Monday, March 29, 2010

You can put a cat in the oven...but that doesn't make it a biscuit.

As I type these words, I know I'm going to tick a lot of people off today. Although it should, my subject has nothing to do with this Passion week. Well, I've never been one to shy away from sharing my thoughts regardless of subject here we go.

To state we live in dangerous times is both obtuse and minimizing. We lived in dangerous times long before our founding fathers came together with an idea...a revolutionary idea. From the moment Europeans step foot on American soil, there have been dangerous times.

Americans tend to define ourselves in terms of where we are going, not where we come from. Many in our society say that history holds little importance for us because we believe we live in a time so different from our ancestors. Their experiences could not shed light on our circumstances. They say that man’s intelligence has evolved and that anything from the past is outdated and irrelevant to us. Therefore, the past is worthless in the minds of many people. Our ignorance of the past is not the result of a lack of information, but of a choice.

History does matter. George Orwell wrote, “He who controls the past, controls the future.” Our view of the past affects how we respond to our present circumstances. If our view of history is wrong, we are likely to make wrong choices today. These wrong choices will lead to further conflicts and a waste of resources that can eventually lead to the fall of an entire civilization.

The real question that matters though is who controls that information about our past. How we are taught or learn history is as important as the actual historical events. Here's where I start having a problem...

The reason we live in such dangerous times, in my opinion, is the vast amounts of information available to most everyone in our society. For the sake of this post, I'm referring specifically to our country, and I'm not limiting that to just Christians in the U.S. (or Christian history). America is made up of a vast diversity of interest and perspectives, and that is what makes us so long as everyone stays true to certain foundational principles, let's say...Constitutional principles.

Here's where we start getting into trouble in these current days. The tremendous amounts of information and misinformation available combined with a constant barrage of talking heads promoting their own agendas (Obermann, O'Reilly, Beck, Limbaugh and Maddow to name a very few) has blurred the 'facts' of factual history. People no longer research historical facts on their own to gain a personal perspective...most rely on learning history from the point of view of a school teacher, The History Channel, or even worse from talk radio/television.

My intention is not to apply the Pigeon Hole Principle to a complex, somewhat polarizing issue...but an intelligent, rational debate requires the element of intelligence...and that my friends can not be found on the pages of Wikipedia or over the airwaves alone.

To be continued...

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

"The prevailing style of management must undergo transformation..."

Chances are if you're reading're not technophobic. Most people who read blogs, use the internet for shopping and information gathering, and join social media sites know a little about computers and networking. I use a computer all day at work and often come home to an hour or so of playing on the thing. Between my BlackBerry, laptop, and two desktops...computers have become an integral part of my life.

But don't take that statement as a complaint. Technology, and specifically the computer, have change my life for the better. I wouldn't have the job I love if not for a computer and the internet. Although I've been doing my job for nearly five years now, I'm still amazed that I can provide quality customer service to a buyer in Europe before ever arriving at work, and then to one in Korea before retiring for the night. Just last night, I responded to an email from a buyer in Japan on my phone that took all of a minute,yet the quick response made my customer very happy and under the impression I work around the clock (which I assure you is not the case).

It is easy for competitors to take away satisfied customers - it is not easy for a competitor to take away delighted customers. W. Edwards Deming

If you're a student of business, you know how influential Dr. Deming has been to both American and Japanese industry. His principles are taught in the very best business schools worldwide. Although he died in 1993 at the cusp of the internet explosion, I can't help but feel Dr. Deming would have somehow made the internet protocol process even better had he been directly involved and not just through his influential theories.

Dr. Deming countered Thomas Eidson's famous -There's no substitute for hard work -quote with his own- There's no substitute for knowledge. Personally, I think there's truth in both statements that can have a profound impact on a person's life. Hard work and intelligence have been the cornerstones in the building of our great nation. Unfortunately, they're trademarks most have abandoned. Dr. Deming was really big on sound leadership being the driving successful force in any industry. He believed a company would thrive or die on the basis of leadership, and proper leadership wasn't by any means limited to management. It must be exhibited by all those involved in whatever the company's purpose was deemed to be and was crucial not just for success...but for survival.

I've thought about Dr. Deming a lot yesterday and today. Technology has vastly improved my ability to keep my customers delighted, but I just wish Dr. Deming were still around today and in the prime of his teachings...and I wish this for very obstinate reasons. If only the elected/appointed officials in all three branches of our federal government could be forced to listen to the brilliance of Dr. Deming then pass a written exam on his principles in order to stay in office...sigh...who am I fooling. I might as well stop daydreaming now and get back to work.

At this point, I'd settle for just being a marginally satisfied customer of what Washington's selling...

Monday, March 15, 2010

To boldly go where no man has gone before...and probably for a reason.

I broke new ground yesterday where I attend church...and I have to admit I'm feeling pretty good about it today.

It's no secret to my blog readers how I feel about Christians being on social networking websites. The internet as a whole is an excellent place to evangelize for Jesus. Sure there's a lot of nasty stuff out there...but how well do you really know your neighbors? Just what are those strange smells coming from their back yard?

Okay, I'm joking (I hope), but if followers of Christ don't put Jesus out there...who will? So Sunday, I decided to put my muses to practice and tweet the sermon as it happened. I'm not going to lie to you...this was new territory for our church. We're talking about moving past sermons on DVD that can be edited. This was live thumbing that couldn't be retracted once it was out there.

Too dramatic? Hey, it's my story.

I had the perfect situation taking shape. Mrs. Tony C wasn't at church, so I had open Blackberry access. She won't let me play with my phone in church even to use the, ahem, Bible application I downloaded...That's why the Good Lord had people write it down for you, so use your Bible and not your phone! People think you are playing games and not paying attention! Okay, she's probably right about that...but I don't have to like it.

With no Blackberry block, I could tweet the sermon on Twitter which would then post to my Facebook status. Sweet! Of course it's a closed network unless my friends retweeted or shared, but hey...a work in progress. The excitement was building. Please God, is this a ministry you approve of me conducting? Can you give me a sign!?

Pastor Derek began to speak, my thumbs were at the ready...'Today, I'm going to be talking mainly to the women on what Proverbs tells us about the Virtuous Woman.'

(To myself) Yes! Thank you Lord...I know you want Mrs. Tony C to hear this sermon! If I tweet this message, it will be as if she were actually here! This must be what You want!

Now, I may be teetering on the boundaries of sacrilege here, and I hope you don't think so. I also hope God nor Mrs. Tony C think so either because they're numbers One and two on the Big List of Importance (BLI). I will continue while treading ever so lightly...

So, I begin by tweeting the scripture to be used in the sermon and the title presented by Pastor Derek. By the way, my pastor is a very Godly man and fabulous speaker. He uses the gifted talent he has in service to God. So if I, on the other hand, using my talent...okay useless social media sites can assist in getting his wonderful sermons to a broader audience, isn't that furthering his service to the Lord too? (Okay, maybe I'm still trying to sell you guys on this idea).

As the sermon progressed, I tweeted the outline bullet-style to the cyber-audience. There were a few 'hitches in the get-along' I must admit. Yours truly is sporting some pretty chunky digits, so I had to carefully edit as I typed making sure I didn't fat-finger a whole new meaning to a point I was sending out. That meant I was in a 'head-down' position most of the service, and since I was seated in row two, I'm sure noticed by many. Note to self- when tweeting sermon so from the back row.

Then there was the typical...excuse me, occasional...mind wondering moment when I mentally substituted the word voluptuous for virtuous into the ongoing sermon and chuckled to myself (yes, as accused, I sometimes crack myself up). This wouldn't have been a real problem except for the brief moment I thought I had inadvertently tweeted the wrong word and was in a temporary panic until the tweet actually posted, and I could see the word virtuous. I started paying closer attention at that point. I would have been at a loss trying to explain that one to Mrs. Tony C.

Overall, things went rather smooth though. Several of my Facebook friends in the service asked afterwards what I was doing because their phones vibrated every time I updated. Most of them know better than leave their ringer on in church because I've been know to play Dave Tvedt's game of 'gotcha ringer on?' If you're listed in my Contact're fair game any given Sunday I can catch Mrs. Tony C not watching.

Pastor Derek's a pretty forward looking guy, so when I caught up to him later before the evening service, I told him that I had made church history and how:

Pastor Derek: So you tweeted the service? Who did you tweet too?

Tony C: Well, it went to everyone who follows me on Twitter, and each tweet also updated on my Facebook status.

Pastor Derek: Alright. And what does that mean exactly?

Tony C: As you made points from your outline, I sent those bullet points out as tweets. I know you're not big on Twitter (see his Heavy D Blog post).

Pastor Derek: No, that's cool.

As you can see from the lack of activity on the blog I encouraged him to start, he's a forward thinker alright...he's just still living in the Reagan Administration. Did I mention he's a fabulous speaker and trendy dresser?

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Freaks were in a circus tent...Those were the days.*

I'm very much a product of the 70's...when our country came screaming out of the 60's decade of 'free love' into the digital revolution years...yours truly was the ripe age of seven. So the 70's really had a major impact on who I am today. I very proud of that fact for a number of reasons...let me share a few.

Music had soul

Even after 30 years, a lot of the music from the 70's has stood the test of time. The Rolling Stones, Aerosmith, Led Zeppelin, Queen and AC/DC were all expanding their fan base with great new, driving rock music, while the Commodores, Marvin Gaye, Aretha and Chicago cranked out smooth hit after smoothhit. Pink Floyd brought a new music style to the scene and punk rock was born. Yes...we also watched disco/dance music arrive and leave too.

There were a ton of big hits, and a great song was measured by being a seamless integration of good music, good vocals and a good vibe. Defining the latter may appear vague, but play two distinct styles from the period...say an Eagles' hit and one from Jethro Tull...and you'll get a better understanding of what that probably means.

There were a few 'one hit wonders' in the 70's, but writing only one good song for an entire album release was a sure quick death during the 8-track age. Nobody wanted to listen to eleven bad songs/tracks waiting to loop back around to the one good song!

Television had some morals

As Lassie, Bonanza and even Gunsmoke ended long running series, new family-oriented programs like the Waltons and Little House on the Prairie took the scene with wholesome story lines. Even the sitcoms of the day like Sanford and Son, Happy Days, All in the Family, and Laverne and Shirley wouldn't cross certain moral boundaries and most always contained underlying themes of right and wrong. Who from the era can forget the struggles of the Evan's family in the housing projects of Chicago on Good Times? Dad James always too proud to take a hand out despite numerous hardships while Mom Florida openly prayed to 'the good Lord above.' Scenes like that are few and far between in broadcast programs today.

Remember spending Sunday nights watching the Wonderful World of Disney with the family as a way of winding down the weekend and preparing for a new week? I also recall the debate in my house if the show Wonder Woman was too racy for an 11-year old to watch in 1975....after all the lady had gold boobs!

The 'adult shows' were 60 Minutes, Mannix, Cannon and later Three's Company and Fantasy Island...where story lines had more sexual innuendos...but stopped at innuendo. A single episode of today's Three and a Half Men aired in 1975 would certainly have ended television watching at my house with the television ending up by the road as garbage.

Innovation was king

You might think I'm a decade early with that subtitle, but the 70's gave us waves of new, cutting-edge products. Which one of these modern day staples are a product of the 70's: bar codes, email, inkjet printers, laser printers, LCD's, personal computers or MRI imaging? Try all of them...every last one...not to mention microprocessors, microwave ovens and video games. That's right games...along with skateboards.

With innovation came a push to educate new generations to put the new concepts and products to productive uses. A major shift of more high school graduates heading for college caused an explosion in numbers of colleges and sizes of universities. What you could study and even major also expanded leading the way to even more specialized fields in most disciplines. Seriously...did we have any idea Swallow Therapist were in such demand until after the 70's. We just took swallowing for granted until then I guess.

Innovations from the 70's paved the road for the technical breakouts in the following decades that eventually made such technology as complicated as an iPhone as accessible today as the color television set was back then.

It's fair to say I'm proud to be a product of the 70's. People seemed to dress a little snazzier, step with a bit more swagger, and laughed at funny for the fact it was actually humorous...and not just shockingly offensive.

*From the theme to All in the Family...not a personal social observation by Tony C...well, at least that's what I'm going with here.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

I'm no rocket scientist...but I make a mean grilled cheese sandwich.

I had a dream as a young boy...

When Neil Armstrong stepped out of Apollo 11's Lunar Module in July 1969, I was sitting beside my grandmother watching on her black and white television. Although I was completely unaware at the time, she was dying from cancer and would take her own final trip just a few months later. I treasure that memory... and miss her today.

As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be an astronaut. After a few flying lessons from a former Leatherneck pilot in an old cub prop plane, I was ready for the big show. I had it all mapped out. Through Vanderbilt for commissioning in the USMC. Flight school. Carrier duty. Instructor School. Test Pilot Program. Astronaut Program. Space!

God had a different plan. I never made it to step 20-40...unacceptable for flight training.

Now don't get me wrong, I was crushed. But looking back at how NASA changed from the glory days of Apollo through the routine grind of Skylab to driving a space bus called the Space Shuttle, maybe my dream wasn't the only one that faded.

When NASA finally announced a plan to go back to the moon, my batteries recharged. Since the birth of my fire-haired toddler, our daddy-daughter motto has been 'Red hair to the Red planet'. * We routinely participate in low gravity simulations and centrifugal exercises. By my calculation, NASA would be about ready for a Mars launch about the time she would be completing her PhD in astrophysics with an emphasis is subatomic particles. With a double undergraduates in geology and chemistry, she'd be a shoe in for the maiden voyage.

But once again, another dream is smashed...

The Obama Administration has deep-sixed the Constellation program which was the first step to put a working outpost on the moon by 2020 and a reasonable step toward a Mars mission. Again, don't get me wrong. I understand how expensive such an undertaking would be and there is actually logic in Obama's push to privatize some parts of space travel. Apollo cost $145 billion in today's dollars...not chump change, but not bailout money either. At the height of the program, NASA employed over 440,000 people. That would sure help some key employment indicators today.

NASA must be up to much more important things these days with the upcoming retirement of the space bus and Virgin Records sponsoring a new era of space tourism...sort of an Age of Aquarius deal I guess. The budget for NASA is still pretty rich at $19 billion for 2011, not the $27 billion for the Department of Agriculture for high fructose corn sweetener subsidies, but that's a different blog post now isn't it?

So how will NASA be spending their billions in the near future with no major space exploration planned? Funny you should ask...because just this week we got a glimpse of the new NASA:

Richard Gross, a scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., and colleagues calculated that Saturday's earthquake in Chile shortened the Earth day by 1.26 microseconds. A microsecond is one-millionth of a second.

I'll bet that stinkin' guys an astrophysicist too...

*Disclaimer- Mrs. Tony C neither condones, encourages nor appreciates anyone who does condone and encourage her daughter to participate in interplanetary space travel, extraterrestrial colonization, human endurance experiments and any training to wit.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Enough is enough...that has got to go!

You are looking at something that was a long time in coming...

This morning I threw away an old pair of shoes. To some of you, an old pair of shoes may constitute shoes you've had for five or six years. I know several of you ladies keep shoes in boxes that maybe you've had for longer than that. Well, the shoes I threw away this morning were over ten years old...and were worn several times a week during that stretch.

Yes, I know that's disgusting. Although my beloved footwear was high-quality Børn shoes, I probably held on at least four more years than I should have....okay maybe five. And despite my efforts to extend their life with sole inserts and even an attempt to find a cobbler for retreads, my most favored clothing item was truly long past reasonable use. Out of just common courtesy, the insides would get a regular dousing of Febreze or even new charcoal inserts, but I could still wake an area at least two pews deep in both directions during a Sunday morning service by just slipping my feet out and letting nature take over. Said action would, of course, incur the wrath of Mrs. Tony C and set the toddler to gaging like she was strangled on a Skittles candy directing attention directly back in my direction.

Why do we hang on to things way longer than we should? My shoes were both stylish and comfortable...well, maybe stylish when I bought them, but they were sure comfortable! I think I had a hard time letting go for a number of reason though. The comfortable part was like a warm blanket of security for me. I didn't have to go through the process of breaking in new shoes to find out they still weren't as comfortable as my old ones. I also didn't have to go through the aggravation of picking out a new pair either. There are so many brands and styles these days. When I bought my old shoes, the makers had a solid reputation for making quality products. My shoes were expensive because they were well made...not because so-and-so wore them (endorsed would be more proper) or they were the latest pricey fad.

I understand that can also be a dangerous position of attitude in other aspects of my life. I was a much different person when I bought those shoes over ten years ago. Same feet? Sure. Same person? Not so much. There will always be parts of that Tony C with me...he's part of what makes me who I am today. But the priorities in my life are much different.

Before we start the psychoanalyzing of my inner-self clinging to shoes as a way of holding on to some part of my past...stop. The shoes were just comfortable, not sentimental. With a new way of looking at things for me came a better way of dealing with issues from my past. If God can remove my transgressions as far as the East is from the West, then I can learn to let them go as well.

I heard a man I respect and admire recently discuss this Scripture, and he believes the directions East and West were used instead of North and South in the analogy because when you start travelling East on the globe you will continue going East for as long as you matter how many revolutions around the globe you make. The same can't be said about going North or South. Once you reach an apex, you are heading in the opposite direction. It is impossible to infinitely travel North or South. God removes our transgressions forever when we confess them and give them to why would I cling to past sins?

It actually felt good throwing those old shoes away this morning. Besides, my new shoes are feeling pretty good...and they smell a whole lot better too!