Tuesday, February 28, 2006

commenting and trackback have been added to this blog.

New Countries for Investment?

Your generation hears "Vietnam" and thinks "war". My generation hears "Vietnam" and thinks of just another country.

- Susan Weber in "Up Country", by Nelson DeMille

This quote immediately came to mind when I read about Intel's new $605 million Vietnamese assembly and test plant. When one of the most successful (and some would say monopolistic) American companies starts pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into a new country, you know that capitalism is taking root there.

I just wish someone would tell the Boomers that that War is long, long over. Today we're as far away from the Vietnam War as 1976 was from the end of WWII, but we keep hearing from some quarters like it just ended.

Now I wonder when I'll read about a semiconductor test and assembly operation being put into Iraq.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Site Crash

My site crashed for some reason this morning, so I am having to rebuild it. Expect another day or so to get back to normal.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

A Good Analogy

My company had a major reorganization last week, which apparently is a yearly event (so I have been told since I have only been engaged with my company for only ten months). When asked why this happens every year, this is what the CEO had to say:
Organizing a company's structure is like calling a play in football. You look at the situation on the field, look at your bench, and call out a formation and play depending on the circumstances. And when the situation changes you swap out people, change formation, and call a different play.

I liked this analogy. I am just trying to figure out what "position" best relates to my position in sales. Wide receiver?

Thursday, February 23, 2006

You Know You've Been in Asia Too Long...

I'm home, but maybe I was over there a little too long since now...

- I find that I prefer chop-sticks to silverware

- The only American music I now like is really sappy, preferably the Carpenters

- I crave cigarettes

- I like my meat raw and my vegetables over-cooked

- I bow when I meet people

- Around 3pm I wonder what fifth of grain alcohol I'll be consuming that evening

- I sing my favorite karaoke song around the office for practice

And last, but not least

- I think I just might prefer my women quiet and subservient after all...

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

The "Lost in Translation Tour"

The movie Lost in Translation really captures what it is like to be in Japan and does a good job exploring the disorientation and loneliness that comes with overseas travel. Since I like the movie so much, I thought it would be interesting to check out the places in Tokyo where it was filmed. If I'm lucky, maybe I'll run into American dish actress Scarlett Johansson hanging out at a former shooting location. Let's see how I do:

Park Hyatt - This is where most of the movie takes place and is only a few blocks from my hotel in Shinjuku. The place is fantastic - it makes the upper end business hotels stay in seem like Motel Sixes. Since I wasn't a guest I couldn't check out a room or the fitness center, but here is what I did notice:

Elevators - Yep, they're the real Park Hyatt elevators in the movie. That little statue above Murray's head is the give-away. What was interesting about this main elevator is that on the ground floor the light is subdued, and as you go up the forty or so stories where the lobby is located, the light gets brighter and brighter as you ascend. It made for an interesting psychological effect.

The Bar - Yep, the bar parts of the movie were definitely filmed in the Park Hyatt's New York Bar on the 52nd floor. The square lamps are the give-away, plus I recognized it from other scenes in the movie which I don't have stills for.

The place was empty when I was there since even the Japanese don't booze it up on Sunday mornings.
While it was neat to be at the shooting location, I saw no signs of Johansenn. It was a pretty Sunday morning, so maybe she went out to an outdoor shooting location.
Shibuya - There were a few scenes filmed here, most notably the one where she watched the big video monitor and walked across the street in the rain. It was also the area used in the movie poster.

This is Shibuya. Right behind her umbrella below the big monitor is a Starbucks that overlooks what is supposedly the busiest cross-walk in Tokyo. I don't know how they measure something like that, but it is pretty damn busy. The pictures I took from the Starbucks (and where they set up the camera for several of the shots) don't look that busy, but at night this place is a sea of people. It is then that Shibuya lives up to its reputation.

Still no Scarlett. Where else could I look?
Artistic License - One of the things about being familiar with Tokyo is that I catch the places in the movie that aren't quite true.

At the end Scarlett is seen walking down a shopping area near the hotel when Murray's character catches up to her and whispers something in her ear. Well, folks, there are plenty of places like that in Tokyo, but none are near the Park Hyatt. The closest area would be Shinjuku, and that is a good 10-15 minute walk away. Murray wouldn't catch her like he did just a block or so from the hotel.

The other thing I noticed is at the end when Murray is going to the airport he is heading towards Heneda, the domestic airport, rather than Narita, which is for international flights. But the scenery to Haneda is more interesting, so that is why they used it.
So it looks like my search for Scarlett was unsuccessful. However, it was still fun to check out the places where the movie was shot.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Caption Contest

Two to choose from:

My Entry: Customers know there aren't any Eminem albums to be had here

My Entry: WM suddenly remembered Mrs. Director saying "Be sure to buy something interesting in Asia".

This Trip's Engrish Entry

This sort of thing is a dime a dozen over here, but I thought being "carefully of slippery" was pretty humorous:

Friday, February 17, 2006

Short Story Time

The three Westerners didn't know each other, but ended up bunched together at the bar. Being a minority in Asia they were naturally drawn to one another.

After telling each other where they worked and what they did for a living, the subject turned to travel stories. This is a common topic of conversation for road warriors, with the game being to one-up the other on the most horrifying travel experience. The high-tech sales guy started off:

"So we're coming into Las Vegas with the gear extended and about to land, but we start to circle for a while - with the wheels extended. It seemed like a long time and people were starting to look at one another. The captain finally comes on and says that the landing gear was extended, but there was no indication it had locked - which means it could collapse on landing. We had already burned up fuel, so we were going in, but that we would assume crash positions and there would be emergency vehicles on the tarmac."


"That's what the woman next to me said. So we put our heads down between our knees and started final approach. Then that woman who was muttering "Jesus" over and over started promising that she wouldn't gamble again if we landed safely. We came down, slowly, slowly, and then hit the runway," he made a smacking sound with his hands, "but the landing gear stuck. Everything else was routine at that point. We taxied to the gate and everyone got of normally. I have a feeling that the woman forgot her promise to Jesus as soon as she got off the plane."

"Mate, that's nothin'" the big Aussie chimed in. One time I was heading from Los Angeles to Dallas when all of the sudden the air masks drop down - on only one side of the cabin!"

"No way."

"Oy. Everyone on the left side of the plane started grabbing for the masks in a big frenzy, wrapping it around their faces. Everyone on the right side - my side of the plane - were looking up in panic because our masks didn't drop down!"

"What did you do?"

"Well, about then the stu comes on and says there's a malfunction and nothing was wrong. They came down the isle and started stuffing the masks back in their slots. If she hadn't come on the speaker I don't know what would have happened. It might have gotten ugly on the plane with 200 people and only a hundred air masks."

The American was wondering what a riot in a flying tube would be like when the quiet engineer began his story.

"We were about thirty minutes out of Amsterdam on a KLM flight when I hear a loud noise. I look out the window and see fire coming out of one of the engines."

"What did you do?"

"What could I do? I sat there and watched it burn. The captain came on and said we lost an engine - as if it wasn't obvious to us - and that he was going to shut it off, drop fuel and circle back in for a landing."

"Did people panic?"

"No. Everyone was pretty calm. And the captain did what he said. We dumped fuel, came back in on three engines, landed like it was no big deal, parked at a gate, and got on another plane with a new crew about four hours later."

"You had no problem getting back on a plane after seeing an engine explode in front of you."

"No, not really."

An older guy at the end of the bar spoke up, his eyes never leaving the drink in front of him. "You boys think you have some bad horror stories. Let me tell you mine."

"Some geniuses in the Pentagon in the early 1960s figured that missiles and radar made dog fighting a thing of the past. So they designed the F-4 Phantom without a machine gun or canon. It was the first fighter plane in history not to have a close-in weapon."

"In the late 1960s the theory was put to the test. Over North Vietnam the Soviet MiGs figured out how to avoid the missiles and come in close - making the long-range systems of the F-4 useless. So I ended up in a dog fight without a weapon."

He turned to the group. "How's that for a plane horror story? Do I win?"

He turned around, got up from the bar, and left without looking back.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

The Official Smoke of the Chinese Communist Party

Part of my trip to China included being in the entourage of my CEO while he was being hosted at a dinner being given by top Chinese officials. The Chinese want to keep U.S. investment dollars flowing in, and being the good salesmen that they are, they wine and dine those who make investment decisions.

At the dinner my CEO was seated to the right of the top official, and I found myself sitting next to one of the guys in official's entourage. My dinner companion lighted up during the meal, and I remarked that he was not smoking Panda Cigarettes, which I had heard were very hard to get. I knew this from an article in the WSJ last year, which someone else posted here:

The demand for Pandas is testament to China's nicotine addiction, as well as their strong link to Deng Xiaoping, the heavy smoker who brought capitalism to communist China. Deng was rarely photographed without a Panda, and is said to have gone on lighting up until shortly before his death in 1997 at 92.
Communist founder Mao Zedong smoked them. Army generals developed a taste for them. After Deng's death, the manufacturer began to release small quantities of the cigarettes into the infant free market the late leader's reforms had created -- though at eye-poppingly high prices.

My dinner companion looked at me and said, "Yes, they are very difficult to get." He then got out his phone and made a call. Thinking he had business to take care of, I went back to my meal.

Five minutes later a flunky came in and handed the guy a carton of Pandas, which were then ceremoniously presented to everyone in the U.S. group. Being the smart-ass I was and setting this chain of events in motion, I now HAD to light up. This guy just did me a favor, and now I to give him face.

They are actually pretty smooth, which is a good thing since this non-smoker had to keep lighting up for the rest of the meal along with my companion. The other guys in my group ended up giving me their packs after the meal, so I am now walking around Asia with a bunch of Pandas.

I thought it was pretty neat to be walking around with such a status symbol (albeit a communist one) until I was leaving the country. The Duty Free stores at the airport had boxes of them, so I think they are hard to get if you are IN China. If you are passing through with money to burn, they are just another item they have for sale.

Hyatt Boy II

Two different hotels in China. Or are they hotels?

First, is this a hotel with quaint character, or a set of the latest Kung Fu movie?

Next, is this the 82nd floor of the Shanghai Hyatt looking down at the 50th floor lobby, or on one of those bridges on the Death Star, looking down?

I post, you decide.

Friday, February 10, 2006

The Weekly

One of my tasks when I worked at Texas Instruments was to do a "weekly". For those of you not familiar with this little management tool, this is a bulletized memo that lists the tasks you accomplished for the week, the tasks you are going to do the following week, and what your upcoming schedule looks like, particularly if you're traveling. It also might include short summaries of customer meetings or market data that was picked up in the field.

My manager collected the weeklies of everyone under him, picked the "best" bullet points, and sent a weekly to his manager. His manager collected the weeklies from HIS people, picked the best bullets, and sent a weekly to HIS manager, and so on up the chain. At twenty-two, I thought it was an accomplishment if one of "my bullets" made it into the VP's weekly since it had to percolate up three or four layers of weeklies to make it to that level. And if anyone in my group didn't make the VP's weekly in a while, it was joked that they were doing a "weakly" (okay, seemed funny at the time).

I no longer had to do weeklies once I left TI, but I had gotten into the habit of doing them. How TI used them might have been a little silly, but they did make me think about the work I was doing, what I wanted to accomplish, and what the next steps were. In essence, putting my thoughts down in writing made me organize them, sort of like blogging does. So one decade and five companies later, I still do a weekly. And what I have found out is that this is a great self-marketing tool.

I remote office, and the weekly is a good way to communicate to a large number of people what I am doing on a day-to-day basis. In keeps people in the loop who I don't get to update in "hallway conversations", and it forces me to focus on the things that are important. In only a few months at my new company I have found that I have a large number of people clamoring to get on my weekly, and I have found it a nice way to promote myself ("Yeah, I had something on that in my last weekly. Would you like me to add you to the distribution list?").

The funny thing is that despite the fact that everyone wants to be on my weekly and finds it useful, no one else has gone ahead and started their own.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

I Love the Smell of Napalm in the Morning...

...it's the smell of fires burning out of control near Anaheim. Okay, so maybe it is more of a sooty smell than a napalm smell, but I am getting a light covering of ash over objects in my yard. The fires are apparently under control, but I have no plans to do any outdoor running or biking until the ash and smell go away.

I'll Pack a Few Missiles in My Luggage Next Week

They need all they can get over there: Taiwan says it needs more US missiles to counter China threat

Monday, February 06, 2006

Dell's Poison Apple

Jim sends in the following link: Dell Drops Hard Drive MP3 Line (link updated to a registration-free site)

Dell Inc. stopped selling its most expensive digital music players after failing to take market share from Apple Computer Inc.'s iPod.

Jim correctly remembered that a review of the Dell DJ20 was posted here by guest blogger Rorschach.

I can't say that I am that surprised. The original link notes that Apple has about two-thirds of the market and Dell hasn't gained any traction. Sort of like Gateway in big screen TVs, this move never quite made sense.

Where Dell has expanded successfully has been in printers and other peripherals that people throw in with their computer purchase ("You want fries with that?"). MP3 players are bought outside of the computer purchasing process, and have become more a fashion or lifestyle accessory rather than a computer peripheral. While Dell says they are keeping their flash based MP3 player for now, I don't see it having much of a future.

The Money File

One problem with doing a lot of overseas travel is the large amount of currency one accumulates. This picture here is my current stash. Some of you may wonder why I don't just convert it back after every trip, but there are some good reasons:

  • I'll Be Bock - Like Aunuld, I know I will be back to most of the places I am visiting, especially in the Far East. So I don't bother to convert Yen, Yuan or Won back to dollars. Not only do I save the transaction costs of converting back and forth, but I also like landing in the country with some "walking around money" already on me.

  • Single Transaction instead of Two - I didn't convert my Mexican pesos back to dollars even though I have no plans to go back to Mexico any time soon. The reason is that converting them to dollars, and then dollars to yen later, would be two transactions. The smarter thing to do is just to carry the pesos to Japan and convert them there, resulting in a single transaction loss.

  • That's a $5 Coin - Many Americans would be surprised that many foreign currencies have high value coins that can go up to five, even ten dollars. So a handful of change can easily be over twenty bucks. The problem is that currency exchanges won't convert coins, so you pretty much have to keep these until the next trip or you will be throwing money away.

I keep the stash in an envelope by my passport and pull out what I need whenever I am about to go on a trip.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Yuppy Chow

I always call this Purina Yuppy Chow, but it's the producers who are getting the last laugh: Bagged Salads Become $2.8 Billion Industry

The Five Year Sales Process

Five years ago I came into contact with a market analyst company that specialized in my particular area of expertise. To their credit, they kept after me over the years, which finally paid off:

2001 - Initial engagement. Provided overview of their services and market report summary. The start-up I was at went belly-up in 2002, and I sent that bit of information to the analyst since it pertained to the most recent report they were writing (which tracked companies doing business in this segment). They promised to keep me apprised if they heard of any job openings in the area.

2002 - I landed at a mutinational Korean conglomerate that already had a stable of companies they bought reports from and wasn't interested in another one. My contact at the original company still kept me apprised on the market, and I sent data their way as well on what my company was doing for inclusion in their reports.

2004 - I changed jobs to a U.S. based company, and tried to convince my management to buy a report from this company. However, my company started slashing costs almost as soon as I joined and wouldn't okay funding for market reports. My group - and job - were cut a year later.

2005 - I was consulting at this point and badly needed this company's market data for writing my own report - and making money. But as an independent consultant, I didn't have the thousands of dollars to pay for one of their reports. They gave it to me. For free. No strings attached.

2006 - The company I was consulting for hired me, and I used my influence and position - and the quality of the reports - to convince my company to buy not one, but two reports from this company.

The lesson here is probably more about networking - and keeping up with your contacts - than about the "sales process". My contact gave me data over the years and came through with a big favor when I needed it. And I was sure to return the favor when I was in a position to do so.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Groundhog Day - A Great Movie for a Great Day

Phil: What would you do if you were stuck in one place, and every day was exactly the same, and nothing that you did mattered?

Ralph: That about sums it up for me.

And you are correct if you think you are having a Groundhog Day experience on The Window Manager. This is nearly the same posting as I did last year.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

You Knew this was Coming

Apple Sued Over Potential Hearing Loss

I predicted this as soon as a democratic congressman Markey (Mass) called for hearings on Jan 26 over "concern about MP3 players and hearing loss". It took less than a week for the trial lawyers - some of the largest contributors to the democratic party - to file the lawsuit.