Back to IBM, creative vacation scheduling

As we come to the Labor Day break (at least here in the States) it’s time for some to take time off. So, I though I’d comment on it to lighten up from the news of the world.

I’ve worked here for a number of years, more now than any other company, but it’s still the 8th company I’ve been employed by. In no other company has the scheduling of vacation been as creative as here. I’ve observed a number of trends.

First, let’s note that you start with 3 weeks vacation. My first job entitled me to 1, so it was precious to me. I had to plan to get the most out of it a broke new hire could get. The old schoolers here get European quantity time for vacation, so there is lots to play with.

The first trend I’ll call the “creative” schedulers. They always save their time by working around a holiday to “save days”. It’s a pretty good scheme. One can extend the time you have by adding the public holidays to your time off.

The other side of the coin I’ll call the “avoiders”. They purposely work while the “creatives” are off. This way the miss the creatives both coming and going. To them, it’s like getting 2 vacations even though one of them is taken at the office. Not that they goof off, they just get to avoid either people or craziness, and seem to enjoy it. I’ll give you an example, things slow down before a public holiday and it can take time to crank up right after, so the workload can be less. Conversely, let me point out that with fewer people in the office, if the brown hits the fan, guess who has to cover and let the scrambling begin.

The next category is the “travelers”. This one is not unique to any company or country. It’s what it sounds like, tacking vacation on to a business trip to enjoy a place you might not travel too. Let’s see, if you take time off with a business trip, over a public holiday it’s a twofer. Take your family and it’s really a good deal.

Then there are the “Fridays”. These are the folks that will take every Friday of say August or December off and work 4 day weeks for a month, guess they aren’t making plans to travel overseas that year. Tough to do in 3 days and see anything.

So pick you strategy and enjoy. For those that work hard, time off is good to recharge the batteries.

Finally, over the course of my employment at various companies, I’ve observed some that are like Wally in Dilbert. They are mostly on vacation whether at work or away. Ever worked with one of those?

The faces of humanity

I was going to call it the 2 faces of humanity, just thinking of what the folks in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama are going through bringing out the good and bad in some, but it occurred to me that there are many flavors of this subject. But for this post, I’ll concentrate on the simple good and bad.

What is happening in those states is devastating. I can only mildly relate as we’ve had some bad hurricanes here (Fran comes to mind in NC where some are still recovering) and a recent ice storm where we were out of power for a week, but it is bad there. My sister lives near Lake Ponchartrain and has likely lost her house. Her family got out in time and are living with my parents right now, lucky them. It’s not the same for those who have lost lives, jobs, family and other things like heirlooms and photo’s which are forever gone.

These catastrophe’s bring out the good in some folks. Already there are local fisherman driving around in bass boats rescuing people from their houses. There are organizations which are gathering supplies, people lining up to donate time and money to help. I read this morning where you can donate like the Red Cross , Samaritens Purse, and other good groups who are sincere in helping out. FEMA is organizing for the biggest relief effort ever. For those that get my feed via RSS, I’ll be visiting today to add them to my list.

Then there is the other side. I’ve seen reports of looters, the construction scammers, insurance fraud and many others. This is also unfortunately something that raises it’s ugly head during these times. I hope that this is kept in check.

Then the way we can act hit me. Through the power of DVR (i was scanning and deleting shows), I happened to watch back to back the hurricane coverage then the reality show, “filthy rich cattle drive” where the spoiled brat kids of celebrity’s are “roughing” it on a cattle drive. This is like going to a zoo to watch animals. These kids are the most narcissistic people I’ve ever seen, worried about how they look, trying to get make up, dry cleaning and Fed Ex in the middle of nowhere and me, me, me. This was supposed to be about helping a charity.  One of them of course was Kim Kardashian.

It’s just to ironic that these two faces of humanity are happening at the same time.

Natural disasters have been happening since the creation of the earth. There was the tsunami last year for example. Fortunately, people have stepped up and helped others through the course of history and I hope and pray it happens here.

A lesson that strikes me (besides the obvious of striving to be good) is to be prepared and to be able to take care of yourself in the many situations life will present to you. Acts of God like this (even for skeptics, this is the clause in your homeowners insurance) will continue, so dealing with it is inevitable. Being ready in anything is half the battle sometimes. Appreciate your family, friends and experiences in life. It’s times like this that remind you how important and fleeting they can be.

So it’s off to my now seemingly trivial day when compared to those now trying to put their lives back together.

Update on Sis: just heard from her and the house made it, but she won’t be able to go back for months. Thanks to those folks who sent regards.

My Dad’s contribution to WWII

I recently saw a show on the History Channel about the 5 deadliest weapons ever used. In no order, they were the Soviet 50 kiloton nuclear bomb, incendiary weapons, the VT fuse, machine gun and VX nerve gas. Why does this concern me? My dad helped the development of the VT or Radio Proximity fuse.

For a more detailed explanation of this, go to Radio Proximity Fuse. The net explanation is that instead of having to hit the target for a kill which was the centuries old way, the VT fuse detects a target by radar and detonates near (or in proximity) to the target, enabling a much higher kill rate.

So who cares?

It took over 2000 rounds to shoot down each kamikaze plane prior to the invention of the fuse. This was cut to under 400 rounds when using the VT fuse. It’s next to impossible to hit a plane diving at over 450 mph. This invention saved a lot of sailors lives who later came home and had families rather than having to pay the ultimate sacrifice. They cared.

Here’s what my Dad contributed. He helped with the testing and development of the Radio Proximity fuse at the Applied Physics Lab in John’s Hopkins University. Later he went to the European theater where he trained artillery units to use this device. Remember, they had no silicon chips, PC’s or CAD programs in 1941/42, they did it with slide rules and vacuum tubes.

Why does this matter?

The Germans were shelling London with the V1 “buzz bomb”. It was powered by a pulse jet that made a buzzing noise which gave it the name. When it ran out of fuel, the buzzing stopped and it fell to its target. The V1 traveled at near 600 mph, which made it very difficult for artillery to hit, or fighters that went 350 mph to shoot down. The intentions of the Germans was both terror and destruction in London. Remember that terrorism is used to cause fear in the intended victim and take away the spirit to fight. I don’t know about you, but I would find the sound of an air raid siren or a buzz bomb engine that quit very frightening as you count it down to explosion.

The British had their backs against the wall and the Germans were starting to demoralize them with this scare.

With the VT fuse, the kill rate approached 100%, making the V1 ineffective as either a bomb, or a weapon of terror. The fuse was a big factor in the Battle of the Bulge, helping to decide the outcome (no disrespect to the tacticians and soldiers here).

The fuse on the Atomic bomb was a Radio Proximity Fuse.  It helped end the war.


His contribution helped change the tide, the momentum and win in both Theater’s of the war.  His work helped stop the kamikaze and V-1 terrorism against the Allies.

Later in the War, he raced jeeps around the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, but that doesn’t have a lot to do with physics or winning the war.

Growing up, he like most veterans he didn’t say much or brag about what they had accomplished. Rather, he said he was doing his job and was glad to help contribute in whatever way he could. That we could all have that attitude.

Way to go Dad.

Steve Mills on developers

I’m linking to this as it is an interview by Amy Wohl with Steve Mills and his take on developers.

Steve Mills on developers

I won’t spoil the read, but he talks about Linux, SWG’s different constituencies, and why IBM is different than Sun and HP.

Steve is a very interesting person, and since he’s very deep on many subjects, always a good read.

Today's SWG A/R blogging Inquiry

I work with some of the best analyst relations folks you could want to work with. We constantly strive for better methods/tactics and ways to improve how we do our jobs.

Today, we had an inquiry with RedMonk on writing blogs. All in all, it went well. I received several instant messages during and after the call about how informative this was.

The call of course was led by Steve O’Grady and James Governer. Each offered insight into how and why we could/should do this, and tips on how to be a better blogger. Not that I want to give our competition an advantage over us, but these guys know what they are talking about. Just google “do blogs work” and see who’s on top.

Personally, I liked the part when Steve mentioned fishing when discussing personal things about yourself and how to build relationships between analysts and a/r representatives. Of course, it’s one of my favorite topics and I knew he referred to some of our conversations (see my 14 spot redfish above).

I still find the most compelling reason to do this was a statement that was made regarding how the next job interview would go when the interviewer asks, “Where is the link to your blog”. That is a jaw dropper if you don’t have one.

So back to my teammates. I wonder if the law of averages or a bell curve applies here. Some will, some won’t, some will do it right away, others will get around to it? I don’t know. These ladies and gentlemen are very tenacious and adapt to new tools to get their job done, so I wonder who’s going to blog. I hear banter from the team about what good writers some are and that they would be good at this. My guess is that is true and I’m sure they would be interesting.

As for me, like a lot of things I do, repetition overcomes a lack of talent.

I know we strive to be leaders, so I challenge you guys to get out there and blog.

VC's and Mentoring

IBM announced the VC advisory council and mentoring programs today. It was a good announcement and it got plenty of attention. A new term for me came out, BRIC which stands for Brazil, Russia, India, China.

We briefed a number of the analysts, so here are some of the comments.

There was a theme of emerging markets, some as a delivery model, some for cost reduction. The partner network is key in these countries as they are huge opportunities and no one company can cover it. Good thing IBM has a solid partnering program

Open is a big word. Both standards and software. Gluecode and PHP are big for IBM, but RUBY is something that VC’s are looking at.

The council gives quick connection for the VC’s to our executives. Cutting through the maze is a major task at any big company.

A big software company in the northwest is scaring their VC’s with uncertainty and fear of competing with them.

Here’s a link to the lead exec for this, who’s always a good read when checking out IBM and partnerning…

Buell Duncan

Next blogging steps

When I originally started this blog, it was a self education issue. Afterall, I’m on a number of blogging committee’s at IBM, so I should be true to my cause.  I was the first blogger for Analyst Relations and set up the policies for a/r blogging.

My intentions were to post about what was going on in A/R, things I found interesting and some blogging progress I was making. I didn’t (and still don’t) have intentions of hitting the A-list for bloggers, but it happened anyway.

Nevertheless, part of doing any job right is delving into how things work to make it better. So today I added some links via feedburner like stat count, buzzboost for publicity and a headline animator for prior posts. I set up a account and will use that also. Modest improvements, but still on the plus side of progress.

I’ll be attacking trackback, not offered on blogger, but through a third-party source soon.

I’m open to suggestions that make this a legitimate blog with respect to protocol. All in the spirit of learning and improving.

IBM and Cool in the same sentence, Gaming

The marketing at some companies is really cool. You look at it and say wow, or you can imagine yourself going 196 MPH in that Porsche, maybe you see yourself rocking to your favorite tunes from your iPod. By contrast, other companies are stoic about marketing and plod along, which is ok for water heaters or area rugs.

IBM is in between, and shouldn’t be. I don’t ever imagine myself driving 196 mph in a mainframe computer, but sometimes you look at a product and say this is great, but somehow it doesn’t come off that way.

The under told story is that IBM makes some of the coolest products in our industry. Most folks don’t know it, but if they ever took a look at the products and design from IBM Research, you’d say I’d like to have one of these and you’d feel way cool about showing it off. Now, it would be nice to have shark storage capability in an iPod, but that would be difficult to wear on my belt, but I digress. The under told story is that we are in some great area’s like gaming.

IBM makes the processors for all the game boxes…GameCube, Xbox and PS2. You might say so what, but with those names you cover the majority of the non handheld gaming business. I have a teenager, so games are a part of my life without me having a say in the matter. I know that it’s a market with upside potential for sales and design…there are lots of teenagers and preteens with an insatiable appetite for video games. I ask, how many of these boxes are being sold and how many are going to be sold this upcoming Christmas?

Read about it at the Gamer Blog . Maybe you won’t be jazzed like playing “From Dirt to Daytona” but hey, IBM and cool are in the same sentence – the engine driving the game is ours. Maybe they’ll blog about virtual reality gaming soon, I don’t know. If you’re old enough to remember the movie “Lawnmower Man”, I know I could get amped to play in VR, and would like to know about it when it’s close to my home.

P.S. I’m going to talk more about Research sometime in the future because some of the most fantastic stuff you can imagine is there. IBM helped take man to the moon in the 60’s, and it’s come a long way since then.

Epilogue: It went nowhere as IBM left the chip business.  IBM and cool were never really in the same sentence.  Think of the blue suit, white shirt and red tie.  That is a better vision of reality.

developerWorks – IBM’s Resource for Developers

Since someone has to develop software, and millions do, here’s a place from IBM that offers resources to developers ranging from free code to tutorials and training.

developerWorks Link

I’ve also linked to the blog on my sidebar so you can read what IBMers are saying about the different subjects. Some have a particular area, other blogs have multiple contributors.

One of the gems of the site is the alphaWorks site. aW is the window to IBM Research for Software. It’s just like it sounds, software in the alpha stage that you can check out…pretty cool.

What is best about this, is that we set up the first blog site at IBM, right under the nose of the wonks at IBM corporate communications.  They have the mindset of the former Soviet Union, afraid to decentralize any power for fear that some non-sterile message might get out.  Since they have no clue about blogging and social media at the time of this post, we stealthily put up our site, gathered a group of people who were not afraid of stepping out of the brown shirt mentality of the communications guidelines to be successful and before it could be netted by the shrimp trawler that is Armonk PR, we had the only platform where people could blog.

The Shrimp netters shut down all other rogue blogging sites, but dW was so far advanced and accepted as the place to go to for actual information (not the corporate speak you get from a sanitizing department that is Armonk communications). So for over a year, we have enjoyed being the platform for social media.  It is enjoyable to be a part of leading this, as well as the person who was tasked to start-up and lead blogging and social media for IBM A/R.

Demolition Derby, a cultural overload

So I went to the Regional Extreme demolition derby with my son tonight. It was an overdose of cultural input.

The people watching was the best part, until the derby began. It was a sea of camouflage, Dale Jr. phones and tatoo’s….with a below normal count of teeth. It was a redneck’s dream for girls. Most were wearing clothes analogous to packing 10 pounds of manure in a 5 pound bag.

As for the rest of the audience, smoking was required, and most worked in construction or at a garage repairing cars. Weldon Welding sponsored many of the cars. The funniest part was when a Nextel walkie talkie went off, 50 people went for their phone…me too.

But when the race began, all was forgotton and all eyes and cheers were focused on cars smashing each other until only one was left running. In other words, spectacular.

All this heat, smoke, bugs, and to top it off, we were there too, and had a great time. Father and son

Why Delusions of Adequacy

Because with all the content out in the blogosphere, I’m not out to get or will ever be qualified for a pulizter. I’m going to put the things that interest me and products I work with and hope for the best.

While I don’t subscribe to his political beliefs, I do credit Joe Trippi for the name.

He was out there and dug into blogging and made it a part of his job. Guess what, that’s what I’m trying to do. Wish me luck.

With this, I become the first official blogger for IBM.  I’ve been asked by the V.P. of Analyst Relations to set up a program for the company as well as policies related to this new practice.  I hope to set a trend.