Sunday, June 16, 2013

A Map of the California-Nevada Border as it passes through the pool at the Cal Neva Lodge

The Cal-Neva lodge has several notable distinctions beyond the fact that the property, lodge and building all straddle the border between California and Nevada. The lodge was once partially owned by Frank Sinatra. Judy Garland was discovered there after singing in the fabled Celebrity Showroom. It has played host to many a celebrity including members of Sinatra's Rat Pack, and President Kennedy. Marilyn Monroe reportedly stayed there just a week before she died. There are tunnels underneath the hotel that assisted in the smuggling of alcohol during Prohibition. All that plus the fact that the lodge sits on the shores of Lake Tahoe, one of the World's most beautiful and clear alpine lakes.

As is the case with other places I've documented, sitting astride a border has its advantages. The lodge has always combined the rustic charm of the California side with the more sinful exploits of the Nevada side. Although gambling only became legal in Nevada in 1930, there are stories of illegal gambling before then. If the lodge was raided by Nevada police, the guests would simply move to the California side and vice-versa. There are also tales that the lodge's unique location enabled visiting Californian's to take advantage of Nevada's speedy marriage and divorce proceedings.

Celebrating the lodge's split personality is the Cal-Neva swimming pool, half in Nevada, half in California. The pool's mid-century modern kidney shape gives it an ironic, hipster charm today. The border is painted onto the bottom of the pool with the California and Nevada sides labelled appropriately. The pool is also a microcosm of nearby Lake Tahoe which is itself divided between California and Nevada. I've always been partial to the California side but a drive through the Nevada-side can be a fun celebration of motel signage kitsch.

Cal Neva Resort website:
"The Tunnels of History" an article in the Tahoe Daily Tribune about the tunnels under the hotel:

Tuesday, May 21, 2013


I believe that in 20 years, people will look back on yesterday's tornados in Moore Oklahoma (and their predicted connection to global warming) and wonder how anyone could have advocated for more coal or "drill baby drill" when we knew these environmental problems were unfolding. "

I also think people will look back on Sandy Hook and wonder how anyone could have thought that the answer to the problem of gun violence was more guns." 

That's my forecast. I only wish we could all have the benefit of hindsight today. All we have to go on now is scientific facts!

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Corporate Innovation & Particle Collisions

Particle colliders have been described as being like smashing two watches together to figure out how clocks work. It is at times a crude tool but one that has, none the less, led to real discovery. I've always been fascinated by the images created by particle colliders. The image of spiraling particles recently made me think of the process of corporate innovation.

Most big companies are like the pre-collision atoms, electrons and protons that feed the process. They are bigger, tightly bound, and have huge momentum in a specific direction. They are on a track and hard to turn even when the market is telling them otherwise.

Innovation teams follow a path that is more like sub-atomic particles colliding. The particles themselves are smaller and more nimble than the atoms from which they came and the collision patterns have distinct characteristics. Instead of staying "on track", they seem to arc away from the original path in different directions. This, to me, is a core requirement for innovators. New ideas come from explorations in new domains, away from the mother ship. Many ideas must typically be explored before viable ones are found. This is like the traces you see of particles spiraling off in multiple directions. As promising ideas are identified, explorations spiral inward on specific solutions, just like the paths of the sub-atomic particles.

Lastly, to be successful, the ideas developed by innovation teams must return to the company's core businesses. This is like the final stage in collisions where outward forces are overcome by attraction and bonding forces. The smallest particles that had existed for brief periods of time rejoin other particles and start to form the stronger bonds that held them together in the first place. In companies, smaller, nimble teams join product teams or perhaps, like an atom, move on to their next set of interactions with the rest of the world.