Jon Stewart and the Food Babe, or: toxins in your tea


At heart, I am a scientist. This blog makes me proud. Using the known universe to learn about the rest of the known universe. A plodding methodical set of steps in the best direction possible until more information provides a better direction.

Originally posted on Puff the Mutant Dragon:

Let me start by saying I truly love the Daily Show. Jon Stewart cracks me up, and together with MSN (my homepage) and Facebook, he’s one of my three main sources of political news. His focus, of course, is politics not science, and that’s why although his satire is reliably hilarious, when it comes to scientific & public health controversies he tends to shoot a little wide of the mark.

Take, for example, the chemical azodicarbonamide. Recently Stewart decried its presence in Subway sandwich bread because it’s also found in yoga mats, which to him proved it was dangerous — no more needed to be said. But wait a minute. Gypsum is both a food additive and an industrial chemical used to make drywall; does Stewart think it should be banned too? While we’re at it why not ban salt? they use that to make chlorine gas through electrolysis…

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The execution challenge – are you a leader or a 3 year old ?


Vijay, Great blog. Few key thoughts. Some leaders got to their position based on single really good decision or achievement (sold big deal X) and now have no idea how to repeat. The largest group of leaders, have achieved their level by working under a single business / technology condition (, global SAP in major corporations, portals, etc.). I find this may be 60 – 75% of managers and execs. These leaders are not weighing all the facts. Instead they are pursuing it through a VERY narrow lens, get frustrated when they can’t fit their expectations to reality, and rather than adjust and lead, they lash out as 3 year olds. If you read Nate Silver. He talks about different information styles – Hedgehogs and Foxes. Most leaders, unfortunately, are hedgehogs. They go big and fail. They hang on any news they are right. Foxes instead fight like heck for an idea, but when presented with new, good information adjust. We tend to idolize the hedgehogs and call foxes “flip floppers”, but you really do want to work for leader who is a fox or lucky hedgehog who happens to be in the perfect time slot.

Originally posted on Vijay's thoughts on all things big and small:

Everyone likes their leaders to take fast decisions and then stick by the decision in the face of diversity . They like leaders to be proactive and everyone else to be reactionary. Guess what – that is also how three year olds generally work ! But you don’t want your leaders to behave like a three year old , do you ?

Sadly, this is rather common and many of us would have had a boss who acted this way . I certainly had – more than once !

There are a few things that can (and should ) differentiate a leader from a three year old .

1. Ability to change course when needed

Despite best of intentions, some times we have to take decisions that are awful . But unlike a three year old who would just throw a tantrum when challenged – a leader should listen patiently…

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So Long SAP ….thanks for everything


It is a great loss to SAP and the SAP-world. I wish the best of luck in the new venture.

Originally posted on Vijay's thoughts on all things big and small:

Yesterday evening, I sent my resignation to my manager at SAP. I will be at SAP for a few more weeks to wrap things up.

It was quite an experience working at SAP – doing a little bit of a lot of things . What I am going to miss the most is the set of amazing colleagues I had here . These are the people who keep SAP software timeless ! Knowing them and connecting them to each other was quite rewarding .

I have worked in SAP technologies for almost all my career – across development, consulting , sales, architecture and so on . In fact a good portion of my time yesterday at work was spent on debugging a FICO application in ABAP on Hana :) . I must say it was quite entertaining to watch the curiosity of many younger colleagues as I was working on…

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Please STOP using meaningless terms for cloud like Private, Public, and Hybrid

There are 2 dimensions that have meaning when discussing cloud solutions and the terms public, private, and hybrid contains too many overlaps and ambiguity.  Is a cloud private if it is hosted?  Is a cloud public because I access it over the internet and does that mean my corporate data center accessed via VPN is public?  Worse, the term Hybrid Cloud gets bounced around so many different ways that is no longer relevant at all.   I could have SAP ERP and SuccessFactors  or SAP ERP production in a corporate data center and the non-production SAP ERP systems on a IaaS cloud provider such as IBM’s SmartCloud IaaS  or it could mean I do some ERP functions on SAP ERP on premise and some using SAP Business-by-Design (BbyD) or on NetSuite ERP.   In the end, it only means  is I’m using more than one type of solution.

There are meaningful dimensions to describing cloud solutions.  The two (2) dimensions that matter are: 1) location, and 2) separation.

First is location.  Where is the solution residing?  Is it on my premise, site or facility that I own or at least consider part of my corporate network of locations.  Alternatively, is it away from the bulk of my IT assets such  that I need a WAN to access it.  For clients with highly distributed data centers this becomes a moot point since everything connects over the WAN; however, most clients have consolidated their corporate application and data centers into just a few locations.  IBM runs its corporate business in just a few data centers with SAP in just 2 of them globally.

Second is separation.  What separates the resources.  Are the solution resources separated by physical boundaries such as server, application, or database or is the solution separated by layers of software?

The trend is clearly towards SaaS where location is off premise and all the infrastructure and application components of the solution are software separated.  In a SaaS solution, it is clear you are using the SaaS providers data center of choice and not your own.  You also are accepting that the secured division of servers, network, and storage.  Even more importantly, you are accepting that your data in flight (within the application) and at rest is kept secured and separated from others including your competitor.  I have seen numerous cases where direct competitors use the same SaaS solution.  In fact, most SaaS providers count on competitors using their application to scale since you can’t build a SaaS business on single client.  Clearly, we do believe in software separation has come of age.

Software divided applications and infrastructure is becoming a the rule.  If you want to take the software divided and secured environment on premise, IBM calls it Software Defined Environment (SDE) ().  Another major player, VMware, calls it Software Defined Data Center (SDDC).  Regardless, each is an attempt to virtualize the infrastructure for more effective use of all assets.  This is good for both cost savings and for agility.  Deploying virtual infrastructure is far faster than physical.  Often clients think the value of the business case is in the cost savings, but ultimately it is found in the agility that translate into real application and business value.

So, next time someone comes to you with a hosted semi-private cloud infrastructure offering with hybrid capabilities, just ask them 2 questions.  Where is the solution residing?  What is separating the infrastructure and applications?  Concise answers will reveal a lot about the solution and you’ll have more time to do something beautiful like grow your hybrid tea roses and find PEACE.

Imagination: The missing 4th dimension of leadership

I’ve noted that there are 4 critical dimensions of leaders: 1) knowledge, 2) communication, 3) execution, and 4) imagination.  While a great deal of emphasis is placed on the first 3, I don’t see enough on imagination.  Imagination is what happens in the space between activities of fact based thought, communicating, and executing plans.  Imagination is our minds running non-linear paths making inconceivable connections conceivable.

Knowledge is fundamental.  It is not just book smarts and subject smarts, but the ability to understand people and organizations.  No business, not even the most technical, is void of people.  Understanding what makes them tick is critical. Certainly you need to know your subject.  There is nothing worse than having a CEO stand up and talk about some new technology and know he doesn’t have clue what he’s talking about.  This is TV anchorman syndrome – Ron Burgundy – “Stay classy” – meaningless drivel.

Communication is critical.  A leader has to be able to convince others in small, medium, and large groups, the population at large that their direction is correct, and even (gulp!) Wall Street.  Today with so many forms of communication and so much of instant, it is a difficult to space to be consistent in your delivery and not get caught off-camera with some inappropriate remark.  How many politicians have been zapped by off-camera, but not off cell phone camera, recording, etc.  Communications becomes a 24 x 7 job.  It is no wonder it often forces leaders to use easily recalled and repeatable sound bites and never stray from the message.  The consequences of “being real” can be grave.

Execution is often considered the most important dimension.  If you can only think and talk about an idea, but can’t make it happen; can’t change the world; can’t line up the troops and take the hill; you will never be a leader.  Unfortunately, I think we often over emphasis execution, especially short term execution, to point the other dimensions falter and more importantly overall effectiveness of the organization fails over time.  It is trying to run a marathon as series of sprints.  In the end, even an average marathon runner will beat a world class sprinter.

Imagination often gets obscured by Execution.  Execution is the rigorous, efficient use  of time.  If we allow our obsession with execution to overwhelm our imagination, how will we have time for the inefficient use of time spent imagining things being different?  Even Edison, who believed in hard work and disciplined execution boarding on fanaticism allowed for imagination.

Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration. -Thomas A. Edison

I’m not asking for nation of lost day dreamers, but I’m asking our leaders to believe in those flights of fancy into the fantastic and turn them into reality.  In 2013, the coolest car I saw was a Tesla.  The largest recent impact to the modern  world is the Smartphone, basically born in 2007 with the iPhone.   These are two examples where Imagination followed by brilliant knowledge, execution, and communication has changed our world; however, it all started with imagination.

As we end 2013, what can you imagine different, better, or into existence in 2014?

Big, Wonderful Rocks in a Jar

Big, Wonderful Rocks in your Jar

While rocks in the road or in your head are bad; rocks in a jar are wonderful.  I love the story of the teacher who wants to teach priorities with rocks and a jar.  When I talk to teams, I often ask them what are the big rocks in the deal, solution, or problem.  A few usually will get a gleam in their eye and immediately respond.  A few others, look at me like I’m nuts.  I usually end up telling the story to the team with a small twist at the end.  I’ve even done it as a demo for teenagers and it goes over far better than a lecture.

The BIG Rocks and the Jar: A Lesson in Making Priorities

A high school science teacher wanted to demonstrate a concept to his students. He takes a large-mouth jar and places several large rocks in it. He then asks the class, “Is it full?

“Unanimously, the class reply, “Yes!“

The teacher then takes a bucket of gravel and pours it into the jar. The small rocks settle into the spaces between the big rocks.

He then asks the class, “Is it full?“

This time there are some students holding back, but most reply, “Yes!“

The teacher then produces a large can of sand and proceeds to pour it into the jar. The sand fills up the spaces between the gravel.

For the third time, the teacher asks, “Is it full?

“Now most of the students are wary of answering, but again, many reply, “Yes!“

Then the teacher brings out a pitcher of water and pours it into the jar. The water saturates the sand. At this point the teacher asks the class, “What is the point of this demonstration?“

One bright young student raises his hand and then responds, “No matter how full one’s schedule is in life, he can always squeeze in more things!“

“No,” replies the teacher, “The point is that unless you first place the big rocks into the jar, you are never going to get them in. The big rocks are the important things in your life …your family, your friends, your personal growth. If you fill your life with small things, as demonstrated by the gravel, the sand, and the water…you will never have the time for the important things.

So, what are the “Big Rocks” in your life? Spending time with your children, your parents or your spouse? Taking the seminar or class to get the information and perspective you need to succeed? Making the time to set goals, plan or evaluate your progress? When you are hassled because there is no time, remember the story about the Big Rocks and the Jar!

Author Unknown

I’m always surprised by how many people don’t do this in their lives or their projects.  The both seem to become crowded with trivia.  I recently read an SOW and after over 60 pages, I could not discern the solution we were selling, which is very bad.  I did know about that client’s industry’s problems, we had a lots of experts in that industry, and my company is really, really, really, really big.  Unfortunately, none of those things mattered to this client who was trying to find a firm to do a package selection.

Eventually, we did get it corrected.  The team was able to articulate to me and later on paper, what was the client’s problem, what our solution to their problem was, and why our solution was better. And we even won the deal and wrote a much shorter SOW.  That is why I say “big, wonderful rocks”.

The twist on this story works well especially with older kids.  At the end, after you’ve explained the meaning of the rocks, gravel, sand, and water, you pour a beer over the top explaining there is always time for a beer especially with friends.

I find the rock and jar story a great metaphor for life.  It misses one aspect that I’ll cover in my next blog.  The big rocks are never singular.  They are compositions of lots of smaller items.  Building your career or having a wonderful family is not a onetime only and done event.  How do you stay focused on the most important, but smaller items.  It is not easy, but there is another story that can help.  That is for the next entry.