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Happy Birthday to the Smithsonian

Today is the 162nd birthday of the Smithsonian Institute.  On August 10, 1846, President James Polk signed an Act passed by Congress establishing the Smithsonian as a trust, to be administered by a Board of Trustees and a Secretary of the Institution.  The impetus for this Act was a bequest by a British scientist, James Smithson, who left his estate to his nephew, unless his nephew died without heirs in which case the estate went to the United States of America to “found at Washington, an establishment for the increase and diffusion of knowledge among men.”  Smithson’s nephew died in 1835, the money was delivered to the U.S.

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The Olympics Begin

Every four years, we experience the summer Olympics.  They formally open today in Beijing, although women’s soccer has already kicked off.  The Olympics are a major media event, one that NBC paid $1 billion for the rights to televise. While the athletes are there to perform at their best and many great athletes will be participating, the side shows are almost as interesting.

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Happy Birthday to the U.S. Coast Guard

On August 4, 1790, Congress authorized the construction of ten vessels to “enforce tariff and trade laws and to prevent smuggling.”  Organized as the Revenue Cutter Service, the Coast Guard is the oldest continuous seagoing service in the United States.  In 1915, the Revenue Cutter Service was merged with the U.S. Life-Saving Service to become the modern Coast Guard. 

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In Memoriam – Randy Pausch

Randy Pausch, Computer Science Professor at Carnegie Mellon and author of The Last Lecture, died of complications from pancreatic cancer at the age of 47.  I didn’t know Randy, but like many, I was inspired by his story.  If you would like to listen to his last lecture, it’s available on YouTube.  If you want to read his book, it’s available at Amazon.com or other bookstores. 

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Globalization and the Importance of Understanding Cultures

America has been accused by many of being insensitive to the importance of cultures.  Eugene Burdick and William Lederer’s1958 book The Ugly American argued that America was losing the struggle against Communism in Southeast Asia in large part due to its inability and /or unwillingness to understand the local cultures there.  There clearly was a disconnect between Burdick’s and Lederer’s thesis at the time and U.S.

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Fourth of July

If you were born in the U.S.A. (apologies to Bruce Springsteen), you have memories of July 4th.  My favorite memories are mainly from my youth when we would celebrate the nation’s birthday and my grandfather’s birthday (July 4, 1888) with our family reunion.  Aunts, uncles, cousins; it was a well-attended event and we would have a softball game or two if the weather cooperated. 

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The Big Switch

Nicholas Carr is known to many for his book,
Does IT Matter His new book, The Big Switch, is just as provocative and one that I recommend for stimulating your thinking about many of our businesses today.  Carr provides the reader with a background on the electric industry and its evolution from private company and municipality driven systems to standardized and large public utilities empowering the widespread usage of electrical appliances. 

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Economics, Ireland and Similarities to the U.S.

Lahinch Golf Course – County Clare, Ireland

Some friends and I recently traveled to Ireland for a week of golf. While the golf courses haven’t changed much in the four years since my previous trip, the economy has. In 2004, Ireland was in the middle of a building boom, fueled by their position in the European Union as a lower wage country.

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Memorial Day

Monday, May 26, is Memorial Day. The holiday originates with a day of recognition to honor the dead from the Civil War (or War Between the States) and was first observed on May 30, 1868 when flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery. By 1890, all northern states observed the holiday with the Southern states refusing to observe the holiday until after World War I when it was changed to honor the dead from all wars.

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