It always amazes me as to how fast the corporate world adopts technology while our politicians wait and watch.  Artificial Intelligence (AI) is no different.  Let’s reacquaint ourselves with a working definition of AI.

Techopedia defines AI as follows:

“Artificial intelligence is a branch of computer science that strives to create intelligent machines.”  AI has become an essential part of the technology industry. Research associated with artificial intelligence is highly technical and very specialized. The core problems of artificial intelligence include programming computers for certain traits such as:

  • Knowledge
  • Reasoning
  • Problem solving
  • Perception
  • Learning
  • Planning
  • Ability to manipulate and move objects

One other definition says:

Artificial intelligence (AI) is an area of computer science that emphasizes the creation of intelligent machines that work and react like humans.

Basically, the same definition—The Rise of the Machines.

AI is only one part of the technology trend that is overtaking manufacturing and other commercial fields but it is finding its way into most technology.

According to Modern Material Handling, April 2019: “CFOs (Corporate Financial Officers) are shifting their priorities from cutting costs to rapidly investing in technology and data.”  This is according to Grant Thornton’s 2019 CFO Survey, conducted in partnership with CFO Research.  This survey found that a significant percentage of senior financial executives are currently investing in advanced technologies such as:

  • Advanced Analytics—38%
  • Machine Learning-30%
  • Artificial Intelligence—41%
  • Drones and Robotic Systems—30%
  • Blockchain—40% (NOTE:  Blockchain. A blockchain is a digital record of transactions. The name comes from its structure, in which individual records, called blocks, are linked together in single list, called a chain. … They work together to ensure each transaction is valid before it is added to the blockchain.)
  • Robotic Process Automation—41%
  • Optical Character Recognition 45%

Many CFOs are well on the way to implementing these amazing technologies:

  • 40% report that their finance function has already implemented advanced technologies and automation technologies in risk management.  This is compared to 20% in 2018.
  • 30% use machine learning, compared to 8% in 2018
  • 25% use AI, compared to 7% in 2018

The National Association of Manufacturers has released results from the Manufacturers’ Outlook Survey for the first quarter of 2019.  This survey shows nine consecutive quarters of record optimism, with an average of 91.8% of manufacturers positive about their own company’s outlook over the time compared to 68.6% across 2015 and 2016.

One technology leading the field is robotic systems.  Robotic systems were shipped to North American companies in record numbers last year, with more non-automotive companies installing robots than ever before.  In 2018, 35,880 units were shipped.  This is a 7% increase over 2017.  Shipments to non-automotive companies grew 41% to 16,702 shipments for that year.  This growth came in several areas as follows:

  • Food and Consumer Goods—48%
  • Plastics and Rubber Products—37%
  • Life Sciences—31%
  • Electronics—22%

It is becoming quite apparent that companies, especially manufacturing companies, that do not embrace advanced technology will find themselves beaten by those who do.  They will be left behind simply because they will no longer be able to compete. 

Might be time to take a look and get on board.

GIBBS GARDENS

April 19, 2019


A week ago, my wife and I traveled to Gibbs Gardens in Ball Ground, Georgia. You will have to look this one up because it’s really in an out-of-the-way place and well from the “beaten path”.  That’s just the way Mr. James Gibbs planned it. 

Gibbs Gardens began in 1980 as a three hundred (300) acre private family estate.  The owner, Mr. Jim Gibbs always dreamed of creating a world-class public garden.  For more than thirty (30) years he designed and developed his property with two hundred and twenty (220) acres of landscaped gardens adjacent to spring-fed streams. 

There are sixteen (16) garden venues including four (4) feature gardens, as follows:

  • DAFFODILS:  Fifty (50) acres of daffodils with more than twenty (20) million flowers, blooming form March to mid-April.
  • MANOR HOUSE GARDENS:  Designed to offer color in spring, summer and the fall, with lush terraces, waterfalls, sweeping lawns and woodland.
  • MONET WATERLILY GARDENS:  Featuring one forty (140) varieties of waterlilies, both tropical and hardy, blooming from late spring through fall.  A replica of the bridge in Monet’s garden provides a focal point year around.
  • JAPANESE GARDENS:  More than forty (40) acres with spring-fed ponds, islands, bridges, boulders, rocks and forty (40) handcrafted Japanese lanterns.  A collection of more than one thousand (1,000) Japanese maples provide brilliant colors in autumn.

Personally, I was blown away by the meticulous attention to detail and how the gardens were laid out.  The gardens experience four (4) distinct seasons with flowers and trees blooming in each of the four time periods.  I understand that fall of the year is absolutely stunning and the color changes are breathtaking. 

 We are going to take a trip, via pictures, through the gardens right now.  The pictures shown cover only a small portion of what may be seen.  You enter the “front gate” by going over a flower-lined bridge.  The landscapers have chosen to line the bridge with flower boxes.   The blossoms in each box are seasonal and change due to the time of the year.

The walkway leading from the “front gate” is lined with flower beds.  The one you see below is mostly tulips.

As mentioned, flowers line all walkways throughout the gardens.

Azalea, rhododendron, roses, crape myrtle, daylily, wildflower, cherry blossoms, dogwood, hydrangeas, and other species of flowers populate the garden and were on prominent display during our visit.  You might notice that the azaleas were just about over their peak when we were there having bloomed about two weeks prior to our visit.  Beautiful anyway but definitely over their peak.

As I mentioned earlier, the attention to detail was striking.  The flower arrangement below is indicative of what you will see in the garden.  Think about this, the arrangement below had to be planted by “loving hands” to look this good.  Not only that, they have to be maintained throughout the season.  When the season changes, they are taken up and replaced with other types.

Tulips and cherry blossom trees were in bloom and were on display as shown by the two pictures below.

Japanese Red Maple trees were absolutely striking as you can see.

The next several digital pictures show some portion of the Japanese Gardens.  These gardens were striking and the pictures do NOT, admittedly, do them justice.

No Japanese garden would be right without a Bonsai Tree.

Mr. Gibbs lives on the property he developed over the thirty-year period.  His home is shown below.

The entire house is surrounded with gardens providing well-groomed blooming flowers, cherry trees and red maples.

To the left of the house sits a beautiful water fall with hanging baskets and benches arranged around the display.

From the front porch of the house, you can see the mountains of North Georgia.  These mountains are the southern end of the Cumberland Plateau and the very beginning of the Cumberland Trail.  As you know, the Cumberland Trail goes all the way into the New England area.

CONCLUSION:  I can definitely recommend to you this one-day visit.  Any season of the year will bring flowers of differing types and colors.  Again, I’m told that fall of the year is breathtaking.

THE FARMHOUSE INN

April 16, 2019


Have you ever just happened upon and experienced a serendipity moment?  A period in time or circumstance that made you say, “why have we not done this before?”  Where have we been.  Well, that happened to my wife and I this past weekend.  We visited Madison, Georgia and stayed at the Farmhouse Inn.  The pictures you will see were taken by me as we walked the grounds.  Let’s first see just where Madison, Georgia is.

MADISON, GEORGIA

Madison is located about an hour and one-half from Atlanta as you go east on Interstate 20.  According to the 2000 census, it is a town of approximately four thousand permanent residents and is the county seat for Morgan County.

The first town lots in Madison were sold in 1809 so this is an old town.  As the cotton economy of the county expanded, so did the population of Madison. Many of the wealthy plantation owners who lived in the county began building town houses.  Many of these Antebellum homes have survived and can be seen on the walking/driving tour of the historic district. In 1844 the first of three great fires struck the community. The county courthouse, begun in 1809 and finally completed 15 years later, burned to the ground. However, most of the county records were saved. In 1869 the entire business district burned after fire broke out in Albert Shaw’s furniture store on South Main Street. Twenty-six (26) businesses were destroyed. The heat was so intense that many of the salvaged goods placed in the middle of the street burned also. In this fire, the city hall and all the town records were destroyed. The community began rebuilding immediately; however, it took ten years before all the lots burned in the fire had buildings on them.  Madison’s Antebellum homes and Victorian homes, as well as its tastefully restored downtown, offer a wide range of shops, tastes, sights and services that delight visitors from this country and abroad, as they travel along Georgia’s Antebellum Trail, the Georgia Antiques Trail and the Historic Heartland travel region.

FARMHOUSE INN:

The description above gives you a very brief understanding of the town itself. Now let’s take a look at where my wife and I stayed.

As you approach the facility you can certainly see the one hundred (100) acres that constitute a working farm.  Cows, chickens, goats, turkeys, a peacock, and most of the animals you would expect on a farm.

This is the driveway as viewed from the guest house.

I know the picture below looks very rustic but the interior was clean, comfortable and “up-to-date”.  The owners of the facility completely renovated an actual farmhouse barn and constructed a dining area, kitchen, common space and rooms.  I have no idea as to how much money they spent on the reconstruction and refurbishment of the overall complex.  I would say close to one million dollars.

There were two rooms in the barn and twelve rooms in the “Common House” adjacent to the barn.  The two JPEGs below will show the main guest house and the walkway to the guest rooms.   These digitals will give you some idea as to the layout of the overall complex.

No farm would be complete without a garden, or gardens.

No garden is complete without a scarecrow.

On the grounds of the Farmhouse Inn is a Baptist Church established in the early 1800s.  It is still a “working” church with services every Sunday morning and Sunday evening.  The view below is looking at the church from the garden.

The interior is just as you might expect, Spartan, but with air conditioning.

The exterior of the church.

One HUGE surprise, was dinner that night at the 220 Restaurant in downtown Madison.  We were tired but hungry.  As you can see, the dining area is absolutely exquisite with every detail being considered.  The food was gourmet—absolutely gourmet.  This was really a surprise coming from such a small town.  I expected BBQ, fast food and meat-and-three diners.  Not Madison, Georgia.  Great dining and we did not break the bank.  They also had a marvelous wine selection.

CONCLUSIONS:

You never know what you might find when you take a long weekend but this time, my wife and I were certainly surprised.  We will definitely go back.  I would love to have your comments.

 

 

HERE WE GO AGAIN

April 6, 2019


If you read my posts you know that I rarely “do politics”.  Politicians are very interesting people only because I find all people interesting.  Everyone has a story to tell.  Everyone has at least one good book in them and that is their life story.   With that being the case, I’m going to break with tradition by taking a look at the “2020” presidential lineup.  I think it’s a given that Donald John Trump will run again but have you looked at the Democratic lineup lately?  I am assuming with the list below that former Vice President Joe Biden will run so he, even though unannounced to date, will eventually make that probability known.

  • Joe Biden—AGE 76
  • Bernie Sanders—AGE 77
  • Kamala Harris—AGE 54
  • Beto O’Rourke—AGE 46
  • Elizabeth Warren—AGE 69
  • Cory Booker—AGE 49
  • Amy Klobuchar—AGE 58
  • Pete Buttigieg—AGE 37
  • Julian Castro—AGE 44
  • Kirsten Gillibrand—AGE 52
  • Jay Inslee—AGE 68
  • John Hickenlooper—AGE 67
  • John Delaney—AGE 55
  • Tulsi Gabbard—AGE 37
  • Tim Ryan—AGE 45
  • Andrew Yang—AGE 44
  • Marianne Williamson—AGE 66
  • Wayne Messam—AGE 44

 CANDIDATES NOW EXPLORING THE POSSIBILITIES:

  • William F. Weld—AGE 73
  • Michael Bennett—AGE 33
  • Eric Swalwell—AGE 38
  • Steve Bullock—AGE 52
  • Bill DeBlasio—AGE 57
  • Terry McAuliffe—AGE 62
  • Howard Schultz—AGE 65

Eighteen (18) people have declared already and I’m sure there will be others as time goes by. If we slice and dice, we see the following:

  • Six (6) women or 33.33 %—Which is the greatest number to ever declare for a presidential election.
  • AGE GROUPS
    • 70-80: 2              11 %
    • 60-70: 4             22 %
    • 50-60: 4              22 %
    • 40-50:  6              33 %
    • Younger than 40: 2         11 %

I am somewhat amazed that these people, declared and undeclared, feel they can do what is required to be a successful president.  In other words, they think they have what it takes to be the Chief Executive of this country.  When I look at the list, I see people whose name I do NOT recognize at all and I wonder, just who would want the tremendous headaches the job will certainly bring?  And the scrutiny—who needs that?  The President of the United States is in the fishbowl from dawn to dusk.  Complete loss of privacy. Let’s looks at some of the perks the job provides:

  • The job pays $400,000.00 per year.
  • The president is also granted a $50,000 annual expense account, $100,000 nontaxable travel account, and $19,000 for entertainment.
  • Former presidents receive a pension equal to the pay that the head of an executive department (Executive Level I) would be paid; as of 2017, it is $207,800 per year. The pension begins immediately after a president’s departure from office.
  • The Presidents gets to fly on Air Force 1 and Marine 1. (That was 43’s best perk according to him.)
  • You get to ride in the “BEAST”.
  • Free room and board at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
  • Access to Camp David
  • The hired help is always around catering to your every need.
  • Incredible security
  • You have access to a personal trainer if so desired
  • Free and unfettered medical
  • The White House has a movie theater
  • You are a life-time member of the “President’s Club”
  • The President has access to a great guest house—The Blair House.
  • You get a state funeral. (OK this might not be considered a perk relative to our list.)

The real question:  Are all of these perks worth the trouble?  President George Bush (43) could not wait to move back to Texas.  Other than Air Force 1, he really hated the job.  President Bill Clinton loved the job and would still be president if our constitution would allow it.

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