January 2009 Archives

Strategic Thinker, I Am

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Yep, it was confrmed this weekend that I my leadership strength falls into the domain of Strategic Thinking. I read Strengths-Based Leadership by Tom Rath and Barry Conchie this weekend and used he code inthe back of the book to get my personal profile. I read StrengthsFinder 2.0 not too long ago (and Now, Discover Your Strengths before that) so I was able to log into the site nad use my strengths aready on file to get my leadership domain.

Based on their research, the authors found there were four leadership domains: Executing, Influencing, Relationship Building, and Strategic Thinking. Based on my top five strengths (out of the 34 they measure) of Learner, Strategic, Input, Achiever, and Intellection I fell into the Strategic Thinking domain. In fact, four ofmy five strengths (learner, strategic, input, and intellection) fell into the strategic thinking domain with my remaining strength of achiever falling into the Executing domain.

If you are familiar with the strengths movement then this would be a good book to get. You will not only get five strengths but you will also get your leadership domain. Strengths-Based Leadership does discuss the 34 strengths so there is a review. But, if you have not read any of the other books then you might start with one of them.

Page is Fixed

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It took the help of the experts at Movable Type at Six Apart to get me back on track (man they are good) but everything seems to be working fine now. The root cause of the problem was some unclosed html code in some of the entries. Actually, it was closed but when I was posting Iwas tired and the font was too small so I transposed some slashes and brackets.

Another problem developed in my attempts to repair the problem. I ended up doing a fresh install to a new locaion on my site and that broke some code that the experts caught and repaired.

Thanks Movable Type!

What Happened to the Page?

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Okay. I know the blog page is hosed up. I dont how it happened or how to fix it at this point. I have tried to apply new styles with no luck. I have even reverted to the default MT4 templates to see if that would fix it. No joy. All of the entries and archives are at the bottom of the page, not on the left.

No time to mess with it now but I'll work on it later.

Victor H. Krulak, 1913-2008 "Military Innovator Who Sought New Approach to Battle in Vietnam," by. Stephen Miller. The Wall Street Journal, Vol. CCLIII, No. 2, Saturday/Sunday, 03-04 January 2009.

General Victor Krulak, 95, passed away on Monday, 29 December 2008. This is a nice review of his career and shows many ways in which he was a creative thinker. I recall discussing his ideas on how to win in Vietnam in my war college seminar and we all agreed that it was the only way to win that war. In fact, in places where it had been implemented, results were being realized. Unfortunately the American public was growing tired of the war and the method would take several years to win the war.

There are many parallels between General Krulak and General Petraeus. Both are innovative and sometimes unconventional. They have both forwarded ideas that were met with resistance. And, in the end, I think they both were correct while their critics were wrong.

His plan to win in Vietnam included winning the hearts and minds of the Vietnamese people on a village by village basis one person at a time. It also included placing mines in Haiphong harbor which President Johnson thought might anger the Russians and/or Chinese. Therefore the President did not embrace this plan, passed over General Krulak for Commandant of the Marine Corps, and resulted in his retirement. As for the outcome of the war, well that is history.

General David Petraeus is the top "public intellectual" according to Prospect (HT: Free Republic). In their January 2009 article Intellectual Surge they state "we know an original thinker when we see one, especially one who uses brainpower to achieve change in the most difficult of circumstances." I've had several discussions with colleagues and many argue that General Petraeus is an anomaly within the military. I don't see him so much as an anomaly as I do a leader of the type of military officers we can expect in the future. I would love the opportunity to work for this man.

I have finished well mostly finished, reclaiming shelf space in my many bookcases. I've spent the last couple of days tossing out old magazines and resolved to only keep the last year of most of them. When a new issue comes in, the oldest will go out. Exceptions are Naval Institute Proceedings and American Interest.

Using my Fujitsu ScanSnap Scanner I scanned all of my Naval War College notes and books, my Advanced Joint Professional Military Education notes, and a few other things. When all is said and done I have an extra 117-3/4 inches of shelf space.

Utah 31--Alabama 17

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Sweet! And I don't even like Utah. I must admit it was nice to watch a game without all of that ridiculous "Roll Tide". If Alabama fans were better winners I could be a little more sympathetic when they lose but...

A Sermon Delivered to
Trinity Presbyterian Church PC(USA)

29 June 2003

He shouldn't have been out of his room wandering the halls, trying to sneak into the restricted section of the library, but he was. He knew there were risks but he thought they were acceptable for he had his invisibility cloak, a mere piece of cloth that was delivered to him by an anonymous person which, when placed over the wearer, rendered them invisible. Surely with such a covering he could go where he wanted.

Privacy and Advertising

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11 February 2003

I'm willing to surrender a little privacy to gain a little convenience and eliminate much of the unwanted advertising I have to put with now. With the technology available, why do I still get calls wanting me to call an 800 number to find out about a vacation that is priced too low to disclose on my answering machine?

I would really like to eliminate most of the advertising I'm exposed to but I know that will never happen. Given that fact, then why not tailor the information to me. I have certain tastes and preferences. I like many different types of music but have never cared for country; why try to sell me a country CD? I like coffee and prefer the really dark and strong kind, a Folgers ad is a waste of time and money for me.

One of my favorite stores is Amazon.com. The reason is really quite simple, I like books and Amazon is pretty good at letting me know when there is a book available that might interest me. The system is not perfect but it is pretty good and seems to be getting a little better. I can rate the books and music I purchased and that is used to determine if I might like a newly released book. The system is not perfect and it has missed some books that I would love to buy but it beats being bombarded with all kinds of notices that do not interest me.

The movie Minority Report shows advertising at its best. Walking down the street the billboards change to show you the ads that interest you. When you enter a store you are greeted by name and some items could be suggested to you.

Snap, Crackle, and Pop!

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11 January 2003

Okay, I must have missed something along the way. A few days ago I read a story about some software that allows the user to add noise, noise as in scratchy sounds, to digitally recorded music. So there is now software that allows you to take crystal clear digital music and add scratches, pops, and crackles. Unbelievable! Why would anyone possibly want this?

Somewhere, hidden behind several layers boxes and even more layers of dust, is my collection of albums; those twelve inch diameter disks of vinyl that I collected as a teenager and as a young adult. I certainly recall the pops that came from scratches and the hiss that came from static electricity and dust. I hated it, and it seems most everyone else hated it as well, for in that same box of albums you would also find a collection of sprays, cloths, static discharge devices, brushes and even specially coated sleeves, all designed and purchased with the intent of reducing the effects of dust and static on the records.

I remember that when cassette tapes first became popular I couldn't wait to switch to them because they would not suffer from the same static and scratch problems as did the vinyl records. Of course there were problems with cassette tapes too which were soon to be reduced by Dolby technology to eliminate that incessant hiss.

Compact disks were a godsend. Now I could truly listen to music without the hiss, without the pops, and not have to worry so much about the scratches as I once did. The CD's were also easier to store and carry than either tapes or vinyl disks. I can convert them to mp3's and listen to them on my computer and even download them to my Nomad II mp3 player which is much smaller than the once popular Sony Walkman, of which I had several.

But now people want to add noise to their clear digitally recorded music? I may have missed something along the way but I certainly have not missed the crackle and pop of music recorded on vinyl or the hiss of music recorded on tape. I'm just waiting now for someone to come up with the software that will add the click-click that happened when the 8-track players would change tracks (usually in the middle of a song). I'm afraid that before long someone is going to develop a device that you can add to your television so that you can watch shows in black and white with snowy and wavy pictures.

Well, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to listen to some mp3's and if I get an urge to hear some snaps, crackles, or pops, I'll go for fix myself a bowl of Rice Krispies.

Why I'm a Presbyterian

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23 September 2002

The story, so I'm told, is that a soldier was lying in a hospital bed recovering from wounds received during a World War II battle when a Chaplain walks in, looks at the soldier's dog tags and says "Son, I see you're a Baptist; could we have a prayer together?" The solider says "sure we can pray together but I'm not a Baptist, I'm a Presbyterian." The Chaplin, with a confused look on his face, says "but you have 'Baptist' on your dog tag as your religion". The soldier says "I sure do. I couldn't spell Presbyterian so I just put Baptist." The chaplain asks, "Why didn't you just put a 'P' for Presbyterian?" The soldier said "I thought about doing that, but I was afraid someone might think I was 'Piscopalian."

Harry Potter and His Tattoo

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A Sermon Delivered to
Trinity Presbyterian Church PC(USA)

Starkville, MS

07 July 2002

I have a few confessions to make. My favorite snack is Bertie Botts Every Flavor Beans, my favorite sport is Quidditch, I would love nothing better than to ride a Nimbus 2000 broom and be the seeker on the Quidditch team. I've been sorted by the sorting hat into the House of Gryffindor and wish I could trade my email for Owl Mail. I think Hermione Granger is as cute as a button and she even reminds me a little of one of my fifth grade girlfriends. I am, I have to admit, a Harry Potter fan.

But I'm Too Busy to Help

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12 March 2002

Trinity is a volunteer organization. We have a few paid people, several who are underpaid, to take care of some of the work but there is not enough of them to go around. Our church is governed by the Session, sixteen volunteers. Our church work is done by the many committees. Our income is freely given by volunteers. The people in the chairs on Sunday morning are...volunteers. So the next time you are asked to do something for the church, remember, without your help, the work would not get done.

I've meet very few people at Trinity who were not busy. Some have said they had the time but I knew they were just being polite. They may have been unemployed at the time or retired but they still had commitments to be fulfilled to others. And it always seems that the people who are the busiest are the ones who quickly agree to do more. I know they are the one's we keep going back to ask for help.

I've wondered why the one's who do the most seem to be the one's who never say no and always get the job done. Last night I think I found the answer. While flipping through Bill Bennett's book, The Moral Compass, I ran across this poem. The author was not identified so I can only assume it was written by the prolific Anonymous, perhaps a volunteer. Read the poem and I think you will understand why we keep asking the same people to help. And please feel free to substitute woman, child, layperson, professional, gardener, or whatever you please. Trinity, perhaps more than most churches, realizes that we all have valuable contributions to make...as volunteers.

The Busy Man

If you want to get a favor done
By some obliging friend,
And want a promise, safe and sure,
On which you may depend,
Don't go to him who always has
Much leisure time to plan,
But if you want your favor done,
Just ask the busy man.

The man with leisure never has
A moment he can spare,
He's always "putting off" until
His friends are in despair.
But he whose every waking hour
Is crowded full of work
Forgets the art of wasting time,
He cannot stop to shirk

So when you want a favor done,
And want it right away,
Go to the man who constantly
Works twenty hours a day.
He'll find a moment, sure, somewhere,
That has no other use.
And help you, while the idle man
Is framing an excuse.

William J. Bennett, The Moral Compass, Page 615.

Memories of 11 September 2001

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11 March 2002

With today being six months from that day in September and with every television station showing the videotapes and covering the speeches, it is hard to not reflect on the day that has changed America forever. I have not talked much about what I experienced that day, in part because I'm not the kind of person that talks about such things, and in part because it is tough to talk about what I saw and experienced. While most people saw nothing but terror and confusion, I had another perspective. I saw terror, sure, but I also saw bravery, courage, honor, an individuals resolved to protect and defend this country.

Interstates and Christmas

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31 December 2001

It's hard to imagine life without Interstate highways. They allow us to get from place to place with ease, in relative safety, and save us some time in the process. I truly can not imagine travel without them. But they are lacking in something that the older two-lane US highways were not--character. The old roads had character, character given them by the towns they passed through and the billboards that lined them.

Just a Little More Time

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29 December 2001

Just a little more, that's all we need, a little more time to do the job you elected us to do. We have been too busy fighting amongst ourselves to get any real work done on redistricting so someone took it court. But we really want to do it now. We really do! Let's push back the elections next year so we can have more time to work and we will do our jobs this time. Really. We will. Promise.
So goes the argument seemingly proffered by Representative Bill Miles (D-21st District). He has pre-filed a bill that would push the elections further into 2002 than currently scheduled so that the legislature would have time to work out a redistricting plan. I say enough is enough.

Our elected representatives have had plenty of time to work this out before now. The taxpayers even gave them more money to have a special session to work out a plan for Congressional redistricting and, once again, they let us down. The issue went to court and that decision, by a Democratic judge, is, as expected, now under appeal. And our beloved legislators want the good citizens of Mississippi to give them more time. I say the only thing we need to give them is a good swift kick in the pants, a kick right out of office and make room for some people who can make decisions.

Let's see now, just how many decisions have our elected officials put off for one reason or another? Well, there was the issue of the state flag. Too much to loose on that one so lets spend tax dollars on an election for it. Let the people decide.

Then there is the budget issue. The legislature continues to set unrealistic budgets with growth projections that no one believes, simply so they do not have to make the hard decisions of what to cut. And why are we suffering? Is it because there is less money coming in to the state? Why no, it is because the money coming in to the state, although more than in years past, is less than our fearless leaders projected and expected. They were too busy spending money that isn't here yet and when it didn't show, the taxpayers and state employees will have to suffer. They have their head buried so far in the sand they should be able to tell us if there is oil down there.

Well, okay, they learned a lesson and it won't happen again, Right? Wrong! They've gone and done the same thing again. As a whole, the legislature is incapable of making a good decision.

Remember the Mississippi governor election? The one before Florida? The election was too close to call so it went to the Legislature for a decision. As I recall, the vote could have gone two ways, our legislators could have voted with their districts and we would have had a Republican governor, or they could have voted along party lines and we could end up with the Democrat Musgrove. They had no trouble with this decision and overwhelmingly elected Musgrove. They were thinking they could work better with him than with a Republican. Wrong. Look at how they can't even get along with the person they elected as governor.

Our legislators seem to not understand that they have been elected to make decisions for the betterment of the state, not necessarily for their careers. Not all decisions will be popular and they may be a price to pay for at re-election time for making them, but that is simply the price of being a public servant. Of course if they could take the time to communicate the reasons behind their decisions to the people of the state, then perhaps, just perhaps, they could make the decisions they need to make and still keep their jobs. But that takes effort, a lot of effort. And just when was the last time you heard from your representative?

Just whose interest does the legislature have at heart? I don't know but it seems clear it is not the people of Mississippi. The best outcome we can have here is to clean house during the next election. But, unlike the legislature, I know the people of this state and am confident that the majority of them will be re-elected and we will continue to suffer under them.

Not Teaching Our Children by Example

02 October 2001

In the wake of the attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center, Americans and many others have been extremely generous with their money, time, and efforts. They have shown what it is like to care for others and to share with those who are in need--a trait common in most every religion in the world--and certainly one most parents would want their children to learn and practice. What better opportunity can you have than the terrible events of the recent past to show the children of today that they should give to others who are less fortunate and to reinforce the lessons they have been taught? And what better place is there to reinforce this lesson than in our schools?

By "we" in this articl I refer to Southerners, of which I am one. Had I been alive then it is hard for me to say which side I would have fought on because I am really a Federalist at heart and would have had a hard time favoring a divided country.

04 March 2001

I've never been one to give the Confederate flag much thought. Recent events have brought the flag up in various arenas. The NAACP is boycotting South Carolina; yet another bill to have it removed from the Mississippi Flag has been filed; and political candidates have been quizzed when they visited states. The flag seems to stir emotions on both sides and I've, for the most part, found the reasoning to be silly--on both sides of the argument.

From Engineer to Weatherman

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This was actually written for the Mississippi Engineering Society Newletter when I was President under the President's column entitled "M.E.S.sage"

01 January 2001

It started with the intent of showing how engineers are involved in things most people would never think of and maybe showing a little bit of the fun side of engineering. A professional engineer, working in New York City, had the responsibility of determining if the winds were within acceptable limits for the balloon floats used in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. The article was developed by the firm NSPE has contracted with to improve the image of the engineer.

The article was printed in the New York Times, included a photograph of the engineer, and was picked up by several media outlets across the nation. One radio station read the article and talked about it on the air. This radio station wanted more information so they called a local university for some comments. They ended up talking to someone in the geography department of the university. The article mentioned meteorology and this is what the radio station picked up on. There inquiry was directed to the geography department because that is the department that houses meteorology.

Was the article a failure? Some could argue that it was because it did not result in more favorable coverage of the engineer. I would argue that results of the article illustrates how profoundly misunderstood the image of the engineer and engineering really is. Why did the radio station call a university about meteorology rather than engineering? Is it perhaps because the radio station thought a meteorologist would interview better on radio? Perhaps it is just because the radio station didn't know enough about the situation to call and ask for an engineer.

Improving the image of ourselves and our profession is not an attempt to make a bad image into a good image. Polls show that most people think well of engineers, at least that we are ethical. No, the problem is not having a bad image, the problem is having a misunderstood image. What concerns me most about our misunderstood image is that our leaders in society may turn to those who have less knowledge about a problem rather than ask a qualified engineer. I also worry that with an image that is misunderstood, we may not attract some fine young people into the profession.

Gaining the image we want to have is going to be a long road. The recent attempts to get some positive attention may not have had the desired affect, it did serve to illustrate the degree of the problem we are facing. There are no quick fixes and, although we can use outside help, the bulk of the work remains with us. As engineers we must always project an image of the calm, understanding professionals we are. We must make efforts to explain ourselves in terms that can be easily understood by those lacking the depth of education we have attained. Only then will the public's perception of our profession change.

Salter, Sowell, and Symbols

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26 November 2000

There comes a time when something that has never been an issue all of a sudden becomes one for you. This happened to me a few weeks ago. I've never much been concerned about the Confederate flag, whether it is flown singularly or as part of the Mississippi state flag. I truly believe that there are much more important things that we should be dealing with at this time, but others have deemed the flag to be the most important.

Those Whom We Have Forgotten

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It is hard to believe that it was about twenty years ago when I made my first trip to Washington, DC. It was the summer of my freshmen year in college and I had been working at a steel fabrication plant for the last several months earning some money for college and gaining some work experience. As the summer drew to a close, I mentioned to parents that I would like for us all to go to Wash-ington and see the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. I pointed out that it would be the last time we could take a vacation as a family and that it was probably the last chance I would have to see Washington. I was right about the vacation, I was married the following summer and we have not had family vacations since; I was wrong about it being my last time to see Washington, the Navy has seen fit to provide me with many opportunities to visit the center of democracy.

First Edition Letter

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This was the letter sent with the first edition hardcopy of Robert's Ramblings.

27 September 1999

Welcome to the first edition of Robert's Ramblings, a periodic publication of essays and commentaries by me. My intent is to publish this, in the words of Dilbert creator and author of the Dilbert Newsletter, the frequency will be "roughly whenever I feel like it". Some of you may not care about what I have to say and that is fine, remember this cost you nothing. Some you will want to share this with friends (maybe I'm stretching here) and that is fine too.

This issue is on a serious topic, not all of them will be that way though, that's why it is called Ramblings. Some will be funny, some will be sad, some will entertain, and some will probably make someone mad. Whatever your reaction, remember these are only my thoughts. You're welcome to share them and you're welcome to disagree with them. As I tell my friends at work, my skin has already been calibrated by being screamed at by a Marine Major so there is little any one else can say that would rattle me. By the way, it took a Navy Commander to explain to a Marine Lieutenant Colonel, that the Navy Lieutenant was doing his best with limited resources to see that an entire exercise involving roughly 2400 people was completed and that the Marine Major needed to back off.

One day, in the not too distant future, these will be posted on my yet-to-be-developed web page along with other topics such as Robert's Readings which will discuss the books I'm reading (yes, books--I usually have about 3 going at any given time). I am a proponent of using writing as a tool to aid thinking. I see far too many students who believe that writing is something that is done after all the hard work is over. Writing is hard work and is the best tool I know of to help clear up some cluttered thinking. My Ramblings are more an exercise for me than they are anything else.

Now, why do I think any of you care about what I have to say? Well, first, several of you have told me that you do, others act like they do. Most of you read news reporter's commentaries and I can promise that what I have to say has been given much more thought than anything printed in the papers. But I respect your opinions and your privacy. If you do not wish to receive future issues, then let me know and I'll send them to someone else. I do however hope you will enjoy these and wish to continue to receive them. Should you know someone else who would like to get them then send me their names and addresses and I'll add them to the list. Of course you have the privilege of being charter subscribers.

And now, in the words of John Adams:

Let us dare to read, think, speak and write....

Robert's Ramblings: Redux

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Almost ten years ago I began publishing a very sporadic newsletter I called "Robert's Ramblings" I sent it to friends and family mainly. It was nothing more than an outlet for my writings, bad as they were and are. I have no idea how many were read and how many were sent directly to the circular file, but some have been read because I've been asked a time or two what happened to Robert's Ramblings.

Well, what happened is they became my weblog. So, to make the transition complete, I am renaming my blog to Robert's Ramblings and am publishing, for completeness, some of those earlier articles and sermons. I begin with the letter I sent with the first edition of Ramblings followed by the other articles in chronological order.

Resolutions for 2009

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I'm not one to make New Year's Resolutions because hey are too easily broken and I see no reason to wait until the New Year to start something. But this year, just once, I'm going to break this rule and make some resolutions.

In 2009 I resolve to:

1) Start and finish my dissertation.
2) Read at least one book each two weeks. I really wanted to do one per week but that could get in the way of resolution number 1.
3) Write/blog on a more regular basis.
4) Get in better physical shape.

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from January 2009 listed from newest to oldest.

December 2008 is the previous archive.

February 2009 is the next archive.

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