Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Beneath the Surface

Cookey's Mechanical...if it goes through a pipe, we do it."

Radio ad heard during a JUCO broadcast

Denver - I'm here to take part in something you don't necessarily do every week. I'll talk more about it afterward, but back in February I took the online contestant test for Jeopardy, and earlier this month was invited here to audition for the show. The second step, sort of. If I do well here I'll be placed in the contestant pool for a year.

Four co-workers stepped forward to cover my shift so I could be here today. My sincere thanks to them.

Microsoft unveiled a new product this week, and does it look cool. Obscure reference department: If I get one, I'll be reviewing the data with this baby after I get a redball and before consulting the pre-cogs .

JUCO has been very well-attended this year (gas prices affecting out of town travel?), but the product placement has gotten ridiculous. Considering the volume of advertising being thrust at people during the tournament broadcasts, some corners may have been cut in the screening-for-double entendre department, witness the example above. If I have to hear another business name inserted into the descriptive account of the event, I'm shutting off the radio.

Next on the Gene Taylor's, Home of The Cage schedule, I'm getting dressed and having breakfast.

Wish me luck today.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Memorial Day

The cover of this past week's New Yorker says it all.

Remembering those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in the cause of freedom.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

GJT Follies and True JUCO Flavor

"He can dance around in lederhosen if he wants, I don't care. I want our engineer in town and available for the first three days of the tournament."

- Jim Davis, "The Radio Voice of JUCO", expressing frustration over some technical difficulties encountered on Saturday afternoon.

I've been busy and somewhat distracted the last few weeks, not only with the continued efforts at settling Jan's affairs, but with other things as well. There have been frustrating moments and joyous ones to be sure; my son got his learner's permit yesterday, so perhaps a little of both on that one. We'll wait and see.

One thing that has caught the attention of myself and several others is the sudden name change from Walker Field Airport to the Grand Junction Regional Airport. Generally speaking, this is not that big a deal, but a name change is a significant step if one wishes to reinvent themselves.

Having worked in an aviation-related business in the past, I tend to refer to airports by their FAA identifier, so for me it doesn't matter how you sugar-coat the outside; when it gets down to what the facility is supposed to accomplish, then for me the name remains GJT.

The traffic, parking, and other construction going on is certainly significant, but every time I choose to visit GJT I get the impression that the facility lacks imagination and friendliness to the traveling public. Like many industries that have to endure lots of government regulation
(especially federal) in order to operate, there doesn't appear to be a lot of vision and foresight in the conduct of daily operations. Here are a few examples:

  • Try to reach someone from the Airport Authority by phone after normal business hours; you'll find yourself in automated-attendant Purgatory. Before and after these hours, the only airport folks on duty are the maintenance staff, which doubles as the airport fire department. They're required to be at the airport until the last scheduled commercial departure and/or arrival. There isn't any easy way that I know of to track one of these folks down, save for meeting one in person if there is a problem or issue.
  • There is no centrally-located information desk or easily identifiable airport representative to be found. The airport website speaks of a Volunteer Ambassador program, with nice artists' renderings of smartly uniformed ambassadors assisting travelers. There's even prime parking reserved for these folks. Too bad I have never seen one on duty.
  • Speaking of the airport website, it hasn't changed to the new name yet. As much as the Airport Board wanted to jettison the name "Walker Field" as quickly as possible, the existing site is the only one online for the facility after several Google searches of the old and new airport name. Here's a suggestion; Google says that is available.
  • There are no centrally located electronic message boards or LCD monitors that advise travelers of the status of all departures and arrivals, including delays or cancellations. The PA system at the airport is pretty active, but that doesn't help the hearing impaired a great deal. A lot of this visual information is readily available from paid services via the web. General Mitchell International Airport in Milwaukee, also known as MKE, is one of the nicest medium-size airports around. They have monitors that show not only flight status, but also the flight location, altitude, etc. on a dynamic map that is updated every few minutes.
It's pretty clear that the Authority Board that operates GJT has its' work cut out for it, now and into the foreseeable future. There are three seats on the GJT Board coming up for appointment over the next year, two appointed by the Grand Junction City Council and one by the County Commissioners, and the city council rep's term is up as well, but it's likely that Gregg Palmer will continue in that role.

According to the agenda from the May 14 Council Workshop, the Board member whose term expires at the end of the month, Frank Roger Little, has expressed an interest in being re-appointed. Based on
Mayor Doody's well-reported comments about the name change, the re-appointment process for these Board seats may be more interesting this time around. I'm thinking about this, and other ways to steer GJT toward a customer-driven service delivery model that has the traveling public's service needs at the forefront. _________________________________________________________________

It's JUCO week in Grand Junction, which one wag long ago equated to a combination Chamber of Commerce picnic, teenage mating ritual, and Lions' Club Convention. The tournament may indeed have something for everyone, including us radio hobbyists.

Broadcasting in Grand Junction is the official broadcast partner for the tournament, and their broadcasts on KTMM 1340 here locally are also beamed to radio stations serving the populations of the participating teams' home areas.

The signal from the press box at
Suplizio Field is beamed to the KTMM studios near Sherwood Park in Grand Junction via a constant VHF radio feed on what is in FCC terminology called a Relay Press frequency.

This transmission is constant from the microphones in the press box, and can be particularly entertaining during commercial breaks, witness the quote at the top of this post, monitored during the beginning of the 3:00 game today.

If you have a standard programmable scanner receiver, or a multi-band receiver that pulls in VHF around the
NOAA weather band, plug in 161.700 or tune to just below 162 MHz while the games are going on. The signal can be heard pretty well across the central Grand Valley. You just might make a great catch yourself.

Happy Flying and Play Ball.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

A Leadership Lesson

Burlington, Wisconsin - She's been gone a month. Between trying to get things organized at home and going back to work, I guess I'm starting to feel a little more normal. Travel helped - 10 days spent between Pittsburgh and Cape Cod, among loving friends, relatives, and some quality time with Jan's brother.

Now I'm in an attractive small city about 30 miles southwest of Milwaukee, on business doing an inspection trip for a mobile communications vehicle we're having built here.

While driving here from Milwaukee Airport, I had occasion to listen to Marketplace, a nationally distributed public radio business show. A commentary on today's program caught my attention:

BENJAMIN BARBER: Paul Wolfowitz is crashing and burning at the World Bank not because he did or said something wrong - that's debatable.

It's because he's an overbearing and arrogant bully trying to impose his will on an organization that depends for success on consensus - both among those who work at the Bank and the governments that pay for and sponsor it.

Simply put, the wolves are after Wolf because he failed to cultivate effective leadership. Not because of a mistake in moral judgment or because of his campaign against corruption.

He placed two former administration allies in high World Bank advisory office, and paid little heed to collegiality and common wisdom in an institution that depends on them for its effectiveness.

Like the world it serves, the Bank can be effective only when it has the collaboration of its staff, the support of its national funders and the good will of those to whom it makes loans.

That's nearly impossible for Wolfowitz to achieve, because he's the product of the administration he left behind: stubborn, zealously "principled" and absolutely certain of his own moral rectitude. Those who disagree are blind to truth, self-interested or traitors.

But leadership isn't about giving orders. It's about listening. Without common ground, no reform, no progress.

The World Bank faces a formidable agenda: correcting global inequalities and augmenting wealth in a world where investment capital is seen by many as the problem, not the solution. Putting Wolfowitz there, like putting John Bolton at the United Nations, was asking for trouble.

Like President Bush, who disdains the national community he was elected to lead and prefers his own voice to careful listening, Wolfowitz is self-destructing around his own self-proclaimed rightness.

Leaders, take notice: democratic leadership in a global world is a two-way street. You need those you lead and you must listen to those you lecture.
(Benjamin Barber runs the nonprofit Democracy Collaborative.)

This commentary set me to thinking about the kinds of leaders I have been both privileged and cursed to work under, what kind of leadership styles work in the type of work I do, and how listening is as important as anything else a leader does.

I'm currently blessed to be working for leaders who (mostly) listen. I can't say the same for many of my colleagues in government at all levels. Maybe the Wolfowitz saga as played out in the media will send some kind of message to those in leadership positions as to what really works.

As for me, all I really needed to know about Mr. Wolfowitz was displayed in his brief appearance in Bowling for Columbine, as excerpted below:

Have a great week.