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I'm Glad I Don't Sell Cars

Wow, June's auto sales really sucked. GM was down 19%, Toyota was down 21% and Ford plummeted 28%. It can't get much worse. That's simply awful. Honda managed to eke out a 1% increase, which is just amazing considering how bad everyone else did. (Makes me glad I own two Hondas.)

These kinds of sales decreases are monstrous. With such huge supplier networks and thousands of employees, the ripples in the economy have to be felt at some point.



In today's SmartBrief, there is a link to a post on the NY Times Shifting Careers blog. Author Maggie Jackson writes about how distracted we have all become in the Information Age. Here are a couple interesting facts:

Interruptions and the requisite recovery time now consume 28 percent of a worker’s day, the business research firm Basex estimates. The risks are clear.

Employees who are routinely interrupted and lack time to focus are more apt to feel frustrated, pressured and stressed, according to separate studies by [Gloria] Mark and the Families and Work Institute, a nonprofit group.

There are no big surprises here, but the quantification of these phenomena are still remarkable. I am not so sure about the attempt to draw an analogy with the "planet focus" terminology, but there are some good observations and suggestions here.

My greatest career battle is an ever-diminishing sense of accomplishment. Even the most mundane tasks like managing my to-do list (now at 128 items) or listening to voice mail (43 last time I checked) have become huge challenges. I now receive 200+ emails per day, not including spam. Overload is real; it's not a pop culture complaint.

I suspect that the root cause of much of this pain is the distraction syndrome that Ms. Jackson talks about. It's amazing how productive I can be when I can focus. Staying focused has gone from a good work habit to a major league skill.


Social Networks' Sway May Be Underestimated

The same guys that brought us last year's study indicating that obesity is "contagious" are back with new research showing that smokers often quit in groups. The details are summarized in a Washington Post article today.

Taken together, these studies and others are fueling a growing recognition that many behaviors are swayed by social networks in ways that have not been fully understood. And it may be possible, the researchers say, to harness the power of these networks for many purposes, such as encouraging safe sex, getting more people to exercise or even fighting crime. 

I think many missionaries would find this research to be confirmation of what they've known for years -- that people often make major decisions together in groups. The specifics vary from culture to culture, but this is just more evidence to suggest that we are wired to interact socially with each other. Making major decisions, even tough ones, based on social influence, doesn't seem that surprising.

This also leads us to think about the potential influence of online social networks. My guess is that additional research will find that the online connections are just an additional method of communication and that real personal connections must have an offline component.


Jeff's New Office

What do you do with extra, outdated POP materials? Well, in this case, you build Jeff a new office. Architect and contractor Joe finished the project in a single evening.


Doug on CNBC Today

Doug was on CNBC this morning. It was a good interview.

Betting on Japan
Betting on Japan


Jeff Bezos Interview with Charlie Rose

This morning I decided to catch up on how things are going with the Kindle. I'm still fascinated by the way that is positioning it on their site given the short supply, but I do think the product is pretty cool.

On the Kindle "learn more" page, Amazon has an episode of the Charlie Rose Show where Charlie interviewed founder Jeff Bezos. The first half of the interview is all about the Kindle, and it's pretty informative. It's a lot of PR, but Jeff does a great job explaining the product and why they created it. Charlie is enamored by it, and he obviously knows Jeff pretty well personally.

The second half of the interview is about the Internet, Amazon's business and is the usual Charlie Rose fare. It's very good. Jeff reiterates a lot of his business philosophy, and it is right on target in my opinion. At about the 35:06 point, while discussing the Internet's impact on business and society, Jeff makes the following statement:

In the old days, businesses might have relied on customers being unknowledgeable for part of their profit stream. Maybe they charged a price that was a little higher than their competitors and they knew that. But they also knew it was difficult for their customers to do price checks. Guess what? That isn't going to work anymore! 

So the balance of power shifts from companies and toward consumers because of this perfect information flow that you have on the Internet. It's great for society. In fact, in my view... It's even great for companies that recognize it and embrace it.

This is absolutely true. Jeff goes on to talk about the fact that, historically, companies have spent twice as much time and energy distributing and marketing their products as they do developing them. Now, the key to success is reversing that equation -- spending more time and energy on getting the product right. The distribution and marketing investment is eased because the Internet allows immediate and free communication about products.

If you build a great product or service, people will talk about it. But it starts with having something that's worth talking about.


Florida Buzzard

We spent today at Keewadin Island, a preserve area near Marco Island. I was so nervous about having my equipment near saltwater that I barely shot a thing. Didn't catch any fish either, but that's typical for me.

Once we got back home, though, there were a bunch of vultures chowing down on a dead fish on the shore of the lagoon in the back yard.



Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary

Dad and I spent some time today at the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary in Naples. It's an Audubon facility, and I am told that it's one of the best places in the country to photograph birds. We went down there on a whim last year, and it was amazing. The drought was forcing all of the birds (and many gators) into a few small areas of water. The number of birds concentrated into these pools was just incredible.

The drought is worse this spring, so last year's wet areas have dried up considerably. Today we managed to spot a few birds and a couple gators. Fortunately, I have better photo equipment this year, so I was prepared. I think this is my best shot of the day.


Not bad for a midday shot of a white bird, but clouds would have made the lighting much less harsh. (It's a Great Egret if you're wondering.) I really need to start shooting RAW. It would be much easier to pull the details out of the brightly-lit plumage. Someday, I'll break through to the next level and learn this stuff. I just wish I had the time.

We also met Darrell Moll, a pro photographer from Ohio while we were there. Darrell is from Norwalk and this was his first visit to Corkscrew.


Bob, uh I Mean Doug, on CNBC this Morning

My brother, Doug, made one of his periodic appearances on CNBC this morning. Unfortunately, the program's host was pretty distracted by the Bear Stearns news. He was so distracted, in fact, that he referred to Doug as Bob when he asked Doug a question. Doug held up well under the gun, but I felt pretty bad for the other guest, especially when he was beaten to a pulp for recommending Ford as one of his top stock picks. The guy had no comeback and the whole segment ended abruptly so they could air the President Bush making a "Remain calm. All is well" statement.


I Never Meant this to be a Daddy Blog, but...

As if this day hadn't already crashed and burned, it is now BBR (burned beyond recognition)!

J-dog wasn't feeling well when we got home from the airport this afternoon. After a nap he started complaining of a sore throat, so Lisa took him to the doctor. Turns out he has strep throat. Poor kid. To cap things off, Jack gagged when the nurse took the throat culture and filled the sink with a partially-digested McDonald's lunch.

Lisa and the nurse knew it wasn't norovirus or food poisoning when Jack proceeded to analyze the contents of his vomitous, deciding that the hamburgers had digested but the fries had not. He then proclaimed that he was starving.