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PHOTON COURIER
 
Saturday, January 31, 2004  
GETTING BRANDED, CTD

Back in December, I wrote about the increasing number of Chinese manufacturing companies who--no longer content to be the anonymous supplier of someone else's products--are acquiring Western-recognizable brand names and marketing under those names. The new issue of Fortune (2/9) has a fascinating article about a Chinese consumer electronics firm, TCL, and its chairman, Li Dongsheng. TCL has put together a joint venture in the television industry, which now owns--among many other things--the rights to Nipper the Dog, famous trademark of the Radio Corporation of America.

This JV is a big play. TCL has merged its television manufacturing facilities with those of the French electronics company Thompson, and will own a 67% stake in the resulting JV--which will have sales of about $3.5 billion and ship around 18 million TVs a year. (Thompson already owned the RCA operation in Bloomington, Ind, which is where Nipper comes in.)

This is much more than a trademark acquisition; it is the assembly of a truly global company...and one of the first such companies to be Chinese controlled...or is it? TCL itself is 25% owned by the Huizhou city government, 38% by public investors, 14% by foreign partners (including Phillips and Toshiba), and 6% by Li himself.

Li is an interesting case study in entrepreneurship. As a teenager, he experienced the Chinese cultural revolution, spending two years at an agricultural cooperative ("toiling on a fish farm, reading books in secret, and battling boredom.") He later attended college and studied electrical engineering. In 1982, he and some friends founded a cassette-tape assembly business, starting with a $600 loan from the Huizhou city government. They later expanded into making telephones, and shipped their first TV in 1992.

After plans for the JV were announced, someone asked Li what were his plans for Nipper?

"Nipper?" he asked. "Who's Nipper?"

That's kind of sad, somehow.

But he knows now.

9:50 AM

 
ABOUT OUTSOURCING

Daniel Drezner has been writing about outsourcing lately, and the discussions have been interesting. The latest is here.

9:28 AM

Monday, January 26, 2004  
AN ENCOUNTER AT THE SUPERMARKET

So Deb the Insomnomaniac was grocery shopping, somewhere in Massachusetts. Waiting in the checkout line, she found herself between two friends who spent the time denouncing the "stupidity and blindness" of the "rest of America," using terms such as "goose-stepping Neanderthals," and "THE reason we should move to Canada."

After about five minutes of this, Deb furrowed her brow disapprovingly at the woman behind her. She received in reply a wink--"It was that "Am I right or am I RIGHT?!" wink. She actually must have thought I was furrowing my brow because I too was overwrought with concern that the "rest of America" had gone completely mad."

Deb turned around and started flipping through a magazine; the woman tapped her on the shoulder. (read the rest here).

8:16 PM

Saturday, January 24, 2004  
IT JUST KEEPS COMING

If you can stand one more awful story from the education front, click here. I don't even have the heart to summarize this.

As one of the comments at Joanne's site says, sometimes it seems like we're living April Fool's day every day.

8:37 PM

 
WELCH'S LEADERSHIP MODEL, CTD

When Jack Welch was running GE, one of the things he constantly preached about was "reality"--as in "facing reality," rather than indulging in unjustified assumptions, fantasies, and hopes. (Do we really have a chance to make it big in the Gerbilator industry? Amalgamated Entities is really kicking our tail. Yeah, I know that we've been doing this stuff for 50 years and think we're the best--but are we really?) Thus, I'm a bit surprised that this factor didn't show up on his leadership screen (prior post).

The reality factor is, of course, to some degree implicit in some of the other critieria..intelligence, integrity, and especially "Edge." But why not identify it as a specific point?

It's probably one of the harder character traits to evaluate. There can be honest differences of opinion about whether our company has a real chance in the Gerbilator industry--just like there can be honest differences of opinion about the level of threat that would have resulted from leaving Saddam Hussein in power. But above and beyond the differing conclusions that may be drawn by different people reasoning about a specific issue...there is, I believe, a general character trait of reality-facing. In politics as in business, it's important to try and determine who has it and who doesn't.

8:21 AM

Friday, January 23, 2004  
THE WELCH CRITERIA

Former GE Chairman and CEO Jack Welch, writing in today's Wall Street Journal (1/23), has some comments about the Democratic candidates. He doesn't address their views on the substantive issues, and indeed says that he intends to vote for George Bush--but describes his paradigm for assessing leadership potential and suggests that it might be a useful tool for Democrats to use in considering their candidates.

Welch asserts that leadership is largely comprised of the "Four E's." These are:

*Energy--obvious what this means
*Energize--the ability to inspire and motivate others
*Edge-the courage to make "tough yes-or-no decisions"
*Execute--getting the job done

...also critical is Passion (for which there are evidently no synonyms starting with an "E"), defined as "a heartfelt, deep,and authentic excitement about life and work").

He goes on to say that, before even looking at the "Four E's" for an individual, one should first make sure that he makes the grade on:

*Integrity--truthfulness, responsibility, fairness, compasion.
*Intelligence--both breadth of knowledge (from history to science) and emotional intelligence--self-awareness, maturity, self-control

How do the Democratic candidates stack up on these criteria? Welch's assessments are, for the most part, kinder than mine would be.

*John Kerry...Welch gives him good marks on intelligence and integrity, and also on edge and execution--but he has questions about both energy and the ability to energize.

*Howard Dean...interestingly, Welch gives him good marks on the "E's" and on passion; he also believes that the man probably has integrity. His leadership here is with emotional intelligence (not sure if this was written before or after the recent arm-waving incident). "In any big job, you get knocked off the horse a few times. It's how you get back on that proves your real mettle."

*Wesley Clark...Welch gives him all the four "E's" but raises questions about breadth of knowledge and passion about nonmilitary subjects--he also passes along without evaluation the integrity concerns that have been raised by some of Clark's peers.

*Joe Lieberman..."a man with more integrity and intelligence--in particular, emotional intelligence--than you can shake a stick at. What a terrific person!" Welch's concern here is with energy and the ability to energize. He also raises a concern about the ability to execute, and I believe that his comments here have relevance beyond the specific question of Joe Lieberman's candidacy;

"(Lieberman) is such a contemplative person that you have to feel concerned over his ability to show edge and execute. The world is filled with gray, but great leaders are often forced to act as if it were black and white." (emphasis added).

Precisely. When you leave the realm of pure contemplation and enter the world of action, the grays must at some point be resolved into primary colors. This does not mean that the leader does not see the grays; it does not mean that he does not honestly communicate these ambiguities. It does mean that at some point he must make the choice, even in the presence of ambiguity, limited information, conflicting desirable objectives, and good things that carry bad things along with them. Too many "word people" (writers, professors, critics and analysts of various kinds), who do not in their professional lives feel the pressures of decision and action, are too quick to accuse leaders (George Bush, in particular) of being "stupid" when in actuality it is they themselves who fail to understand the mindset required for action and leadership--they are generalizing the value of their own job skills into areas that they know little about.

Update: The work done by Prof Dietrich Doerner on the study of decision-making (review here) is illuminating on this matter of the mindsets required for contemplation vs those required for action.


9:30 PM

 
TOO GOOD FOR THE CLASSROOM?

If you are a smart, obviously impressive person, then you may have a hard time getting hired as a public school teacher--at least in Atlanta.

Marquis Harris describes himself as "a 22-year-old African-American male and recent graduate of a respectable liberal arts college in Kentucky (who) acquired a 3.75 grade-point average with a double major in Social Studies Secondary Education and sociology." He is a Mensa member, a Rhodes Scholar nominee, and a competitor in intercollegiate forensics. He has served as student body president and also interned for then-Representative Saxby Chambliss.

Last summer, he decided that his true calling was to become a teacher. After an interview with a school in metro Atlanta, he received an e-mail from the principal stating:

Though your qualifications are quite impressive, I regret to inform you that we have selected another candidate. It was felt that your demeanor and therefore presence in the classroom would serve as an unrealistic expectation as to what high school students could strive to achieve or become. However, it is highly recommended that you seek employment at the collegiate level; there your intellectual comportment would be greatly appreciated. Good luck.

Anyone who still believes that massive change is not required in America's public schools is invited to read the above paragraph several times and think about what sort of a mindset would lead someone to write such words--and what impact such a mindset is having on the students at the school this individual runs.

Yes, it's only one incident. But it's part of a pattern that has become too pervasive to be ignored.

(Via The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)





7:39 AM

Thursday, January 22, 2004  
ALGERIAN LNG PLANT EXPLOSION

An Algerian LNG plant blew up, killing at least 27 people. Windows were blown out 6 miles away from the site. It is believed that the explosion began in a steam boiler.

It's important to note that the process for importing liquified natural gas (as is now done in four U.S. terminals) is far simpler than the process for exporting it. To ready LNG for transport by ship, it must be chilled to the point of liquification. Nevertheless, this disaster is likely to increase the opposition to establishing more LNG ports in the U.S.

Let's hope that this tragedy leads to tighter standards in the operation of LNG plants in Algeria and elsewhere. The Wall Street Journal (1/21) says that newer plants are being built with gas turbines rather than steam boilers being used in the liquification process; a process which should be safer. Nevertheless, safety must be a constant concern in plants of this type. The people who bring us energy--whether in the form of LNG, oil, coal, or whatever--are invisible to most people. They perform critical tasks, and they deserve a safe working environment.

I think we may well be facing an era of significant natural gas shortages. Unlike oil, natural gas cannot be shipped by conventional vessels: it requires LNG liquification facilities, specialized ships, and specialized import terminals. None of these things can be created at a moment's notice, even absent political considerations--and the aftershock of this explosion is likely to be a significant issue in LNG construction, even of facilities to which it is not directly relevant. Meanwhile, power plants in the U.S. (and in the U.K.) have been converting from coal to gas for some time. How much stretch capacity is left in domestic production? Can it be increased in time to avoid major shortages?


2:41 PM

 
THE LEFT AND ISRAEL

Interesting article at The American Thinker on the reasons for the left's negative attitudes toward Israel. Samples:

For decades, most American Jews have believed there were far greater threats from the fringe right than the fringe left in this country. While this view may have been reasonable in the past, it is certainly not so today. The fringe right still exists- the neo-Nazis in Northwest Idaho, Matthew Hale, and David Duke, and the remnants of the KKK. But the views of the fringe right have been marginalized by their repudiation by virtually all mainstream elements on the political right.

The fringe left, on the other hand, has evolved into a broader left, and become more mainstream. The political perspective of this new left is vehemently anti-Israel, and the power and reach of this movement represent a real threat to Israel, and by extension to Jews who support Israel
.

and

I happened to witness several anti-war demonstrations. There were always many printed signs attacking Israel, signs in other words produced by groups that participated in anti-war demonstrations, and thought it was entirely consistent to be both against the war with Iraq and anti-Israel. Think about this issue this way: was there a single pro-war rally in the country in which there was an anti-Israel sign? I don’t remember seeing one or hearing about one. During the period leading up to the war and in the months since, has there been any supporter of the war on any talk show or newscast, or in any op-ed, gratuitously attacking Israel?

What is it about Israel that brings forth this ill will from the left? Why this exceptionalism about Israel?


Read the whole thing: Why Does the Left Hate Israel?


12:46 PM

Tuesday, January 20, 2004  
AN OBSERVATION FROM AFGHANISTAN

The current issue of Time (1/26) has an article on a new film from Afghanistan (Osama) and its creator, Siddiq Barmak. Barmak, who was in hiding during the Taliban era, reflects on his experiences in touring the country with eight cinema caravans, following the overthrow of the Taliban. Among other things, they showed old Chaplin and Keaton comedies.

Our technical guys cried, he says. It was the first time they had seen people laugh in years.

4:06 PM

Sunday, January 18, 2004  
THE ART OF OBFUSCATION

The Washington Post has an article on educational jargon. Instead of comparing books, 6-year-olds are making "text-to-text connections." A second grade teacher tells the students that they will be "modelling efficient subtraction strategies." A classroom trailer is called a "learning cottage."

To quote the Post article:

Teachers say they use the language, which varies by state or district or school, because they're told to. Administrators say they use it because it's on the tests -- and besides, everyone will learn it eventually. The theory also goes that if you want students to write a paragraph in a new way, you have to call it something new, too.

"Teachers are being observed more closely than ever before, and if you're not using the right jargon, you look like you don't know what you're doing -- regardless of the fact that the little kids have no clue," said Jerry Taylor, a technology teacher outside Rochester, N.Y., who compiles one of many school-jargon glossaries on the Internet
.

Of course, every field has its jargon. But the proper use of specialized language is to communicate concepts that are not readily expressed using only standard English. "Modulus of elasticity," for example, has a specific meaning in structural engineering; the term is a useful shortcut for concepts that would otherwise take a few paragraphs to express. That's not what is going on here, for the most part. Exactly the opposite, in fact: concepts which are readily communicated in normal language are instead being expressed in an unclear and confusing manner.

As a high school senior says, speaking of "learning cottage" instead of "trailer" and "assessment" instead of "test": It's like renaming a prison 'The Happy Fun Place,' " Maeder said. "Tests should be called tests. 'Brief constructed response' -- you just wonder why they don't say 'paragraph.' It doesn't really serve any purpose renaming them.

I expect that it actually does serve a purpose, consciously or unconsciously--the purpose being to post a big "keep out" sign on the educational field and to discourage meddling by parents and other "outsiders."

(hat tip: Joanne Jacobs)

8:17 PM

Friday, January 16, 2004  
TEACHING HISTORY

Jay Solo asks: What would you do to improve history education in the United States?

One thing that I would like to see is more use of primary source documents: things actually written by people of the time and place under study. Such documents make the past much more real than does reading someone's interpretation--indeed, primary source documents are about as close as we are likely to get to a time machine.

And very often, they are better written than the modern summaries.

9:04 AM

Thursday, January 15, 2004  
PARENTS WHO LOVE TESTING

Many parents in the U.S. are vehemently opposed to the use of standardized tests in the schools. (See Number 2 Pencil for almost daily examples of this phenomenon). But there's a place where parents apparently love standardized tests.

Iraq

According to Bill Evers, who has been over in Iraq helping with the reconstruction of the schools, "Iraqi parents love standardized testing and were fervently concerned not to let either the war in March and April, or the subsequent guerilla skirmishes, interfere with the nationwide testing program."

Evers has good things to say about Iraqi students, teachers, and administators, as well as the parents.

(From The Wall Street Journal, 1/15)

9:13 PM

Wednesday, January 14, 2004  
BEWARE THE OUTSIDERS

Julia Sigalovsky left the Soviet Union in 1989. She had little money, but a fine technical education--and since coming to the U.S. she has been a geochemist, then an MIT ceramics process researcher, then the founder of her own environmental engineering firm. Concerned about the quality of education in her area (Marlborough, MA), she has been attempting to start a charter school--with a rigorous program focused on science but also with a strong humanities component.

It sounds like an excellent idea, though I would question some of the details of the approach. But what is particularly interesting is the nature of some of the reactions that the proposal has generated.

An assistant school superintendant demanded to know: "Where's this proposal coming from? Where is the need? It's coming from the outside."

The outside? What could be worse than the outside? This use of the term outside reminds me of something a backwoods villain might say in a remake of Deliverance.

As this article makes clear, some of the people around Marlborough are evidently shocked by the idea that the U.S. could have anything to learn from the way education is conducted in other countries--and are especially offended by the attempt to learn from anything done in Russia or Germany.

Sigalovsky's associate, Anna Charny, also a Soviet regugee, has this to say about the way in which their proposal his been greeted:

"This whole thing, telling us `these Eastern Europeans' is so reminiscent of what we fled," said Charny, a Cisco Systems computer scientist who received her doctorate from MIT. "There we were called `you Jews!' This is so disappointing."

It would be very interesting to know more about the people who are reacting so negatively against this proposal. Who are they? Do they consider themselves as liberals or conservatives? Most likely, I would guess, both are represented. There is a place where malign currents in the left meet malign currents in the right, and I suspect that the hostile reaction to this school proposal is located right at the intersection.

Update: I meant to mention that the "David Foster" mentioned in the article is not me.


8:30 PM

Monday, January 12, 2004  
THE CHESLER ENDORSEMENT

And who is Chesler, you may ask?

Phyllis Chesler is a self-described radical feminist. And she intends--for the first time in her life--to vote Republican. For George W. Bush.

My colleagues on the progressive and feminist Left lead relatively safe and privileged lives in the West. Perhaps this is why they are romanticizing and glorifying illiterate, suicidal killers, new Noble Savages; they want "action," they are incapable of fomenting any, (although their ideas of revolution have actually fomented quite a lot of death in the past). Do they think to expiate a false, liberal guilt in this way? Yes, I say. Is this a form of contempt, masked as compassion for the wretched of the earth? Yes, again.

Having criticized their own country and civilization almost to death, do such ideologues now want that civilization to literally die? I fear they do. I hope I am wrong. Does human imperfection--and human resistance to ideological perfection--so offend them that they wish to see it all blown up, cleansed? Yes, again.

Do they believe that Al-Qaeda's fundamentalist fanatics will create the ultimate Brave New World? Do they really hate God's imperfect world that much? I leave these questions to you, gentle reader
.

And also..

I support president Bush because he is a man of both faith and action who has committed our country's money and troops to a vision of democracy and women's rights in the Islamic world. I share his administration's view that there must be a single standard of universal human rights and not a "politically correct" relativist view in which double and triple standards prevail.

The Bush administration's strong support for Israel signifies that it understands that Israel is both America's strongest ally in the fight against Islamist terrorism and a mirror-western democracy in progress. Perhaps the American president and cabinet also understand that Israel has been unfairly scapegoated for the supposed and all-too-visible crimes of American empire (such as religious tolerance, modernity, individual freedoms, women's rights)
.

Read the whole thing here.


8:32 AM

Saturday, January 10, 2004  
SHAKESPEARE AT THE NEA

Dana Gioia, Chairman of the National Endowment of the Arts, has initiated a program to encourage the teaching of Shakespeare. A centerpiece of the project is a CD, designed for use by high-school teachers, with commentary and performances of some of the soliloquies.

National Review: "As Gioia points out in his narration, Shakespeare used to be the text, along with the King James Bible, of all Americans. In the 20th centurey, Shakespeare began to be perceived as the excusive preserve of elite, "high" culture--of scholars and snobs. It is the mission of Gioia and his Endowment to remedy this misfortune."

Gioia himself has an interesting background--he's a poet and literary critic who has also had a successful business career (VP Marketing at General Foods). His appointment by President Bush as NEA Chairman seems to have been a worthwhile step toward revitalizing and redirecting that institution.


8:11 AM

Thursday, January 08, 2004  
BUBBLE, BOOM, OR BOTH?

An investor who had bought stocks of companies with the term "nano" in their names would have achieved a return of more than 300% during 2003. This from an article in Investor's Business Daily (1/6 issue), which raises some cautionary flags along with pointing out a number of possible opportunities in this area.

I think there is probably a great deal of money to be made in nanotechnology. But there is also a real danger of an investing fad, in which people buy stocks based on the company name and a few glib phrases, rather than a true understanding of what the company is doing.

And it is probably more difficult to sort the wheat from the chaff in this area than in, say, the business-to-consumer Internet field. Some level of assessment of business plans in B-to-C Internet could often be accomplished given ordinary common sense and a modicum of business knowledge. This is less likely to be true in the highly scientific area of nanotech: one is going to really have to dig in.

And also, very large existing companies may well play more of a role in nanotech than they did in the early stages of the Internet. There are several large and well-managed companies with strong R&D capabilities in materials science: GE and 3M are two that come to mind. This may make it more difficult to find pure play opportunities in the field.

So, the real investment opportunities are probably out there, but it will take work to find and assess them.

The foregoing is general commentary and, as always on this weblog, nothing here should be interpreted as investment advice.



8:19 AM

Wednesday, January 07, 2004  
THIS IS INTERESTING

From MonkeyMagic via Brandblogs comes this fascinating experiment:

The ceramics teacher announced on opening day that he was dividing the class into two groups. All those on the left side of the studio, he said, would be graded solely on the quantity of work they produced, all those on the right solely on its quality. His procedure was simple: on the final day of class he would bring in his bathroom scales and weigh the work of the "quantity" group: fifty pound of pots rated an "A", forty pounds a "B", and so on. Those being graded on "quality", however, needed to produce only one pot -albeit a perfect one - to get an "A". Well, came grading time and a curious fact emerged: the works of highest quality were all produced by the group being graded for quantity. It seems that while the "quantity" group was busily churning out piles of work - and learning from their mistakes - the "quality" group had sat theorizing about perfection, and in the end had little more to show for their efforts than grandiose theories and a pile of dead clay.

Totally consistent with my experience in business--if you exempt people from producing intermediate results, they are likely to wind up producing no results-- and applicable to all sorts of situations.

6:43 PM

Tuesday, January 06, 2004  
EDUCRATS EVERYWHERE

I'd always had the impresssion that France had a pretty good educational system--rather rigid, perhaps, but at least making sure that a reasonable amount of knowledge is transmitted. But apparently, some of the malign forces at work in U.S. education have been at work in France, too.

Rachel Boutonnet, a 31-year-old French teacher, has published a book called Secret Diary of a Teacher. In it, she describes her year at the main teacher training college, where she found a culture "so intellectually vapid and soul-destroying that many trainees became depressed or lost their vocation...Pupils were always referred to as "learners" and teachers were told that they should on no condition consider themselves role models for their children. Their job was solely to encourage the children to discover themselves and their own skills." (quoted from the Telegraph) "We were constantly taught that the important thing was to give children the desire to learn," she says. "I disagree. I think all children want to learn. The important thing is to give them the desire and capacity to work."

As a practicing teacher (at a school with a large immigrant population), she is applying her hard-nosed methods on a daily basis, despite the displeasure of government inspectors. Interestingly, she has won support from some of the senior members of the education ministry, who are "trying to decentralise education and force change on the 1968 generation of Left-wing teachers and thinkers who dominate French education."

(hat tip: Brian's Education Blog)

6:23 PM

 
CARNIVAL OF THE INANITIES?

Erin O'Connor has some links and some comments re: the annual meeting of the Modern Language Association (for professors of English and allied disciplines). Ever since 1989, she says, "..the race has been on to shock and awe fellow conference-goers with the hipness of one's talk, the transgressive cleverness of one's talk title, and even the cut of one's clothing.." Read the whole thing here.

It's sad to think that probably somewhere amidst this carnival, there are professors doing worthwhile scholarship that hardly anyone wants to hear about--because it's not "edgy" enough. Who would have ever thought that the study of literature would become something to be judged, like horror movies, mainly on its shock value?

1:28 PM

Sunday, January 04, 2004  
WELL PUT

Certain books have that power: That power to make you feel like you are looking not at something that has been created, by an author, but something that IS.

Sheila O'Malley wrote the above about Anne of Green Gables...but I think it's a statement that very well describes all successful fiction.

8:42 AM

Saturday, January 03, 2004  
CRITICS AND DOERS

A newcaster was on TV asking the question: "Have security officials over-reacted?" in reference to the delay of several international flights on suspicion of terrorist activity.

Of course, if a terror event had occurred, this same person would have been asking: "Have security officials been too slow to react?"

It strikes me that America today contains large numbers of people whose job is not to take actions or make decisions themselves, but to recommend, analyze, and critique the actions of others.

Within limits, this is fine. Every organization, and every nation, needs a few people whose role is to stand outside, to analyze, and to criticize. But we now have very large numbers of such people--journalists, consultants, professors (outside of the hard sciences), "analysts" of all descriptions. There are now so many of these "watchers," and they have in many cases become so arrogant, that they believe that their specialized and limited view of the world (a view focused on analysis rather than action) is the only acceptable one.

It seems to me that increasingly the cultural and political fault line in America is this: one the one hand, those people who must actually do things--usually under time constraints, almost always with incomplete information, and generally with at least some responsibility for the outcome--and, on the other, those people whose job is to analyze, recommend, and criticize--usually without time pressures and generally without any responsibility for outcomes.

4:14 PM

 
A TURNAROUND STORY

Several days ago, USA Today ran a story about several successful female CEOs. One of them was Anne Mulcahy of Xerox--it reminded me about a Fortune article I read a while back, and had meant to blog about but never got around to.

Moments before Anne Mulcahy's annual meeting began, one of her board members did something that rarely, if ever, happened during the endless business inferno at Xerox. Something that three years of debt downgrades, sunrise conference calls with the auditors, missed Junior High ball games, constant layoffs, and always, always, the threat of bankruptcy had not done: He made Mulcahy cry.

The director was John Pepper, former CEO of Procter & Gamble. "I never thought I would be proud to have my name associated with this company again," he told her. "I was wrong."


When Mulcahy became CEO of Xerox, the company had $17.1 billion in debt and $154 million in cash. The stock had fallen from $63.69 a share to $4.43. The very survival of the company was in grave doubt. Mulcahy was the last chance..and she wasn't an obvious choice. Her degree was in English/Journalism from Marymount. She wasn't on the board. She had been head of HR--not typically an assignment that leads to a CEO position (although she had prior experience in sales and had also created a desktop printer business.) "I never expected to be CEO of Xerox," she says. "I was never groomed to be CEO of Xerox. It was a total surprise to everyone, including myself." Once she was in the job, she was under heavy pressure to put the company into bankruptcy--pressure she resisted.

If you are at all interested in business, you should read this article about how Mulcahy--with a lot of help from her associate Ursula Burns--pulled Xerox back from the brink. In fact, if you are not interested in business, you should read it anyway--if you are interested in the possibilities of the human spirit under extreme pressure.
(article here)

Xerox share are now trading for $13.59 and the company is generating positive net income. I don't follow this company closely, and am not sure how well they're positioned for the long term--but what a terrific save from imminent disaster.

8:57 AM

Friday, January 02, 2004  
WORTH PONDERING

Any universe simple enough to be understood is too simple to produce a mind able to understand it.

(Astrophysicist John Barrow of Cambridge, quoted in The Wall Street Journal)

Previous Worth Pondering




6:06 PM

Thursday, January 01, 2004  
ARISE, SIR TIM!

Tim Berners-Lee, creator of the World Wide Web, is now a Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire.

Describing the original concept of the WWW in a recent interview, Sir Tim said that "The original idea of the web was that it should be a collaborative space where you can communicate through sharing information...The idea was that by writing something together, and as people worked on it, they could iron out misunderstanding."

A well-deserved honor.


8:04 AM

 
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