The shrimp boats don’t go out as much

While we have made lots of advances in being able to grow seafood in ponds, some of us think seafood from the sea still tastes the best.

The trouble is that catching seafood from the sea has gotten very expensive.  With diesel fuel near five dollars per gallon this past summer, some boats had to change the way that they operated.

One boat that I know ended up staying closer to the early summer shrimp grounds, and then having the shrimp trucked back to their market.

When the catches are small it does not make sense to run the boats.  With prices under pressure from imported shrimp and fuel costs through the roof, it has been a challenge for our area shrimpers this year.

If you throw in a little bad weather and fluctuating demand from roadside customers who have stayed home because of high gas prices, you can start to imagine how hard it is to keep shrimping in these times.

it comes as no surprise that a few times this summer, fresh shrimp were unavailable.  I wonder if this will perhaps open a window of opportunity for smaller shrimp boats that don’t have to catch as many to be profitable.  It will be interesting to watch.

All I can say is that “Friends don’t let friends eat imported shrimp.”  I would rather have fewer shrimp but better ones, so I will stick to local NC shrimp which make the best appetizer ever.

Computers watching computers

Waves along the beach
Waves along the beach

With tropical storm Hannah perhaps becoming a hurricane before making landfall between Mytle beach and Wilmington, all eyes in Eastern North Carolina have been following the weather.

Those with access to a televsion have probably watched The Weather Channel.

Many people in offices must rely on their computers which are signed into a variety of sites from the Weatherunderground to Accuweather and Weather Channel website.

I kept checking the computer when I was at the office Friday morning.  We did have a few minutes of nasty rain before things cleared off early in the afternoon.

It was nice enough that securing our boat and outdoor furniture was a very pleasant job on Friday just hours before the Hanna landfall.

The brief bout of super humid air that passed through the area on Friday morning had disappeared.  At dusk we could only discern clouds to the west and south of our area.  There was no wind and no rain.

We decided to go over to the beach for dinner.  We noticed on the way over that Food Lion in Emerald Isle had closed.  In the restaurant we found out that the grocery store had closed at 3 pm. That was twelve hours before Hannah was scheduled to make landfall in South Carolina close to 100 miles away.

Perhaps they were worried about the wind becoming strong enough to close the bridge to the mainland, and employees being stranded on the island.  Anyway after dinner, I went back to checking the weather sites to see if I could find really detailed information.  It turned out that there was very little new information on the computer sites.  I resorted to calling a friend who lives on the SC/Ga. border.

According to him his area had also seen very little active wether so far.  I wished that I had kep the phone number of our friend near Myrtle Beach. In the end we went to bed not really knowing what to expect in the morning.

During the night we heard both wind and rain.  I got around 7:30 am only to find the power off.  It didn’t take long to figure out that the power had not been off for long since the coffee was still hot.

Not wanting to give up a good cup of coffee, I poured myself a cup and enjoyed that before venturing outside.  There I found a pretty good storm surge, but no worse than we had expected.  Our rain gauge only showed one half inch of rain.  That added to what we got Friday morning gave us a total of one inch of rain from Hanna.

There were a few pieces of pine limbs in the yard and my tomato plants seemed to have taken a beating, but we actually came through the storm in good shape.  By the time I went back inside the power came back on and things were back to normal.  Even the excess water behind the house disappeared quickly.

I guess in the end, the computers checking other computer sites were as effective as any other means in figuring out what might happen.  At least with computers, I could avoid most of the weather channel hype.

I was pleased when the power came back on that I could send pictures of the storm to my friends.

Certainly people responding to other people are the best way to figure out what is happening.  By the end of the day, I knew that the rain from Hanna didn’t make it past the Yadkin River, but that parts of the DC area got flooded while my friend in NJ got a good soaking from Hanna.  Tomorrow I should find out what Hanna has in store for Nova Scotia.

It is nice to be connected even if it is with computers.

Where technology seems to stop

View from my deck
View from my deck

I get a tremendous advantage from technology. I would not be able to share pictures without the technology revolution that we have had in the last fifteen years.

Getting documents to people is also much easier.  Finding additional information that people might need is also a piece of cake with Google and the Internet.

Yet there is one place that technology seems to fail.  Our digital identities are hard to verify and utilize.  I actually had someone pretend to be me on a forum.  People figured out that it wasn’t me, but it should not be so easy for someone to impersonate you.  We have the technology to prove who we are digitally. Unfortunately few sites utilize it.

In a regular day to day situation if the need to prove who I am arises, I can show my driver’s license, birth certificate, or passport.

I have digital credentials for my email, an OpenIID identity and actually a smart card for real estate which lets us enter homes. Yet very few people take advantage of digital ids.  It is almost as if people like the small degree of anonymity that comes from the digital world.

I have one friend with a digital id.  Most of our conversations are encrypted.

It seems funny to me that I send a PDF of a form to a client which is handled usually by printing, signing and faxing back to me.

Why can’t we take the next step and use a smart card digital id to let me send documents and let others to sign and return them.

I recently worked with a client who did not have a computer.  I actually had to print photos to send to them.  Any documents which needed reviewing had to be mailed.  The experience reminded me of how far we have come.

Yet we recently dealt with an individual several states away who needed to sign a title and get it back to us.

He missed the express shipping pickup, and we were delayed a day because of that.  It is too bad we don’t have electronic notaries who could validate that the right person is signing a document, then scan and forward a digital version to us that it could be printed as an original and recorded in the proper county.

I know we have the technology to do this.  I guess we would just rather keep doing it the hard way.

Technology needs common sense also

In a fog
In a fog

I found technology has enabled me to do many things in my life that I might never have done otherwise.

Sometimes technology gets in the way of doing things, but often people get in the way of technology.

it isn’t unusual for people to lose the advantage that technology can bring becuase they cannot break old habits or refuse to see how technology can help

This proper seems to span all ages.

I work in real estate, and we try to go on a weekly caravan to see the newly listed properties.

An email gets sent out the day before the caravan begging for all the new listings. Eventually we get a Word document with directions to all the places and the order in which we will visit them.

The next morning 15-20 of us meet at one of our offices and prepare to drive around the properties in three or four cars.

Almost always someone will add a property at the last minute or decide that we need to visit a particular house third instead of last.

Instead of taking two minutes to edit the document and reprint it for everyone, someone will announce the changes and hope that enough of the fifteen people and three to four drivers will catch the changes.

While everyone within ear shot tries to scribble down the changes, it is rare that we don’t have problems on the caravan.   It is ironic that the building where we meet before we get on the road probably has six or seven computers in it at all time, and at least as many printers.

I have made the suggestion a number of times that we print corrected sheets, but apparently folks would rather operate under false instructions instead of waiting a couple of minutes for a new document.

Every trip someone misses a house or gets them in the wrong order.

It’s almost like the document once it is sent out by email cannot be touched.

Today I decided to skip the chaos.  It is hard to watch group think make things more difficult.

Just a little common sense would dictate that we try to have the document we take with us in our autos be as accurate as possible.

One of our printers could spit that out in less than a minute, but we never take the time to do it.

There’s nothing like subscribing to a theory that makes things harder.

Technology cannot replace common sense

Raymond's Gut SunriseThe more I see the high tech generation of twenty year olds, the more I worry.

We were in the local Nissan dealer about a week ago.  A young mother in her twenties was there with baby.

As we came in I could see she had an Apple iPhone.

Eventually my wife and I started talking to her.  She and her Marine husband had just moved to the area from Las Vegas.

Somehow we got around to talking about tomatoes, local produce, and finally strawberries.

It seemed she had seen a few signs around in the last couple of months for U-Pick Strawberries and was thinking it would be nice to take the family berry picking later in the summer.

Somehow it did not dawn on her that strawberries might be seasonal.  We broke the news to her that because of the heat and early season, most area strawberry growers had bush hogged their plants the last of May.

She seemed taken back that the berries wouldn’t be there to pick when she wanted them.

As fewer and fewer of us have any experience on the farm or gardening, we are divorcing ourselves from some very basic skills that I don’t think should disappear.

I would like to see schools teaching gardening.  Everyone needs to know how to get their hands dirty and grow food.  It’s not complicated and does not cost a lot of money if you can find some good space.

I would much rather be a nation of small gardeners than a nation which is expert at all facets or the iPhone.

My generation was rescued from a similar fate by the back to the land movement of the seventies.

Many of us fell in love with growing things back then and have never given up on plants.  We also learned out to can and freeze food.

I wonder how many people who are twenty years old can make sauerkraut or plant a row of corn.

It’s worth more than knowing how to work an iPhone.

Beach shoe leather

beach shoe leatherThere was a time when sitting down on the beach would have been impossible for me.

I did not think that I had time to waste on a beach.

Today I believe that I am working harder than ever, yet I manage to take the time to relax by the water.

I think it has something to do with learning that how much you work has little to do with what you actually accomplish.

Relaxing by the water helps me clear my head these days.  I make time for it and for kayaking which works just as well.

In spite of all our technological advances most people have trouble figuring out what they need to do.

I recently got to watch an example. Someone made a mistake a few years ago that resulted in a problem recently.

Not surprisingly a lot of time was spent trying to figure out where to place the blame.

That is actually the most unproductive activity that you can have in a company.

What does it matter if everyone has Blackberry phones if they have a problem and spend four days assigning blame before it occurs to them to solve the problem?

Long ago I learned that mistakes happen. People rarely mean for them to happen. The best thing is to treat a mistake as a learning experience and immediately focus on solving the problem.

Because if you don’t solve the problem immediately, it will likely get worse.  By the time you turn your attention to it, the problem might not be fixable.

One of the main rules in our Apple federal group was that if you found a problem, what I expected was a solution not a post mortem on the situation.

All the technology in the world won’t replace common sense. And that is the way I see it from the beaches of North Carolina.

If a beach walk like this slide show can’t help you clear your head, then you are headed for trouble.

Using your internal expertise

Storm BrewingI have always been a big believer in utilizing your resources before hiring some outside experts to do the job.

Still that doesn’t mean that if a car breaks down in the organization that I believe someone should put their coveralls on and try to repair it.

However, if you are a successful sales and marketing organization, you probably should be able to do sales and marketing to your own customers without hiring “experts.”

The problem with some experts is that they are only experts in their own mind. They talk a good story, but you are often their practice case study. I have worked with external experts who can add value to an organization.

When I was director of federal sales for Apple Computer, we hired some experts who knew how to get appointments with high level federal people. The first thing they did was try to learn how we did our business.

They spent a lot of time learning how we sold our products before we ever got the first appointment. By the time we went on the sales call together, we were a team.

I have seen some some teams of experts swoop in and pretend to know what your customers are thinking. I have even had experts go out and quote material that I have written to teams thinking that “their research” won’t be recognized by others.

As is often the case in this world, if someone is promising you something that is too good to be true, it is likely just that, too good to be true. The shame is that management often falls for these easy solutions and spends a lot of money chasing a result that they could achieve on their own if they were just willing to give their own people the right support.

Some of the best organizations that I have ever been part of have come from sales and marketing teams which faced a crisis with innovation and hard work. Instead of expecting to be baled out of the crisis through the intervention of someone peddling miracles, they analyzed the situation and figured out how they could have the most impact as a team and went about fixing the problem.

In 1998 I was part of Apple team that looked across it territory and decided that customer seminars could have a huge impact. They went out and delivered nearly forty of those seminars and became an example for every other team in the company.

We didn’t hire an expensive firm to move our equipment around or a specialized marketing firm to bring people to the events. We had enough knowledge in the team to create a high quality event.

We had some events where over 300 people showed up. It made a true difference in our business. We mostly went after our own customers, but in doing the events we honed our skills and became experts in buying mailing lists, preparing brochures, and advertising.

I can still remember parts of the team utilizing those skills effectively six years later. It was good to proven to ourselves that we were the computer marketing experts, and that we could dig ourselves out of a hole by focusing on what we knew and using everyone’s skills.

We avoided one of the biggest mistakes made by managers because we effectively utilizied the skills of our own teams.