Saturday, March 23, 2013

Today I Broke the Four-Minute Mile

This morning I ran four miles, part of my training for a June half-marathon.  It was very cold and very windy, typical March weather for my town, which used to be in New England but apparently has been relocated this winter to 150 miles east-northeast of Juneau, Alaska.

Anyway,  I pushed the “start” button on my trusty Runkeeper app and discovered it could not find the GPS satellite.  This is not uncommon, especially this close to the Arctic Circle; my car GPS often shows me driving through my neighbor’s bedroom and across the pond near our house.  Usually if I wait a minute or two I’m ok and my app is happy.

For those of you who don’t use a running app, I can highly recommend Runkeeper.  It does a fantastic job keeping time and distance, except for the mean lady who keeps whispering in my ear telling me how slow I’m running.  

This morning, though, I fell in love with that lady.  Here’s why.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Big Data and School Closings

We are suffering yet another dump of snow in the Boston area this morning, just as we were beginning to see the first signs of lawn and patio.  Schools are cancelled up and down the eastern part of the state.  Last night, as I watched our youngest daughter work the Web, I was reminded again just how much things have changed in the last generation.

When I was in high school (always a bad way to begin a paragraph, I admit, but. . .) When I was in high school and a winter storm approached, the radio was our best and sometimes only source for no-school news.  We would stay glued to WBZ where an announcer started with the "As" and worked his way to the "Zs."  If we were listening for, say, Dighton-Rehoboth, and happened to tune in at "Eastham" or "Easton," we were done for 20 or 30 minutes until the list recycled.  Some schools might call in at 5 a.m., some at 5:30 a.m. and yours at 6 a.m., which meant real vigilance in being present for each recycle of the "D" schools.  TV would sometimes help but it seems like there was less local news competition and less chance of a local affiliate bumping a network show for "big storm" ratings.  Today, big storms are apparently the best advertising and ratings-boost a local station can have.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

White if By Land, Black if By Sea?

I pity all of those reporters at the Vatican, having to wait in the rain with nothing to report for interminable periods of time.  The newspeople connected to stations here in Boston have resorted to describing in magnificent detail the color of the smoke rising from the temporary chimney, the smoke designed to signal whether a new pope has been elected (white) or not (black). 
“Let me tell you what happened with Pope John Paul II,” one said this morning on the radio.  “Grey to dark to darker to slightly grey. 15 minutes!  It had us all fooled!”  (It reminds me of my last post about telecommuting at Yahoo!; even if the world is dull, we still demand that our news and our newsmakers be lively.)
In 2012's Weathermakers to the World, we describe another environmental phenomenon associated with the Sistine Chapel, one put in place almost exactly 20 years ago.  It was a good reminder for me as I researched the book that, while “air conditioning” is almost always discussed in terms of human comfort, the modern art of “conditioning air” plays a critical role in historic preservation.  In fact, if the technology had not been invented and perfected in the 20th century, it’s more likely than not that only cardinals would ever see the inside of the Sistine Chapel in the 21st century.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Just When Did Silicon Valley Go Hollywood?

Wow.  If Justin Bieber hadn't had a lousy 19th birthday in London, the only thing I would have read from my LinkedIn “Influencers” last week was about Marissa Mayer and Yahoo!.  You may have heard: she stopped all telecommuting at the company, at least for now.  Like Buddy Bolden, she called her children home.  He to dance.  She for a little tap-dancing, one might guess.

Innocently enough, I thought it was just a policy change at Yahoo!, probably temporary or to be redefined later.  I was not even sure why it made the news, much less buried me in articles.  These kinds of decisions happen everywhere, all the time.  But mercy, was I ever wrong.   It turned out not to be a policy change at all, but an event.  A Silicon Valley event. The blogosphere erupted.  My Influencers influenced mightily.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Stressed Much? You're in Good Company

If you're feeling stressed you're in good company--all the way back to the American Revolution.  My latest guest post for the Historical Society blog is here.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Purchasing Worker Loyalty: Mount Hope Finishing, North Dighton, MA

The Mount Hope Finishing Company and village
of North Dighton, Massachusetts, in 1924.  Some
believed it was just one big, integrated factory.  
This is a story about employee benefits, lots of benefits.  More benefits than Google’s free transportation and gourmet lunches, Evernote’s housecleaning services, or Genentech’s last-minute babysitters.  But it’s also a story about what an employer might expect in return for all those benefits.

It starts in the little Massachusetts village of North Dighton in 1901 when 26-year-old Joseph Knowles Milliken, “J.K.” to his associates, examined an old abandoned mill beside the flowing waters of the Three Mile River, 15 miles upstream from Mount Hope Bay.  The village surrounding the mill seemed as sad and dilapidated as the rundown facility itself.  Seizing opportunity, however, J.K. established within six short months a cloth finishing mill to support the booming textile trade in nearby Fall River, New Bedford and Rhode Island.  Mount Hope Finishing was profitable from day one and its estimated initial need for 175 employees would eventually balloon to 1,400.

To remain successful, J.K. Milliken required copious and sure amounts of two essential raw materials, water and skilled labor.  At capacity, the mill required ten million gallons of clean water every day, and the young entrepreneur was successful in securing water rights for some 25 miles upstream.  It was in the securing of labor, however, that J.K. Milliken would leave his mark.

Extending along Summer Street, the Three Mile River flowing behind it, the Mount Hope
Finishing Company would become the largest cloth bleachery under one roof in America.