The Sky is Falling

The Sky is Falling (Reprinted from the Metro Spirit, 10-31-13)

As a student of aerospace, I understand that the threat is real.  But nonetheless, something just seems pointless in the announcement from the United Nations:

United Nations to Adopt Asteroid Defense Plan

Now, I know that everybody has different experiences, but honestly, do you remember the last time you worried about asteroids raining down on the Earth and wiping out all life as we know it?  And do you remember doing this while sober?

Granted it was just earlier this year that an asteroid exploded over the Russian city of Chelyabinsk.  This meteor entered the atmosphere travelling at over 41,000 miles per hour and exploded with a force over 20 times more powerful than the atomic bomb at Hiroshima.  Approximately 1,500 people had to seek medical attention due to indirect effects (e.g., broken glass).

But do we really need an “International Asteroid Warning Group” to help coordinate global emergency services for an event that might occur every 50 years or so?

Then it hit me.  The United Nations is just positioning itself for a cameo in the sequel – “Gravity 2: The Asteroid”

It’s 5 years later.  The majority of space debris is gone, having been filtered from Low Earth Orbit by the fringes of the atmosphere.  Astronaut Dr. Ryan Stone is on a recovery mission to the destroyed shuttle Explorer.  Prior to the Hubble repair, Dr. Stone’s previous mission deployed a top-secret, NSA data-sucking communications satellite.  The hardware encryption appliance needed to download surveillance data is located on the destroyed shuttle.  As the mission’s last surviving member, Dr. Stone must return to space and obtain the encryption appliance.  Without it, the United States will be powerless to stop the next wave of Al Quaeda attacks.  The fate of the American Way of Life hinges on her success.

While searching the remaining debris of doomed shuttle, a killer asteroid passes within meters of Dr. Stone.  The asteroid’s gravity pulls her from the shuttle, and from the emptiness of space, she watches in horror as the asteroid passes into the upper atmosphere.  Instead of crashing into the Earth, however, the asteroid skips off the atmosphere and disappears into space.  After being rescued and returned to the shuttle (by none other than Astronaut Matt Kowalski, of course), Dr. Ryan learns that the impact with the Earth’s atmosphere merely slowed the asteroid.  On its next orbit, the asteroid will enter the atmosphere and strike the Earth’s surface with a force greater than the impact that killed the dinosaurs.  It’s up to Dr. Stone to destroy the asteroid and save humanity!

I’m thinking that a $100 million Kickstarter project will get this baby off the ground.  I’ll let you know when I get it online.  😉



Welcome to the Private Sector

Welcome to the Private Sector (reprinted from the Metro Spirit 10-17-13)

When someone asks me about what you need to do to be a successful entrepreneur, it really comes down to some very simple stuff (Ref. How the Best Get Better. Dan Sullivan),

  • ·      Do what you say
  • ·      Finish what you start
  • ·      Show up on time
  • ·      Say please & thank you

Any individual or organization that consistently executes these intuitive principals will never lack opportunity.  While is seems simple, the trick lies in the consistency of service.  Opportunity doesn’t always come between 8 and 5 on weekdays, and the most successful organizations will figure out how to deliver whenever an opportunity for service presents itself.  The original mission statement for the U. S. Post Office sums it up pretty clearly,

Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.

Likewise, there are a couple of business no-no’s that apply to all organizations. 

1. Don’t spend more than you make

2. Deliver products (or services) that people are willing to buy

Organizations that fail to observe these principals may survive for a while; however, the long-term difficulties they encounter will be difficult, if not impossible, to overcome.  Financial difficulties are easy to visualize.  Anyone who has racked up a significant credit card balance understands that bills come due.  More importantly, an organization’s reputation will be irreparably damaged if it doesn’t deliver products that provide value.  The concept of value can be a little tricky, so let’s be clear.  To have value, people have to be willing to pay money.  By definition, if an item is free, it has no value.

This is the point where some folks will make the argument, “Charity is free to the recipients.  Are you saying that charity has no value?”  Far from it.  To those truly in need, charitable gifts provide a value beyond their ability to pay.  That said, organizations that embrace the delivery of charitable services as a core mission must play by the same rules.  Specifically, someone must be willing to pay for the charitable services, whether it is the recipient or some other third party (for instance, through a grant or donation).  Otherwise, the organization is headed for problems.

Now time for a pop quiz:  Name an American organization that over the past 50 years or so has consistently failed to observe any of the basic principals of organizational success that I’ve discussed here.  Here’s a hint – they’ve recently closed their doors for business.

You are correct!  The United States Government.

If Washington were a private sector company, the case study might read something like this:

  • ·      The company is currently executing a business model that is not financially sustainable.  Over the past few years, prices have gone up with more price increases expected.
  • ·      Customers are getting frustrated that the organization isn’t delivering services as promised.  Customers are also upset with the price charged for the services that are delivered.
  • ·      Recently, a group of activist stockholders put several new members on the Board of Directors.  These members are committed to changing the business model and eliminating poorly performing products to ensure long-term financial health.
  • ·      Another group of the Board of Directors, along with the CEO, are opposed to any changes in business direction.  They strongly disagree with the need to eliminate any product line, even if these products have not produced the promised returns.
  • ·      Overall, the company’s shareholders agree that change is needed, but the current Board of Directors seems incapable of making the tough decisions to get the company back on track.

Throw in a couple of romantic story lines, and we’d have a great mini-series!

Bottom line – when organizations fail to perform, bad things happen.  This is true whether you’re a start-up or whether you are Too-Big-To-Fail.  Likewise, when you deliver great service, nothing can stop your success.  Don’t be misled…the environment for private enterprise right now is terrible.  But look around, and you see numerous entrepreneurs and organizations succeeding.  And I expect these organizations to continue to succeed, not because of the government, but in most cases, in spite of it.

Until next time, I’m off the grid @gregory_a_baker


On a Dark & Stormy October Evening…

On a Dark & Stormy October Evening…(Reprinted from the Metro Spirit, 10-10-13)

It is a dark and stormy October evening as I race east down the parkway.  As usual, I’m running late, my last appointment having difficulty grasping the difference between Group Policy and Active Directory.  It’s the second time this month that I had to cancel dinner.  If I let myself, I would probably feel a little guilty.  She’s a great lady and deserves someone better than me.  But she knew going in what kind of man I was, and that in my business you never know what’s going to happen.  At any rate, before I left she texted that she would meet me at the theater.

The rain is still coming down as I drive up Broad Street.  I circle the block a few times before I find a spot on Sixth Street to park.  It’s only a couple of blocks walk, but in this weather it might as well be forever.  Stepping into the downpour, I dash for the theater, the rain falling around me like the torrent of big data filling the NSA data center just a few miles away.  I shake off the rain as I enter the Miller, and that’s when I see her.  Just by the way she stands and looks at me, I could tell something was wrong.

“I saved it.  Where did it go?”

That’s what she asks as she walks up to me just before the performance was about to begin.  It was a serious question.  I could tell that from her piercing gaze and the urgency of her words as they leap from her lips.

“That’s a difficult question,” I respond back.  Her face shows nothing but a firm determination to get to the truth.  “Some things aren’t as simple as we would like for them to be.  This could take some time to explain.”

A momentary burst of anger shows in her eyes that she quickly suppresses.  It’s replaced with a sly smile as she turns toward her seat.  Pausing for moment, she looks back, her profile in silhouette against the darkness.

“Time?  My dear, you have nothing but time.”

By the time the performance was over, the hard rain yields to a quiet mist, and silence fills the car as we drove out of the city.  Her question still hangs in the air unanswered.  I want to explain to her how it worked, NTFS, WebDAV, cloud storage with auto-sync, but that isn’t going to cut it tonight.  No, she needs to hear the truth, no matter how painful it is.

“Sweetheart, the spreadsheet we made together is gone.  You need to start with something new.  I’ll always keep a copy of what we have, but you’ll be so much happier if you maintain your own system.”

The harsh realization causes a tear to drop from her eye, but deep down inside, I could tell that she knew I was right.  I reach for her hand and grip it firmly.  She looks over at me and smiles.

Until next time, I’m off the grid  @gregory_a_baker




Gravity (reprinted from the Metro Spirit 10-3-13)

Nearly 350 years ago, Sir Isaac Newton sat under the apple tree contemplating the motion of the moon about the Earth.  What it is, he may have asked, this force that holds the moon in its path, constantly circling the Earth?  No doubt, Dr. Ryan Stone has similar thoughts as she tumbles uncontrollably through the darkness of low Earth orbit.

Of course, you probably already know that Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) is the main character in the movie Gravity.  Gravity opens this Friday, and if the trailers are anywhere close to accurate, this movie promises to be one of the most riveting movies of the year.  Imagine yourself floating through the vacuum of space while a field of space junk wipes out your spaceship and your fellow astronauts.   All that’s left is your spacesuit and fellow extravehicular traveler, George Clooney.  You have 90 minutes to contemplate the silence amongst the spectacular beauty of the Earth and stars.  And then after one orbit, you hit the space junk again.

Given my penchant for science fiction, I can’t wait to go see this movie.  It seems like forever since the last “pure” science fiction movie hit the theaters.  (By pure, I mean that it doesn’t grossly violate the laws of physics.)  Even if you are not into SciFi, the special effects and action should keep you on the edge of your seat.

Don’t believe me?  Go pull up the trailer and see if you can stay away!

Binge TV – I am one of those that will discover a TV show after its peak.  This is especially true with Breaking Bad.  I haven’t yet watched a single episode.  However, due to the brilliance of on-demand programming, my next quiet weekend will be spent watching the entire series.  I’m not sure what that will do to my mind, but everybody tells me it’s worth the risk.

Hints on Lithium – Every time I’ve gotten a new iPhone, I’ve been astounded by how long the battery lasts.  Let’s face it, new devices seem to run forever.  Of course, you’ve got the obligatory tweaking – turn off push notifications, adjust pull rates, disable location services, etc.  Every tech website has an article or more on tuning for performance.  I won’t bore you with the details.  The point is that when you get the phone setup, the battery life for a new phone is usually pretty darn good.

Then after about a year or so, something changes.   The battery isn’t bad per se, but it just doesn’t seem to last as long.  All batteries go bad over time – we all know that.  But is there something that can be done to prolong battery life?  We’ve heard many myths, but what really works. has some great tips on what you need to do to keep your battery performing.  When it comes to Lithium-ion batteries, the first tip is don’t overcharge the battery.  It’s common practice to keep a phone or laptop plugged in when possible.  In reality for most Li-Ion batteries, keeping the phone at 100% charge puts additional stress on the battery, thereby reducing the number of charge cycles.  In a similar manner, fully discharging a battery will increase battery wear.  The ideal typical usage would charge the battery to 80% and run the battery until it reaches 40%.  A full charge would only be performed if you were traveling or otherwise needed the additional use time.  Li-Ion batteries do not have a memory, so storing with a partial charge is not a problem.

Other types of batteries behave differently.  See for additional tips on how to maintain your mobile device batteries.

Until next time, I’m off the grid@gregory_a_baker