Grocery shopping and rabbit trails

KitchenAid: Not an impulse buy
Tea kettle, by KitchenAid, or why we went to Kroger today.

Looking for a change of pace, Julie and I decided to drive a littler further out of our way for groceries today and went to Kroger in Dalton, Ga.
OK, I selfishly pushed in that direction because I wanted to buy a KitchenAid tea kettle I’ve had my eye on for a while. The cheap brushed stainless kettle I grabbed for next to nothing at Wal-Mart had served its purpose, but a slow leak sent it on to a moist grave in the trash.
KitchenAid impulse buy
16-piece knife set in wood block by KitchenAid, an impulse buy courtesy of Kroger.

The Kroger in Dalton is one of the flagship stores for the American retail supermarket chain. It is not your average grocery store. It rivals many of the stores I used to visit in Atlanta and Chattanooga; however, this store is on my way home from the office.
What makes this store so special? It has a premium selection of products—an extensive produce section along with a huge selection of cheeses, olives, wonderful baked goods and a terrific deli packed with fresh Boar’s Head Meats.
I could prattle on about their groceries, but that isn’t what makes the store special. They offer top-of-the-line cookware as well such as the KitchenAid product I was seeking as well as Le Creuset and other brands.
The meat counter. Their steaks are exquisite (and the price is reflected in the quality, you get what you pay for). Filet mignon paired with a choice shiraz from the well-stocked wine section (they have a great selection of beers as well) seemed like a great way to welcome warmer weather to our nook in northwest Georgia, so that’s what we got.
We filled the tank for the grill and ventured forth into the great outdoors to celebrate the coming of spring. Remember, the first day of spring is March 20 and I can’t wait!

Nice day to work outside

When passwords attack!

I was assigning a password to a new account and was having trouble finding one the site would accept. Then I glanced over at the rules for establishing a password:

  • It must contain 3 out of the following:
    • At least 1 Uppercase Letter
    • At least 1 Lowercase Letter
    • At least 1 Number
    • At least 1 of the following special characters (!,@,#,$,&,*)
  • It can’t contain your user name
  • It can’t contain “this company’s name” or “Password”

I’m a big boy and I know how to set my own secure passwords. Adhering to those “rules” prevented me from setting 1Password to use all symbols and I had to settle for a less secure password. Thanks anonymous company. Thanks a lot.
Side note: 1Password is an amazing application for Mac OS X. If you haven’t heard of it check out its Web site. If you have been considering buying the app, stop thinking about it and buy it now. You won’t regret it.

Pick two of three

I just realized that three turns of phrase…

  • “shoot yourself in the foot”
  • “put your foot in your mouth”
  • “shoot your mouth off”

…have the same meaning that all use two of three elements:

  • shoot
  • foot
  • mouth

Weird, huh?

The iPhone Effect

I am finding my brain wants to “think different” while working on my MacBook because I use an iPhone, particularly while surfing the Web. Sometimes I catch myself using iPhone shortcuts and then I’m confused for a second when it doesn’t work right.
Should I even be admitting this?
Sometimes, when I want to focus on a portion of a Web site I’ll double click on the area I want to see and fully expect it to zoom in like it does on my iPhone.
Other times, when I’m typing, I’ll find that I want to just hit the space bar twice to add a period rather than actually hitting the “period” key.
Gosh, this is embarrassing.
I’m going to stop there. You will find no more incriminating evidence here
Wait. Why wasn’t there a period at the end of that paragraph?
Doh! I did it again!

Seth Godin on the tribes we lead

Marketer and author Seth Godin talked about leading tribes at the annual TED conference in February 2009. I found the video of that talk on the incredible and inspiring TED Web site. What follows in the blog post are my notes after studying his presentation. I take no credit for the ideas below. They came straight from Mr. Godin. I do hope this summary of his presentation inspires you to get up and go change the world!
As leaders, we try to change everything every day. We challenge the status quo. We try to make big, permanent, important change. We must connect with the community, not professionals, to create big change.

Three ways to spread ideas

  • Factory model
    • Based on Henry Ford’s efficient factories that enabled him to increase employee wages from 50 cents an hour to $5 an hour.
    • Builds on the idea that you could change the world with an efficient “factory” churning out change.
    • The problem is you need ever cheaper labor and ever faster machines and we’re running out of both.
  • Television model
    • If you have a big enough mouthpiece and can buy enough ads, you can create change.
    • Spend a lot of money to show your idea to a lot of people.
    • Mass marketing – using lots of advertising to push average ideas
  • Tribes model
    • Leading and connecting people and ideas
    • People form “tribes” around religion, around work, and around community.
    • The Internet provides a way for people with very specific interests, the people on the fringes, to connect with each other

“It turns out that it’s tribes—not money, not factories— that can change our world, that can change politics, that can align large numbers of people. Not because you force them to do something against their will, but because they wanted to connect. That what we do for a living now, all of us I think, is find something worth changing and then assemble tribes that assemble tribes that spread the idea and spread the idea and it becomes something far bigger than ourselves. It becomes a movement.”

The Internet enables people of a tribe who are scattered all over the globe to connect with each other. It is tribes, not money and power, that can change the world.
Find something worth changing and assemble tribes to spread the ideas until it becomes a movement. Find 1,000 people who care enough to find more people who care. Start small. Find your true believers.
Most movements, most leadership that we’re doing, is about finding a group that is disconnected but already has a yearning; not about persuading people to want something they don’t have yet.

Some who led movements:

  • The Beatles did not invent teenagers. They merely decided to lead them.
  • The creators of “The Meatrix” didn’t invent the idea of being a vegan, but helped organize people.
  • Hugo Chavez did not invent the disaffected middle and lower class of Venezuela, he merely elected to lead them.
  • Bob Marley did not invent rastafarians. He just stepped up and said “Follow me.”

What these leaders have in common is that they are heretics. They look at the status quo and say, “This will not stand.”
You don’t need everyone. You just need a few people who will look at the rules, realize they make no sense and realize how much they want to be connected. We must work to connect others so they can share their passions with each other. We have to share stories people who want to hear. We need to connect a tribe of people who are desperate to be connected to each other. We can lead a movement to make change happen.

Three questions for leaders

  • Who are you upsetting? If you’re not upsetting anyone you’re not changing the status quo.
  • Who are you connecting? For a lot of people, that’s what they’re in it for.
  • Who are you leading? Focus on the who. That’s where change comes from.

You don’t need permission from people to lead them. They’re waiting for someone to show them where to go next.

What do leaders have in common:

  • They challenge the status quo
  • They build a culture, a common language, a way to know whether you’re in or out.
  • They are curious. They ask questions. They want to know about the people in the tribe and outsiders.
  • They connect people to one another.
  • They commit to the cause. They commit to the tribe. They connect to the people who are there.

Here is a closing thought for those who don’t think they have what it takes to be a leader:

“All tribe leaders have charisma, but you don’t need charisma to become a leader. Being a leader gives you charisma.”

Pay for Performance does not work

I watched Daniel Pink’s TED talk on the surprising science of motivation this morning.
Pink discussed pay for performance, also known as merit-based pay, and provided strong evidence that it does not work. In fact, he showed that pay for performance actually erodes performance. He did relent and agree that pay for performance can be successful in highly defined scenarios where the worker sees a clear path to a finished product—the traditional widget maker—but I have heard evidence that paying employees for performance in those situations may lead to skulduggery, mistrust, and sabotage in a fiduciary survival of the fittest. Take this for instance:

“As long as the task involved only mechanical skill, bonuses worked as they would be expected: the higher the pay, the better the performance. But once the task called for ‘even rudimentary cognitive skill,’ a larger reward ‘led to poorer performance.’
“In eight of the nine tasks we examined across the three experiments, higher incentives led to worse performance.”

Citation given for the study: D. Ariely, U. Gneezy, G. Lowenstein, & N. Mazar, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston Working Paper No. 05-11; NY Times, 20 Nov. 08
Also, consider this blunt truth from Dr. Bernd Irlenbusch of the London School of Economics:

“We find that financial incentives…can result in a negative impact on overall performance.”

President Barack Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan have cast us headlong on a path that could send schoolhouses across the country backwards in time or even dismantle public education altogether. How are they doing this? By tying a bunch of money to it—$4 billion—in a little thing called Race to the Top.
It’s strange and frustrating that with so much data proving pay for performance doesn’t work and so little data to the contrary, that politicians are emphatically pushing to make merit-based pay for teachers mandatory in public schools.
Unfortunately, my beloved state of Georgia is leading the pack in Duncan’s Race to the Top. Here is a look into what I think Race to the Top could really mean to public schools in Georgia. To begin with, and this is a huge point, nobody in the state can be sure what the money is tied to. Here is an excerpt from page 6 of the “Race to the Top Program Executive Summary” released in November 2009 (with my emphasis on what I think are key points of mystery:)

(ii) The participating LEAs (as defined in this notice) are strongly committed to the State’s plans and to effective implementation of reform in the four education areas, as evidenced by Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs) (as set forth in Appendix D) or other binding agreements between the State and its participating LEAs (as defined in this notice) that include—
(a) Terms and conditions that reflect strong commitment by the participating LEAs (as defined in this notice) to the State’s plans;
(b) Scope-of-work descriptions that require participating LEAs (Local Education Agencies) to implement all or significant portions of the State’s Race to the Top plans…

If Georgia’s Race to the Top application is successful it will bring $400 million to Georgia. Wow! That’s a lot of money, right?
Not so fast moneybags!
The money will be split down the middle from the beginning with $200 million going to the state Department of Education and the remainder to be shared with school districts. If the remaining $200 million was evenly distributed among Georgia’s 180 public school districts, each would receive approximately $1.1 million.
Realistically, the distribution would affected by enrollment, poverty, and other variables, so some districts would get more than $1.1 million and others would get less. While every bit of money helps, especially these days, is it worth a million bucks or so to implement some mysterious “plan” passed down from federal and state bureaucrats to local school boards?
One part of the plan we do know is that it will be tied to merit-based pay for teachers and that much of that “merit” will hinge on student performance on standardized tests. These are the same tests the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement has accused Georgia teachers of cheating on to inflate student achievement in its Statewide Analysis: Spring 2009 CRCT Grades 1-8.
The report does not prove teachers cheated. It measured erasure marks, particularly those where an incorrect answer was changed to a correct answer. It is worthy to note that students are encouraged to review their work and change their answers if necessary. Also, teachers are encouraged to clean up stray marks to ensure the tests are graded correctly when scored by the electronic scanner.
Something I find more disheartening than the possibility that teachers are cheating is that the Governor’s office, not the Board of Education, is driving the direction of education in Georgia. This is huge. In this very Republican state, this could be a part of the national push to methodically destroy public education.
Look at a few things:

  • Governor’s Office of Student Achievement releases CRCT erasure report.
  • Bill proposed in the state House would make it a crime for teachers to cheat on standardized tests punishable by fines, jail time, and loss of retirement.
  • Tons of support for vouchers in the legislature, as is usual.

The irony is that legislators say from one side of their mouth that we need an educated workforce to draw business and industry to Georgia. Meanwhile, from the other side of their mouth, they accuse teachers of cheating and publicly discredit public education while attempting to impose bureaucratic systems that encourage teachers to work in isolation to protect their paycheck.
So what am I trying to say here? Basically, that politics and education should not be mixed. Very little of what happens in the Governor’s Office and General Assembly takes into account what is best for students in Georgia. If our legislators are serious about reducing crime, attracting good businesses and industries to the state, building the economy and improving the quality of life for all of Georgia’s residents, then one of the key questions that should be on their mind is something like this: “Is what I am about to do going to help Georgia’s students?”
If the politician’s answer is yes then they are on the right path to recovery; however, if they answer no we can expect to see industries continue to leave Georgia, we can expect to see unemployment continue to rise, we can expect crime to continue increasing, and we can expect families to move to parts of the country where education is celebrated rather than denigrated.


Michael, I missed you when you left the states to “go home” and miss you tons more knowing you’ve gone on to meet your maker.

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Michael Scanlan, a classy devil.

I shared more than a few Irish cocktails with Mr. Michael Scanlan; moments and memories that recently and tragically gained infinite value.
Michael, I’m sorry I will never be able to sit with you at your country house in Athea, Ireland, in the County Limerick, to enjoy conversation over a few pints of Guinness or (and?) a bottle of Bushmill’s like we have done so many times together.
What a loss. What a tragic and terrible loss.

Typographic upgrade

Many of you probably don’t even notice things like this, but I do. I am now using Typekit to serve the fonts on this site. Click the little logo in the bottom right corner of the page to learn more about the fonts I’m using here now.
Yeah, it’s a little thing, but it makes this place a little more mine; like buying new throw pillows for the couch to spruce things up a bit.