Monday, September 7, 2009

Managing By Exception

My wife and I recently went on a little vacation. Went to visit some friends in Utah. Good trip, even though I didn't get in any fishing.

We booked the trip through one of the on-line travel services (you know the genre: Expedia, Orbitz, Travelocity, etc.). As usual, the service worked pretty well...but there was one thing I found really irritating by the time the trip was over. As the workflow for my ticket purchase progressed, I got a text message and/or email alert with every step. Reserving the ticket, booking the ticket, payment received, only 5 days until your flight takes off, your reservation is confirmed, only 4 days until takeoff...seems like I was getting alerts serveral times a day. These alerts continued until a few hours after my return flight touched down (I actually got an alert letting me know my flight had arrived on time). Got to be pretty irritating by the end of the trip.

Pretty amazing that I'd get alerts on a continual basis like this. So a little tip here for all the business process development people: when my transaction and the ensuing workflow are running smoothly, stop buggin' me! I expect it to work and don't appreciate all the notices telling me things are working as intended. Tell me about the exceptions, not about the processes that are running smoothly.

I actually think this is one of the big paybacks for transactional business intelligence. If I work in Payables, the last thing I want or need to do is check on the gazillion invoices or checks I've processed in the past month to make sure they're each processing as expected. I want to be able to see the exceptions - those transactions that are not processing as expected. Even more importantly, I want some clues as to what needs fixin' to get those transactions back on track. Seems to me somebody savy with business process engineering and business intelligence could do well by designing and implementing a basic user interface that presents my transaction exceptions and messages on how to fix those exceptions - that's how I would want to start my work day. There's a serious productivity pickup to be had with managing by exception, and business intelligence strikes the tool that could get us there. It might also lower my blood pressure by cutting back on all those pesky alerts the next time I travel.

Thoughts? Hit the comments.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Best Marinade

From the kitchen of Floyd Teter, BBQ King

This marinade is amazing if you like a little Mediterranean flavor. Works great with poultry, seafood, pork and veggies. I also use it for basting seafood.

1. Combine 1/2 cup lemon juice, 1 teaspoon of hot pepper flakes, 1 teaspoon of black pepper and 1 teaspoon of kosher or sea salt in a non-metallic bowl.

2. Whisk until the salt crystals dissolve.

3. Add 8 strips of lemon zest, 1/2 cup of chopped parsley, 1/2 cup of fresh basil, 1 cup of extra virgin olive oil, and (optionally) 3 small cloves of garlic (minced or crush with the side of a knife).

4. Stir or whisk ingredients for at least 30 seconds.

5. Let whatever you're cooking soak in this marinade anywhere from 6 to 12 hours.

The amounts here will yield about 2 cups of marinade. The key to this marinade is the freshness - you'll need to use it within an hour or so of making it. If it sits for any amount of time, stir it again before using it.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Banana Bread

From the kitchen of Meshell McPherson
5 Tbls butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 large egg
2 egg whites
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups mashed, very ripe bananas(about three average size)
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 cup heavy cream(I use milk instead)
1/3 cup chopped walnuts(optional)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray bottom only of 9x5x3-inch loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray.

2. Beat butter in large bowl with an electric mixer set at medium speed until light and fluffy. Add granulated sugar and brown sugar; beat well. Add egg, egg whites and vanilla; beat until well blended. Add mashed banana, and beat on high speed for 30 seconds.

3. Combine flour, baking soda, salt, and baking powder in a medium bowl. Add flour mixture to butter mixture alternately with cream(or milk), ending with flour mixture. Add walnuts to batter, mix well.

4. Pour batter evenly into prepared loaf pan. Bake until browned and toothpick inserted near center comes out clean, about 1 hour 15 minutes. (I take it out 5 mins. before you are supposed to. The pan is still hot enough to finish cooking and it lets the bread settle)

5. Cool bread in pan on wire rack 10 minutes. Remove bread from pan; cool completely on wire rack. Slice and serve with butter and jam.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Skyrocket Coolers

From the kitchen of Jessica Edling

1 bottle of cranberry juice
1 bottle of "Cool Blue" Gatorade
1 bottle of Diet ginger ale (must be sugar-free)
Tall clear drinking glass(es)
Ice cubes

The key to creating three "stripes" is to layer ingredients, placing the heavier, sugar drink as the base, and then "layering up" to the lighter, no-sugar drink. It's Mixology 101 for kids!Fill the tall, clear drinking glass about one-third of the way with ice cubes. Pour in the cranberry juice (heaviest, sugary beverage) to fill one-third of the glass. Very slowly and carefully, pour in the Gatorade "Cool Blue" (medium-weight beverage) to fill another one-third of the glass. Hint: When pouring, aim for an ice cube to prevent the liquids from hitting each other too forcefully and hence blending. Again, very slowly and carefully, pour in the diet ginger ale (lightest, no-sugar beverage) for your final layer. Again, aim for an ice cube. Top it off with a festive straw or swizzle stick - some red, white and blue garland or pipe cleaners wrapped around skewer sticks work great! - and serve. Be sure to enjoy your coolers pretty promptly; if left sitting too long, the colors will eventually meld.

Pork Shoulder Slow Cook

From the kitchen of Jessica Edling

1/2 c. sliced celery*
1/4 lb. mushrooms, quartered (a bag of the sliced mushrooms works perfectly)
1 medium onion, diced
1/2 c. melted butter
3-4 lbs. pork shoulder
2 Tbsp. butter
1/2 c. chicken bouillon
1 Tbsp. flour
Paula Deen House Seasoning to taste

1. Place celery, mushrooms, onion and melted butter in slow cooker.
2. Brown pork in skillet in 2 Tbsp. butter. Place over veggies in slow cooker.
3. Sprinkle with House Seasoning to your heart's content.
4. Combine flour & bouillon until smooth. Pour over pork.
5. Cover. Cook on high 3 1/2 hours or low 4-5 hours.

We usually serve this with jasmine rice, Texas toast and a fruit or green salad. (Or, combine the two to form what Brent calls my Citrus Salad. I'll do another post on that one later.) You can use the drippings in the slow cooker as gravy over the pork and rice.

* The celery is optional. In my haste to get Brent to eat things that are "green" (and therefore, by his standards, evil) I keep sneaking things like chopped celery or spinach into almost everything. So of course, I'm halfway through the prep for dinner and I realize I've used all my celery and its Sunday. It still tasted good, but Brent noticed enough that it looked "funny this time".)

Enjoy! :-)