I took a few days of r&r in Chicago at my daughter’s place between Germany and home. Need to do that once in a while. Read a couple of books, wander around downtown Chicago, relax a little. The trip to Germany was fruitful, and I’ll have a report on companies and products tomorrow.

Steve Jobs

Finally finished the Steve Jobs biography by Isaacson. I had already read about the early career. I’ve followed him even before getting my first Apple 2s in the early-mid 80s. The biography was thorough. Probably rushed a little. But not bad.

Aside from Jobs being a jerk and a visionary (do those things go together?), the main takeaway you should get is the power of having a product person in charge. How many MBAs in Finance do we have running companies via spreadsheet who have no soul? Well, one is one too many. I’m a product person, and I appreciated the emphasis on the reemergence of Apple when Jobs brought focus on products to the top of the corporate agenda.

I’m still a product guy. I’m proud of what we’ve done at Automation World for the most part, but I’m never satisfied and I’m always fighting to keep the vision clear despite mucking around by sales and accounting types. I’m always looking for ways to improve the vision without sliding back into the faddism of the industry for cheap “content” and chasing the lowest common denominator. Readers have responded positively to the message.

The other interesting idea (since it mirrors my own journey) is Jobs seeing himself at that intersection of technology and Liberal Arts. I’ve never believed in LA as the graveyard for those who can’t cut it in real disciplines. Real Liberal Arts students should be able to take (and pass) any class. You learn to learn and you broaden your horizons. I was a narrowly focused electronics geek when I went off into studying philosophy, international politics, literature and a bunch of other stuff including a couple of additional math classes beyond my early engineering classes. That has had great value to my life and career.

Detective novels

I’m hooked on the Sue Grafton Kinsey Millhone detective series. “V is for Violence” tells an intriguing story. Grafton rested on her laurels after a couple of early successes and published a couple of formula stories. Then her readers rebelled and she went back to work on good stuff. I recommend this one

Change Congress Now

Pardon me while I slip into politics. This is not meant to be liberal, conservitive, Tea or anything else like that (I no longer identify with any of those). What I’d love to see is a way to get our Congress people out of the slop trough (OK, I’m from Ohio if the pig metaphor doesn’t resonate) in order for them to focus on the country’s business instead of their own. Why do so many relatively poor people enter Congress and then retire to a life of wealth. Thomas Jefferson and James Madison (my political heroes) must be watching in consternation.

Lawrence Lessig just wrote this to the Change Congress Now followers. Check it out, and then check out and support United Republic.

I am writing with some great news about Rootstrikers, Change Congress, and the Fix Congress First projects.

Over the past few months, a number of very significant funders of reform have decided that enough is enough. Led by Arnold Hiatt, former Chairman of Stride Rite, they have decided to form national powerhouse to advance sweeping reforms.

This is fantastic news for the movement, and for me. United Republic, the new organization, launches today at unitedrepublic.org, with a mandate to enact and inspire an extraordinary range of new and powerful work. We are also merging with the 250,000 members of MSNBC’s host Dylan Ratigan’s “Get Money Out” campaign.

United Republic will be led by one of the most effective political organizers I have known – Josh Silver, who ran the campaign in Arizona to get public funding enacted, and founded media reform group Free Press.

Because of their leadership, I will be able to focus on spreading this message effectively.

That message, as you’ve seen, has had to morph. However difficult it was to imagine Congress passing a bill to fund congressional elections before the Republicans took control of the House, it is impossible to imagine that right now.

Instead, as I’ve traveled across the country speaking about my book, I have been struck by how far we still must go to get people to connect the dots – to see the link between whatever issue they care about and the role of money in politics. Again and again, I have been driven back to a favorite line in Thoreau’s Walden:

“There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root.”

What we need now is to recruit millions who are striking at the root. Millions who are helping others to see how every issue is tied to the money. And how we won’t make progress across a wide range of issues – whether you’re from the Right or the Left – until we address this fundamental corruption.

From now on, our efforts, along with the Get Money Out campaign, will all be merged with United Republic. Joining forces is the only chance we have to create the critical mass necessary to win this vital issue.

And again from United Republic:

We’re living in exciting times. It’s a time of potential peril, and extraordinary possibilities. America faces enormous challenges, and there’s a sense that our politics and our government can no longer rise to those challenges. As a result, people are frustrated. People are mad. And so, in the great American tradition, they’re taking action in ways that could create a new era of reform.

We at United Republic think that such eras don’t come easily. We won’t be able to fix the country’s many problems unless we first get money out of politics. And doing that will require a big fight, with bold tactics, substantial resources, and millions of people involved. Millions of people of all stripes–left, right and center–who may not agree on everything but can agree that democracy should never be for sale.

We’re just getting started. Over the next several months we’ll be expanding our website, and rolling out some exciting new ways for folks to get involved and fight back. But we need to hear from you, too. What are you thinking and planning? How can we help? Let us know, and we’ll let others know, too, when someone comes up with a great idea that deserves more attention.


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