Every now and then a new reader asks “What is a CE?” It stands for Chicken Emperor, which, along with CCD (Canine Cruise Director) is DH’s current day job.
But it wasn’t always thus. Once upon a time, the CE was gainfully employed, and if you ask him, he will tell you he owes much of his success to the PE (Physics Emperor), Dave. Like most of the people the CE worked with, Dave is a super-smart scientist. So smart that he and two other super-smart guys came up with the idea of creating a high-tech research firm that rewarded top-level talent with shares of company ownership. Oh, and they were smart enough to headquarter their company on the southern California coast where their brain trust could look up from head-exploding equations and watch seagulls wheeling over the waves of the Pacific ocean a few blocks away. See, I told you they were really smart.
The CE has always referred to Dave as his mentor. “Everything I learned about business I learned from him”, he says. Dave grew up in Arkansas, went to Yale and then earned his Ph.D at the University of Minnesota. I don’t know where he got his degree in comedy but he is a very funny guy. He is definite proof of my theory that the smarter you are, the better your sense of humor.
When the CE went to work at the start-up in the early 1970’s he claims he was the least talented computer programmer on the payroll and so Dave found other things for him to do. Under Dave’s tutleage, these other things eventually included project management, new business ventures and eventually running a company division. What did they do? Beats me. Since much of it was classified, they talked all around it but never really about it. One night we bundled up and drove up the pass to watch something launch into the night sky. “An experiment”. I was there and I saw it, but to this day I have no idea what “it” was.
After a few decades of making it look easy to run a company, Dave decided he preferred the challenge of pure science and handed over the CEO reins to the CE. His parting advice was “What you really are now is a glorified janitor because you’ll spend a lot of time just cleaning up messes.” Truer words were never spoken – no sooner did the CE take over than deep defense budget cuts were announced. It was lonely at the top, but Dave had stayed on as board Chair and remained a steadying force as the company weathered tough times. By 2004, the company was in top form, all sparkly and shined up and became a plum acquisition for a larger corporation.
The PE and the CE had worked themselves out of a job, which was fine by them. The CE came home to family, dogs and ultimately, chickens, while Dave headed a few miles north to a 1,000+ acre spread…and chickens. (There must be a scientific formula that links all intelligent people to chickens, right?)
The two of them got together a few weeks ago for a visit at the ranch and some reminiscing about the good old days. The bad thing about getting old is, well, getting old. The good thing about it is being able to look back and trace all the help you got along the way to get you where you are. In that sense, the CE (and I) owe a lot to the PE. Many thanks, Dave, it’s been a great ride!