Friday, August 31, 2012

These Facts, If True

Al Gore wrote of inconvenient truths. It is true that the truth can be inconvenient. One of the sayings that has guided my philosophical view of my fellow man (and woman) is the  statement, “My mind's made up, don’t confuse me with facts.” I suspect that this is the situation with most of the people you discourse with on a daily basis, including myself.

(By the way, before I go on, I will give my opinion of Gore’s book. A lot of truth in there, but, unfortunately, he tends to exaggerate. Maybe it is the simple dialectic of thesis, antithesis, and synthesis. In other words, maybe he stretches the truth a lot with the hope that it will snap back, like a rubber band, to a more “truthy” understanding in most people's minds. Yes, the ocean levels are going up. That is a measurable fact using satellite telemetry. No, they are not rising feet, only inches. The truth is serious enough. Sadly, Al seems to gild most of his lilies. But I’ll stop there. I don’t want to debate global warming. There are other inconvenient truths and facts, that if true, would be enough for us to masticate on.)

The term "paradigm" means distinct concepts or thought patterns in any scientific discipline or other epistemological context. The power of paradigms is that it provides the context that all data input is filtered through. We all see life through our own experiences, understanding, and — yes — biases. Paradigms are a tool. Without them we could not comprehend the world. We would have no way to connect the facts into knowledge and wisdom. BUT, and it is a big BUT, paradigms also restrict our ability to change our minds and to view new facts in a new way. It is not a coincidence that most great scientific breakthroughs are made by young people before their minds calcify into the framework of the present thought patterns. I used to teach / preach “learn the rules before you break them” as a warning to understand the current knowledge and wisdom before challenging it. But that may not be true. Of course, ignorance is not the goal and the empty mind would be full of new ideas — most of them wrong. But the current ideas and paradigms filter out both foolish and wise thoughts, and the truly wise will stretch their horizons to include new and opposing views. Visionaries are often revolutionary. That is work for the young, not the old … and I’m on social security and medicare, so you can figure out where I fit in the spectrum!

I read once that reading views that are in opposition to your fundamental beliefs is actually good exercise for the brain, and that reading only ideas you agree with is like being a mental couch potato. That is something new to think about. A lot of current political discussions occur in an "echo chamber" of like thinking people. So I welcome ideas and thoughts, usually of the political nature, that I disagree with. These opposing views make me think harder about my own biases and prejudices. Now I don’t tolerate the politics of personal destruction and ad hominem attacks rankle me, but cogent  arguments that I don’t agree with are good fodder for my own mental gymnastics. Besides, I’ve been wrong so many times in my life that I’m perfectly willing to accept another error of my ways. However I ask the same privilege of those that are so sure of their side of the debate and consider all who disagree to be lesser animals, lacking in any basic intelligence or human kindness.

In plain English, all you people that are so sure of yourselves and so quick to criticize the other side of the discussion lose a lot of validity with me just from your “my way or the highway” attitude. A little humility goes a long way in wining an argument with me.

Truth is subjective. That which is true or in accordance with fact or reality: "tell me the truth.” Facts? Reality? Let me first tell you something based on my experience as a professional statistician. Facts are subjective too, or at least, they can be. Another old saying, “Lies, damn lies, and statistics,” is not far from the truth. You have to be both very careful and very knowledgable in mathematics to really understand statistics and what they are saying. Some times sampling will give a more accurate representation of a statistical fact than counting 100% of the occurrences. I know that seems counter-intuitive, but it is a provable mathematical fact. I know about the "mean," but what about the variance? This a statistician must always ask. It is a true that fifty percent of the doctors graduated in the bottom half of their class. FACT! Learn to live with it.

Further, many ideas and numbers are quoted to us in our daily lives and labeled as “facts.” You must consider both the source and the context and several other parameters before you take these “facts” at face value. Another quote, “These facts, if true, …” You mean some facts are not true? Now you’re starting to understand.

So, with this preamble, let me wade into some facts. Call these things learned on the way to look up other things.

In a recent study by the U.S. Bureau of Standards, the data showed how American consumers spend their money compared with three other nations: Canada, the U.K., and Japan. The study documented the percentage of income spent by each national group on various budget areas. All four nations are rich, but the spending of their citizens varies widely.

(We are all taught in school to document our sources. That is one way to evaluate and confirm facts. The U.S. Bureau of Standards is a known valid and reliable source with minimum political bias, but many are biased against bias and see it everywhere. They are correct. It is more a matter of degree of bias. These are pure numbers, and should be relatively free from bias considering this source.)

Since our recent economic downturn … and has anyone noted just how long this downturn has lasted? It is really an economic disaster in slow motion. Since our recent economic downturn, the current data (from 2010) shows that 29% of US expenditures go toward housing compared with 21.6% in Japan and 24% in Canada and the United Kingdom.

In the US, 2.3% of our expenditures go toward education which is about the same as Canada. However, Japan spends almost twice as much at 4% while the U.K. spends 1.8%. Finally, a subject of great debate, we spend 6.9% on health care compared with 4% in Japan and Canada and 1.4% in the U.K. That’s a combination of government and personal spending for each nation.

Let’s talk about houses first, put the housing expenditures into a context, and see if we can understand the facts behind the numbers. Only then can we approach that philosophical goal of truth and wisdom. Although we spend more of our income on housing than these other nations, we also live in some of the largest homes in the world. According to the BBC (that’s the British Broadcasting Corporation — ABC, NBC, CBS, plus some CNN, MSNBC, and Fox all rolled into one) the average size of home in the U.S. is 2,300 square feet compared with 818 square feet in the U.K. I don’t have the data, but I was a frequent visitor to Japan and suspect the home sizes are even smaller there. Same with Canada, smaller homes than the U.S., at least based on the homes I’ve been in in Toronto and other cities in Canada. (Note, anecdotes don’t equal data. Ignore my personal observations if you truly seek the truth.)

Further, our tax policies which allow the deduction of mortgage interest and property taxes as well as other government subsidies of home loans both help us buy larger properties and push the market value of those home up and up. (Recall that the trigger of this current economic malaise was this market price bubble bursting, leaving many people under water ((that is, owing more than the home is worth.))) In the current discussion of changes in our tax code, people speak of closing loopholes. This mortgage interest and property tax deduction may be the largest loophole that the middle class avails themselves of ... do you want it closed? Most other developed nations have discarded all policies such as these that encourage home ownership. So the comparison of our spending to other rich nations may be, as they say, apples to oranges. Maybe, as a matter of policy, we want large homes, although I’ve heard derogative statements about McMansions, a term that ties together hamburgers and houses, but is meaningful none the less. The point of the term is that is is BAD to own a large house. There is something to debate right there. If it is bad to own a large house, then it must be good to be in Great Britain. Ipso facto. But let’s move on (.org).

Health care spending is very interesting and also very controversial. Most people know that the U.S. spends more on health care per person than other countries, and that we don’t have a government run universal health care system as these other nations do. So, while we pay more for health care out of pocket than any of these other nations, many say we get less.

But this may really surprise you. Ignoring our personal spending on health care for insurance and deductibles and just for direct payment of care, the U.S. government spends more on health care per capita than most developed nations that do offer universal care. And we just pay for the poor (Medicaid), the old (Medicare), the military (VA), and federal employees. Many tout that, if we had single payer government coverage, it would save us money. Yet we spend more now at the government level than other nations that are insuring everyone! Makes you want to ask … we say, in polemics, that begs the question: would the U.S. save money if it had a government run, single payer, universal health system? Since we already spend more per citizen on government paid health care and only take care of part of our population, wouldn't costs go up if the government paid for it all? Would economies of scale, non-profit systems, and simplified processes save money overall, or would it just be a massively over bureaucratic black hole down which our nation’s wealth would pour? Is the high cost of our health care system driven by people with no insurance using emergency rooms for routine doctor visits? Are the profits and administrative costs of our system robbing us of economical health care? I’m not taking sides. I'm just asking questions and quoting the statistics.

It is also argued that we don't get a good outcome for all the money we spend and our health statistics are compared to other countries to show we are not getting our money's worth. Again, there are many other factors to consider such as general wellness as part of our health care outcomes. Let's put things in context. For example, the Washington Post points out in a recent article, "Americans spend more money eating out than their peers, but they spend a significantly smaller portion of their budgets on cooking at home than Canada, Britain, or Japan." Let’s take that little tidbit of a fact to a logical conclusion.

According to the USDA, eating out once a week translates to two extra pounds a year on average. And according to the health care giant, Humana, each overweight pound translates to an extra $19.39 a year in extra health care costs. Funny how these things add up … in more ways than one. Is it our obesity epidemic, more-so than our healthcare system that is driving the relative poor health of Americans. So is our poor general health in the U.S. due to an ineffective health care system or to a lifestyle of big Macs and McMansions?

So, in conclusion, I probably haven’t changed any minds in the debate on home ownership and government policy toward the same, the health care debate, or even global warming. I really was just having some fun on a lazy Sunday morning.

But I hope I did make you think once or twice about the facts that you are basing your personal opinions and “truth” upon. With a presidential election on the horizon, and plenty of spin and sales pitches in the air, now is a good time to think long and hard about what is right and wrong and what are facts and what are just emotional appeals. I hope and pray — mostly pray — that people will put on their thinking caps, try to ignore their biases, stop attacking individuals, and really think about what policies would benefit this great nation. Then vote for the candidate that represents those ideals and will implement those policies.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

STEAMD About Blue Magic

I have always been a proponent of STEM — Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math education. I don’t suppose every young man or woman in the U.S. should consider STEM as a career, but I hope that we will develop our share of the scientists needed to compete in this modern global society.

With all the issues of public education and the funding of that education there have been cuts in programs. I’ve always wanted to keep the core STEM focus alive, and I think that has probably happened. I suspect many of the cuts to our modern public school curricula have been in other areas such as arts, music, and physical education as well as some liberal arts such as history or geography. Hopefully English and grammar will be kept in focus because communications is as important as STEM … however I’m sure the periphery of language such as speech and drama have suffered too.

I’ve almost always been an engineer, thought like an engineer, respected engineers, and … well … you get the idea. However, as I’ve aged and grown (no fat jokes please), I’ve come to appreciate art and design much more. My focus on quality has led me to focus on design. (If you don’t know my focus has been on quality, then you just haven’t been reading my stuff lately!)

I am delighted that IBM recently launched “Minds of Modern Mathematics,” the free iPad app that recreates the remarkable 50-foot infographic on the history of math designed by Charles and Ray Eames. I could name others who have influenced my mathematical and engineering career with design content such as Edward Tuffle’s books on the graphical display of quantitative information or Frank Lloyd Wright’s wonderful architecture or the beauty of creation itself expressed in fine art and photographs.

Even so, I think it was primarily as I became immersed in Apple culture and Apple design that it really dawned on me how important art and design is to high technology. I have come to appreciate so much Paul Rand’s brilliant design of the IBM logo, Henry Drefuss and phone design, or Eliot Noyes and his design of the IBM Selectric typewriter.

Let me tell the tale of my personal design experience. I was working on a project called “Blue Magic.” It was an early IBM design that combined a full function PC with a scanner and a printer. This device, which we now would call an MFP or Multi-Function Printer, could print, copy, email, fax, and even contained a corporate directory (or phone book) that we called “blue pages” to assist in sending fax or email.

The first prototype was pretty ugly. We just bought a simple cabinet to hide the PC (running Windows NT). The design included a large touch screen, something like 25”, and was very powerful and user friendly. We installed the prototype at many IBM locations and got rave review from users.

But it was pretty ugly. (Isn't "pretty ugly" a weird combination? Which is it, pretty or ugly? Just channeling George Carlin there for a moment.) So we hired an Italian designer to create the integrated cabinet that would combine scanner, printer, computer, and touch screen. Oh the designs were beautiful. Why that southern European country produces so many beautiful designs from the Vatican to the Ferrari is beyond me. I should study the Italian education system for a clue.

Sadly this story ends poorly. Due to lack of investment, we did not produce the “Blue Magic.” Plus, I’m sure the IBM stuffed shirts would have renamed it some lame label. A few years later, IBM lost all interest in printing and sold its printer division to Ricoh. Printing was not strategic, and the plethora of poorly designed MFPs now out there from HP and Lexmark and others shows how it is all engineering and no design. Most MFPs look like printers that someone glued a scanner on top — and no large touch screen, at least not 25".

If I had worked at Apple, then Steve Jobs would have understood Blue Magic and probably would have created it instead of the iPod. But I can’t rewrite history.

But I can correct my personal error. Please, boys and girls, study science, study technology, study math and engineering. But also study art and design. Oh yes, and study English — the grammar I see on Facebook is atrocious. Visit a museum, an art gallery, and read some Shakespeare — alright, his grammar is a bit dated, I agree.

So, from now on you won’t see me pushing STEM … I’ve got a new acronym: STEAMD, and I’m getting steamed. Now, where’s my iPad? I want to run “Minds of Mathematics.” Timelines are cool.

FAME ... The Rest of the Story

The Muscle Shoals Sound Studio was formed in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, in 1969 when musicians Barry Beckett (keyboards), Roger Hawkins(drums), Jimmy Johnson (guitar) and David Hood (bass) (called The Swampers) left FAME Studios to create their own studio. The Muscle Shoals Sound Rhythm Section, as they became known, was the first rhythm section to own its own studio and, eventually, its own publishing and production companies. The distinctive accompaniment and arrangements of this group of talented musicians have been heard on a tremendous number of legendary recordings at the original FAME studio including those from Wilson Pickett, Aretha Franklin, and the Staple Singers amongst others. Many artists have recorded hit songs and complete albums at the studio.

The original rhythm section that broke away to create these studios first formed in 1967 and initially played sessions in New York and Nashville as well as on the famous FAME recordings. The initial successes led to the arrival of more mainstream rock and pop performers among them The Rolling Stones, Traffic, Elton John, Boz Scaggs, Willie Nelson, Paul Simon, Bob Dylan, Dr. Hook, Elkie Brooks, Millie Jackson and Julian Lennon. Muscle Shoals Sound Studios, along with the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, moved to new facilities off Alabama Avenue in Sheffield in the late 1970s.

The Muscle Shoals Sound Rhythm Section, who owned the original Muscle Shoals Sound Studios, are referred to as "the Swampers" in the lyrics of "Sweet Home Alabama" by Lynyrd Skynyrd. The original Muscle Shoals Sound Studios building is located at 3614 Jackson Highway and is listed on The National Register of Historic Places.

Cher recorded "3614 Jackson Avenue" in 1969, which — literally — put the studio on the map. “Take a Letter Maria” by R.B. Greaves was also recorded that year. The next year, Herbie Mann recorded “Muscle Shoals Nitty Gritty,” and the name began to build in the consciousness of the music public.

“Brown Sugar” and “Wild Horses” were followup hits from the Stones recorded in ’69 and Keith Richard’s adventures here in the deep south were chronicled in his biography, “Life.”

The Staple Singers and Paul Simon had hits in 1970, including Paul’s “Kodachrome” and “Loves Me Like a Rock.” One of my old favorites, Canned Heat, recorded “One More River to Cross” while Art Garfunkel added “Breakaway” to his solo album and Rod Stewart added more English accents.

Bob Seger recorded “Katmandu,” "Night Moves,” and “Main Street,” as well as “Old Time Rock and Roll.” Cat Stevens also recorded here in the early ’70’s.

Then Al Kooper brought his newly discovered Lynyrd Skynyrd to record the album "Street Survivors" followed by "Skynyrd’s First: The Complete Muscle Shoals Album." The original "Street Survivors" had flames licking the band's feet. After the plane crash and loss of many of them, the album cover was redone without the flames. I've got an original with flames. Hey Ron, are you collecting Skynyrd albums?

Dylan did “Gotta Serve Somebody,” and the Louisiana band of Dr. Hook recorded several hits in the late seventies.

Britain maintained a connection when John Lennon’s son, Julian, recorded “Valotte” in 1984. Although the original Muscle Shoals Sound Studios relocated from 3614 Jackson Highway to an updated and larger facility on Alabama Avenue in Sheffield, the building (now owned by Noel Webster) still sees occasional use as a recording studio. The Black Keys album "Brothers," recorded there in 2009 achieved Grammy Award success in 2011 in the building formerly occupied by Muscle Shoals Sound Studios.

The buildings (at least the originals) aren’t very impressive … but then neither is Sun Studio in Memphis … but the music sure is. I stood outside and I’m sure I heard some Greg and Duane Allman and Dickie Betts guitar strains echoing off the hardwood trees.

October 16th, 1971, inside of two weeks before Duane's death on Oct. 29th. Gregg Allman, Duane Allman, & Berry Oakley above. Duane and Berry died in separate motorcycle accidents— Duane in 1971 and Berry in 1972.

Duane Allman and Wilson Picket at Muscle Shoals in 1969


First a geography lesson. I’m currently in the northwest corner of Alabama in an area that could be called the quad cities. They are located on both banks of the Tennessee River running through this northern Alabama country and adjacent to the Wilson dam, part of the TVA, built back in 1918-1924, which provided the electrical power for an industrial revolution here attracting automobile plants and aluminum mills amongst other industries.

The four cities are Florence, Tuscumbia, Sheffield, and Muscle Shoals. We’re listening to stories from my dad and his niece about the family driving up from Haleyville to fish and to sell flowers. (My grandfather raised cotton, but he was also a well known florist that specialized in Chrysanthemums. At one point, right after my dad was born, they lived in New Orleans, and my grandfather was a very successful florist, but a series of hurricanes drove him back to a cotton farm in Alabama.)

This may not seem like a likely spot for a famous musical site, but it is part of what is called the "Music Triangle." Memphis, Nashville, Florence / Muscle Shoals. This was ground zero for much of the music that the sixties scene was based on, and the source of a lot of sixties music and beyond.

I know modern music aficionados and apreciados are familiar with the recording studio in Muscle Shoals started in 1969 and home to many a southern rock album, but that studio was predated by over ten years by the Florence Alabama Musical Enterprise or FAME recording studio.

Founded by Rick Hall, Billy Sherrill and Tom Stafford in the late 1950s, the studio was first located above the City Drug Store in Florence, Alabama. The facility was moved to a former tobacco warehouse on Wilson Dam Road in Muscle Shoals in the early 1960s, when Hall split from Sherrill and Stafford. Hall soon recorded the first hit record from the Muscle Shoals area, Arthur Alexander's "You Better Move On."

Hall took the proceeds from that recording to build the current facility on Avalon Avenue in Muscle Shoals, and in 1963, Hall recorded the first hit produced in that building, Jimmy Hughes' "Steal Away."

As the word about Muscle Shoals began to spread other acts began coming to Muscle Shoals to record. Nashville producer Felton Jarvis brought Tommy Roe and recorded Roe's song "Everybody." Atlanta Music Publisher Bill Lowery, who had mentored Hall through his early days, sent The Tams. Nashville Publisher/Producer Buddy Killen brought Joe Tex, while Atlantic Records' Jerry Wexler brought Aretha Franklin and Wilson Pickett to record.

The session musicians who worked at the studio became known as the "Muscle Shoals Horns" and the "Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section," and ultimately as the "Swampers." In 1969, members of the rhythm section left to found a rival studio, the Muscle Shoals Sound Studio. That story next, but today we’ll just focus on FAME.

Here’s a partial list of artists who recorded hit records at FAME

  • Wilson Pickett
  • Aretha Franklin
  • Otis Redding
  • Joe Tex
  • Duane Allman
  • The Hour Glass
  • Clarence Carter
  • Candi Staton
  • Mac Davis
  • Paul Anka
  • Tom Jones
  • Etta James
  • Andy Williams
  • The Osmonds
  • Shenandoah
and many others.

The studio was added to the Alabama Register of Landmarks and Heritage on December 15, 1997. The Alabama Music Hall of Fame is logically also located here in Muscle Shoals, and it’s on my list to visit. But first I’m working on getting into FAME. (As the pictures show, I got a very personal tour latter in the week.)

As a side note, we spent last evening with my cousin Joyce and her husband Dennis and Joyce is the archivist of the Cheatham and Wilson family history. (Wilson was my grandmother’s maiden name.) Among the relatives, we spoke of Happy Wilson who was a very successful country singer and radio personality. Expect to see a note about him soon, as well as a discussion of the other great recording studio here in Muscle Shoals. Now it’s off to visit family.

Here's a few pictures. If you click on the picture, you will get a larger view and be able to navigate between pictures.

If you want to see all my pictures from the FAME studio, go to my Flickr page and view this set:

The famous studio A. There's also a B and C.

Look on the lower right and you'll see a Mac Pro running the ProTools SW. the Protools input hardware is in the middle of the pictures and analog tape machines on the left. Old school mixes with new school to do the "mixing."

FAME still runs analog for those that want the original sound

Lenny, the engineer at the console.

Mickey and Lenny enjoying some great chops recorded the night before.

Sixteen track analog on 6 inch tape

Another journey of the Blue Bus

IBM Digital Magnetic Tape Turns 60

This year, 2012, digital plastic substrate magnetic tape turns 60 years old.  The IBM 726 digital tape drive was introduced in 1952 to provide larger amounts of digital storage for computers, in particular IBM’s 701 computer.  Before the introduction of magnetic tape, digital storage for early computers used punched cards, paper tape as well as more exotic technologies such as mercury delay lines and the phosphors on cathode ray tubes.

Magnetic tape technology for analog, mostly sound, recording had been used for commercial uses since at least the 1930’s.  Many different approaches to record sound with magnetic recording for were developed over the years since the first demonstration of magnetic recording on steel wires by Danish inventor, Vladimir Poulsen, sometime between 1893 and 1898.  Note that an American, Oberlin Smith, described how magnetic recording could be done on magnetic impregnated thread or steel wire in 1888.

In the 1940’s German radio stations broadcast Hitler speeches from several radio stations at one time using the Magnetophone magnetic tape recorders, which used iron oxide coatings on plastic substrates.  These analog magnetic tape machines led to the development of audio and video recording technologies after WWII by companies such as Ampex.

During my recent visit to the FAME studio in Muscle Shores, I was surprised to discover they are still using a 16 track audio recorder with 2-inch tape. They also had ProTools, but said analog recording is still desired by the very customers of this old-time recording studio. However, it is getting very hard to obtain raw tape for the recorder.

Univac introduced a metal substrate tape and tape recorder for computer digital recording in 1951.  However with the introduction of lighter weight and more flexible plastic substrate magnetic tapes, combined with a vacuum column to control the tension that the magnetic tape experiences during use, the IBM 726 was a prototype of the modern digital tape recording system.

Since the 1950s there have been many generations of magnetic computer tapes of various widths and thickness and using various types of recording methods including multi-track linear recording (the technology generally in use today) as well as helical scan recording (like the recording in the old VCR video recorders) to full transverse recording (where the recorded information tracks are perpendicular to the direction of tape motion.

Over the years, since 1952, magnetic tape recording storage capacities have increased from 2.3 MB to 5 TB (an increase of over a million times) and much of the world’s digital information is kept on digital tape for long term archiving.  It is estimated that more than 400 Exabytes of data now reside on digital magnetic tape.

Backup and archiving remain the biggest applications for digital magnetic tape although it is also used as a physical data transport device (as the old saying goes, you can ship more data on tape in a delivery truck over a shorter time than you can send electronically).  There are several modern digital tape storage products in production, such as Oracle’s T10000 and IBM proprietary tape formats, but the most popular modern digital tapes are in the LTO tape format.

The LTO tape consortium (led by HP, IBM and Quantum) has a public tape product roadmap that will take magnetic tape technology out to about 13 TB of native (uncompressed) storage capacity.  The current generation, LTO 5, has 1.5 TB of native storage capacity.  According to Fujifilm and others in the industry, magnetic tape technology can eventually support storage capacities of several 10’s of TB in one cartridge.  Much of these increases in storage capacity will involve the introduction of technologies pioneered in the development of magnetic disk drives.

In addition to a higher storage capacity than past LTO generations, LTO 5 also offers new architecture features such as the LTFS file system that turn magnetic tape into a directly addressable data source, like a hard disk drive.  This assists in rapid access to the data on digital tape and is one of the key technologies to support the development of cloud based archive technologies such as the Permivault technology recently introduced by Fujifilm.

With total stored information growth exceeding 50% annual increases, high capacity, low cost storage technologies such as digital magnetic tape will continue to play an important role.  Magnetic digital tape makes the digital society that we live in today accessible to more people than ever before and helps preserve this digital heritage for the future.

Modern digital magnetic tape turns 60 this year but despite its age, the technology looks like it is far from retiring.  Like today’s modern workers we can expect this hardworking technology to continue to play an important role for many years to come. Me, I'm watching from the sidelines.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Reggae on the Rocks – a Review

This was the twenty-fifth annual Reggae on the Rocks, a venerable institution created in 1987. It has been showcasing the best of the legendary and upcoming artists available. Those who have attended ROR for the past 25 years were fortunate enough to see artists that are no longer with us such as Lucky Dube or Joseph Hill of Culture.

The acts were introduced by Donovan Makha, the host of Reggae Bloodlines on KGNU. (Reggae Bloodlines is the longest running Reggae Program on the air in the United States: hosted by Donovan Makha for 34 years.) This year’s ROR lineup included: Yellow Dubmarine, Judge Roughneck, The Meditations, Rebelution, Steel Pulse, and last — but not least — Burning Spear. Burning Spear has not performed at Reggae on the Rocks since 2007 and is performing at only a handful of shows in 2012, so it was to be a special evening.

I have been to reggae shows under the stars at wonderful Red Rocks Amphitheater, but it is more common for my son Mark to be attendance at these August showcases. This year I planned to go, and invited a covey of friends including my son, my long time Denver friend William, and an old high school buddy and reggae aficionado, Ron. I purchased five general admission tickets back in May, and made plans for the concert. GA is the only way, and it does require some planning, especially for a show starting at 2:00 PM and going well after midnight.

In the past, all Red Rocks shows were general admission, and I’m no stranger to spending the day on the rocks starting before noon to see a show at dusk. But now RR is getting civilized with reserved seats — if you call sitting on boards attached to concrete and rocks civilized. Now don’t get me wrong, the super sized aisles at RR are perfect for dancing and people can come and go without jamming your knees like those theater venues, but — as I’ve grown older — I’ve gotten to appreciate Fiddler’s Green much more — softer seats, larger bathrooms … you know … I mean … RR seats almost 10,000, and the main bathroom by the stage has four urinals and three stalls. I ask you? — but I digress.

We started out early with Mark and his friend Dorian and my nephew Joel and headed for Denver. We picked up William and drove out to Red Rocks. My friend Ron couldn’t make it this year, but we can wait for next year and do this again. We got to RR early and parked in the upper lot. It was time for some tail gating and enjoying the sun, car stereo music, and happy campers ready for a great day of reggae. We packed up our necessities: food, water, blankets, binoculars, etc. — no alcohol please — eight dollar beers await inside, and headed up the stairs only to head back down the 196 steps to the base of the red rock seating. Nestled between two large barges of prehistoric sandstone, one name “Ship Rock” and the other “Creation,” we found our home in about the twelfth row. Guess we weren’t the first there. But there are over 100 rows at RR, so we were close, right behind the mixer board. (Actually the lights and video control board, the sound man is on stage right.)

Reggae is most easily recognized by the rhythmic accents on the off-beat, usually played by guitar or piano (or both), known as the skank. This pattern accents the second and fourth beat in each bar (or the "and"s of each beat depending on how the music is counted) and combines with the drums emphasis on beat three to create a unique feel and sense of phrasing in contrast to most other popular genres focus on beat one, the "downbeat". The tempo of reggae is usually felt as slower than the popular Jamaican forms, ska and rocksteady, which preceded it. It is this slower tempo, the guitar/piano off beats, the emphasis on the third beat, and the use of syncopated, melodic bass lines that differentiates reggae from other music, although other musical styles have incorporated some of these innovations separately.

One thing that is special about reggae music is the heavy involvement of the audience. Of course, other modern music genres include wild audience responses, but reggae is the ultimate mellow music with the crowd participating with rhythmic swaying and a feeling that you just have to move your hands and feet to the gentle beat. That and a generous cloud of ganja smoke filling the air. Now that sweet smelling cloud is not foreign to any Red Rocks concert, but the Jamaican vibes definitely brought out the best of home grown and imported alike. Reggae also has a spiritual side with the Rastafarian religion, dreadlocks hair, ganja smoke, and Jah. But most of the audience was there for the music … that in itself a spiritual experience.

We settled in for a little crowd watching and soon the first act was on stage. A couple or three rows in front of us were a dozen people, obviously Hispanic. In that group was this skinny old guy wearing leather pants and a bandana so low on his forehead that you could hardly see his eyes. He was dancing and swaying to the music even before the first beat, and he soon had his shirt off. He was beyond tan, looked like he lived in the sun. They were all having a great time … we all were … but this old guy was really showing how. More than once, someone would come up and have a picture taken with him. He was that much of a specialty. Dressing for a concert … it's an art. We were surrounded by people in shorts and tie-dye, and all ages were well represented. Of course, only the truely physically fit can conquer the steps at Red Rocks, but even this old geezer made it down the steps just fine.

It was warm, about 80, but a cool breeze kept us all comfortable, and there was plenty of water, lemonade, and stuff stronger if you are so inclined. A great crowd: mellow to the nth and ready for a day (and night) of grooving.

It began with “Yellow Dubmarine,” a band that does all (or mostly all) Beatles tunes to a reggae beat: a reggae tribute band. It is a compliment on the quality of Beatles melodies how well they convert to the steady four-four reggae swing time beat with the rapid guitar/keyboard strokes. Of course, any reggae band had a horn section, a heavy duty bass player planted next to the percussionist to double up on rhythm, and a few bongos, congas, and other Caribbean sound makers. This young band from Washington, DC, got the show started with a reggae flavored British invasion sound that brought the sun baked crowd to their feet.

YD was great fun. They actually did one Pink Floyd song, but there final set was all off Revolver, Rubber Soul, and Sgt. Pepper’s for a rousing start to the festivities.

Next came Judge Roughneck. This band hails from Denver, Colorado, and combines ska and reggae music for a truly grooving sound. A very interesting bunch, their unique brand of pop-reggae pays tribute to both the early '80's British 2-Tone movement and the original jazz-laced ska of Jamaica, while infusing a generous dose of soul and R and B. The result is a unique, high-energy dance sound that entertains a wide audience. They had the early crowd on their feet and hopping, but these were just the opening acts, and more was to come.

The Meditations — Ansel Cridland, Danny Clarke and Winston Watson, were next. This well known trio really fit the genre of reggae … not a bunch of white boys, but true African dreadlocks. It seems to me that they had a new backing band, and they weren’t as tight musically as all the other acts, but the vocals made up for that deficiency. These singers recorded backup vocals with the legendary Bob Marley, so their reggae chops are validated at the highest level.

Now, as evening dawned?, the big acts came on stage. First was Rebelution, a young (for reggae) California band. Eric Rachmanny, the lead singer and guitar player, looked middle eastern, although his marijuana emblazened shirt said “Kiss me, I’m Irish.” His singing style was a cross between hip hop and reggae and his distinctive voice got some electronic alteration to sound like all the other rappers I’ve ever heard. Although their sound is distinctly reggae, there is a hybrid nature merging world music with rock and funk. The solid sax playing of their touring member and New Orleans native, Kris Royal, added a Caribbean authenticity to this otherwise white band from San Fran.

As night definitely settled and the crowd began to relax and really get down to the music, the main acts appeared. First was the awesome Steel Pulse. This British band with true African and Jamaican roots has been on the reggae music scene since the early 70’s. With well over a dozen albums and a deep Rastafarian belief, this band has spoken loudly against the evils of racism since their first release, "Ku Klux Klan" on a 45 and their "Black and Proud" celebrates Pan-Africanism. Their music is roots reggae, which means the “real thing.”

Plenty of gray hair in that band. It was during this set that someone asked my son if he had any papers. He said no. The guy then asked if "the old guy on the end did?" Mark said no. I would have said, "but I do have a card that gets me into national parks for free." You gotta love the crowd at Red Rocks. The girl in front of us left her partner swinging his arms and legs to join a group a couple of rows down. She soon returned with a nice pipe and a bowl full. I guess her boyfriend didn't have any of his own. Yup, that's an RR crowd alright. Did I mention her boyfriend had a bandana tied on his head? Kids these days, if their not hanging out on your lawn, they're bummin' weed!

Now the crowd was really rockin’, or were they groovin’? They were swayin'. Certainly they were SMOKIN’! Not sure how to describe a bunch of white Coloradans up and dancing to the reggae beat. By this time everyone was on their feet, swinging arms and moving legs, lifting hands up to the star filled Colorado sky as the Steel Pulse filled the amphitheater with percussion led, horn fed, soul music.

After a short encore, the stage was set for the final act, Burning Spear. Winston Rodney, the 67 year old Jamaican roots reggae singer and band leader with a brilliant ensemble of musicians. Burning Spear is known for his Rastafari movement messages. Rodney was born in Saint Ann's Bay, Jamaica, as were singer Bob Marley and political activist Marcus Garvey who both had a great influence on Rodney's life: Garvey in his philosophy, which Burning Spear greatly took to, and Marley in directly helping Burning Spear get started in the music industry.

There was no question that this was a band designed to celebrate the reggae greatness of Rodney — Burning Spear. For nearly four decades this musician has brought reggae to the people. The band was top notch and tight as the conga drums Rodney showcased. However, much of the show consisted of looping reggae riffs while Rodney showed that his nearly 70-year-old bones could still dance up a storm on stage. 

Although the music was great and the crowd was ecstatic in their approval, it was more a celebration of the Grammy award winning Rodney and his fame than a set of songs. Now don’t get me wrong, it was great music, but not quite like the tight sets of Steel Pulse.

I fell in love with the drummer. Don’t know his name, but he was key to the powerful and synchronized beat. Two guitars added the required skank as the requisite three horn section added top. This was by far the tightest band of the night … and that is not faint praise as all the groups were large and talented. However, I could not get over the feeling that this was more a love session for Rodney than an actual set of songs. The band would maintain a steady background as Rodney would dance or sway or play his drums so it seemed that all the songs were pretty much the same and the primary purpose was to celebrate Rodney … not that I minded … he may be the reigning king of reggae and more the heir of Bob Marley than Bob's own son Ziggy. Besides, who cares, as long as your grooving to the off-beat.

The lead guitar player, a young and very, very talented musician would often play the role of cheer leader for Rodney, encouraging the crowd to stand and cheer the aging reggae star. On the other hand, the gray hair was much more obvious in the entire Steel Pulse band. Yes, Burning Spear is Rodney more than the band. In fact, he often referred to himself as “Burning Spear.”

Rodney kept asking the crowd if they wanted more, and the answer would rock the rocks. They did finally leave the stage, but with the help of a spokesman who grabbed the mike, they were coxed back into the lights by a raucous crowd, although thinned out a bit since it was past midnight, still rocked the twin rocks and brought them back on stage for three more numbers. Finally, the music died. It had been a long day and a long night. But it was a sweet time.

As the sated crowd slowly drifted toward the parking lot, and the ganja cloud finally dissipated over Red Rocks, our little band … after scaling the near 200 steps back to the top … headed for some refreshments. It had been nearly ten hours of solid music only nourished by a few granola bars (plus sunflower seeds, buffalo jerky, M&M's, and popcorn … oh and some beers — wait, I almost forgot, the vendors had Red Stripe in with the Coors, Pabst, and Bud!!!). We then headed for the Colorado Café at the intersection of Speer Boulevard and Colfax to enjoy some early morning coffee and eggs with the usual Denver Saturday night street crowd. (I'll have a cheese omelet and make that whole wheat toast.) An after-midnight crowd at a friendly diner capping the end to a beautiful and musical day.

It was well past three AM when I finally finished delivering all the group to their respective homes and then had a nice post-concert chat on FB with Rebecca on the fine points of reggae. She hosted a weekly two hour Reggae radio show on a Haines, Alaska, public radio station for almost 10 years.

It was nearly four before I finally got my jumbled brain to go to sleep. It was good to sleep in late on Sunday, and let the sounds of reggae echo in the canyons of my mind.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

The PowerPC on Mars

Earlier this week I had a breakfast meeting with a dozen or so of my former IBM colleagues. We’re a group of mostly retired engineers, programmers, and managers from IBM Printing Systems Division that I’ve known and worked with for a dozen years or so. It was a great time meeting up with all these old friends and telling each other war stories.

I was sitting next to a guy who was one of the top software troubleshooters in the company. When a customer had a serious software issue, he was always the one we would turn to for help. He solved more technical problems during my tenure as the chief quality engineer than I can count, and he was always the guy I would call to get a good understanding of what we were doing about a customer problem.

He is no longer with Ricoh, the company that bought Printing Systems from IBM. Now he’s a consultant with a computer support company. He said that during the interview they asked him if he had any experience with an IBM 43P Server. Now the 43P, or more properly the IBM RS/6000 43P Model 150 was a small and inexpensive (relatively speaking) RISC box. That is, a computer that ran the excellent IBM AIX version of UNIX. It was modeled on an IBM PC basic design and had a PC type bus and used several, relatively inexpensive attachment cards, but used the IBM PowerPC processor rather than the Intel processor in IBM PCs.

The marketing concept behind the 43P was to provide an entry level computer for organizations that needed an IBM UNIX based system, but didn’t need the large size or data capacity of a large and expensive IBM server.

Of course my friend was experienced with the 43P as they were used as internal servers in our medium sized printers. All of our larger printers had IBM servers inside doing all the print, printer, and job control functions. I had a test lab full of 43Ps since they provided inexpensive AIX servers for testing when we didn’t need large data capacity or capability. We had a few large servers to duplicate large data loads and to simulate customer environments, but the 43P was very useful for testing basic functions such as user interface and basic operation.

All these IBM RISC boxes ran the IBM PowerPC processor. Prior to working in Printing Systems, most of my programming experience was with Intel processors. My very first experience was with the Motorola 6800 processor, specifically the 6809. So I had worked with a variety of different processors.

Around 1990, Apple, IBM, and Motorola formed a consortium and partnership to develop and manufacture the PowerPC. Apple converted their computer designs from Motorola to the PowerPC for several years. Ultimately they switched again to the Intel chip set, primarily because of the better support for portable computers that Intel provided – lower power consumption and lower heat production.

The PowerPC is still used in many IBM computer designs from relatively small Linux and AIX computers to the largest mainframes. I recall a discussion with my good friend from high school, John Barr, about the PowerPC vs. the Motorola designs. He was a top engineer and executive at Motorola. He was not a fan the PowerPC and described several design issues with the PowerPC and the fact that new designs often changed critical interface and programming models. He preferred the design of the Motorola 68000.

I was never an expert on microprocessors, and I was more a customer of processors and computers than a designer of the actual architecture and design of computers. When you write programs in a high level language such as C++ or Java, the actual processor is not very critical. System designers, on the other hand, are very involved with the specific processor design. So I don’t know if John was right on not.

As an IBMer I was pretty proud when IBM announced that the Xbox 360, Nintendo Wii, and the Sony Playstation would all use the IBM PowerPC. As a reward to the engineers in Burlington, VT, the site where the PowerPC was developed, everyone was given an Xbox 360. That's cool. Seemed that stogy old IBM was pretty “cool” providing the heart and soul of game machines. Pretty cool all right.

But Intel has continued to keep its edge at the top of the microprocessor business and the latest versions from Intel are some of the most powerful and best processors ever created. I’m typing this on a MacBook Pro powered by an Intel i7. Multicore processing for the masses.

Tonight I read some good news. The PowerPC is on Mars. The Curiosity rover which made a spectacular landing on Mars this week is run by a PowerPC RAD750. The RAD750 is a radiation-hardened, single board computer manufactured by BAE Systems Electronic Solutions. The RAD750 is based on the IBM PowerPC 750. The computer was released in 2001 and has been in space since 2005.

The chip is engineered to be virtually impervious to high-energy cosmic rays that would quickly cripple my laptop computer. The RAD750s can tolerate a lifetime dosage that are up to a million times more extreme than those considered fatal for a human being. As a result, over a 15-year period, the RAD750 chips aboard Curiosity would not be expected to suffer more than one external event requiring intervention from Earth.

So this is pretty neat. First the PowerPC is used in state-of-the-art game systems. And now it’s on Mars. Pretty neat all right. Let’s see Intel match that.

By the way, if you want to buy an RAD750, they’re $200,000 and come with a 200 Megahertz clock and 2 GB of solid-state memory. That means an iPhone is about ten times faster and has about sixteen times as much memory. But then my iPhone wouldn’t last long on Mars, and Curiosity should be easily outlast my two year contract with AT&T.


Due to word limits on this blog profile, I had to edit my personal statement to make it fit. I used to joke with my students that I was “terse and laconic.” That was a joke because I’m neither. I usually have a lot to say, and word limits are not my friend … although they may be the friend of the reader. In any case, there is more information about me, my history and career, and my purpose for writing this blog.

I had originally named this blog “A Pirate Looks at 60.” It was a play on the excellent song by Jimmy Buffett, adjusted for my actual age. After choosing that somewhat inaccurate title … inaccurate because I’m a rule follower, not a pirate … but it did fit my fancy and my primary goal of creating a technical autobiography, I was never really happy with the title. (And I soon discovered Buffett had used it for the title of HIS autobiography, as well he should.) The more I wrote and the more I thought about that career and where I think technology is headed, I realized a better title for this blog would be "STEAMD," an acronym I had encountered a bit of late as I read on technology and education. So I’ve changed the blog title, but not sure people understand the import of that new title. So I recently updated my profile, and in the process realized I could reference more web sites for those who are looking for some of my electronic publications of music, video, photographs, etc.

So here is the complete profile as I first wrote it and before I edited to fit the 1200 word limit of this blog.

I’m a retired IBM engineer. I was promoted from Associate Engineer to Senior Associate to Staff to Advisory and finally to Senior Engineer in just nine years, which may be a record at IBM. It didn't make me the youngest Senior Engineer in IBM since I had started when I was 32, but it was a very rapid advancement to that highest level for most engineers. After fifteen years as a Senior Engineer and Senior Project Manager, I was promoted to “Senior Technical Staff Member” (STSM), a technical executive position.

IBM had two technical levels about Senior Engineer. STSM and the highest of all, "Distinguished Engineer." I was on track to make that final promotion when my career with IBM was cut short. I was also hoping to join the IBM Academy of Technology. I had been elected the president of the Boulder Technical Vitality Council and attended two meetings of the Academy. You have to be elected to the Academy by its members. Membership is not decided by IBM management. So, I thought I was on track to being invited to join the Academy, but, suddenly, IBM sold the Printing Systems Division where I had been working for my last ten years to Ricoh. I subsequently spent four years at Ricoh performing primarily the same job I had at IBM.

I worked over 33 years with IBM and Ricoh as an electronics engineer, programmer and software engineer, instructor and course developer, tester, project manager, quality technical leader, and statistician.

I spent my entire IBM career at the Boulder development lab, although I traveled extensively in the US and abroad teaching and consulting. Prior to joining IBM, I worked in the aerospace industry and I was an instructor at the Electronics Technical Institute in Denver, Colorado. Later I was an instructor and course developer with IBM Technical Education for nearly 15 years. I was also an adjunct professor at Metropolitan State University of Denver and served on their Industry Advisory Council for over 20 years.

I have a Bachelor of Science degree in Electronics Engineering and a Master’s in Mathematics and Physics from the University of Colorado. In 2003 I earned a second Master’s degree in Computer Science at the University of Denver. I also attended many IBM internal training classes and courses at Vanderbilt and Harvard. After I retired I studied physics at Stanford University pursuing a Ph.D. I was a Certified Project Manager completing over 280 hours of IBM Project Management education and obtaining both PMI and IBM certification as a Senior Project Manager.

My life long passion has been in the area of “STEM.” That’s Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. As my career and experience progressed, I grew to understand the importance of Art and Design in this technological society we’ve become. That’s what the title of my blog refers to. This blog is my personal views on STEAMD and the history of science as well as a biography of my career of nearly 50 years working in technology. In our current, budget restrained education system you will often hear about a focus on basics and STEM, but I am concerned that arts and music and other liberal arts are being cut to meet budget restraints. Quality technical products are a result of equal amounts of science and art, and that is a point I wish to emphasize.

I am a member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and a Senior Member of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) and the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA). I am a former member of the Project Management Institute (PMI), the American Society for Training and Development (ASTD), and the American Society for Quality (ASQ).

I grew up in Montana, and I've lived in Colorado since 1973. I'm an amateur musician and I've got a small recording studio and video production business, which is really more of a hobby. Go to to hear some of my musical productions. My videos and slide shows are available at I’m also quite interested in photography and traveling. My photos can be found at

You can click on the links below to jump to these web sites.

Sutros Music Link

YouTube Video Link

Flickr Photo Link

Saturday, August 4, 2012

The Big Picture

One of my tasks as an IBM Senior Technical Staff Member (I never get over how silly that long title seems) was maintaining the technical skills of the organization and providing guidance to individuals and executives on employee skill sets. Part of that task meant I read a lot of resumes. Not just people looking to be hired or promoted, but as part of the mentoring process and providing individual guidance and career advice.

At IBM each employee was responsible for their own career and continuing education, and there was a formal, annual process where each person had to document their plans for the next year and further into the future.

This professional development plan included both education and specific job assignments that would help the employee advance both technically and in the job. It was sort of a “what do you want to be when you grow up” statement, and it was essential in guiding an individual’s career.

Many people would state that they were very “detail oriented.” Now that is fine, and a focus on detail is very useful in careers such as programming and, especially, my specialty, software testing and quality. But, personally, I was never very detail oriented, yet I was quite successful in my career.

One thing I was always good at was school. I was often the top student in the class, and my experience as a teacher and instructor was tied to that learning success.

I loved being a student and learning new things, and that was certainly one factor in my success. We tend to do better at things we really enjoy doing. But I also struggled with some classes and subjects, and was not always the top student in the class. Yet most times school was very easy for me, and I started to wonder where that success came from.

As I stated, I don’t think I am very detail oriented … I lack the patience for that. I’ve decided that I am a “Big Picture” thinker. I am always looking at the entire landscape, and, when I learn something new, my first thought is how does that fit in with the "Big Picture" that I already have of this topic. I used to describe to my students a large web of ideas interconnected, and I would talk about fitting a new nugget of knowledge into that web and making the connections by figuratively tying each fact into that web … making the connections and completing the "Big Picture."

As a big picture thinker, it is not that I ignore details, it is just that I’m drawn to the ideas first, I then to synthesize the information into a holistic vision. I consider my view more of a wide-angle vision than a zoomed-in focus on details. I think this is one reason I was chosen to trouble-shoot IBM projects that had gone in the ditch. I had the ability to arrive on the scene, see what was wrong, and suggest changes that were most effective to the project team. I call that strategic thinking, and I’m good at spotting trends and applying patterns.

A current show on the Food Network, called "Restaurant Impossible," is a good example of this trouble shooting mentality. The host of that show goes to failing restaurants and, in two days, he identifies the problems and issues … often of a personal or people nature … and then suggests changes to improve the restaurants business performance. That often means improving the food and the décor, but I’m impressed how the chef identifies the people problems, and then works to correct those management and employee issues.

That was sort of what my job was like. I would be assigned to a project for just a few weeks with the responsibility to straighten out the project and get it back on track. I didn’t replace the current project manager, I was there to assist him or her and help them see the big picture that was so obvious to me. I wasn’t always successful, but I did think that my input was helpful. At least we pulled the project out of the mud and got it back on the road again … even if it was still behind schedule, it was now making progress.

Big picture thinkers are very special (ouch, just hurt my shoulder patting myself on the back), and are key to many organizations and job positions. Here are some examples of jobs where big picture thinking is essential.

The first place you find big picture thinkers is entrepreneurs. Their big ideas, curiosity, and the ability to connect the dots are all essential traits of a good entrepreneur. Most successful business leaders are not only forward thinking idea people who create new products and innovations, but they also inspire the people around them to reach higher and to invest in their company.

Steve Wozniak was the engineer that invented the original Apple Computer, but Steve Jobs was the entrepreneur that really made Apple the great success it is today … in fact, he did it more than once. Bill Gates is another example.

Close to my area of expertise is the Software Architect. That person has to understand and solve software challenges from a high level. Not only do Software Architects design new software, they are often in charge of the entire project. That means guiding the entire journey from idea to the final finishing touches.

I worked with several successful Software Architects, and they were tireless in the pursuit of the big picture vision. Some of my most enjoyable experiences are when I worked with these successful Software Architects, and I loved watching how they made their dream a reality and being part of that journey. IBM was always most successful when it accepted the leadership of these dream weavers. It was when corporate and the board room mentality took over the projects that the project wavered and success was not achieved.

In this political season, who can forget the Campaign Manager? They are the strategic mind behind the successful campaign. Similar to advertising and marketing, the challenge lies in identifying and tapping into people’s ideas, interests, and emotions to get them to buy what you’re selling. They often remold the candidate into a new product and shape a message that has big picture written all over it. The “Selling of the President” is never more obvious than during a presidential campaign season. The Campaign Manager is constantly attempting to “keep the campaign on message” while they view the big picture of the electorate.

In a similar way a Life Coach will empower people to reach their personal goals, be it writing a book, finding a new job, or creating stronger relationships. A Life Coach helps individuals take a big picture view of their own lives, and helps them to identify patterns and turn their lives in a new direction.

In the same manner, an Organizational Development Consultant will guide organizations through the process of making big scale shifts like restructuring, mergers, or changes in management. The consultant views the system function as a whole, and when problem areas are identified, he or she will make adjustments to help the organization run better, smoother, and more efficiently.

Finally, a term that has a very modern twist: the Futurist. This is the ultimate big picture view … of the entire world … including the future. Futurists spot shifting trends that provide clues to the future. Even though it sounds like fortune telling, it has real importance in our rapidly changing world. A Futurist’s big picture view extends into “what’s next” and can help guide investment, business, and personal decisions. If you think about it, it doesn’t get much more big picture than predicting the future.