On yesterday's walk in the wind and sleet my umbrella failed. It was the best umbrella I've owned - 14 years of service in all types of bad weather. A quality umbrella - and therein lies a story.
I received it as part of a massive awards recognition program in AT&T when a division my research group supported won the Baldrige Award. Neat umbrellas and $100 travelers checks to all and massive bonuses to the executives.
Malcolm Baldrige was a Secretary of Commerce under Reagan and a big believer in quality improvement through process. At the time many goods in the US were seen as low quality compared with their Japanese counterparts and one of the business mantras was quality process. Baldrige was killed in a rodeo accident and an award was named in his honor to promote quality in US business.
Several business units in AT&T went after the award. As an observer some of the work was good, but on the whole it seemed disruptive as many mid-level managers were putting half their time (or more) on winning the award for months at a time.
Finally the business unit I was partly connected with won and I got a nifty umbrella and enough money for two very nice dinners.
Many of the companies who received Baldrige Awards have faded. Innovation and change as an afterthought and time moved on.
Hendrik Hertzberg on the subject in the November 3, 2008 issue of The New Yorker - online version here.
For her part, Sarah Palin, who has lately taken to calling Obama “Barack the Wealth Spreader,” seems to be something of a suspect character herself. She is, at the very least, a fellow-traveller of what might be called socialism with an Alaskan face. The state that she governs has no income or sales tax. Instead, it imposes huge levies on the oil companies that lease its oil fields. The proceeds finance the government’s activities and enable it to issue a four-figure annual check to every man, woman, and child in the state. One of the reasons Palin has been a popular governor is that she added an extra twelve hundred dollars to this year’s check, bringing the per-person total to $3,269. A few weeks before she was nominated for Vice-President, she told a visiting journalist—Philip Gourevitch, of this magazine—that “we’re set up, unlike other states in the union, where it’s collectively Alaskans own the resources. So we share in the wealth when the development of these resources occurs.” Perhaps there is some meaningful distinction between spreading the wealth and sharing it (“collectively,” no less), but finding it would require the analytic skills of Karl the Marxist.
If McCain and Palin were really against socialism they would announce that Alaska, the most socialistic of all states, be required to support itself rather than redistribute oil money to its citizens to run the state and give each citizen $3,269 (that is $22.883 for the Palin family this year - not bad when you don't have state taxes either). The rest of America is paying for this subsidy of that good Alaska life through higher energy costs. Alaska also gets about $1.80 from the federal government for every tax dollar its citizens pay in the form of income taxes. This and the oil rebate makes the state more socialist than the European socialist countries.
My guess is any politician or party who would try to make Alaska non-socialist would be run out of the state.
UPS has been working with Eaton and the EPA on a hydraulic hybrid vehicle that is optimized for UPS delivery routes. Seven trucks will be made and tested. I haven't seen any information on efficiency and price, but for short trips it is potentially less expensive than an electric hybrid. Potentially very cool and something that might work for delivery and service vehicles of many flavors. Compressed gas energy density can be on the order of lithium ion batteries.
I was reminded of the battle for really big hamburgers. Recently someone finished one that was approximately 20 pounds, but Doug Kirby and his Roadsideamerica crew have a video of a 15 pounder at the same restaurant.
A road trip can be a wonderful thing and the quest for food a driving component, Steve and I have done ice cream and I've been on some shorter quests with Nancy and Wayzen for potatoes ... any favorites?