Category Archives: Business

Positions

No, not that.

There’s a great Monty Python bit in which the suitor is talking to his intended wife’s father. The abbreviated version would go something like this.

Graham Chapman: “Do you have a position?”

Michael Palin: (Snort) “I cleans public lavatories.”

Graham Chapman: “And is there a potential for promotion?”

Michael Palin: “Yeah–after five years they gives me a brush.”

We spend the first quarter of our life preparing to take on a position. The next two quarters of our lives, we define ourselves by our positions. Finally, we learn that our position is what we do, not who we are.

Jackson Browne (with, perhaps some help from his neighbor Don Henley) may have said it best in “Running on Empty”:

Gotta do what you can just to keep your love alive
Trying not to confuse it with what you do to survive

We are who we are and we do what we do–don’t confuse them.

 

Everybody panic! It might snow!

Buffalo, NY 2014 (Courtesy PBS)

Southeast Virginia’s TV meteorologists are in a full-blown tizzy because (gasp!) it looks like it’s going to snow. This is not necessarily bad, because TV meteorologists love to be in a tizzy over any weather event—but if you lived as boring a life as they do, wouldn’t you? The only other excoitement they get is standing outside in a storm on a live broadcast telling everyone else not to go outside.

Our neighboring states average the following annual snowfall:

West Virginia 62″

Delaware and Maryland 20.2″

North Carolina (due south of us) 7.6″

Virginia as a state averages 10.3″ per year, but the southeast (Norfolk, Virginia Beach, Hampton, Chesapeake, etc.) averages a paltry 5.8 inches, although eighty years ago, in January 1936, there was a record snowfall of 20 inches. Wow!

So, wish your television weatherman a happy blizzard, but leave quickly or risk having it all explained in great detail to you.

Undocumented Features

explo

Former Washing Machine Photo Daily Mail

Among software types there’s an old joke that programs never have bugs—merely undocumented features.

Hardware I catching up:

  • Airbags that spontaneously deploy and throw shrapnel at the car’s occupants,
  • Cars that adjust the engine to run one way during emission testing and another for regular driving,
  • Smartphones that burst into flames,
  • AND, my personal favorite—washing machines that explode

People today don’t realize how good they have it. When I was a kid, you had to do all these kinds of things the hard way—by hand. It was tough. If you wanted to blow up the washing machine, first you had to stuff the tub with a $#!+load of firecrackers with the fuses connected. There was always enough moisture left inside the washing machine so that half of them would get soggy. Still, once you lit the fuse, you had to run like hell to get out of the way. If the fuse fizzled out, you never knew how long to wait to go back and try to relight it without accidently blowing yourself up. We worked for results, and when we blew up a washing machine, we were proud!

Today, people just expect these things to happen all by themselves.

Complain, Complain, Complain!

I haven’t written much lately, or at least not much for the blog. (I have been working on a story, though. For some reason, writing fiction has become more satisfying than writing about reality).  I try, when I write, to focus on the silver lining rather than the cloud. Lately, this has become most difficult.

We’ve already discussed how the news media obsesses on all things negative—or meaningless (What’s wrong with Richard Simmons? Will Johnny Depp survive the breakup? Will Caitlin decide to become Bruce once again?). Every trend dies sooner or later, except, apparently for this one. I suppose it’s because they pick the stories that sell the most erectile dysfunction prescriptions, thereby financially benefiting the media, your physician, Big Pharma, venture capitalists, and investment firms.

I propose that we start anew. First, let’s hold a memorial service for journalism. It had a short and tragic life. The first American newspapers were all opinion pieces, but there was one brief shining moment—a century or so—when factual reporting became the gold standard. Many were thrilled at its demise.

My favorite magazines—National Geographic, Wired, and Smithsonian, and National Public Radio have begun to beat me over the head with more doom and gloom. I don’t care who just wrote a book to announce that they’ve come out as gay; I’m sorry that peasants hack down the rain forests because they need to plant food; I regret that there’s a controversy in reintroducing wild wolves into areas where cattle are raised; and I find it unfortunate that while developed countries used coal in the nineteenth century, we balk at twenty-first century countries using such antiquated (but economically viable) methods.  The difference is that rising sea levels today threaten ninety percent of the world’s population because they live near the coast.

In the 1960s we had a saying, “If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.” Complaining, even if you’re a well-known television newsperson, accomplishes nothing. How do you plan to solve the problem? Like the ghost of Freddie Prinz the response seems to be, “Not my problem, man!”

So?

Solution to the Apple Kerfuffle

Syed Farook and Tasheen Malik killed fourteen people in San Bernadino, California. They apparently tried to dump their Apple iPhone, which actually belonged to his employer, the San Bernadino Health Department. Now, the FBI wants to see what’s in the phone and if it provides information to prevent future violent actions. The problem is that after ten attempts to enter the password, the phone erases its memory. The FBI wants Apple to unlock the phone’s memory and have a court order demanding to do so. Apple is refusing.

There are complex issues with the court order for Apple to unlock the iPhone used by the terrorists in California. Apple—and others—point out that if a “back door” is built into the software, somebody else will figure out how to crack into the phones. It is likely that these will be bad guys of one flavor or another. On the other hand, the phone may contain information that is critical to protect us from future attacks. Given that ISIS now has a quantity of Iridium 192, such an attack could be a dirty bomb, with hundreds or thousands of people exposed to radioactive material.

I propose a different approach.

If the solution is software, then it can be hacked. However, if a hardware hack is used, it would be more limited. It seems to me that Apple could physically remove the memory chip from the phone and make copies of its contents. Years ago there were programs that copied data bit-by-bit. This means that every 1 and 0 (the way that computers store all their data) would be copied exactly as they exist in the original.

This “master” could then be bit-by bit copied as many times as necessary; the FBI would have an infinite number of copies of the data to try to crack the password. After 10 failed attempts, the copy would erase, and the FBI could go to the next copy.

The advantage of using an approach that is hardware based means that it could be stipulated that breaking into a smartphone would require the legal physical possession of the phone and an appropriate court order to access the data. Since smartphones are radio devices and regulated by the Federal Communications Commission, this should be a federal judge so the Podunkville (population 15) judge couldn’t issue such an order.

It just might work.

Negative Campaign Ads

It’s an election year, and that means campaign ads—and what kind of campaign ads work best?

Negative campaign ads!

We love distorted facts, exaggeration, and almost-but-not-quite outright lies.

So, here is my humble contribution. Click on the link below.

george-washington-for-president

 

 

Hermione! I Need Your Time-Turner!

Harold Lloyd Modern Times

Harold Lloyd
Modern Times

I’m having a problem with all the important things I’m supposed to do. You’re probably in the same boat, whether you realize it or not.

It takes me about an hour and 45 minutes to get up, shower, shave, dress, eat breakfast, and drive to work. I work an eight hour day and it takes between 30 and 45 minutes to get home. Most nights there’s practice, rehearsal, or something with one of the kids, which usually takes between two and three hours.

The “experts” (whoever they are) are recommending that I get between eight and nine hours sleep per night. In addition, I should work out at least half an hour every day. With changing into workout clothes (and don’t forget to stretch), showering and changing back it ends up being an hour.

Everyone should devote at least an hour praying, reading scripture, or meditating to satisfy their spiritual needs.

In order to eat properly, I really should avoid processed food, so preparing a proper home cooked meal from fresh, locally grown foodstuffs adds another two to three hours between stopping at the grocery for fresh ingredients, followed by cleaning, prepping, and cooking: grilled, not fried; steamed or raw vegetables (after rinsing, spraying with diluted vinegar, and rinsing again in hopes of killing the E. coli, listeria, salmonella, and the occasional frog. I tend to eat fast, so let’s add 30 minutes to eat and after dinner another half hour to clean up, followed by another half hour to put everything away.

Don’t forget, that we need to do what the church mouse said and feed our head; so add an hour of reading the newspaper plus another hour to concentrate on a good book, and maybe an hour to sit with my wife and watch television.

Finally, about an hour to write blog (assume no writers’ block); oops! I need to go online and pay some bills, for another half hour, and hopefully an hour or so to pursue my muse of gadgets and inventions, followed by another half hour to get ready for bed; teeth brushing, thoroughly flossing, taking all the correct medications, and attaching all of the required medical devices that make me feel like Darth Vader (“He’s more machine than man”).

So let’s see:

Task

Hours

Before work

1.75

Work

8.0

Drive home

0.5

Kids’ activities

2.5

Sleep

8.5

Workout

1.0

Spiritual

1.0

Cooking

2.5

Eating & cleanup

1.5

Newspaper

1.0

Book

1.0

Blog

1.0

Pay Bills

0.5

Gadgets

1.0

Prepare for bed

0.5

TOTAL

32.25

All I need is eight or nine more hours per day and I’ll be fine.