I can't remember now how I came across this service (I suspect it was a news magazine or blog), but TimeSvr sounds like an interesting concept.

Quoting their website: "TimeSvr provides on-demand Virtual Assistants, called Aides, for busy professionals who'd like to get the most out of their day. TimeSvr members can access an Aide anytime (24/7/365), from anywhere, using email, text messaging, Skype IM, the Phone or the Web. Our Aides are specially handpicked to provide high satisfaction while carrying out almost any task requested. They are equipped with the technology they need to do almost any task you require off them, from arranging travel and dinner reservations to making phone calls and doing research on the internet for you. The system is flexible to allow you to use your Aide to do whatever you think is important, however you would like it done. After all, we're all about helping you Save Time & Get Things Done™."

I've registered for a pre-launch trial to see what it is like. I'm not sure exactly what I'll use them for, but I suspect if I look at my schedule and activities, there will be quite a bit of small stuff that I could be offloading so as to spend my time on more leveraged activities.

If anyone has experience about this service, I'd be keen to hear from you.

Footnote: It looks like the service went live today...

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posted by Lee Gale @ 4:09 PM, ,

50 Facts that Should Change the World

A typical condition in my choice of reading is something to help pass the time whilst on board a plane.

What criteria do I apply when making this choice? Usually the book will fit into one or more of these categories:

"50 Facts that Should Change the World" fell into the last category.

I'd recommend it to anyone as a bit of a reminder of some of the challenges we face around the world.

Taking a look specifically at the poverty situations covered in the book that are quite eye opening:
There are more, but what this book did for me was again reinforce how great the need is to focus on education as a key method for helping people escape the cycle. Granted, they need to be safe from violence (war, hate crimes, etc) and have the ability to feed themselves before education can begin.

Sadly, our dog (who was a puppy at the time) also decided the book was intriguing... and chewed through facts 8 to 12. :-(

Thankfully I had read these before they were consumed.


posted by Lee Gale @ 3:09 AM, ,

'Jet Man' Soars Across English Channel

Yves Rossy leaped from a plane and into the record books on Friday, crossing the channel on a homemade jet-propelled wing.

Rossy crossed the Channel in 13 minutes, averaging 125 miles per hour.

How cool is that!

PS - Web 2.0 to Discovery Channel: you'll get more site traffic if you allow people to embed your video into their blog.


posted by Lee Gale @ 4:56 AM, ,

Bailout Madness!

How out of control are things getting with the world-wide (read: Wall Street) financial crisis?

I'm acutely aware of the "house of cards built over a pool of gasoline" (to quote from 'Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room') aspects to the current situation, but am I the only one that is wondering why:
a) people were taking loans on homes, cars, credit cards, etc but had no way - and I mean absolutely no way - to service them?; and
b) why every man and his dog deserves a bailout?

Since I last wrote about how this was effecting the auto industry, checkout the latest twist to the situation: auto loan bailouts.

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posted by Lee Gale @ 5:37 PM, ,

British maker unveils unique electric-powered supercar

The Lightning GT built by the Lightning Car Company, based in Peterborough, Cambridgeshire, is a great example of what has been missing from the whole Hybrid/Electric car pitch.

The Lightning GT follows in the same vain as the Tesla Roadster in targeting the car enthusiast with electric vehicles, as opposed to Mr/Mrs Boring.

I'd happily embrace electric cars if they aren't as deadly boring as the Prius. As succinctly stated in this TopGear blog: What you drive says something about you.

Interestingly, a friend who works for Toyota suggested that the Prius is distinctively designed to stand out as a Hybrid car, in turn helping owners stand out as eco-friendly motorists.

On that note, I'll stop writing, otherwise I'm going to start rambling about the complete snow job Toyota and the press have pulled on the public regarding the Prius as "eco-friendly", when:
I realise there is a certain credibility gap with any argument I'm going to make here due to me driving a 5.5L V8... trust me, the irony is not lost on me!


posted by Lee Gale @ 6:46 AM, ,

Are You Spending Your Time the Right Way?

I've been listening to the the HBR Ideacast podcast series on my iPhone/iPod at the gym lately.

Episode 101 published on July 14th 2008 was pretty interesting and I think everyone can apply these principles to their work place.

It is titled "Are You Spending Your Time the Right Way?"

Melissa Raffoni covered three key concepts that I try to use:

The second organisation I worked for had a terrible problem: death by meeting. Thankfully, we were able to bring some order to the chaos by instigating a tighter process around meeting agendas and documenting meeting minutes. Today, I will usually refuse to attend a meeting that doesn't have a clear agenda that people can use to prepare for.

Time boxing is fundamentally about dividing up your time and allocating that to tasks - a pretty fundamental concept of time management. The important thing about time boxing is that time is not flexible, but the deliverables are. Without time boxing, when the deliverables cannot be delivered, the deadline slips. With time boxing, the deadline is fixed, and the deliverables are adjusted.

A point Melissa makes is that you can't create more time in your day, but you can use it more economically. For example, have you noticed how most 1hr meetings follow a similar pattern? The meeting starts with everyone rock'n' up and small talk. A good meeting host will kick off the meeting (hopefully with a clear agenda and desired outcomes - see more on this below). The meeting either gains momentum and fulfills it's objectives, or, and more commonly, the meeting snakes down 'rat holes' of distraction and people get bored, with the meeting finally closing rather out of breathe. Try making that meeting 30mins and see what happens to the dynamics. I typically find that when faced with a shorter deadline, people are more engaged and focused on the objectives more than they would be with a 1hr meeting.

Tanzim makes a great point on his blog: Time saving (via processes like Time Boxing) for work is very important, but it will limit your productivity only to the hours you saved.

Leveraging time is about using the finite time we have more effectively. A lever is a device that multiplies the effort applied.

As a manager, I know that by spending time with my team members and coaching them, I'm going to get a whole lot more done than if I attempt to do their tasks myself. Therefore, that is a great time leverage choice for me in order to reach the organisation's goals.

Finally, as a sales professional, I'm acutely aware of spending my time with the best employees , so I try and do this as much as possible. Spending time with the right people gives you even better leverage.


posted by Lee Gale @ 3:09 PM, ,

First A380 delivery to Qantas

Last Sunday, Qantas took delivery of it's first A380.

Check it out online, here:
and here:

We managed to see her doing fly-overs of Sydney harbour from our balcony. It was both simultaneously exciting and mundane. I guess at the end of the day, she's just a big aircraft and not nearly as exciting as the "Jumbo Jet" was... and still is. As Jeremy noted in his book, The 747 is a unit of measurement in most people's vocabulary: "the size of a Jumbo Jet".

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posted by Lee Gale @ 9:07 PM, ,

First, Break all the Rules

So, firstly, I'm immensely upset with myself. I usually jot down key messages & thoughts when reading a book like this. After reviewing 6 years of back-ups, I've remembered that I had always planned to write those notes for this book, but never did. Therefore, I'm going to re-read this book and do those notes. :-)

I do remember two great take-aways that stayed with me:
"What great managers know" really resonated with me, as I had struggled in my early career with some, um, 'average' managers.

To quote: "great managers know that each individual is true to their unique nature. They recognise that each person is motivated differently, that each person has their own way of thinking and their own style of relating to others. They know that there is a limit to how much remolding they can do to someone. But they don't bemoan these differences and try to grind them down. Instead they capitalize on them. Then try to help each person become more and more or who they already are."

Simply put, great managers do not waste their time trying to change people.

Additionally, I find as a manager, I'm naturally drawn to spending my time with the best sales people - after all, how much leverage will you get with a great sales person versus an average one? Clearly, if you have poor performers you need to spend your time with them to either find their grove or to find them a new one, but you'll get better leverage from your time with the A-team.

A good tool you can use as a manager is the Gallup Q12 framework. Gallup identified 12 questions that measure employee engagement and link directly to critical performance outcomes, including productivity, employee retention, customer retention, safety, and profitability. These questions are now known as the Gallup Q12.

In fact, closer to my work, there was a good Crystal Xcelsius dashboard for the Q12, but in the upgrade to Xcelsius 2008 (which leverages Adobe Flex and LiveCycle Data Services ES), this seems to have disappeared. If anyone knows what happened to this, I'd love to know.

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posted by Lee Gale @ 3:09 PM, ,

Adobe announces CS4

Adobe has officially announced Creative Suit 4.

I think this continues the trend of being the worst keep secret in product announcements. A quick Google search for "adobe cs4" returned 1,950,000 results. The top results are our own beta releases on labs.adobe.com and from our senior executives in earnings announcements. How could you not know this was coming?

I have to admit, the CS business isn't my forte. I'm neither a frequent user nor focused on this as part of my career with Adobe. Having said that, some of the features sound truly amazing, with my favourite being speech-to-text recognition in video production. This will revolutionise online search of video on the web.

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posted by Lee Gale @ 9:00 PM, ,

Maserati's baby GT

I think I'm going to need a much bigger garage.

Checkout the upcoming Maserati Spyder. Set to slot in below the GranTurismo in the Italian firm’s range, the model is likely to be badged Spyder.

Let me get out the checklist:
- V8, check.
- Convertible, check.
- Metal roof, check.
- Flappy paddle gearshift, check

Detuned engine, eh? Sounds like something that can be tweaked after market.

I'm quietly confident I can sell this to my better half. It is the 'budget' version after all. :-)


posted by Lee Gale @ 4:34 PM, ,

Riot! Tina Fey as Sarah Palin

This just keeps getting funnier every time I watch it !

This was the 34th season premiere episode, aired September 13, 2008, Tina Fey is in the role of Republican Vice Presidential nominee Sarah Palin, alongside Amy Poehler as Hillary Clinton.

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posted by Lee Gale @ 2:00 PM, ,

Fitness and personal effectiveness

This year, a series of factors converged to send me back to the gym.
These included:
I think the final motivator was that I realised that it was only going to become harder to get fit, the longer I left it. My desire to take the shortest path between two points kicked in at this point and the compelling event occurred.

So, I did what most people do when faced with what seems like a large challenge: break it down into manageable smaller steps and get cracking.

First, sign up to the gym again. Easy - the gym was a block away from my home. An interesting view on getting going was reading Steve Pavlina's blog on the 30-day trial. It literally was after reading this I decided I could join the gym for a month, and not feel like I was making a monumental commitment.

Second, make going part of your lifestyle. Not so easy...
So I had some barriers here, all of them mental and a matter of self-discipline:
So, I got a personal trainer.

Frankly, the selection process was reasonably simplistic and reasonably tragic.
My partner had seen this trainer at the gym and he is a pretty good looking guy, in fact, he's also a model. So I was reasonably assured that he was doing something right (i.e. he had credibility) and I was going to strive not to feel like a loser when training with him (i.e. I was able to compete at a basic level). The only other criteria I was going to apply: was I going to get along with him and was he going to be able to push me, without annoying me (i.e. was I going to respect him) . I'm acutely aware that if I don't respect someone, I'm not going to factor in what they have to say to my decision making process.

As it turns out, Andreas is a pretty good trainer for me. He's managed to take my moaning and groaning but push me more than I though he could. Interestingly, his technical style suits my "by the numbers" approach nicely. For instance, he recommended taking a DEXA scan in order to measure fat/muscle. This is pretty absolute in terms of measurement, unlike other methods of measurement. Horribly but predictably, I clocked in with 30%+ body fat. I my mind, I now had measurable goals to work towards.

The last stage of this process was going to be my diet.

I'd fallen into the usual habits of the workplace: irregular eating habits driven by slavery to meeting schedules combined with poor food choices (i.e. tasty rather than healthy). Combined with my regular travel and work breakfasts, lunches and dinners - it wasn't a pretty picture.

With Andreas' guidance, it has been an interesting journey to say the least. We had always focused on checking out the fat contents of food in the supermarket. What we weren't looking at
was the energy (calories) contained in that food. So something with reasonably low fat content (i.e. less than 10%), could in fact be a quarter to a half of your daily required intake through things like sugars and carbohydrates. Bummer.

So, at the time of writing this, I've been 'on mission' for four and a half months and been reasonably happy with my progress. I get to measure that progress absolutely in two weeks with my second DEXA scan, but having dropped two waist sizes and having a tonne more energy, I feel my personal effectiveness has dramatically improved.


posted by Lee Gale @ 1:00 AM, ,

United States auto industry to press Congress for $50B in loans

I had to stop and re-read this article to get my bearings.

What a con job! $50b in low-interest loans for fast-tracking a product that they will benefit from?
It's not like they've got so many other viable and attractive products that is keeping them occupied. I guess they'll get it thanks to the employment situation... I can't imagine Congress wanting to appear to have anything to do with more layoffs, especially blue collar workers.

I'm thinking that, with all the government bail-outs and bank fire-sales (think Merrill Lynch) going on right now, I should be talking to my boss in billions, rather than thousands in my next performance and compensation review? Perhaps I can use the same argument Detroit tried... "It'll accelerate my future deliverables"...

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posted by Lee Gale @ 10:44 PM, ,

Adobe AIR

If you have been hiding under a rock - for example, your name is Osama bin Laden - you might be asking "what is Adobe AIR?".

Adobe AIR is a cross-operating system runtime that enables you to use your existing HTML/Ajax, Flex, or Flash web development skills and tools to build and deploy rich Internet applications to the desktop.

Adobe AIR applications support native desktop integration, including clipboard and drag-and-drop support, local file IO, system notification, and more.

Okay, so those of you that have read my profile will realise I'm going to be slightly biased here: I work for Adobe. Having said that, I do think there are some cool apps that you'll genuinely find useful.

Checkout the full list in the Adobe AIR Marketplace.

One of the more recognised brands here is the eBay Desktop app. I haven't used it myself except as a demo of AIR for people.

For the web/print design community at large, kuler desktop will be of interest.

I do use the Analytics Reporting Suite, previously highlighted in my blog, as well as DestroyFlickr, which provides an alternative UI for exploring Flickr.

I did use the Adobe Media Player when if first came out, but the American-centric content wasn't to my taste. :-)

Finally, another daily favourite of mine is Acrobat.com for my desktop. The Adobe AIR version of Acrobat.com provides an easy way of interacting with Acrobat.com by dragging and dropping files and folders from your local computer directly into your Acrobat.com account, and browsing, previewing, sharing or publishing files easily from your computer. I use this to share large file packages with people I'm working with, both at Adobe and outside.

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posted by Lee Gale @ 3:21 PM, ,

Google Analytics Reporting Suite brings Google Analytics to the desktop

For those of you managing your own websites, checkout this cool AIR-based application for Google Analytics.

Now, I confess: my interest ends there. The app does the job I want it to do. End of story. But for those of you who think "cool, how did they do that?", you can find out by going to the Adobe Developer Center.

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posted by Lee Gale @ 3:10 PM, ,

Supercars and a Super-Bridge

Another of my favourite Top Gear episodes: The Supercar review that culminates at the Millau Bridge.

In this episode, Jeremy makes a point that seems lost on people who ask me "why did you buy a car like that?": you don't buy cars like this with your head. You buy cars like this with your heart because you love them.

Updated 20th June 2009

Since at the time of writing this entry, Top Gear episodes on You Tube went from being 'less' copyright friendly to 'more', with BBC posting their content on You Tube. They've also now enabled embedding - yay! As such, I've updated the originally posted videos that were removed, with the ones below. Enjoy.

"Supercars do France", parts 1 through 4.

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posted by Lee Gale @ 1:00 AM, ,

Top Gear episodes on YouTube

Finally - we can watch legal Top Gear episodes on YouTube !
Checkout the TopGear user profile.
You can read about this on one of my regular reads, Worldcarfans, who also have a YouTube user profile.

I wonder at what point the BBC decided it was better to embrace the channel as opposed to fighting it? Sadly, one of their latest victims was my favourite episode: Davos to Stelvio Pass driving it in a Lamborghini Gallardo Superleggera, an Aston Martin V8 Vantage N24 track car, and a Porsche GT3 RS.

If you are a fan of Clarkson, you might also checkout one of his books. The first one I read was "I know you got soul" (reviewed here), and it has inspired me to checkout the rest.


posted by Lee Gale @ 1:00 AM, ,

I am a self-confessed petrol head

I think it would be fair to label me as a "petrol head"... with a soft spot for roadsters.

To date I've had the pleasure of owning a '99 Mazda MX-5 (manual, black with red interior), a '01 Honda S2000 (manual, red with black interior), a '05 Mercedes SLK 350 (tiptronic, black with red interior) and a '08 Mercedes SLK 55 AMG (tiptronic, black with black & red interior).

Did you notice the trend on the paint & interior colour choices? It looks a little predictable in retrospect.

Sadly I've not had the AMG out on the track yet. I'm still waiting my invite from Nick and/or Avril for a track day. :-) I have however managed to enjoy some great driving roads around Sydney which I'll blog about later.

My next task is to figure out how to wrangle from my partner my current favourite car reviewed on TopGear: the CLK 63 AMG Black. I suspect it might be a while...

PS - I would have linked to the official website for this car review, but they persist with offering a poor user experience that asks me to select a media player and then doesn't load the video. Come on Topgear.com - it's not rocket science: use Flash video like the vast majority of the Internet

Updated 20th June 2009

Since at the time of writing this entry, Top Gear episodes on You Tube went from being 'less' copyright friendly to 'more', with BBC posting their content on You Tube. They've also now enabled embedding - yay! As such, I've updated the originally posted videos that were removed, with the ones below. Enjoy.

"Mercedes CLK Black"

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posted by Lee Gale @ 1:00 AM, ,