Godspeed, Dan Wheldon

Godspeed, Dan Wheldon  - 16 October, 2011

Godspeed, Dan Wheldon - 16 October, 2011

I’m an auto racing fan. All types, really. My formative years were mostly Stock Car oriented, but my horizons have widened since then.

2011 Indy 500 Winner, Dan Wheldon, passed away today, from injuries suffered in an early race multi-car crash. His car went airborne, into the catch fence, which exists to keep debris – and cars – inside the race track and out of the stands. Certainly, the catch fence design will be investigated but, overall, the racing community is probably safer with them than without them.

I’ve nothing profound to say other than this is a very sad day.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to Dan Wheldon’s family and his many friends.

The Indy Racing League did exactly the right thing by not continuing the race, instead running the remaining cars behind the pace car, in a 5 lap tribute.

It’s a sad day.

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What do they know that you don’t?

Can you ramp up productivity with the flick of a switch?

Can you ramp up productivity with the flick of a switch?

What do they know that you don’t?

While perusing LinkedIn for “People I may know”, I noticed that a lot of current BIM Managers have recent experience at Reseller and/or Training companies. This could simply be attributed to the fact that Resellers have been hit as hard as A/E/C firms by this economic downturn. BUT, it could also mean that those A/E/C firms have recognized the importance of having in-house expertise.

Allow me to pose this multiple choice question:

WHEN (not IF) the economy turns around, how do you plan to meet demand?

a) Have your current staff pull double shifts?
b) Try to lure capable staff away from competitors?
c) Rifle through the stack of resumes you’ve accumulated since the downturn began and hope like heck you can add sufficient staff in time?
d) Wait until the next round of graduates becomes available and hire at entry level?
e) Hire anyone who can walk and chew gum at the same time and send them to training?
f) Tell your Clients that their deadlines will have to be delayed until you can mobilize?

Let’s tackle the last one first: Telling your Clients “No” is not an option – especially nowadays. Most Clients have a backlog of projects on hold, pending funding and approval which, according to Murphy’s Law, will all break loose at the same time. It’ll be a good problem to have, considering the alternative, but a problem nonetheless.

Asking significantly more of your current staff, which is probably already over-worked due to cut-backs, is short-sighted and will lead to the reverse of Option b above (i.e. they’ll jump ship at the first opportunity).

So, let’s assume that some combination of the others might pose a solution. Are you prepared to raise compensations to lure talent, knowing it will create a ripple effect? Have you kept in contact with potential hires or are most of those resumes now “cold cases”? Are you counting on luck to align demand with graduations? Will you have the time to wait for your Vendor’s training schedule to cycle around? Do you expect your Clients to give you a few months’ notice that their projects are getting released (keeping in mind that your contact may not even know until someone up the corporate ladder green-lights them)?

Staffing up in advance of demand might make meeting deadlines easier, but it’s not necessarily a wise move financially.

Firms with forward vision have already covered their bases by adding in-house expertise (via direct hire or a consulting arrangement) and will be able to add and train staff in an efficient manner. Hiring entry level staff and providing firm-specific training (not just how to draw lines, arcs and circles) is cost-effective and expeditious. Hiring previously displaced A/E/C professionals and training them in-house will yield better Project Managers and Job Captains sooner. Encouraging your current staff to mentor incoming hires will benefit and elevate all involved.

If one is going to war, it’s all well and good to have legions of soldiers. But, without the proper logistics and command structure, they could all march off in different directions. Note that the demand for Knowledge Leaders will also surge with the recovery. It’d be in your firm’s best interest to have expertise for your Core and Support Functions on-board before the floodgates open and the auctions begin.

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HP says; “Hasta la vista, Apotheker”

Can HP rise like a Phoenix?

Can HP rise like a Phoenix?

Well, guess I wasn’t the only one questioning the “wisdom” of HP’s now ex-CEO, Leo Apotheker’s decision to get Hewlett Packard out of the Hardware Biz.

Reference my entry of August 19:

http://www.bim-ready.com/bimblog/?p=50

Official word today says he’s out and Meg Whitman is in:

http://techcrunch.com/2011/09/22/its-official-at-hp-apotheker-is-out-meg-whitmen-named-president-and-ceo/

Congratulations, Ms. Whitman. I hope it’s not too late to reverse the ill-conceived notions of Mr. Apotheker and restore HP’s proud heritage of manufacturing solid, reliable Hardware.

Since my last post on the HP boondoggle, they announced another run of their discontinued TouchPad Tablets. The number of units being bantered around is over 1 million. Must have had a LOT of spare parts lying around? Anyway, the numbers should be sufficient to send tremors into the hearts of the eBay Opportunists who cleared out inventories on spec and tried to triple or quadruple their investment. I’ve offered to purchase from several of them for the $149 close-out price (for the 32GB TouchPad), but no takers yet. The clock is ticking folks.

In any case, it’s nice to get one right once in awhile (speaking for HP – and myself)!

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Cincinnati BIM User Group Meeting – August 2011

Cincinnati BIM User Group

Can I get a logo?

Cincinnati BIM User Group Meeting – August 2011

The planets finally aligned and I was able to attend last night’s Cincinnati BIM User Group Meeting. Had tried to catch previous ones, but demands back in the Twin Cities interfered. My observations, in no particular order:

I like the independence the Group’s title itself provides. Not being beholden to any particular Vendor results in a wider selection of topics and more open exchange of opinions and ideas. Even though Autodesk Revit is still the 800 pound gorilla in the room for many, there’s little emphasis on “Tips and Tricks”.

Attendees represented a wide spectrum of BIM Participants/Consumers: Design Architects & Engineers, General Contractors, Sub Contractors, Owners, Facilities Managers and Educators. This encouraged a “Big Picture BIM” perspective. Discussions benefitted from the Group’s collective experience.

John Aaron Phillips, of SHP Leading Design, introduced the Group to SHP’s Reverse Phase Scheduling process. The benefits of this exercise were immediately apparent. If every Building Project began with one of these sessions, the Construction World would be a happier place. On an aside, I may buy some shares of 3M (makers of Post-It Notes)…

Andy Burg, of Messer Construction Company (our host for last night’s meeting) led a discussion on Levels of Development/Detail, how current Industry Contracts address them and what remains to be done to make LOD a useful (and an attainable) metric for everyone involved.

It was good to finally put faces to some of the names I’d been conversing with. Although the Group itself is relatively new, the folks behind it are no rookies and it was encouraging to learn of the community’s commitment to BIM (being a recent transplant, and all). Made me glad I declined those last-minute Bengals tickets!

Anyone in the Cincinnati / Northern Kentucky area who would like to participate is encouraged to join the Cincinnati BIM User Group at LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/groups?gid=3418065

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Is it time for a National Hug an Engineer Day?

Codes - from the people who bring you Safety and Peace of Mind

Codes - from the people who bring you Safety and Peace of Mind

August 23, 2011 – 1:51pm EDT – A Magnitude 5.8 Earthquake emanated from an epicenter near Mineral, Virginia – about 90 miles Southwest of Washington, D.C.. Effects were felt across a large portion of the eastern and middle United States.

Like many others, I was thankfully surprised by the lack of major damage and serious injury resulting from this seismic event, given its proximity to so many large cities. Recalling recent (granted, and more powerful) earthquakes in other parts of the world, the following thoughts came to mind:

The next time I hear someone railing against “burdensome regulations”, I will ask; “Oh, you mean, like the ‘International Building Code’?”.

If your building was in the coverage area of this earthquake – and is still standing – thank the prevailing Building Code, Code Enforcement Agencies and the Engineers that designed it.

Perhaps it’s time for a National “Hug an Engineer” Day?

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WHEN the price is right

HP Touchpad - Loved only at the fire sale price

HP Touchpad - Loved only at the fire sale price

What can happen WHEN the price is right:

A truly remarkable phenomenon occurred this weekend and it is related to the Hewlett Packard entry I posted on Friday (see “If I had a Billion Dollars”).

Simultaneous with the announcement they were leaving the Hardware business altogether, HP officially gave up on its TouchPad product line and the WebOS that runs it. As you may recall this Technology was acquired as part of HP’s purchase of Palm for $1.2 Billion (US) back in 2010.

The line came to market in July of this year, with the 16GB TouchPad retailing at $499 and the 32GB model at $599.

Sales of HP’s TouchPad, which they touted as an “iPad slayer” were disappointing and retailers, in particular Best Buy, were displeased at their remaining inventory of the devices (rumored to be nearly a quarter of a million units). HP had offered $100 (retail) discounts from the original price in an attempt to soothe the pain. It apparently didn’t help much and articles were published about Best Buy’s desire to return them all to HP.

Sometime late on Friday (August 19, 2011), HP dropped its retail price on the 16GB TouchPad to $99.99 and on the 32GB TouchPad to $149.99 – through their Employee Purchase Portal (EPP) site. Best Buy’s Canadian website followed suit. Word spread like wildfire on newsgroups and social media. EPP codes were shared and the HP site sold out of stock in a few hours. BestBuy.ca either sold out or the link was removed.

http://www.engadget.com/2011/08/19/let-the-liquidation-begin-hps-16gb-touchpad-on-sale-for-99/

http://www.engadget.com/2011/08/20/hp-touchpad-fire-sale-spurs-online-sell-out-brick-and-mortars-m/

Some units were purchased on spec and ebay listings for TouchPads surged in numbers.

Retail outlets were faced with two choices when they opened their doors on Saturday:

Drop their sale price to match or pull the units from stock.

Of the sources I checked, WalMart dropped their web store price, but quickly ran out. They did keep a fairly up-to-date status of in-store availability at walmart.com. The first store I visited showed the 32GB models as “In Stock” (I had bypassed the stores with “Limited Stock”), but was sold out by the time I arrived (a 45 minute spread).

The hhgregg salesperson I spoke with said there was a line of TouchPad customers waiting when their doors opened on Saturday. They sold out their stock at the fire sale price.

Best Buy apparently chose to pull their stock. Their TouchPad kiosks were stripped of all signage. A sales person told me that they had “completely sold out, store wide” when, I suspect, Corporate either told them to pull stock off the floor or ship it back to HQ while they contemplated their next move.

Best Buy’s website changed from listing TouchPads at the $100 off price, but Out-of-Stock (on Saturday morning) to a special page explaining what customers who had purchased them within the last 60 days could do (return for full refund – they were not matching HP’s “Clearance” price).

Today (Monday, August 22, 2011), TouchPads are listed at the fire sale price on bestbuy.com, but “Sold Out Online”.

Their real inventory status is unknown at the time of this writing. Could they have cleared 250,000 units already?

I don’t know why, but I’m fascinated by Marketing/Merchandising/Advertising stuff like this. There are many interesting things to note about this event, including, but not limited to:

1) Was the HP TouchPad an “iPad Slayer”? No. Did the market support its retail pricing? No. But, is it a heck of a deal at $99.99 / $149.99? Yes! It is a sterling example that just about anything will sell WHEN the price is right.

2) Information spread so quickly over the web that sales resembled a “Flash Mob”. I’m kicking myself for going to sleep on Friday night and missing the initial discussions (lesson learned!).

3) We are still a Country of Entrepreneurs. Not only did some people snatch up the cheap offerings on the web, in hopes of reselling them at a profit, but some purchased at the higher prices, in hopes they could negotiate the price reduction later. Time will tell how successful those approaches were.

4) I wonder just how much HP lost or gained through the $1.2 Billion acquisition of Palm, plus the development and production of the TouchPad? As a Publicly Traded Company, they can’t withhold such information. But, they can bury so deeply in reports so as to make it impossible to deduce. Some PhD Candidate should do a Dissertation on this, to save the rest of us the time.

5) Is Loyalty a thing of the past? Best Buy and HP had historically been great Partners, yet these events seem to indicate there are hard feelings over HP’s recent decisions. Ironically, an OfficeDepot email just announced this is their “HP Week”. Enjoy it while it lasts!

6) Will HP launch fire sales of more of their Hardware products as part of their plan to focus on Software and Services? Will they bother to inform their Retail Partners? Do they care?

7) While everyone loves a bargain, will this behavior ultimately result in a backlash against Hewlett Packard in its next incarnation?

Stay tuned. I have a feeling this will continue to entertain. And, you’re not going to want to sleep through it!

Dave

Disclaimer: I do not work for or own stock (other than what might be held inside Mutual Funds) in any of the Companies named above or their direct Competitors.

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If I had a Billion Dollars

You're a good product.  HP just doesn't want you anymore

You're a good product. HP just doesn't want you anymore


If I had a Billion Dollars

The news from the Corporate World is that Hewlett Packard, the once noble producer of the world’s best calculators and inkjet plotters, has decided to get out of the Hardware business:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-14584428

Not so long ago, HP threw approximately $2.7 Billion (US) at 3com:

http://money.cnn.com/2009/11/11/technology/hp_3com/index.htm , because;

“By combining HP … with 3Com’s extensive set of solutions, we will enable customers to build a next-generation network infrastructure that supports customer needs from the edge of the network to the heart of the data center,” said Dave Donatelli, HP’s vice president of networking”.

A few months later, HP also grabbed up former 3com subsidiary, Palm, for $1.2 Billion:

http://www.engadget.com/2010/04/28/hp-buys-palm/

About a decade ago, HP thought it wise to acquire Compaq for a mere $25 Billion:

http://www.pcworld.com/article/60583/hp_to_buy_compaq_in_25_billion_deal.html

According to reports, HP’s new CEO has decided the Hardware business has no future upside and Software and Services are where it’s at. So, he’s directing the company to walk away from approximately $28.9 Billion in past investments – and from thousands upon thousands of respectably loyal and reasonably satisfied customers – only to spend $11.7 Billion (depending on the US Dollar to GB Pound exchange rate) more to buy software firm, Autonomy.

I don’t know HP’s less-than-a-year-on-the-job CEO, Leo Apotheker, and the closest I’ve come to his past company’s products are hearing horror stories (a prize will go to the first person with a documentable story about an SAP implementation that was on time, on budget and met expectations).

I do have some experience, however, with products made under the 3com, Palm, Compaq and HP names. It seems to me that Mr. Apotheker lacks an appreciation for the legacy he inherited. To be fair, the above acquisitions did not take place on his watch and his hiring may have been a direct result of those purchases not panning out. In hindsight, HP paid much more than they should have. Still, to entirely kill off – or spin off – a portfolio of solid Hardware products seems like a waste.

At least when Apple and Google toss about their “pocket change”, they’re doing so to add to their arsenal of patents, in the hopes they can someday sue for infringement of an idea they bought…

They’re not jettisoning perfectly good product lines, as Hewlett Packard is.

The world still needs Hardware. Even if we tend to stretch out its useful life longer than any manufacturer would prefer. Eventually, a component will wear out, needs will grow and/or a new Technology will render older Hardware undesirable (think 10GB Ethernet Switches).

Without 3com, HP and Compaq products, consumer choice will be limited and, by the Law of Supply and Demand, prices will rise. Not what we need right now.

If I had a Billion Dollars, I’d try to rescue some of these solutions.

Dave

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IT versus BIM??? Does not compute.

NYPD Blue

I'm on YOUR side. It's HIM you gotta worry about.

A recommended article popped up on my LinkedIn list the other day. When I read the title; ”A CAD Manager’s Letter to IT”, I wondered how current it was. Turns out, it’s far too current for comfort (dated July 27, 2011):

http://www.cadalyst.com/management/a-cad-manager039s-letter-it-13988

In his letter (hypothetical or otherwise), Robert Green details frustrations between a CAD Manager and his/her IT Department. The points Robert raises are valid – many approaching “no brainer” status. And, I’ve spoken with more than one Conference Attendee who has expressed similar frustrations. It’s just disheartening to think that CAD/BIM and IT might be adversarial in this day and age. Especially under the current economy, when company unity is more important than ever.

My frame of reference is the small to mid-size A/E/C firm. In many such firms, as was initially my case, CAD and IT Management roles are performed by the same person. So, if an adversarial relationship were to break out, said Manager might be a candidate for counseling by a Professional well versed in Dissociative Identity Disorder.

As firm size and complexity of installation grows, asking one person to fulfill both roles becomes unreasonable. There is simply too much information to absorb and the requisite skillsets begin to diverge. I guess it’s only natural that, once more than one person is involved, more than one opinion might emerge. Still, I cannot fathom how CAD/BIM and IT can be at odds over major issues.

To my way of thinking, CAD/BIM is a part of IT. Sure, there are Discipline-specific deployments, but the underlying functions (customization, installation, maintenance, training, user support) are more similar to IT than to, say, Architecture. I’m open to opposing opinions, though.

Whatever the Org Chart might say, I cannot understand why IT would oppose CAD/BIM initiatives. Again, especially considering that most IT Departments have been told to stop all but emergency spending for the past two or three years. Watching the infrastructure rust is not the most rewarding part of a career in IT. CAD/BIM poses a compelling argument for new investment. Working together toward a common goal can be invigorating. Trust me.

This is a perfect opportunity to play “Good Cop / Bad Cop” (you wanna be Sipowicz this time?):

“Dang”, says the IT Manager; “I really hate to advocate spending money right now, but I’ve seen how much productivity we’re wasting trying to run the newest BIM Application on our existing machines. Maybe our BIM Manager is right (for once 😉 ).”.

Want to upgrade your Workstations? Blame it on BIM.

Want to virtualize your Servers and Storage? Blame it on BIM.

Want to roll out 64-bit Operating Systems? Blame it on BIM.

To the CAD/BIM and IT Managers reading this: This approach can be our little secret. I promise to support you on it.

To the Firm Leaders reading this: If your CAD/BIM and IT Management are at odds, it’s time to have a heart-to-heart chat with them. Many qualified Managers / Directors / V.P.’s have been displaced by the current economy. You shouldn’t have to put up with counterproductive conflicts.

Dave

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If your drain is clogged, don’t blame the faucet for the flood.

You can see it, but you can't get there from here!

You can see it, but you can't get there from here!

I really try to keep this blog positive and on topic, but have to share a negative experience with my readers. It does have principles of Civil Engineering, though, so maybe one out of two ain’t bad?

My wife and I had (good) tickets to the inaugural NASCAR Sprint Cup Race at the Kentucky Speedway this past Saturday night (July 9, 2011). On a normal day, it’d be an hour and a half drive. Knowing that traffic was going to be heavy, we left 5 3/4 hours before the scheduled start time. The first 60 or so miles of the 85 mile trip were smooth sailing. As we approached the I-75/I-71 Split, near Walton, KY, traffic began to slow.

Then, things went from bad to worse. Traffic came to a standstill around 15 miles from the primary exit for the Speedway. There were no visible accidents or reasons for the delay other than volume. Nor were there any Traffic Control Officers or informational signage to expedite traffic flow.

As we scanned the radio frequencies for reports from the facility, we heard track owner Bruton Smith claiming that I-71 was the worst Interstate in the country and something needed to be done to fix it. He said they needed the 2 lane Interstate widened to 6 lanes, but would compromise on 5 ½ (very glib fellow, that Mr. Smith).

I’ll spare some of the details (links with more info posted below, for those who are interested). My answer to Mr. Smith is this;

“If your drain is clogged, don’t blame your faucet for the flood.”.

While I-71 is bumpy and patched, it is far from the worst section of Interstate Highway I’ve driven. And, it was not to blame for what became an 18-20 mile traffic jam from the north and a slightly shorter one from the south.

The issue was the facility was not capable of “draining” traffic off I-71.

Piecing together reports from those who actually made it into the facility, there was a shortage of Parking Lot Attendants and signage, no enforcement of how many spaces one car commandeered for their tailgating space and many of the lots required crossing oncoming traffic to enter. A lack of access lanes (which should have been directionally limited to inbound-only pre-race and outbound-only post-race) and queuing area contributed to the build-up.

The only thing additional lanes on I-71 would have accomplished might have been to allow traffic that was simply trying to get past the Speedway to some other destination to pass by. We weren’t happy, but felt very, very bad for folks who got caught up in the mess trying to get to somewhere else.

The “National Anthem” fighter jets flew over us as we were stopped between exits 57 and 55 (a last minute sign instructed all race traffic to proceed past exit 57 to exit 55 for parking). We watched as fans, in desperation, parked alongside the road and began to walk to the Speedway (still miles away).

We finally parked our vehicle on a make-shift spot inside the grounds at 8:35pm EDT – as the race was well underway. The busses/trams were stuck in the same lanes as race fans, so we started to walk to the track. A much needed stop at two overflowing porta-potties dampened our spirits even more and, as we gazed at the grandstands miles in the distance (see pic above), we came to the realization that we would not get through the gates before the Checkered Flag flew. We returned to our car and drove back (in 1 ½ hours, once we hit I-71 at exit 55).

Not an impressive debut for Kentucky Speedway. At the time of this writing, there is no official word from Bruton Smith / Speedway Motorsports, Inc / SMI (owners of the facility) or NASCAR on refunds.

Before the Commonwealth of Kentucky caves into demands to widen I-71, the Kentucky Speedway should be required to modify their facility, traffic control and fan conveyance plans (including hiring professional staff on race days) to accommodate the 107,000 seats they sold for the event (tens of thousands of which went unused). I’m sure there are Civil Engineers among the readership who could help with that (See? I told you part of this was on-topic!).

Footnote: I’ve driven to NASCAR Cup races at Daytona, Indianapolis and Michigan. All of those facilities hold as many, or more fans and move traffic much more effectively than Kentucky Motor Speedway did Saturday night.

For more info, visit:

http://www.kentucky.com/2011/07/10/1806226/long-waits-in-traffic-frustrate.html#disqus_thread

http://espn.go.com/rpm/conversations/_/id/6753479/kyle-busch-nascar-sprint-cup-win-kentucky-speedway-takes-backseat-traffic-nightmare

Dave (NASCAR fan since the bias ply tire days)

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Giving back

Giving back – an example

Anthony and DeDe Munoz present a scholarship check

We’ve already established that I am a Cheesehead by Birth (and my wife is one by marriage).  That doesn’t mean that I limited my football “studies” to the Green and Gold.  I remember watching the Cincinnati Bengals on TV and observing the stellar play of Anthony Muñoz.  His induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame was a foregone conclusion.

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When my wife informed me that we had tickets to the Anthony Muñoz Foundation’s 10th Anniversary Hall of Fame Dinner (http://www.munozfoundation.org/default.asp?contentid=21 ),  I was looking forward to having the opportunity to meet one of the greatest Offensive Linemen of all time.

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The Foundation, among its other activities, gave college scholarships of $20,000 to five deserving high school seniors (none of whom were focused on athletics, by the way).  There wasn’t a dry eye in the house after their acceptance speeches.

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It was heart-warming to learn of the things the Anthony Muñoz Foundation does for the Cincinnati / Northern Kentucky community.  From all accounts, Anthony is as great a person as everyone says.  The H-O-F’ers in attendance spoke very highly of the AMF organization (and they’re exposed to a lot of them).

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But, the bigger message was that one needn’t be a H-O-F’er, Celebrity or Corporate Bigwig in order to make a difference in someone’s life.  I encourage readers to volunteer at an organization in your area.  A little bit of time can pay big dividends.

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Other highlights of the evening:

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Meeting Anthony Muñoz and some of the dozen or so Hall of Famers who attended (note:  John Randle doesn’t look nearly as scary without his face paint….although I’m pretty sure he’s still crazy!).

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The great R&B / Motown tunes played by 2nd Wind (killer voices all around!) during the Social Hour and after the main Program.

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The mini cupcakes at the dessert table, from Sugar Cupcakery.

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The fireworks show, provided by Rozzi Famous Fireworks.

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The Manor House Banquet & Conference Center did a great job of hosting the festivities.  Anyone planning an event in the northern Cincy area should check it out.

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Thanks to Furniture Fair ( www.furniturefair.net ) for supporting the Anthony Muñoz Foundation and for providing our tickets.

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Wish I could have jumped in on the bidding for the 2012 Superbowl ticket package.  Got a feeling the PACKERS are going to repeat! (provided there’s a 2011 NFL season…).

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Dave
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