Bloomberg Businessweek on Trump, “Would You Let This Man Run Your Company?”

Blomberg-01174But in many ways the more appropriate perspective [to judge Trump] is through a  business lens: The immediate issue is whether a boss tried to halt embarrassing revelations about his company; the underlying one is whether he knows how to run it. Bloomberg Businessweek

Several months ago, I got a complimentary copy of Bloomberg Businessweek and really liked it. Several weeks ago, I got one of those cut-rate subscriptions – something like a year for eight bucks – and subscribed. I’m glad I did. This article, in this issue, is especially fascinating. Almost all my usual news sources – except, most of the time, The News Hour on NPR – are slightly to massively hysterical about Trump (although most haven’t sunk to the level of many of my facebook friends who have just given up any pretense of thinking about Trump rationally). So, when The New Yorker has an article on impeachment, say, I have a hard time judging its accuracy.

The Bloomberg article is refreshingly dispassionate. So when Bloomberg says, Behind this list of individual transgressions sit four larger failings: This CEO-in-chief has failed to get things done; he has failed to build a strong team, especially in domestic policy; he hasn’t dealt with conflicts of interest; and his communications is in shambles. it packs a more devastating punch than, say, The New York Times saying the same thing.

Check it out: if you are a Trump fan,  you might find a couple of things that will give you pause and if you think Trump is evil, you might find some things that will give you a more reasonable perspective (as well as getting some good arguments for The Cause).

Catherine Santos R.I.P.

Catherine A-00973My friend Catherine Santos died late last week. She was 91 and died peaceably, in bed, with her beloved dog lying next to her and her daughter holding her hand. Catherine was a pioneer and smart – and literate, her email address was Hypatia 5 – and funny, very funny. She was tough and kind and always a joy to be around. Oh, and she was very English (despite marrying a Spaniard).

I first met her on my first day at Shapell Homes – I was 31 and had just been hired as a General Superintendent by the guy who would later be my partner, Sam Berland – and she was the lone salesperson on a condo project in Cupertino. I soon learned that she had been my new boss’s secretary at Kaufmann & Broad and Sam had run interference for her when she decided she wanted to be a salesperson rather than a secretary. Now that seems like a no-brainer, but then – about 1968 –  there were no women sales people in what was know as merchant housing; selling new houses was considered a man’s job.

When Catherine got her license, Sam leaned on K&B’s very reluctant sales department to give her a job. At the time, the best salesperson K&B had in Northern California was selling an upgrade project in Foster City which was particularly difficult because the houses were spread around the town in onesies and twosies rather than the usual tract configuration, it was not a place for a novice (which was, of course, the whole point). The salesman, who didn’t want any help, and the tract superintendent were the only people who knew where each individual house was. To show that woman couldn’t sell production houses, the Sales Manager had put Catherine on the hardest job the company had.

In the first month, Catherine sold almost as many houses as the so-called Golden Boy. In the second month, she outsold him. The next month, Catherine was selling three houses for every two sold by her male counterpart. A year later, most of the salespeople at Kaufman & Broad were women, although none were as good as Catherine. The world had changed.

Now she is gone and the world has changed again, it is a little darker place. Rest in Peace, friend Catherine, you’ve earned it.

Portraits and Signs at the March for Science

Portraits-00531The March for Science was not what I expected and yet, somehow it was not surprising. I don’t think I have ever been to a March for something before. I have been to campaign rallies, I’ve been to protests, but never a march for something. In some ways, this didn’t seem to be a March for Science as a March against Anti-science – ahhh, Trump. Although everybody at the March seemed to be having a good time, there was also a lot of anger under the surface. Portraits-00515

Still, there were also lots of pro-science people and a surprising number of young women.

Portraits-00513-2 Portraits-00525Portraits-00520 Portraits-00545

The following are Michele’s images…

March for Science, LA; By Michele Stern
Seen at the March for Science, LA; By Michele Stern
Trump Supporters at the March for Science in LA, by Michele Stern
Trump Supporters at the March for Science in LA, by Michele Stern
At the March for Science in LA, by Michele Stern
At the March for Science in LA, by Michele Stern
At the March for Science in LA, by Michele Stern
I was wishing I had a lab coat myself. I thought that was the perfect thing to wear to the March for Science, by Michele Stern
At the March for Science in LA, by Michele Stern
“If I were 21 I’d vote for Kennedy,” by Michele Stern
The back of his shirt says "I don't care what you believe," by Michele Stern
The back of his shirt says “I don’t care what you believe,” by Michele Stern
At the March for Science in LA, by Michele Stern
Love that Hello Kitty riding a unicorn hat, by Michele Stern
Not everyone at the March for Science in LA, was marching for science. This woman was promoting something to do with the Mexican President and our immigration policies. Given the language barrier, I was not quite sure what or who it was; by Michele Stern
Not everyone at the March for Science in LA, was marching for science. This woman was promoting something to do with the Mexican President and our immigration policies. Given the language barrier, I was not quite sure what or who it was; by Michele Stern

Portraits-00522

I ran into the guy above fairly early in the day and it made me realize what is at stake here. Trump may be the poster child for ignoring Global Warming but the list of politicians – who either don’t believe in Global Warming or, if they say they do, are not really doing anything about the problem – is a long one, Sad.

A March for Science

Science-00546

The March for Science was kind of our rational for going to LA, that, and seeing Michele’s Irish cousins. The March was fun and interesting and I always feel very moral when I’m doing something more than complaining about the world we are in.

However, to a non-scientist the march seemed pretty disorganized we – Michele, really, I was just along for the ride – couldn’t find the actual time of the March. She did find the program, however, which was that everybody would meet at Pershing Square for some warm-up speeches, march about seven blocks to City Hall, listen to more speeches, and wander back to Pershing Square for music and even more speeches. When we got to Pershing Square, it was almost empty and we were told the party had decamped for City Hall, so we started walking over to City Hall only to find ourselves swimming upstream against all the marchers who were returning to Pershing Square.

Science March C-00488

Just before we got to City Hall, we ran into a little group of protesters? counter-protestors? who were segregated from the marchers and surrounded by police.

Science March D-00496

When we got to City Hall, the speakers were still speaking and the marchers were milling about but the layout was such that we couldn’t see the speakers or hear them very well. After about a half hour, we joined the part of the crowd that was wandering back to Pershing Square which took us right by the Bradbury Building.

Science March E-00503 Science March F-00507 Science March G-00511

As an aside, if you know the Bradbury Building, the chances are it is from Blade Runner, if you lived in LA in the early 60s and were interested in architecture, the chances are you know it from the very acrimonious fight between the  entrenched powers of friendly Developers and City Planners that were bringing their version of the future to LA and the emerging preservationist movement that wanted to save at least the highlights from the past. The Bradbury Building was old – built-in 1893 – and, more importantly, very inefficient and the site would have made a great site for a new highrise building, something along the lines of Lever House, perhaps, but the building is also an architectural and engineering tour de force. The Bradbury Building was high-tech for its time and, somehow, resisted being torn down. That’s not to say it prospered; for years, the building lingered, slowly deteriorating, not protected as a Historical Monument but, somehow, escaping the wrecking ball. Finally, almost one hundred years after it was built, the Bradbury Building was bought by a sympathetic owner,  Sydney Irmas, and under the direction of Brenda Levin, was restored to its former glory.

Bradbury Building A-00532Bradbury Building-

End aside. Meanwhile, back at the March, Michele and I switched from trying to find the center of action to taking portraits of marchers with their signs.

 

A couple of random thoughts on expectations and the Space Shuttle Endeavour

L A tripS1-00437For me, at least, the Space Shuttle Endeavour didn’t meet expectations. That is not to say that I am disappointed, I’m not. I’m very glad to have seen it. The hype over the Space Shuttle has been so great that it would be very hard to have the reality match it and I knew that going in. It sort of reminds me of seeing Lever House for the first time. Lever House was designed by Gordon Bunshaft and Natalie de Blois of Skidmore, Owings, and Merril – if you are interested – and it is a milestone in architecture. Lever House is a pioneering glass box, a pure glass form in the International Style, sitting on top of an iconic pedestal, in New York, the center of the new,  post-World War II world order. It was so new, so iconic, in fact, that it was copied, verbatim,  in both Paris and Berlin. I had been reading about Lever House for twenty years before I first saw it, but by then there were glass boxes everywhere; even  San Francisco had one, the Crown Zellerbach Building, again by SOM. Lever House was great but it was also pretty short at 23 stories, it wasn’t the earth-moving experience I expected. The Space Shuttle is also great, but it essentially looks like a fat, not very streamlined, airplane – sort of a truck-plane – not a spaceship.

It is rare that a hyped place meets the raised expectations, for me, at least. I can only think of two super-hyped buildings artifacts that exceeded the hype; the David and the Taj Mahal. I was stunned by them both; they exceeded all of my absurdly high expectations. In general, however, my favorite places and things were surprises. The Grand Canyon, especially from the North Rim, is great, and watching it during a storm, at sunset, was even greater, but walking into the confluence of Hurricane Wash and Coyote Canyon, with no real idea of what it was going to be like, was transcendental, even in the middle of the day. I think we are fixated on the best, and often the best is not that much better than the second best even though hyped to be much better than anything, anywhere (and the second best  – best being a subjective concept – usually has better parking and smaller crowds).

Meanwhile, back at the Shuttle, my first impression, on seeing the Shuttle hanging in mid-air, just out of reach of the crowd, is how crude it seemed. It is more well-used truck than spaceship. A lot of that is because the ceramic tiles are fastened to all the areas that get very hot, the tiles take a beating on re-entry, and seem to be replaced randomly, but the non-tile areas also look sort of cobbled together. It seems like an amateur job and, in the sense that this is the first time the builders built anything like this, it is. This is Shuttle 1.0 and there wasn’t a Shuttle 2.0, or 3.0, or anything but the first five shuttles of which, two blew up.  Rocket 1-00451

Shuttle tiles-00441

But, as amateur as the Shuttle is on the outside, the Shuttles engines? motors? rockets? are beautiful, handmade, huge, pieces of machinery. They are not amateur and are something like Space Motor 11.5. The design is as old as the German V-2, fuel and oxidant are pumped into a combustion chamber, exploded  – I guess, officially, oxidized –  and, superheated, pushed out of a nozzle at the other end.Shuttle engine-00447-2 To quote NASA, As the Shuttle accelerates, the main engines burn a half-million gallons of liquid propellant. Figuring for the six-minute burn time, divided by the three main engines, that is almost 28,000 gallons per minute per engine. Because the propellant is liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen, those 28,000 gallons are super cold.Shuttle engine2-00448
Rocket engine1-00449

As an aside, Like most lots of young teenage boys, I became very interested in space travel when I was an early teenager, and that interest led me to an interest in rockets. In the early 50s, the only serious books on space travel and rockets were translated from the German – Willy Ley’s Conquest of Space, I particularly remember – and that set my gold standard for what spaceships should look like. The Shuttle doesn’t  look like that. Still, it is a very impressive feat of engineering lovely conceived and executed.