Thursday, November 27, 2014

History: Obamacare

My Zimbio   It was March 31, 2014.  That was the day we are obligated to register for health insurance under Obama's Affordable Care Act.  Coincidentally that day was my last day of coverage under General Dynamics' health coverage (although COBRA coverage was a pricey option).  Here is my account of my attempt to register for Obamacare:

This morning (7:15am) I visit and select my state (Virginia). Before I click, "register," I return to the original page and click on the "Small business" tab.  The website says if I register NLT the 15th of the month, my employees will receive healthcare NLT the first day of the next month.  I return to the "individual" option and click on the "register" button. I receive this message:  "Website is undergoing maintenance.  Please try again later." 

At this point I see a pop-up at the upper right corner of my browser window providing me the opportunity to share my personal information with various insurance agents.  Is this pop-up an official "service" via or presented to me via Microsoft's Internet Explorer and someone's ad campaign?  I don't know and transfer to my blog to record my experience thus far...

When I return to, it says "We have alot of visitors right now.  We need you to wait here so we can insure you have a good experience on our site."  There is a link which will list important documents and numbers.  The "insurance agent" pop-up returns.  I click on the "important documents and numbers" link.  A new tab appears in my Internet Explorer.  This tab page is completely blank. 

7:45... I return to the original tab and see it is still asking me to wait.  The "insurance agent" pop-up is there.  I also see I can provide my email address for information later or call the help desk.  I return to my blog to document experience...

8:00 .... I can't get rid of the Insurance Agent pop-up or scroll to the help desk information.  I assume this is a problem with my Internet Explorer or computer and switch back to my blog....

8:08 ... The color of site changes, so I assume I am finally in.  I attempt to click in, but the site is unresponsive.

9:45... I am finally able to create an account.  I am deluged with pop-ups and attempt to log in.  The system informs me I am "locked out."  I reboot my computer.

10:20... I attempt to log in again.  The system confirms:  I am locked out.  I decide to elect COBRA for the time being... 

Home for Thanksgiving

My Zimbio  Opted to spend Thanksgiving with my brother and sis-in-law's family this year... last year, had my little princess and we made the trip together.  Although I was "in town" for a reunion this summer, haven't driven through the neighborhood in some time.

Drove down the "main drag" where I grew up.  Many empty store fronts... seems the only businesses that haven't changed are the cleaners!!  The state Motor Vehicles HQ is in my home town... they built a new building for that... the old one has been transformed into a rickety government office building.

The farm where I had my first job appears exactly the same (still needs a coat of paint!)... the garden shop where my bro and I sold cactuses (our first business) is still there, with the same name, though I understand they went bankrupt in the '90's and operate under new management.

Reflecting that this town had nothing for my MBA (short of falling in on one of the big insurance companies)... Mom and Dad aren't here any longer and our old home is painted cream (for shame!)... the tree fort must have been torn down years ago.

Great to see my brother and his family!

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Write a book

My Zimbio  Are you thinking about writing a book?  Should you be thinking about writing a book?

Earlier this week, Brister's "Shotgunning:  The Art and Science," arrived.  This weekend, the "Countdown Deal" for my book ( which includes a section on shotguns) ends.  My book is a practical guide on rifle, pistol and shotgun with a bit of theology and Constitutional law thrown in: some time spent reading this weekend convinces me I have far less expertise than Bob Brister regarding shotguns.

Of course, I have spent more time in my life helping improve efficiency in organizations, whether as a hands on manager (mostly Army experience, some commercial), developing a change management practice for consulting organizations, or helping organizations "opt in" on the services and/or products my employer brings to market.

Do you have a sophisticated view of some section of the world?  A unique perspective to offer?  A unique and interesting voice?

What about the US Defense Department and our Intelligence Community?  Our nation has become exceptional at fighting platoon and squad sized conflicts in places like Afghanistan and Iraq.  Tools and processes for understanding key details about those conflicts seem to drive investments today.  While financial systems for capturing and understanding metrics have been in place for many years, and many are in sore need of tech/data tracking refresh, even after refresh these systems aren't very good at helping effectiveness in the squad fight.

Deciding which book to write, once you have decided to write one, is similar to any product or service development decision:  where does expertise meet market need?  And, as my Harvard Business School competition and strategy professor always used to say, "is this a profitable business?"  Or, in the words of the famous, perhaps infamous, Jack Welch, outsized CEO of General Electric during that company's heyday (sorry Jeff, still true at the moment), "if you aren't #1 or #2 in a business, get out."

Where does your expertise meet market need?  James Altucher (see ) would probably say you shouldn't spend too much time thinking about this (better get going with writing your book, and evolve your product over time, with your next book, or the one after that), but it  doesn't hurt to give those dynamics some thought before you approach a book project.

For me, selling complex products and services to large, complex organizations, is probably my core expertise.  Perhaps I will continue to focus on doing this job (rather than writing about it).  Rather than a tome about the Ukraine (where my rusty Russian language skills and rudimentary understanding of natural gas economics might add some value), perhaps my next book will stray toward business (where I received my masters from Harvard some twenty years ago and have mostly worked since then...).  Thoughts?

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Vaclav Havel

My Zimbio  Brendan Eich, CEO of Mozilla, was forced to step down from Mozilla a few couple months ago, because of his views about same sex marriage.  But that isn't what this post is about.  It's about Vaclav Havel, whose 1978 essay about dissent is quoted in a posting about same sex marriage:

“The post-totalitarian system demands conformity, uniformity, and discipline,” Havel wrote, using the term he preferred over “dictatorship” for the complex system of social control experienced in Czechoslovakia. We also have a system that is demanding conformity, uniformity and discipline — it’s not just about marriage law, to be honest. It’s really about something much bigger — crushing the belief that the sexes are distinct in deep and meaningful ways that contribute to human flourishing. Obviously marriage law plays a role here — recent court rulings have asserted that the sexes are interchangeable when it comes to marriage. That’s only possible if they’re not distinct in deep and meaningful ways. But the push to change marriage laws is just one part of a larger project to change our understanding of sexual distinctions. See, for example,the 50 genders of Facebook or the refusal to understand how women’s distinct career choices explain virtually all of the supposed pay gap that partisans exploit for political gain....

So what is the difference between marriage and other relationships? There’s no question marriage has been treated dramatically differently than other relationships by governments and society. Why? Is it that it features a more vibrant or emotional connection? Or is there some feature that is a difference in kind – that marks it out as something that ought to be socially structured? We usually don’t want government in our other relationships, right? So why is marriage singled out throughout all time and human history as a different type of recognized relationship?
Well, what singled it out was that sex was involved. Sex. Knocking boots. The bump and grind. Dancing in the sheets. Making the beast with two backs. Doing the cha-cha. And so on and so forth. And why does that matter? Well, there’s precisely one bodily system for which each of us only has half of the system. It’s the one that involves sex between one man and one woman. It’s with respect to that system that the unit is the mated pair. In that system, it’s not just a relationship that is the union of minds, wills or important friendships. It’s the literal union of bodies. In sexual congress, in intercourse between a man and a woman, you are literally coordinated to a single bodily end...
Vaclav Havel was a dissident, poet and eventual president of Czechoslavakia.  He lived under Communism and eventually helped overthrow it.  A worthy author to quote....
This post was written for The Federalist... Molly Hemingway.  You can read the complete posting here:

Geography and eWISEinc LLC

My Zimbio   Maps, Maps, Maps.

One of the reasons for joining AAA used to be a package of maps and instructions they would send you to help you plan long trips.  Today's Google Maps solves that problem... though AAA will still help you if your car breaks down or you meet someone in the Target parking lot who locked her baby in the car with the keys (happened to me this week).

I took a shortcut home from school one day when I was 8... and got pretty lost.  My second foray with a long trip was in Junior High School, the first of four bike trips from Connecticut to New Hampshire.  We planned which route to take and where to stay each night.  Every summer my brother, several friends and/or I took versions of that bike trip, although we never all rode and it was never the same group (injuries got in the way).

Army ROTC helped me improve my map skills, culminating in my graduation from Ranger school in 1984...  in addition to a challenging land navigation course in the "City phase," we could be questioned at any time on a patrol to point out our location on a map with the end of a blade of grass.  Mind you, the challenge could come in the middle of a swamp in 20-degree weather after you had been carrying a 70 pound ruck on 3 hours sleep and two skimpy meals for five weeks.  My map skills had improved significantly.

In my first job in the Army as a Regular Army Officer, we deployed an early version of that geographic system on your phone.  The system was 2 1/2 feet square and let you add data with a cumbersome and slow interface.  Although I had done statistical analysis as part of my thesis, winning the Julius Turner Prize as an undergraduate, my interactions with this new "GIS" lit a light bulb for me:  computers are going to dramatically change the way we interact with the world and the way we lead organizations.

After obtaining my Harvard MBA, I interacted with the "Catalyst" team at Sun Microsystems.  One of the marketing managers was responsible for working with independent software vendors that built GIS systems with UNIX.  In those days, ESRI and MAPINFO were the two main competitors.

A couple years ago I led Lockheed Martin's capture team on the Military Terrain III response.  The organization responsible for this geographic data Request for Proposal was the Army Geospatial Center, nominally part of the Army's Corps of Engineers, although the National Geospatial Center has that mission for the government as a whole.  Sadly, the Army cancelled that acquisition a bit over a month  ago... posting several small business set-asides to fill the gap (funding permitting).

Since I'm a small business, I'm investigating.  Many US Armed Forces weapons systems are dependent on geographic systems to operate.  Would be intriguing to help!

Friday, April 11, 2014

Repeal Sarbanes-Oxley!

My Zimbio  Fellow Republican...

In 2002 Sarbanes-Oxley legislation became the law of the land.  This legislation fundamentally changed the way companies large and small perform accounting, including a very important provision about the way we account for stock options.  The voice track for the legislation (at least the stock option part of it) was that many people lost alot of money because of internet-bubble-company-hype and, oh by the way, top leadership of Corporate America is making too much money via stock options.

Make no mistake.  This legislation passed because rich people lost lots of money investing in internet start-ups.  They should know better.  Rich people also typically make lots of money in the stock market, so I guess it's ok when they have a losing streak every once in a while.  Think of the Titanic protagonist (Rose's fiance) who jumped out of a tall building after he lost his fortune... that guy deserved it, right?

Top leadership of Corporate America will always be hideously well paid... that is hard to fight, and I'm not sure we should legislate against it.  Some approaches to compensation would appear to be appropriately labeled theft, and people who thereby benefit should face criminal prosecution.  But I would argue that stock options isn't one of the "corporate theft" challenges.

Sarbanes Oxley is great for the accounting profession and terrible for low level start-up employees, who no longer receive generous option packages.   Oh, sure... the few start-ups backed with inside money and powerful connections that drive momentum... those start-ups grant enough options for more than the few senior exec's to get rich.  But the underdog start-up can't take care of it's loyal employees the way it once could.

Sarbanes Oxley is criminal.  It is helping the very, very rich continue to accumulate more and more of the earth's resources.  It is stopping thousands of "average Joe/Josephina's" from getting rich when their smart, hard working company grows exponentially and goes public.  And it may be blocking the most important innovators from monetizing their smart ideas (before Google, Microsoft, or some other reincarnation of IBM steals those ideas and implements them... see also Google/Silicon Valley campaign against patent and copyright legislation;)

Ok.  That wasn't very nice.  Sorry Bill Gates and Eric Schmidt, et al.  But you get my gist.  Repeal Sarbanes Oxley!!!  I'm tired of hearing people yell about repealing Obamacare....


My Zimbio  Believe I was sitting on the ground preparing for a road march when I heard about Grenada.  The Rangers jumped in at several hundred feet without reserve 'chutes (not enough time to deploy if you'd needed it, evidently).  The American students on the island were rapidly located and secured.  All the real fighting was supposedly complete when the 82d Airborne got to the island.

Many of my colleagues were angry... missed a chance in a lifetime to do a combat jump, get the combat shoulder scroll.  Who knew the 2d Armored Cavalry would demonstrate the prowess of a well trained crew and the M1 tank on the sands of Iraq?  At the time, Communism was a vital doctrine and my military didn't know the definition of fatwa, much less the ramifications of one from a respected cleric (or even a high-born thug).

Times change.  After a decade in the Middle East, our military may appreciate a vacation... while we await the next great challenge...  Would be good to see just people in charge in Afghanistan when we leave... much blood has been shed working with our brothers (and sisters) to seek improvements.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Handley on Benghazi

My Zimbio  This isn't my text, but it poignantly explains the shock and indignation most military veterans (still serving or not) feel about the recent Benghazi incident and associated USG posturing.  The words were written by a retired AF Colonel, Phil Handley, and brought to my attention via "Pops," my Dad, a former AF pilot himself.

Colonel Phil "Hands" Handley is credited with the highest speed air-to-air gun kill in the history of aerial combat. He flew operationally for all but 11 months of a 26-year career, in aircraft such as the F-86 Sabre, F-15 Eagle, and the C-130A Hercules. Additionally, he flew 275 combat missions during two tours in Southeast Asia in the F-4D and F-4E. His awards include 21 Air Medals, 3 Distinguished Flying Crosses, and the Silver Star.  That is a pretty decorated pilot.

Please share your response to what Col. Handley wrote in response to Panetta and Dempsey claims there was no time to send help to Benghazi.
Betrayal in Benghazi

             The combat code of the US Military is that we don't abandon our dead or wounded on the battlefield. In US Air Force lingo, fighter pilots don't run off and leave their wingmen. If one of our own is shot down, still alive and not yet in enemy captivity, we will either come to get him or die trying.
             Among America 's fighting forces, the calm, sure knowledge that such an irrevocable bond exists is priceless. Along with individual faith and personal grit, it is a sacred trust that has often sustained hope in the face of terribly long odds.
             The disgraceful abandonment of our Ambassador and those brave ex-SEAL's who fought to their deaths to save others in that compound is nothing short of dereliction-of-duty. Additionally, the patently absurd cover-up scenario that was fabricated in the aftermath was an outright lie in an attempt to shield the President and the Secretary of State from responsibility.
             It has been over eight months since the attack on our compound in Benghazi. The White House strategy, with the aid of a "lap dog" press has been to run out the clock before the truth is forthcoming.
            The recent testimonies of the three "whistle blowers" have reopened the subject and hopefully will lead to exposure and disgrace of those responsible for this embarrassing debacle. It would appear that the most recent firewall which the Administration is counting on is the contention "that there were simply no military assets that could be brought to bear in time to make a difference" mainly due to the unavailability of tanker support for fighter aircraft.
            This is simply Bull Shit, regardless how many supposed "experts” the Administration trot out to make such an assertion.
            The bottom line is that even if the closest asset capable of response was half-way around the world, you don't just sit on your penguin ass and do nothing. The fact is that the closest asset was not half-way around the world, but as near as Aviano Air Base , Italy where two squadrons of F-16Cs are based.
            Consider the following scenario (all times Benghazi local): When Hicks in Tripoli receives a call at 9:40 PM from Ambassador Stevens informing him "Greg, we are under attack!" (his last words), Hicks immediately notifies all agencies and prepares for the immediate initiation of an existing "Emergency Response Plan."
            At AFRICON, General Carter Ham attempts to mount a rescue effort, but is told to "stand down". By 10:30 PM an unarmed drone is overhead the compound and streaming live feed to various "Command and Control Agencies" so everyone watching that feed knew damn well what was going on.
            At 11:30 PM Woods, Doherty and five others leave Tripoli, arriving in Benghazi at 1:30 AM on Wednesday morning, where they hold off the attacking mob from the roof of the compound until they are killed by a mortar direct hit at 4:00 AM.
            So nothing could have been done, eh? Nonsense. If one assumes that tanker support really "was not available" what about this:
            When at 10:00 PM AFRICON alerts the 31st TFW Command Post in Aviano Air Base, Italy of the attack, the Wing Commander orders preparation for the launch of two F-16s and advises the Command Post at NAS Sigonella to prepare for hot pit refueling and quick turn of the jets.  By 11:30 PM, two F-16Cs with drop tanks and each armed with five hundred 20 MM rounds are airborne. Flying at 0.92 mach they will cover the 522 nautical miles directly to NAS Sigonella in 1.08 hours. While in-route, the flight lead is informed of the tactical situation, rules of engagement, and radio frequencies to use.
            The jets depart Sigonella at 1:10 AM with full fuel load and cover the 377 nautical miles directly to Benghazi in 0.8 hours, arriving at 1:50AM which would be 20 minutes after the arrival of Woods, Doherty and their team. Providing that the two F-16s initial pass over the mob, in full afterburner at 200 feet and 550 knots did not stop the attack in its tracks, a few well placed strafing runs on targets of opportunity would assuredly do the trick.
            Were the F-16s fuel state insufficient to return to Sigonelli after jettisoning their external drop tanks, they could easily do so at Tripoli International Airport , only one-half hour away.
            As for those hand-wringing naysayers who would worry about IFR clearances, border crossing authority, collateral damage, landing rights, political correctness and dozens of other reasons not to act -- screw them. It is time our "leadership" get its priorities straight and put America 's interests first.
           The end result would be that Woods and Doherty would be alive. Dozens in the attacking rabble would be rendezvousing with "72 virgins" and a clear message would have been sent to the next worthless P.O.S. terrorist contemplating an attack on Americans that it is not really a good idea to "tug" on Superman's cape.
           Of course all this depends upon a Commander In Chief more concerned with saving the lives of those he put in harm's way than getting his crew rested for a campaign fund raising event in Las Vegas the next day. It also depends upon a Secretary of State who actually understood "What difference did it make?", and a Secretary of Defense who was watching the feed from the drone and understood what the attack consisted of instead of making an immediate response that "One of the military tenants is that you don't commit assets until you fully understand the tactical situation."
           YGBSM! ( You Gotta Be Shittin' Me) Ultimately it comes down to the question of who gave that order to stand down? Whoever that coward turns out to be should be exposed, removed from office, and face criminal charges for dereliction of duty. The combat forces of the United States of America deserve leadership that really does "have their back" when the chips are down.

Phil "Hands" Handley Colonel, USAF (Ret.)

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Hostile Climate

My Zimbio  Ok, it snowed a great deal today.  But that isn't the point of this blog post.

During the past few weeks prominent articles have appeared in national newspapers about the "hostile environment" many commanders foster in the Army.  The memory that immediately pops to mind is standing at attention at mobilization station as a battalion commander, next to my Command Sergeant Major, collectively receiving a shouted "major a** chewing" at 2:30AM because one of my officers had gone to the bathroom (a port-a-potty)... without her flack jacket... in the middle of the night.

"No one wears those to go to the bathroom in Iraq," she had surmised.

Military leaders have been taught to build toughness... with methods tried and adopted across centuries.  Of course, we must be careful to assume the behaviors of remarkably successful people before us contributed to success (or were somehow overcome in a mix of leadership and luck).  I have been accused of "fostering a hostile environment" myself... an accusation that drove much soul searching for me.

We ask military leaders to do much.  The craft must certainly change as the demographic of our Soldier-base changes.  But please remember when you consider the behaviors of a military commander:  through history, the larger Army didn't always win.  Tactics and strategy certainly were decisive, but vivid pictures of success emerge of brilliant leaders in combat...

Joshua Chamberlain, who ordered his Soldiers to fix bayonets and charge without ammunition, routing Grey Coat attackers and perhaps saving the Union.

George Washington, who was able to convince officers considering overthrowing our new Democracy that staying on and supporting it would truly be best.


Joan of Arc, who managed to help crown the French King and send English invaders packing before being burned at the stake... all before she was 20 years old.

Crimes should not be forgiven.  But be careful what you call a crime.  Combat is a strange and unnatural place... one of the premier tests of human leadership there is... forging tough teams that work together in the face of death/dismemberment isn't warm/fuzzy work all the time....

Sunday, February 9, 2014


My Zimbio  This week my copy of "Big Bang Disruption" arrived.  Downes and Nunes argue that "Strategy in the Age of Devastating Innovation" has changed irrevocably, that Michael Porter's three generic strategies (low cost, premium offering, niche) have been superseded with a new model.  Specifically, an "undisciplined" (Downes/Nunes word) approach that attempts to compete on all strategic dimensions at once, with better, cheaper and customized, provides a much better model for success in today's new world.

I work with people who are moving aggressively to help our customers understand how process, content and work flow can be managed more efficiently in this new world.  Are we (am I?) as agile as we need to be?  How do I insure I am well placed to add the kind of value that will improve my own returns on time and other resources, to insure the best is available for my little girls and others I care about?

Good questions.  More to follow...

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Do Elections Matter?

My Zimbio  So many citizens in democracies around the world don't come to the polls.  The USA has a terrible record.  One would think elections don't matter... Winston Churchill called Democracy "the worst form of government known to man..."

This past election day, the Democratic party swept statewide offices in Virginia.  A few weeks before the election, with a 12 point percentage lead according to the polls, Terry McAuliffe began admitting he wanted to tighten laws against right to bear arms.  Terry's lead faded... Virginia believes in right to bear.

But Terry won anyway.  So did Ralph Northam for Lt Governor.  And Mark Herring for Attorney General.  This past week Jennifer Wexton beat John Whitbeck to claim Mark Herring's State Senate seat.  And John Whitbeck led the  committee to select the form that the 10th Congressional District will use to select its candidate to run for Frank Wolf's seat (Frank announced he would retire after this term).

Frank's seat isn't a safe Congressional seat... although he made it appear to be one since winning the seat in 1982.  We expect he will endorse Barbara Comstock, a former staffer who serves in the Virginia State Senate (and who attended Whitbeck's committee meeting earlier this week).  Barbara had that meeting well orchestrated...

A canvass at ten locations in April will serve prelude to a GOP convention to select the candidate in May.  Any bets on who will win the nomination?  But the more important question:  who will win the election against the Democratic opponent?  I should mention that Winston Churchill completed the statement above with the words, "... except for every other type."

Monday, January 13, 2014

Enjoy work?

My Zimbio  One of the more entertaining (and useful) speeches in years from a senior exec in a bureaucracy above me... asserted that "work is work.  If it was fun, it wouldn't be called work.  Get over it... there are things I require from you," etc.

Which is a useful frame of reference for many of us, who find our day to day toils baths of minutia, which we conquer with very little apparent resulting improvement of our little world (much less a wider world).  There was a time in my life when I was responsible for a few hundred people... and contemplated responsibility for many more.  I have often pondered what activities a business leader/manager can engage to improve organizational effectiveness.

Every organization has its nuances.  People respond in varying fashion to leadership prompting, whether carrot or stick.  So I was intrigued recently to read a Wall Street Journal article suggesting that small acts of kindness among workers improved recipients' affection for the workplace in general and even resulted in improved efficiency.

So it would seem that an analytic mind that understands key drivers to organizational success and methods for measuring said drivers so communication and evaluation systems can be engaged ... may actually be less helpful than nourishing a "pay it forward" attitude.

Go figure!  Of course, an organization that is headed the wrong direction may profit little from efficiency therein.  More next time... be nice!

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Zephyr Two

My Zimbio  My writing doesn't reflect some new wave of technical innovation... and I was never a "board surfer," in any event.  If anything, my thoughts here include a review of materials that, based on my experience, provide a new perspective or innovative implementation approach.

I am more of a body surfer... or, perhaps more extensively, a triathlete.  When I contemplate jumping in a pool (or open water, for that matter), there is always a period of adjustment.  A lap or hundred yards where my body is growing accustomed to the temperature, when my joints are warming up and when my cardiovascular system is adjusting to a faster pace of activity.

As a runner, I don't recall feeling the proverbial second wind.  But as a swimmer, almost every time I get in the water, a short while after beginning my work-out, I feel my body settle in, find a groove... when suddenly, the currents are at my back and I am moving efficiently, comfortably, through the water.  Not a second wind... call it "zephyr two."

Thanks for reading.  Follow my tweets at "godston6" ...

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Writing engages 100 brains

My Zimbio  According to James Altucher, one of my favorite tweeter/bloggers, writing is great for you because it engages your brain (causing your conscious reasoning capability to multiply).  While I haven't forwarded this particular Altucher blog (because the intro is more outrageous than usual and the only white guy who could get away with those statements would be Herr James himself), I thought it was one of the best packages of advice I've read in the New Year.

I read lots of advice when the New Year dawns, so that statement means something.

Am hoping you will visit my blog.  And subscribe to my tweets.  I promise I will be entertaining and hopefully helpful.

See you next time!