Yellow Chicken Curry with Red Rice

Crummy Cook to the rescue last night, since I was home earlier and Debbie later (with a lot on her mind).

We’ve used for some time curry mixes from Curry Simple, thanks to Debbie’s brother Tom, who quietly researches great food on line and lets us (and others) know what he’s found.

Three kinds of curry: Green, Yellow, and Red.  And a Lemongrass/Coconut soup.

I used our last Curry Simple last night, a Yellow pak.  And, since Debbie is sick of brown rice and I’m reluctant to eat white we compromised on Thai red rice.


(Debbie and I are trying to get better at food porn.  Pardon the blobs of sauce at 3 o’clock.)

Debbie made Caesar salad.

What Is Not of Interest to Suits (Generally Speaking)

  • Discussion of technical risk.  As the sorry story of the Obamacare website debacle unfolds, one can only imagine the yawning, fidgeting with gizmos, and other signs of audience uninterest that greeted the tech team’s feeble attempts to discuss the tech risks of the project at the outset.  Suits hate to hear any details about technical risk: all they want is the geeks’ assurance that tech risk will be manageable and will be managed.
  • Discussion of technical merit.  As with risk, so with merit.  Suits don’t want to hear what approaches are preferred, and why.
  • Discussion of Schedule/Budget risk.  The one thing that is sacred in the Obamacare discussions is the immovability of the end date.  One of the first big software projects I worked on as a programming professional had a delivery date of April 1.  No one saw – or at least admitted they saw – the irony of a project end date of April Fools’ Day which, as early as January of that year, we all knew was completely unachievable.  Yet we solemnly swore that 4/1 was written in stone until the week before.

All this is quite a change from the investor presentation setting, where most of the questions from potential investors revolve around risk and reward (although here, too, the discussion is almost never very technical).

Pork Loin Braised in Milk

A recipe Debbie remembered with great fondness from Marcella Hazan’s “Classic Italian Cookbook”, which we got as a wedding present from Andy and Cathy back at the dawn of time.

The recipe is all over the web, but relatively few give MH credit.  Here’s one.

Josh and I made it (he’s home for the weekend), and it didn’t look as good as Marcella’s for the first outing, but not too shabby.


The milk solids tasted fantastic, despite being somewhat darker than the prototype.  The pork, however was kind of bland.  It tasted like it’s bland cousin the pork tenderloin, despite all the fat on it and all the braising.

Criticism and Self-Criticism

Not sure where the responsibility lies for the bland pork.  You know, I still don’t brown things enough, and maybe that had something to do with it.  The sin in my case is the sin of impatience: “Goddam it, surely it’s browned by now!”  You could almost say that if you have to ask, it’s probably not done.

But maybe Whole Foods had something to do with it.  They have a hard time making even their fatty cuts fatty, if you know what I mean.  Too many Social X-rays shopping there.

Is There an Argument for a Framing Slide in a Business Case Pitch to Suits?

In an earlier post on raising money from investors, I argued for the importance of a “framing slide” at the beginning of a presentation to help your audience situate themselves within your pitch.

Is there the same argument for a framing slide in business-case pitch to suits?  And does the slide contain the same bullet points?

Yes, and no.

Yes, a framing slide is good in a pitch like this, and for the same reason: It shows respect for your audience, understanding of what questions will be on their minds at the beginning of your presentation, and a promise to answer those questions.

But, no, the questions on the mind of a business-case audience are not the same as an audience of potential investors.

A group of suits hearing a geek pitch a business case are not generally investing their own money, or even the money of limited partners.  They are spending out of a budget or hearing an argument to lobby for budget.  Therefore the budget and use of funds, although important, is perhaps not as important as the investor pitch.

What business-case investors care most about is:

  • Whose turf is affected by the proposed initiative?
  • How will that stakeholder benefit or suffer?
  • What are the bona fides of the team making the case?
  • What argument can be made to my superior in favor of this business case?

(Not an exhaustive list, perhaps, but one that stems from an attempt to get into the mind of the audience.)

The core insight here is that business cases within a large organization have much more to do with turf than with ROI.

Make no mistake, a business-case pitch will need slides on budget and slides on ROI (perhaps lots of them).  But the essential first slide is all about the politics.

Soy-Braised Pork Country Ribs with Carrots and Turnips

It will not have escaped the attentive reader that a large number of my Crummy Cook episodes happen when Debbie is away, although on paper the core purpose of Crummy Cooking is to spell her at the point of sweat.

So you will be pleased to know that my latest recipe from Epicurious, although prepared on Saturday the night before Debbie came back from her trip, was also served on Sunday for her homecoming dinner.


There it is (not a very pretty picture) in the pot a-cooking.

Boneless country pork ribs, it turns out, are really slices of pork shoulder.  Looked pretty fatty when I started, but the miracle of braising turned lard into umami.

(And Debbie said she loved them.)

Criticism and self-criticism

Nothing major.  It turned out really well.

Classifying “Suits”: Early Adopters and Early Majority

Geoffrey Moore of “Crossing the Chasm” fame is often misunderstood on the topic of Early Adopters and Early Majority.

Moore actually has three kinds of early customers: Innovators, Early Adopters, and Early Majority.

Most of us confuse Early Adopters with Innovators.  When we meet a visionary customer, we wrongly assume they’re an Early Adopter.

What’s the difference?  Innovators love technology and innovation for its own sake.  They want one of everything to play around with.  Innovators are essentially indifferent to the business value of an innovation.

Early Adopters, on the other hand, care about the business value of innovation.  They are willing to take a risk on an innovative technology approach, but they are doing so as a calculated risk in order to gain a business advantage.  Early Adopters see the business advantage of an innovation and accept the risk of using it in order to reap the business reward.

And, finally, Early Majority customers want to “let Joe drain out the risk.”  They don’t want to take chances with new technology until they believe everyone else is doing it and they are in danger of being left behind if they don’t.  Early Majority customers wish that innovation risk would go away.

Within the organization, then, geeks are likely to comprise mostly Innovators and Early Adopters.  And suits are likely to comprise mostly Early Adopters and Early Majority (as well as Late Majority and Laggards, but those are topics for another day.)

The business value of an innovation and the unvarnished risk associated with it are the two things Early Adopters want to be crystal clear about.

The business value of an innovation and the strong hint that everyone else is already doing it are the two things Early Majority want to be crystal clear about.

It’s possible to speak to both of them in the same pitch, since Early Adopters don’t care what everyone else is doing (much) and Early Majority don’t listen to blah-blah about risk as long as they see others taking the risk.

Penne with Tomato, Bacon, and Cheese Sauce (Backlog)

I’ve fallen a bit behind here.

I made the penne recipe on Thursday.  Debbie had just gone away (again!  Is there no balm in Gilead for her travel?) and I searched in Epicurious for “feta and bacon”.  Scratching my salt itch, to put it mildly.


It went well, and certainly looked normal.  And, since there was no one but me, criticism and self-criticism was a bit attenuated.

Crit Self-Crit

For all the forbidden pleasures of salt I was expecting, it was a bit bland.  Somehow the penne outweighed (in the flavor sense of course) the bacon and feta.  Or maybe it was the tomato; tomato can smother most anything.

Anyhow, nice comfort meal

Stir-fried Shrimp and Vegetables (Backlog)

On a previous Debbie trip, I made stir-fried shrimp and vegetables.  No recipe, just Crummy improv.  Of all the things I make or have made, I’m most comfortable with stir-fried dishes.  It’s because years ago I got a book from a Chinese expat in Canada who described the theory of stir-fried.

Give the Crummy Cook a theory, and he knows what to do: apply it in variations.  Give him a set of instructions, and he’s just intimidated.

Here’s the mise, or the bulk of it.


Here’s the ensemble in the wok.


And here it is in the plate.


Criticism and Self-criticism

None.  I do it pretty well.

Why Marketing and Engineering Don’t Understand One Another

The inner workings of the tension between Marketing and Engineering are similar to the tension between management and tech staff discussed in my last post.  Similar, but different.

Safe to say that the two don’t understand one another, but the twin elements of unpredictability and needing one another are absent.  And there is a new element: Marketing and Engineering each think what the other does is magic.

Let’s take these one at a time:

  • Unpredictability.  Marketing and Engineering don’t trust one another, but that’s not the same as finding the other unpredictable.  “Those weasels from Marketing, they always do this.”  “You know Engineering will throw up their hands.”  We know what the Other is going to do, we just don’t like it.
  • Needing One Another.  Management wishes we believed we need one another, but in fact neither of us is giving the other a paycheck or the wherewithal for a paycheck, except in a very abstract and attenuated sense that makes no impact on our feelings for one another.  Part of the very tension between the two stems from the fact that there is no urgency to try to work with the other side.  We can fold our arms – and do – and wait for steam to come out of their ears.
  • Magic.  Probably the most interesting of these points.  Marketing has no idea of how software or hardware or even physics works.  To them, everything Engineering does is essentially magic (per Arthur Clarke’s Law #3: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”  And, on the other side, Engineering has no idea of how to persuade markets to value or like things; the idea of persuasion in Engineering is that you present your listeners with a fact, and, if they are agree, they are persuaded.  The methods that Marketing uses to involve markets emotionally are magic to Engineering.

One consequence of the “magic” problem is that neither side knows how to assess a promise or a caution from the other side: “We don’t think we can make that schedule” (Why not?  Why not just add more magic?), or “We can’t sell that to soccer moms” (Why not?  Just use your Jedi Mind Tricks on them?).

Understanding the source of the tension between the two groups should help us to talk to one another and, hopefully, break through.

What is the Source of Tension Between Management and Tech Staff?

A first way to approach the divide between geeks and suits is to understand the nature and dynamic of the tension between management and tech staff.

For my money, the heart of it is we need one another but don’t like one another.

From the geek point of view, management is unpredictable.  When you say something to a suit, you have no idea what you’re going to get back: it could be a pat on the cheek; it could be a knife in the back; it could be flattering praise; it could be a curse and a blow; ultimately, it could be a pink slip.

What’s to like for a geek about a system whose output isn’t predictable – or at least understandable – as a function of your input?

But it’s a system that we need.  The pink slip says it all: management controls access to food, clothing, shelter, self-actualization, and self-esteem.  So your whole Hierarchy of Needs is in the hands of a lunatic.  That’s the geek point of view.

Strangely, management thinks of geeks almost exactly the same way.  When you speak to them, you have no idea what you’re going to get back: a smile; a snarl; a great demo; terrible news about a slipped schedule or a new tech obstacle.

What’s to like for a suit about a system whose outputs aren’t predictable from your inputs?

And, it’s a system that we need.  Without the geeks, the Morlocks of modern industry, management can’t get food, clothing, shelter, self-actualization, or self-esteem.

Both sides find the other side unpredictable and incomprehensible.  That’s a recipe for some touch Solution Pitching.