Monday, June 29, 2009

"The last thing one discovers in composing a work is what to put first." T.S. Eliot

I must confess that, having wrestled with language for the new website a good part of today, I must agree with T.S. Eliot.

Writing is one of my greatest joys because I always learn more from it. Over-writing, then coming to find the essence, is a completely satisfactory discipline, and includes arguing with myself as I go.

I believe it's Thoreau who said "the best way out is always through."

Sunday, June 28, 2009

"If I could tell the story in words, I wouldn't need to lug around a camera". ~Lewis Hine

Apologies for borrowing the quote from the great social photographer Lewis Hine, but it is true. To create a website that will show people what the new company does, we need to reassure visitors about the principal of the company, myself. So my good friend Suzie came to take pictures of me yesterday at the office. They'll be added to a small group of other photos to use on the website, along with photos to remind us of some of the risks that the new business is designed to address.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Tally ho!

I'm picking my walking back up tomorrow morning. The business launch is moving along very smoothly, thanks to my ace research associate, Lauren. I have coined a new phrase -- that of an issue being an "LP," meaning "it's a problem for Lauren to handle."

I'm happy to report that my stress test yesterday turned out to be extremely normal. The medical folks predicted how long I would have to walk on the treadmill to get my heart rate up to a certain range based on demographics, and I kicked that average out the door. It took three minutes longer than the average for me to get my heart rate to that level, and then to take it on past the end of the range for average. Everything on both the test and the echogram were completely normal.

Doing that well made me miss my trainer. Once things settle a bit more, I'll look into either a gym or a yoga class. Walking to and from the office should also be possible once I finish shuttling my files from the home office.

Penny runs tomorrow in the Seattle Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon. She set this as a goal for herself back when it was still snowing. The whole team is very proud of her. Please join me in sending her all good karma among those 25,000 moving bodies.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


Tracy came to check out our office today, and to have lunch. I thought it would be a good idea to get a photograph or two of her with her hair. (The one used on Facebook and the one on her 3Day donation site both show her bald, at a different time in her life.)

For all of our talking about taking time off, we both find ourselves with real business and new companies. It's great to spend even an hour catching up and sharing war stories. We're planning to start a monthly lunch group of small business owners.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

It's getting there...

The blinds got installed here at the office yesterday. They make a big difference and, since they are in, I have started to move in photographs and drawings.

These photos are for my son James, watching the evolution of the office from Pittsburgh. He knows each of these photographs well. Above, the new compact Samsung printer/fax/scanner on the table, and a photograph of WaMu Center shot from a helicopter by David Hume Kennerly. It was a gift to me for being part of the WaMu Center Design Committee.

The photo above is of the Detroit train station; and below of the Wall Street Exchange in 2005. Both photos are by Weston Jandacka. The flash seems to be inevitable today, sorry.

I'll keep documenting the space for those in other cities. I am holding off choosing a large work for near the conference table until it arrives. I haven't decided what size rug or where it will go for the office either. Both these decisions will be easier after living in the space a bit longer.

Dr. James Harrison Sowers, my father.

My dad was called "Doc" by nearly everyone who knew him. He grew up in a well to do family in the south central part of Iowa, and went to both prep school and college at the University of Iowa. He played end for the Hawkeyes, then later semi-pro baseball. He became a dentist, but never lost his keen interest in either sports or politics. He served in the U.S. Army Dental Corps in World War I.

Doc's first wife Helen died of a brain aneurism. He'd been married to her for nearly 25 years. When he courted and then married my mother, he was in his mid-50s and he had used up most of his money taking care of his first wife after she fell ill. In his dental practice, he always took care of those who needed care, whether they could pay or not.

He must have been shocked to have two children in his late fifties, both girls. He was fiercely proud of us. We learned how to sit and listen to baseball, football and basketball games on the radio. More importantly, we learned how to play each sport. The bar was set a bit differently for intelligence. I think he genuinely enjoyed teaching us how to think and to argue either side of a question. In the morning, he got up before anyone else, turned the radio on to the news then sat with a cup of coffee and read The Des Moines Register while the house was still quiet. He passed that on to both my sister Mary and me. We are as interested in the world and being a part of it as he was.

He died when we were just out of graduate school. I think he would have been pleased about how Mary and I have evolved. I know he would have been extremely proud of his three grandchildren, including the one who bears his full name.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Deep sigh.

I am truly a contented person now that I have my desk. And my bookcase....and that red red chair!


Today is the day I'll post more than once. We hit our deadline for the web designeer. So this morning, I've been moving some of my books and desk items from the house to the office because my new desk and bookcase arrive this afternoon -- photos to follow. But above, please note the four beautiful Keilhauer conference chairs....

My stuff is a mix of publications ad personal items I like to look at while I'm working. I think the Nagouchi "Black Sun" casting looks comfortable near the McKinsey Quarterly.

As if the four conference chairs weren't enough, check out my new red Keilhauer Sguig Snychro and the two beautiful wood side chairs, upon which I'm organizing some of my books. All chairs are the result of a very special deal from DuGraf Associates, for which I am very grateful. Once everything is here except the conference table, then I'll move paintings and photographs over the weekend, along some other office files and equipment. On Tuesday, when the phone and internet get turned on, ASA will be ready to roll, either from the conference table or my desk.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

"It's not that I'm so smart, it's just that I stay with problems longer." -- Albert Einstein

The office is slowly coming together. My desk and big bookcase will be delivered Friday; and my friend Susan is lending us a nine foot folding table this evening, to use as a conference table until my table comes off backorder. Window blinds this weekend. No voice or internet connection until next Tuesday. But the jerry-rigging works! My landlord is a peach. It is most definitely possible to work here, especially with the Tivoli Audio One unit that James & Lauren got me for my birthday. My netbook is propped upon a slick little slider table by the window, and I have a fresh cup of tea in my hand.

We are roaring toward a Friday deadline for the architecture of the new website, which means a lot of writing and thinking. The smoke is coming out of my ears, but I'm smiling all the way. Jesse Brown is all over the logo and iterations of it for the website, for signage, and for printed materials like business cards. Then too it is great that Lauren is used to writing under deadlines from her time as a reporter, because there is a lot to write. I think we make a great team.

The trick will be to get the site done before I accept my first piece of work for ASA -- there are other deliverables besides the website that I'd like to do well, like a press kit, and emails to announce the company to colleagues around the world. I said jokingly that it was unfortunate that the World Health Organization could not wait another month for the formal declaration of Phase VI pandemic. But a colleague reminded me that it will take at least that month for the implications to sink in with the business community, and for action to be taken, so the timing of July 20th may work after all.

I was asked by the web team for "endorsements" of my work. Some of you who read this know that I don't write them on principle, and that I suppress such items on my LinkedIn page. But here's one I had not expected. Each of my staff was given an award in January of 2009, while we were all still together. At the end, my managers called me up to present an award that says:

"Enterprise Risk Services 2009 award presented to Annie "The Princess of Darkness" Searle, For her ability to build and lead quality teams and to always shine the light on risk issues, regardless of how dark the message."

I ended up framing the award, and it will hang near my Institute of American Entrepreneurs certificate in the new office.

I like the Einstein quote a lot.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

It's the weekend!

I did nothing except laze around the house until early afternoon yesterday, when I cleaned out the refrigerator by making a hearty vegetable soup. I left the house briefly for a run to Half Price Books and Trader Joe's, but then came back and finished the laundry while reading a mystery novel.

Relaxation nourishes the entrepreneurial spirit.

Friday, June 12, 2009

"First ponder, then dare." -- Helmuth von Moltke

Exterior shot of office itself.

The courtyard that runs down the middle outside my office. Notice the beautiful bench at the end of the gravel? Below, by late afternoon we have four office chairs (loan, courtesy of DuGraf Interiors) and a beautiful Korean elm cabinet. Lauren (left) and Tracey (right) now have a place to sit. Tracey brought me a beautiful office gift -- a Chinese three legged frog who has coins in his mouth and covering his back. I am to turn him facing out in the daytime and facing in for the evening, to ensure that my prosperity remains.

But exhilaration is sometimes exhausting. The month long train ride last month gave me time to ponder, and now I am in the dare stage. Days seem endless, perhaps because of the length of the lists. It feels like I am working even when I sleep. Yet it is only the 12th of the month!

This past week has been momentous. I hired the website team a week ago and the graphic designer about the same time. Lauren started as my research assistant on Monday. We already have a logo that is sitting on the splash page for is a lot of background detail for the site that Lauren is handling and, without her, I would undoubtedly be way behind. We have started to move into office space that she located. My desk and a large conference table are ordered, but won't be here for another week. So we're camping in the space without an internet connection, which means no excuse not to be writing, writing, writing, to finish content without the interruption of emails or phones ringing.

Back to work!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

“Be an opener of doors for such as come after thee.” -- Emerson

This is possibly my favorite quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson. I have it laminated on a card I carry in my work portfolio.

I was reminded of it after a call from my old friend Sidney Lawrence III on Sunday. He spent many years as public affairs officer for the Hirschhorn Museum and as a working artist and author at the same time. A new show of his work opened last month in DC, and he also appeared in another venue as a vocalist. You can find both an interview about the art and Sidney singing "La Mer" if you go to u-tube and look under "Sidney Lawrence." He has never stopped opening new doors.

I'm in the process of opening another door with my new business, thrilled to be working with a number of creative people to design and introduce it through a new website next month.

Back to work.

Monday, June 8, 2009


Our son James has been home since Friday evening. He is a superb cook, and in these photos preparing an early Father's Day dinner for Leroy.

Lauren caught the two of us as James was plating up dinner.

Earlier, one of his oldest friends, Lewis Johnson, who grew up two houses away, stops by for a chat

The chat took place while James was cooking an early Father's Day dinner for Leroy.

Wild brown rice, fish and roasted vegetables.

Leroy, James and Lauren in the requisite pre-dinner photo.

Turnabout with the camera is fair play.

We're very pleased to have him here until tomorrow evening, and to be able to spend time with both he and Lauren.

Two last photos, above and below, where James has reached his maximum point of tolerance for being photographed.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Race for the Cure.

Here's a few of the Kindred Spirits -- Penny Kellam, Jennifer Langdalen, Michelle Lewis, Dorothy Copeland and Kate Butt --who walked this morning in the Race for the Cure. Most of them continued on with Penny (left, front) to do an additional ten miles along the waterfront after this event was over. It was great to see members of the team. I especially enjoyed walking at a slower pace than the rest of the team with Kate Butt (right front). It's hard to get an idea of the scale this event has grown to, but the picture below gives you an idea. On the top part of the viaduct in the distance, you can see the runners coming back; and in the distance you can see the lower level of the viaduct loading up with us walkers. Not sure of the final count, but Kate and I were able to see numbers over 18,000 on people's registration tags.

I think I live in one of the greatest cities in the world because of events like this, where the turnout is at once large and passionate. I also do the American Heart Walk here at this site every October. Every person who does these events gives up a weekend morning of sleeping in to raise money and come out to show their commitment to health and wellness.

Tracy and Jennine, the incline parts of the walk of the walk were one for each of you.

Friday, June 5, 2009

"The foundation of justice is good faith.” -- Cicero

My time out for this week was spent yesterday afternoon listening to conference presentations in a new course about justice created by my husband.  Paper topics included Machiavelli's The Prince, J.S. Mills' "On Liberty,"  the Odyssey, Oedipus at Colonus, The Book of Job, Hamlet and Kant's Third Critique.  Unfortunately, my photo shows only a few of the 24 students in the honors course that Leroy teaches.

I had a good walk this morning all the way around Green Lake and a bit more to make an even 3 miles.  I had to be sure I could walk that far because I'll be walking 5k tomorrow morning along with thousands of other women, men and children at the Susan B. Komen Race for the Cure. Wish me luck!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Moral Courage -- 20 Years Ago and Today.

"Some call it the "Tiananmen Square Massacre," others say the "Tiananmen Square Crackdown," and in China it is known merely as an "incident," the "June 4th Incident," or as the Chinese say, "liù-sì shìjiàn" (六四事件). No matter how you refer to Thursday, June 4th, the world marks the event 1989 democracy protests in Beijing and the brutal response by China's military,   on's 20th anniversary."

Yesterday on KUOW-FM, I heard the photographer Jeff Widener describe how, by luck, he was able to shoot this photo from a hotel room that adjoined the square.  This photo is taken before the unarmed and unidentified  man (later called "Tank Man") climbed up on the front of the lead tank and asked the driver "Why are you here?  You have caused nothing but misery."   The man was dragged off the tank by soldiers and taken away, allegedly executed later.

This iconic photograph reminds us how easily we in this country are able to question authority, and how we take that freedom very much for granted.   

Today, 20 years after Tianamen Square,  in a similarly nonviolent act of moral courage, President Obama tried to breach a large gap and reduce misery and hatred in his address to the Muslim world from Cairo University.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Meet Anna.

Too often stories about cancer are sad.  Not this one.  Meet Anna Warren Schumacher, transplanted daughter of the South, actress, and hair stylist at Salon Joseph on Queen Anne Hill.  I first met Anna walking Green Lake in the spring of 2007.  She figured out I was a 3 Day walker in training by my hat.  At that time, she was just finishing chemo.   I caught up with her again in passing at the walk itself, and by email.  I started following her blog last year.   It is not for the faint of heart.  She is totally, completely alive and passionate about living.

You may have seen her yesterday on KING-TV, or heard her earlier today on the radio.  She makes a great spokesperson for Komen's Race for the Cure or the 3 Day Walk because she is so knowledgeable about cancer and because she is a straight shooter. 

I want to suggest anyone needing a hair cut or color give a call to Salon Joseph at 206 285-113 for an appointment before Saturday.   All the folks there are friendly and expert in their services -- and they are donating a portion of their tips as well as part of the salon's profits through Friday to Komen.    If you're lucky enough to get Anna, you'll be laughing through your whole appointment...or, if you need it, you will have found a fierce advocate.  She is the real thing.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

"Laying out grounds may be considered a liberal art, in some sort like poetry and painting." -- Wm. Wordsworth

On beautiful sunny days like those we have had for nearly a week, I feel as though I should be spending more time in the garden, weeding and pruning and mulching.  The new business is my priority now, though -- which means I'll be allocating myself a couple of half hours each day to take a gardening break.  

I continue to have difficulty with training walks, a side effect of the respiratory problems last month.  Dr. Kirdahy told me yesterday that it sometimes takes 6-8 weeks or more to resume regular breathing -- which tells  me that it is only a question of time before I'll be walking more than one or two miles at a time.  Next Sunday is the 26th Annual Komen Race for the Cure.  I'll be doing the 5k walk with others from the Kindred Spirits team.

Monday, June 1, 2009

"By the work one knows the workman." -- Jean de la Fontaine

I have had a wonderful two month sabbatical.  I feel truly rested, and a bit itchy.  I spent time with folks I care about and saw a good swath of this country at the same time.  The sabbatical allowed me to think at leisure about what I want to do over the next five years.  And I've come to a conclusion that some saw as inevitable, but which, for me, required deliberation and distance.

So this morning I return to what is usually called "work."  For me, at least in the last couple of decades, that has meant fully engaging my mind on issues that I care deeply about and enjoy working on.  This month, I'll be building out  a company focused on the types of work I most enjoy -- managing the risk around terrible things that might happen;  and ensuring that the two sides of risk (assurance and resilience) are built with a solid foundation.