Author Archives: Michael G. Lortz

I made a good tweet

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I’ve been on twitter for about eight years. I have a little over 1,000 followers. I’m not a big time social media star. I tweet about the wide array of things that appeal to me or catch my eye.

A few people respond to me regularly, and I reply back to them.

Only three times in eight years have my tweets been circulated to the masses.

The first was a picture of me in an R2D2 costume from 1982. I tweeted that to @StarWars and they retweeted it to the rest of the galaxy.

The second time my tweet was heavily circulated was when I posted a Chuck D song about Muhammad Ali after Muhammad Ali died. Chuck D retweeted that to all the Public Enemy fans worldwide.

So it usually takes someone popular to push my tweets to the masses.

Last week, however, after New Jersey Governor Chris Christie called President Trump’s tone to the ex-FBI director “normal New York City conversation”, I posted this:

MrMet

As you can see, a lot of people interacted with this post. I was shocked. Granted, it’s not millions or thousands and I am not asking for free nuggets, but nearly 200 retweets and over 600 likes for a joke isn’t bad.

My theory is that the tweet jumped in popularity when Twitter posted it on their top tweets for the topic. If you went to the twitter home page, there was a headline of “New York City conversation”. Clicking the headline brought you to dozens and dozens of tweets about the subject. As mine was pretty popular, it rose to the top, which then made it more popular. Twitter is weird like that.

So that’s my most popular tweet to date. Mr. Met engaging in a normal New York City conversation.

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What I’m Reading: May 2017 – Internationalism, Media, Black Market, and International Music

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Wow. I am super late with this. But since I have been doing this for over a year, I can’t stop now. As a matter of fact, I’ve thought about doing this more often with less links. I think that might be a good idea. We’ll see.

Anyway, on to the articles I found most interesting in May.

Is American Internationalism Dead? Reading the National Mood in the Age of Trump – 5/16/2017, War On the Rocks

Starting with something heavy on the social sciences tip. Writer Hal Brands discusses America’s attitudes towards internationalism, especially with the statement made by electing Donald Trump. Brands details the history of US internationalism, then looks at whether or not Donald Trump’s election is a break from generations of US international involvement.

Overall, this is a really good article. However, I would be interested in deep-diving into his polling numbers – especially in regards to support to international involvement. Is support heavier in cities and on the coasts? What do farmers in Iowa think of NATO? Questions like that need to be answered before making a statement about what Americans believe.

Life and death of the knowledge industry – 5/17/2017, PeterHarling Blog

Another really long read, but a good read. This article discusses trends in media consumption in the last 20 years or so. It discusses the trials and tribulations of a freelance economy that discourages in-depth knowledge, whether due to lack of compensation or lack of attention. The media model has changed – whether in the mainstream media or academic writing. The end of the article asks for examples of how companies have best blended in-depth research with quick consumption. The lack of methods, best practices, or examples keeps the article in the realm of theory and not as practical as it should be.

Conservatism Isn’t The New Punk Rock. Shitposting Is. – 5/31/2017, Medium.com

This article, by K Thor Jensen, takes an interesting look at counterculture. It details the basic philosophy of conservatism, the idea of status quo and maintaining power, and states how there is no way conservatism could ever be “punk” – which is a power-challenging vehicle. However, Jensen states the obnoxious media habit of “shitposting”, otherwise known as “knowingly contributing low quality, off-topic, or ill intentioned posts” that is much more akin to punk. Punk is untuned guitars, off-beat drumming, poor production, and purposeful flaunting of convention. That is not conservatism. If anything, conservatism is the new old school NY hip-hop – a standard rhythm and beat and bemoaning of anyone going counter to that as “not hip-hop”.

Cybercriminals Regularly Battle it Out on the Dark Web – 5/30/2017, DarkReading.com

This is a scary article, although not entirely unexpected. According to DarkReading.com, the same actions cybercriminals use against corporations, governments, and other targets, they also use against other cybercriminals. This is probably just poking to prevent domination, just as gorillas in the wild do. But this also probably assists development and evolution, making them tougher amongst themselves and even more difficult to stop for authorities and cybersecurity personnel.

Seeing Security from the Other Side of the Window – 5/3/2017, DarkReading.com

An interesting plea to the security world to see their profession from a business perspective. Security does not have the same ROI as manufacturing or supply. Unless they have detail on the threat and their psychology.


Corruption, Terrorism, And Mafia: The Global Black Market For Oil – 5/12/2017, OilPrice.com

This is more graphic than article, but still a great look at how illegal oil sales and trade funds other illegal activity throughout the world. Illegal oil transfers are a bigger business than some of the biggest oil businesses in the world. We can only imagine how these efforts will slow, if they even will, with the future advancement of alternate power sources.

Among First Nations Youth, Hip-Hop Is a Tool for Self-Expression and Cultural Preservation – 5/17/2017, GlobalVoices.com

I am fan of articles on global music. I think music is one of the best ways societies have to communicate their frustrations. This article discusses the use of hip-hop in Native American communities in Canada. Called “First People”, the native tribes of Canada face struggle and poverty. Many youth have turned to music to express their frustrations and hopes for the future.

Bangladesh: Where Heavy Metal Dies at the Doorstep – 5/14/2017, GlobalVoices.com

On the other hand, there are places where music is prohibited by the government. According to GlobalVoices.com, a metal festival featuring Brazilian metal band Krisiun was cancelled by authorities after Krisiun made the international flight. Of course, the situation became finger-pointing with each side blaming the other, and in the end the fans got shafted.

“It Was Like True, True Disdain for Each Other” – 5/15/2017, The Ringer

To end, a little sports. A look back at the New York Knicks and Miami Heat rivalry in the late 1990s. This is one of the rivalries that got me heavily into Knicks basketball, which helped me make friends in the military. Reflecting and reading interviews about it was an awesome blast from the past.

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What I’m Reading – April 2017: Veterans Entrepreneurs, Organizational Study, Media, Baseball, Kung Fu, and Star Wars

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A wrap-up of articles I found most interesting this month.

How Veterans Turned Entrepreneurs Are Disrupting The Pentagon’s Weapons Program – Fast Company, 4/3/2017

This was my favorite read of the month. Having been in the defense contracting world for several years, I understood the inflexibility of contracting – where the military defines their problem and hires someone to work on it. Companies and contract companies are rarely allowed to take the initiative. This puts problem solving in the insular world of the military, which reduces outside views and hence innovation. According to his article, however, several tech companies have been able to penetrate the insular bubble and introduce new ideas. Fast Company details their challenges and successes in a world dominated by close-mindedness and a system that caters to entrenched contract companies.

Needless to say, I am looking at the websites of these companies to see if I can help their mission.

Wow with Insight: A journey to becoming a data and analytics leader – Corinium Intelligence.com, 4/3/2017

Corinium Intelligence interviewed Rick Davis, VP, Global Data Office, Kellogg Company. In this interview, Davis discusses the challenges of analytical positions and departments. Their goals are constantly changing as the environment changes as does the available sources of data – from traditional insight to modern data sources such as AI and the Internet of Things. According to Davis, analysts have to be open minded and willing to connect ideas that might not have gone together before.

I agree 100% and would say this is relevant to corporate and military intelligence. It might also be relevant to financial and other types of analysis.

Organizational Agility: Winning in Today’s Complex Environment – The Strategy Bridge, 4/21/2017

This article discusses how military units can better succeed. According to the author, military units should be more flexible, use improvisation, power down, and innovate. While I agree and recommend the article, I think the author is tilling well-worn ground, especially in regards to Special Operations. Many of the management books I read in my MBA courses emphasized these organizational traits. They are great, but they require intense rapid learning, intelligence, and teamwork.

The military is an awkward place for innovation and agility. They spend the first few months of a member’s career deprogramming and reprogramming them for uniformity. Then they spend years in a closed culture. Articles like this assume members would be able to ditch their organizational programming and think like civilian innovators. Meanwhile, when consultants, who work in innovation and fast-moving fields, are brought in, defense organizations push back.

I wrote more than normal on this because I much as I would like to be, I am not optimistic. And that makes me sad.

Trump and Emergent Strategy: The First 100 Days – War On the Rocks, 4/28/2017

Keeping with the business and national defense theme, this article by War On the Rocks postulates that President Trump is enacting a “learning and improvisation” methodology to foreign policy. Trump is not providing overarching guidance, rather going with a more business-like rapid-learning and flexible style of navigating the waters of geopolitics. The author provides suggestions how the president can succeed with this methodology.

The Link Between White Supremacists and Islamic Terrorism – The Cypher Brief, 4/20/2017

This great interview with former FBI agent Michael German discusses the similarity between terrorist groups such as a white nationalists and Islamic fundamentalists. German dissects the psychology of groups and how operational objectives sometimes supersedes ideology. He also compares different groups such as Al Qaeda and Nazis. According to German, there are many similarities in recruiting, practicality, and operations. These groups often glaze over the ideology for operational success, which is not uncommon for any political movement, just their tactics and attempts to be relevant are different.

Beyond Alt: The extremely reactionary, burn-it-down-radical, newfangled far right. – NYMag.com, 4/30/2017

Another article about political groups. In this very long article, a team of writers dissect the right-wing of America. In the beginning of the article, they label this group a counterculture, not a political movement. They also detail their use of social media and technology – the same tools used by other counterculture groups around the world for years. The idea is that waves of ideas move faster than established philosophy. If that overarching philosophy is weak, or it’s people don’t believe, they will be sucked into the tide of the counterculture. This tide is magnified exponentially by technology. Lastly, the article details personalities and ideas center to the new right-wing group.

The Media Bubble Is Worse Than You Think – Politico.com, May/June 2017

Politico explores the geography of media and how it relates to politics. As media increasingly goes online it migrates more to metro areas with urban, liberal ideals. Unfortunately, local newspapers are losing staff due to lost revenue to national websites. It is a vicious cycle and Politico has some good data behind it.

Unchecked fake news gave rise to an evil empire in Star Wars – Washington Post, 5/4/2017

I am a total geek for articles that use Star Wars to view our modern condition. This article brings up a very good point – that media is rarely seen in the Star Wars galaxy, at least in the canon movies. Without a media presence, government powers are able to run roughshod on the people and authoritarians are allowed to take over.  It is an interesting point about Star Wars that I never realized.

‘Kung Fu Kenny’ Is Just the Latest Example of Hip-Hop’s Fascination With Martial Arts – Complex.com, 4/19/2017

Complex.com does a great job explaining the influence of kung-fu in hip-hop. While old school hip-hop fans might know this relationship, it has slowly fallen out of public knowledge. Thanks to Kendrick Lamar, however, many of hip-hop’s old school influences have come back to light with a modern twist. But it is now up to media and older fans to explain to younger hip-hop fans what they are seeing and why it is important.

History Awakens: February 2, 1876 and the Founding of the National League – MLB Blogs, 4/24/2017

A very interesting look at recently discovered documents that created the National League – the oldest professional baseball league in existence. The article also tells the story of the politics behind the document.

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5 Job Hunting Lessons Learned from Stand Up Comedy

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Hello, Cleveland. It’s a pleasure to be here. My name is Michael Lortz and I was unemployed for over two years. Fortunately, I performed stand-up comedy during that time, which didn’t help me find a job or pay my bills, but it did help me find humor in my predicament.

When I started comedy, I read books on stand-up, I watched videos, and I tried to study my way into being funny. Some provided interesting insight and basic guidelines – the rule of three, for example – but most articles on “how to be funny” are clickbait to build someone’s reputation and provide them a byline on another website.

To use the comic parlance, it is “hack” material.

When I was unemployed, I read articles on finding a job, I watched videos, and I tried to study my way into employment. Some provided interesting insight and basic guidelines – use a professional email address, for example – but most articles on “how to find a job” are clickbait to build someone’s reputation and provide them a byline on another website.

See what I did there? More than everything you need to know about finding a job has been written, re-written, and recycled even within the same articles.

In comedy, the community tends to police itself when it comes to original material. The police have long been absent from the cottage industry of online job advice.

The problem wouldn’t be so bad if the articles gave good advice. But they don’t. Too often, the advice is blandly generic, like sugar-free, low-carb, gluten-reduced vanilla frozen yogurt. Or the advice contradicts other advice columns.

  • Be creative in a resume / Don’t be creative in a resume
  • Start with an objective / Start with a summary of experience
  • Don’t go over one page / Don’t go over two pages
  • Use your real name / Call yourself “Mark Zuckerberg”

It is enough to make a job seeker want to walk out mid-show.

Ironically, the best advice I learned in my job hunt came from comedy. Five simple ideas applicable to any job, any resume, and any career.

1. Know Your Audience

This is extremely important. Know who you are speaking in front of. Is it a Jeff Foxworthy audience or a Katt Williams audience? Is it an older crowd or a younger crowd? Maybe it’s an office party. Maybe you are on stage in room full of drunken Hell’s Angels.

The same applies in the job hunt. Are you trying to impress a Fortune 500 financial institution? If so, the Slayer shirt and nose ring might not be the way to go. A suit and tie might be a better option. But if you have an interview with a hip upstart app developer, they might be impressed with your “Han Shot, Period” shirt.

Likewise with your resume. Will it be read by a creative audience? Or will it be seen by recruiters and hiring managers who wouldn’t know creativity if it tagged them on LinkedIn?

2. Know Yourself

This is also very important.

I’m not an astronaut. I’m not an NBA superstar. I’m also not a truck driver nor a lawyer. These might seem like simple facts, but I would never apply for these positions, no matter how cool they are. I’d have no chance of landing them.

If I wanted a job that I am currently not qualified for, there are some skills I could learn quickly – like learning a new comedy bit. But learning takes time. It is an investment. Some things, such as me being an astronaut, will never happen. I know I am too far behind the career curve to reach the moon. So even if there was an opening at NASA or Space-X for astronauts, applying would be a waste of my time.

3. Know Your Peers and Meet Those Who Have Achieved More Than You

Few comics ever make it completely on their own. Most arise from the bowels of the open mic circuit with the help of their peers and support from more established comics who take them under their wing and give them a hand or a leg up.

Job seekers should also network, know their peers, and look for advice from those who are where they aspire to be. Not everyone is a good lead, a good connection, or a good source of information. Some people are more helpful than others. Some people are jerks.

Ideally, those in whatever field you want to be in will help you better craft a resume or give you specific job seeking advice. That’s ideal if you ever want to stop reading generic career advice columns.

4. Use What You Know to Fill the Needs of Your Audience

Not everyone is LeBron James. As a matter of fact, only LeBron James is LeBron James. But LeBron is just a small spoke in a very big wheel that is the business of the NBA. LeBron doesn’t work in accounting, he doesn’t work in stadium operations, and he is not in janitorial services. He works in the basketball department. He even wears a uniform with his name on it, just like millions of other workers in America.

If LeBron applied for an accounting position, he might not get the job. Likewise if he applied to be an astronaut or a truck driver. But when he filed for the NBA draft and applied for the position of basketball player, he played to his strengths and experience. Basketball is LeBron’s talent.

You should approach job seeking like Jay-Z. You have to sling your talent like rocks. Hustle to sell your skills to someone who can use them so you can get paid, pay your rent, and live. The better reputation you develop, the better the chances your skills find a home so you can afford a home.

You may be tempted to stretch your skills to fit a role that barely fits you, especially when your job search seems endless. But just because LeBron James scores points, doesn’t mean he should apply to operate the scoreboard.

5. Not All Advice is Created Equal

Every comic has friends who say “I have a joke for you …” or “You should write a joke about this.”.

Good advice when people don’t understand your direction is like finding a needle in a haystack, or job on monster.com, whichever you prefer. Likewise, far too many job seeking gurus have equally irrelevant advice. The biggest difference is that job gurus should know better. Unfortunately, bad advice is their job.

In the online content business, it is quantity over quality. People write just to get bylines, credits, and page views. Most career columnists are daft with the fads, while piddily with the particulars. How are they going to help you in your job seeking journey if they are trying to appeal to the magic god of page views and ad revenue?

Speaking of, here I am hoping to get page views on an advice column warning about other advice columns. I think that’s pretty funny.

(This post was originally published on my LinkedIn page.)

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Understanding Women – The Amazing Video

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A little over a year ago, I had an interesting conversation with a female friend. Over the course of an hour, she discussed two guys: one, a male friend who was acting clingy and the other, her boyfriend who was acting like an asshole.

After our conversation, it dawned on me that these two male behaviors are on far ends of the same spectrum and she, a normal woman, was turned off by both. So I drew a line. Then I filled in the rest of the chart. Before I knew it, I had a model that could be used to predict behavior – to an extent, of course.

I like to say this chart is in the same school as the Hot/Crazy Matrix that took the internet by storm a few years ago, but it is a different class.

After I memorized it, I showed this chart to several female friends, bartenders, and servers. They were all impressed. Which made me think I was on to something.

Unfortunately, I drew it out for the woman who inspired it after we spent a day drinking. Telling her why I drew it didn’t sit very well with her. Sorry to say it might be one of the reasons we aren’t friends anymore. But enough of that story …

Ladies and Gentlemen, I bring to you, after months of tinkering and designing it just right, “Understanding Women” (aka “The Guy’s Guide to a Woman’s Interest”).

Please let me know what you think!

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Work or write: The Creative’s Conundrum

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my-job-is-slowly-crushing-my-soulA few weeks ago, there was a huge tiff in the online creative writing community. According to reports, well-known author Diana Gabaldon advised aspiring writers not to major in English. In response to a tweet asking her advice on the career path of an author, the author of the Outlander series wrote:

English major = “Want fries with that?” 🍟. Pick something that will give you enough money to write what you want. https://t.co/MQ52HSzZCl

— Diana Gabaldon (@Writer_DG)

Gabalbon’s comment spurred all sorts of hubbub among writers. From reports, it also offended some food service workers. So as someone who worked at McDonalds, then years later received degree in English/Creative Writing from an award winning and highly acclaimed university program, here are my two cents:

Even without the first sentence, Gabaldon is 100% correct. Majoring in English or Creative Writing is a useless endeavor if one aspires to be a writer. Writers write. They write on napkins, on scrap paper, and on the back of receipts. They write when inspiration hits them. They don’t need to go to school for that.

Writers without degrees can still be self-published, freelance, submit to publishers, and network like hell. Go to book fairs. Meet writers, publishers, and literary agents. Organize writers’ groups. Use local/social media to your advantage. Work the field to get your name out there. It is difficult to do, but it is no different than any local rock band, spoken word poet, or underground hip-hop artist.

While most creative people said their feelings were hurt by Gabaldon’s comments, but they would survive, even if it meant not reading her work anymore, one reply really stuck in my craw. It was personally insulting and to use the modern parlance, I was almost “offended”.

Tim Chevalier, aka “@fatneckbeardguy” wrote a long diatribe on twitter about how his lifelong dream of being a writer was crushed by the heavy weight of becoming a computer programmer, a career choice he never wanted.

fat

It is over 1,000 words of the biggest load of whining and bullshit I have ever read.

I have a computer science degree and thus all the money I want and no emotional energy left after work for writing. If I’d majored in English (like 13-year-old me wanted) I wouldn’t have gone down the path of lots of money and spiritual/artistic vacuity.

This is not his career’s fault. It is his, and his alone. He let the weight of his job crush his creativity. Don’t blame the game, blame the player. He lost the will to create.

I’ve worked and created on the side for over 10 years. While in Afghanistan, I worked 15 hours a day over 8,000 miles from home in a warzone. I missed my family and friends and I was doing the most stressful work of my life. But I still found the time to write over 200 pages of my first novel in that year. Why? Because I needed to. Writing was my escape. I didn’t watch movies or go to the gym. I wrote. I wrote to escape. I wrote to create my own world.  For an hour or two every night, I would be in the world of my characters.

So the bullshit that a job as a computer programmer leaves someone with no emotional energy to write is an excuse. That’s all it is, a flimsy cop-out. You write when you feel the need to. If you don’t have a passion for it, then it’s not your job’s fault. It’s yours.

Chevalier then goes on a tangent about getting trapped in the working world.

Anyway, once you get into industry, you realize the real day-to-day work isn’t much fun, or that there are fun things about it but not the ones you anticipated, and a whole lot of soul-sucking baggage that’s the price of both the fun and the money, but by then the money has you trapped.

More bullshit. Sure, paying bills sucks and if you have a passion for a big house and a fancy car, you might have to work some 12-hour days. That’s life. But that doesn’t mean you can’t still create. Money doesn’t trap you. A job doesn’t even trap you. Throughout every job I’ve had – from military deployments to 9-to-5 daily grinds – I wrote. I made youtube videos. I performed comedy. I ran around town with an afro wig. I found time.

Then there is this beautiful nugget of self-defeatism – an admission Chevalier gave up.

We — as in, we adults who’ve had our dreams beaten out of us — terrorize kids with a lot of fear-mongering about starving artists and starving musicians. The truth is that artists and musicians have always found ways to survive in a world hostile to art, so long as they’re lucky enough to get taught that the shame of not being affluent must be avoided at all costs.

You can be affluent and creative at the same time. It is entirely possible. You can be Bruce Wayne during the day and Batman at night. You can work and do open-mics. You can freelance for newspapers. You can stop at Starbucks on the way home and write a page of poetry in a notebook.

So while part of me knows it’s not too late, part of me is too busy grieving over all the time I lost to be able to make a new plan.

By the end of his post, with its whiny story about being unable to read Bruce Springsteen’s autobiography, I didn’t know whether Chevalier was playing his readers, was this sad, or was trying to make up for lost writing time by piling on the melodrama.

What you do want is time to spend doing the work that makes you feel whole.

Again, I wrote fiction and comedy in a warzone because I mentally needed to.

But in case I am a bad example for Chevalier – perhaps my burning desire to create is superhuman and beyond his capacity – here is another example of someone who toiled all day and then used his spare time to create:

In the early 20th century, there was a young patent officer in Germany who was married with a child. He worked 8 hours a day examining inventions for patentability. Then he went home and he wrote. He claimed his life was divided into 8 hours of working, 8 hours of writing, and 8 hours of sleeping.

According to one source:

Even the hours he had to keep at the patent office worked against him. By the time he got off for the day, the one science library in Bern was usually closed. How would he have a chance if he couldn’t even stay up to date with the latest findings? When he did have a few free moments during the day, he would scribble on sheets he kept in one drawer of his desk—which he jokingly called his department of theoretical physics.

That writer was Albert Einstein, perhaps the smartest man of our time. Einstein eventually wrote his findings, submitted them, and was published in the esteemed scientific journals of the day. The rest is history.

Here is advice for Chevalier and all others who have crumbled under the weight of their own creative regret: Instead of complaining, challenge yourself. Sign up for Nanowrimo. Write 1,000 words a night. Write 100 words a night. Write a haiku. Close twitter, close facebook, and write.

From the rest of Chevalier’s tweets, I’m thinking he might reply with “here is a straight, capitalist-supporting, white man telling people how to think and live”. If so, that’s another cop-out and an attempt to lean on a victim complex.

But as an English major whose desire to never again work at McDonalds led me to national security jobs and graduate schools, and someone who still wrote a novel, composed thousands of blog posts, freelanced for newspapers, and performed stand-up comedy, I have skin in this debate.

To sum, majoring in English/Creative Writing isn’t the smartest thing to do if you want to write. It’s not even the smartest thing to do if you want to make money creating. Applying for jobs with an English degree requires explanation how you can take those skills and apply them. Recruiters and hiring managers are not usually smart enough to derive useful skills from unconventional backgrounds. Hence, they usually pass on resumes that require exposition. Majoring in something tangible – media, marketing, or public relations all have writing elements – will catch the attention of hiring managers and recruiters.

To college students everywhere, make your future job hunt and life easier, keep English/Creative Writing as a minor and write and promote your writing in your spare time, but major in something more tangible.

To Tim Chevalier, I hope you find the time to one day reach your dreams. Cheers.

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What I am reading – March 2017: Insight, Innovation, Tribalism, Media, and Star Wars

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A brief selection of articles I found interesting this month:

My Insights About “What is an Insight?” – LinkedIn post by Craig Fleisher, 2/9/2017

Written by a past professor of mine at USF, Dr. Fleisher provides very interesting insight into insights. Fleisher discusses that too many analysts just provide information, without providing insight. Fleisher defines 6 categories an insight should have: rare, asymmetric, unequal, combinatorial, ephemoral, and clearly communicated. Analysts would be wise to keep these in mind.

The surprising places MLB teams get their information from in the post Moneyball era – CBSSports.com, 3/7/2017

This is a good article by baseball writer RJ Anderson. As data gets easier to acquire, the advantage of having data gets smaller. Baseball teams all have achieved a certain level of statistical knowledge. Now some teams are looking out of the box for insights – especially at contractors and private coders who are manipulating data in their spare time. I especially like the quote on “process data” – data you can use to modify a process. Process data is far more important than data from the results of several processes. Teams are looking for the ability to take apart big processes and tinker on the margins.

Please Don’t Hire a Chief Artificial Intelligence Officer – Harvard Business Review, 3/29/2017

In this article, scientist Kristian J. Hammond writes how companies should not bring in an employee strictly to employ artificial intelligence solutions. AI should be brought in as a solution by people internally working on the problem. This is the “if you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail” dilemma.  AI is the next great solution for business – a younger brother of cloud computing.

Trump taps Kushner to lead a SWAT team to fix government with business ideas – Washington Post, 3/26/2017

Independent from party politics, this is an interesting concept. As I went through my MBA, I often thought about how I would bring what I am learning in innovation and process management into my past career of defense and government work. What Kushner is attempting to do is change processes at the top-most level of government. Government processes and business processes are very different – one works for people and is driven by service, the other is driven by profit and is driven by competition. I am curious what this team will come up with.

Donald Trump and the rise of tribal epistemology – Vox.com, 3/22/2017

This is a must-read. Although a bit biased, Vox details the “alternate universe” that has been created to cater to conservative-minded people. Whereas generations ago, we had only a few channels and shared media inputs, now we have so much media, people can select the channels and platforms they wish to receive news from. What is also happening is people are living in tribal bubbles, not venturing from their reaffirming media channels. When these channels challenge long-standing pillars and accepted rules, the very foundation of society may be at risk. Vox believes old-fashioned media that believes in the rules and pillars are the key to “winning” hearts and minds of enough citizens to keep alternate universes at bay.

What I Learned from Reading the Islamic State’s Propaganda Instruction Manual – Lawfare Blog, 4/2/2017

Charlie Winter of the International Centre for the Study of Radicalization writes about the steps ISIS uses to spread propaganda. He breaks down ISIS’s propaganda methodology into 3 steps: present a new reality, counter other media, and launch propaganda “projectiles” that dominate the other side’s conversation. The strategy has definitely worked, especially in their part of the world. Understanding your audience and winning them over is good marketing. If nothing else, ISIS are good marketers.

We examined more than 1,300 journalist killings between 2002 and 2013. Here’s what we learned. – Washington Post, 3/28/2017

No matter your thoughts on “fake news”, “media bias”, or whatever, the freedom to write is perhaps the most important right citizens have. Journalists have a huge role in a free and open society. As this article concludes, the silencing of media leads to increased social oppression. Writers are the bellwethers of freedom.

Star Wars by Other Means: Rogue One and Foreign Policy – AngryStaffOfficer.com, 3/28/2017

I am a huge fan of ASO’s Star Wars analysis. He does a great job of using Star Wars to analyze modern warfare. There is so much to learn about war and social movements in Star Wars. One day, I will teach a course on Star Wars and Warfare and I want ASO to be a guest lecturer.

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Grabbing the Bull by the Business: A Review of the USF MBA Program

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20161213_174710In August 2013, I enrolled in the University of South Florida Master’s of Business Administration program.

On December 10, 2016, I graduated.

I did this to learn about business. I did not do this for another frame on my wall. I did this to learn. Getting a good grade was nice, but I sought understanding. I sought understanding of what makes business work. I no longer wanted to be just a spoke in the wheel, I wanted to understand the mechanics of the businesses going on around me – from banking to contracting to the small pizza shop on the corner. Since much of our society is commercial, a degree in business would help me understand how that worked.

Prior to graduation, I emailed the Dean of the program with my thoughts on the program. Below is a slightly edited version of my email and a discussion of the achievements and struggles I had in the program.

If by some chance readers find this via a search for the USF MBA program, let me post the disclaimer that my career was very unique prior to the program, so my thoughts on the career impact of the program are viewed through that prism of experiences.

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A little bit about me: I started the MBA program in August 2013. I entered the program with a resume heavy on military intelligence/defense work but with minimal real-world business knowledge. My BA is in English/Creative Writing and my first MA is International Affairs with an emphasis on the Middle East. Both of these degrees were done at FSU.

My goal was to become more hirable to non-military corporations in Tampa and be able to stay in the area. I wanted to diversify my resume and grow my career without worrying about government budget decisions.

I was initially accepted to the program in August 2009, but opted not to register. At the time, I was working for a government contractor on MacDill AFB. It was a good idea I waited, as I was laid off in 2011 and had to go to Afghanistan for a year to find work.

Upon returning from Afghanistan, I had the time and the money to begin my MBA. I was a full-time student from 2013 to 2014, completing all my pre-requisites. Having little background in the numbers side of business, I struggled in Accounting and was absolutely lost in Finance. I thought about dropping out during each of those classes. I had to remind myself that I was smart enough to have one masters degree already, and if I put in the effort and just passed, I can get to the next class.

I learned too late that most of my peers had taken statistics or business calculus – classes I never took. I never also took the GMAT and took the GRE over 10 years earlier.

In my struggles, I had one professor ask me what I was doing in the program with my lack of math background. He provided little assistance.

I want to eventually be capable in Finance and Accounting. I want to understand what a balance sheet is, how to calculate ratios, why they are important, and why Excel is preferred over during the formulas by hand – which I did to better understand what was happening. Perhaps I will look to Kahn Academy or free online MOOCs for assistance.

Although I went from no understanding to a C-level, I was no help to the financial part of my MBA group projects.

The courses I felt like I learned the most in were classes that advanced my strategic thinking – already developed through military experience. Strategic marketing, analyzing case studies, and competitive intelligence were subjects I excelled in. Dr. Craig Fleisher even followed up his course by writing a recommendation on my LinkedIn page.

I also greatly enjoyed Kari Goetz’s Business Improv class. She is also a professor I stay in touch with.

My problem is that leadership, management, and even strategy are not the types of skills that will make me employable without a background in whatever industry I apply to. And when applying to entry level positions, I end up over-educated and overqualified.

I worked two jobs during my time in the MBA program. I was a marketing intern for a government contractor for 3 months – unfortunately they would not bring me on fulltime nor provide any benefits until I graduated. Over a year at $15/hr wasn’t going to help me pay for school. I left that position to help teach political science to Special Forces at MacDill AFB for 6 months. The money I made in that job helped me pay for my final semesters.

Meanwhile, I applied to over 100 local jobs with Citi, Chase, Raymond James, TechData, PwC, Bayshore Solutions, Nielsen, Jabil, and many, many others. I went to the MBA Career Center, USF Career Center, the USF Veterans Dept, and Career Source Tampa Bay for career and employment help. Everyone was great and helped immensely.

One counselor however told me I did things backwards: that I should have gotten an entry level job first, then the MBA. They said most people don’t get their MBA without a career path. No one had told me that before. But I was already well invested in the program.

I recently accepted a position with another government contractor, however no start date has been given. It is a well-paying job, but it is in defense contracting, a field I wanted to get out of. But there is a chance it could greatly help my career.

I know USF takes pride in their ranking and the fact that they are one of a small group of programs with 100% employment 90 days after graduation. If I can’t find a position with the same pay or career advancement before the start date of my accepted position, I might not be employed before March 10 – my 90 day date.

I will also be near broke and wondering if my financial investment in the USF MBA program was worth it. Perhaps I will look for temp, contracting, or consulting opportunities through the holidays.

This might not be the typical email you read from a graduating MBA candidate. I will graduate Dec 10th stronger on market strategy, smarter on management and leadership, and understanding innovation, but barely competent in Finance and Accounting.

I will still stay in touch with the Career Center, Alumni groups, and all the other great networking and advisement avenues USF has to offer. That is one of the best things about the MBA program. I greatly enjoyed my time at USF. I am very proud to have an MBA, even if I am not sure what it will do for me.

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If only economics class was like this:

 

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Review of Hagan Lee’s 2nd Saturday 3 year anniversary

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17098421_10154159192481415_8117802688896564590_nSince I’ve been back in the Tampa Bay area, I haven’t had much of a chance to get out and see live music. The last few months have been full of getting adjusted and catching up. But I’ve been slowly trying to get back into the groove and supporting the local scenes.

Like most of the region, the Tampa Bay hip-hop community is often divided by the geographic expanse of the bay. Performers and fans usually don’t venture across the bridges to see local shows. Unless it is a national act, it takes effort to pull people across the water.

But St Pete hip-hop artist Hagan Lee specializes in bridging the divide.

For the last three years, Hagan Lee has MC’ed 2nd Saturday, a hip hop show at Fubar, a bar on Central Avenue in St Petersburg. Surrounded by tattoo parlors, boutique small businesses, and other dive bars, Fubar is a small venue that hosts an eclectic array of music, from hip-hop to dubstep to metal. Whatever people enjoy while drinking beer, Fubar will have on stage.

That eclecticism makes Fubar the perfect place to see unfiltered underground hip-hop. There are few places left to see raw music of any kind, where the stage is shared by experienced artists staying in touch with the scene and young artists trying to break in. While it might be easier for a venue to book a DJ to keep known hits spinning, it is nights such as 2nd Saturday that keep scenes alive and foster creativity, giving a voice and identity to communities.

2nd Saturday’s 3rd anniversary was a perfect example of an underground scene at its best.

A bit of a disclaimer: I have known Hagan Lee and a majority of the performers on the bill for years. Hagan is friends with several of my FSU alumni friends and many of my local hip-hop friends. So my presence was to not only support a scene, but to support a friend doing his thing. I wouldn’t nor shouldn’t expect people to ever support my creative work if I never support them. We should all support each other no matter our interests.

Although the flyer said 9pm, I arrived shortly after 10pm. I am not sure if I missed an opening act. The first person I saw on stage besides the ever-present DJ Yeti was Marcel P. Black, an MC from Baton Rogue, Louisiana. Marcel is a social conscious MC with southern hip-hop sound similar to more well known acts Bun B or Killer Mike. Marcel only performed a few songs but between told the audience a several facts about his life, such as that he came from a church family, went down the wrong path, decided to do right for his wife and kids, and now uses hip-hop in his work as a guidance counselor.

That’s a strong backstory and a great example of using the language of a culture for the right reasons.

After Marcel P. Black was Aftermarket, a local duo of very lyrically talented MCs. I am usually cautious of white people in traditionally African-American music as they often look like they are trying too hard, but FLUent and KEN The Rapper looked perfectly at ease spitting complex rhymes at rapid speed. Coincidentally, earlier in the day I listened to Fu-Schnickens and wondered what happened to fast rhyming in hip-hop. I forgot what was once a staple to hip-hop curiosities is alive and well in the works of Tech-9, RA the Rugged Man, and Eminem, the latter of which seemed to heavily influence the members of Aftermarket. While not as depressingly tormented as Slim Shady, Aftermarket brought a complex rhyme style similar to many of the members of the Slaughterhouse collective.

My only small gripe with them is as a group, they are hard to find online. “Aftermarket” is not a very search friendly name, even if you put “hip-hop” after it.

In the break after Aftermarket, I slipped out of Fubar to buy some very tasty tacos from a curbside vendor outside the club. This isn’t a food review, but those were some good tacos.

Following Aftermarket was Queen of Ex, a female MC with a lot of power to her rhymes. Queen of Ex brought a drummer on stage to accent her performance. Although she has been around the local scene for a while, this was the first time I had seen Queen of Ex perform. She reminded me of MC Lyte, with a strong NY hip-hop presence that controlled the stage and the audience.

After Queen of Ex was Dynasty, perhaps the most acclaimed MC in all of Tampa Bay. Reviews of Dynasty’s music are posted all over Tampa Bay music media, so allow me to get personal for a moment. I grew up listening to an era of hip-hop that pushed me, a white kid from suburbia, to aspire for more. It was Nas’s “The World is Yours” and Biggie’s “Juicy” that pushed me to get out of my comfort zone, not settle for average, and keep going. Now one of my current favorites is Dynasty.

In the fall/winter of 2016, I was staying with family in a spare bedroom, on a mattress way too small for me, sending my resume to several job leads, talking to hiring managers, and driving back and forth across Florida to finish grad school. Often the soundtrack of my journey would be Dynasty’s albums. Songs such as “Somebody Told Me” and lines in other songs such as “I’ve been doing it so long and I’m still aspiring” made me feel all the work I was putting in would eventually lead to an opportunity I wanted.

It’s interesting knowing someone personally whose work inspires me. I want to say “Thank you” but at the same time say “What’s up? How are you? What’s new?” and keep it totally cool.

I know I am not the only person rocking with Dynasty, as when she was on stage Fubar suddenly became crowded with people there to see her set.

Following Dynasty was Aja Lorraine, a soulful singer with incredible talent. Aja might be one of the most vocally talented performers in Tampa Bay. And perhaps the most sultry. There are not many women with her vocal power who also don’t mind dropping a few f-words and innuendos in the middle of her song. And when paired with husband rapper Hyfa Tha Prospect, they have an almost reverse LL Cool J “Doin It” vibe.

Lastly, was Hagan Lee himself. Hagan did several songs by himself, and others with frequent partner Foul Mowf. Hagan rocked the mic with hard rhymes about life and living in St Pete – an artistic city with both beautiful beaches and public schools known as “Failure Factories“, a place with high class rooftop venues overlooking yacht clubs and dingy dark bars such as Fubar.

Hagan Lee brought the best of Tampa Bay’s hip-hop community together to celebrate the 3rd anniversary of his 2nd Saturday show. While in the mainstream, hip-hop might be fubar, at Fubar underground hip-hop is alive and well.

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The original Biggy Smallz

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Way back in the day, I heard rapper extraordinaire, the late Notorious B.I.G., stopped using the name Biggie Smalls because another rapper was using the name. The now-more-famous, but-then-newer Biggie (aka Christopher Wallace) only had a demo, a few freestyles, and the “Party & Bullshit” song to his name. He changed his name to Notorious B.I.G., dropped a few hip-hop classics, and the rest was history.

But who was the first Biggie?

Thank goodness for the internet. What was a 20 year mystery for me was solved in 10 minutes thanks to this great article on The Boom Box.com entitled “Notorious BIG vs Biggy Smallz: This or That?“. According to writer Max Weinstein, the first Biggy (notice the spelling) was a white rapper from LA. He dropped two songs in 1991 then two more in 1993, both before the bigger Biggie released “Ready to Die”. So the name was already taken and songs copywritten under the moniker.

Although he could never make a comeback with the same name, the first Biggy Smallz may have been ahead of his time. This song, from his first single, has a total “Uptown Funk” vibe at the 3:14 mark. Unfortunately, his rhyme style, flow, and cadence scream Kris Kross-era teen rap, which might work if he worked under the Disney umbrella.

In 1994, Biggy Smallz released “Cruisin'”, along a video for the song. This song was released on Bellmark Records, an Los Angeles offshoot of Stax Records and was produced by Johnny J, who later worked with Tupac Shakur. With that credibility, there is no doubt was legit and Biggy had the name first.

In Crusin’, Biggy Smallz not only sounds like Kris Kross, he even looks like a white kid trying to hard to be urban – not even hood, just urban. I knew kids kinda like this, sorta beach bummer, sorta wannabe gangsta, sorta Zack Morris preppy. It is very early 90s and Biggy rocked it well.

This is teen version of Vanilla Ice. And his presence in the hip-hop world made one of the most well-known MCs ever change his name. Not quite the same as a The Quarrymen and The Beatles, but an interesting footnote in music history.

Biggy Smallz other songs were:

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