Saturday, April 23, 2011

Off to Ethiopia

I'm off to Ethiopia tomorrow, but not for the obvious reason.

Last fall, Paula visited the south of the country on the DOMA Vision trip. The trip allowed her to visit a number of the southern towns and villages, assist a medical crew, and get a better sense of how Ethiopians live. When she returned, she suggested I should go as well.

We were originally targeting the fall of 2011 for me to participate in the Vision trip, but since our adoption has been delayed by a few weeks, and since we aren't sure exactly what kind of chaos might be in store for us once our son comes home, we decided now might be a better time to go than the fall.

So I'm off to discover southern Ethiopia in a way I might never be able to otherwise. Our primary stop, Bora, is a village in the mountains of the south. The elevation is over 10,000 feet, and it requires a ten kilometer hike just to get there. This is the location where DOMA will be building a medical clinic. I'll be trying to check out the area for possible improvements to the water supply and sanitation. If any reader has any great ideas on the subject, please comment, or email me at I'll be taking plenty of pictures, and hope to develop some concepts on my return.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Whew, we made it

Good news today from Ethiopia -- on our appointed (rescheduled) court date, the MOWA letter was "in" and the judge ruled in favor of our adoption. The order hasn't been written yet, but this is official enough -- we are now the legal parents of Feyissa Thomas Spears.

Next step is for the agency to assemble a package and submit it to the U.S. Embassy for their review and approval. It's still possible we might be bringing Feyissa Thomas home by early summer.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Corporate Inefficiency

I read an interesting article passed along by a friend on why large corporations, despite their advantages, often fall victim to smaller upstarts with limited resources. The author, Luke Johnson, a UK private equity firm president and entrepeneur, makes a number of excellent observations. The article, which was in the Financial Times and can be reached by clicking the link, is summarized below. I think some of these observations need to be expanded upon in my blog on Corporate Politics.

Corporate diseases make large organizations less effective -- their types and varieties are listed below:
  1. Sunk Costs Fallacy -- essentially being unable to abandon a project because it can't be admitted it was a bad idea.
  2. Groupthink -- The inability to question the convention of thinking that have evolved at the company.
  3. Governance over management -- too much focus on checking the boxes rather than creating value.
  4. Institutional Capture -- people acting in their own interests, rather than the owner's interests.
  5. Office Politics -- Subversion of good projects to serve the needs of internal constituencies.
  6. Failure to act as Owners -- excessive spending because it isn't the employee's money being spent.
  7. Risk Aversion -- punishment for error taking on greater importance than rewards for success.
  8. History -- being hindered by existing assets, relationships and technologies.
  9. Anonymity -- surviving by keeping one's head down and doing the minimum.
  10. Commodity Products -- big companies need large markets, which typically have more competition and are lower margin.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Some Encouraging Adoption News

Had a call from our agency this week to let us know the missing letter from MOWA had arrived. This is what prevented us from passing court when we were in Ethiopia a month ago. The court will not consider issuing an opinion prior to the rescheduled April 15th date, but heck, that's only a week way at this point.

I expect to receive notification that we have passed court either the 15th or the following Monday (the 18th). Then we begin the next wait -- eight to twelve weeks to get our embassy appointment where we will return to Ethiopia to collect Feyissa Thomas and bring him home to Nebraska. In total, it looks like this adoption will take about the same amount of time the adoption of the twins did -- about a year. Seems like an eternity when you are adopting a waiting child, but that's the system and there's not much to be done about it.

On a somewhat relate note, I will be heading to Ethiopia at the end of April with DOMA on an aid trip. This is the same trip Paula took in the fall, with the primary destination being the village of Bora, where DOMA is building a medical clinic. I hope to get a chance to see and experience village life in the same way Paula did, and maybe put a little of my experience to work on their water and waste water needs in the village.

Any blog readers who have knowledge of fresh water and waste water systems for third world villages -- please help! If I know what to look for and what to evaluate while I'm there, it will make the trip much more productive.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

'Tis the Season for Computer Network Repairs

Late last week I received an exciting letter in the mail. It seemed AT&T was offering me a FREE 3G MicroCell. All I needed to do was pick it up at the AT&T store.

So on Friday, I set out for the store address on the letter. Of course, they were out of stock, which forced me to drive to another address, but after the second stop I headed home with my prized new MicroCell.

If you don't know what a MicroCell is -- well it acts like a mini cell tower inside your house, and uses your internet connection (DSL in my case) to communicate your voice and data information to your cell phone. When it works you should be able to get a signal for your cell phone in places you haven't been able to get a signal before. The lack of signal indoors had probably caused me to lose half the utility of my iPhone over the last year, so I was excited.

I plugged the MicroCell into my router, went to the activation site on the web an hour or so, it worked! I was in cell phone heaven -- I had four or five bars pretty much anywhere I went in the house. And as the rest of the family was soon converting to AT&T (against their will, I might add), they'd get the benefit, too.

Only, but Saturday morning, it wasn't working. I tried power cycling the equipment five or six times, and repositioning the MicroCell (it needs to get a GPS signal to work), but nada. I fiddled with it Sunday and Monday. So by Tuesday, I was desperate enough to call the AT&T help line.

They weren't any help. In fact, they were positively unhelpful.

They claimed they could tell that my router was the problem -- it was "disengaging" the MicroCell (whatever that means). I must call the router manufacturer and get them to "engage" the port where the MicroCell was plugged. Of course, my router is several years old, and out of warranty, so any call to the router manufacturer would require a credit card payment. So I looked on the AT&T website for instructions on how to overcome this, and found a step by step instruction for my router. It didn't occur to me that the help line person might not have sent me to these instructions for a reason....

I went into the router documents, clicked and changed a few settings, hit "apply" and....the entire network shut down. I couldn't even access the router anymore.

After close to three hours on the phone with a technician from the router manufacturer, and the payment of $100, I was able to get the network back up. But still no MicroCell action.

Sometimes FREE isn't a good price.