What it’s about — moderation, preservation, and gradualism.

I wanted to write about what this election is about to me… and I assure you it’s not about parties, candidates, media news cycles, or predictions.

Here’s what I think this is about… it’s about getting small. It’s about realizing that growth is not the only answer to how you improve your life. It’s about doing and creating things that other need, without allowing that to become more important than family, friends, and making the most of the unknown amount of time you have.

Think about the following…in 2008 when you were spending $4 a gallon for gas. It took me back to 1973 when waiting on a gas line (and no cell phones!!) was a thing. Even the folks driving us to school waited on line with us kids in the car, because you needed every advantage. Even if we put up with things like fracking (oh heavens, no), and giant oil lines running across our wilderness (please, have a little respect) we’re running out of oil, no matter which way you want to look at it.

Global warming? It’s not a future problem, it’s a now problem. Please take a few minutes to read through this, and you’ll understand why I say that. The drawing makes it abundantly clear. I know it impinges on the way people want to live their lives, and I feel bad about that. But not so bad that I lose sight of where we are headed to the best of our knowledge. It’s not even a “we’re good, let our kids worry about it” problem—which is venal enough… it’s a now, like we really need to change our behavior problem. When you mix that with the rapidly diminishing oil reserves, and it represents a clarion call to action. Even if all the scientists are wrong (How could that be? All of them?), are you willing to the bet the only inhabitable planet we all live on that they’re all wrong, and that with no particular proof you are correct? C’mon. That’s nuts.

So one last item, the collapse of the banks. Displaying a singular lack of integrity they based their choices on a crazed belief (as is the anti-global warming crowd) that things will not change. That they way things have been recently is all there is. That at the very bottom, in the ooze and muck of “me first”, the personal interest ($$$) of the individuals in the banks is far more important than the needs of anyone or everyone else. They cannot be trusted any more because their interest is uncoupled from yours by an abyss so vast that you cannot expect them to act in even a vague notion of alignment to your interests, which they claim to represent.

We need to stop thinking that the answer to everything is growth. Bigger is not better, and we should stop painting ourselves into a corner that leaves no room for any other answer. Why don’t we ever consider shrinking? Why can’t small be not only good but great? And better or best! Why can’t less really be more? The answer, of course, is it can, because it relies on community, and alignment of values and concerns.

So the election… I’m thinking about the above. I’m thinking about folks who are remarkably not represented in any way shape or form. I’m thinking about folks who just want to live their lives with the dignity and respect accorded others. I don’t see a clear party or candidate that represents “less”, “smaller”, “more simple”. I do not hear anyone talking about moderation, preservation, and talking about a gradual approach to anything. Well, maybe they all talk about gradually increasing taxes in one form or another. But that’s it. So go vote, and do the best you can. That’s as close to a plan as I have for this election.

Congratulations! You’ve Been Fired

Congratulations! You’ve Been Fired – The New York Times:

Treating workers as if they are widgets to be used up and discarded is a central part of the revised relationship between employers and employees that techies proclaim is an innovation as important as chips and software. The model originated in Silicon Valley, but it’s spreading. Old-guard companies are hiring “growth hackers” and building “incubators,” too. They see Silicon Valley as a model of enlightenment and forward thinking, even though this “new” way of working is actually the oldest game in the world: the exploitation of labor by capital.

HubSpot was founded in 2006 in Cambridge, Mass., and went public in 2014. It’s one of those slick, fast-growing start-ups that are so much in the news these days, with the beanbag chairs and unlimited vacation — a corporate utopia where there is no need for work-life balance because work is life and life is work. Imagine a frat house mixed with a kindergarten mixed with Scientology, and you have an idea of what it’s like.

[One of the differences between sports and almost any other job, is that while you can try and reduce people to numbers, it’s often horribly shaded by the perception of others. I’ve often said that sports that requires “judges” is not a sport. It’s performed by athletes, but a sport can be measured. You hit the ball fairly or not. You ran faster than the next gal or not. And because of that ability to measure, you can apply other arithmetic solutions to the problem of “value”. That simplicity of goal and skill is why sports is so much fun for all of this. Instead of myriad shades of gray and decisions you have the clarity of simple goals and yes or no. Applying that thinking to most workplace jobs simply reduces people to… well read the article. I know folks are replaceable at a skills level, but you’re failing if you miss the human behind those skills and bringing out the best in them.

Here’s my prescription since I’ve been from one end of the US hiring economy and back.

  1. Stay out of or get out of debt
  2. Build, author, design, create things that other people want with quality and integrity.
  3. Enjoy what time you have, none of us know our allotment.

Since so many young people start off with lots of debt relative their income, I say this to the parents now (it applies to them to, but some bandwagons are hard to abandon) don’t saddle your kids with debt by allowing them to run up huge debt to start out. (and try and teach them that it’s not the Way.) Consider eliminating your own. (cars, house, business loans, venture capital, etc. the stuff that really ties you down.)]

Knockoffs

Knockoffs:

The knockoffs can be alluring.  They can look virtually the same, especially in a catalog or on a web site.  A customer of mine called awhile back and said “I have two of your hammers, and they are both broken.”  I immediately said that he should send them to me so that I could repair them and do a quality-control analysis.  When I got them I was relieved to see that they were not made by me.  It turns out that he had purchased Chinese-made versions of my tools from a store that was part of a national chain (you know the one), and, according to my customer, he was told that they were made by Glen-Drake even though my name was not on them.  The similarities were convincing.  The Chinese versions even had the numbers I assigned engraved on the heads.  Maybe the imitators think that those numbers are some kind of a standard for hammers.  Or could it be that they think the numbers might help convince people that the hammers are in fact made by Glen-Drake?

An imitator of one of my tools even used my tool for the front photo on their packaging.  Now that’s just rude.  But here’s the real problem.  Imitators don’t need to be creative.  They don’t need to identify a problem.  They don’t need to design a solution to a problem.  They don’t need to build and test prototypes.  They don’t need to determine and assemble the best materials to deliver a product that will stand the test of time.  All they need to do is send something overseas to be copied, and that’s a callous and insidious form of theft.

If someone walks into my office and steals my wallet, the police will be all over them.  But if they make cheap knockoffs of the tools I make, then I have to hire a lawyer to make them stop, which is about all I can expect.  Then someone else will do it, and I have to go through the whole process again.   Cottage toolmakers can’t afford to pursue the knockoff makers, even if that’s the way we want to spend our lives, and it’s not.  Do the thieves know this?  You bet they do.  Criminal audacity is astounding.

[Some people consider me a “jack of all trades” (as a pejorative) others consider me a “polymath” (might be kindly over reaching). But either way, I am or have been involved in lots of different crafts and fields. And in each one it occurs to me I hear the cry of “cost”. Small stores hear it. Individual makers hear it. I am drawn to beautiful tools that function well and are a delight to behold and so I hear this all the time. No doubt, the cost of fine tools, especially locally made non-production stuff limits the sheer number of tools I can own (field doesn’t matter… guitars, amps, woodworking tools, electronics, bicycles, camping, hiking, photography, and the list goes on and on). But I accept that in that the tools I do own are joyfully made, used, and earn their right to the resources I devote to them.

If we care about the things we do, how we do them, and where they are done… who grows our food, butchers our meat, designs and builds our furniture, cars, houses, tools, etc. than in order to get everything lined up the way we wish, we’re going to most likely have to pay more. I’ve struggled with that choice in the past, but never complained about it. (You’re x is too expensive. Sell it to me for less…) But I don’t struggle with it anymore. I accept that I will have fewer things, but they will be joy inducing or I will not partake. And those things will, by the nature of my choosing, require less care, less fussiness, and be superlative in every way.

Knockoffs are unacceptable. I’ve seen the effect on businesses in which I’ve worked… where the knocking off product is so easy that it is not even railed against by the industry… it’s expected and accepted, if hated. To which I say save up… by the original. Work around it for a while. It’ll only improve your skills. Support the ideas and the folks that originate them. Buy things that are made close to where you live, even as you enjoy the benefits of being a part of a global community. Buy only things that bring you great joy when you see them, use them, and care for them.]

In an Uber all graphite and glitter

In an Uber all graphite and glitter:

Sure, maybe O’Reilly’s post bugged me because he’s playing the familiar game of using recent Apple product news as a strawman to compare to an utterly different kind of technology, while throwing in coded phrases like “Apple hype machine.” (Replying to a comment on his own article, O’Reilly declares, “What I wrote wasn’t really about Apple Pay.” Of course it wasn’t.)

But I think what really rankles is that Tim O’Reilly is applying his vision to a Silicon Valley utopia where people take Ubers to their Cover-booked restaurants, always operating on their own recognizance and never, ever waiting for the check. There’ll be spandex jackets, one for everyone.

Apparently these people never go to the supermarket.

[Common problem… Apple is used for so many things unrelated to Apple. OTOH, people are now making pants with larger pockets because of Apple. So if that matters to you, regardless of what phone you carry, thank Apple.]

Surveillance by Algorithm

Surveillance by Algorithm:

Indeed, ever since Snowden provided reporters with a trove of top secret documents, we’ve been subjected to all sorts of NSA word games. And the word “collect” has a very special definition, according to the Department of Defense (DoD). A 1982 procedures manual (pdf; page 15) says: “information shall be considered as ‘collected’ only when it has been received for use by an employee of a DoD intelligence component in the course of his official duties.” And “data acquired by electronic means is ‘collected’ only when it has been processed into intelligible form.”

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper likened the NSA’s accumulation of data to a library. All those books are stored on the shelves, but very few are actually read. “So the task for us in the interest of preserving security and preserving civil liberties and privacy,” says Clapper, “is to be as precise as we possibly can be when we go in that library and look for the books that we need to open up and actually read.” Only when an individual book is read does it count as “collection,” in government parlance.

So, think of that friend of yours who has thousands of books in his house. According to the NSA, he’s not actually “collecting” books. He’s doing something else with them, and the only books he can claim to have “collected” are the ones he’s actually read.

This is why Clapper claims — to this day — that he didn’t lie in a Senate hearing when he replied “no” to this question: “Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?”

If the NSA collects — I’m using the everyday definition of the word here — all of the contents of everyone’s e-mail, it doesn’t count it as being collected in NSA terms until someone reads it. And if it collects — I’m sorry, but that’s really the correct word — everyone’s phone records or location information and stores it in an enormous database, that doesn’t count as being collected — NSA definition — until someone looks at it. If the agency uses computers to search those emails for keywords, or correlates that location information for relationships between people, it doesn’t count as collection, either. Only when those computers spit out a particular person has the data — in NSA terms — actually been collected.

[How broken is a system that allows people to hide behind lies of omission rather than demanding common use, or explain their definition. Sad.]

Giving FIOS a bad name

Giving FIOS a bad name:

Please read this piece by David Raphael.

Summary: They’re slowing down access to AWS. If you host your application there, your readers and users get lower performance. Their reason, presumably is that they want Amazon or Netflix to pay to get the performance back (Netflix runs on AWS).

[snip -ed]

This is an outgrowth of a recent court decision that says they can do this.

But they probably will re-think it if it gets them the bad name they deserve.

[Shameful. Where’s gigabit Internet I can feel good about?]

Continuations : Twitter: Life is Unfair?

Continuations : Twitter: Life is Unfair?:

So why does the Twitter story remind me of Prof. Hausman’s admonition? Because it demonstrates the relative importance of hitting upon the right thing at the right time over early execution. This goes a bit against one of the historic ideas held dear in venture capital that execution matters more than ideas. And yes it remains true that an idea alone is worthless, you have to build something. But beyond that it turns out that building the right thing at the right time will let you get away with all sorts of mistakes. Conversely, hypothetically perfect execution but too early or too late or on the wrong variant will not get you very far. For everyone working really hard on a startup that’s not going gangbuster this seems, well, unfair.

So there you have it. Prof. Hausman was right all along. Actually not quite. I used to think that but more recently I have changed my outlook to: Life just is. Unfair implies some kind of moral standard. Somewhere somebody right now is building the next big thing and most likely it is not you. Just accept that and you’ll be happier.

[Raise your hand if you think it’s you?]