Friday, July 31, 2009

Air Force should burn negatives of Statue of Liberty flyover

After outraging New York city residents with a scheduled flyover of mockup of Air Force One flying over the Statue of Liberty for a photograph, someone in the military should have burned all of the negatives.

As a retired Air Force public affairs professional who worked with some of the best military photojournalists in the world, I know the thrill of annually getting six or eight boxes of the poster sized lithographs of everything from the F-15 to a B-52.

For me, getting those lithos was like going to the dime store as a 10-year-old to get six pack of bubble gum cards. Like those baseball cards with stars like Willie Mays and Bob Gibson, our public affairs staff would open up just one pack and ooh and ah at the pictures.

And, like any military noncom, I had the job of keeping the lithos in a special place for distribution to friends of the public affairs office. When our office needed a special favor or needed to reward the guys at the motor pool or supply, we would secretly slip them an F-15 litho for their office or classroom.

I believe that the F-16 escorting the Air Force One litho will become a rare collector's item and highly valued among military bases. Still, the best thing for the Air Force photo and public affairs community would have been to burn the negatives and find an alternate location to shoot the photo again.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

iPhone dev camps are needed in south Texas

One of the hottest trends in technology involves iPhone technology development.

Last year, Barack Obama used an iPhone app where his voters could email, text and reach out to undecided voters with their phone. And, that's just one of many uses of the Apple product. During a recent trip to Austin, a client of mine used another iPhone app to find a list of restaurants located on South Congress street for a lunch meeting.

Developers are embracing the open source capabilities of I-phones. Add the full gaming capability of iPhones, and it's easy to see why developers want to focus on deploying something better than Pong.

This weekend, my friends at the Austin TechRanch are sponsoring a sold out IphoneDevCamp this weekend. I am hoping that they will consider a second one at a bigger venue in San Antonio in the early fall as more and more iPhone developers are calling the southern part of Austantonio as their home base.

For most of us, iPhone development is under the radar, but I am seeing a growth of wireless phone apps coming out of our city. By putting our best iPhone development types with the ones in Austin, we can help quickly close the 65-mile gap between our cities.

Monday, July 27, 2009

SBIR coach featured in two different Business Journal editions......

Fred Patterson, the SBIR coach, was featured in a page-one article in the Austin Business Journal. Patterson also wrote an op-ed piece in the San Antonio Business Journal that appeared in Friday's edition.

Throw in another editorial by LeAnne Carlson at Cook CPAs, and I had a rare trifecta in local public relations. For a one-man PR shop, that's a good days work. Here's the full version of Christopher Calnan's article in Friday's Austin edition:

SBIR idea riles some startups
Many say proposal to award funds to VC-backed cos. not fair

Austin Business Journal - by Christopher Calnan ABJ Staff

Local officials are worried that proposed changes to the Small Business Innovation Research, or SBIR, funding program — such as increasing fund access to venture capital firms — would put nascent Texas companies at a disadvantage.

Two versions of the bill in Congress are being worked on by a conference committee, but industry observers said fewer small businesses will win grants if the proposals are adopted. And since the changes would add companies that are VC-controlled to the mix, the small number of VC firms and VC-backed businesses in Central Texas could make it more difficult for local companies to compete for the funding.

“It’s no longer a small business program rather than an innovation economy program,” said Fred Patterson, president of the North Richland Hills-based SBIR Coach.

The SBIR program, which was created in 1982, administers a $2 billion federal fund that enables 11 federal agencies to target businesses with new technology. With the program scheduled to expire July 31, federal officials are tweaking the policies before reinstating it. Pundits said it’s not a question of whether such changes will be enacted by July 31, but rather to what extent.

Venture capital firms have been lobbying for their portfolio companies to share in the SBIR program since an administrative court ruling limited their participation in 2003.

Businesses that are owned 50 percent or more by a VC firm are barred from applying for SBIR grants. And that’s the way it should stay, said Gary Mardsen, CEO of Austin-based Trout Green Technologies Inc.

Trout Green, which was founded in 2002 and develops optics and sensors for the military, has received about 90 percent of its funding from the SBIR program — mostly through the U.S. Department of Defense, he said.

In addition to increasing the competition for grants, allowing VC-controlled companies to apply for SBIR grants would relegate small businesses to acting as shills for larger businesses and chill the creative climate for independent companies, Mardsen said.

The SBIR program “really is the engine of technology growth in this country,” he said. “To me, the stakes are high.”

The effort to restore eligibility to VC-backed companies comes after VC investments hit a 12-year low during the first quarter, with $3 billion invested nationally in 549 deals. Venture capital fundraising in the second quarter dropped to levels not seen since 2003, according to the National Venture Capital Association.

“A small business is a small business. It shouldn’t matter how you’re financed,” National Venture Capital Association President Mark Heesen said.

Texas companies have received about $650 million in SBIR grants during the last 10 years, making the Lone Star state the country’s seventh-largest recipient, said Erika Sumner, vice president of public policy for the Austin Chamber of Commerce.

The chamber supports loosening the limitations on VC-backed companies because it would improve the quality of the applications, Sumner said.

SBIR awards Phase 1 grants of up to $100,000 and Phase 2 grants of up to $750,000.

The House legislation calls for Phase 1 grants of $250,000 and Phase 2 grants of up to $2 million. The Senate version would increase Phase 1 grants to $150,000 and Phase 2 grants to $1 million. The Senate version also extends the program to 2023.

Patterson said the House version of the bill would be “very damaging” to the funding of small companies.

“The VC community is always trying to reduce risk and let the government take on the validation,” he said. “I don’t think that’s something we should promote. It just goes counter to what I believe is in the best interest of this country.”

Saturday, July 25, 2009

To Gidget, sorry that you're heading to the big fire hydrant in the sky

As I blog this, the number one topic on Twitter is the death of Gidget, the "spokes-canine" for Taco Bell. And, while her death is a sad event, the gazillion of Tweets about it is causing me some credibility issues with some of my clients and friends.

It seems that there are still some folks who are resisting the use of Twitter as an effective way to communicate to customers. Take my wife. She's the kind of person who would note the constant Tweets about the Taco Bell icon and wonder why people spend so much time sending these 140-character messages.

I know that those truly analytical types won't get Twitter because they see Gidget and Michael Jackson's death getting a lot of attention. Yet, I believe it's still an effective way to communicate with friends.

So, Gidget we're sorry that you're going to the big fire hydrant in the sky. The thousands of Twitter posts show that you truly touched a lot of people's lives.

Advice to a Cub fan who is marrying an Astro fan: "Let your children choose their favored team"

I am feeling my age today, as Katie, one of my former CYO basketball and softball stars gets married this weekend. It seems only yesterday that she was 11 years of age and elbowing her way to rebounds.

Now, she's getting married this Saturday. Like many other young couples, Katie is entering into her marriage with Paul, her beloved in what I would call a mixed sports marriage.

Sadly, Kate is like her father. She roots for the Cubs, while Paul is a lifetime Astro fan.

During a bridal shower, I asked Katie how she and Paul would resolve the baseball loyalty issue. Katie said that if they were girls they would root for the Cubs, and her future sons would root for the Astros.

I have a better idea to resolve this sports dilemma. Why not let their children decide themselves? I am sure that in time they will pick their own favorite team, perhaps something like the St. Louis Cardinals. After all, who wouldn't want to root for a team that has won more World Series championships than any other team in the National League?

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Noise at Camp Bullis is the sound of freedom to its neighbors

The woman on the phone was venting her anger with me. It was 1982. I was stationed at Bergstrom AFB, Texas, and her infant daughter couldn't sleep because RF-4Cs were buzzing her house.

With the growing news coverage about Camp Bullis and its issue with new developments near it, I thought of the many phone calls that our public affairs office got that year (including one from Willie Nelson complaining because he couldn't hear his soaps) as residential areas began to encroach under the base's flying patterns. Like most other air bases, Bergstrom was built 7 miles outside of town during World War II to allow the aircraft assigned to the base to fly over ranches and other uninhabitated area.

Then progress took over.

Slowly, the developers saw a four-land state road with the opportunity to build close to Bergstrom's flight path. As a junior enlisted member, I was never privy to the discussions that our public affairs officers and my commanders had with the community.

Yet, I am sure it went something like this: "We built the base far enough away from the nearest residential area to protect our local community from a possible aircraft accident or noise. Please don't enact a zoning change that will allow the construction of new homes near our base."

Now, Camp Bullis is facing the same issues that we tackled at Bergstrom. Austin city officials zones residential areas close to the base even though the Air Force argued against their development.

Military public affairs professionals create an environment where we encourage our military and civilian staffers to become good citizens. As a group, we do not contribute to election funds for our mayor or city council. When an issue like noise or environmental issues such as the migratory warbler impact our training, we present our story to our local elected officials for help.

In Bergstrom's case, there wasn't an ordinance requiring realtors to inform home buyers of the noise. After answering all those calls at lunch when our office secretary went to class, I secretly wondered why someone who purchased a home didn't do a little research about how much noise came from an RF-4C as it pulled its brakes to land on the runway.

As the woman with the cranky baby said: "My realtor didn't tell me about the noise."

From reading the comments in today's newspaper, especially the one concerning statutory property rights, I believe it's time that we make it mandatory for anyone buying a home close to Camp Bullis to note their close proximity to the base. Because most people purchase a home on a Saturday or Sunday, they won't hear the guns or explosions from the base that regularly occur during the work week.

So, I believe it's only ethical that realtors who sell homes close to Camp Bullis have to disclose the noise issue. While it will make the homes in the area lose some property value, it will also help our city keep the growing medical training mission in San Antonio.

This medical training mission has a billion dollar economic impact on our community as more training cadre and students will come to our city. For our city to lose this military mission because of complaints about noise near Camp Bullis is something not worth the cost of the development near the base. And, it's definitely worthy of some changes in the zoning law and the need to tell Camp Bullis' neighbors that if guns go off at 10 p.m. that it's as an old Air Force RF-4C commander would term "the sound of freedom."

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Does Stephenville, Texas, have better dreams than San Antonio?

Unless you were an advance public relations guy for the Air Force Band of the West, it's a good bet that most San Antonio residents have never been to Stephenville, Texas. But for those of us who follow viral changes that may change soon as the new Twitter and blog site, @Dream_bigger is coming to this Lone Star Community for a 30-day visit.

Journalist (or as some younger folks term journo) G.D. Dan Gearino is already in Stephenville for a 30-day visit. Gearino's blog focuses on the positive vibe that we can find in America.

According to the blog: "This summer, the "Sleep Better. Dream Bigger" project will travel to a small American town where we'll learn about folks' dreams and aspirations."

While the details are not forthcoming, Gearino's blog did not enclose how Stephenville was selected from other small towns. Having grown up in the world's biggest small town, Decatur, Illinois, I can understand the need for communities to publicize their accomplishments. I am impressed that Stephensville and their city leadership stepped up to help Gearino start his 30-day quest.

Somehow, in a city of more than one million residents, we lose sight of our accomplishments. Visit Decatur, and you will soon learn of its reputation as the "Soybean Capitol of the World." When I came home for my parents' 55th anniversary, you could feel the pride of the city in its many accomplishments.

Gearino's blog, after close examination, has the makings of a classic promotion as Carpenter Co, the largest manufacturer of comfort cushioning, is sponsoring his work. As someone who has worked in public relations and new media, I am impressed by this company's vision to sponsor such a social media event.

Yet, the question remains..... What would San Antonio do if its dreams were granted with a visit by this blogger. Surely, we can encourage Gearino to visit us after his 30-day stint in north central Texas for a visit of our River Walk and to meet with dreamers and visionaries. Surely, the folks at Carpenter realize we have a lot of hotel beds where dreams of Shamu and Six Flags are made every night.

Perhaps, if we could reach out Gearino at his Twitter account (@dream_bigger). All every San Antonio resident has to do is go onto their Twitter account and send a message such as "@dream_bigger, please come to San Antonio after your 30 day tour in Stephenville." Perhaps, that will cause him to consider a trip south to our community.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Great recipes can't be conveyed in 140 characters or less.....

When I read an article in the Christian Science Monitor about twecipes, I had to think what would Karen Haram think. Haram, the Express-News food editor, would probably not publish this online Twitter-based recipe for rhubarb from Martha Stewart in Wednesday's food section: Stewed Rhubard - Cut lb rhubarb 1/2″ +3/4 C sug/simmer 15 min + T corriander &grated orange rind + 2T buttr serve w/creme fraiche
Or what about this recipe from Rick Bayless for Guajillo Salsa: Simple Guajillo Salsa:toast 2 clnd guajillos n med-ht oil 4 20-30 sec.Blend w 4 rstd tomatillos,3 rstd garlic,1/2c H20. Salt.
While I truly embrace Twitter, I don't think you can truly convey how to prepare these dishes in 140 characters or less.

Instead, food professionals should consider using text shortening tools such as Budurl to fully capitalize on Twitter's full outreach. For example, that Guajillo Salsa could be listed on Twitter with: "Feel the passion of Guajillo chiles in this great salsa recipe:

The problem with some social media types is they don't think through the full capabilities of all the tools available to them. While some of us may embrace shorthand code and algebra to cook, I think that I'm a little old fashioned in having the full details of a good recipe when I or someone from my family prepares a dish.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Fanmail from some flounder..... why reblogging one of my blog reader's comment is worth my time and effort

As a guest blogger for the San Antonio Express-News, I get a lot of comments from people.

This morning, as I logged onto my computer, I saw this email reply to my last blog from someone named "Bleh."

His comment is worth repeating in my personal blog. To paraphrase Casey Kasem, "and he wrote:

"If this was the way to go, the city would have someone updating a
myspace page, a facebook page, a twitter account, their web page.
These tools are for marketers, kids, and the lonely. They are not for
serious government. Maybe you can pay for the salary for this person
to update all these accounts."

So, let me reply to Bleh.

1) How is it that serious politicians like Barack Obama have a web site and a Twitter account? n fact, I believe that when historians look at this election, they'll note his use of social media tools as a major factor in his defeat of John McCain, the guy who has someone read his email for him?
2) Kids, the human type, are the future of government. If our local government doesn't engage them now, how will we get them interested in government?
3) Our city spends millions on communications and public relations. It doesn't do a very good job of it but I'm sure anyone with a little management skill could find a person who is on the city payroll who could take it over.

Finally, Bleh, I'm not sure if you watched TV, but you might have noticed the 100 million of Twitter posts concerning the rigged Iran elections. According to urban legend, our federal government asked the web communications site to forgo maintenance so that it would allow people to comment on this sham of an election.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Despite its growing popularity, city of San Antonio is still not using Twitter

Despite its growing popularity thanks to folks like Oprah and Terrell Owens, Twitter is still not being embraced by our local government.
An article in today's Austin American-Statesman notes that the city of Austin has a Twitter account with 41 followers.
However, the article notes that the city is starting to put more emphasis on its marketing of its Twitter site and hopes to add more followers.
Here in San Antonio, a Google search of the term "city of San Antonio and Twitter" found the @SAGovernment site. This is a job announcement site, listing open positions within our city.
I am hoping that someone in our city administration realizes that Twitter has become a mainstream form of communication. Furthermore, there's a core group of social marketing experts who could advise the city on how to add more focus on the use of social media sites as a communications channel.
So, here's hoping that @SAGovernment adds more to its site than job openings. There's a growing number of people who are turning to the Twitterverse for information. It's a low-cost communications solution that is pretty easy for city staffers to use when they want to reach out to others.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Building a new home? Get a security professional to help you design a state of art system

If you're building or remodeling a home this year, now's the time to confer with a home system security expert.

Despite the advertisement from ADT Systems and Brinks Security that promise home security is only a click away, there are better ways to provide security for a home or small business.

Today, home and business owners should build a security system that includes video verification. If you own a small business, and there's a 2 a.m. alarm that goes off in your business, most require you to go back to the business to reset the alarm. With a video system, a owner can verify from the comfort of his home if a burglar had entered the building. If there wasn't an incident, a business owner can reset the alarm from home.

Home owners, especially senior citizens, should ask for a home security system that allows their loved ones to remotely check on them. If you remember that "Hello, I Fallen and Can't Get Up" commercials, then you'll understand why a home verification system would help the children of elderly relatives feel this is a better way to check in on them rather than wait for them to hit a panic button.

The cost for video verification monitoring systems is more expensive than the traditional forms of security. However, in time, the costs will drop to a lower level.

So, if a new home, office or a major remodeling project is in your future, it's time to engage a security specialist at the design phase of your home or business planning phases. It's better to get alternatives from the pre-installed security systems that most builders give to their customers.

Monday, July 6, 2009

How job retraining can go from a crap shoot to a sure thing

Is job retraining a "crap shoot?

An article in the New York Times details the struggle of Michigan workers deciding on which career to pursue after losing a job in the automotive industry.

Under Michigan's "No Workers Left Behind program, " the state's 78,000 unemployed can begin work retraining programs in a new career. After completing retraining, many still have not found a job.

The problem with job retraining programs is that very few factor in the art of finding job champions as they begin their instruction. According to Joshua Shipsey, the founder of, a job champion is someone who can help someone find contacts within his or her industry.

With 1.4 billion in federal stimulus pending, it's time for the managers of these workforce programs to call upon former industry leaders to help build a network of job champions for those who want to enter a specific industry.

Even armed with the latest data from the Department of Labor, workers need a job champion to help them build a network within their chosen industry. There are thousands of these semi-retired executives who want to help people succeed in a new job search. It's time for our government to help connect them.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

So what is the dress code for business in Austin?

For years, I had a pretty easy choice when it came to determining what to wear to work. It was usually the basic blue uniform with a sweater when the weather determined the need for it. About once a week, one of my commanders would determine that a certain day was "Warrior Day," which meant wearing my green or battle dress uniform.

For 20 years, my basic work wardrobe was easy to determine. Now, 11 years later, I am still trying to figure out what appropriate for meetings.

Yesterday, I traveled to Austin to visit with some technical types. Having attended a lot of events with techies, I knew that wearing a pressed short sleeve shirt with jeans would be appropriate. I was right. The folks I met with had on shorts, T-shirts and didn't wear socks.

Having traveled between both Austin and San Antonio, I have seen a interesting difference in what I would ex-military types would call the "uniform of the day."

For example, in San Antonio, it's appropriate to wear a suit jacket with a pair of trousers. In Austin, a dressed up person would sub jeans for the more formal business wear.

But the question arises: "Do clothes really make the person?" I find it refreshing that in Austin, it's not the cut of the cloth, but the passion of a person's brain and heart that truly matter.