Friday, December 18, 2009

Tiger Woods: Meet Jesus

What does Tiger Woods do now? His wife is divorcing him and who can blame her? Her husband is a philanderer with ten mistresses, so far. It is a pity. Tiger Woods had such a wonderful image. He was successful in a sport dominated by older, rich, white men. He was a breath of fresh air.

What advertiser would not want a handsome, talented, competent young man to represent a company and its products? Well ... no one... not now. Tiger's ... ahem... excessive infidelity would not be the type of image an advertiser would want.

What can Tiger do now?

As far as golf goes, Tiger is a pariah. Actually, as far as anything goes, he is a pariah. So what can he do now?

He needs to get through his divorce. He needs to lay low for about one year. He needs redemption. The only way he can redeem himself is to perform gracious, selfless, charitable acts. He must repent and he must find Jesus.

Then in about two years, he can go back to professional golf, but he had better get counseling for his infidelity.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

NYC Charter Schools Like Silicon Valley?

Here is an excerpt from today's Wall Street Journal (22Sep2009), in an article titled "Charter Schools Pass Key Test in Study":

"We want to make New York City the Silicon Valley of charter schools," says schools Chancellor Joel Klein, who supports lifting statewide caps. "This study shows that when districts aren't antagonistic to charter schools, and instead welcome them, the results are very powerful."

Like Silicon Valley? With 12% unemployment? Massive traffic problems? Unaffordable housing?
I suppose Klein meant "innnovation" -- that he wants the charter schools to be innovative. It is a strange simile, though. Perhaps Klein could set his aspirations higher.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

The Second Great Depression - Government Bailout

Just like the stock market crash of 1929 ushered in the Great Depression, so has the real estate crash of the Fall of 2008 ushered in the Great Depression II.

I was thinking that in Great Depression I, the US Government did NOT bailout any banks or other businesses. Instead, the US Government created work projects to put people back to work and into a spending mood.

This time, in Great Depression II, the government IS bailing out banks and other businesses. The US Government is giving banks and businesses money, and propping them up. BUT, the US Government is NOT doing anything for people. There are no programs to put people back to work.

Did the US Government change from 1929 to 2009? Did it change from a democracy for the people into a government of big businesses? Are our elected officials merely "corporatists"?

Manda Bala (Send a Bullet) to the Wall Street Journal

Antonio Regalado wrote an article for today's (9/9/2009) Wall Street Journal, titled "On Sao Paulo's Mean Streets, the Rich Roll in Armored Splendor". The article is all about the high tech industry of adding armor to cars. This doubles the price of the car, but keeps the wealthy clientele safer than a non-armored car. About 30,000 cars in Brazil are armored and about 120 companies provide armoring services. One of the featured young ladies in the article has a pink VW beetle that is armored.

This is not the story. Antonio Regalado, and/or his editors, have blown it big time. The real story is that Sao Paulo is a very densely populated city with 11 million people, and a huge gap between rich and poor. It is more effective and easier in Sao Paulo to kidnap a wealthy person, cut off their ear as proof that you have them, and send the ear with a demand letter to their family. You can get $20,000 - $50,000 this way. This is more profitable and gets better results than robbing a bank.

Why have the poor and destitute taken this path? To truly understand the dynamics of life in Sao Paulo, one should see the documentary film, "Manda Bala (send a bullet)".

To write a story for the Wall Street Journal describing armored cars in Sao Paulo as a new status symbol is completely irresponsible. It does not address the terrible fear of possible kidnapping by the wealthy. It does not address the political system in Brazil that fails to address the desperate poverty of the majority of Brazilian people.

This is the real story.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Santa Cruz Fire of August 2009

Here's a photo of the fire from space:

Start: Aug 12 2009
Number of firefighting personnel: 2,000
Cost to contain: $26.6 million
Acres burned: 7817
Square miles burned: 10
End: Aug 26 2009

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Kathleen Pouls - Acupuncturist from Hell

About three weeks ago, I pulled a rib in my back. It affected the muscles in my collar bone, and my shoulder, and my rotator cuff in my right arm. I was doing squats and lifting a 10 pound medicine ball. It was an exercise routine I've been doing for almost three months. Suddenly, that morning, a sharp pain zinged down my collar bone, about six inches down my back and stopped. I dropped the medicine ball. I went home. My upper back felt like it was off its tracks.

I went to see a chiropractor who was highly recommended. He did some adjustments and got the rib mostly back into place. I have had three follow up visits, because "the adjustment" does not "last".

Now the thing about this is, I am a personally conservative woman. I do not like strange men touching me. Chiropractors do this thing where they kind of whack your limbs and shoulders and neck around. Almost like they are beating you up. So for me, it becomes an act of physical violence from a strange man directed at me. It makes me very uncomfortable and very fearful. I know I am not the only woman who feels this way. The whole thing is really unpleasant. I don't think I could go back and do it again unless I was under anesthesia.

Problem is I am good for a few days and then the pain is back. A lot of pain. Intense pain on the right side of my back at T3.

The chiropractor recommended I get acupuncture to try and bring down the inflammation. Today I went to Kathleen Pouls, one of the acupuncturists he recommended.

This is only my second time getting acupuncture. The first time (15 years ago) was great. This time was a nightmare.

First, the needles really hurt. Ms. Pouls never asked me "does this hurt?" "are you uncomfortable?" She just stuck the needles in and left the room. For 15 minutes! Gee how about coming back and checking on me after a minute? Maybe I am not okay ... did that cross your mind?

So there I am face down with my head over the side of the table, pulling on my neck muscles in a terrible way. I realize I am in a bad position for me. I could not turn over and get up because of all the needles and if I turned the wrong way, I might drive them in further! (Shudder.) The pain in my neck muscles is causing me to tense up which probably is counteracting any effect the needles have.

I cannot cry out for help because of the way my neck and head are wedged into the table bed, and I doubt anyone would hear me over the newage music.

I tried to scoot down --- kind of wriggle myself further down the table so my head can have some support. As I lifted my legs a little, the pain from the needles really intensified, so I quickly dropped back. So there I was, stuck in this horrible awkward position, causing me to tense up even more.

Finally, I just gritted my teeth, bore the pain and got my body moved down about three inches so I can have some support for my head and neck.

Then Ms. Pouls entered the room. She is blabbing on about some kind of laser treatment. What? Lasers for inflammation? I thought she was an acupuncturist. So I turn to look her and she says "I need to identify your greatest area of pain so I can shine the laser light at it." She then shines this laser right in my eyes! Hey! My eyes are not in pain!!! Unbelievable! So now I can have terrible back pain, go blind, and pay for the privilege.

I think it is the same type of laser I use when I play with my cats and they think the red laser light is some kind of new mousey.

As far as I know, there is zero scientific evidence that laser light shows directed at one's back alleviate back pain. Perhaps there is a placebo effect in some individuals. On me, there was no effect.

Well let's see... does that about cover it? No. I got a lecture about how I should "get on top of the pain". I have no idea what that means. The pain is actually behind me, in my back. How do I get on top of what is behind me? I don't think I am flexible enough to stand on top of my back. Maybe those Cirque du Soleil performers could do that. Not me.

So I wonder if she realizes that my purpose in seeing an acupuncturist was to alleviate the pain? I suppose I never spelled this out. Perhaps she thought I was there for some other purpose?

Ms. Pouls concluded with a newage lecture on all the stuff I should be taking and doing etc. to manage this.
Strangely, she never asked any follow up questions. For example: "Are you feeling better?" "Do you feel some relief?' "Was there any effect from my laser light show?"

It was kind of like she went through her perfunctory performance/routine and I was kind of incidental collateral. Or perhaps I was just life support system for a credit card. In other words, my role in her life was to have a piece of plastic from which she could appropriate $85.

For $85, I could have purchased a fabulous bottle of very fine wine. If I had two glasses of the very fine wine, I know I would be out of pain.

I do NOT recommend Kathleen Pouls, Acupuncturist.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Salad dressing - the little things in life that make you happy

For years I have used salad dressings that I purchased pre-made in the grocery store. They are okay. Kind of expensive for what they are. Kind of wasteful in terms of packaging and re-use.

I've always wanted to have a salad dressing on par with the fresh, punchy dressings that you get in upscale restaurants.

I happened to stumble upon The site promises that you can make these fresh and exciting salad dressings without much effort.

So I tried it out. I got the little container and the set of recipes. So far I've just made the perfect vinaigrette, and I have to say, it was perfect. I also like the container a lot because it is much easier to control how much you put on the salad.

Writing this is making me hungry.

Bon appetit!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Palm abandons its loyal customers with the Pre

I was really excited about the new Palm Pre announcement. Finally, the sensible people who created PalmOS were going to give us a phone plus calendar plus contact list that we could nicely hot sync to the good old PalmOS. A plain, reliable, easy to use, small and efficient software application. EVERYONE I know over 30 is frustrated that they cannot combine their Palm handheld device with their cell phone.

Well I read the Palm Pre announcement about the calendar part.

"Pre uses the Palm® Synergy™ feature to bring your Outlook®, Google, and Facebook® calendars together for one logical view of your day. And if you have the same contacts in different places, Pre can link them together, making it easy to find the information you need.1,2
  • 1 Within wireless coverage area only. Requires data services at additional cost. Third party software, videos and music sold separately. Wi-Fi within range of 802.11b/g Wi-Fi network. Some Wi-Fi hotspots require fee for usage.
  • 2 Available for Exchange ActiveSync only. Requires Microsoft Outlook using Microsoft Exchange Server 2003 SP2 or later. Within wireless coverage area only. Requires data services at additional cost."
So rather than attach the Pre to a USB cable to hot sync my computer at home and my computer at work, I have to do my hot sync over the wireless network! That means that updating my calendar and address book will require a perpetual service agreement with Sprint. So Sprint is making money off of my appointments and my contacts.

This is completely slimey.

This is the Apple iPhone approach. If I wanted that, I could have bought an iPhone two years ago.

Now... why did Palm want to copy Apple? Palm does not have to copy Apple. Palm has PalmOS. It works great. Why didn't they leverage PalmOS? With PalmOS you don't have to sign any agreements with Yahoo or Google or Facebook about how they are going to use your personal information. Those companies would not have your personal information, because your personal information stays nicely hidden in PalmOS.

To add to the general slimeyness....

The Pre requires that you use Microsoft Exchange Server. Yuck. Why? Who wants to set up and administer that big piece of pork? Why involve Microsoft? Now we have to get into the DRM cesspool. Next thing the RIAA will be sending me a letter saying that they read through my calendar and that they noticed I had an appointment called "Journey". (The actual name of the appointment is "Journey up my bottom"; it was the day I was scheduled for a colonoscopy.) The RIAA will tell me to take it down because Journey is the copyrighted name of the band that is under contract to Columbia Records. Then Columbia Records will sue me for using their band's name without their permission.

Does anyone remember when calendars were private?

Come on Palm... don't be a clone of Apple! Return to your roots, cancel the Pre, go back to the drawing board. Why don't you use APIs and have little software agents that go through the Internet downloading and uploading calendar information after checking the user's policy and privacy settings? This would be so much better and you would sell millions.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

What should we do with AT&T?

When I arrived at my office in Santa Cruz on Thursday April 9th, 2009, I discovered that the telephones did not work, my cell phone did not work, and our Internet connection was down. Yet we still had electrical power. We figured there was some type of outage in our area, so we closed the office and decided that we would each work from home.

At home it was the same thing, no cell phone service, no landline phone service, no Internet. When worse comes to worse with power outages here in Santa Cruz County, I take my laptop to the Coffee Cat in Scotts Valley, the next town over with more reliable PG&E service. When I arrived at the Coffee Cat, they had no service either and told me that it was out for all of Santa Cruz County.

Since I could not do any business, I thought I would take care of some personal chores and then try to go back to work again in an hour. First, I drove to the tile store to pay a deposit on an order. When I got there, they could not process my credit card, so I had to fill out a long form with all the pertinent information on it. They said they would enter the information as soon as they were back online.

Next I drove to another tile store that had some stuff the first one did not. When I tried to pay for my purchase there, they requested a check. Fortunately, I had my check book.

Next stop was the garden center to get some tomato plants. The garden store could accept credit cards, but there was a delay.

At this point, I went back to my office, but still no land line, no cell phone, and no Internet connection. I figured I would drive to Mountain View, the heart of the Silicon Valley, about an hour away. Surely Mountain View would have Internet access at one of the coffee shops. It was inconceivable that the Silicon Valley would not have Internet access.

I had to add gas to my car for this trip. At the gas station, it was cash only. Fortunately, I had enough cash.

When I started driving on highway 17, though, it was all jammed up, stop and go. At that rate, it would take two hours to get to Mountain View (and it did). In the car, I heard the news from the radio station: Somewhere in San Jose, underneath a manhole cover, the AT&T fiber optic lines had been cut. Intentionally.

Okay. Our office phone lines used AT&T and our Internet Service Provider uses AT&T as well. But our cell phones were based on Verizon. So why weren't the cell phones working? Verizon was leasing lines from AT&T. So Verizon's service went down when the AT&T lines were cut.

By 4 p.m., I was seated at Peet's Coffee on El Camino and Castro in Mountain View, finally back online, finally with cell phone service, and finally able to do some work in the remains of the day -- just one hour.

I did not arrive until 4 p.m. because there were two accidents on highway 17 on opposite sides of the highway (one Northbound and one Southbound). Both occurred at the summit and both involved overturned cars. The emergency responders were delayed due to the phone outages and finally managed to deal with the problem six hours after the crashes occurred.

It was not a very productive day and AT&T is responsible. There are a number of serious public policy questions that arise from this experience. It is obvious that the sabotage was perpetrated by someone who knew where the fiber lines aggregated, who knew how to get access, and who knew the best way to do so without detection. The perpetrator(s) was organized, had a plan, executed the plan very well, and had an escapte.

#1 why didn't AT&T have automatic failover for their outage?
#2 why didn't the Internet traffic get routed around the failure?
#3 what security does AT&T have in place to prevent such acts of sabotage? Why did the security system(s) fail?
#4 what would happen if there were a more extensive plan of sabotage so that all of Northern California would be affected? How long could the general public wait for the service to be restored? How soon would each individual's supply of cash on hand actually last? How long before we have a social breakdown?

Did AT&T provide answers to these questions? No. Did the press call AT&T on the carpet and demand answers to these questions? No.

The press ran a story that no AT&T customers should expect a refund on their bills because the outage did not last more than 24 hours. This story ran repeatedly.

The press completely missed the big story about the extreme fragility, lack of security and vulnerability of our communications infrastructure. There have been no public hearings, no investigation, and of course no follow up.

There are no suspects and no arrests for the act of sabotage, and there's been no follow up in the press.

Some individuals in the communications industry are speculating that this is just a warm up for a real terrorist attack. Alternatively, it serves as an example of what could happen in Northern California if we had a serious earthquake.

AT&T's performance is not acceptable. They failed in their most basic mission. The corporation should be dissolved.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Why Contractors are Like Professional Athletes

Our contractor has postponed our bathroom remodeling project twice in the last 14 months.

I think contractors live in some kind of fantasy world. They are the stars. They are the talent. They have unlimited demand for their services. They can charge whatever they want. They are paid to play with cool power tools. They are paid to do what others do as an unpaid hobby.

Contractors and professional athletes -- they have a lot in common.

Here are excerpts from an email I received today from our contractor's wife / business manager/ agent. The wife's comments are in purple, the color of royalty. My comments are in black italics; the color reserved for peons.

We leave tomorrow for our four week vacation trip; it has been altered considerably due to civil unrest in Thailand.

Hhm... let me see.. my last four week vacation was in 1989, but the contractor and his family take one every year.

My goodness it was so thoughtless of the Thai People's Alliance for Democracy to demand an end to corruption and restoration of democratic rule by shutting down the airport. Obviously they did not realize that American contractors and their families had reservations for five star hotels in Bangkok. They should stop protesting and get back to work as maids and busboys for the multinational corporations serving American tourists.

We are now going to Mexico instead.

Oh my God... four weeks vacation in Mexico during the winter that is such a hardship. Damn those Thais.

We would like to meet with you on the morning of ---. to go over last minute details and drop off tools. Will this work for you?

Of course, I have been waiting only fourteen months so if --- is the date, I will drop everything to be the bag carrier for the contractor's tools.

Also effective at the start of 2009, his hourly rate is $45/ hr

So nice of you to give me notice of his 50% wage increase. Let's see I have not had a raise since 2001. The unemployment rate including those who are too discouraged to look is 12.5%. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported the lowest overall numbers for construction jobs last month in the past four years! But what the hell... raise your rates... enjoy your fantasy.

and we will need a 10K deposit before he commences work.

Hhmmm... well according to the California Contractors State License Board:

The down payment cannot be more than one thousand dollars ($1,000) or 10 percent of the contract price, whichever is less, for a home improvement job.

No, you don't get to bypass state law by calling it a "deposit" instead of a "down payment".

Also, according to the California Contractors State License Board pamphlet for consumers (page 16):

Scheduling the Payments
Make sure the payment schedule is based on the contractor’s performance. Never let your
payments get ahead of the contractor’s work, and make sure the contract provides for a
“retention” — a percentage of each payment or of the total job, ordinarily 10 percent, which
you retain until the job is complete.

So that is what the law says, but I am sure that plenty of people are lined up, panting, checkbook in hand, for these contractors.

What mystifies me is that the jobs for software engineers are moving overseas, but contractor jobs, which require skill, but not as much skill as a software engineers, remain wanting.

I get that athletes like Tiger Woods or Shaquille O'Neal are the best in the world and that the fans want to pay really big bucks to watch them play sports. But how does this work for contractors?

Excessive Use of Adjectives on AM Radio

As I was driving North on California Highway One, all the traffic came to a halt near Aptos. I figured I better turn on the radio and try to get a traffic report to find out what was going on.
I found an AM station reporting that a big rig truck had a tire blow out, slid across the freeway, and burst into flames. So, we were going to be stuck a while.

While I was channel hopping to find a radio station with the news, I caught portions of conversations between the radio host and the callers. There was a very strange phenomenon occurring. The callers seem to have a fascination with long strings of adjectives. For example, one caller described a lawyer as a double decaf latte drinking, granola eating, Volvo driving, Eastern, liberal. Okay. I could visualize that person, and I probably know a lawyer who has most of those characteristics. However, the story and the conversation stopped there. The string of adjectives seemed to be the point. The caller seemed quite pleased with himself for coming up with the description. The host said something complimentary and moved on to the next caller.

Huh? Where is the plot? Where is the action? Where is the denouement? Where is the conclusion?

How about this:

The double decaf latte drinking, granola eating, Volvo driving, Eastern, liberal lawyer walked into the court room and made his closing arguments in his defense of his client, the accused child molester. As a public defender, this was his ninth time defending a child molester and the unseemliness of the whole process was wearing him down. He finished his summation and quickly drove home. In the quietness of his kitchen, he poured himself a Jack Daniels straight up and sat at the kitchen table gulping it down, staring out the window at the brick wall of the office building next door. He finished the drink, pulled his revolver out of the kitchen drawer, inserted it into his mouth, and pulled the trigger.

Okay. That was depressing. But at least it was a story. I challenge the AM radio callers to come up with more than a string of adjectives.

But then, the traffic started moving again, and I, the Darjeeling tea drinking, bicycle riding, Western, independent, married, software company president, turned off the radio and concentrated on driving back to my office where I could continue to ponder ways to attract, develop, motivate, and retain highly talented employees.

Friday, March 13, 2009

"Loving Frank"

I just finished reading "Loving Frank" by Nancy Horan. It is a fictionalized account of a real-world event, the relationship between Frank Lloyd Wright and Mamah Borthwick Cheney, from about 1900 to 1912. Frank and Mamah were married, but not to each other. Mamah's husband gave her a divorce, but Frank's wife would not give him one. Regardless, Frank and Mamah continued their scandalous relationship, as both of them were "free thinkers" wanting to do what they wanted to do. Unfortunately they both had children -- a total of nine children. The children paid a high price for Frank and Mamah's free thinking.

I found this book so intriguing that I could not put it down. It did make me wonder about the history of divorce. Obviously at the turn of the 20th century, divorce was considered an unthinkable, shameful act, suggesting a failure of moral character on the part of the individuals involved. I wonder when and how that outlook changed to the extent that today, divorce is common, and considered unfortunate, but not usually shameful?

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Our Inner Ape

I just finished reading "Our Inner Ape" by Frans de Waal, a primatologist, with expertise in all varieties of apes -- chimpanzees, gorillas, monkeys, bonobos. I had never heard of bonobos before I read the book. Well... I recommend learning about them. All popular ideas about "survival of the fittest", and competition, etc. can now be discarded. All of the apes have developed cultures and societies that work for them. They take care of their sick and wounded. They compete and they cooperate. Some are matriarchies. All have complex ways of handling and resolving conflict.

I found the most interesting idea in the book the notion that humans could be considered the neotenous branch of the ape family. This means that the adults of our species retain attributes of the juveniles. When compared to other apes, we have spare body hair and enlarged heads. We also seem to retain a capacity for learning and curiosity more characteristic of children.

My only criticism of the book is that I do not see how de Waal is practicing the scientific method, specifically the requirement to collect data through objective observation. It seems that de Waal interjects the human perspective throughout his observations, rendering him a non-objective observer. However, this was intended to be a popular book for the general public, so perhaps the details were omitted.