Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Children of the Palms...

Dena usually is the one who writes about the antics of our offspring. However, this weekend Dena was ill and I took Owen and Kasey to church alone...

Now if you are a frequent reader of Dena's blog you know that we have been working with Owen on what is and is not acceptable behavior during children's time.

This past weekend was Palm Sunday. In our church, on Palm Sunday all the children gather in the narthex of the church each holding a palm frond and then at the begining of the service process into the sanctuary.

We missed the procession - we arrived to church at 10:04 - I have a rough time getting the kids anywhere on time. We did get our palm fronds though and went to sit down in front with the rest of the kids. Owen had this look like, "seriously, I get to hold a tree in church? Cool!" It took him exactly 37 seconds before he realized he could go sit in pew infront of us and use the frond to tickle his friend Patrick.

Kasey was more calm because she was actually not sure what this frond thing was anyway. Praise the Lord it was soon children's time. As we are sitting there I'm desparately trying to keep Owen focused on Reverend Terry and the story of Jesus riding the donkey into Jerusalem. Kasey is sitting on my lap and I'm really not paying attention to her.

Owen on the other hand has my full attention. He begins to systematically peel palm leaves from the frond and cry "uh oh, this palm is broken!"

I finally get Owen calm and I look down and Kasey is really enjoying the palm frond. So much though that she's eaten about an inch off the stem.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

These are the guys I'll really miss...

It's sad to leave. This made my day.

From: Park, Ken
Sent: Monday, March 10, 2008 4:29 PM
To: Babb, Brian

Hi Brian
I just heard that you’re leaving Honeywell soon.
I want to say good luck at your new place and I know you’re going to doing well.
Also, say Hi to Russell for me.

And I would like to say thank you again for rehired me on Jul-2004.
This is something that I will not forget for a long time.
I’m enjoying work for Turbos for Mark and there is lots of opportunity to grow up for me.

Please take care and god bless you


Monday, March 10, 2008

Fashion Faux Pax #458,674

We went to a hob-knob reception for the MBA.PM class of 2008 at this place on last Saturday night. Its the Dean's Residence for the Marshall School of Business and it is absolutely gorgeous! The main house has to be 6500 sq-ft and there are natural pools/spas, a outbuilding for entertaining, three car garage and a spectacular view of the San Gabriel valley.

Anyway - Dena and I went and drank wine and chatted with fellow students and their SOs. I'm in class right now siting next to some of the people we saw there... and then it occurs to me...

I'm wearing the same exact clothes (minus the boxer shorts) as I did on Saturday night.

Oh yeah - and I wore this to church on Sunday too... I think I need to re-read that entry on being white trash...

The Ambassador of Kiva

Those of you who have been reading this blog for a while may have noticed the ad in the lower right for kiva.org.

Since beginning my MBA the sheer numbers regarding global poverty and economic growth have disturbed me. Approximately 4 billion people live in poverty and are not part of the formal economy. These people live on less than $2 a day. In B-school these people are referred to as being at the "bottom of the pyramid". There has been a tremendous push lately by global multi-nationals to try to turn these people into consumers. The talk in the board rooms of J&J or P&G goes something like "imagine if all those people were buying our products!"

My fascination with the bottom of the pyramid is more drawn toward the reasons those people are there in the first place and what simple things can I do to help them out. I've read "FastCompany" articles about a couple of guys that designed and built a foot operated water pump that cost about $70.00 to manufacture. Farmers in Africa can use this pump to help irrigate their crops and grow more food. The additional food allows them to sell some of it for a profit. The additional profits help them buy more pumps, seed, fertilizer etc. and grow more food...

So i sit here occasionally and say, "I'm an engineer. I'm a smart guy. How am I using my talents to make the world a better place?" I also know that the best way to solve a social issue is to build a business case around it. The free market is far more efficient than any government at moving capital and investing in peoples future.

For now I cannot really draw a direct line between my work and improving the planet. I can rationalize one but eventually I want to be able to draw a direct line. So for now I lend through Kiva.

Kiva is a non-profit organization that allows people to lend to microfinance institutions around the globe so they can fund loans to local entrepreneurs. The entrepreneurs pay the loans back in 6 to 18 months with interest (retained by the microfinance partner) and then I can re-lend the same funds to someone else. Kiva provides a vehicle for me to invest in the development of people worlds away $25 at a time. Check it out.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Cuba (and I don't mean the actor)

This time last year I was headed to Mexico City and Havana on a trip for business school. Looking back I realize that I had no inkling what I was in store for. However there was no way I could have had any idea what I would find.

Mexico City is like a black and white photo with stark contrast. Picture a sun bleached, bark bare tree against a outcropping of dark basaltic rocks. The white of the wood is the have-a-lots and the basaltic rock are the impoverished. There is a level of opulence in Mexico city that is difficult to find in Beverly Hills. Then, outside the formal city, there are the countless people living literally on the fringes of society 3/4 of the way up the volcanic hillsides. Streets so steep no car could climb them; but that's ok, no one there owns a car or has running water.

Cuba is a canvas painted flat black. No one has anything. I've never felt as privileged as when I visited Cuba. Cubans are a very warm and friendly people by day. At night, the underbelly of Havana show itself.
Most Cubans make enough money in their government assigned jobs to make it through 3 weeks of every month. The last month is up to you. You either get inventive or go hungry. Needless to say, everyone in Cuba is hustling something, be it cigars out the back of one of the factories or themselves.

My time in Cuba has forever changed my perspectives on governments, human beings, trade and opportunity. I think about this trip often. I remember standing in one of the Spanish fortifications, listening to a little boy or 5 or 6 calling out to a container ship as it left the harbor. "un BAR-co! un BAR-co! un BAR-co!" he cried joyfully - the Spanish word for ship..

His father stood a few feet a way. His face stoic and his eyes glaring at the ship. He looked at the 1/2 empty ship as it steamed out of Havana harbor and I knew he was wondering, "will my boy ever make it off this forgotten island? Or is he doomed to waste the best years of his life imprisoned by the ideology of a failed experiment?"

Cuba could only exist on an island. Fidel and his comrades could only impose control on an island. There is no Cuban commercial fishing fleet. Put a Cuban on a boat and they won't come back. The island is rotting. Who knows how many of the beautiful buildings will need to be demolished because their structures are unsafe from neglect? I can only hope that the transition there moves faster and that our governments can come to an agreement to open trade again. Time is running out for the beauty that was Old Havana. Someday I hope to go back. I just hope it will still be there.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Hold yer Liquor!

So my co-worker - employee actually - and I traveled to Albuquerque... after our business was concluded we went in search of a bar/pub/anything to get a drink.

We end up in a pub called Maloney's with the other 22 people from the state of New Mexico who had the same idea. It was decent. They had Guinness on tap so I was happy.

Andrea asks for me to order her a drink. "Something fruity." I'm not big on fruity drinks - I'm not really good at ordering mixed drinks period: margarita, kamikaze, vodka cranberry. That's my box. I'm more of a straight tequila, scotch or beer/wine guy.

So I order Andrea a vodka cranberry.

6 minutes later she orders a second one.

12 Minutes after that she orders a third.

She's 26, 5-nothing, 100-nothing. See where this is going?

So I finally finish my Guinness and Andrea has made "too good" friends with 3 of the local auto mechanics and decides we have to leave... ok whatever, it took us forever to find this bar. So we go across the street to a bar called The Library... now this is where I could do some real studying.

Andrea orders a water - me, Patron silver, in a tumbler, with a twist of lime. Andrea is feeling fine. She has another water then disappears into the bathroom for 10 minutes.

She reappears and immediately asks for another water. I'm still sipping my tequila. Blah Blah chit chat with the locals - "where you from?" "Why you in Albuquerque?" - I must really fit in around here. I notice Andrea is gone...

I order a Margarita, rocks and salt. Strange looks from the locals persist.

Andrea reappears a bit wobbly... "wooow - I shooouldn't have had those shreeee drinks so quick-ly"

"Gee, ya think? Have some more water."

As we're talking she's getting a glassy look in her eye and interrupts me to say "excuse me" with her finger raised... off to the loo again...

15 minutes later she reappears with a bouncer on her arm, he collects her jacket and starts to walk her out the door...

"Close my tab, please..."

My dumb ass employee was just kicked out of a bar for drinking too much. The night was magic!

I must've made a wrong turn in Albuquerque

I just flew in from Albuquerque and boy are my arms tired...

Wow that town is depressing. When I first started at Lockheed Martin after college I was working on a project with Sandia National Labs in Albuquerque - I made a few trips out there over a year or so. There was nothing to do. The place made Worcester on a Wednesday night look like Bourbon Street...

I (we actually - I went with a co-worker whom will be the brunt of much laughter in a subsequent post) went out there on Tuesday to visit a supplier... it was absolutely the same.

Deader than Deadwood.

Granted it was a Tuesday night but when my co-worker asked for a recommendation on where to go our hosts named off "The Blahblah was great but it closed", "oh, and the whateveritwascalled was killer - but it burned down..." "The pit was cool but it got hit by a meteorite..."

So once again, the forces of the universe conspired to prevent me from having a good time.