Tuesday, April 28, 2009

David Rose, the patriarch of New York's Silicon Alley to speak at May 7 Funding Symposium

With drastic results in the stock market and our American economy, is there still venture capital to be found in central Texas? That's the focus of the Central Texas Funding Symposium May 7 at the Norris Conference Center.

Jason Myers, the director of the conference, and Hall Martin, executive director, Angel Entrepreneur Network, have programmed a conference with David Rose as the headline speaker. The buzz for Rose, chairman of the board for the New York Angels inc, from Red Herring magazine is significant as the tech magazine calls him: "a patriarch of New York's Silicon Alley."  On behalf of the New York Angels, Rose has helped 100s of tech startups find the early rounds of funding needed to develop their technologies.

However, Rose is not the only significant speaker at the conference. Myers and Martin have put together a heavy hitters list of speakers from Texas and other investor communities. Their purpose is to help the I-35 corridor to find the funding resources needed to help them build their companies

If you are one of many business entrepreneurs in central and south Texas, you don't want to miss this event. If you mention this blog, the $150 entrance fee is lowered to $105. When registering for this event, use the code "bd400" to get the discount.

Austin photographer makes me look "MAHVELOUS!"

As a public relations professional, I work with a lot of executives who need a mug shot.  Through the years, thanks to the help of my colleague, Ruben Barron, I have updated my photo.  However, when I was a yesterday's Interactive Austin trade show, I met Steven Noreyko who had a booth there.

After watching Steve work with people all day, I finally asked him if he would trade a new mug shot for a blog mention in my personal blog.  Looking at my photo, it's easy to see that he didn't have a lot to work with, especially with the extra forehead of my cranium.  Steve used some powder to hide the shiny spot, made me laugh and he made me look professional.

So, if you're looking for the world's best web site guy, don't overlook my friend, Ruben, especially his work for Espada Maritime Services.   Ruben is one of those guys who can do it all, but if you live and work in Austin and you need a new avatar or corporate mug shot, please call Steve.  

Like a good suit of clothes, a personality picture can show a potential client your organization's professionalism.    I now consider Steve as the equivalient of one of those $1000 designer suits when it comes to shooting profiles.    As a result of his simple efforts, I look as Bill Crystal would say as "MAHVELOUS!"

Of course, this all could change once my wife or my daughters weigh in with their thoughts.  However, knowing them, I think they will approve of Steve's great pix.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Will the government embrace social media in this flu swine epidemic

With the sudden outbreak of the swine flu epidemic, the question, for techies, is:  "When will the government embrace Twitter and other social media tools as a way to reach everyone with real-time information?"

As a longtime, retired military crisis communicator and evaluator for the Air Force, I am wondering when our government organizations will embrace Twitter and blogging as a great way to reach the masses on key communication issues.

As someone with friends in the government public affairs sector, I know their issues and the answers about their use of blogs and Twitter.  First, it's hard to track what's being said about you when your government communications providers believe that blogging and other social media outreaches will bring damage to their infrastructure.  While that's somewhat true, the government needs to set aside a second portal for public information types and their bosses to monitor what's being said about their organization.  And, if you can read about it, there are times when you need to respond quickly about it.

While Barack Obama is becoming the "first communicator" with his special Blackberry, he needs to lead the government to the transformation needed in social media channels.  The best thing that Mr. Obama can do soon is to push out a government directive that tells those computer security guys that it's official policy to provide an outside channel to his public relations team members.   With this in place, the proactive public affairs types can then challenge their communications teams to provide them with the capability to blog and to tweet.

Over 30 years ago, President Jimmy Carter created another directive telling the military that they had to respond to media queries within one hour.  Some 15 years afterwards, I had to inform a three-star Air Force that he had to give me information on the facts surrounding Air Force and NATO jets shooting down Serbian Galebs.    Once I mentioned the directive, the general backed down on holding back on the releasable information.

As someone who has worked in public relations for years, I have seen the changes from electric typewriters to computers to new media.   With the communication capability of social media, the government public affairs professionals must change his or her beliefs about this outreach capability.  The beauty of this is that it would allow someone like an on-scene public affairs professional at a crash site to update information about the crash.  For example, if the local police close off a public road, a PA person could blog about it and then tweet it out via Twitter.

I know that changes are coming within the government sector.  And, it takes time.  However, executive leadership by Mr. Obama could help speed the process up.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Don't go on a diet at an ACTs retreat

If you are trying to lose a few pounds, going to an ACTS retreat is not a good idea.  The meals at the Cordi-Marian retreat house are filling and excellent.  However, team members also brought snacks, candy and soda.

Our team director, Cruz, is trying to cut down on the candy for this retreat, but even that was a losing effort as some team members brought the usual bite size version of Snickers and other chocolate products.

Having discussed the menu with my wife, I can only imagine the reaction of the women if someone tried to cut back on their number one comfort food -- chocolate.    I think that would cause a revolt among the many, female ACTs alumni type that I have met through the years.

Having gone through a few retreat, I know that if I want to minimize my weight gain I have to cut down on the snacks and the great deserts.   Failing that, I can always let my belt out again.

The virtual ACTS: when fathers and son connect

One of the great things about this St. Rose of Lima Acts retreat is that it allows fathers and sons to connect.   While the "river rule" doesn't allow me to truly share all the details, it was moving to see the team's director, Cruz, and his son sharing a good cry.

However, the best father-son moment came when another team member had his son thank his father for sharing his life's story.

If you are a father with a son over 18, an ACTS retreat can help you possibly reconnect with each other.

The virtual ACTS retreat: the four saints guiding us

In just over an hour, our St. Rose of Lima ACTS retreat team guys picked the following saints as their role models:

St. John: The guy who wrote 3:16 and Jesus' favorite saint. He's the guy who Jesus asked to watch over his mother.

St. Paul: The great writer and one of the guys who truly preached the Gospel. For ACTS retreats, he's the inspiration that through faith you can change your life.

St. Joseph: One of my favorite saints. How can you not love a guy who adopts Jesus as his own son, when the compelling argument of the time was to stone his intended wife for adultry. Note: his feast day is the Italian Father Day observation.

St. Michael: The guardian angel who sent Lucifer packing. I was truly moved by the story of how one retreatant remembered how this saint protected him during battles in the Korean conflict.

Virtual Acts: Bringing out the characters

One of the great things about ACTS retreats is that some real characters emerge. At this St. Rose of Lima retreat, we have what a lot of team members call "Waldorf and Statler."

Waldorf is Joe Moser, who at first impressions looks like the grumpy curmudgeon from the Muppets. Statler is Mike Young, who is a little more mellower than his comprade, Joe.

One of the beautiful things about ACTS retreats is that it welcomes characters like Mike and Joe. To participate, you don't have to be perfect. In fact, ACTS retreats you that everyone is a sinner and that God forgives you when you repend.

The virtual ACTS retreat: "The River Rule"

One of the great things abut an ACTS retreat is that there is the "river rule" for confidentiality. In short, things that are shared at this retreat stay within the weekend This allows people to feel that when they tell others something that it won't be shared with others not on the retreat.

Knowing some of the harcore ACTS people who may see this blog (like my wife), please be assured that this online missives will definitely follow the river rule.

And, that's what makes these retreats such great events. It allows people the chance to let some bad things that occurred in their life go through prayer and outreach.

The virtual ACTS retreat: "Finding the saints that will inspire you"

One of the neat things about the first day of a mens' ACTS retreat is that the retreatants are divided into tables. Once they completes breakfast, each team has to pick a patron saint as their role model.

While most people quickly pick up someone like St. Michael or St. Francis, every once in awhile, an obscure saint appears.

My friend, Mike Young, a fellow ACTS team member, said he remembered that his group couldn't pick a saint. At the last moment, they selected St. Dora. That group picked the saints because their daughters were big "Dora the Explorer" fans. Alas, there is no St. Dora.

Somewhere, in the vaults of the Vatican files is someone with saintly qualities like Dora. The jury is still out on when she will get a feast day.

The virtual ACTS retreat: "Grace with gusto"

"Grace with gusto."
That's how Jose Gallardo, a fellow ACTS team member on the St. Rose of Lima retreat, described my evaluation of our retreatants first attempt to sing for their breakfast.
With mens' retreats, it's typical that they sing a song called "We Give Praise and Thanks to the Father" before they get to eat.
As a co-director for the retreat, it's my job to evaluate the level of enthusiasm.
One of the other team members questioned my leniency on the first time, making them only sing it twice before a great breakfast at the Cordi-Marian retreat house in San Antonio.
My response to that criticism is that you have to build the enthusiasm slowly.  By tomorrow, if the 14 retreatants are not blowing the roof off their retreat house, then I may make them sing a few times.

(Note:  While I normally blog about other technical topics, I am taking a couple of days off to blog about the St. Rose of Lima retreat.  If you are an ACTS member,  prayers are always welcome.  If you want to go on the next retreat, please visit the ACTS web site.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

An interview with Mark Frye on the history of the Brooks City Base project

Blogging note:  I am using my personal blog as a landing page for my San Antonio Express News blog about the upcoming TASA program, April 30 at 11:30.   For the rest of the story, please go to www.mysa.com/matt_scherer.

Question: What was you role with the formation of Brooks City Base and how were you selected for that role?

Mark Frye:  I started off as a volunteer technical advisor to the Brooks Opportunities Task Force, which was chaired by Bob Sanchez on behalf of Mayor Howard Peak . Howard had asked Bob to see “what could be done differently” to reduce costs at Brooks, which had been put on the BRAC 1995 list but was taken off. I helped develop the overarching transfer and leaseback concept (including helping to author the enabling legislation), conducted the Brooks Visioning Session on behalf of the City of San Antonio and was a contractor to the Air Force from January 2000 through 2003. We provided program management support, facilitated negotiation of the real estate transaction between the Air Force and the City of San Antonio (subsequently the Brooks Development), wrote the master plan for the Development of Brooks (required by the legislation to be submitted to Congress by the Secretary of the Air Force), helped negotiate the cooperative agreement that initially existed between the Air Force and the BDA and we also helped the BDA with the transition of the utility systems. It was a busy time for me!

Question: How long were you working with the Brooks City Base project?

Mark Frye:   I supported the Brooks City-Base project in one form or fashion from late 1997 until 2004.

Question: What was the most challenging aspect of the project? 

Mark Frye:   Getting buy in from some (on both the Air Force and City side of the project) who initially did not support the concept of transfer and leaseback.

Question: Why did some people not support this project?

Mark Frye:   The City staff had concerns about costs. The Air Force staff had concerns about security and lack of ownership of the property. There were concerns about the appraised value and how consideration would be realized.

What did you do to overcome it?

Mark Frye:  First, we had the solid support of the senior leaders on both sides. That helped. Second, we established the “City-Base Agreement Team” or CBAT, which met every Friday afternoon on 62 separate occasions. It took only 10 sessions or so to come up with a non-binding Memorandum of Agreement detailing how the deal would work. The rest of the sessions were needed to hammer out the details so that the lawyers could create the binding documents. Had everyone been in favor of the project at the outset, it would have taken much less time to negotiate the deal.

Question: What was the most rewarding aspect of the project?

Mark Frye:    Knowing that the economic development originally envisioned by Bob Sanchez and me has already occurred. I suggested that the most critical aspect from the community’s standpoint was the “defederalization” of the property to allow economic development to proceed. Transfer of ownership from the Air Force to the city accomplished that. I was rewarded that Congress saw fit to enact the legislation that created City-Base.

 Why was that important to the project?

Mark Frye: Just look at the economic development that exists at the corner of Goliad and Military Drive that was not previously possible and you’ll know why.

TASA to begin 2009 program with speech on Brooks Development Authority past, present and future

To all my readers of my regular blog:  Please understand that I am using my personal blog as a landing page for my Express News blog on the upcoming TASA luncheon April 30.  You can find the rest of the interview at http://voices.mysanantonio.com/matt_scherer/.

TASA to present program on Brooks City Base

The Technology Advocates of San Antonio (TASA) will hold its first 2009 meeting April 30 at the Chama Gaucha Restaurant, 18318 Sonterra Place.  Mark Frye, managing director Military Installation Transformation Solutions, BearingPoint  Inc. and Donald Jakeway, president and chief executive officer at Brooks will both speak.  Frye will talk on the how Brooks Development Authority was started, while Jakeway will give a presentation on current and future developments of the Brooks City Base project.

According to Jim Slattery, the new president of TASA and CEO, Federal Medical Services, Inc., this is the first meeting of the technology organization since 2007.   “We’re starting the organization from its roots with its focus on helping the growing base of technology leaders and other business advocates to understand the growing changes in our city’s technology sector,” he said.

The program is open to members and non-members; the cost is $20.  RSVP via email: slattery@fed-med.comInfo: Jim Slattery, 210-601-2143

Monday, April 20, 2009

What educators could learn 10 years later after the Columbine tragedy....

In the aftermath of the 10th anniversary of Columbine High School, most Americans have forgotten it. Yet, for those of who have students or a spouse who works in any school, we should not forget the lessons of this tragedy.
For several years, I have been working with security consulting firms, and I have written a lot on the topic of school security for major trade publications and other news media. From the security professional's viewpoint, most educators need to tighten up their processes to protect themselves.
Yet, after a lot of conversations with my wife, a San Antonio science teacher, I know that educators don't like things that take away from their instructional time. Dealing with things like security cards is just another hassle for them.
If you care about the security of your spouse or child's school, I would ask the following questions of their local principal:
1) When was the last time the principal of your child or spouse's school has done a security audit with his local fire, police and medical professional? From discussions with several first responders, a lot of schools have not done this. In some cases, local districts can't even have a discussion with their local first responders unless their district is notified. Also, if I am a fire, police or EMT professional, I would offer to visit with my child or spouse's principal on ways to safeguard my loved ones.
2) What kind of security upgrades are in the planning stage for a school? Again, most schools are way behind in funding for these, mostly because of the costs or the lead time it takes for federal or state funding.
3) How can children notify their principals of their contemporaries who threaten to bring a gun to school or want to cause harm to themselves? In my wife's school, one student brought a gun to school, and it was only through a well developed process that the principal was notified quickly. Also, there are several companies who are offering an alerting system with cell phones that allows students to text a anonymous message to a principal or counselor.
4) When was the last time a school practiced their "crazy shooter" first response drill, either as a table top or a school wide drill? A long time ago, people first questioned the need for fire alarm drills, but after a few people were killed by school blazes, nobody even questions the need for this drill. It should be the same today for all schools to conduct at least one if not two of these drills per academic school year.
5) Does my child or spouse's school put a heavy reliance on technology instead of on processes and training? In other words, does the local principal believe that their school could not face the prospect of a crazed shooter because they have the greatest security technology in place?
6) If a school has an ID card for students in place, does the administration punish students who lose or trade their cards with others? According to a well place resource, some high schools like to trade their ID cards like I would trade an extra Mickey Mantle for a Willie Mays card.
If there is a lesson to be learned from Columbine, it's that security processes are always evolving. Parents and those who have loved ones who teach should feel that they can question the capability of their school administration to protect them. As a military first responder who witnessed five too many airplane crashes, I disliked the training I had to undergo to prepare for them. Yet, the fact that I had been drilled on the basic types of responses at least once or twice a year made me feel like I was well prepared to deal when it did happen.

San Antonio Business Journal article focuses on the need to promote emerging medical technology

Kudos to Donna Tuttle for her article in Friday's San Antonio Business Journal about the emerging medical technology.  

I especially like the way that Tuttle allowed the leaders in San Antonio to share their frustration with the process that governs economic development for their sector.  Noted Gabi Niederauer, the vice president for research and development of ENTrigue Surgical Inc in Tuttle's article:  “People overlook this sector and don’t realize what it takes to funnel and feed these companies because large sectors of the health care industry — hospitals, physicians and related services — are self sustaining. Everybody needs medical care from time to time."

In my last blog post for the San Antonio Express News, I noted how SATAI's executive leadership hasn't focused on development within this and other sectors.   Time after time, I meet technical entrepreneurs who want to live in San Antonio, but know they have to find their investment capital in Austin or Houston.

As their companies grow or expand, many are forced to relocate to other cities.   I am not picking SATAI as the whipping boy for this issue.  It's a bigger city-wide issue that starts with education and advocacy.  Thankfully, Tuttle's artcle will cause some people to talk some more about it.

Questions every tech advocate should ask our San Antonio mayoral candidates......

As the May 9 mayoral race approaches, we have had the candidates embrace everything but technology in an open forum meeting. From press reports, there have been presentations on the military, the environment and transportation, to name a few special forums for our mayoral candidates. Even Tom Orsborn, the San Antonio Express News sports writer, has interviewed the leading candidates on their opinions about the growth of sports in San Antonio.
However, we haven't had our mayoral or the City Council candidates together to discuss the growth of technology in San Antonio. As a city who fostered the growth of military aviation in 1910 and the development of the heart stent processes, our city is filled with pockets of technical innovation. Yet, sadly the issue of technology development is not an issue in this 2009 election.
And, you can't blame the current technology leadership, because it isn't in place. Some of our current leadership say they believe that the San Antonio Technology Accelerator Initiative is doing a great job of promoting technology. However, how can you take this organization seriously when its chief executive officer once spoke to a major tech group two years ago and talked about technology innovations not associated with our city? And, as a gag, he gave away tickets to the Spurs-Lakers playoff game who correctly guessed the year that IBM developed the main frame computer. At the time I won them, I thought that somehow this city funded organization was given a couple of extra seats to the 2007 Lakers-Spurs playoffs. Instead, they were for the Hickam Spurs and Pearl Harbor Lakers.
San Antonio has two mayoral candidates who embrace technology. Notes colleague Alan Weinkrantz, the "dean" of technology PR types in San Antonio in his blog on why he endorses Castro: "Julian represents the next generation of our great City. I have a personal theory that as the economic recovery takes place, we are going to see companies re-thinking their expansion and re-tooling plans. I really think San Antonio is on the verge of an economic and intellectual renaissance."
Trish DeBerry doesn't have an online blogging endorsement that I could find. However, I noted this comment from John Dickson, the former president of SATAI. from Nside magazine.
"Trish's use of sophisticated social networking tools and her online presence sends a message - San Antonio's future growth is tied to its knowledge workers," said Dickson in the article. "As the only small business person in this race coupled with her knowledge of the technology community, I believe Trish is the best candidate positioned to lead San Antonio in pursuit of new economy jobs."
While I respect Alan and John's comments about Castro and DeBerry, I would like to set up an online forum of questions about about technology in our community. If the folks at MYSA could pull this off, here's some questions I would like to see answered by those seeking office as our mayor.
Question 1: What can San Antonio do to attract more technology based businesses? (Note: if any serious candidate believes that SATAI is doing an effective job, you can count of losing my vote.)
Question 2: What kind of educational initiatives do we need to build the base of workers that technology company need to succeed in our city? Here, I believe we are somewhat lacking in the development of programs that fast track our future work force.
Question 3: What can we do to develop partnerships with Austin, Houston and Laredo to develop stronger technology alliances with businesses and those communities? (Note: I am a board member of the Digital Convergence Initiative which brings together Austin and San Antonio technology leaders.)
Question 4: How can businesses work with our universities to help build new technologies? From talking to several technical leaders, it's somewhat impossible to quickly transfer some great ideas developed in our academic arenas.
Question 5: How can we help our city develop civic pride in our technology successes?
If you care about technology and you are at a mayoral forum, please ask the candidates these questions and send their responses back to this blog. Or, if you work for a candidate for City Council or mayor, please feel free to respond to my questions. As there isn't enough time to coordinate an appearance either in person or online, this blog could serve as a starting point for the discussion of which future mayor and City Council members understand the technology issues that face our city.

Friday, April 17, 2009

I hear that train a coming.... It's the Barack Obama Express

President Barack Obama's announcement yesterday that he favors high speed rail in the United States got me wondering why politicians love the flair of these public transportation projects but not the details behind them.

Obama is not the first pol to share his or her vision for modernizing public transportation. Weston Martinez, a candidate for the District 9 seat in San Antonio, told me he favors the use of WiFi equipment on new VIA buses. In Weston's view, I could go downtown on a bus and surf the Internet while I went to an appointment or saw the Spurs defeat the Mavericksin the upcoming playoffs.

While I support these visions, American transport officials need to export a couple of German public train and bus executives to first fix the current transportation infrastructure.

I can only imagine what German transportion executives would think of the Amtrak train station in Beaumont, Texas. My son, who attends college at Lamar, couldn't find the train station to come home for Thanksgiving because there wasn't one. While a November monsoon pelted him with rain, he waited for the train which was two hours late. After writing a letter to both the president of Amtrak and to Lamar, the chief executive at Amtrak told me that city officials had not wanted to fund a train station. Thus, the sign without a covered enclosure located in some of the lest desirable neighborhoods of Beaumont. Meanwhile, the Lamar president said he would get back to me as I asked him why he didn't address the issue of public transportation for his students. I'm still awaiting his update on when he will get Beaumont city officials to build a train station for his students.

Here in my 'hood, the closest VIA bus station is a good six miles away. At the North San Antonio Chamber's transportation summit, VIA officials addressed the need for more bus stops. Again, that probably won't happen because most of my neighbors are three car types who abhor the idea of public transportation even with a WiFi setup.
It's not that I am negative about the trains. My office is filled with trains memorabilia. I would love to travel places by rail. It's just that when the train comes into San Antonio, it should arrive on time, not two or three hours later.
For public transportation to work well, it needs to become reliable. By importing a couple of European or even Japanese train executives to change the culture of our public transportation system, we can address some bigger issues before we add high speed railways to America.

Once we address those issues, I'll be the first in line to buy a ticket on the Obama Express.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

With trillions of spam filtering through the Internet, how can you lower your consumption?

With more than 60 trillion spam filtering through our Internet channels, what can we do to stop the flow of bad jokes, business ventures from Nigerian children of dictators and other well meaning folks?
It's pretty simple.

The most important thing is to set up an alternative email account. Several years ago, I set up an email account called spamgorilla@gmail.com. I did that because a lot of web sites required an email account. Yes, I know there's a little box on the e-form that says "If you would like to get offers...." that you can click to prevent getting unsolicited emails, but even that doesn't guarantee that you won't get offers. Thus, the alternative email account.

If you go to a trade show, it's a good idea to use that alternative email account when registering. A lot of trade shows captured your email when you visit their booth by zapping your badge with their ray guns. If you really wanted to get information from a vendor, you'll give them a business card with your email and contact numbers.

Also, if you send out a press release to someone, it's best to use a matt (at) gmail (dot) com address instead of the matt@gmail.com tag. And, as I have learned from sending out Business Wire news releases, the use of (two-one-zero) instead of 210. Both of these simple techniques help lower the possibility that some sales professional will call me with the offer of a lifetime.

And, then there are the well meaning relatives and friends who want to send you their jokes and chain letters. How can I tell my Uncle Bill, the guy who used to change my diapers as a kid, that I don't want to get his missives?

Would he respond well to an email like: "Dear Uncle, I am trying to help the world save energy. As I don't really read all of your jokes, could you hold back on those jokes so I can help lower my energy costs?"
Or what about: "My Internet account is monitoring my bandwidth usage. Your jokes are costing me money...."

So, yes, I'll continue as an Internet energy waster. It's the courteous thing to do.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

If you are not a "skill holder," then perhaps you are hurting your financial opportunities

Corporations hire without joy and fire without remorse.

With unemployment at a record high in 26 years, Americans are more often facing the prospects of losing their job. For many, a pink slip can mean a long and difficult process to find their new form of employment.

Brian Massey,  the author of the soon to be published "The Market For Me -- Surviving Job Loss and Build Your Lifetime Career Network" said he believes most Americans need to switch from become job seekers into what he calls "skill holders."

Skill holders know that there is a market for their work expertise and can decide which firms or companies should benefit from them, Massey noted. Meanwhile, most Americans are what the Austin-based author would call "job seekers."

In his book, job seekers are expected to be grateful for their job and loyal to their employers. Skill holders negotiate the best price for their skills and and are "always in the market."

Skill holders expect to move from job to job. Job seekers are often surprised when they are fired. More importantly, they are not financially prepared to lose their job.

In these uncertain times, more of us need to switch from the job seeker mindset to that of the skill holder. By understanding our value, we can get a fair return for our services and expertise.

If you are in Austin for the Door64.tech fair on April 30, please make plans to hear Massey speak at 2 p.m.

(Note: Brian Massey and cardboardresume.com, the web site that will accompany the book, are clients of my company. If you want to be one of the first 10 people to read his e-book, please email me at mattscherer (at) gmail.comm. If you wish to reach me, please understand that I added an extra m to my email address to fool all those spam operators who mine my online contact info to sell me the opportunity of a lifetime in Nigeria.)

Monday, April 13, 2009

Respecting my teen daughter's privacy with her Facebook page

Kate Elaine, my 17-year-old wunderkind, lives in Lander, Wyo. with her mother, so I am geographically separated from her. If you know teens, it's sometimes hard to have a conversation with her, so I tried to ask her for access to herFacebook page.
For now, my daughter will only allow me to see her Facebook page while she is there to monitor me. It's not that I don't trust my daughter. I know from our ongoing conversations that she is very active in her church, has done well in speech and debate and scored an impressive score on her ACT and PSAT.

Yet, I was hoping that she would let me see what she's doing on her Facebook page. Despite the pleas and a heart-to-heart talk, Kate is not budging nor am I pressing her for access.

There comes a point where parents have to trust their children, and I have complete faith in her. Yet, I also realize that 17-year-old girls value their privacy and they don't want their father snooping around.

I should have remembered how my oldest step daughter, Jen, thought of such a request when she was that age. My wife reminded me of that the other day, and she noted that now Jen allows me access to her page.

I have other friends who are fathers of teens in blended marriages. One told me that if his daughter was living at home with him that she had to provide access to the Facebook page and other social media outlets.

Of course, she hates it. And, I wonder too if my friend's required access to his daughter's social media pages has created a bond of trust between them. I believe that by talking to my daughter as often as possible about values that I know that Kate will do the right thing. So, not having access to her Facebook is not a big deal with us.

Why the Pirates of Somalia are not as cute and cuddly as Johnny Depp

Mention the term "Pirates" to most of us, and we'll think of Johnny Depp from the three-film trilogy "Pirates of the Caribbean. Maybe, a few of us might even think of that National League baseball team from Pittsburgh.

However, yesterday's rescue of Captain Richard Phillips by Navy Seals shows that not all bucaneers are cuddly like Johnny Depp or hold a bat in their hand. As a public relations manager, I have worked with San Antonio based Espada Services, a maritime security company that is working on security solutions for the gulf of Aden. My clients will be the first to tell you that the Somali pirates will attack that sails through the region.

Will yesterday's attack curtail the rash of piracy in the region? No. However, upgrade security efforts such as the deployment of security sensors with ships along with onboard security professionals may deter attacks.

Like all businesses, shipping professionals often question the cost of extra security. However, the rise in attacks and the publicity from Captain Phillip's rescue will make them more likely to embrace their use.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Fiesta is not the only time to focus on preventing drunken driving

Last week, San Antonio District Attorney Susan Reed put the focus on drunk driving and Fiesta parties, but the upcoming 10-day event is not the only time that our roads are filled with dangerous drivers.

Angel pitcher Nick Adenhart , killed by a motorist who ran a red light and was driving 30 miles over the posted speeds, shows that tragedy can happen at any time.  His case is typical of the danger most of us face every day, especially late at night.

With Easter coming up, people should also know that if they are hosting a family barbecue or party that they have personal liability for all of their guests.   For most of us, there's always that crazy relative who brings all the alcohol and consumes most of it before driving home in his car.   Unless you have been in an alcohol liability training class like my friend Tom Marino and his Alamo Training courses, you wouldn't know that you held liability for all of your guests.

If you have teens who want to hold a party at your house with a couple of kegs, not only are you facing the possibilities of charges for providing alcohol to teens, but you also face similar liability.  There have been several cases where victims of drunk driving sued the parents of teens who held a party where one of the inebriated party goers severely injured or killed someone.  In one case, the parents of the teens were out of town on a family matter, but they were successfully sued in court.

For those drunken relatives, it's best to drive them home even if they only live a couple of blocks away.  While Reed said it's all right for people to walk somewhere if they drank too much, studies have shown that most pedestrians killed in traffic accidents have been walking under the influence.

So, if you have a major party coming up such as Easter, prom or a high school graduation party, understand that you face liability issues if someone leaves your home with too much to drink and then injures or kills someone.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Despite Barack Obama's promises, EMR for the VA and DOD will take a lot of time

President Barack Obama announced  that the Department of Defense and the Veterans Administration will soon have an electronics medical record online, but I have to believe that this is wishful thinking on his part.

It's not that I am against an EMR, but I am a realist when it comes to seeing the government embrace the use of technology.  

For an EMR to work, the DOD and VA would have to create an acceptable blueprint of what should be included in this record.   As my client, Scott Kaeppel, the president of the Operari Group  about technology design projects, it's important for both groups to agree upon a standard before they design it.

That's going to take time, as the culture of both organizations is entirely different.  The military medical community is filled with innovators and free thinkers, while the VA is made up of bureaucrats who resist change.

Once the design is in place, both organizations have to embrace change management within both organizations.    David Jemeyson, the chief executive officer of xGates would tell you that it would take a lot of training and some more time before the rank and file would embrace the EMR's full deployment.

Finally, change in government is as slow as a turtle in the Boston Marathon.  Government workers don't get financial incentives for embracing something that will save them money or time.  While there are a few people who truly want to bring change within government circles, the government culture doesn't reward or even embrace innovation.

So, while I agree with Obama that we need to have a standard EMR for all veterans, I am enough of a realist that I know this change won't happen within his first administration.  Change within a business environment where there are the financial resources and the willingness to fund the costs to make the change would take a couple of years.  With the government, you can double if not triple that time for them to embrace an EMR.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Going to Mexico? Don't list your trip details on Facebook

If you're planning on going to Mexico for a vacation, it's not a good idea to blog about it or post your plans on Facebook. According to one Mexican-American friend with friends, family and economic ties in both countries, kidnappers are now monitoring the Facebook pages of their targeted families.

Published reports from Mexican newspapers detail how gangs are using the social media outlet as an intelligence resource for profiling their victims, he said. A search of Google News didn't have anything of substance, but I think that the news portal can't read Spanish outlets.

So, if you are a typical Gringo, it's probably not a good idea to tell others about a trip to Mexico for business or family reasons. As someone who lives only 175 miles away from the border, having this kind of threat concerns me. I see a lot of Mexican executives relocating families in north San Antonio. It's only a matter of time before some kidnapper targets a family member here to raise a significant ransom.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Could cell phones help a San Antonio candidate win in the May 9 election?

Alan Weinkrantz's column in today's San Antonio Express News highlights the roll out of cell phones as the ultimate communications tools.   Noted Weinkrantz, the dean of San Antonio technology public relations experts, "According to (Jeff) Pulver, our wireless devices, from a simple cell phone to the iPhone, are morphing into social communications tools. Just take a look around you and watch how your children, friends, families and co-workers are using text to communicate."

Tim Hanson, another public relations and marketing colleague, told me last week that there are 2.4 billion cell phone users and that 74-percent of them have texting capability.  Twitter, that much respected social media, has about 3.4 million users, according to Jeremiah Owyang, a Silicon Valley based web strategist.

I am working with the folks at CrossLink Media to help promote the use of phones as the next social media tool.   Together, we're working with the leading San Antonio mayoral candidates and some of the city council candidates to provide a working demo of the phone as a way for them to reach their voting base.

One candidate is working with CrossLink's wireless phone applications to get voters to register before Thursday's deadline for the May 9 election.   Barack Obama used a similar tactic in the 2008 presidential election to get his voters to ask their friends and relatives to vote for him.

Getting the vote out is important for these mayoral candidates.  Al Franken, the humorist and Democratic candidate from Minnesota, won his first state election with only a margin of 221 votes.   A San Antonio mayoral candidate may need a smaller margin just to win.   With access to the billions of cell phone/text users, the mobile messaging system available from CrossLink may help them win the election.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Texting and social media doesn't make me into a recluse but helps me reach out to more like me........

The Sunday San Antonio Express News editorial page shows a man sitting on a park bench tapping out a message: "Do u think texting and twittering further erode our ability 2 have face-to-face human contact?" he writes to the woman on the bench.

To which she replies:  "What's human contact?"

While this cartoon made me laugh out loud, I believe that the person who drew it is wrong. 

Yes, texters and Twitterverse inhabitants can sometimes avoid human contact as we blog, use Twitter or check our Linkedin pages.  Yet, for me these social media tools have put me into contact with people I never would have encountered.  

As a somewhat social, outgoing people, it's helped me connect with people I never would have met if it wasn't for these forums.   In nine days, I am going to speak at the San Antonio chapter of the International Association of Microsoft Certified Professionals on the "ROI of social media."  One of my messages for this talk will deal with the fact that social media tools has made my networking expand beyond the usual encounters at networking events for chambers of commerces.  Just like those events, I can screen out some people like the financial services people who press their card on me and then want to go into a 10-minute spiel on their company's products.

So, texting and social media hasn't made me into an online Trappist monks.  Instead, it has helped me reach out to more people.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Cub fans show tremendous optimism as the 2009 baseball season begin

With the baseball season beginning Sunday, have you asked your local Cub fan about his or her team's chances this year? It doesn't matter that the team hasn't won as Ring Lardner would say "The World Serious" since 1908. (By the way, the true Cub fan will tell you that the Cubs also won the World Series in 1907.) When their team takes the field this week, they all believe that the Cubbies will win the pennant and the World Series.

As a St. Louis Cardinal fan, I have always hated losing to the Cubs. I have a standing bet with my brother and Rick Hotard, my best man, that if the Cardinals lose to the Cubs in any series that I have to spend a week in public wearing a blue Cub hat. Sadly, I had to wear that ugly blue hat in public for five weeks last year, while my brother and Rick had to wear their Cardinal hat for one week.

My brother, the misguided Chicago fan, was so concerned about the ugly, non-regulation Cub hat that I wore in public that he sent me a gift certificate from Major League Baseball to buy a new one as a Christmas gift. (Note: I bought a St. Louis Cardinals sweater vest instead.)

Like Cub fans, I believe that my team will win it all this year. Even though the Cards don't have a hitter to protect Albert Pujols, my team has the world's best manager, Tony LaRussa, and pitching. However, the realism of the season won't truly set in until after the Cubs and Cardinals play each other in a couple of weeks.

If the Cardinals beat the Cubs in those first two series, I will truly be optimistic about our team's chances this year. Yet, the realist in me made me also buy a new Cub hats with the red C in it from my local Academy Sports.   For some reason, the Cubs can beat the Cardinals, especially without much offense behind Albert Pujols. 

So, here's to all of you optimistic Cub fans out there.  Someday, you may win a World Series title and someday, perhaps you'll come close to the 10 American baseball titles that my beloved Cardinals have in their trophy room.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Give up our personal autos. That's an outrageous thought to most of us Texicans.......

Drive through my neighborhood from 7 a.m. until 9 a.m. or from 2:30 p.m. to 5 p.m., and the road is filled with parents driving their little darlings to school.

And that begs the question:  "Has anyone ever heard of a bus?"

In my part of Texas, taking the bus or other forms of public transit is not cool.  If you live in the Lone Star Republic, driving a car is an expected right, even if it's a 1982 Chevy  Truck with 350,000 miles.

As someone who has lived in Europe for two tours, I have seen public transportation effectively work.  And, in the course of traveling to places like Washington, D.C., and Atlanta, I have seen how public transit can work well.  On a recent trip to Atlanta, I used public transportation to travel to the ASIS  trade show, saving about $75 in rental car fees (and not including parking, gas and other costs).

My daughter, the 23-year-old law school student, thought the  MARTA  public transportation in Atlanta was "ghetto," and in the course of my public travels, I learned there was a certain subway stop near the Olympic Stadium that should be avoided at all costs.

Yet, I found the public transportation system in both of those cities to work pretty efficiently.  And, I met a lot of Europeans who were saving money by forgoing rental cars to take the subway to the trade show.

So, the question arises, what would it take to make public transportation cool for Texicans?   Henry Munoz, speaking at the North San Antonio Chamber of Commerce Transportation Summit today, said his organization has to change.  One way, Mr. Munoz, a VIA  commissioner, said his organization needs  improve is to attract white collar workers like me.  One way that VIA can change its perspective among white collar workers is to add WIFI to its buses, he said in today's summit.

While the possibility of surfing the Internet while driving to work or an appointment downtown is appealing, here's what the folks at VIA need to fix first.  If I had the resources to fix the San Antonio public transportation system, I would first address the issue of bus stops.  Our city needs to have bus stops that protect people from rain (a rare occurrence in San Antonio these days) and the elements.  

And, our city needs to add buses in my neighborhood.  My son, Pete, has Asperger's Syndrome.  At 20, he doesn't want to drive because of his mild autistic condition so I have to drive him everywhere, so the closest bus stop is five miles away.  I wish there were buses for him to go to work this summer.

If we have a reliable public transportation system in place, we can relieve the congestion of our roads. And, we can spend less behind the wheel.  As someone who took a one-hour bus commute every morning to go to work in Naples, Italy on a chartered bus, I can attest to how public transportation makes one's life better.   

To VIA credit, the bus is subsidized by only 15-percent of its bus fares.  So, for it to work in San Antonio, it would need to find some other ways to increase ridership.   Many in my Stone Oak neighborhood don't want to provide the land or space for a bus docking station like the one near Crossroads Mall because of the perception that having a VIA station would make our community "ghetto."

However, as Munoz and other North San Antonio Transportation advocates noted there are communities along the Eastern seaboard where a location close to a public transit system is a valued part of a real estate package.   For San Antonio residents to embrace public transportation, we need to change our attitude about public transportation.   We are fortunate to be able to afford cars, but we need to rethink our desire to go everywhere when reliable public transportation (think school buses) are available to us.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Care about San Antonio's technology movement. Plan on attending the first Technical Advocates of San Antonio's first meeting April 30.

If you care about the growth of technology in San Antonio, keep April 30 at noon open.   The Technology Advocates of San Antonio Club is hosting its first meeting of 2009 at Chama Gaucha Restaurant, 18318 Sonterra Place.

Donald Jakeway, the president and chief executive at the Brooks Development Authority will speak on how his organization is working towards creating a world-class research and technology center.  I don't know much about Brooks except for the fact that I was amazed at how the city of San Antonio showed some innovation in creating the Brooks City-Base project.   And, I also know that several other communities, such as New Orleans, are looking at similar arrangements in transforming former military units into similar types of operations.

Under the leadership of Jim Slattery, the founding president of TASA, the organization is revamping its image as an advocate of technology for our city.   As TASA's publicity director and a board of director, I hope that the organization can regain its fervor for helping our growing base of technology endeavors.

So, if you are like me and care about the growth of technology in our fair city, please make plans to attend this event.  Tickets cost $20 per person, and reservations are available by emailing: slattery@satx.rr.com.

Chan's campaign manager provides update on ethics issue

So I was back in my regional office at Indigo Joe's when I had a conversation today with Thomas Marks, Elisa Chan's campaign manager.

He noted my question from my recent blog about her willingness to contribute $50,000 for her campaign from her own personal funds. As well, I questioned if she was going to abstain from future votes on contracts that would impact her business. Marks, who wrote the ethics code for San Antonio's city council and city staff, said Chang's company will have to forgo future contract bids for city work.

Furthermore, the ban would apply to her firm's potential work two years after her last days at a city council member.

I am glad that Marks and his former boss, Kevin Wolff, wrote this ethics policy. It's important that city council members don't have an unfair advantage in their business dealings. Yet, I am enough of a realist to note that her experience as an elected office will translate very well for her after she leaves her post. And, this ethical consideration doesn't include state, federal or county bids.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Leading university releases study on correlation between Twitter and babbling

Does an increase in the use of Twitter lead to an increase in Americans babbling incoherently?  After completing a $48.5 million federally funded research, doctors at John Hopkins University have noted an increase in their program's participants talking in short, Haiku-like sentences.  Dr. John Jones V, a researcher in the university's mental health department, said his research staff noted that program participants were reluctant at first to try Twitter, but after a couple of days, the program participants quickly learned how to compose messages and link blog sites to it. 

"When we took away their laptops or cell phones, some would stand around and speak in a special dialect," he said.  "We had to bring in linguistic researchers to capture all the new words being used."

Dr. Jones said the university will release a special Twitter dictionary of terms online.  The study is available at www.jhu.edu/gibberish.

(P.S.  Happy April Fools Day)