Graffiti On Broadway

Graffiti can be found throughout Kansas City.  Recently I discovered another treasure trove of graffiti art.  Hope you enjoy it.

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IMG_2371Clever, don’t you think?  I wish I knew the artist, but you will see s/he is identified immediately below the shark in the third photograph.

Taxidermy on trees?

Meg's Tree

I decided to take this picture after sitting out in the sun on the patio one day recently. I was looking up at the sky, and realized the sky was so clear, and the tree so beautiful, that it almost looked fake to me, as though it had been artificially preserved.  This shot is looking almost straight up, from the exact angle I could see it while laying out and enjoying the California sun. So beautiful.

Happy Birthday Lily! 11 years young today!

Lily, April 2012

Lily at the back door, getting ready for playtime in the yard. April 2012

On March 25th, 2002, Miss Lily Ann McCollister was born. With her white fur, tan spots, perky ears, and beautiful (and now toothless) smile, Lily continues to bring incredible joy to our lives. She may be turning 11 today, but she has incredible spirit, and still loves exploring all that the world has to offer.

Meg with Lily & Cousteau

Lily and Cousteau “circling” Mommy while on a hike in Tomales Bay, Mar. 2013

Family photo while hiking on Ring Mountain, Jan. 1, 2013. Clockwise from top left: Jake, Meg, Lily & Cousteau

I will always be grateful for KCREGAP (Kansas City REtired Greyhounds As Pets) for matching us with our little girl. Both Lily and Cousteau are so much fun, and we’ve continued to be involved with greyhound rescue ever since. If you are thinking of rescuing a dog, I highly recommend considering a greyhound. Nicknamed the “40mph couch potatoes,” they are gentle, loving creatures. After hard lives on the track, they simply want a human to love and a soft pillowly surface to sleep on (which is typically most of the day!). Please visit www.kcregap.org if you live in the Kansas City area, or www.greyhoundfriendsforlife.org if you live on the West Coast. Both of these groups do incredible advocacy work for greyhounds, and they always have greyhounds in need of a forever home.

We’re so excited to celebrate Lily’s 11 years today. She is a spoiled little girl, but she’s so darn cute, we just can’t help ourselves. Happy Birthday Lily!

Spring Kansas City Style

It’s Spring, or so the calendar tells us.  In Petaluma the trees are flowering, lemons are growing, Meg and Jake take long walks by the ocean.

Here in Kansas City, the trees at Loose Park tell a different story:

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Yes, the calendar says Spring.  The weather says winter.  Our third significant snow fell yesterday and into the early morning.  It is beautiful.  We are close to ending the drought.  Eventually our gardens will be grateful for the extra water. But today, drive ways need to be shoveled and cars are stuck in the road.

But, hey, it is still Spring.

Worth Avenue, Palm Beach

Palm Springs is among the most affluent communities in Florida. The homes, both old and new, are reminders that the “gilded age”, the age remembered for the accumulation of great wealth by a small number of individuals, has never entirely vanished.

Where do the wealthy residents–and tourists–shop? Worth Avenue. Shoppers will find retail stores comparable to those on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills.  Do you want something special from Tiffany, Gucci, Giorgio Armani or Hermes?  Worth Avenue is the place to be.  It is elegant.  It is expensive.  The architecture itself is a great reason for a visit.  Oh, and it oozes old money, and new money, inherited money, earned money, all kinds of money.

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Terry and I enjoyed our visit.  We walked the avenue and stopped for lunch at Charlie’s Crab.  We’ll leave the heavy shopping to others.

Well, Hello Spring

Flowers and Lemons combine

I’ve been spending a lot of time outside lately, mostly because the weather is so beautiful. The lemon tree is now trimmed, and the flowering trees are in full bloom. I’ve even planted rainbow chard and chives. Grandmom would be proud.

These are a few shots I took of the white flowering tree (no idea what it’s called, so any input would be great!) and the lemon tree, which are right next to each other. They can also both be seen from our room upstairs, which makes for a beautiful site when I wake up in the morning. Add the Sonoma Mountain backdrop, and we’re California living!

Flowering Tree Lemon Tree

JJ’s Restaurant, Country Club Plaza

At about 6:00 p.m., February 19, I heard an explosion at my home by Loose Park.  The local news almost immediately began coverage of a gas explosion at 48th and Belleview at JJ’s Restaurant.  The explosion caused serious damage to the restaurant.  The resulting fire leveled JJ’s and caused damage to adjacent buildings.  The extent of the damage was not yet known.

The death of Megan Cramer and the injuries to others in the area was tragic. The fact that most had left the area due to warnings or the smell of gas is no comfort to those who suffered loss.

Terry and I visited the area last Sunday morning. The damage done to JJ’s, the salon next door and the building to the North of JJ’s is evident in these photographs.

JJ's

JJ's

Our hearts go out to those who were affected by the explosion. JJ’s has always been a favorite, and the people and atmosphere will be missed.

Yesterday, Perceus, the dog that fled the salon next to JJ’s as a result of the blast,was found.  He endured the blast as well as life “on the streets” through two significant snowstorms that paralyzed the city in late February.  After a visit to the vet he has been returned home.  It is good to have some happy news in the midst of the tragedy.

Just a man and his dog

These are a few shots of Jake and Cousteau from our recent visit to Tomales Bay. Anyone who knows us well understands that our dogs are our kids. Here are a few “father/son” moments.

Jake and Cousteau walking along the beach in Tomales Bay.

Jake and Cousteau walking along the beach in Tomales Bay.

Jake wanted to climb the big rock, so naturally, Cousteau did too.

Jake wanted to climb the big rock, so naturally, Cousteau did too.

On the way down from the rock, Cousteau wasn't quite able to make the leap, so Jake saved the day and carried him down.

On the way down from the rock, Cousteau wasn’t quite able to make the leap, so Jake saved the day and carried him down.

Using polls on WordPress

Meg has a J.D. in Urban, Land Use and Environmental Law. She focuses on political organizing, environmental policy, and sustainable living.

Meg has a J.D. in Urban, Land Use and Environmental Law. She focuses on political organizing, environmental policy, and sustainable living.

As many of you know, I (Meg) recently worked on a campaign where our strategy focused in large part of massive amounts of data. It’s incredible how much data can be collected over time and through various sources. So, to try my hand at “data collection,” I put together a poll last week asking you your opinion about what issue facing the country you think impacts you the most.

WordPress has many functions for its bloggers, from media integration, sharing ability to other sites, word clouds….there are quite a few features to use to tailor your blog. I had never used the poll feature before, so I decided to try it.

To create a poll: Go to Dashboard. Click on “Feedbacks” on the left-hand side. Then click on “polls.” From here, you can both create a new poll, edit existing polls, and check results from existing polls.

To adjust poll settings: Go to Dashboard. Click on “Settings,” and then click on “polls.” This allows you to adjust the general settings of your polls, including the style, format for displaying results, and how the answer choices are arranged.

Results from our poll on Issues: “What issue do you feel impacts you the most?”

Answer choices: Sequestration, Gun Control, Climate Change, Immigration, Women’s Rights, and Education.

Top answers: Sequestration and Women’s Rights

I thought this was interesting, because I was under the impression many of our readers would be focused on issues like Education and Climate Change. However, I am also encouraged by the responses, because it suggests our readers are very attuned to the most pressing issues currently being addressed in Washington.

“What is your professional association?”

Answer Choices: Business, Healthcare, Law, Labor, Student, Artist, Other

Top answers: Business and Healthcare

We will be sure to use the poll feature again in the future, and hopefully we will have an even better response next time. Again, our poll results only show us the responses, and not the person giving the response, so you can be sure we will not share your name with your answer. And, if you have any polls you’d like us to do, please let us know!

“Great By Choice” Uncertainty, Chaos, And Luck–Why Some Thrive Despite Them All

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Good luck.  We talk about it. We wish for it.  We blame our failures on lack of it.  Malcolm Gladwell, one of my favorite authors, focuses on it as a significant factor in the success of individuals like Bill Gates in his book Outliers[1].  Gladwell’s insights have been valuable to me in understanding how and why individuals succeed.

Nothing in Great By Choice changes my belief that factors outside our control significantly influence our success.  However, Great By Choice is a reminder that luck alone does not control our destiny.  We are reminded, throughout the book, that we have significant control of our lives, our successes and our failures.

“Are you Amundsen or Scott?” is the question raised in Chapter 2.  In Oct. 1911, Rould Amundsen and Robert Falcon Scott led similar expeditions to the South Pole.  Amundsen reached the Pole and returned safely home.  Scott and his team died in their unsuccessful quest.  What separated the two adventurers?  Both faced the same  1400 mile round trip journey to the South Pole in brutally cold weather, ice, snow and limited supplies.  What made the difference?  According to New York Times bestselling authors Jim Collins[2] and Professor Morten T. Hansen[3], the difference was planning, intensity of preparation, constant vigilance and remaining constantly focused on the goal.

They describe characteristics that enable us to maximize the benefits of our good luck while minimizing the impact of our bad luck.  The authors studied highly successful companies, called “10Xers” ie, companies that beat industry indexes by a minimum of 10 times over a 15 year period, including Microsoft, Progressive Insurance Company. They compare 10Xers to Amundsen, and for good reason.

The book is, fundamentally, about excellence, preparation, and discipline.  The research identifies attributes that 10Xers[4] share with each other (and with Amundsen) that are less likely to exist in less successful companies[5].  A fundamental premise is that luck, good and bad, happens to all of us, and that how we respond, and are impacted by our luck is dependent on preparation, discipline and determination.

By the authors’ definition, luck incorporates chaos and uncertainty, is described as involving events largely outside our control that are unpredictable and have potentially significant consequences.  Factors such as economic downturns, rising interest rates and other economic factors are factors which impact us all.  These are factors the others would incorporate in their definition of luck.  Fanatical discipline, mental independence, empirical creativity, and productive paranoia, are considered by the authors to be essential to success in a world of such economic (and non-economic) chaos and uncertainty.  Specifically, these attributes are considered essential to getting the most from good luck and being harmed the least by bad luck.

Great by Choice identified 3 core 10X behaviors:

1)   Fanatical discipline and mental independence;

2)   Empirical creativity, including reliance on empirical evidence, and direct observation

3)   Productive paranoia, including always planning, and preparing, for the worst case scenario.

1)   Fanatical discipline involves what they label “20 mile marches”.[6]  Differing in every way from frantic forward movement followed by complacency or sliding backward, the focus is on taking measured steps toward success.  It involves the expectation that goals will be clear, that consistent forward movement toward the accomplishment of those goals should be required and that the entity will not indulge in fads or overextend.  Consistent progress, rather than erratic gains and losses, is to be the goal.

2)   Empirical creativity involves individual research and hard date.  Much is made in the book about the importance of “shooting bullets and then cannons”.  The significance of this message is that in taking any risk, it is important to determine, through firing metaphorical bullets, the probability of success.  A bullet is considered low risk, low distraction, low-cost. When such a low risk experiment reaches the target, then it is time to throw significant resources at the target.  The initial example of the concept is based on the idea that if you are on a ship being approached by an enemy ship, you should shoot bullets at the ship until a bullet actually reaches the target ship.  Only then is it prudent to use the resources necessary to shoot a cannon at the ship to destroy it.

3)   Productive paranoia deals with the critical importance of anticipating disaster, i.e. bad luck. Disaster can come in any sources.  It can result from a fluke of nature, a massive recession, a competitor whose product development surpasses the product of another company.  By constant vigilance, preparation, protecting and saving resources an enterprise can maximize the likelihood of working through disaster and moving toward success.

But there is more.  In addition to the uncertainty around us, Great By Choice reminds us that we must always remain above the “death line”.  The death line is identified as an event  under the entity’s control that will destroy the endeavor.  Comparable to corporate death, these are described as risks that can severely injure a company; asymmetric risks (where the potential downside dwarfs the potential upside); and uncontrollable risks, (risks that cannot be controlled or managed.)  Examples of such risk include making financial gambles on products or processes that have not been determined to be likely to be financially successful.  By firing bullets rather than cannons, the authors believe an endeavor can minimize the chances of falling below the “death line” where it cannot survive.

Great By Choice repeatedly conveys to the reader the challenges (“bad luck”) faced by 10Xers and describes how these companies responded to what sometimes seemed to be impossible circumstances.  How they minimized the resulting damage or turned adversity into opportunity.

Whether you are a student, a professional, an entrepreneur or in any other field of endeavor,  spending the time to read books such as Great By Choice can be invaluable in understanding  your “luck” and how to use it (or avoid it!) to be great. 

 


[1] Among other factors, he argues effectively that the month and year an individual is born, his/her opportunity to have effective mentors, supportive parents, and (often) access to significant financial resources, technology and specialized training, significantly influence an individual’s likelihood of success

[2]  Formerly on the faculty at Stanford Graduate School of Business, author of Good to Great, as well as other notable books focused on business success (and failure), Collins consults with businesses and operates a management laboratory in Boulder, Colorado

[3] Management professor at the University of California, Berkeley, formerly a professor at Harvard Business School and author of Collaboration, Hanson also consults and speaks to and with companies worldwide.

[4] 10Xers studied included such companies as Southwest Airlines, Progressive Insurance and Microsoft

[5] Apple (during the period of time it was not under the leadership of Steve Jobs), Safeco Insurance, and PSA airlines

[6] From childhood I remember the adage “slow and steady wins the race”.