Posts Tagged ‘innovation’

Where is the new Frontier?

November 9, 2016

We will need some kind of new frontier in order for significant growth to take hold.

LadyWork

In the early stages of our nation, that growth came from westward continental expansion.

In the 1920’s, growth came from unprecedented expanding consumer markets.

In 1950’s-60’s postwar America, growth came from rebuilding our nation and the world after the Depression and WWII destruction.

In the 1980’s-90’s, growth came from the computerization, digitization and online expansion of American life.

If we are in for a new expansion, what industry or circumstance will be the basis for it?

If the next expansion is going to truly benefit the little people– the losers in that theoretical “income inequality” gap–then our expansion must begin with them.

It’s time for the bootslingers that tread upon American streets, sidewalks and soils to pull themselves up by our bootstraps, because such a thing as prosperity cannot happen as a result of .gov programs.

The advanced, post-industrial condition of our economy indicates, I believe, that the next wave of innovation/expansion can, and must,  come only from the economic micro-units of our heartland.

That is to say, from the garage tinkerers, the workshop wonders, the flea-market marvels, the home front hopefuls, the lemonade-stand lovers of our land who are unwilling to waste away in social media mediocrity and cabled corruption.

Now is the time for grassroots level renewal.

Now is the time for all men and women to come to the aid of their families, their neighborhoods, their communities, our country.

Donald Trump, bless his heart, may be an amazing guy, off the charts and all that, but he cannot pull prosperity out of a half-empty glass economic base.

The glass half-Full mindset will be based, in our future, on learning how to do more with less. The milking of this planet’s resources can only go so far without seriously strategic enterprising  innovation. That principle will be the lesson and legacy of the Obama years.

I hope we have learned, or will learn, that lesson of resourcefulness, and I hope that President Trump will facilitate our building upon that great base of American innovation and enterprise.

Don’t you Americans be looking for no handouts. That well has run dry. It’s time to drill a new one, but it may have to be in your own back yard.

In this way we may perhaps make America great again.

Glass half-Full

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A World in Harmony, or Not

January 29, 2015

AcropVwTheatre

This morning I am watching the sky over Athens, Greece, as a new day brightens this fascinating city.

Yesterday, Pat and I toured the Acropolis, a mountaintop collection of ancient Greek temples. Greeks of 2500 years ago believed in a multiplicity of gods who were contending with each other for power.

I woke up thinking about their pantheon of many gods, and how different that belief is from my Christian faith in One God.

Believing in one God means the world is in divine harmony, because God made the world the way it is supposed to be. This belief enables me to reconcile the obvious contradictions of good and evil in this world.

The pagan religion, it seems to me, does not enable a believer to adequately find true harmony in this world, because all the “gods” or forces of nature or spiritual forces, are contending with each other. Therefore there is no ultimate reconciliation of good vs. evil.

Is the universe in harmony with itself, or not?

So this morning I am considering this idea of harmony, or not-harmony. Is the world humming along in a harmony that was coded into it by a Creator? Or is it just a bunch of god-wannabe forces working against each other?

Just looking around in the world as it presently exists, it seems more like the latter.

Being a musician, I began to consider musical harmony. Think about the perfection that Mozart manifested in his symphonies and sonatas. Lots of harmony and perfect precision there. It’s nice to listen to, and very impressive. But I prefer the dynamic, existential dissonance of Beethoven’s music. Why is that?

Is there something about the dis-harmony, or dissonance, that is more appropriate, or more true, than appreciating a harmony that doesn’t really exist?

But let me go back a little further in musical time that Mozart and Beethoven.

Harmony and dissonance in music go back further than those two geniuses.

A half a century or so before them were Bach and Vivaldi.

Johann Sebastian Bach and Antonio Vivaldi were able to appropriate old modes and melodies that had been floating around since ancient (Greek, Indo-European, etc) times, and weave them into intricately constructed masterpieces of musical construction.

Bach was a pioneer in this; he was a genius. He experimented with the ancient Greek modes, blending them with tuneful elements of his own Germanic heritage to produce new inventions of musical expression that had never been heard, or even dreamed of, before. In fact, a series of his compositions are called “inventions.” They are carefully constructed, in almost the same sense that the later sound-generating machines of Edison, Bell, or Marconi came to be known, in the late 1800s, as “inventions.”

While Bach was the master inventor of the new (what we call baroque) music, Antonio Vivaldi was, during that same period, the grand master of musical passion. His universally popular “Four Seasons” (my all-time favorite) violin concertos express a level of instrumental virtuosity that surpass, by their emotional intensity, Bach’s work, which is more cerebral or scientific.

Of course Bach had his emotions going hard-at-it too, but in a very different–what we might call a “German”–way. While Vivaldi was. . . from Venice.  And. . . well, you know how Italians are, very expressive. (This all goes back, metaphorically, to the Greeks and Romans.)

Bach and Vivaldi were analogous to the Bill Gates and  Steve Jobs of their age.

Just as Bach had propelled the world into totally new forms of music in the 1700s, Bill Gates, working in the late 1900s, wove computer software into a whole new world of innovative technology.

Just as Vivaldi had propelled the violin, oboe and other instruments into unprecedented explorations of emotional catharsis, so did Steve Jobs, by his unpredictable innovations make computers “sing.”

While Bach was carefully constructing, on his keyboards, inventions of technical music wonder, Vivaldi was making the world ring, and sing, with creative passion.

There were others, of course, of that age: Telemann, Corelli, Pachelbel. Many great musicians during the baroque.

Then along came a prodigy: Mozart. He cranked out one masterpiece after another, and made it seem as simple as breathing. In Amadeus, music found its highest possible level of precise perfection.

Even so, listening to a meticulously perfect Mozart symphony or sonata does not pack the dynamic crescendo that would soon arrive under the masterful musical poetry of Ludwig von Beethoven.

What Bach did with the keyboard was raw creative genius, honed into exquisite constructions of sound. It is similar to what Gates did with software.

What Vivaldi did with instruments–violin, oboe–was pure passionate profundity, similar to what Jobs did with (what used to be called the computer) Apple.

Now, how did I, watching the day dawn in Athens,  arrive at all this rumination about Bach, Vivaldi, Mozart, Beethoven, Gates and Jobs?

I don’t know. How irresponsible of me.

I began this inharmonic quest about two hours ago with intentions that were totally different from what this essay has become. While watching a new day brighten the sky over Athens, I had an idea about the difference between paganism–belief in multiple gods or forces of nature that are contending with each other–and Christianity, which eventually dominated Greek (and European) culture. Having toured the Acropolis yesterday, I was considering all the huge architectural structures that the ancients had constructed here in Athens.

Those Greeks, and later the Romans, of ancient times seem to have been highly motivated with memorializing their devotion to a pantheon of many gods, mostly Athena and Zeus. They did so by building very large structures of architectural precision and grandiosity. I’m quite amazed, but there’s something missing here.

Then a Hebrew teacher named Paul came to Athens. He saw all their temples and memorials devoted to the gods, and promptly proclaimed to them otherwise:

This pantheon, or multiplicity, of forces you are  worshipping– I have to break it to ya– are not

truly gods. Rather, those entities are merely elemental forces in nature, and all of them subservient in power to One God:

YWHW, who sent his son to show us how to live and die.

What an innovator that Paul was. What followed is history, as Christian Europe would attest for the next 1900 years or so.

However, methinks some consequence, yet hanging in the world, shall bitterly begin with this year’s contentions.

Glass Chimera

An American poem

August 3, 2013

Punchbowl herds on de game Preserve

sippin up liquidity from de FedReserve,

dey spec and dey sling

dem dummy dollars, an’ sing:

Oh give me a home where the FedFunds do roam

and de sheep and de bulls graze on Loan,

where seldom is heard a deflative word

and Govment reports steer de herd.

 

Now down in de City

workfolk stay gritty:

burgerflippers on strike

suburbers take hike

while Fed pumps liquidity

jackin up mediocrity

de system reward passivity

instead of generatin’ activity.

 

While corpos say downsize

lefties get organize

obsesies say supersize

an’ children go unsupervise;

Den Anonymous  grab de tail

of dat lowlivin’ beasty grail,

scarin’ up rabble hell

against highrollin’ game Preserve shell.

 

Somewhere out here in mudville today

de prophets dey cry while de profits may play;

but dere’s no more renewal to tout,

cuz mighty America has struck out.

On de udder hand maybe not:

Have I understated our potential a lot?

 

O give me a land where innovators roam,

and de Feds on de Preserve get sent home,

where thee brave make a move and thee bold take a chance

at renewing our anthem, and reviving our dance.

 

Glass half-Full

Mr. Anderson’s Idea

October 13, 2012

In the USA, our biggest hurdle that obstructs a path toward innovative prosperity is this: we don’t manufacture nearly as many “things” as we once did. Everyone knows that in the globalized economy, any widget or value-added “thing” that can be made less expensively in a developing nation will be bought by distributors and sold on the world market before our American-made stuff is bought. This is because we yankees are comparatively rich and affluent and well-paid, and by the time our manufactured products roll off the end of the line, they are too costly to compete in world markets.

Beginning a hundred and fifty or so years ago, we were cranking up a highly energized production economy that was unprecedented in the history of the world. The British, who had actually invented the industrial revolution, were a few steps ahead of us. But they did not have the benefit of a vast, undeveloped continent, and so we passed them in volume and productivity.

So, for a solid hundred and twenty years or, we Americans were going like gangbusters supplying the world with fancy new mechanized goods. We were setting the standards and benchmarks for new industrial development on such a massive scale that we thought the rest of the world would never catch up.

Well guess what. The rest of the world has now caught up. And furthermore, their newfound economies of scale, and their lean and hungry looks, have enabled the developing nations to surpass us in efficiency and in sales.

Therefore the great American industrial machine is no longer cranking out goods, widgets and whoopfizz things to supply the whole world. The world is supplying itself according to the old dictates of supply, demand, and efficiency. And we are just one bully on that manufacturing hill instead of being, as we once were, the king of the hill.

So what do we do now?

Chris Anderson has spotlighted for us an innovative technological strategy by which we may find a new path of development. Furthermore, it is squarely in the tradition innovative entrepreneurship that made this country great. And he has written a book about it:

http://www.amazon.com/Makers-The-New-Industrial-Revolution/dp/0307720950

Because I have been wondering about this problem for a few years now, I was astounded this morning at the timely profundity of his first chapter. It just seems to me that he has hit on exactly what needs to happen next in our quest for a strategy to revitalize  diminishing American manufacture capacities. So here are, without further ado, several quotes:

“America and most of the rest of the West is in the midst of a job crisis… …manufacturing, the big employer of the twentieth century(and the path to the middle class for entire generations), is no longer creating net new jobs in the West. Although factory output is still rising in such countries as the United States and Germany, factory jobs as a percentage of the overall workforce are at all-time lows. This is due partly to automation and partly to global competition driving out smaller factories.”

 

But guess what. There is hope for “smaller factories,” and small companies, because of the democratizing effects of the internet web. The developing internet infrastructure  of our age is functionally the same as the railroads web that our great-great grandparents built from coast to coast. Their double-tracked steel web ultimately enabled our unprecedented, expansive prosperity, the end of which we now observe in languid perplexity.

My thought is that we’ve got to find a profitably productive way out of this deadend track, and it won’t be accomplished in selling MBSs and CDOs and CDSs in HFT to each other while trying to buy the dips and sell the peaks. No, it ill not. And I think Chris Anderson, editor of Wired magazine is onto something, a light at the end of the tunnel, as it were, a beam of light shining through the dark clouds of post-industrial obsolescence and capitalist decadence.

Continuing quotes from Mr. Anderson’s Makers: The New Industrial Revolution:

“Automation is here to stay–it’s the only way large-scale manufacturing can work in rich countries…But what can change is the role of the smaller companies. Just as startups are the driver of innovation in the technology world, and the underground is the driver of new culture, so, too, can the energy and creativity of entrepreneurs and individual innovators reinvent manufacturing, and create jobs along the way.”

Now just how, exactly, will this magic bullet of creative entrepreneuship be shot forth?

Are you skeptical of Mr. Anderson’s fresh optimism? I was too, as I have generally been for a few years now, ever since about September of ’08, until I started reading about his idea. And, as we say in the publishing business, you’ll have to read the book to find out what it is! Ha

But hey, I’ll give you a hint of what the new approach to design/manufacturing on a massive micro-scale is all about. It has to do with design, and 3-D printing, and the electronic transportability thereof.

3-D printing, at your fingertips, no less! You may laugh. I daresay there were a few laughing at the likes of Edison and Bell and Ford, back in, oh, 1880 or so. And there were a few, no doubt, who laughed at Jobs and Gates and Bezos long about 1980.

Nevertheless, all skeptics aside, there will be some among us who laugh all the way to the bank. Will you be one of them?

Glass half-Full

Golden gated possibilities

June 18, 2012

The Golden Gate bridge was completed and dedicated for use in 1937. It was a pretty impressive piece of work. Check it out:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Golden_Gate_Bridge

The idea of actually building this necessarily very big, complex structure took hold among some forward-thinking people; they were business leaders on the far side of the San Francisco bay area, in Santa Rosa, north of the waterway. Those enterprising folks in the California outback got together and started pushing the preposterous idea of building a bridge. Everybody who looked into the possibility of such a project knew it would be a tall order, no doubt about it.

Could such a thing even be done?

The Chamber of Commerce in the city of Santa Rosa, Sonoma County, set the wheels of potential progress in motion. That is to say, in 2012 parlance, the “private sector.”  haha. They ran with the idea of getting something started. Together with “public sector” legislative bodies, the elected Board of Supervisors of Santa Rosa and of San Francisco, they recruited some engineers to actually get the ball rolling on the design requirements of such a gargantuan task.

An elected governmental body, the California legislature, eventually took on the massive project in 1928, turning its implementation over to their highway department. Bond financing became a problem in 1930, after the Crash when times were hard and folks didn’t have much money. Many didn’t even have, as they say, “two dimes to rub together.” So a major player in the financial industry, a founder of the Bank of America in San Francisco, bailed out the debt logjam by, according to Wikipedia, agreeing to buy the public-issue bonds, in order to get the bridge constructed.  Actual construction work began in 1933.

By April of 1937, long story short, there was a bridge where none had been before; and now, seventy-five years later, it’s still there. I know this is true. Pat and I have walked across the thing many times, even though we live in North Carolina.  Our business-administrating son, a SF resident, rode across it yesterday on his bicycle.

These things have happened in history. Put that in your public/private-sector pipe and smoke it, all ye 21st-century couch-potatoed Americans. Where there’s a will, as our grandparents used to say back in the day, there’s a way.  And they proved it.

Now these days, such projects would be much more complicated.

Or are they? Well, yes, but that’s a deep subject.

These days, you can’t just cook up a big project like that and go out and round up a bunch of folks in need of work and get them to do the thing. Americans don’t work like that any more, and besides, our infrastructure is already built anyway, right? I mean, nowadays you can’t just find a bunch of shovel-wielding fellers and get ’em to dig a big hole in the ground, pour some concrete and steel into it, then do the same on the other side, and bolt up a bridge between them. Can’t do it. Americans don’t work like that any more. We’re not programmed like in the 21st-century.

I wonder what it is that Americans can do now. We are, you know, pretty damned good at, what? making excuses, blameshifting? These days, we’re about as likely to do a big collective work like that as we are to wander out in the yard and watch the sun heat up the roof, or watch the lawn grow.

Glass half-Full

The Swan Song of J. Al DasCapital

May 24, 2012

For some it’s a good thing; for others a bad,

to be like the capitalist, or provoke socialist rad.

Back in the day, Rockefeller and Carnegie forged the enterprise deal;

JPMorgan and Ford cranked up  capitalist zeal.

But then in ’29 the machine broke down; all hell broke loose.

It was a train wreck for sure, from engine to caboose.

Smart as he was,  Hoover was thought clueless in ’32,

so they brought in Roosevelt to set up a new deal crew.

The gov from New York saved us, so they say,

with a big shot of socialism,  making work for payday.

 

Now these days, since the meltdown of ’08,

we’ve the same situation, but reverse, on our plate:

Big Spender Barack’s in the driver’s seat; he’s catchin’ the flack,

while Money-movin’ Mitt says its time to get back

to those good ole days when investors and innovators were calling the shots,

before all these Keynesian Krugmanites got the hots

for quantitative easing, and stimulus, and priming the pump;

’cause they give us a ride, but we don’t get over the hump.

 

Now out here on Main Street where the grassroots grow,

in the shops and garages where the mom and pops know,

we whip up the long tails; we push pins in the bubbles;

we wink at the black swans and laugh at the troubles.

Class warfare’s just a phrase in some socialist goad,

inequality  just a pothole, a mere bump in the road.

No flash-tradin’ froth, no credit default fizz,

we just work with what can be, and we deal with what is.

If the day ever comes when the gov regulates us beyond reason,

or corporations have all the wealth tied up for the season,

we’ll just stick out our necks and  we’ll sing our swan song,

cuz life in the free market goes on and goes on.

Glass half-Full

Time for Soul-searching

April 26, 2012

America needs to find something else to do besides argue and complain. Each man, each woman has a destiny to fulfill.

Get hooked up with some person or organization with which you can at least partially agree; get your hands, your feet, your mind busy, to solve the problems that confound you now.

Act on behalf of those whom you love– those for whom you are responsible; assist those who are responsible for you.

If you are in a mess, Big Brother is not going to get you out of it. The government may toss a few greenbacks and food stamps your way, but ultimately you are responsible for your own life.

You go-getters out there–no corporation will fill your destiny. If you want to become an integral link in a corporate structure, remember: its all about what you can do for the company, not what the company can do for you. You do your job right and the good stuff will come after many days.

Get busy. Look around you. Find something in your vicinity that needs doing, and do it, whether that makes you underpaid, underemployed, or seemingly underutilized. There’s a lot of work that needs to be done out there in getting this country turned around from our present dead-end of overinstitutionalism and overgovernmentalization. We need to restructure from the ground up. And I do mean the ground literally. This could involve growing some vegetables or something like that.

If you’re at a loss as to how to find some direction, take some time for a little soul-searching. That’s what I did a few decades ago, and I was never the same afterward. I wrote a song about it: Like Moses, like Martin Luther King, I took a walk up the mountain.

CR, with new novel, Smoke, in progress

Seattle, spruce and sunshine

March 25, 2012

This January afternoon of 1855, the old Chief’s careful direction would be guiding his people, like or not, to a destination of peaceful reconciliation with those who were to come. Big changes were in the wind, and Chief Seattle knew this. The ancient ways were being compacted to legend by these whitish immigrants with their steam-breathing machines. In the face of narrowing options the Duwamish peoples had no simple, and no welcome, adjustments to make.

Chief Seattle was getting up in years. His footsteps along the mountain trail were not swift, nor as eager, as when he had first trod them as a young Suquamish.   As the ancient path turned his party into a high clearing on the ridge, between tall evergreens, Seattle’s sight was filled with  magnificence of the Great River and wide bay below– what the whites were now calling Elliot Bay.  At that moment the clouds parted; a rare burst of winter sunshine splashed its welcome brilliance through cold, silvery afternoon. He paused to appreciate the scene, then raised his right arm and placed it on a familiar spruce tree, resting. The sunshine warmed the old man’s face, and raised a smile upon his wisdom lips.

Down on the bay shore, Henry Yesler had been operating his sawmill since about two years ago. He had shut the machine off for the day, for this was a day like no other.  He would soon join a few others of his American associates, to sign a treaty with the natives whose ancient lands were all around. Chief Seattle would arrive to represent the Duwamish and Salish peoples; he was known among the new settlers as a reasonable man, a leader who understood the tectonics of this moment’s history.

By the next summer, the high spruce upon which Chief Seattle had leaned was cut down by hordes of Scandinavian lumberjacks who had immigrated across an ocean and an entire continent.  The woodsmen were busily thrusting their cut logs down a skid road to the Yesler sawmill at the waterfront. There would be many a skid road in the Northwest and beyond before this fierce harvesting was all over with.

By 1893, the Great Northern Railway had been completed. Its trestled tracks twisted through the Cascades and over the Rockies, all the from  St. Paul, Minnesota and beyond. Men with names like Washington, Smith, Stevens, Schwabacher, Nordstrom would soon carve a Pacific Northwest 20th-century culture out of the wild Washington woods.

The next hundred years tumbled an avalanche of civilized chaos and semi-organized caterwaullin’ enterprises across that Duwamish River, and out the Puget waterway to the wide Pacific and beyond: hauling millions of felled timbers on rails and ships and, with every imaginable sort of huffing puffing machine, slurry of mined minerals, casting Klondyke gold, picks and axes, bootstraps, neckties, highfalutin’ starched shirts, hopes and dreams, mice and men, with newspapers, rumor mills, steam-driven capitalism and a whole lotta just plain old hard work, driven by a slue of Swedes, Finns, English, Italians, Africans, Asians, Irish and generally all those Americanizing yankee types whose enterprised fervor propelled an expansion unprecedented in the history of the whole dammed world with all the blood, and toil and sweat that have ever and always dropped our tears along the holy terrible trail of human progress.

By late 20th, a slab or two of Seattle spruce had been railed across the prairies and the heartlands, and delivered to a shop in St. Louis, where a selected piece was seasoned, sawn thin and stretched across a resonant box with a hole cut out and a fretted neck with six steely bronzed strings stretched across it. And there from that sound-hole rolls out a reflected resonance of the sunshine and the spruce upon which old Chief Seattle had paused and contemplated, before he was to meet his Maker, all that was to later happen.

CR, with new novel, Smoke, in progress

The Malaise? again?

March 22, 2012

The question of whether the news is good or the news is bad–

whether America is in decline or not,

whether anything can be done about it or not,

whether we are citizens or are we just consumers,

whether the government must needs be the initiator

of of all our rehabilitative and wealth-generating strategies,

or whether the corporate powerhouses that be are bound

to lead us out of this withering prosperity that so easily distends us,

or whether by some miracle the people shall rise up

by yon legendary bootstraps and from within themselves

and through their own God-given and/or earth-extracted resources

take on the responsibilities and burdens of their own freedoms and

well-being (let us not call it welfare),

whether we shall or whether we will not–

that is the question.                      My vote is: go for it.

 

Glass half-Full

Foundation for Debt Ceiling Research

January 8, 2012

Now is the time for all top dawgs to come to the aid of their country, y’all.

I’m talking about heavy hitters like Warren Buffett and Donald Trump, people whose impact can really make a difference.  If Donald and Warren want to contribute their money-gathering expertise to our national improvement, I propose they should organize three great charitable fundraising events. I’m suggesting that these guys do it because I’m just, like, one little guy with a big idea. But these two have the real wherewithal to get something done in the interests of balanced fiscality.

So, the first  fundraiser would be a prize-fight in Atlantic City featuring George Soros v. David Koch.

The second would be a fight in Las Vegas between Bill Ayers and Charles Koch.

The third would be a tag-team wrestling match with the four heavyweights in Chicago.

Referees would be Mitch McConnell and Harry Reid.

Rush Limbaugh and Chris Matthews would serve as the official voices of USA Spurts.

All proceeds would go to the brand-new Foundation for Debt Ceiling Research, to be fiduciarially managed  jointly by Goldman Sachs and ACORN.

So Warren and Donald, when you get a minute, give me a call and we’ll get going on this thing.

Glass Chimera