Monthly Archives: June 2007

Cape Cod Journal: June 29

Friday: June 29

Last full day, hard to believe.

We drove to The Regatta Restaurant in Cotuit last night. (“Cotuit” is an Indian work meaning, “Build narrow roads with many lights to halt all traffic.”) Worth the hour’s drive, outstanding food, great waiters. We split a filet mignon and the short ribs, which you tend to do after 39 years of marriage.

A not-too-common Chassagne-Montrechet red burgundy was excellent, and the night finished off with a Cuban cigar from my son’s girlfriend (which I feel free smoking again now that they’re back together—a moral dilemma averted).

(Digression: Why would you hire a hostess who is chilly and unpleasant? The wait staff is great, the bus boys/girls were terrific, so why have someone greet you who has no sense of humor and no social skills? Why would you go into a business dealing with the public if you don’t enjoy, well, dealing with the public? Good thing the food is magnificent.)

My car is telling me I have a flat “tyre.” (It’s German engineering, but assembled in Crewe, England.) The tire looks fine, and the air pressure is exactly right when I measure it. But the car’s internal computers claim the air pressure is wrong and the “tyre” is flat. Do I believe the car or my own lying eyes? I’ve called Bentley service. I don’t even know if there is a spare, although there is 24-hour roadside assistance. I’ll check under the trunk (“boot/bonnet”?) to see if there is a spare “tyre” hidden down there.

I’m told it’s been a pretty dreadful week back home (and entire two hours away) which always makes a vacation somewhat sweeter. Thunderstorms hit there last night, but not here.

This morning Bentley informed me of “reports of a similar computer error” and walked me through resetting the tire computer gizmo. After resetting, you must drive the car fifty feet! It worked, the “tyre” is fine. And there is a spare, though you can’t drive with it over 50 MPH, which is barely third gear in this car.

Dinner tonight in Christian’s in town, wouldn’t you know the general manager is from New Jersey and the bartender is from my town in Rhode Island. The general manager insists I move the Bentley from in front of the restaurant because there are too many accidents on the narrow road.

Wayne Botha, who spotted me yesterday, comes over with his wife and son to buy me a martini while he drinks a soda. From Johannesburg, now resident in Connecticut, one of the few people to socialize with me on vacation! Great guy, nice time. Okay, two martinis.

It’s been a fabulous week in Chatham on Cape Cod. We’re coming back. We head home tomorrow to Buddy Beagle and Koufax, The Wonder Dog.

Thanks for reading the Journal.

© Alan Weiss 2007. All rights reserved.

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Cape Cod Journal: June 28

Thursday: June 28

The fog wraps itself around the inlet some mornings, like this one, then dissipates as the sun grows stronger. Everything here is forever moist. Leave a towel out to dry and it’s likely to be wetter an hour later. Plants do well, but people develop root rot.

It would be hell here for a philatelist.

We dined last night in the tavern of the Chatham Bars Inn, and arranged for a special chef’s table dining experience (which begins in the wine cellar) when we return to stay there in September. The food was quite good—the lightest fish and chips I’ve ever experienced (a dish which I normally equate with heavy lifting)—but necessitated a stop for a slice of pepperoni pizza on the way home. There were gaping white places on the dish where more fish should have been. (My wife makes a habitual ice cream stop, as if we’re finding her “fix.”)

We intend to return to The Cape next summer but take the best accommodations at the Chatham Bars, either one of the main suites or one of the seaside cottages. I’ve already submitted my blood sample. (Okay, it was really Koufax’s, but his blood lines are better.)

My latest video went up yesterday (Writing on the Wall, on “persiflage and bloviation.” If you’re wedded to strictly online and/or software research and education, you’ll find that “bloviation” is not present, for example, in Word’s spelling dictionary. You need Webster’s unabridged to be an educated person. (As I write “bloviation” here, Word keeps underlining it as a non-word!)

We are scheduled for afternoon thundershowers, the first poor weather of the week (which locals tell me is the first decent week in quite a while, so we’ve lucked out). None have appeared, but I wouldn’t mind them tonight to thoroughly clean the grit off the car, a fine mixture of salt, sand, and attitude.

This morning, at a local breakfast place, a man well into his 60s parks his pickup truck outside, enters, and sits at a table. “Coffee, Joe?” asks the waitress. “No hurry,” he replies, “Mary is walking over to join me because I have the dog in the truck.” Sure enough, in a couple of minutes a white-haired woman of dignified age slowly walks into the parking lot. As she enters the cafe, the waitress says, “No room in the truck, Mary?” “Oh, anything for that dog!” says Mary. The drawbacks of a two-seater….

Horrible morning here, wind and fog, but by the time we got to Nauset Beach it was great, and the beach was pretty empty. I still get a kick out of seagulls rifling through package contents while the owners are in the water.

Crazy world: I just received an email before we go to dinner from someone who heard me speak a few months ago in Connecticut. He said that he was driving through Orleans today here on the Cape and saw a red Bentley convertible with AJW on the plates. He figured it had to be me (Orleans is on the way to the beach), so he’s offered to buy us dinner. I’m hoping we can at least do drinks tomorrow.

© Alan Weiss 2007. All rights reserved.

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The Poor Case for Destructive Testing

We are inculcated from our youth to engage in destructive testing. That is, we strive to prove why something won’t work and why it’s a bad idea. A succession of overworked parents, uninterested teachers, aloof professors, and insecure bosses forms a coterie of contempt for anyone suggesting improvements in their lives.

Since my own credo has been “If you’re not failing, you’re not trying,” my entrepreneurial life has been about trying to determine how to ensure things WILL work. If you look at any great inventor—of tangibles or ideas—he or she is engaged in a great deal of failure to gain a success. That applies both to Edison and Einstein, to Sloan and to Sophocles.

In most organizational environments, you will hear publicly why an idea or initiative won’t work (unless it’s proposed by the boss, in which case you’ll have to tap-in to the grapevine to hear why it won’t work). Some of the resistance to the new idea is because it breaks with a comfortable past, some because it requires more work, some because it’s simply someone else’s idea and their potential credit. At a meeting among peers, new ideas are usually tossed about like a volleyball, except with every hit someone is deflating it until just a sorry, puckered piece of leather lies dead on the table.

Consulting is about raising standards and improving the client’s condition. By definition, that won’t occur if you simply do nothing (entropy will erode your deceivingly safe plateau), or if you merely engage in “lean, mean, 12 sigma, quality fanaticism,” which fixes what goes wrong to restore prior performance, or creates millimeters of improvement at dysfunctional cost. To truly raise the bar you need new ideas, not charts and graphs; new thinking, not secret decoder rings.

I have tended to walk away from prospects when the buyer keeps telling me why what we’re discussing “will never work.” I leave meetings in which new approaches are ridiculed and not tried. I abandon conversations wherein the participants are eviscerating someone’s idea without providing either an objective assessment or a BETTER idea.

People who play it safe are among the most boring in existence. Their life is actuarial, not actual. When’s the last time you desperately needed an actuary?

Don’t enable your clients to mercilessly hunt down new ideas and kill them. Don’t trap and capture those who suggest new paths. It’s your job as a consultant to find ways to make new things happen, within prudent risk (not absence of risk), so that the client’s condition is improved dramatically. Why else pay you? To do a report? To bring something back up to standard? To validate the mediocre? To assuage an ego? I’d rather be plowing fields, which is, at least, honest work which enables things to grow.

Start building better futures for yourself and your clients. Raise the bar. Fail in good causes. The people who play it safe are not the ones in front of the pack. They are the people who bring up the rear.

© Alan Weiss 2007. All rights reserved.

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Cape Cod Journal: June 27

Wednesday: June 27

The Nasuet Beach Club was extraordinary. Pistachio encrusted rack of lamb, and this time a far-underpriced, terrific Turley Zinfandel. When we walked in the hostess said, “Hello, welcome!” Now that’s my kind of place. Ended the evening with a Dominican Cohiba.

Our seagull artist, Jerry, has directions to our house and will bring the piece on Saturday on his way to the Wooden Boat Show in Mystic. “I was going to give you 10% off,” he said, “but what if I left it at full price and, in return, installed it for you? Unless you’d rather do the digging and cementing yourself?”

As much as I love doing cement work, I decided I’d allow him to take care of it. Didn’t want to hurt his feelings.

I’ve begun “Stalin’s Ghost” by Martin Cruz Smith (who won awards with “Gorky Park” years ago) to alternate with “Einstein” at the beach. Fabulous writing, clever plot, but it makes you realize that Miasma would be a more attractive place to be than Moscow. It’s tough to be capitalistic when there is neither the tradition nor ethical basis for it.

Off to Nasuet Beach today, by far the largest thus far, a tad reminiscent of the Jersey Shore (all others have beaches, Jersey has a “shore”). There is a clam shack that sells everything from lobster chowder and hot dogs to calamari and chicken parm. This is true ocean beach, though it’s hard to get accustomed to “coves” here, where the water stretches to the visible horizon. We’re talking the Godzilla of an inlet. (Trivia point: Godzilla was not Japanese, but was born in the Marshall Islands, a U.S. protectorate. Ravaging Tokyo is a metaphor for the atomic bombs.)

The rides to the beach are along two-lane blacktops, a canopy of trees overhead, songbirds warbling alongside the open convertible. There is no traffic to speak of. The beach gatekeepers seem bemused at the thought of anyone paying $15 to park for the day. I feel as if you should need a passport to be here. It’s sufficiently New England to be charmingly independent, but not so far north (viz.: Maine) where the locals tend to hate you! (Send your letters to the site administrator.)

The sleepy boatyard, which also bills itself as a “marine railway,” hauled a large boat out of the water while we were away, using some kind of winch and tracks. I said to Jerry that it seemed to be a burst of activity. “Oh, things get done when they have to,” he informed me. My impression was that the boat owner called to say he was on the way to The Cape.

There is, apparently, an accessory called a “fanny pack” I’m observing on Main Street here. I’ve long maintained that no one above the age of 14 and/or size 4 should have anything written on their rear end. I’ve since observed that no one–and that includes Jennifer Lopez, Cindy Crawford, and Haile Berry–is enhanced by wearing something on their rear end.

A great day on Nasuet Beach, temperature in the 80s, soft breeze, bracing water.

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Beavers Redux

I’m pleased and amused to report that the mightly Beavers have, indeed, won the collegiate baseball championship, despite a dismal 10-14 regular season record. They were an at-large entry into the tournament. You simply cannot keep a good Beaver down. Well done!

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Cape Cod Journal: June 26

Tuesday, June 26

The inner bay waters are warm, the ocean is cold. Sometimes a vicious wind whips up, which the locals pretend to ignore while the rest of us are watching small animals sail past at eye level.

This is typical New England: lush, verdant vegetation right up to the water’s edge. Huge trees in town, that may well outdate the country. The community was founded in 1639 according to a monument in front of the library. (I know, there are lamps in Europe older than that, but still….)

The Impudent Oyster was fun, jammed on a Monday night. My wife enjoyed the kizillion ice cream flavors at the store across the street. It’s amazing how pleasant experiences are when servers and store personnel are, well, personable. You can’t teach enthusiasm. The complete difference in any store or restaurant which has virtually identical products to others is the way you are treated. Why would anyone hire employees who are not enthusiastic, not pleasant, not service-oriented? That’s a bottom-line difference.

I’ve seen where that judge who sued for millions had his case thrown out. The question now is whether someone in the Bar Association has the good sense to let him hang out to dry.

Different beach today, maybe 30 people there and a couple of lifeguards younger than mayflies. At low tide you could stand about 50 yards off shore. A seagull the size of a Yugo patrolled the beach, hovering over anyone eating. One kid tried to chase him and he actually stared the kid down, no mean feat when your eyes face sideways.

Closed a speaking assignment for a major energy company while on the beach. Sound like great folks. Their meeting is in August. When I started speaking professionally, bookings were 12-18 months out. Today, they are sometimes as little as 6 weeks.

New restaurant and new beach coming up….

© Alan Weiss 2007. All rights reserved.

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Cape Cod Journal: June 25

Monday, June 25

I’m writing this as the setting sun is reflected on the light chop of the water, the two large, rear doors wide open admitting early evening into the house.

The temperature has been in the mid-70s. The top goes up on the car only overnight. I’ve finished “Conquering Gotham,” the story of the creation of Penn Station in New York and the complex sub-aqueous tunnels that brought the Pennsylvania Railroad into Manhattan. I’ve started “Einstein,” the current best-selling biography. (One of the funnier events in the genius’s early life was the professor who flunked him in physics!)

Last night we had dinner at the elegant 28 Atlantic Restaurant in the Wequassett Inn in Harwich. At one time, jackets and ties were required, and the “veterans” still sport them. The dining room has an exquisite view of the water dotted with islands, reminiscent of the Caribbean. The food was fabulous, very high end. We had the Etude Pinot Noir, adequate only, I won’t order it again.

Glancing down at the sand today I was mesmerized to find a miniature earthquake, perhaps two inches of sand shifting on its own. After a few seconds a small beetle emerged, looked around, apparently didn’t like where he had surfaced (or what he saw), and submerged again, not to reappear anywhere in my close inspection.

In the boatyard, there is a beautiful, sculpted sea gull on a stand which rotates with the wind, the bird’s wings flapping realistically. We asked a man painting a boat if he knew its origins. “I do,” he said, “follow me.”

He took us upstairs in the barn-like work shed to his “studio” where he made the birds and supports. We purchased one on the spot. However, he doesn’t ship, and there is no way the large structure would fit in my car. “No problem,” he said, “I’ll drop it off when I go to the boat show in Mystic. I have to drive right by East Greenwich.”

Welcome to Chatham.

I learned today that the despicable judge who was suing his dry cleaner for millions had his case thrown out of court. That signals a good day. Now, if Larry King would just tell Paris Hilton when he interviews her that she is a talentless, addle-brained, spoiled child, maybe there is hope for all of us.

An elderly Samoyed lives at the boatyard. He sleeps, moves gingerly, takes his meals in the shade. But just now I saw him walk the length of the 30-yard dock to see what was going on in the boats being serviced at the far end. It seemed to make his day. I know it made mine.

© Alan Weiss 2007. All rights reserved.

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Athiestic Religious Fervor

I believe people are free to believe in God or not believe in God in myriad ways. What confounds me is the religious zealotry of some of the athiests, however, which I find just a tad hypocritical. (I refer you to one of my Writing on the Wall videos on the subject if you’re interested:

For example, Christopher Hitchens’s book “God Is Not Great” is so full of hostility at those who believe, so derisive of other views, and so totally dogmatic that it surpasses the fervor of most religious people I’ve ever known. It reminds me of a “Fundamentalist Athiesm.” If you don’t believe, fine, but why must you insist we confrom with your view?

It seems as if Mr. Hitchens is determined to bury his own doubts. Fair enough. But leave me with mine. After all, what can he threaten us with if we don’t agree with him, since apparently, in his cosmos, there is no place to banish the rest of us!

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Cape Cod Journal: June 24

Sunday, June 24

A quahogger (clam digger) is ten yards out in the water, which is only 20 yards from our back porch. He wades diligently among the moored boats, using a six-foot rake to pry clams from the bottom, which he deposits in a bucket cleverly perched in an inner tube tethered to his waders. He reminds me of a human heron, stalking the shallows.

Welcome to Chatham on Cape Cod.

We’re on an inlet which leads into the bay. The air is shared by hawks and gulls, but no aircraft. The working boatyard adjoining us has characters out of central casting. At low tide you can walk along the inlet into town, which comprises about 12 blocks of expensive strollers, excruciatingly well-behaved dogs, and quite wealthy people (or people who are related to quite wealthy people). There are stores with names such as “Dolli Llama” and “Blue Fish Rub.” Everyone is extraordinarily polite. When we asked a strolling family about the nearest church, they cheerfully provided directions, as well as the astounding information that their relatives were among the foremost purveyors of votive candles to churches.

We arrived yesterday, in under two hours from East Greenwich, RI, thanks to GPS, or we’d still be searching. At lunch in the Wild Goose Tavern we heard two young women explain to a man at an adjoining table that one was attending Colgate, and the other Sienna. They were simply “taking the summer off here” since one owned a house in an adjoining town.

The “real” season starts locally on July 1 and ends at Labor Day. The famous, and magnificent, Chatham Bar Inn doesn’t even deign to open its main dining room until July. No one locks anything here, and I can’t even find the keys to the house we’ve rented. I’ve experienced this elsewhere, but nonetheless find it stunningly refreshing.

My wife and I believe (I’m sure incorrectly) that we’re probably the most ethnic couple in town, save for an African-American mother and her children whom we met when they stopped to admire our car at the beach. We had a wonderful dinner last night at the rustic (and jammed) Red Pheasant in the town of Dennis, where I believe we brought down both the average age and the average income.

There is a Gatsbyesque aura to this place. It is at once comfortable and discomfiting. I suppose I’m vaguely distrustful of a place where the dogs don’t bark….

© Alan Weiss 2007. All rights reserved.

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Business Advisory: Card Service International

I’m warning anyone who needs merchants accounts to process credit cards NOT to use Card Service International, which I once was very high on. One of their terminals broke and they sent me a new one. The new one, after weeks of attempted programming, was finally found to be defective. They sent me another. This one worked.

However, they never acknowledged my return of the defective terminal and proceeded to charge me for two terminals. The customer service people (who were habitually awful when there were technical problems, hence, the poor programming) refused to listen, and three certified letters to the president failed to draw a response. The only way to stop them from double charging was to change my credit card processor altogether, which I did, and found even better rates at my commercial bank.

Credit Card International now duns me for payment of $95 (!) and will not listen to reason or respond to any communications. They claim I possessed and was using two terminals!

Anyone can make a mistake, but companies that refuse to listen and treat their customers like criminals don’t deserve anyone’s business. I strongly recommend that you don’t go near these people and, if you have an account with them, go elsewhere. You’ll probably find better rates and avoid future unpleasantness.

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