the lane markings.  I haven't been on the interstate with it yet, but will soon and look forward to seeing what the car can do in that venue.  I assume it will work great.

All in all, when I figure out everything, this new vehicle will make my hour plus a day in the car a much more pleasant experience.  Without proper lane markings, however, or unless and until we have lightening speeds with GPS, I don't see fully autonomous vehicles coming for a bit.  Which gets me to thinking I should probably look into investing in companies that manufacture lane marking equipment and paint, but that is certainly grist for another post.

Cross posted at ChicagoBoyz.

Sunday, January 08, 2017

The End of Accounting Book Review - Part One

Recently I read an excellent book called "The End of Accounting and the Path Forward for Investors and Managers" by Baruch Lev and Feng Gu. I highly recommend this book for investors, analysts, accountants, and those with a general interest in business. The book is very well written and researched in that it:

1. Describes the current situation in depth
2. Aligns the situation across an historical context and with relevant research
3. Makes specific recommendations about how to improve the situation

If you'd like to read more about this topic on your own (will help to frame out these posts), here is an excellent Wall Street Journal article titled "The End of Accounting" (if the link doesn't work because you don't have a subscription you can probably find it elsewhere on the internet). Here is a link from Accounting Today and an interview with the author from CFO magazine.

The first post in this series is going to be my personal insights and journey in the area of accounting information, financial and investor relations analysts. This context is relevant because I, too, have seen the problems that the authors outline in the series and come up with my own "hacks" to attempt to gain better information and insights.

I started out my career as an accountant, and I used to help create the footnotes that you see at the end of the financial reports. This wasn't creative work per se - you would start with last years' footnote as a template and insert new numbers, unless it was a new requirement, in which case it was a lot of work and we would turn to specialists. At that time (20+ years ago) there were only a few footnotes and the financial statements themselves weren't that long; you would be able to read from the Chairman and CEO's letter all the way through to the last footnote in a couple of hours.

This was also before the internet; we would go into the company library and look at microfiche sometimes to do research or you'd pull up the hard (printed) copy from the files. At that point an annual report was also somewhat of a marketing document; companies put a lot of thought into the cover, for instance.

At various points in the history of accounting there has been a focus on the balance sheet (assets and liabilities), the income statement (earnings per share and price / earnings ratio) and on cash flows (cash generated from the business). Each of these views are important and have their merits and their drawbacks. The statements were generally the "GAAP" view which focused on financial statement presentation and used taxes at official rates (many companies pay almost nothing in taxes in actuality by deferring them indefinitely) and held assets at historical costs. Both of these assumptions made the financial statements less useful for certain types of companies and industries.

Saturday, January 07, 2017

A Great Concert - SRV at Champaign IL 1987

Dan is much smarter than me and he holds on to all the ticket stubs for concerts and sporting events that he's attended over the years.  He recently sent me a rug and a coffee mug that he created based on the ticket stub for a special concert we attended almost 30 years ago when we were at the University of Illinois.  The show was Stevie Ray Vaughan at Foellinger Auditorium.

At the time I was in college and had almost no money.  I saw that Stevie Ray Vaughan was coming to campus and thought I would get up early and stand in line to purchase tickets before class (I rarely got up early in those days when I could avoid it).  Alas, the line was already long and I pretty much gave up right away.  There was a guy who was scalping tickets, however, so I went up to him and bought two tickets for what I remember was about $50.

The tickets were up front in the first couple of rows as it turned out but way, way on the left side of the stage.  Dan and I got rip roaring drunk before the show (which was the custom, back in the day) and we headed to Foellinger.  Note that Foellinger was a lecture hall and I had many classes in that room - the room had bolted-down desks with the fold out panels that you could write on, so it was kind of odd that they had concerts at that same room (I also saw the punk band Husker Du in that same lecture hall, which seemed even odder).

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Autos and Disruption

Prior to moving to the West Coast, I had little need for a car because I walked and / or took public transport to work (or a cab if I was lazy, back in the days when you could hail a cab on the street).  Thus I typically invested the minimum amount I could in a reliable car that could fit 4 passengers with a full size trunk and also squeeze into a narrow parking garage.

The cars that "fit the bill" for me were the older model Nissan Altima which I drove for a decade and then a Jetta which I picked up in 2011.  Each of these cars cost about $17,000 "out the door" and contained a reasonable level of equipment (the Altima was my first car with air bags, the Jetta was my first car with ABS and traction control) - they weren't completely stripped down models with manual transmission, for instance.  These cars have both turned out to be highly reliable autos - and the old Nissan Altima is still driving today, almost 20 years later, as a starter car in my extended family.

The average age of a car on the road today is 11.5 years (nowadays you don't even have to "link" to sources - Google just brings in the data from Wikipedia as a search response when you ask a common question) and that seems long to me.  For every new car on the road, for instance, there is a late 90's model still driving to offset it in order to get back to an average of 11.5 years.

My theory today is that the total package of "functionality" or "value" that you could obtain from a new Jetta for $17,000 would be comparable to autos that cost far more for 99% of the scenarios in which you would plausibly use that auto.  These scenarios include 1) commuting to work 2) running errands around town 3) going on a trip and putting luggage in the trunk.

That's not to say that there aren't scenarios where it doesn't make sense to have a more powerful or capable auto.  In Oregon we went to visit a friend who lives up in the hills and I had 4 people in the car and gravel had been newly laid on an uphill slope (which, as it turns out, means that it is very slippery).  As a result our car couldn't make it up the hill and we slid sideways into a ditch and had to have a friend hook up a rope and give us a pull from their big pickup truck to get us back on the road.  If I lived up there, for instance, then this car would be completely inappropriate.  But that isn't a common "use case" for my auto.

When you look at the "true cost" of owning an auto, there are a lot of factors to consider, and whole web sites to calculate it in various ways.  Instead, I am going to make the general statement that if you buy a new car at around the $17,000 price point and drive it for perhaps 7-8 years before selling it you are probably going to pay about $150 / month for that car (net of what you receive on resale).

Friday, December 30, 2016

Updating Apple Products Part II

In a recent post I discussed the spate of updates that have occurred in my Apple products including a new iOS for my work and home phone, a new iOS for my iPad, a new iOS for my Apple Watch, and a new operating system for my Mac.

Apple Watch

Let's start with the Apple Watch. The Apple Watch is an evolutionary product and the jury is out on whether or not it will be a giant part ("move the needle") of the Apple portfolio. Personally, I find the Apple Watch to be very useful because I can get notifications when big events occur (for instance, I was the first to say "Prince is dead" in a big meeting) or just to be reminded when texts happen and I don't have my phone on. It also is good for sports score notifications and tracking workouts. Finally, you can also always know if someone is calling you even if the ringer on your phone is off, and you can answer it "Dick Tracy Style" on your wrist (if you want to annoy everyone around you).  Here is my review of the Apple Watch from 2015 when I bought it.

Apple Watch iOS 3.0 is OK. The watch seems a bit faster. They made it easier to utilize some popular apps like the workout app and incorporated some other improvements here and there. I can't take advantage of all the iOS 3.0 features because my older Apple watch doesn't have some of the features like the built in GPS that comes with the new watch.

Mac OS Sierra

There has been a lot of noise in the press about Apple not updating their core computers and even letting Microsoft steal their thunder with the new Surface tablet.  However, Apple deserves immense credit for making their OS upgrades work effectively even on older model machines - for instance the Macbook that I am writing this blog post on is from 2011 (my friend Brian installed an SSD and more memory which I documented here).

The most important elements from my perspective are the continued integration of the Mac OS with the iPad and iPhone devices.  With this upgrade I now can easily share a single photo stream (which will get its own post since it is so complicated), use Apple music easily across devices, and use key apps like messenger, notes, ibooks, contacts and Facetime (mostly) seamlessly.  Siri also works on the Mac now which is fine for most people but I don't use Siri much so it is irrelevant to me.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Obama's "Nuclear Renaissance" Receives Its Final Obituary with Toshiba's Write Down

Back in 2009 at the start of Obama's first administration he proclaimed that a "nuclear renaissance" was coming. Although I am a fan of nuclear power, I knew right away that this effort was doomed to failure by a lack of structural incentives in the USA and the ability of NIMBY's and lawyers to drag out and kill any project by a thousand cuts. I wrote that it was doomed here and summarized the players here.

Yet 2 companies plowed along with their nuclear projects - Southern Company (big in Georgia and the south) and SCANA (a South Carolina utility), mainly because their state rate environment was favorable and allowed them to include the cost of assets in their "rate base" rather than being forced to price energy at something close to market prices. Eventually those that pay for electricity in these jurisdictions are going to be soaked with the enormous costs of these plants and / or the finances of Southern Company and SCANA will be seriously impacted. Southern Company has a market cap of around $50B and SCANA has a market cap of around $10B. For context, the Southern Company nuclear project is currently 3 years behind schedule and $3B over budget and likely to cost up to $20B (although costs are borne by many parties, not just Southern Company) and the SCANA project is likely to cost up to $12B (although not all borne by SCANA).

These nuclear projects, already non-competitive due to price declines in natural gas (caused by fracking), became even MORE non-competitive as their completion dates were extended and costs ballooned due to inevitable and completely predictable delays. The history of nuclear power projects is littered with failed efforts and those that were completed often had huge cost overruns, especially those completed near the "tail" of the initial nuclear building effort which petered out in the 80's.

Now Toshiba is being hit with part of the overrun costs. Their stock recently went down 20% (the most that it can fall in a single day trading session) with discussion of potentially billions of dollars in write downs tied to their work on nuclear power projects.

What is sad about all of this is that the debacles that will hit rate payers in the south (predominantly Georgia and South Carolina) and / or shareholders were completely predictable, although the situation could get even worse if delays stretch on indefinitely and the plants are never even completed (which is always possible in the litigious USA). As the current administration leaves their utterly failed nuclear policy should be something that they accept responsibility for, as well as their ameteur-ish ignorance of history and the predictable consequences of these sorts of mega-projects (in our current legal and regulatory environment). However, I highly doubt that will occur.

Cross posted at Chicago Boyz

Monday, December 19, 2016


A good friend of mine in Chicago likes to order a Manhattan, Maker's Mark, up. Thus one time we were going to have him over for a party and I bought all the ingredients for a Manhattan so that I could make him one, including:
- Maker's Mark bourbon
- Sweet vermouth
- Bitters
- Maraschino Cherries
- ice
- And a shaker!

He didn't drink a Manhattan at the party so I never opened the ingredients and brought them to Oregon. Since they were just sitting in my cabinet I figured I would try to make one for myself and, lo and behold, now it's a favorite. I also use his technique of putting a pit of the cherry juice into the drink. They are quite strong, however! If you have one that's a lot and two will have you mostly done for the evening.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

The "Tiki Bar Index"

I've always been a big fan of Tiki stuff. Dan is going off to the Caribbean and is about to send me taunting photos of living it up on the beach while it snows here (even in Oregon). Here in Portland I was disappointed when Trader Vic's closed right after I arrived. But as I will show below, they would have scored low on the "Tiki Index".

So what are the essential Tiki components? Here's a suggested list...
1. Serve tiki drinks
2. Bamboo and a thatched roof
3. Open air construction
4. On / right near a beach
5. On a pier or floating ABOVE the water

Here is the cheapest form of tiki from an old catalog. If you put this inside your house, you score two points (drinks plus bamboo and a thatched roof). You could get an extra half point if you put it in your backyard for open air construction I guess.

You can spend a lot more money and still not move up the index. This is about 10x as much and only a bit better.

This is an old place in Chicago (long since closed) that shows tiki on the street. Damn it is too dark for Tiki. In Chicago they opened a cool Tiki bar IN A BASEMENT. You would lose a point for that!! Tiki needs sunshine!

I'm sure Dan on the other hand can find 5 star Tiki bars on his vacation where he can validated my calculation and perhaps add some new equation elements (like whether they have the steel drums, the types of servers, etc...). I'm jealous.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Evergreen Aviation Museum- Spruce Goose

Near Portland there is a great aviation and military museum called the "Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum". I highly recommend that you visit this campus, which includes an IMAX theater, if you ever visit Oregon.

The highlight is the "Spruce Goose", the immense wooden plane designed and built by Howard Hughes which resides inside the facility. It is fantastic that the museum was built at a large enough scale to keep this plane indoors else it would likely soon be lost to the elements.

They also have a large selection of rare FLYABLE WW2 era warbirds, particularly some of the German planes. I've only seen an FW 190 in flyable condition at one other location.

And here's another very rare one, an ME109.

This is a place for the whole family and you can easily spend a day there. They have tanks out behind the facility (particularly Soviet late WW2 and post war models), a huge display of modern NASA exhibits, a movie theater, and a water park. I can't recommend this museum enough.

Cross posted at Chicago Boyz

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Portland Winter Weather

Recently I re-located to Portland, Oregon. While Portland has a reputation as a rainy, gloomy place, we had a great April through November, with lovely and mostly sunny weather. In December, however, things have taken a turn for the worse.

I grew up in the Midwest where it snows all the time. The difference, however, is that we salt our roads and plow them with vigor. This wikipedia article shows the "salt belt" of states that use this method; Oregon is not one of them.

While snowfalls are infrequent in Portland (some parts of Oregon see immense snowfalls... like this town and anywhere near Crater Lake) we have already had 2 "major" snowfalls that snarled traffic to an inordinate degree - the city ceases to function and everyone stays home when they heed the weather warnings (if they turn out to be accurate). On Wednesday, however, the snowfall and ice occurred during the evening rush hour and caused chaos with hundreds of abandoned cars litering the streets and highways. Commutes that would take 20 minutes could take 4 or more hours; many (including myself) went on foot.

Streets were still icy and treacherous a day later, since the temperature remains below freezing. Cars that drive were generally either all-wheel drive, trucks, or used chains. I had to buy a pair of chains for my Jetta for $85 but I hope to never need to use them.

Thursday, December 01, 2016

25 Stories About Work - Experience

I was recently on a plane doodling and thought of some funny / interesting stories from 25+ years of working and traveling. So I decided to write them up as short, random chapters of a non-book with the title of this post. Hope you enjoy them and / or find them interesting. Certainly the value will be at least equal to the marginal cost of the book (zero)...

Chicago, 1990's through today

I just finished reading the book "Disrupted" by Dan Lyons about a journalist from Newsweek who takes a job at a start up which eventually goes public called Hubspot.  Mr. Lyons is out of place from day one as he describes how the company acts without much oversight, firing workers on a whim (they 'graduate') and rapidly turn over employees as the company attempt to get to the public markets before the money runs out.  To make this even stranger, the author also writes for the HBO sitcom "Silicon Valley" and Hubspot allegedly goes after him to stop this book from being published, and the board finds out about it and fires / sanctions some (but not all) of the managers that he portrayed in the book.

All that aside, the purpose of this post is to talk about experience, and how it changes you over the decades, and its value and detriments.  Reading that book caused (not "inspired") me to think about my own views and how they've evolved over the years.

It is strange when you go from being the "new kid" to being the grey-ish haired "experienced" one.  Recently I was at 1871, the incubator in Chicago for new start-ups at the Merchandise Mart in River North where I used to live.  As I walked around I noted all the fresh faces, the beer on tap, and the grown men riding around on razor scooters to get from meeting to meeting.  Then I realized - hey I am just an old guy here.  I'm not one of them, although I could probably be a boss of some sort in one of these companies (depending on what they are looking for).

Thursday, November 24, 2016

One Of Those People

This has been a rough year for me.  I guess things go like that from time to time as we soldier on in life.  Losing our friend Gerry was yet another blow for me in 2016.

This is actually the second time we have lost an author here at LITGM (although we have fired a few).  Frank Borger was a contributor here back in the day and I received an email from someone one day that he had passed away.  If memory serves, Gerry was a commenter here at that time and responded to our "do you want to post here" request.  And the rest, at least for this blog, is history.

Gerry was a prolific poster here, and his posts were always of the highest quality.  He was also responsible for our beautiful artwork on the masthead.  Of course he was, he was a fantastic graphic artist.

I have re-enabled the labels on the sidebar.  Here is the reason.

When my grandmother died a few years ago, the one thing I had to have was her recipe box.  I still like cooking things from those recipes that remind me of her.  I plan on occasionally doing the same thing here.  LITGM has a mountain of recpies that Gerry shared over the years.  I plan on using the "food" tag to find some of those recipes, re-create them, and have some good thoughts of Gerry.

I briefly mentioned Frank Borger.  I never met the guy so our friendship was basically electronic.  Gerry was different.  We went to Bear games, and enjoyed time at his house in Indiana and at Gunstock.  Carl was able to have fun with him in Chicago as well.

I always enjoyed Gerry's wit and wisdom.  The title of this post is "One Of Those People".  In life, I meet, on occasion a person who has had an immensely full life and continues to enjoy it.  Gerry was one of those people.  He had a colorful history of meeting all sorts of people at his jobs in Chicago (see the category that I forced Gerry to open up 'Famous People that Gerry Has met').  He was an outdoorsman and loved to hunt, fish, and teach others the craft.  He was a family man.  To me, he did it all.  Sure, I go to work and love my family and all that, but it is always great to meet someone who flourishes outside of those parameters.

He also taught me a lesson on being gracious.  One day we went to the Bear game and for whatever reason (this was a very long time ago so I honestly don't remember why) one time I just got in my car and left everyone behind.  It was a shitty thing to do.  He called me and asked why I did it.  I obviously had a reason but I am sure it was a crappy one.  He said that he forgave me and would never talk about it again.  That was it.  Hatchet buried.  I learned so much from that one episode.  I am sure he thought nothing of it, but to this day I try to use this example and attempt to live a life of forgiveness and graciousness.  Gerry obviously saw value in our friendship and understood that people make dumb mistakes.  We all can learn from this example.

I guess I don't really have too much to add.  What else is there to say?  In the future whether I am making bar cheese, or venison, or whatever recipe I choose, I will look fondly back on the great times I had with Gerry.  I have already looked through the archives here and smiled a ton at some of the posts that Gerry put up over the years.  Carl and I are so proud that Gerry chose to share some of his life and talents with us here and that we have this amazing store of treasures to look back on.

LITGM will keep moving forward as long as this platform is supported - and Gerry would have wanted it that way.  I intentionally set up this post to come online on Thanksgiving Day because you know what?  I am SO thankful that I was able to cross paths with a guy like Gerry.

Godspeed, Gerry.  We will miss you.  See you on the other side someday.  Save a sandwich for me.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

25 Stories About Work - Getting a Review and Thinking Like Your Boss

I was recently on a plane doodling and thought of some funny / interesting stories from 25+ years of working and traveling. So I decided to write them up as short, random chapters of a non-book with the title of this post. Hope you enjoy them and / or find them interesting. Certainly the value will be at least equal to the marginal cost of the book (zero)...

Chicago, 1990's through today

If you are ever looking for a great book to read, I would recommend "High Output Management" by Andy Grove, the late former founder of Intel. I picked up a hard copy on the internet for just a few dollars including shipping and although it was written in the mid 1980's (and updated in the early 1990's) much of the book is completely relevant for both new entrants to the work force and those that have been engaged for decades.

Andy Grove had a passion for getting the most out of his employees, since he was focused on productivity and his staff represented a large cost (and opportunity) for his organization. He approached productivity in two main ways 1) by leveraging process and eliminating bureaucracy he could move faster at lower cost 2) by training and motivating his staff, he could achieve greater outputs. For the purpose of this post we will focus on #2, although it should be remembered that Andy Grove also essentially popularized key elements of the "open office" plan where executives sit amongst their staff which I will cover in a future post.

For his employees, he defined motivation as getting the maximum that he could achieve. His motivation would broadly be considered "engagement" in the modern definition. "Engaged" employees go the extra mile and are passionate and drive for results, while "dis-engaged" employees are an active drag on the business and your company would frankly be better off if they just stayed home. Most employees are in the middle of the spectrum, neither actively engaged nor disengaged.

Training and feedback are the key elements of this post. Andy pushed training in his business and held his executives to a standard that they needed to teach and be part of the process of investing in employees. I remember when I was starting out in my masters' program many case studies held up Motorola as ahead of their time with the "Motorola University" of classes to train and advance their employees. All of this was done before the internet with papers, books and physical classes and it represented a significant investment for the company. Today, these programs have mostly been minimized at large corporations, although many service firms (financial and technology) still invest heavily in training and grooming their own staff, and most large internet / technology firms have more extensive orientation and learning methodologies.

For feedback, there is a template for an annual review in this book from the 1980's which contains all of the key elements of an employee review that you might receive today. The employee is supposed to do a self-review prior to the meeting, and the manager goes through the strengths, weaknesses, and areas of improvement and seeks out feedback from peers in order to develop a thorough analysis. Andy Grove mentioned how important employee development and feedback was to him and how he forced other top executives to be part of and even care about the process although many of them did it in a perfunctory manner (complying with the process but not the "spirit").

From my personal experience and from those of my work acquaintances across many industries, the formal personnel appraisal has been dying for many years and is usually done in a perfunctory manner if it happens at all. If you are in a services business (consulting, law, finance), your personnel review is essentially done for you in the course of your engagements, since "good" staff are selected for teams and "poor" staff are shuffled around and / or "ride the bench". Leaders have an incentive to collect (and shield) the best staff because they make the most money for their groups by pleasing clients and billing lots of hours while the poorer performers are not selected and (mostly) find their way out of the organization (or into the back office bureaucracy where they don't face clients). While the service firms' HR departments would vehemently deny this statement, it is the "broad" truth.

But if you are in a corporation or smaller business that is not service facing, you will be most impacted by a poor or minimalistic review process (as an employee), because you won't get valuable and direct feedback that will help you grow and improve. In today's corporate environment, re-organizations are frequent and managers rotate through departments (or are thrown into direct work), so supervision routinely moves to the back burner. There is little incentive to groom and work on staff (as a manager) if you aren't going to be around for 2-3 years in the same job because it takes time to invest in staff and improving processes and behaviors and there is no purpose in putting in this sort of investment if you are just going to move on to the next job anyways.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Goodbye Gerry

Gerry was a good friend of mine and I was very sad when I heard he passed on. I was able to visit him at the end of September and although he was sick he was in high spirits and defiant. I know that he fought hard against his illness.

This photo is a great way to remember him because it makes a lot of his great qualities immediately apparent. This is his garage, and it was spotless. I've never seen such a clean garage! That day he took apart my father's Glock and fixed the periodic jamming that occurred and cleaned it down to the last part. He knew exactly what he was doing and was patient and very helpful even though I am helpless at mechanical things and repair.

He also drank an American beer (barely a beer, if you are being technical)! Although Gerry was a fantastic cook and brewed his own beer on occasion, he was not big on pretense and was a very practical guy. He knew how to make his own entertainment and when to casually enjoy what was already available.

Gerry was a great artist. He was able to draw, paint and illustrate. He often helped me with holiday cards and also did our fantastic Gunstock flyer every year. He was a man of many talents.

He wasn't very good at retiring, however. He kept trying to retire but then he would go back to work. I think he liked helping people, especially with regards to hunting, and he liked to learn more about the gear and technique so that he could get better.

It won't be the same at the Bears' home opener and it certainly won't be the same with Gunstock. We will miss you, Gerry.