John Y’s Musings from the Middle: Dear God

jyb_musingsDear God, 

Don’t get me wrong and please know I am just trying to help.

I appreciate you keeping up the regular supply of much needed water to us. But splashing us every few days with water everywhere with these rain storms just makes it seem like you aren’t keeping up with the times. Nobody down here is saying anything yet about your old fashioned water deliver methods but I worry they eventually will–you know how we are. And who needs that?

For example, I was at a Thornton’s early this morning (the one off Shelbyville road in Louisville, KY across from the Starbucks) and out in front there are, like, 50 cases of bottled water all lined up in neat rows. (I think it’s that fancy water that comes from the French Alps. And if the French can transport tons of water in neat little bottles, I know you can come up with something even better than that!!)

Look, it’s 2014 and there are all kinds of ways to deliver water to us that are way more efficient than the old way of just raining it down on us every few days without notice.

If you want me to ask the bottled water guy at Thorntons for some ideas for you, I will but won’t tell him I’m asking for you. We can keep it between us.

Just trying to help,

John

Saul Kaplan: Vacation By Design

photo-saulI tried.  I really did try to take a break from all the design and innovation buzz while on vacation last week in Spain.  It didn’t work. Throughout an incredible ten-day sojourn across northern Spain design and innovation reminders were everywhere.  It wasn’t premeditated.  I am sure the lens through which I view the world has a lot to do with it but I also credit Spain, which has a clear case of the design and innovation bug.  Then again maybe my perspective was colored by all of the great Rioja wine.  Here are the design highlights from this innovation junkie’s summer vacation.

We started our Iberian adventure in the great city of Barcelona.  On our first day we set out to see Casa Battlo and La Sagrada Familia designed by Spanish architect Antoni Gaudi. Both were on our must do list and unanimous recommendations from many Twitter friends who had been to Barcelona. Goodbye jet lag.  Wow.  I wasn’t familiar with Gaudi before our trip but will never forget his work after seeing it.  Gaudi was ahead of his time.  He was more modern than the Modernist Art Nouveau period in the late 19th early 20th century he lived and designed in. Throughout Gaudi’s life, he studied nature’s angles and curves and incorporated them into his designs.  His works are iconic and seem to flow directly from nature. Gaudi said, “The great book, always open and which we should make an effort to read, is that of nature”.  Amen.

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Casa Battlo, or as the locals refer to it Casa dels Ossos (House of Bones), has a skeletal, visceral, natural feel throughout.  I don’t think there is a straight line in the entire house.  The way Gaudi used color and light to draw you in is amazing.  He devoted the end of his life, unfortunately cut short in 1926 by a tram accident, to the monumental church La Sagrada Familia.  He completed the amazing design but barely saw the work started.  The work continues on today and the iconic church spires define the Barcelona skyline.  There aren’t enough times in your life when design takes your breath away.  Visiting Barcelona and seeing Gaudi’s work took my breath away.

 

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From Barcelona we drove into Rioja wine country for some rural relaxation and leisurely wine tasting.  Surely my obsession with design and innovation could take a rest there.  No such luck!  The concierge at our beautiful Relais & Chateau advised us to visit a couple of wineries in the small village of La Guardia.  As GPS guided us toward the Marques de Riscal winery there was no mistaking the iconic design of Frank Gehry as we pulled in.  I had no idea that Gehry did Rioja.  But there they were, those signature metallic ribbons that remind me of the ribbon candy that we ate and got stuck in our teeth when we were kids.  I knew we were going to see his famous work in Bilbao later in our trip but wasn’t expecting to see it in Rioja country.

 

As we visited the winery it began to make sense.  Marques de Riscal is attempting to create a new positioning for the winery and its wines to blend tradition with innovation.  What better way to execute a transformational positioning strategy targeted at employees, visitors, and customers than to hire the iconic architect Frank Gehry.  I would like to think that wine is about grapes and fermentation but the business is all about brand, customer experience, marketing, and price point. It makes great sense to differentiate brand and customer experience through the power of design.  As a bonus the Rioja was pretty darn good.

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After several days in wine country the last leg of our journey took us north into the Basque region.  We headed for San Sebastian and took a side trip to Bilbao.  This time it was by design that we visited the Guggenheim Museum to see Gehry’s iconic work and its great collection of modern art.  It was wonderful to visit and I couldn’t help but think about the power that iconic design can have on a community.  Bilbao is an old industrial port city that has been transformed in part by the iconic Guggenheim into a design and innovation center in northern Spain.

 

I will spare you the details of every tapas bar, pintxos crawl, great restaurant, and winery we visited.  Trust me when I say that a good time was had.  Batteries are recharged and inspiration to advance the mantle of purposeful design and innovation is renewed.  Gracias Espana. El gusto es mio.

John Y. Brown, III: The Maverick

jyb_musingsMavericks can be good guys

So long to James Garner who made us smile more than he made us think– because his characters seemed always to have a short-cut line to the obvious.

Commonsense, plain talk and good-naturedness made Garner’s characters both relateable and admirable to us watching at home. And always, of course, endearing. 

James Garner’s characters never quite rose to the level of charming because charming connotes some degree of manipulation being at play. And whether playing a Maverick or plained clothed Rockford detective, Garner’s characters were always defined by their transparency. They were mischevious, yes; but never covert or manipulative. His characters were certainly known for cracking wise — but the emphasis was always on the wise part rather than the cracking part. He always was, underneath it all, a gentle man playing someone tougher than he was meant to be…but happily playing along.

James Garner always seemed to play the guy you wanted to hang out with but never got the chance to.

And now he’s gone. But it was sure nice knowing him Thanks for all the smiles, Mr Garner, especially the knowing smiles that were your trademark. You will be missed.

And we suspect you have already found something in Heaven that is causing you to smirk to yourself –gently, as always. It’s just too bad we can’t be watching.

Matt Ranen: GROWING PAINS FOR THE INTERNET ECONOMY

Matt RanenThe debate over what the FCC should do in regards to net neutrality is getting a lot of coverage these days. It’s no wonder, since where the policy lands will have immediate impact on profits and strategies in the media industry. But more generally, this is also a debate over our assumptions about and aspirations for what we want the Internet to be, and whose values are most important to respect. Is “open” more important than “speed” and “innovation”? And which type of innovation is most valuable given today’s economic and social context—one very different from the late 90’s boom time.

Turns out, this is just one of a number of more broadly impacting policy issues that are about to come under the microscope of public debate and government action (or, inaction…which itself is also a choice), as the Internet and the “online” economy of digital goods and services re-integrates with the “offline” or “real” economy.

One of those issues will be about data—big and small—and the property rights assigned to it. There is no need to repeat the hype about how big data is changing everything. Everything from the mundane (cost effective 1 hour delivery!) to the profound (our understanding of climate change impacts!) will look to use data—about individuals, groups, places and things—to find patterns that suggest ways to improve services or deepen our understanding of how our world really works. And as with most technological revolutions, the ability to use data most effectively will lead to changes in who has the potential to hold power within an industry.

But because most of the applications for big data so far have resided in either niche areas or beyond the public’s view, we have not yet seen what happens when the promise of ‘better with data’ rubs up against real human lives and emotions on a large scale. As data-enabled business models grow in their reach and have more economic impact, more questions loom and will have to be addressed by the consuming public, regulating agencies, or the courts. For example: is your refrigerator or car or any other high end consumer good a natural monopoly when it comes to the data it collects?  Who should have access to your consumption patterns—just the company that made the product?  To what extent is targeted pricing—which some would label as simple a highly efficient market clearing mechanism—discriminatory?  When is it okay to essentially make public information about someones’ private life  through commercial behavior(e.g. Target and its infamous promotion of pregnancy products)?

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Matt Ranen: GROWING PAINS FOR THE INTERNET ECONOMY

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: “I wouldn’t have done that if I were you.”

jyb_musingsWhen I was 14 and staying with my father for the summer, I was in a hurry one day about something and knocked hard on the aging condo door and hit a spot of deteriorated wood and immediately got about a half dozen splinters in two of my fingers.

Thee door was flung open by my father’s lady friend who informed me my father wasn’t back yet and then noticing me holding my fingers while trying to hold back tears asked me what was wrong. I explained about knocking into some dead wood on the door and getting splinters to which she paused momentarily and then mustered the response, “If I were you, I wouldn’t have done that.”

I looked up at her in disbelief that she really said something so completely unhelpful. I decided she just really didn’t care that much and it was probably a hassle for her to come up even with that lame response.

They didn’t date for very long but ever since then when I find myself in a situation that catches me off guard and I have no desire to help with or feign concern about another person’s misfortune, I think to myself (and sometimes even say out loud, “If I were you, I wouldn’t have done that.”

So last week when the car dealer where we recently bought a car called me to check up on how we liked our car so far I told him we were very pleased. But when he then explained the salesperson had forgotten to charge sales tax on our car and I was going to need to pay them an extra $1300, I paused dumbly and then had a ready answer for him.

Julie Rath: Gifts for Your Dad

It’s never too late to pick up a gift for your pops (or to make pointed suggestions to your loved ones). From token to total splurge, below are 6 Rath-approved gifts for you to choose from.

Father's Day Gifts 2014: Black and Tan UtensilBlack and Tan Beer Utensil $10 – There’s nothing like a good black and tan, and with this, your dad doesn’t need bartender skills to make one.

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Father's Day Gifts 2014: Leather Key FobLeather Key Fob $35 – A nice key chain is a small pleasure he might not actually purchase for himself. I love the rugged leather combined with brass hardware.

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Father's Day Gifts 2014: Luxury Toys V 2Luxury Toys Volume 2 $41 – He can dream big as he flips through this gorgeous coffee table book reading about underwater motorcycles and personal spaceships.

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Father's Day Gifts 2014: Garmin Approach WatchGarmin Approach S1 GPS Watch $140 – Pro or no, if your dad’s a golfer, he’ll love this watch, which will allow him to measure individual shot distances and track how far he walks on the course.

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Father's Day Gifts 2014: Hartmann Garment BagHartmann Garment Bag $445 – With travel, it’s key to keep your clothes neat so you don’t create extra work for yourself (or the hotel laundry) when you arrive at your destination. A bag like this is a frequent traveler’s best friend, as it keeps your hanging clothes in tact, and has pockets for shoes and toiletrees. It also fits nicely in an overhead airplane compartment.

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Father's Day Gifts 2014: Vintage Hermes Crocodile ClockHermes Croc Clock (call for price) – For the Dad who has everything: an Art Deco crocodile clock by Paul Dupré-Lafon for Hermès, circa 1930.

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And for the new dad, here are my tips on keeping stylish while keeping your cool.

Will Meyerhofer: What You Never Hear

Will MeyerhoferHere’s what you never hear anyone say at a Biglaw firm – followed by a discussion of why you never hear anyone say it.

Here we go…

Let’s work on this together. It’ll be more fun.

People write me all the time, complaining I’m too down on Biglaw. Nothing new there, but one guy, recently, expanded on the topic, adding that he works at a firm where everyone, so far as he knows, is happy – enjoying a rewarding career in a supportive, non-exploitative environment.

Perhaps you can see this coming: It turns out this guy owns the firm – and specializes in oral arguments before federal appellate courts. Prior to becoming managing partner, he attended top Ivy League schools.

By way of a reply, I opined:  “Your experience might be considered atypical.”

In reality, his experience should be considered ridiculously atypical. Redonkulouslyatypical. Yet this presumably brilliant legal mind couldn’t manage to grasp that reality from where he was standing – at the top of the heap.

This man claims, without irony, that every lawyer at his firm is happy. But, that little voice in the back of your head begins to counter, before you’re even aware of having the thought: it’s your firm.

They work for you. Of course they act happy, just as the maid cleaning your hotel room – the one without a green card, with a family to feed, smiles and acts delighted to see you when you pop in to grab your extra iPad mini and she’s on her knees scrubbing the shower.

Presumably, someone else, some possibly unhappy little person at this guy’s law firm, is doing the work he would rather not think about – the work that has to be done. Maybe it’s a junior he’s never met. And I’d bet good money that other guy’s doing it all by himself, probably late at night or on a weekend.

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Will Meyerhofer: What You Never Hear

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: Has this Ever Happened to You?

10440762_10154361866075515_5869913408984617896_nHas this ever happened to you?

“Unbelievable!” is all you can say.

You walk out of a coffee shop back to your car and notice a new and severe crack down the rear right side that wasn’t there when you parked. You utter in frustration, “Oh man! How did this happen?” startling a women walking in with heels so high the break in concentration almost causes here to fall.

Not wanting to cause any injuries you stop talking out loud to yourself as your mind starts racing about how much this is going to cost you to fix and how unfair it is since you just got your car fixed less than a month ago for something else that wasn’t your fault (even though it really was your fault).

jyb_musingsAnd then you realize your car is actually in the space behind the car you are fixated on and is just as you left it 20 minutes earlier.

And you pull out feeling the universe is, after all, a pretty fair place. And like you got your first good break of the day already and it’s not even 730am.

 

Josh Bowen: 6 Rules to Success…As Told By The Champ

The hardest thing to do in life is to be yourself when everything around you wants you to be someone else. I struggle with the status quo. I struggle with being like other people. I have to be me. Like it or not. Arnold was a polarizing figure. A bodybuilder, with perhaps the best physique ever, turned mega movie star, turned Governor of California turned back to move star. He defines success, perhaps when success shouldn’t have been attained. A guy with a lisp from Austria, new to the United States takes the world by storm.

Because of the following 6 rules that we can all live by…

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1. Trust yourself

At the end of the day we can only rely on ourselves. No one can care about our success or failure more than us. We must trust ourselves and go with our gut feelings. Continue to strive for personal greatness and always remember nothing is fatal or final.
2. Break the rules

To hell with the rules. Your not suppose to do this or do that. Screw them. We don’t need them. We set the rules. We are the measuring sticks by which all are judged and we didn’t get there by playing it easy and playing by the rules. Break them and break them often.


3. Never be afraid to fail

You will fail. I will fail. However, we must not be afraid to fail because where there is failure there is success. The only way to succeed is to fail. If you have never failed you have never tried. Push the envelope of what you think is possible. You will learn a lot about what it takes to succeed.


4. Don’t listen to the naysayers

Nothing is impossible. With a strategic game plan and a hellacious work ethic, anything is possible. Don’t listen to people who say you can’t do it. They are only feeding your drive to do it. Haters will hate, do not listen to them. Follow your heart an your gut.


5. Work your butt off

Hard work is a given. Nothing will be given to you. You want it bad enough you will go get it. Work your ass off every day with your goals in mind. When you take off remember there is someone out there working towards what you want. Keep pushing and never let up.


6. Give back

Pay it forward. Give back to what has given to you. When you succeed teach others your ways. Mentor young minds to stimulate greatness in them. Leave a legacy no one can match. Be the measuring stick.

 

All things are possible through fitness. The above list, if followed, will produce success in any field or endeavor. This is short, simple and easily applied. Go toward your greatness.

Brooke Masters: Latest trend in investor activism raises questions

brookemastersWhen most US investors do not like the way a company is heading, they vote with their feet and sell their shares. But a new generation of activist investors is challenging that tradition by opting to amass shares and demand board representation and strategic change instead.

Hertz, the car rental group, became the latest US company to come under such pressure. It is now said to be considering selling or spinning off its equipment hire business after stakebuilding by investors including Dan Loeb and Carl Icahn.

While activists have been around for decades, the scale appears unprecedented. Such hedge funds were managing $90bn as of last year’s fourth quarter, almost triple the total five years ago, according to Hedge Fund Research.

 

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