Sun Tzu for the Modern Strategist eBook

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This is a free sample chapter. Interested? Let me know!

Connecting Olympic Athletes And Supporters Through Blogging

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(I’ve done quick modifications but this article may not perfectly reflect the post-edit version which went up on Technorati first here. Thanks, editors! I’m new to “journalism” and the praise felt great!)

Panasonic is using a blog called “One Winter, Five Dreams” as part of its 2010 Winter Olympics sponsorship efforts. By focusing on lesser-known athletes who overcame various personal obstacles just to participate at all, this blog presents a human component to the Olympics that is usually drowned out by media attention on international rivalry, the big stars, and the future  multi-million endorsement deals at stake for the more famous athletes. These are the kinds of stories that make for a compelling human drama:

  • Robel Teklemariam, a cross-country skier from Ethiopia and his trials and tribulations as he trains in Switzerland during a cold snap.
  • Katharine Eustace, a women’s skeleton racer from New Zealand having a video debate with herself on whether boiling an egg in a kettle is inappropriate as she eats before a race on a tight budget and in sparse accommodations.
  • Kazuhiro Koshi, a men’s skeleton racer from Japan racing in -16C (3.2 degrees Fahrenheit) weather in Germany, chilling his 44-year old frame and contributing to an 18th place finish.
  • Tugba Karademir, a ladies’ figure skater from Turkey whose parents were not given tickets to attend the Games until a corporation stepped up to the plate to donate some after an article in the Globe and Mail about her plight. Here, she responds to sympathetic fan comments about how the matter should never have come to this point.
  • Clyde Getty, a freestyle skier from Argentina, originally from the U.S., who apologized for initially blaming the China Ski Federation for not arranging a visa for him to enter China to compete, having simply misunderstood the process; China, not the ski federation thereof, gives out the visa, and had to be dealt with directly. He thanks all those who worked hard to make him able to compete.

Beyond bringing these touching human stories to the public, Panasonic is further encouraging public support of the athletes with its “Gold Blogger” program: the person supporting athletes through this site who does the most to promote the blog through social media will present messages of support to the athletes, in person, all expenses paid. This is icing on the cake; connecting the athletes with the public through blogging is itself a wonderful and timely idea. After all, these athletes are the true soul of the Olympics: individuals battling all odds to compete for the love of their sports.

May others follow  their – and Panasonic’s – examples.

For Want Of A Free Coke, The Company Was Lost

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Do yourself a favor and read this absolutely fascinating article. It’s not denying a free coke to employees that creates an exodus of employees (though offering the coke for 50 cents just makes you look cheap and petty); it’s the perceived lack of respect.

Difference between the cost of a free coke and a 50-cent coke: Very little.

Difference in perceived respect: Very large.

Sun Tzu advised treating personnel like your beloved sons. He also explicitly counseled against spoiling them, but that’s not the point here: the point is treating them with respect. Respect, let it be said, is always personal; perceived lack of respect is, therefore, always taken personally.

I mention this because some seem inclined to draw the lesson that start-ups need to become depersonalized (and therefore, impersonal) to succeed as large organizations. This is an unrealistic expectation. When an employee believes he or she is being disrespected, the type of organization or the history of that organization doesn’t matter; it will be taken personally.

What’s fascinating is that “the free soda issue” seems to be the defining signal of negative change in a small to mid-sized company over and over again. After all, it’s something immediately visible; it affects everyone; and it is universally regarded as petty.

Some may read this and object: but wait! It’s not petty. It’s costing the company money. It’s a perk. This, however, ignores a subtle point.

Why do employees drink cola in copious amounts? This is because they are working longer than 9-to-5 and require extra caffeine to function at a high level. Free cola is seen as a business expense for the men and women investing “sweat capital” into an organization. Charging for it is seen as a sign that management has no idea of what sweat capital is, what role it plays in a business, or why it’s important.

That’s why those seeking a high level of satisfaction in their work look first at the sign on the coke machine – and second, for the nearest exit.

(Late edit: I found the original blog post to be even better and funnier, titled “The Elves Leave Middle Earth – Sodas Are No Longer Free.”)

Movies: “Star Trek” (2009)

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Since it’s on my mind, let me give a belated commentary on the latest “Star Trek” movie, a fine piece of work. Specifically, I want to address why I think the writing worked so well. (This is, of course, in addition to the well-done visuals, acting, and overall directing.)

The script of this “Star Trek” movie is a throwback to ancient mythology. Being presumably already familiar with the name James T. Kirk and Spock, or at least, having heard enough buzz to care, the viewer is presented with a creation myth: the birth of a Hero. Specifically, the birth of James Tiberius Kirk on the first, and last, day that his father takes command of a starship, destroyed by a vessel from the future that sparks a parallel timeline like an official piece of fan fiction: same characters, different story, only with a multi-million dollar budget and big-name directing.  It’s also a rather brilliant setup for a franchise reboot.

So, with a distinct “the more things change, the more things stay the same” vibe, the characters wind up where they’re “supposed” to be, but in different ways. We also see an early display of emotion from a young Spock when his world’s equivalent of Draco Malfoy insults his mother, his father’s marriage to her, and identifies her occupation as the world’s oldest profession. (Let the record show that I believe this would test even the coldest of children.) Less childish was Spock’s acceptance to Vulcan’s science academy being accompanied by a compliment at Spock having exceeded expectations despite his disadvantage.

Spock inquires as politely as he can, “What disadvantage?” The reply is, “Your mother.” Not, “Your half-human heritage that gives you a lesser propensity to control your emotions like a real Vulcan,” but rather, “your mother.” Spock consequently declined the “honor” and chose to study elsewhere. Never have I heard, “Live long and prosper,” spoken with such dripping sarcasm. I found this not only refreshing, but quite funny.

Kirk’s supposed failings foreshadow his successes: hacking an “unwinnable” simulation designed to instill a fear of death and failure and to ensure that candidates for command perform coolly under fire in spite of that fear, therefore refusing to acknowledge either fear or failure; obtaining aid from future Enterprise Chief Medical Officer, Leonard McCoy, a fellow Academy student, to get on the Enterprise in spite of his disciplinary hearing not being over and therefore being officially grounded; and coveting the captain’s chair to the point that nothing else is acceptable to him.

In true heroic fashion, Kirk is aided by a slowly growing ensemble of supporting characters, never relinquishes his human failings (indeed, getting the young Spock to acknowledge and accept Spock’s own half-human, half-Vulcan failings, thus “defeating himself” in preparation for defeating his enemy), and is the beneficiary of some unlikely yet not wholly unbelievable assistance, increasing the sense that this is a man with a destiny that shall not be denied.

Thus, we have a franchise rebooted by a new creation myth, complete with a science fiction-approved parallel universe triggered by time travel, complete with an Old Spock to give Leonard Nimoy something to do while he’s still around, giving New Spock and New Star Trek a tangible link to the past, as well as helping both the audience and the characters avoid some logical pitfalls in favor of allowing the tale to continue.  Thus, New Spock is quietly, without openly admitting it, trusting his gut even before the credits roll. Now that’s progress.

Star Trek was like one of those ancient monuments raised by pharaohs marking the southern edge of their realm, declaring that (and I paraphrase), “Whoever defends this border and expands upon it is an heir to my throne; whoever does not, I don’t know you.” By creating heroic origin myths, the men and women behind this movie paid homage to what had come before them while providing a retelling of the original tale.

Now, they are ready to expand upon the legend itself.

Final Fantasy XIII: The 15-Gigabyte Heist

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(This is the text for the first episode of a new podcast I have begun called Gamer Zen.)

Hello, welcome to Gamer Zen, a new podcast about all things gaming. I’m Jeremiah Bourque, your host for this session. Without further ado, let’s begin.

Reports analyzing the Japanese Blu-Ray release of Final Fantasy XIII suggest that the 360 version of FF13 will “lose” going on 15 gigabytes of data.

My immediate question: how? What happened? Is the Hamburglar running off with the data?

Rather, it’s a simple question of technology. Now, I haven’t been a big fan of Kaz Hirai coming out every year and telling Sony’s investors that Blu-Ray has been a huge success in gaming. For movies? It’s killed HD-DVD successfully. For gaming? No. Blu-Ray hadn’t arrived yet at all.

When you look at data transfer, the 360 always had an advantage. When the 360 gained the ability to store games partially on the hard drive – IF THAT PARTICULAR CONSOLE HAD A HARD DRIVE, which we’ll come back to later – the net effect was to provide a significant load time reduction compared to the PS3, even when the PS3 was using games that required loading on to the hard drive. Developers didn’t even allow you to try some games without an installation.

Anyway, we come to Final Fantasy XIII.

The Xbox 360 version will be released on three DVD’s. These three DVD’s have an absolute storage capacity of 25 gigabytes, put together. The Blu -Ray release is 38 gigabytes, put together. That’s a problem.

Each disc will have to duplicate key game resources, just like multi-disc games usually have to. That’s another problem. And if FF13 DOESN’T, it’ll be just like Star Ocean 4 on 360, creating constant disc swapping that resulted in the game being one big ad for the PS3.

Only eight gigabytes are actual game data, with the rest of the space being devoted to drool-worthy CG movies. This is where the gimping will likely take place: lower sampling, less cool looking movies, with the gameplay being left largely intact. Largely, but not necessarily completely. We don’t know. But clearly, some compromises must be made.

I mean, seriously, Lost Odyssey, which I actually liked, had four DVD’s. Final Fantasy XIII will have only three? And people don’t expect there to be snips made here and there? Let’s be real about this.

Let’s also be clear about one more thing: with this kind of space situation, there’s absolutely no hope of having Japanese voices available on the 360 version for North America. The PS3’s Blu-Ray still has space to burn, and IGN gently made clear to Square’s people that yes, there is interest in such a thing! Not everyone’s like me, someone who decided to learn Japanese as an adult to be able to play games like this in raw, untranslated Japanese. Yes, yes, call me a weirdo, but I love the language and it goes beyond gaming. For everyone else, there’s subtitles and Japanese voices or just plain dubbing.

In this world, customers want choice.

The 360 had a good run. The price advantage of not forcing every unit to be pushed out with a hard drive, or with HD-DVD as part of the core hardware, gave it a competitive advantage against the PS3. Kaz Hirai’s propaganda to the contrary, even Metal Gear Solid 4 wasn’t really using the Blu-Ray for anything unique; four installs is a lot like four discs. Convenient, yes, but revolutionary? Not really.

I’ll put it this way. It’s taken until Final Fantasy XIII to make the Blu-Ray look like a visionary piece of technology, a vital and non- negotiable part of the package that will be heavily relied on in years to come as games are finally – FINALLY – large enough to properly exploit the additional space.

And finally, all the 360 gets are the scraps tossed to the family pets. Yes, maybe it was a coup to get FF13 on the Xbox 360, but don’t let anyone tell you that it’s the exact same game.

Largely? Yes. Completely? No dice. There will be compromises, because Microsoft picked its poison. MS made its bed and now has to lie in it.

I don’t envy Microsoft here. It made decisions that made it a lot of money, at least on the revenue side, while the PS3 struggled, waiting, waiting, and waiting again, for this generation’s Final Fantasy to come along to blow the competition away. Some thought that the 360 getting FF13 would totally negate the PS3’s hopes of an advantage.

Maybe not as much as some hoped.

Sometimes a decision can help you for a few years, a few good years, and still kill you in the long term.

Seriously, the lack of a hard-drive with every 360 may have made it some bucks, but it’s creating a lot of grief for the developers. Xbox Live Arcade? Needs hard drives unless you want to use those third-party solutions Microsoft frowns upon. How much does a good Microsoft-approved hard drive cost? Well, I have a kidney I’m not using right now…

This is lost business that Microsoft is not in a position to recoup. For all its near-term success, all of that early momentum seems to have ground with a halt. Now we have the 360 set to get Final Fantasy XIII – The Nerfed Edition. Regardless of how well they pick how to make their edits, the PR alone will be brutal.

It may take a while, but those chickens really do come home to roost.

Angels

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There is a high resolution slide show version that can be found at the link below.

“Angels”

This is a slide show set to “Waltz of the Flowers” from “The Nutcracker”; the .mp3 is included in the zip file at the link. It’s something I put together because I thought my stepmother would like it. Comments welcome.

Now, if you don’t have Microsoft PowerPoint, you can get Microsoft’s Official PowerPoint Viewer for free.

As the readme file says, the music will only play automatically if both the slide show and the .mp3 are extracted to the same computer – that’s why I’m including both. (I’d say, the same directory, but it seems to make less difference than I thought.)

I cropped and altered the images in compliance with the license so no copyright issues – I did my homework on that; always a good idea.

eBooks: Is Blio The Next Big Thing?

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This could be the next Big Thing in ebooks, and I couldn’t be more excited. Words like “no setup cost” excite me. I want to publish books in a variety of areas.

  • Education: Japanese language learning
  • Education: English language learning
  • Sun Tzu: My own expanded version based on my online course on all thirteen chapters

Things like that. And maybe smaller niche stuff that expands on the power of the written word.

What do you think?

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