Thursday, May 31, 2012

On consultants

From a piece written by Dr. Tom Sant. Presented without comment.

[I]t’s in the consultant’s self-interest to make the buying process as complex as possible and to minimize the meaningful differences among vendors. The consultants prefer to keep the vendors at arm’s length from the actual customer and to focus the customer’s attention mainly on the consultant’s ability to manipulate a huge amount of data. That’s why the RFPs they issue are so complex....

But what happens when a consultant is a recipient of an RFP? Geoffrey Day:

When seeking someone to solve a complex internal problem, attempts to standardize complicated, subjective qualities such as intuitiveness, decision-making prowess and other consultative intangibles, can cause project results to turn out less than adequate, even downright unacceptable. In fact, attempting to force narrow specifications on the process of finding or hiring a consultant can doom the chances of project success, souring such companies on consultants in general and further tightening their specifications for future projects.

That’s why in most cases the best response to the unsolicited RFP is to first scan it to see if you (the consultant) remotely qualify. Then (when you don’t) you should "respond" by tossing it away or sending it on to someone who does. In the event that you DO qualify, special steps can be taken to win the RFP, though these actions may well be outside the bounds of the conventional RFP process.

Again, presented without comment.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

(empo-utoobd) When social companies become anti-social - who you gonna call at Google?

I've brought this up before, but it's relevant to bring it up again. When Google "permanently disabled" my YouTube account a few years ago, not only was I not informed why this was done, but I was offered no way to contact any real live person by phone, email, or whatever to find out why my account was permanently disabled.

However, in a way I can't be disappointed. As I myself have noted, I am not a Google customer. Google's customers are the advertisers that pay them money to advertise on the service. I don't pay them a dime, so I mean nothing to them.

But what of Google's true, paying customers? Let's take a look at the story of Pat Irwin Design:

While, as "Warren De Zeez" stated, there are Google 'freeloaders' in the world, there are also a very large number of legitimate, paying CUSTOMERS of Google who from time to time, need support which goes beyond a message board of other users looking for answers to the same problem, or an email form which only leads to a pre-formatted response and a link to the same, fruitless message boards.

I am responsible for twenty(+) clients who pay a very large amount of money to Google for Ad Words campaigns, totaling well over 40,000 per month. I personally use Google Checkout to process 15k a month in transactions, with Google taking a 2.9% cut off the top. In either case, I have NEVER been able to reach anyone at Google to resolve either technical or billing problems. It is irresponsible for a company, such as Google, to NOT provide at least a minimum amount of telephone support for customers who are actually making financial transactions with them.

In addition to not providing telephone support, it appears they intentionally make receiving ANY kind of support a laborous, frustrating and time consuming process. Do I really have to fill out three different forms, read eight different FAQ's and scroll through six different message boards to find a departmental email? Only to receive a form letter stating, "We're sorry you're having a problem with...."

Bullocks to Google!

This story was posted as a comment to a Los Angeles Times article that described the inability of others to talk to a real live person at Google. David Lazarus' article spent some time on the story of Steve Gillette, who was getting repeated text messages from Google that appeared to be part of an identity theft scam. Lazarus wanted to talk to someone at Google, but couldn't. In the end, the journalist Lazarus ended up making contact with a real person at Google (Jeff Pulver used similar pull to get his YouTube account restored), and discovered that someone had keyed in Gillette's mobile phone number by mistake. So the fact that Gillette couldn't contact someone about this is a failure, right? Wrong:

Once it became clear to Google's computers that the texts and calls were going unanswered, the company stopped bugging Gillette. In this way, Freund observed, all's well that ends well.

"The situation was self-resolving," she said.

Unfortunately for Google, some of these situations are self-resolving in other ways. Commenter Tony Lush:

Google has lots of employees, but no people, so I advertise with their competitors.

Incidentally, I originally discovered this Los Angeles Times story courtesy of a Lauren Weinstein share. Now Weinstein, who notes that many complaints about Google are actually misunderstandings, also notes that many people have difficult getting any type of answer from Google.

In many cases users claimed they had attempted to obtain clarification of their concerns from Google directly without receiving substantive replies, and/or had attempted to obtain information from Google Help Forums -- but received no answers, inadequate answers, or conflicting answers from Forum participants. Usually no official responses were forthcoming, according to these submissions

The irony of all this? Google, and its competitors such as Facebook (and no, you can't call Facebook either), are often classified as "social media" companies.

Yeah, social. Like people talking to each other.

Just don't have any expectations of being able to talk to the service provider.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Are you dedicated to your principles? The story of Stanley Moore

One day on the radio, Colin Cowherd was discussing a rumor that the Yankees were for sale. Cowherd noted that in the end, everything has its price. Perhaps not everything, but it's surprising to realize what we will do for financial or other gain, no matter how "principled" we may believe that we are. It should be noted that I personally believe in the concept of original sin, but even if you don't, you'll probably admit that at least some people will sell themselves out. I don't know if this story is true, but it illustrates the point:

At a dinner party one night, a drunk Churchill asked an attractive woman whether she would sleep with him for a million pounds. “Maybe,” the woman said coyly. “Would you sleep with me for one pound?” Churchill then asked. “Of course not, what kind of woman do you think I am?” the woman responded indignantly. “Madam, we’ve already established what kind of woman you are,” said Churchill, “now we’re just negotiating the price.”

Which brings me to Stanley Moore.

As a Reed College student, I had certainly heard of former Professor Stanley Moore. To Reed's credit, it didn't hush up the story - in fact, I was a student at the college when it formally apologized to Moore.

Why did Reed College apologize? Because it fired Moore during the McCarthy era. While many good people did bad things during the McCarthy era, this is especially troubling for a place such as Reed College. In fact, Reed's firing of Stanley Moore can be compared to the Los Angeles Lakers losing in the second round of the NBA playoffs two years in a row - excusable for others, but inexcusable for the Lakers, or Reed.

Here is the story of Stanley Moore, courtesy the Oregon Historical Society:

[T]he House Un-Americans Activities Committee (HUAC)...sought to expose American communists throughout the 1950s, and in 1954 Moore was subpoenaed along with other suspected leftists. In a public hearing in Portland, Moore pled the Fifth Amendment when queried by the committee about his political beliefs. His testimony resulted in his suspension from the Reed faculty. Moore criticized McCarthyism in an open letter to the public by arguing that academic independence and tenure should protect his job: “It is an abuse of power for an employer to question an employee about his politics. It is a travesty of justice to do so in an atmosphere created by pressure from influential demagogues.” Thanks to the support of his colleagues and students, the principle of academic freedom endured “the most definitive test during the entire McCarthy era.”

In August 1954, the college trustees held a hearing to decide Moore's fate. Under pressure from the media and the generally conservative population of Portland to punish Moore, the trustees contended that his refusal to answer charges amounted to professional misconduct. Moore replied that academic freedom meant employment criteria based on professional ability, not personal political beliefs. Moore contended that his promotions and reputation as a scholar and teacher proved he was a competent professor.

As he expected, Moore won the argument but lost his job.

After a period of Churchill-like wilderness years, Moore eventually joined the faculty at the University of California, San Diego. The university web site records the coda to the story of Moore:

Moore waited 24 years to surprise both sides by telling the Oregonian in 1978 that he had been a member of the Communist party when he came to Reed but that he had left it before the HUAC hearings began. While still describing himself as a Marxist (albeit a "more critical one") he said he quit the party 18 months before the HUAC hearings because, "I couldn't stomach the American organization's kowtowing to Moscow on the so-called 'doctor's plot,' which had been announced in January 1953 and was declared a 'fabrication' shortly after Stalin's death just two months later."

Thus, had Moore been willing to accept the authority of his interrogators, he could have passed the trustees' political test. That is, he could have told them, truthfully, that he was not now a Communist. But as he stated at the time, he had decided not to do so in order to help Reed defend its historical attachment to academic freedom "against the fickle tides" of public opinion.

So if Stanley Moore had just done what Lucille Ball did, he might have gotten off the hook. But he didn't.

Would I be willing to do that? Or, since I'm not a Marxist, would I be willing to do what Daniel did in Daniel chapter 6?

Friday, May 25, 2012

Does Sirius XM suffer from a lack of differentiation?

Television was supposed to be the technology that would liberate us from the base, crass banality of radio. Within a decade, however, television was described as a "vast wasteland."

Cable television was supposed to be the technology that would liberate us from the base, crass banality of over-the-air television. However, cable telvision's major "innovations" were HBO (slogan: "We say @#$%& a lot") and Showtime (slogan: "We say @#$%& more than HBO").

Which brings us to satellite radio, originally dominated by two competing firms, which eventually consolidated into a single firm. And Rocco Pendola isn't impressed with the result:

Mel [Karmazin] runs Sirius XM like a cluster of New York radio stations. He made the move from broadcast radio to satellite and, for all intents and purposes, got right to programming Sirius XM’s channels like the standard Clear Channel or CBS offering.

Karmazin hired loads of old terrestrial radio guys (some incredibly talented ones, for the record) and instituted the types of policies (e.g., voicetracking) that contributed to the almost-complete demise of the AM dial and FM radio’s pending extinction. The things Mel does with Sirius XM are the exact same types of things that caused your disenchantment with traditional radio and triggered your hatred for Clear Channel. Very little distinction exists between satellite radio and your run-of-the-mill terrestrial radio outlet.

An eHow article notes two positives of the Sirius XM experience. First, the stations are available over a wide area, without interference - an important point if you regularly drive from Los Angeles to Phoenix, but not as important if your commute takes you from San Bernardino to Orange County.

The second point?

Sirius ... also lacks censorship, because its listeners are all voluntary subscribers.

See my comments on HBO vs. Showtime, above. Now this presumably resulted in a difference in Howard Stern's show, but I wouldn't know - I haven't heard Howard Stern in years.

Which indicates another difference. You know how the New York Times and many other services are located behind a paywall and are therefore uncool? Well, Sirius XM is behind a paywall also, which means that more people hear Ryan Seacrest or Rush Limbaugh every morning than hear Howard Stern.

Now this isn't necessarily a bad thing, provided that the paid service offers a good deal of variety that makes up for its cost. However, even if you don't believe Rocco Pendola's negative outlook, I can obtain a much greater variety of sounds from a free service such as or Pandora than I can from Sirius XM. Now perhaps the threat is overstated - this was supposed to kill Sirius XM back in 2009 - but the threat is still there.

Why? Because Sirius XM shares one feature with terrestrial radio that even Mel Karmazin's worst enemy can't overcome - the concept of pre-programmed channels. No interactivity - you get what you get, and there are only 130 slots available to get it.

Even iHeart Radio, Clear Channel's online initiative, doesn't have such limitations. Sure, iHeart Radio allows you to listen to pre-programmed radio stations, but it also allows you to customize stations to your liking. So far I've programmed a Brian Eno station and a Royksopp station. Sirius XM wouldn't let me do that. I'm not sure how Clear Channel makes money off of its custom radio stations, but if nothing else they provide Clear Channel with a wealth of intelligence about listening habits.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

(empo-plaaybizz) When you cannot play the game

Taking the lead from others, I've spent some time on this blog discussing how gaming mechanics can contribute to business. When a business introduces game mechanics, this gives certain people an incentive to buy additional products and services from the business. And I'm not just talking about Zynga; there are a number of companies that offer badges or points or things that you can earn by buying stuff or doing stuff that benefits the business in question.

But what when the game is broken, and the incentive is lost?

I'm not going to name the company, but its name rhymes with "bartrucks." This company offers a rewards program in which you can earn benefits as your purchases from the company are tracked. The company also offers smartphone apps which facilitate purchases - if you register a gift card with the company, you can use the app to use your smartphone to make purchases which are subtracted from the gift card.

For the last few months, I've been using the "bartrucks" gift card to track my purchases, and when I recently acquired a smartphone again, I began using the "bartrucks" Android app to make my purchases. To do this, I start the app, see how much credit I have on my gift card, and then press a button that reveals a barcode that the "bartrucks" employee scans to complete my purchase. I can then go to another tab on the app and see how I'm doing on earning my rewards.


About a week or two ago, I went to look at my rewards, and I got a message saying that reward information was unavailable and to try again later. I tried a little while later, and still couldn't get my reward information. A day or two later rewards data was available again, but it really put a damper on the game when you didn't know your score.

But a few days ago it turned more serious. As I mentioned, the app allows you to see your gift card balance and make a purchase; after the purchase is made, your gift card balance is immediately updated.


Over the weekend my wife and I walked into our local "bartrucks," each armed with our smartphones. (We are a smart family.) In turn, each of us walked up to the person behind the counter - I won't reveal what they're called, but it rhymes with "turista" (whoops, forget that) - and made our purchases.

After I made my purchase, I noticed that my displayed gift card balance wasn't updated. The same thing happened to my wife, so we both checked with the "turista" who confirmed that our purchases went through.

But I didn't know how much value I really had on my card.

At the same time, there was an outage on the rewards side of the app - another of those "reward information is unavailable" messages.

So now I don't know how I'm doing on my reward level, and I don't know how much money I have to make purchases. And because the amount of my purchase was almost as much as my gift card balance itself, I didn't know whether I even had enough money to buy one of the tiny products that "bartrucks" sells, much less one of their larger products.

So what happens when you don't know your score, and you don't know how much time is left on the clock?

You take a time-out. Don't play. Don't buy anything.

Thankfully, that outage cleared up a few days later.

But the game is certainly less fun when you can't play.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Expectations for the public Facebook

Perhaps you've seen the joke that states that Facebook has gone public because even THEY couldn't understand the privacy settings.

Well, that's not the exact reason, but as of now Facebook is a publicly-traded company, with shareholders - and with shareholder expectations.

For better or worse, our investment climate expects public companies to continue to make more money, to make more money than they did last year, to grow faster than they did last year, and to consistently beat expectations. If you do outstanding business one year, and then do the same outstanding business the next year, you're a failure.

So now that the public has a significant stake in Facebook's ownership, how will Facebook respond to these expectations?

Last Friday, Jody Swaney started a Google+ thread on this topic. Those of us who participated in the thread all agreed that Facebook needs new revenue streams to meet those shareholder expectations.

But where will Facebook get new revenue to pile on top of its existing revenue? Will it need to introduce a premium tier paid service to complement its free service? If so, what would be included in the premium tier? Will Facebook come up with new forms of advertising revenue? Will it come up with new ways to take a percentage of third party sales (Melina M) - perhaps with a "Facebook apps" store? Will it do other things in the mobile arena (Michael Sweeney) to increase revenue?

And if Facebook can come up with a new revenue stream from its userbase, remember that Facebook has a pretty big userbase. While I'm fond of saying that over 80% of the world is NOT on Facebook, the fact remains that there are around 900 billion Facebook accounts. Keith Tackel did the math - if you can get just $10 a year from 200 million of those accounts, "that is some serious money!"

Of course, it will remain to be seen if Facebook can be one of the few tech companies that benefits from consistent leadership and continued innovation - in other words, the next Microsoft. (Apple strikes out on the "consistent leadership" measurement.) But as a public company, Mark Zuckerberg and the rest of Facebook's team presumably realize that new rules now apply.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

On rural sourcing

The pendulum swings, and some (not all) jobs that once went overseas are now coming back to my home country of the United States.

But they're coming back to rural areas, thanks to the rural sourcing movement. GigaOM wrote about this over a year ago:

Managers thinking of establishing virtual teams may have visions of the best and brightest in New York, San Francisco and Shanghai dancing in their heads. The untapped workers of rural places and small cities like Kanab, Utah or Augusta, Ga. probably feature less often. Now the proponents of a still embryonic but expanding trend known as “rural sourcing” are trying to change that....

While salaries in Milford, Penn. may not be as low as those in Mumbai, India, some often-overlooked costs associated with outsourcing abroad — such as greater management oversight, cultural miscues and occasional long-distance travel — are lower with rural-sourcing. Plus, many workers enjoy living in these slower-paced places, while bringing employment to struggling towns is sure to generate good will.

Plus, the workers can see horses from their "office" windows.

It turns out that Becky McCray has co-authored an entire book on modern small town business, which was reviewed at Business Insider:

Small Town Rules notes that the recent economic changes have altered the ways small businesses must operate to survive. The result is a new small town paradigm for businesses of all sizes, with advantages and disadvantages altered in illuminating ways. For example, [Barry] Moltz and McCray note that geographic location, once advantageous because “Craftspeople wanted to be located near raw materials.…Merchants had to be on the trade routes”, is an eliminated factor....

“Turning the disadvantage of a rural location into an advantage of lower cost, rural sourcing captures jobs that otherwise might be outsourced overseas. Rural service firms claim a number of advantages over global firms: shorter supply chains, better data security, intellectual property protection, cultural compatibility, and convenient time zones.”

However, I'd add the warning that complete cultural compatibility cannot be assumed. There are portions of this country in which Californians are regarded by some as aliens from another planet. Anyone from Silicon Valley, El-Lay, or even California's Inland Empire should keep this in mind when venturing forth to small towns in the Carolinas. Of course, the people in the Carolinas must also remember that the avocado-eating, latte-sipping Yankees are people too.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Why e e cummings wasn't involved in tech - capitalization is important!

I was reading an old software review of a business intelligence software package and was struck by the lack of capitalization in the web version of the review.

It integrates with J2EE application servers from ibm WebSphere and bea WebLogic...

BEA? Told you it was an old software review. Now I was able to figure out that the review was supposed to be talking about the acronym-using companies IBM and BEA. But this excerpt is a little more problematic.

Though WebFocus requires it planning and deployment...

If someone looked at that phrase in isolation, the person would probably conclude that the writer was not a native English speaker. When you realize, however, that "it" should be capitalized as "IT" (information technology), then the phrase has an entirely different meaning. Let's face it - delivery of lunch requires planning and deployment, but it doesn't necessarily require the type of specialized skills possessed by many...well, some information technology professionals.

P.S. I actually wrote this post a couple of months ago, but didn't publish it until now because...well, just because.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Pressure cooker

No, I haven't written anything in the Empoprise-BI business blog, or any of my other blogs, in the last few days. I'm involved in three major projects at work, and my brain has been pretty much incapable of conceptualizing or writing blog posts on top of that.

But it could be worse. I could be a short-order cook.

To make it as a short-order cook, you must be able to keep a half-dozen orders in your head while cracking eggs, flipping pancakes, working the counter, and refilling coffee cups.

And at a restaurant like the Tastee Diner, in Bethesda, Md., the orders come in verbally, not on a ticket.

Chocolate chip pancakes, scrambled with sausage, order of french fries, rye toast — they're small tasks. On a busy day, though, they add up to a tough job for Shawn Swinson.

"My first month here, I was ready to walk out the door," he said.

Asked what it feels like when he's in the middle of rush hour, Swinson said, "Like you're in an insane asylum. It's almost unbearable."

Swinson has learned to handle the pressure. He's an island of calm, even when the orders are flying. But Swinson's boss, manager Frank Long, says very few people can keep up without losing their cool.

"It's singularly the most difficult job in this type of operation," Long said. "Four cooks. Five waitresses. Bus staff. Host. Getting them in and out."

Speed and accuracy are at a premium — especially when the customers are multitasking, too. Lunchtime is the worst, Long said.

"People may have an errand to run. Maybe go to the bank and pick up dry cleaning, and eat. All within an hour, whatever time they have."

So the next time that I'm sitting at my desk, working in a (mostly) climate-controlled office, dealing with emails that arrive every few minutes...

I need to remember that it could be worse.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Dividing the cloud, and the Empoprises FECES Rule of Corporate Me-Tooism

Jesse Stay was not happy.

Don't get me wrong - I love Google, but what ever happened to, "Go Web"?

Jesse's comment was prompted by a Google Official Blog post entitled "Get stuff done in the cloud. Go Google."

Of course, Google isn't the only vendor claiming that they can provide the cloud. I've previously noted that Oracle defines "the cloud" as "the data that you can access on a machine running Oracle hardware and software." And, of course, you have SkyDrive (from Microsoft) and iCloud (from Apple) and IBM cloud products and Dropbox and everyone else.

And we thought that there was one cloud out there.

But this is what happens with your cool technology term of the data. Whenever a term becomes trendy - whether it's "cloud" or "Internet" or "integrated software," every marketer worth his or her marbles runs forward to claim that their company - and only their company - can provide the trendy buzzword that everyone's talking about.

In fact, I've developed the "FECES Rule" to explain this behavior - whoops, I should call that the "Empoprises FECES Rule." Or the "Empoprise FECES Rule of Corporate Me-Tooism." Here it is:

Trust me, if FECES suddenly became a trendy acronym that all the cool kids were talking about, then you would have Microsoft, Google, Apple, Oracle, IBM, and everyone else climbing over each other and loudly declaring, "We are FECES."

I then concluded:

And they would be correct. :)

Of course, there are disadvantages to jumping on the trendy bandwagon. What happens when the bandwagon is no longer trendy?

When I first started working in biometrics in the 1990s, the trendy term was "client-server." So you can bet that all of the stuff that I wrote talked about our client-server architecture.

But by the year 2000, things were changing, and all the cool kids stopped talking about "client-server" and started talking about "multi-tier." Around this time my employer changed its system architecture, and therefore you can bet that all of the stuff that I wrote talked about our multi-tier architecture.

At this point, I would become highly amused when I'd see something written by another company trumpeting its client-server architecture. This company had jumped into the trendy client-server pool a few years back, but hadn't yet realized that the pool was getting dirty and the lifeguards and swimmers were gravitating to the new pool next door.

And yes, I would laugh at those bozos who were still talking about client-server when everyone knew that multi-tier was the way to go. Yes, me - the non-trendy guy - would put others down for not being trendy.

And now the cycle is repeating itself again, as everyone fights to claim their own share of the cloud. Well, at least until the cloud becomes criticized for speed or security or other issues, and the pendulum swings back toward local management of your own data.

P.S. Please note that the Empoprise FECES Rule of Corporate Me-Tooism is copyright 2012 John E. Bredehoft, and that this FECES Rule is superior to all other supposed FECES Rules out there. This FECES Rule was specifically developed based on my early 1980s experience with "Paddy O'Futniture" jokes on USENET. Can Google or Pinterest claim that? I think not.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The book of Job as a business primer?

In an April post in my tymshft blog, I discussed the repurposing of Sun Tzu's The Art of War as a business book. In passing, I made the following statement:

Eventually I may look at whether the book of Ecclesiastes may be useful as a guide for business....

(If you're familiar with the tymshft blog, you know that it's all about a statement from Ecclesiastes, "There is nothing new under the sun.")

I haven't gotten around to writing my own take on Ecclesiastes as a business book, but this came to mind when I was reading an interview with Kim Reynolds. Reynolds, who has commented on this blog before, is the creator of, a site that actually does something useful with QR codes.

One of the interview questions asked Reynolds to recommend three books. Her response:

All three of my top book recommendations come from the Bible: Genesis (How it all began), Job (Perseverance in the face of adversity), and Revelations (How this chapter ends).

I'm going to concentrate on the middle recommendation - the book of Job.

For those who haven't read the book, it concerns a man named Job who experiences great calamities. By the middle of the second chapter, Job has lost his livestock, his sons, and his daughters, is covered with sores, and is scraping the sores with a piece of broken pottery.

And his wife is nagging him.

Sounds like the life of an entrepreneur, doesn't it?

While we tend to fix our eyes on the success stories, the truth is that most businesses fail, and those that don't fail often just plug along. We put everything into our businesses - Reynolds makes the point that an entrepreneur might as well just forget about the eight-hour day - and there are times when it all turns to ashes.

And perhaps as we walk away from the bank - or the bankruptcy court - some well-meaning friends come by and offer that dreaded advice - "you're doing it wrong." Why was the entrepreneur stupid enough to base a 2005 business plan on MySpace or Nokia?

Now perhaps the entrepreneur doesn't suddenly get a visit from the LORD like Job did in chapter 38, but at some point the entrepreneur takes a step backward, analyzes what happened to the business, realizes what he/she could have done, recognizes the things that he/she couldn't have foreseen, and then goes on to a new life.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

When Braeburn Capital invested in Google - a fiction story (obviously)


The activity in the second floor suite of a Reno, Nevada office building was a little unusual on the morning of April 31.

"Why do we need to have interns?" asked Gene in an exasperated tone.

"Because the parent company has to put them somewhere," replied Michael.

"I know." Gene was gathering his paperwork for the morning executive staff meeting at Braeburn Capital, an investment company based in Reno. "But they're so - interny."

"Tell me about it," replied Gary. "The last one arrived at the office dressed in black with stars in her eyes. Within five minutes she said that her life had been ruined."

Michael smiled. "Well, the new intern will last at least six minutes this time around. The first part of today's meeting will be about bowling night."

"Shh," whispered Gene. "I hear someone outside."

"Welcome to Braeburn Capital, Steve," said Michael as he shook the new intern's hand.

"Thank you, sir," replied the new intern. "This is - well, it's insanely great."

Gene managed to stifle a groan. "You're just in time for the morning staff meeting."

They filed into the small conference room, sparsely decorated with a few pictures of i-somethings and some paintings of the Nevada desert. Steve was excited, and was talking a mile a minute.

"I mean, I see this as the opportunity of a lifetime. My parents taught me about everything, and really instilled a love of design in me. My dad always said that he couldn't decide whether to name me Steve, or Steve." He chuckled. "And I'm ready to work 80 hours a week and love it for this internship."

"Well, Steve, we won't be flying a pirate flag here," replied Michael as he smiled. "But rest assured, your work for us this summer will be extremely important to the parent corporation. Even though Braeburn Capital is way out in Reno, Nevada, rest assured that our work here is very visible back at headquarters in Cupertino."

Having dispensed with the business about bowling night, as well as a request for someone to clean the espresso machine, Michael was ready to get down to business.

"Gary," asked Michael, "what are your recommendations for Braeburn's investment portfolio?"

Gary, usually brief and to the point, elaborated his words a little more this morning for the benefit of the intern. "Well, Michael," began Gary, "Braeburn Capital continues to manage the cash assets of Apple to the best of its ability, with the long-term goal of maximizing the cash position of the parent company. This allows Apple to continue to invest in research and development, acquisitions, and other expansion efforts."

Steve was listening intently.

"While Braeburn always works within the highest ethical standards of Apple and always works within the law, we also take pains to always maximize shareholder value. The very fact that Braeburn is located in Nevada, rather than California, is a testimony to our commitment to our shareholders."

Michael and Gene nodded approvingly. Steve was soaking it all in.

"Therefore," Gary continued, "I have just checked the markets, and I have come forth with a recommendation this morning. This recommendation, however, will need approval from Cupertino - we can't act on it alone."

Steve's eyes were wide open - as were Michael's and Gene's. They had no idea that Gary was planning on making a significant recommendation this morning - those happened only every so often, and usually after extensive consultation among the entire staff.

"Gentlemen," continued Gary as he handed out folders to the executives, "I am recommending that we forward a request to Tim Cook to significantly increase our position in Google."

A frown began to cross Steve's face, but Michael and Gene didn't notice.

"Increase our position in Google?" asked Gene. "Over a quarter of our funds are invested in Google already. Isn't it dangerous to put all our eggs in one basket?"

"How much of an increase?" asked Michael.

"Don't worry, Gene," replied Gary. "As long as I'm here, it would take a major rally for me to put more than forty percent of our funds into any company - even Google. But Michael, forty percent is precisely what I'm recommending. If you look at Table One in the handout, coupled with the anticipated growth in Figure One, I think that all of you will agree that this is the prudent action for Braeburn to take."

"Excuse me," said Steve quietly, as he left the room, went into the bathroom, and closed the door. The executives could hear Steve loudly sobbing.

Michael heaved a sigh of relief. "At least he didn't scream at us for abandoning the Macintosh Way."

Gene suddenly thought of something. "Michael, did we remember to have someone bolt the bathroom windows so they couldn't be opened?"

"I don't remember," replied Michael. "But the last intern to jump out the window only had a broken leg. I think this guy was a gymnast if I remember correctly - he'll be all right. But getting back to business," Michael continued, "I wonder if a forty-five percent investment would be the right thing to do in this circumstance...."

References: Entity Details, Braeburn Capital Inc., Nevada Secretary of State; Alex Scrivener Google+ post