Saturday, January 21, 2017

45.2 - 17 Metrics to Watch

We will see how Donnie's measurements go over the next 4 years. This is a very quantifiable list of 17 metrics to track:

45.1 - Give and Take: America First

As 45 takes office, I happen to be reading Adam Grant's Give and Take. The central premise is that Takers can have short term success, but over the long term Givers have much higher degrees of success.

Obviously Donnie is a Taker (I'll refer to him as Donnie because you can just imagine what he was like in the sandbox as a kid and there was one dump truck toy to play with).

He has to be the "winner". This has resonated with a majority of the Electoral College, so he gets to set the public persona of America. And his "America First" approach is clearly the "Taker" approach that Grant writes about in his book.

This works very well for short term negotiations, which seem to be Donnie's focus. He wants to renegotiate all trade and defense agreements to save us a few dollars. There are two problems with this approach.

First, people see right thru the charade and play to the ego. This is seen by the march of CEO's to Donnie's Castle. Even Jeff Bezos has said "Donnie, you are right, we will create 100,000 jobs right here in the US." This is not a change in plans, and Donnie had no effect on things like this, or hiring an additional 10,000 Walmart employees for their already planned store openings. It serves to raise Donnie's ego, but does little to really make America First.

Second, he has ceded America's leadership position in the world. As Noah Feldman writes in Bloomberg, "there’s no simpler route to renouncing leadership than saying you don’t care about your followers for their own sakes." 

Sadly "America First" will not keep America First, nor will it help advance the world in the direction of freedom. 


Friday, December 9, 2016

Micro Globalization

I was in Switzerland this week for CloudBees 2017 planning meetings. One night we went out to dinner and there was a Jazz bar next door.

Our group consisted of French, Swiss, Belgian, American, Indian, and Japanese people.

We listened to an Italian guitar player and piano player sing a British musician's Illegal Alien:

I'm an alien, I'm a legal alien
I'm an Englishman in New York

Modesty, propriety can lead to notoriety
You could end up as the only one
Gentleness, sobriety are rare in this society
At night a candle's brighter than the sun

Takes more than combat gear to make a man
Takes more than a license for a gun
Confront your enemies, avoid them when you can
A gentleman will walk but never run

If "Manners maketh man" as someone said
Then he's the hero of the day
It takes a man to suffer ignorance and smile
Be yourself no matter what they say 

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Small Business Thoughts in the Trump Era

As a small business owner (24 employees), our little company has been on a roll since starting in 2010. We are profitable and growing with thousands of happy customers and growing market share. My tendency has been to continue to invest in the business because the fundamentals are so strong.
For me, Trump brings uncertainty in several ways:
I wonder if other businesses will be a bit cautious on spending and investments until there is more certainty on the moves he will make. That could cause some headwinds that could push us more towards a recession.
While I have been in favor of more government spending, the coming tax cuts promise to be less efficient in terms of the multiplier effect of fiscal intervention. The basic concept is that money going to rich people will not be spent very quickly and therefore does nothing to improve the velocity of money, which is a primary factor in the slow recovery over the past 7 years.
Also, between the tax cuts and Trump’s promised infrastructure and defense investments there is uncertainty around what will happen with interest rates, and the long term impact of the federal budget deficit. While I am not overly concerned with the budget deficit with such low interest rates, and increase back to 5% is another recessionary risk factor.
So I will be delaying hiring and investments over the next 6 months to see how things start to evolve in this new era.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Why I Voted for Hillary

I’ve submitted my absentee ballot voting for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 Election. As I did in 2012, I am giving my reasons in case it helps others make their own decisions.

Here are my key reasons:
  • Life long commitment to making the world a better place
  • Investing in major world changes
  • Agree with her Policies and Proposals
  • I like smart people who work hard

Making the World a Better Place

This is probably what inspires me the most about Hillary – she has had a lifelong commitment to making the world a better place.

This video is her commencement speech at Wellesley College.  She was the first student commencement speaker in the college’s history, and you can see from the President’s introduction the amount of respect she had garnered in her 4 years there. Her speech also shows the core values she was thinking about then, and now.

From her early days she has pushed forward to be in positions of larger and larger impact. While most of us are satisfied making little donations to charities or volunteering, she has risen to positions of power where her work has the leverage to have large scale impact. Take a few minutes to scroll thru the Wikipedia page that lists her various activities and accomplishments -

As a politician (including her political partnership with Bill), she has been in a position to have impact and is close to being in a very powerful position again to have a positive impact on the world. With Bill and Chelsea, she has created one of the most respected and impactful non-profit foundations in the world – raising $2B and employing 2,000 employees to positively impact millions of people.

Hillary believes government is not the bad guy, but is instrumental in advancing our country and the world. She has a pragmatic approach to understanding and trying to solve problems. She understands that there is a need for collaboration between government and business.

Investing in Major World Changes

Thomas Friedman wrote two of the best books on the transformations that are taking place in the world, including “Hot, Flat and Crowded 2.0” - Hillary understands these transformations and is embracing them. The world is getting smaller with the US driving much of the change. The Internet, faster and cheaper travel and interrelated commerce means that borders need to decrease and collaboration needs to increase in importance. Moving from fossil fuels to clean energy is an opportunity for the US to lead. Hillary has progressive goals in technology - and in climate change -

Policies and Proposals

Having a liberal view of the world, I support most of Hillary’s policies and proposals - Of particular interest to me are:
I am a bit disappointed she does not talk more about increasing budgets for the State Department, USAID and International Relief efforts (The defense budget is almost 10X the State Department budget). Given her work with the Clinton Foundation, she clearly has a concern for the rest of the world. Her years at the State Department also gave her a view of the positive impacts of investment in education and economic support with other countries. And her famous “Women’s rights are human rights” speech demonstrates that she would balance military strength with more strategic investments.

Smart Hard Worker

Finally, I am voting for Hillary because I like smart people who work hard. She has shown a continued ability to listen and learn and adapt. One of the very interesting articles on Hillary is titled “How Hillary Became ‘Hillary’”. It recaps the 1980 loss of Bill Clinton as Arkansas Governor. Many would have accepted that defeat and moved on to legal careers that had a much higher probability of making money. Hillary figured out what went wrong and made big changes (like adding “Clinton” to her last name 5 years after they were first married).

But What About. . .

Of course Hillary is the best known woman in the world. Being at a position of power for so long brings on lots of slings and arrows. And in building a long resume, there are always losses and things that were not done right. So let me go thru the common issues that people bring up about what they do not like about Hillary and how I make sense of them.

The biggest thing she has going against her is that she is a woman.  A smart woman.  A driven woman.  A powerful woman.  And the first woman to break the glass ceiling in a very big way. The fact is there is a cultural bias against strong, successful women.  Women won the right to vote less than 100 years ago. Male/Female pay is still greater than 1.  Think back to high school and how kids made fun of the “smart girl”. At the 1992 Republican Convention:

"Patrick Buchanan derided Clinton’s “radical feminism.” Marilyn Quayle — a lawyer who gave up her career to support her husband’s — presented herself and Dan Quayle as an alternative vision of the husband-wife partnership. “Most women do not want to be liberated from their essential natures as women,” she said. But the convention drew poor reviews; The New York Times’s conservative columnist William Safire complained that “the party displayed the basest of its base.” From then on, the Bush campaign team confined its direct attacks to Bill Clinton."

I’ve got nothing but respect for a person who has stood up to that sort of headwind her whole life. And I think her success is a watershed for future generations of women. Both of my daughters told me how meaningful Hillary’s Democratic Nomination was to each of them  earlier this year. As Sarah Vowell said:
“When the D.N.C. rolled that montage of non-dame presidential faces I wept so hard I had to open a new box of tissues. Feeling represented does matter in a representative democracy."


As a person with 6+ email accounts – I have some sympathy for Hillary on this count. Sometimes I send CloudBees or RunSignUp or Running store emails from my personal account of vice-versa.  Like Hillary, my emails are a thing of history and momentum and familiarity (I still use Outlook and not Gmail on my computer for example).

Of the 62,000 emails, only 110 were classified at the time of sending. If you add the number of communications that were sent via State Department mechanisms over her 4 years as Secretary of State, the % of classified emails on her server was very, very small.  I tend to think of these as mistakes, not something she was purposely doing to put American security at risk.

In addition, the State Department has been hacked to such an extent that people with security clearances and their families have been advised to protect themselves by doing things like putting freezes on their credit reports. So it is likely her personal email server was less likely to be attacked than the State Department.

This article has a fuller description of the email issue based on (and including links to) the FBI study.


To put the blame for the tragedy of Benghazi on Hillary is shameful. Clearly the blame goes on the people who attacked the State Department outpost that night. Were there things that could have prevented it? Of course.  Were there better ways to respond? Of course. Are there things that could be done today to improve the security of all of our foreign outposts? Of course.

The sad fact is that there are dangerous places in the world and the US has a presence in those places for our own interests as well as in the interest of making the world a better place, like Chris Stevens and his team were trying to do.  But bad stuff can happen, and it did.

This article is a pretty good summary of the hearings and has links to the raw hearing conclusions (actually there were three of them).  Anne Stevens, the sister of the Ambassador, had this to say:
"It is clear, in hindsight, that the facility was not sufficiently protected by the State Department and the Defense Department. But what was the underlying cause? Perhaps if Congress had provided a budget to increase security for all missions around the world, then some of the requests for more security in Libya would have been granted. Certainly the State Department is underbudgeted.
I do not blame Hillary Clinton or Leon Panetta. They were balancing security efforts at embassies and missions around the world. And their staffs were doing their best to provide what they could with the resources they had. The Benghazi Mission was understaffed. We know that now. But, again, Chris knew that. It wasn’t a secret to him. He decided to take the risk to go there. It is not something they did to him. It is something he took on himself."


My perception of the Wikileaks information shows what is really happening in the Clinton organization – what happens in every organization.  Understanding the competition, evaluating alternative plans, getting feedback from the electorate, making friends with the right people, etc.  In fact, I like many of the things that have come out in terms of her interest in having government-industry collaboration.  I like her discussions about breaking down borders.

To quote Thomas Friedman again, "Hackers exposed Clinton as a smart politician with a vision and a pragmatic approach to getting things done.” - Or as the Washington Post says “Scandal! Wikileaks reveals Hillary Clinton to be . . . Reasonable.” -

Bill’s Infidelities

A woman is not responsible for her husband being an idiot.  Period.


I’m a proud supporter of Hillary Clinton for President.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Bickel Cabin - Frank & Mary

After my Great Grandfather Lou established our family cabin, My Grandma and Grandpa (born in 1900), Frank and Mary inherited it. They also lived in West Virginia and would make the long trip up in the summer with their children Bob (my Dad) and Barbara (my Aunt, who has since passed away at a way too early age).

Grandpa, Dad, Grandma, Barbara

My Dad took my Mom up when they were dating in high school.
Mom & Dad
My Mom and Dad would take us up as kids. This was a very important influence on me.  The anticipation of going to Canada each summer - making the two day trip - my parents letting me out of the car a couple hundred meters before the cabin so I could run ahead of the car - helping Grandma pick blueberries and make pies - helping Grandpa fill the generators to pump water or light the house each night - family fishing/picnic trips "down the lake" - quiet hours doing nothing but waiting for the fish to be ready with my line in the water next to my Grandpa - borrowing my Grandpa's worn pocket knife (still a cherished treasure) to whittle some wood or scape off some birch bark to write a letter home. I was so lucky.  

Mary Ellen and me on the "MaryFrank" big white wood boat with the 18 horse Johnson
Mary Ellen and me with a "string" of bass in front of an old wood boat my Grandma would plant flowers in each summer.
We were good fishers!

Gotta clean those fish if Grandma is making dinner...

I learned patience in waiting for the marshmallow to brown perfectly and evenly on all sides...
One year we overlapped with our cousins - Barbara and Woody's kids - Brian and Marianne

Unconditional love for and from a Hillbilly
My favorite picture. I would always sit next to Grandpa and he would teach me everything.
While we were fishing, Grandpa had ideas to keep Mom and Dad busy building a boat house...
Dad had hipster glasses before they were hipster...

I always hated this time. I was usually crying. We were leaving Canada for a whole year...
When I was in high school I got to go up just with my Grandparents to help them open up and do some running.
This is how I remember Grandpa. Guiding the big white boat down the lake with a pipe in his mouth and a smile on his face.
Here's another great one by the fish cleaning rack.
Grandma loved staying in the kitchen. That is the old wood stove where she used to make breakfast and dinner every day.

In 1979 the cabin was struck by lightning in the early spring and burned down to the ground. We lost all the old stuff like that wood stove. The real "ice box" that my Dad filled with blocks of ice when he was a kid (we had an ice house in the early days where Canadians would cut blocks of ice out of the lake during the winter and drag them up with horses to the ice house). An old long two handled wood saw used to cut down the old wood forrest that created the town of Blind River. And many more.

My Grandpa was determined to build the house exactly like it was. I graduated in June of 1979 and went up to Canada to help for a week.
Grandma and Grandpa outside the rebuilt cabin.

"Deed" Latarout rebuilt the cabin. He was a good friend of my Dad.
Our dock with the Beaver House on the far side of Bickel Bay.
While I was growing up, my Grandma and Grandpa spent their whole summers in Canada. While they did not have much money, they were happy...

Grandma and Grandpa

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Bickel Canada Cabin Beginnings

Bickel cabin in the fall
My parents are in the process of handing the family cabin over to my sister and me this summer. We went up this past week to plan an addition and some updates. I took a bunch of pictures of the pictures that were hanging in the cabin, and wanted to post them in phases. This is Post 1. You can also see Post 2.

My Dad wrote up this history of the Bickel (now Bickel-Cross) Cabin:

"My father, Frank, and his father Louis P. Bickel, went up in 1937, for a stag party organized by Glen Law, a wrestling coach at Marietta H.S. and Illinois. He was at Marietta when Al Rupp senior was the principal. My father and granddad had a connection to Glen thru Glen's relatives in the Oil and Gas business in WV. Granddad was starting to retire, loved the area, walked around the bay, chose our little bay, and bought the land from Al.

Bickel Land Purchase
Al went there in 1930 to visit friends from Ohio Wesleyan in the town north of Columbus. The Ohio Wesleyan people started an enclave on Dubourne about 1900, and they are still there. Descendants actually. I think they call it Battle Point because of supposed Indian battles in the area. Probably found a lot of arrow heads.

Al liked the area, went around looking, and came upon what is now Rupp Bay. All of the land was owned by the Spooner family, and Al bought all of the area from Spooner including the land on the western side of Little Lake.

Granddad cut in in current road and built the cabin in 1938, and we were there that summer when I was four. The rest is history.

Cabin and Powerhouse/Pumphouse from Water Tank Cliff
Lou cleaning fish
Lou with my Dad
Dad on right, Aunt Barbara (his sister) on left

Lou with my Dad on right

Lou was in the oil business

Grandpa Fishing in Bickel Bay

Grandpa (Frank) and Al Rupp Senior
Walleye were the fish on Lake Lauzon in those days

Glen Law, Frank
Bickel Bay

Larry, Ivan, Evan and Verna Shanahan from left

The old fireplace
Grandpa on the left and Lou next to him.
This boat was built by John Emil Carlson

Glen Law and Grandpa
Grandpa on left and Al Rupp on right
Lou Bickel
Knew how to pick a site for a cabin...