Thursday, February 26, 2009

Stopping & Paying Attention
Is What Finally Awakens Us

''Silence,' wrote Herman Melville, 'is the one and only voice of god.' What is it trying to tell us? In order to follow inner wisdom, we have to first know it. In order to know it, we have to hear it; to hear it, we have to be still. Habits are so deeply ingrained that in spite of the best intentions, we fall back into mindless behavior. It is stopping and paying attention that awakens us. I still have on my desk the conch shell I picked up at the beach on my second day of silence. Listen, it continues to remind me. Listen to what you can hear when you are being still.'
--from Listening Below the Noise--A Meditation on the Practice of Silence, by Anne LeClaire.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Things We Couldn't Help Noticing Lately

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

A Pretty Good Recipe for Happiness,
Especially in the Current Economy

'Keep high aspirations, moderate expectations, and small needs.'
--H. Stein

Monday, February 23, 2009

Sounds Right To Us On Both Counts

The Washington Post's Michael Wilbon says that as we head into the home stretch of the NBA season, it's really down to four elite teams vying for the title: the Lakers, Celtics, Cavs and Spurs. Meanwhile, his colleague Al Kamen notes a recent C-Span poll of historians that rates the outgoing president George W. Bush as the seventh-worst in history. We think that's a good start, and a temporary resting place from which he should only slowly fall even lower as the enormity of his serial disasters continue to be digested and assessed.
UPDATE: Bush, who famously told author Robert Draper that in his post-presidency he would give some speeches "just to replenish the ol' coffers," is about to embark on a series of speeches. Meanwhile, a columnist for Britain's Guardian newspaper has some fun imagining various jobs Bush might explore.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

We May Have Reached a New High Water Mark
In Comments About How Bad the Meltdown Is

Like me, you may be tired of hearing how the current financial problems are the worst since the Great Depression, since it's been uttered a few millions times. Earlier this week, we were troubled to learn from this New York Times story that the nation's banking system is basically insolvent. A day later, PBS's Frontline series added yet another bracing bit of context with its excellent documentary recounting recent economic events, Inside the Meltdown (which I urge you to watch online if you missed it on TV). But after reading this brief Reuter's story, I couldn't help thinking we'd crossed yet another perilous threshold. A highly credible financial figure, a man of towering reputation, former Fed chairman Paul Volcker says "I don't remember any time, maybe even in the Great Depression, when things went down quite so fast, quite so uniformly around the world."


Saturday, February 21, 2009

Try, Try Again

'Character consists of what you do on the third and fourth tries.'
--the late author James Michener. You can review a brief (and unflattering) earlier mention of him here.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Being Toughest
On Yourself

'The hope of the world lies in what one demands, not of others, but of oneself.'
--the late author James Baldwin. We mentioned him earlier here.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Diligently Carving a Path to Success

It's natural to focus on the inspiration one needs to launch a successful startup, but the perspiration and determination that's required is easier to overlook. Jodi Marchewitz has shown that kind of diligence throughout her career, first acquiring marketing know-how and technical skills in user interfaces and programmable logic control during stints with Eaton Corporation & Allen-Bradley (now a part of Rockwell Automation). That background led her to believe that while Google and other Internet search engines offer elegant solutions, there was still a market for an overlay of search engines, combining computer logic with a simple interface to help users more quickly find the right key words to unlock their search.

She found considerable support in Northeast Ohio when she decided to start a company, iGuiders, based on that idea. As she began developing a prototype, she received seed funding from the Civic Innovation Lab and Flashline Partners (a group headed by software veteran Charles Stack), and also received help from TechLift and MAGNET. "It's incredible how much help I've gotten on this," she says. JumpStart recently added its own substantial investment in iGuiders. Naturally, Jodi welcomes the injections of funding, a crucial kind of support for any startup. But she stresses that she's also benefited tremendously from the ongoing coaching she's received from all her benefactors and supporters, who have helped her continue to refine her operating strategies.

Jodi expects to have a lead-generation platform in place by next month (it's now being beta tested), and has already generated an impressive number of jobs for a company in its early stages. iGuiders employs two fulltime developers, another part-time contract developer, and a part-time chief technology officer. It's also currently seeking someone to head the sales effort and another person to lead the marketing function. For more information, go to the iGuiders website or contact Jodi. This growing internal team of professionals, backed by the outside team of supporters and investors, gives iGuiders the kind of momentum and positive feedback loop any startup needs to beat the formidable odds against success. Starting a business can be lonely, grueling work. Having the right support group around you considerably improves the odds of success.
--From the latest in a series of e-newsletter articles prepared for JumpStart. You can see earlier articles here and here.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

It's Often the Small Gestures That Mean the Most

We read with interest yesterday that former ABC White House Sam Donaldson was retiring. It's perhaps a sign of the times that we thought he had retired quite some time ago. But then, we don't watch much traditional network news anymore. But the most interesting thing of all about his retirement was this lovely story about his decency, recounted by The New Republic's John Judis. "One way to judge people’s character is how they treat those who are beneath them in status or authority. Take ABC television newsman Sam Donaldson, who retired today. I don't know Donaldson, and don’t watch Sunday news shows, but I had one experience with him many years ago when I was following former Rep. Dick Gephardt around for a story. Gephardt had a luncheon interview scheduled at ABC in Washington, and I accompanied him. The various bigshots, George Will, Cookie Roberts etc., were having lunch at their executive dining room. I was directed to a chair up against the wall and away from the table, where I could watch, but not participate in, the proceedings. I wasn’t introduced to anyone or offered lunch. Five minutes into the luncheon, as the interview was beginning, Donaldson disappeared into the dining room, and came back with a lunch on a tray for me. It was a minor, but a noble, gesture, and the kind of thing that I remember about people."

Meanwhile, we loved a similarly good-hearted idea our friend Dennis Coughlin floated recently on his blog. "Do you know someone who is out of work? Take them out for some coffee and conversation. Introduce them to someone new. Let them know that you are there for support if needed. They do need to get off the computer occasionally, get out of their houses, and talk to people who are not in the world of job searching, desperation, and depression, but rather are caring and listening."

Here then, is a tip of the cap to a couple of mensches, Sam & Dennis.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Small Change That Really Adds Up

'Lowly, unpurposeful, and random as they may appear, sidewalk contacts are the small change from which a city's wealth of public life may grow.'
— the late author and civic activist Jane Jacobs, whose The Death and Life of Great American Cities remains perhaps the seminal book about urbanism, nearly a half century after it was first published. We mentioned her earlier here.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Harvard's Nieman Foundation for Journalism,
A Refuge for Former Plain Dealer Reporters

Former PD columnist Sam Fulwood, Jr., a onetime Nieman fellow, argues in the excellent Nieman Watchdog on behalf of newspapers establishing a race beat. Meanwhile, his former colleague, reporter Andrea Simakis (also a veteran of the Village Voice) is a current Nieman fellow, studying U.S. immigration and refugee policy and its impact on how newcomers learn and navigate American culture. The fellowship was established in 1937, during the depths of the Great Depression, through an extraordinary $1 million bequest to Harvard. Nieman also hosts an annual conference on narrative journalism, which our friend Maria Shine Stewart reported on here last year.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Word Usage, From Cradle to Grave

'You can get a sense of the Oxford English Dictionary’s intellectual capaciousness just by turning the pages in any of the enormous volumes and casting your eye down the extraordinarily detailed entries. What made the dictionary revolutionary when it appeared, and makes it revolutionary still, is that every definition it contains is based on a study of the empirical data: those masses of original quotation slips that recorded a word’s use in real historical sources from 1150 to the present day. From these scraps of paper (eventually numbering more than five million for the first edition) the lexicographers constructed their picture of the history of a word’s usage from the beginning of its life to its ­end—­from cradle to grave, as they themselves ­said.'
--from an article on the celebrated dictionary in the current issue of The Wilson Quarterly.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Table for One

'What a lovely surprise to finally discover how unlonely being alone can be.'
--actress Ellen Burstyn

Friday, February 13, 2009

A Few Not-To-Be-Missed Events

I hope readers from outside Northeast Ohio will indulge me today, and forgive this listing of events in the region that we want to highlight for our neighbors closer at hand. These WWW-endorsed events begin with a 7:00 p.m. appearance tonight at Joseph Beth Bookstore at Legacy Village by former Washington Post editor Len Downie, who's recently signed on as a journalism professor at Arizona State. The Lakewood native is hawking his new novel, The Rules of the Game. A couple years ago, he was good enough to spice up this media column about the erstwhile Cleveland Press, with his personal recollection of the paper. Next week, his colleague, the WaPo columnist E.J. Dionne, one of our favorite voices of political reason, comes to Akron to headline the Akron Roundtable, the town's version of Cleveland's City Club. Next weekend you might consider snowshoeing through the lovely Penitentiary Glen in the Cleveland Metroparks, at least if there's any snow by then. If not, keep it in mind for when there is some white stuff. The following weekend, Saturday February 28th, John Ewing is bringing a legendary silent film, Napoleon, to the Cleveland Insitute of Art's Cinematheque theatre. I've been waiting years to see this reputed masterpiece on the big screen. Heck, we think the back story of the film is more interesting than most entire movies. Next month, on March 19th, political activist and author Naomi Klein, whom we mentioned recently, will be speaking at Cleveland State. Finally, we hope you'll reserve the date of April 23rd, when the Cleveland Foodbank will have an evening fundraiser at the Galleria downtown. We plan on supporting that one. So now we put the question to you: what can't-miss events should we have added?

Thursday, February 12, 2009

A Refreshing New
Hero for Our Era

He cooly maneuvered his damaged jet, US Airways flight 1549, into the first successful water landing in commercial aviation history, quickly becoming one of the most admired people in America. Suddenly, Chesley B. Sullenberger III and his nicely reserved it's-all-in-a-day's-work demeanor can be seen feted at the Super Bowl, lionized at the presidential inauguration and celebrated during an appearance on the Letterman show. Politico now asks the question, when dissecting the maneuverings over the stimulus bill, what would Sully do? We thought New York Magazine did perhaps the best comprehensive piece on the event that made him famous. What's behind all the adulation? We think he's a perfectly timed reminder of America's old can-do spirit in the face of adversity. After eight years of bumbling incompetence from on high and the more recent realization that the country's financial wizards had no clothes, the country that once put men on the moon was ready to celebrate someone who represented a merger of technical competence and steely cool under fire (with just a pinch of good luck tossed in), culminating in the saving of 155 lives. We tip our caps to you, Sully. Now, gentle readers, we'd like to hear your take.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Every Once in a While, You Just Have to
Stop the Chattering of the Rational Mind

'You get your intuition back when you make space for it, when you stop the chattering of the rational mind.'
--author Anne Lamott. You can review several earlier mentions of one of our favorite writers here (just click through for all of them).

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Tuesday Stuff
  • Our Idea of Hell on Earth. Taking a cruise with members of the editorial team from the right-wing Weekly Standard magazine.
  • Sublime News. The Indigo Girls, one of our favorite musical acts, have an imminent album release.
  • Piano Talk. The celebrated architect Renzo Piano talks to Architectural Record about his interesting headquarters building for the New York Times.
  • Cleveland's Not a Very Popular Place to Live...According to this Pew Research study. Now tell us something we didn't already know.
  • Our Guy Valdis is at it Again. Valdis Krebs has cobbled together an interesting network map charting the feeder system for the infamous Madoff Ponzi scheme. In doing so, he coins a ringing phrase: Triangle to Turpitude. Some time ago, we talked about Valdis a little here.
  • We Quite Agree. Google mail is the greatest thing since sliced bread and boiled ham.
  • The Aging of Camelot. If JFK were still alive, he'd be 91. Hard to picture that.
  • TNR's on the Case...Of Tom Dasche's mysterious round red glasses.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Best Lead of the Month

'They’re considered a release, a psychological tonic, and to many a glimpse of something deeper: the heart’s own sign language, emotional perspiration from the well of common humanity.'
--from a recent New York Times article on the science behind human tears. You can review earlier best lead paragraphs here.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Kindness Echoing
Through Eternity

'Kind words can be short & easy to speak, but their echoes are endless.'
--the late Mother Theresa, who visited and spoke at John Carroll University during my student days. She later won the Nobel Prize for peace. She died in 1997.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

How Soon We Forget

'The United States must not adopt the tactics of the enemy. Means are as important as ends.'
--from the 1976 report of the U.S. Senate Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities, also known as the Church Committee. Among other things, it investigated the misuse of intelligence agencies during the Watergate era. It leaves us wondering if we need a similarly comprehensive airing of our national dirty laundry after eight years of Bush Administration abuses.
UPDATE: Sen. Leahy suggests a Truth Commission for members of the Bush Administration.

Friday, February 06, 2009

The Best of Both Worlds

Here's our favorite news headline of the week, and our favorite blog headline of the week. Hats off to great headline writers. They help focus readers' attention in this age of too many distractions, and help guide our eyes to something worthwhile. I, for one, found it nearly impossible to resist reading either of these stories after scanning the witty & imaginative headlines. But enough about me. What were your favorite headlines this week?

Thursday, February 05, 2009

CerviLenz Benefits From An Ecosystem of Support

Hillary Clinton, borrowing from an African proverb, once observed that it takes a village to raise a child. You could also say it takes an entire ecosystem of support to transform a good idea into a successful startup. CerviLenz, a JumpStart portfolio company, offers one especially telling case study on how many things have to go right for a startup to succeed.CerviLenz produces a low-cost, disposable device for measuring the length of a woman's cervix, a leading indicator of premature birth, which is in turn a leading cause of infant mortality. The device was originally developed in 2000 by an obstetrician in San Diego, who raised enough seed funding to get it patented and approved by the Food & Drug Administration. Still, it stalled for several years, with no clear path toward commercialization.Subsequent breakthroughs in progesterone treatments for at-risk women -- some conducted by the nationally prominent perinatologist Dr. Michael Ross, Chairman of the Board and Medical Director of CerviLenz -- unlocked a far larger market potential for the company, which reignited interest in the device."What CerviLenz can do is provide an obstetrician/gynecologist, nurse practitioner or nurse midwife the ability to do this screening test in about a minute, for about $30," says President and CEO Dean Koch, a veteran of the medical devices industry. "One in eight women delivers a baby pre-term, often with profound effects on the baby and family. CerviLenz's device, which enables doctors to cost-effectively diagnose women at-risk for pre-term birth, will allow doctors to intervene earlier, thus reducing the number of preemies born each year," says Lynn-Ann Gries, Chief Investment Officer of JumpStart. JumpStart's support, starting with an initial investment in April 2008, helped to fund clinical trials that have recently begun in Ohio (under the auspices of Ohio State University). As part of its ongoing guidance, JumpStart is working with Dean to identify additional funding opportunities, which will enable the company to accelerate its path to market. CerviLenz illustrates just how many elements a successful medical device startup requires: from a solid idea with strong intellectual property protection, to veteran operational leadership and medical advisory support, and of course, enough funding at key junctures of its development to continue the path to market. Stay tuned to watch CerviLenz's story continue to develop.
--a newly published mini-article from the latest JumpStart Connect e-letter. You can review an earlier issue here.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

We Couldn't Avoid Thinking About
This Fine Langston Hughes Poem
As Obama Took the Oath of Office

I, too, sing America.
I am the darker brother.
They send me to eat in the kitchen
When company comes,
But I laugh,
And eat well,
And grow strong.
I'll be at the table
When company comes.
Nobody'll dare
Say to me,
"Eat in the kitchen,"
They'll see how beautiful I am
And be ashamed--
I, too, am America.

You can learn more about the late poet and onetime Clevelander here. We were surprised to notice that the otherwise exhaustive Cleveland Encylopedia of History has no entry on him.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Once More,
With Feeling
Lebron James is once again the cover boy of the current issue of Sports Illustrated, at least his seventh such appearance. It was seven years ago this month that the mag dubbed the then-high school sophomore "The Chosen One." This time, the article focuses on what a freak of nature he seems to be: he's gained considerable weight and muscle mass since turning pro, and yet can still outrun and outjump lighter, more aerodynamic players. The writer even brought a scale along in hopes of getting to the bottom of various reports that he may now weigh as much as 274 pounds (Lebron didn't oblige, but he did admit to having gained eight pounds over the offseason, even while trying to lose weight. Should we be worried about this long-term trend?) Four years ago, Cleveland-based Stack Magazine, aimed at educating young athletes about the most effective workout regimens, offered this article about Lebron's high school workout routine. Meanwhile, as the Cavs get ready to play the Knicks in New York tomorrow, the national media hype machine is cranking up to full volume again with all the silly reports about how he's supposedly headed elsewhere at the end of next season, when his current contract is up, looking for greater fame and money. The lunacy peaked a few weeks ago, I think, when the infamous Nike huckster Sonny Vaccaro made this memorable observation to the New York Times : “Even though Cleveland has done everything right, you don’t get to Mount Rushmore from Cleveland. He has to go to New York or Los Angeles. There’s no question. The money will be available anywhere. But this is about his persona.” has now posted this invitation for Cleveland fans to pour their hearts out about how unfair it all is, and what the Lebron/Cavs conversation is like around their local barbershops. By all means, send them a note if the spirit moves you. But we'd also like to hear your thoughts on the matter.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Are You Working on the Future?

"Tomorrow always arrives. It is always different. And then even the mightiest company is in trouble if it has not worked on the future."
—Peter Drucker, the late & legendary management theorist, writer and consultant. You can review an earlier mention of him here.