Archive for the ‘business’ category

The Office

April 12, 2016

office tooFor the first 33 years of my career as an engineer, I worked for what I like to call Big Industry … large defense-based corporations like Raytheon, Honeywell and Hughes Aircraft.   That portion of my career took place before the term tele-commute was invented, mainly because the technology of the time did not support working at home.  Consequently, I traveled each morning to an office which provided the assets I needed to do my job … computers so large they filled a room, and secretaries and typing pools and art departments.  Sometimes during my early years, my office was a cubicle, most often shared with another junior engineer.   As the years went by and I was promoted, my offices became nicer, evolving to shared offices instead of cubicles to a private office … occasionally even an office with a window, although it usually overlooked a parking lot.   My furniture got newer and eventually was made of real wood, not slime-green metal.   By the nineties I was content in my private wood-furnitured office and I probably would have been content to continue that way until retirement.  Fate and Big Industry had other plans.   Hughes Aircraft was purchased by Raytheon and decided to close the California facility.   Ironically, the work I was involved in was transferred to Portsmouth, RI, where I began my career many year earlier.  I even knew many of the senior engineers there. (more…)

Monday Smiles – 6/15/2015

June 15, 2015

TECFOCUSAs 2014 was drawing to a close, the only job our company had was coming to an end.  It was awarded under the Small Business Administration’s Small Business Innovative Research program.  These contracts are reserved for small research companies, giving them an opportunity to compete for government contracts that address critical need of the various agencies.   The initial contracts are quite small, with only enough funding to show that a solution to a problem might work.   Based on the work done in this Phase 1, a few companies are awarded Phase 2, which brings enough funding for up to two years.   About one in ten companies go on to Phase 2, and sufficient time has passed that we had pretty much decided we weren’t one of them.  It was OK … my business partner (who is my age) had talked about fully retiring anyway. (more…)

Off to Work

November 14, 2014

off to workI wonder how many people actually noticed that I haven’t posted since Monday.  There was a time when I had a regular cadre of readers and regularly read ten or so other blogs and my absence would have been noticed.  But I’ve been a solo writer and only a very occasional reader for quite a while.  It’s interesting.  The views on my blog per day are about the same as they were in my most active days and I have more followers than ever.   Comments?  Virtually zero except a few I receive by email.  But I still love to write, so posts keep popping up when I have the time or the inclination. (more…)

Working … in the Park

March 19, 2014

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhen I retired from Big Industry 15 years ago (yikes!) and started a consulting business with my friend and mentor, Paul, there were several things we both appreciated immediately.  For one, we began doing the kind of interesting work we’d had to fight to do in the big companies we’d worked for, work that had never been profitable enough for their voracious appetites.   Secondly, we both loved the flexibility of working when and where we wanted.   I could go to the movies with Muri in the afternoon, then work in the evening. Or I could get up in the middle of the night and work on an idea I’d had, then take it easy the next day.  And I could work in my office … or my recliner … or at Starbucks … or even at the park.  Perhaps nothing made me feel as satisfactorily self-employed as working at a picnic table by the side of the lake. (more…)


August 10, 2013

typicalTypical seems to me to be an unusual word, one that draws its connotations almost completely from the context in which it is used but that, of course, is a product of its definition: Exhibiting the qualities, traits, or characteristics that identify a kind, class, group, or category.  It derives its connotations from the kind, class, group, or category and the particular qualities, traits or characteristics being referred to.  If my boss (if I had one) says, You’ve done your typical wonderful job, it’s a complement.  If he says, I’m going to have to have Ron look over your report, Bud.  That’s typical, it’s not.   Well, perhaps typical’s not entirely connotation-free.  According to the Urban Dictionary, typical is The word woman use to describe their displeasure and contempt for anything a male could do, would do, will do, or should do in order to please their partner.  A woman never explains what is “typical”, it just covers every sin known to man.  Hmmm. (more…)

Nothing Works

July 13, 2013

nothingIn my business … which is developing completely new ways to solve difficult problems … the problems we undertake are rarely easy.  There is no guarantee that our solution, or, in fact any solution, will work so our projects we sometimes reach a point where Nothing Works.   Worse, we don’t know why.  As this weekend rolls around we have reached that point on a project we are currently working on.  This particular project involves my business partner and I, as well as an engineer from a small company down the road.  The first phase of the project gives us not quite enough money to prove to the customer that our idea will work, which means we put in a lot more time than what we’re paid for, the incentive being a more substantial contract in Phase 2.  If there’s a Phase 2.  There’s no Phase 2 if Nothing Works. None of us will starve if the project doesn’t go to Phase 2 but that doesn’t mean we don’t want to advance.  The pressure is just self-imposed. (more…)

Keeping Secrets

June 8, 2013

ideaBack in April, I posted Trolls, which talked about Patent Trolls, companies that buy up patents not to build new and innovative products but to sue other innovative companies, seeking lucrative settlements.  The costs of patent litigation has become so high that in most cases, companies settle rater than fighting the Trolls in court.   For large companies,  this an economic expense and a nuisance.  For small businesses, it can spell ruin.  The patent system, which was designed to encourage innovation by protecting proprietary developments, is doing exactly the opposite.  Of course, there are other drawbacks to using patents to protect secrets.  For one, a patent application includes a complete disclosure of the innovation being patented and is made public as soon as the patent is granted.   The secrets are protected from use by others by law for the duration of the patent, twenty years from the date the application was filed for so-called utility patents.  Of course, exercising the patent rights against other companies and defending them against challengers usually requires litigation.  And at the end of the patent term, anyone can use the information disclosed in the patent. (more…)


April 13, 2013

imagesDo you know that there are real Trolls living in the United States?  No, they are not hiding under bridges, frightening children on their way to school.  And although someone who posts inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community, such as a forum, chat room, or blog, is often termed an Internet Troll, they are actually rodents of the species, Dontus Havalifus.  No, I’m talking about Patent TrollsPatent Trolls are companies whose only means of income is the aggressive litigation for patent infringement in hopes of receiving lucrative settlements from companies that actually produce something.  Technology companies often settle out of court because of the prohibitive cost of patent litigation (approximately $2.5M if the case goes to trial) and the risk of a negative verdict, particularly if the case goes to jury trial.  Patent Trolls have no intention of ever using the patents they own, which are often purchased from companies going through bankruptcy proceedings.  You’re probably wondering, Why should I care?   You should care because Patent Trolls are stifling innovation in this country, which threatens our ability to compete in the world economy. Small companies are particularly affected because litigation is not an option due to cost.   Recently, a small company owned by a friend won a job under the Small Business Administration’s Small Business Innovative Research Program.  Within one day of the announcement, my friend received a call from a Patent Troll telling him that whatever they came up with would violate a patent the Troll held. (more…)