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On Creating Intangible Value and Tinkering with Perception

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Or, the beauty of advertising and illusion

Many problems can be solved by altering perception rather than reality.  If there are fewer material goods then why not supplement intrinsic value with intangible value to make the overall value greater? 

Some problems of  how to increase value may have an expensive material  engineering solution but perhaps the better and less costly solution can be accomplished by an ad man rather than an engineer.

Why mess with reality when its easier and less expensive to deal with perception?  What about placebos in general?  If they work then why not use them?  Placebos are less expensive than what they replace.  If placebos have any side effects – they can only be imaginary so how could they harm anyone?    What about placebo education?  Convince people that they are well-educated and they will have the self-confidence and high self-esteem needed to succeed without really having a very good education at all.

Can you change consumption habits by tinkering with perception?  What is undesirable can become desireable and what was desireable can become undesirable.   How’s that Hummer in your driveway?

How do we change material goods without changing them?  How do we increase the perceived value of a product  without really changing the product in the slightest?  Is a diamond shape higher value than a square?  Is a diamond and a square only a matter of perception?

Real value may not be created by making material goods through labor and engineering.  Real value may be the manufacture of value through illusion and alchemy –  as an act of creation by illusion  – much more expedient and of greater economic efficiency than producing material goods in a factory by traditional physical labor.  If we have limited material goods then why not enhance their value simply through changes in perception?

Watch Rory Sutherland at TED – Life Lessons of an ad man

Part 2

Written by frrl

May 31, 2010 at 4:26 am

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The Amateur Radio Lifestyle

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Looking for some vintage radio equipment on eBay, reading one of  the descriptions, the seller included the reason for selling a collection of radios – “My father passed away and I am selling his collection of radios.  I do not want to be part of the ham radio lifestyle.” 

Ham radio has been traditionally defined as a “Hobby” and as a “Service”.  This non-Ham described his father’s relationship with Ham Radio as a “Lifestyle”.  That’s an interesting perspective on Amateur Radio.

What’s a life-style?

life·style also life-style or life style

A way of life or style of living that reflects the attitudes and values of a person or group: “It was a millionaire’s lifestyle on the pocketbook of a hairdresser” (People).

Usage Note: When lifestyle became popular a generation ago, a number of critics objected to it as voguish and superficial, perhaps because it appeared to elevate habits of consumption, dress, and recreation to categories in a system of social classification. Nonetheless, the word has proved durable and useful, if only because such categories do in fact figure importantly in the schemes that Americans commonly invoke when explaining social values and behavior…

“habits of consumption”, “habits of dress”, “habits of recreation” – linked to social classification.  Interesting.

For some folks their “hobby” does define their life.  In groups and organizations some do  find significance, recognition, and meaning for their life where, perhaps, other avenues may not be possible or available to them.  Maybe this is what the eBay seller was referring to when he described his father’s relation to the Amateur Radio hobby as a “life-style”.  Habits of consumption, dress, and recreation.

“Life-style” in Action

So, what does this look like?

Burt Fisher (K1OIK)  is a retired high school teacher and long time Amateur Radio operator.  Burt regularly makes videos related to Amateur Radio including hamfests; hamfests are a sort of flea market for radio equipment – and all sorts of things.  And maybe, hamfests can provide a view of Life-style demonstrated.

Take a look at Burt Fisher’s video of NearFEST 2010.  Of note is the interview with WBCQ radio.  This is a 50,000 Watt broadcast radio station on which you (literally anyone)  can buy airtime.   Fifteen (15) minutes of air time costs about $30.  “The more you buy, the more you save.”  An hour of air time on this shortwave broadcast station ia about $60.  WBCQ radio can be heard on 9.330, 5.110, 15.420, and 7.415 MHz.

Check out NearFEST 2010

Additional Resources

Part I of Burt Fisher’s NearFEST 2010 video –

Selected links from the WBCQ web site

Glenn Hauser’s World of Radio
Lumpy Gravy Radio Show
Monitoring Times
New England Amateur Radio Festival
Popular Communications
QSO Radio Show
TennesseeBill’s OTR Library
This Week In Amateur Radio
WBCQ Audio Archives

‘ON THE AIR’ 1937 – How Radio Works –

Written by frrl

May 30, 2010 at 3:29 am

The Aldous Huxley Solution to the Texas Textbook Debate

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We live in a time when great efforts have been made, and continue to be made, to falsify the record of the past and to make history a tool of propaganda; when governments, religious movements, political parties, and sectional groups of every kind are busy rewriting history as they wish it to have been, as they would like their followers to believe that it was.

Bernard Lewis, quoted in Teaching Religion, Washington Times, 23 Dec. 2008

If you want to hear the flak on the Texas Textbook changes – here it is in 7 minutes

Maybe the question is “who cares”?  Here’s why.

First, who are we trying to educate and for what purpose?  Does a chemist need to know anything about history?  How about a Physicist or an electrical engineer?  Do they need to know anything about any history – american history or world history – to do their job?  How about a factory worker?  Or a person that works at McDonald’s or Wal-mart?  Do they need to know anything about history to do their job?

Perhaps we are over-educating people.  Perhaps 4 years of high school is too much.  Why not simply “cut to the chase” and train people to do a job that larger society needs done?  Who needs history, philosophy, literature, and all the rest?  It would seem to simply “get in the way” of the task at hand of learning a marketable skill.

I recently read this: “Don’t have any economically unproductive  thoughts”.  No one is going to pay people in any of the careers cited above for their knowledge of American history – or philosophy or literature – for that matter.

Maybe Aldous Huxley got it right in Brave New World 

“Set out the books,” he said curtly.

In silence the nurses obeyed his command. Between the rose bowls the books were duly set out–a row of nursery quartos opened invitingly each at some gaily coloured image of beast or fish or bird.

“Now bring in the children.”

“Now turn them so that they can see the flowers and books.”

The Head Nurse, who was standing by a switchboard at the other end of the room, pressed down a little lever.

There was a violent explosion. Shriller and ever shriller, a siren shrieked. Alarm bells maddeningly sounded.

The children started, screamed; their faces were distorted with terror.

“And now,” the Director shouted (for the noise was deafening), “now we proceed to rub in the lesson with a mild electric shock.”

“Observe,” said the Director triumphantly, “observe.”

Books and loud noises, flowers and electric shocks–already in the infant mind these couples were compromisingly linked; and after two hundred repetitions of the same or a similar lesson would be wedded indissolubly. What man has joined, nature is powerless to put asunder.

“They’ll grow up with what the psychologists used to call an ‘instinctive’ hatred of books and flowers. Reflexes unalterably conditioned. They’ll be safe from books and botany all their lives.” The Director turned to his nurses. “Take them away again.”

With this solution it makes the whole Texas Textbook debate moot.  Rather than spending time teaching these folks history, philosophy, literature, and the rest why not use this opportunity to teach these folks to be good consumers of products and entertainment?  This would ensure a continued, and perhaps increased, stability of the economy plus people wouldn’t ask too many questions.

Written by frrl

May 24, 2010 at 3:52 pm

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Ashley Madison – Taking the Temperature of Americas Morality

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There has been media buzz over the past few weeks over the web site.

There are a couple of different ways you can interpret what is going on with this site.

On the one hand, CEO Noel Biderman is an entrepreneur – in addition to having a law degree and a background in economics.  As any entrepreneur would do, he scanned the landscape of unmet needs in the marketplace looking for opportunities to start a business.

Mr Biderman discovered that one of the few survivors of the dot com bust in 2000 was dating sites. In addition, he found out that about 30 percent of members of dating sites were not single.  So, putting this together, in 2001 Mr. Biderman created – a dating site for married folks.

It took Biderman five years to grow the site to 1 million members.  In 2004 had 4.5 million members.  At the time of this writing in May 2010 Ashley Madison has 6 million members.

The question is this.. Did Noel Biderman do anything wrong in starting a dating site for married people?

Biderman created a company in 2001 to fill, what he assessed to be, an unmet need.  Businesses will either succeed or fail based on how well they can meet the needs of potential customers.  If you can’t meet the customers needs (and do it in a unique competitive way) you will not have sales sufficient to stay in business.  In this way, business are “self-validating”.  Given that AshleyMadison now has 6 million members it seems to suggest that Mr. Biderman was correct in his assessment in 2001 – that there is such a need and that he has a successful service to meet that need.

So, bottom line, there is an appetite for a service such as AshleyMadison and Mr. Biderman was there, on the spot, to cater to this need.  He did nothing wrong in what he did.  He is simply a business owner with 6 million customers.


On the other hand, you could say that what Mr. Biderman is doing is “immoral” and/or “unethical” by providing such as service.  Is the implication that our American businesses – small and large – are somehow responsible for guarding and enforcing the morality and ethics of society?  If you say, “Yes” then who defines what that morality and ethics is?  And further, can this “guarding the morality of socity” exist alongside what we call a “free society” in America?

Who defines the ethics and morality of a society?  What was once permitted is now taboo – slavery.  What was once taboo is now permitted – inter-racial marriage.  One generation has difficulty in understanding how a previous generation could have either permitted or denied certain institutions or acts. 

As odd as you might find this, in the Lincoln-Douglas debates (1858) both Douglas and Lincoln agreed that “All men are created equal” did not apply to slaves.  Could a politician running for a seat in the Senate of the United Stats today say what Lincoln and Douglas said a mere 150 years ago regarding the equality of men?  Hardly.  Yet, only time makes the difference in what is morally acceptable and not acceptable.

Are we (society) dragged along by the ebb and flow of the randon events that defines what is, and what is not,  moral and ethical behavior?  In an old episide of Dragnet (from the 1960’s) a hippie tells Jack Webb that the laws have to change to keep up with the times.  And in this case, the legalization of drugs.  And further, that “someday we will be in charge” and you (Jack Webb) will have no choice.  Are the morals and ethics at any time simply “what we say they are”  and then we make legislation to match this?  Are ethics and morals defined by the majority in society?  Or, do ethics and morals define the society?

What is AshleyMadison?

AshleyMadison is a couple of things. First, Ashley Madison with 6 million members is a reflection of the movement of the societal values – for good or bad.  Ashley Madison elicits and makes visible a portion of societal values that, perhaps, have not been clearly seen before.   At least to the extent that the Ashley Madison marketing folks are able to create buzz with a potential Super Bowl commercial and segments about the site on most cable news shows.

Second, Ashley Madison provides an opportunity for ordinary people to make a choice.  You are free to choose to use the site or not use the site.  You have the choice to steal or not steal.  You have the choice to lie or not lie.  You have the choice to cheat on your taxes or not cheat on your taxes.  You have the choice to cheat on your spouse or not cheat on your spouse.  People make choices every year, every month, every day, every hour, every minute, and every second of the day.

What’s the great thing about AshleyMadison?  It allows you to make a choice to reveal who you really are.  Perhaps, helping you make a self-assessment that would not be possible without AshleyMadison as the catalyst.


 Read an article –

Written by frrl

May 23, 2010 at 6:41 am

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What Makes Men?

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Some thoughs based on the thinking of Ronald Heifetz at the John F. Kennedy School of Government

Some societies, social systems, cultures, and organizations “get stuck” – and in the worst case, die –  due to their inability to objectively face reality and constructively (productively) adapt. 

Ronald Heifetz calls this “work avoidance”.  You can observe this in politicians, CEO’s, and almost any place where the ability to objectively assess reality and face problems head-on is lacking.

From the “school of experience” perspective, one gains the ability to deal with these uncomfortable and distressful situations over time simply by being placed in these situations time and time again and gaining the proficiency to productively deal with them rather than falling into the trap of work avoidance. 

Sometimes people are challenged too quickly and they collapse into inaction or are paralyzed by the situation.

From Hiefetz:

People fail to adapt because of the distress provoked by the problem and the change it demands.  They resist the pain, anxiety, or the conflict that accompanies a sustained interaction with the situation.  Holding on to past assumptions, blaming authority, scapegoating, externalizing the enemy, denying the problem, jumping to conclusions, or finding a distracting issue may restore stability and feel less stressful than facing and taking responsibility for a complex challenge.  These patterns of response to disequilibrium are called work avoidance mechanisms… 

While more research should clarify the distinction between productive and avoidance behavior in different social systems, some rules of thumb are useful.  One might detect work avoidance when the subject of discussion is suddenly taken off the table…; when the focus shifts from attending to the problem to alleviating the symptoms of stress…; or when responsibility for the problem is displaced to an easy target (as with scapegoating).  One ought to take a skeptical stance, at least momentarily, when some action suddenly makes everyone feel good.

Again, some people placed into a position to solve these types of gut-wrenching problems are destroyed.  For others, the opposite happens – they are transformed by it.  Some have called this experience “The Crucible” – a sort of furnace of life-changing trials where one learns and earns confidence of rock-hard determination – a cauldron of turbulent crisis where both character, and sometimes, new societies are forged.

Think of the American Revolution and the founding fathers – Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, John Jay, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and others.  What happened to folks like these?

The question is this, in the context of work avoidance and the idea of the crucible, “Did the situation make these men or would these men have risen to prominence without the situation?”.  There is no lack of “crucible situations” – but perhaps lack of people who are willing and able to step into the cauldron of a turbulent crisis and seize the opportunity to  “become” men.

Written by frrl

May 17, 2010 at 2:36 am

The Four Stages of Competency & Predictors of Career Success and Failure

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“Know thyself” is a greek aphorism that was inscribed at the Temple of Apollo at Delphi.

A couple of weeks ago I ran into someone who not only did not know what he did not know but also had a pretty good idea (in error) of what other people know and did not know.  For a person who did not know himself, making an assertion of what other people know and do not know is quite an accomplishment.

Here are the four stages of competency

  1. Unconscious Incompetence.  The individual neither understands nor knows how to do something, nor recognizes the deficit, nor has a desire to address it.
  2. Conscious Incompetence – Though the individual does not understand or know how to do something, he or she does recognize the deficit, without yet addressing it.
  3. Conscious Competence – The individual understands or knows how to do something. However, demonstrating the skill or knowledge requires a great deal of consciousness or concentration.
  4. Unconscious Competence – The individual has had so much practice with a skill that it becomes “second nature” and can be performed easily (often without concentrating too deeply). He or she may or may not be able teach it to others, depending upon how and when it was learned.

So this person I met was in the “Unconscious Incompetence” camp.  When I told him about the thing he did not know I also told him how he could find out more about it – but he was not interested.  In the context of the environment in which this person was working, other people do know, so this lack of knowledge on the part of this individual will be noticed.

Related, are those people who get “stuck” in other ways – never learning from mistakes.

Diagnostic Job Interview Questions

These types of interview questions will “ferret out” those people who have and do not have the capability of critical self-assessment and learning from mistakes.   The capability to engage in ongoing critical self-assessments and learning from mistakes is taken as a  predictor of career success or failure.

  1. Discuss the most difficult constructive criticism or feedback you have received. How did you address it? What have you learned from it?
  2. Describe a failure that you have experienced. What role did you play, and what did you learn about yourself?
  3. What have you learned from a mistake?
  4. Please provide an example of a team failure of which you’ve been a part. If given a second chance, what would you do differently?

If you can’t candidly face, discuss, and work on your flaws, or if you try to hide them, blame others, or blame circumstances it shows a lack of self-knowledge and maturity.  Don’t expect to be a viable candidate for senior leadership.

Another common flaw is work-avoidance.  This is the inability to face difficult alternatives in terms of values, procedures, operating styles and power within an organization.  People with work-avoidance will do everything but solve the problem directly.  CEO’s or executives in this situation will do everything to quell the organizational disequilibrium  except face and solve the problem directly.  This is the avoidance mechanism at work.

More related concepts  – Illusory Superiority –

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by frrl

May 13, 2010 at 3:37 am

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On Optimism and Confronting Reality

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The optimists.  Oh, they were the ones who said, “We’re going to be out by Christmas.”  And, Christmas would come, and Christmas would go.  Then they’d say, “We’re going to be out by Easter.”  And Easter would come, and Easter would go.  And then Thanksgiving, and then it would be Christmas again.  And they died of a broken heart.  This is a very important lesson.  You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end — which you can never afford to lose — with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever that might be.

— Admiral James Stockdale, talking to Jim Collins about his time in the notorious “Hanoi Hilton” prisoner of war camp in Vietnam.  The optimists, said the Admiral, died first.

Written by frrl

May 12, 2010 at 4:25 am

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