Thursday, June 30, 2005

Live 8

Somewhat tongue and cheek, I've posted about the white bracelet I picked up at the U2 concert and the e-mail I received from from Selma Hayek promoting their cause and of course the Live 8 concerts this weekend in Philadelphia, London, Berlin, Rome, Paris, and other places.

I am sure these will be great shows, but I find myself feeling somewhat cynical about them being anything else. Live 8 will not exactly be a celebration of African culture. There's no getting around the fact that the artists that participate will be promoting themselves as much as the cause.

The platform has great intention at its heart, but also perhaps an unrealistic faith in African governments and non-governmental organizations. The UN after all gave us the oil-for-food program. The Somalia crisis was caused by a fight to distribute aid. Making large financial gestures almost allows us to depressingly the problem, keep it over there, and say we're helping.

Here's a link to a very interesting op-ed in today's USAToday by Laura Vanderkam that talks about the role remittances -- money sent home by immigrants to the United States -- plays in elevating the standards of living in poorer countries.

In the mean time I'm with Noel Gallagher from Oasis:

"Correct me if I'm wrong, but are they hoping that one of these guys from the G8 is on a quick 15 minute break at Gleneagles (in Scotland) and sees ANNIE LENNOX singing SWEET DREAMS and thinks, 'F**k me, she might have a point there, you know?'

"KEANE doing SOMEWHERE ONLY WE KNOW and some Japanese businessman going, 'Aw, look at him... we should really f**king drop that debt, you know.'

"It's not going to happen, is it?"

...uhhm, well maybe if U2 plays "Where the Streets Have No Name."

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

E-mails From A 2 Year Old

My children really love to get and send e-mails. Unfortunatley, they can not yet read and write. In order for them to send e-mails, Gretchen and I sit at the computer taking dictation and telling the kids what letters they need to press in order to send their note. Here's a couple of the actual finished e-mails from Sydney:


Tuesday, June 28, 2005

The People's Republic of Wal-Mart

According to Time Magazine, "Wal-Mart is China's sixth largest export market--just behind Germany--buying some $18 billion worth of goods last year." Further, the Wal-Mart that is criticized for being the part-time employer of last resort in the US is preferred by younger Chinese workers that appreciate its high quality standards and refusal to play the game of bribery and nepotism common among many Chinese companies.

Monday, June 27, 2005

A Rare Bill

Now through July 8 (except for the 4th of July) at the Posner Center, located in Hunt Library on the campus of Carnegie Mellon University, one of 4 existing copies of the original printing of The Bill of Rights, the first 10 amendments to the Constitution will be on display. Originally, President Thomas Jefferson had 28 copies of the amendments printed, 2 for each State, now 1 copy is in the Library of Congress, one is held privately, one is held by the American Antiquarian Society, and one is in Pittsburgh.

With the 4th of July approaching, the Supreme Court issuing a number of decisions where freedom of speech, and the disagreements that we have about whether liberty for all can really be protected by denying it for a few, it seems a good time to reflect on how remarkable and enduring The Bill of Rights has been as a foundation for the freedoms we enjoy.

The Bill of Rights can be seen weekdays between 1 and 4 PM, now through July 8.

Pull Over, I Have To Go To Work

Browsing through the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette today, I found this article about people embracing life in a mobile home while at the same time working full-time. According to the article, this is becoming more popular, as baby boomers want to embrace the RV lifestyle, but can't afford to not have an income. The group even has their own hub on the web -- Workamper News -- that matches RVers with work opportunities, and is emerging as an itinerant source of seasonal workers at hotels, resorts and amusement parks.

In Free Agent Nation, Dan Pink talked about how they very idea of retirement would shift as baby boomers grew older, moving from a total stop to a mindset of working when you wanted to on things that you enjoy, powered by the internet. This emerging mass of gray haired itinerant RV workers represents a traveling version -- armed with job opportunities from the internet and a full-tank of gas in pursuit of the sun and open road.

Friday, June 24, 2005

The Cool Stuff Of 2005

I'm a big fan of cool design, design that makes life easier, products more functional and more beautiful. This morning I've been having fun looking through Business Week's Best In Product Design 2005.

My top Bakers Dozen:
Topturn X Self-Propelled Compost Turner
Samsung Techwin UF-80 Digital Presenter
Ben Q LCD Monitor Crazy Arm
Gerber SippySnacker
Barrell Grill
Timberland Travel Gear
Hammerhead Sled
Rubbermaid Paint Buddy
SHIFT Concept Bicycle
Kansas City Downtown Book Bindings
Vigital Digital Thermometer Family - Baby Rectal (beware the picture)
BMW Mini Convertible - (close cousin to our Mini Cooper)

Thursday, June 23, 2005

The Last 5 Books I've Read

All Marketers Are Liars, by Seth Godin Grade: B
Bottom line: Authentic stories that customers believe, internalize and retell make the difference in marketing.
The Tipping Point, by Malcolm Gladwell   Grade: A
Bottom line: Little changes can have big impacts.  Connectors, mavens and sales people move the world.
Freakonomics, by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner  Grade: B+
Bottom line: Data analysis can reveal hidden incentive based reasons for social changes that defy conventional wisdom.
Blink, by Malcolm Gladwell  Grade: A
Bottom line: There is a universal, instinctive, physical intuition and communication that has a great impact on decision making. More facts and more analysis often do not produce better outcomes.
Free Agent Nation, Dan Pink  Grade: A-
Bottom line: Big companies are giving way to individuals leveraging their skills independently, changing the way we think about work, home, school, and retirement.
Now reading:
Naked Pictures of Famous People, by Jon Stewart
On deck:
1776, by David McCollough
The Body of Jonah Boyd, by David Leavitt

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Raise A Toddy

In the fall of 1990 I came to visit Pittsburgh with my dad for the first time to visit Carnegie Mellon. On an extremely rainy fall day, we made our way through Oakland to our hotel, then a Howard Johnson's by Magee Women's Hospital on Boulevard of the Allies. When we got up into our room, I through my stuff on the bed, kicked off my shoes and turned on the television, only to be greeted by a small elderly gentleman with a balding head, bulging eyeballs (was that a lazy eye?), and a voice that was not just nasally but in this extremely strange accent. Well, despite this incredible first impression, I came back to Pittsburgh and even learned to listen to watch the Steelers with the sound down and the radio on, and appreciate, even love, Myron Cope, who retired yesterday after 35 years as the analyst on Steelers radio.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish

In doing some reading I came upon this transcript of Apple Computer Founder and CEO Steve Jobs' commencement speech to this year's graduating class at Stanford University. Through 3 stories, the story of his dropping out of Reed College after 6 months, the story of getting fired from Apple in the eighties, and the story of his cancer experience Steve captures the importance of curiosity, finding knowledge and beauty in hidden places, and loving what you do.

"Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your inner voice, heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary."

--Steve Jobs

Monday, June 20, 2005

The Amazing Race, A Father's Day Adventure

The best gifts are those that combine unexpected surprise with thoughtfulness and fun. My Father’s Day experience had all 3 of those combined.

I am a little bit ashamed to admit that the couch potato in me has never missed an episode of The Amazing Race, and on Sunday I found myself in my very own. Gretchen, Russell, Sydney, and Tyler engineered my own personal version of The Amazing Dad Race, complete with road blocks, detours and route markers, and a uniform t-shirt.

After challenges that included finding my first clue among all of the kid’s toys in our basement playroom, mixing up some vanilla ice cream from memory, and corralling my 3 kids in the park after giving them a 50 yard piggy-back across a field, the next stop in our adventure was PNC Park, where in the detour I had to choose “sing” or “swing.”

In “sing” I would have to approach a stranger and sing the national anthem, in “swing” I would have to hit 3 balls pitched by Gretchen. Fortunately for the windows on nearby buildings and unsuspecting strangers, I chose swing. After 3 quick cuts – it was into the Mini (van) for the journey to the next route marker.

After a quick stop for lunch (at McDonald’s because Eat ‘n Park is too busy on Sunday holidays) we arrived at the next destination Laurel Caverns, where I met the Road Block: rappelling lessons. After a brief lesson in configuring the rappelling device, getting fitted into a climbing harness and helmet, we walked into the cavern.

Normally a group lesson with up to 12 people participating, I was the only one to sign up on Sunday, which meant I had the whole place to myself. This meant that I got to rappel down the 4 story drop 10 times. To get back to the top, I had my choice of either climbing (they had man-made handholds) or hiking back up the cavern – so I climbed about half the time and hiked about half the time.

Trusting the equipment the first time you sit into the harness and swing backwards off the wall is the scariest part of rappelling. I have done climbing and zip line activities before that required the use of a harness, but I was surprised to see that the rappelling device was a small piece of plastic shaped like a figure 8 with one big loop and one small loop.

The entire process works because of the friction between that device and the rope caused by your body weight and the force you apply by pulling the rope. When you pull the rope down, you increase the friction and halt your descent. When you let the rope slide, you reduce the friction, but the device keeps you from descending to quickly.

Once you’ve got the hang of it, it really is a remarkable thing to be able to control your descent. You can “walk” backwards down the wall, hop from spot to spot, or just stop and sit in mid-air and look at the walls of the cave around you.

After rappelling we all took the 1-hour tour of the caverns and headed for the Pit Stop at Gretchen’s mom’s house for swimming and supper. I arrived on the mat appreciative of all the hard work and creativity Gretchen had invested to make a special Father’s Day.

Music Picnic #2: Zany Umbrella Circus and Umoja

A sunny Saturday in the 70’s had us headed downtown to the last weekend of The Three Rivers Arts Festival for the second music picnic of the summer. In a rare lunchtime afternoon we were able to take in 2 very different acts.

First, Zany Umbrella Circus performed it's newest show, Tinker, on it’s unique set that uses old bicycle parts and an old school bus. With no animals, ZUC is in the model of Cirque Du Soleil, presenting a circus that uses the acrobatics, trapeze and clowning to present stories. ZUC was founded in 2004 by a group of Pittsburgh with a unique interest of bringing free circus performances into parks. The shows include some really impressive trapeze/rope work that showcases the strength and grace of the performers. What the troupe lacks in depth (there were approximately 8 people in the circus, including 3 musicians), they make up for in enthusiasm. To me, the ZUC continues in a vein of Pittsburgh artists that combine passion for craft and a bohemian, communal sensibility (think Rusted Root and Squonk Opera) to create a fun experience that exceeds your expectations.

The second performance was by Umoja, a local company that performs West African drum and dance. Using authentic West-African drums, the group showcased rhythms and movements that were engaging and full of energy. The leader, a 51-year old woman from Guinea spoke about some of the cultural history behind the performance and sang, danced and drummed. She did not just perform, but encouraged the entire audience to participate, asking for volunteers to come down and learn a dance and to look her up to explore this type of dance for fun and fitness.

Sydney loved Umoja, she twirled circles and jumped and played the entire performance and dragged Russell out to dance with her. They were so hot by the time we were finished that a stop at the fountains in PPG Place to cool off was the perfect way to conclude our picnic before heading home for naps.

Friday, June 17, 2005

There's nothing quite like

...marching back into a windowless building after lunch on a beautiful summer Friday.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

A message from Salma Hayek

Got this note from my good friend Salma tonight...thought I'd share the intimate things we talk about...

From: The ONE Campaign
To: Justin Sullivan
Date: Jun 16, 2005 6:35 PM
Subject: A message from Salma Hayek
Dear Friend:

It looks like a simple white band.

Maybe it is simple: We are going to make poverty history.

Will you join me today and wear the white band to show you support the ONE campaign and the fight against global AIDS and poverty?

You might be a teacher, doctor or mother. You might wear it to school, church or a concert. Whenever and wherever you wear a ONE white band, you say, without even saying a word, that you want more and better international assistance, debt cancellation and trade reform.

Half a million Americans are wearing the white band. I believe we can make that one million by the upcoming G8 summit on July 6th.

Let's do it together: wear your white band today.

From Dr. King to Nelson Mandela, history shows us that big changes can start with small actions. Wearing a white band is something YOU can do, today, in your neighborhood. When you wear a white band you join millions of people in America and around the world calling for change. If you've always wanted to be a part of something that can change our world, in our time, this is your chance.

I hope you will join us: get your white band today!


Salma Hayek

P.S. Click here to check out photos of other ONE supporters like Cameron Diaz, Jamie Foxx, Tom Hanks and Kate Hudson wearing the white band, appearing in national magazines this week.

A New (York) Yankee Stadium

The New York Yankees announced their plans to build a new stadium in the Bronx to open in 2009 yesterday.

The first Major League Baseball game I ever saw was a mid-week afternoon game at Yankee Stadium. Because my grandfather knew somebody, our seats were 4 rows behind the Yankee dugout on the home plate side. One of the things that I remember most about that first trip was the experience of coming out of the tunnel into the seating are for the first time. After a car ride into the Bronx (which back in the early '80's was quite a trip for a little kid from Connecticut) where the scenery got more and more depressing the farther and farther you went from home, the majesty of the building itself heightened your anticipation. But walking up the tunnel and seeing the field -- an explosion of green grass -- and the imposing decks of seats rising like a blue wall surrounding the field is just something that you don't forget. The field didn't sneak up on you gradually, it exploded into view, not unlike the Fort Pitt Tunnel introduces you to downtown Pittsburgh.

Over the years I had a lot of great experiences at the Stadium, with many of the most important people in my life -- with my dad, my mother, my sisters, friends of my fathers, my uncle, my friends, my wife, and on a rainy Friday Father's Day weekend in 2003, I watched Roger Clemens win his 300th game with my son Russell.

I know that I'll most likely have very few memories of the new stadium that opens in 2009. Most of the memories that I have from when I was young will be made for my family at PNC Park, but Yankee Stadium will always be one of the special places that I've spent time with others.

The recipe to one of life's great simple pleasures...

2 eggs
3/4 cups sugar
1 cup milk
2 cups cream
2 teaspoons vanilla

That, my friends, is the recipe for ice cream mix. Combine the above in a bowl and mix according to your ice cream maker's instructions, and you will enjoy the freshest, creamiest, most delightful treat...all for slightly more effort than it takes to make toast.

We could not do without our Cusinart ice cream maker. Last night when the craving struck, instead of heading for the store or Baskin Robbins, I headed for the kitchen, and half an hour later, I was enjoying Mocha Chip (sub 4 teaspoon cocoa and 2 tablespoons freeze dried coffee for vanilla, mix in chocalate chips.)!

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

If you spend any of your time...

dressed as any of the many incarnations of Michael Jackson, there is a 93.7 percent chance that you've been on TV in the last 24 hours.

Monday, June 13, 2005

My Childhood In A Museum

This weekend's Saturday activity was a trip to the Carnegie Museum of Art for their current special exhibition: kid size: The Material World of Childhood. The exhibit, which began in April and runs through September 11, showcases the design of toys and furniture created specifically for children through time and around the world. The exhibit combines static displays with interactive ones -- giving children the chance to get on hands and knees and drive carts, practice carrying babies, write on chalk boards and create their own chairs and cradles. The globalization of culture was interesting to see -- as Eastern-style baby carriers that hold children close to the body, "worn" by the caregiver, come west and Western furniture, like cradles move east and south. One cradle, from 17th century New England, is one of about a dozen that is thought to exist, and reflects simple wordwook and sturdy craftsmanship. More current designs made of colorful plastics and other synthetic materials -- like this Tarantino Chair, appear to be designed to have more appeal to children and to be safer and more functional as well. One thing was clear, that throughout time a potty training seat as been a small chair with a hole cut in it.

I felt my age when when we found the Big Wheel, the very thing that made me King of the Sidewalk when I was young, to be the very 1st item in the exhibition. With it's deceptively simple design that inverted a traditional metal tricycle and constructed of plastic, it became a hit in the early 70's when it was declared to be safer than traditional trikes. Like the famous episode of Seinfeld, this exhibit had us wishing we could put the guards to sleep and find a way to play with all of the toys.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

What Is That White Bracelet?

Since Gretchen and I returned from the Philadelphia U2 show (Uno, dos, tres, quatorze!, May 16, 2005), people have been asking us about the white rubber band bracelets we've been wearing. Where did it come from and what does it mean?

The bracelets promote the campaign to make poverty history -- to "rally Americans to fight the emergency of global AIDs and extreme policy. The bracelets are $1 each and available on-line, but so far appear to primarily be sold at U2 concerts -- where fans are encouraged to text message their support. Expect to see many more as U2 tours the US again in the fall and on the heals of this summers Live8 concert. Almost exactly 20 years after LiveAid, Live 8 will take place on Saturday July 2nd at the Philadelphia Museum of Art (the "Rocky" Steps), Hyde Park in London, the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, Versailles in Paris, and the Circus Maximus in Rome.

.500 Or Bust

That giant crash you heard this morning was the sound of me hitting the floor after passing out upon learning that not only did the Pittsburgh Pirates beat the Baltimore Orioles last night 6-1, not only did Rob Mackowiak, the 53rd round wonder, get to start against a left-hander but went 3-4 with 4 RBI, but that the Pirates also had a sellout crowd of 37,438 -- on a Wednesday night!

Every night during the week I can usually go to bed secure in the fact that the 'Bucs win or lose will have drawn an ambivalent mid-week crowd of 15-20,000, coming late and leaving early. This almost passes the test of genuine excitement about baseball in the 'Burgh -- the rabid roar of a crowd that wants .500 baseball so bad it can taste it. Bring on the Devil Rays!

Monday, June 06, 2005

Music Picnic #1: Citizen Cope

A rainy Friday and child illnes wiped out our much anticipated first music picnic of the year at "First Fridays at The Frick." Russell's anticipation of the first music picnic of the year would not wait an entire month, so on Saturday night we hit the Citizen Cope show at Point State Park, part of the 3 Rivers Arts Festival.

What a great way to spend a beautiful Saturday night. As the sun set down the Ohio River, a large appreciative crowd sang along to songs that had a wide range of influences -- rock, hip-hop, country blue-grass. Citizen Cope was very charismatic, posing for photos with fans before the show and seemed to clearly enjoy bringing his music to new fans in the crowd. Russell and Sydney danced like maniacs and are already looking forward to music picnic #2...

Thursday, June 02, 2005

If May Is Messy Diaper Month, June Must Be...

Did you know that June is "Potty Training Awareness Month"? With 3 children under the age of 5 this is a subject near and dear to my heart and my pocketbook. My apologies to those in the diaper industry, but every time I have to go to the store and plop down $25 for a jumbo box of Sugar Honey Ice Tea catchers, I can't help but think "I might as well wipe my butt with this money," but that wouldn't help Gretchen or me when nature truly called.

Ironically the promoters of "PTAM" are the makers of "Pull-ups," a.ka. diapers without velcro that don't hold as much. At their web site you can take a quiz and find out if you (or your child) are a "reader, a flusher, a giggler or a straggler." Of course, it seems odd to take potty-training advice from a company that sells diapers doesn't it? I don't know for sure, but I think July might be "Depends Adoption Month." (I've got a hint for you...they also have a quiz.) Hey, here's a coupon They are after all essentially the same product sold in opposite directions.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Happy Birthday Dad!

The Path Of Least Resistance

The NY Times has a fascinating article today entitled "The Five Bedroom, Six-Figure Rootless Life." (free registration required). The article profiles a growing class of high-paid professionals, many of whom travel extensively for work, who move their families every 3 years in pursuit of the next job opportunity. These families invest entirely in the career of the bread winner and go where that career leads. This article is really about a family in Alpharetta, GA, that is left behind while the husband travels for his career. The mother that keeps a color coded schedule to get her children to the right practice at the right time, enduring choked roads and social pressure to have "the biggest possible house, on the biggest piece of land."

This strikes me as the result of some faulty assumptions, a selfish view of the world, and doing the easy thing. The assumption that more money is always better, and worth moving for, the narcissistic view that career fulfillment is worth an incredible amount of family sacrifice, and taking the path of least resistance in following the next step on the career path.

We're lucky to live in a place like the woman profiled in the article would like to get back to: Pittsburgh. While it's not always easy to stay, my family and I have so far been able to focus on building the kind of lives we want: to be part of a great neighborhood of friends and strong community, close to family where our children know aunts and uncles and cousins and grandparents. Pittsburgh has become a place where we truly are more than a house in the right subdivision with the right car in the driveway until the For Sale sign goes up. We haven't been forced to accept the next thing in the next city. It has taken some work and some good luck along the way, but I hope we'll be able to keep it up.