Musings from George


Never trust a man…
March 27, 2012, 3:46 pm
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WC Fields was quoted as saying “Never trust a man who doesn’t drink”, and it seems relevant to the upcoming election. W gave up the bottle before he was president, and took chances with people’s lives a bit cavalierly. Romney doesn’t drink by way of religion, yet feels the need to rattle a saber and threaten Iran and Russia. I read that Barack likes a cold beer, and that he is genuinely affected by the burdens borne by our military (and he does greet coffins and disfigured veterans, and writes to the parents of those who make the ultimate sacrifice). I am not saying that drinking makes you thoughtful, but at times it seems that those who don’t drink are judgmental and self-righteous (and perhaps feel a need to swagger when they really shouldn’t).

Another common meme is “never trust a man that doesn’t like dogs, or that your dog doesn’t like”. I think dogs and horses are keen judges of character, and one thing that they have in common is that they allowed themselves to become domesticated. That would seem to favor the animals with good taste or instincts over those who chose badly (pick the right person and you are a pet, the wrong person and you are a meal). We have two dogs who seem to like everyone, so I guess I don’t have a good filter right now.

WordPress encouraged me to post another message, so I can hit an arbitrary target of 80 (okay, I assume they have some logic for picking that target… but it has taken me seven years to get to 79, so don’t hold your breath!). This is it — low calorie, zero content.



The Politics Of Gridlock, and the boredom of inevitability
March 27, 2012, 3:24 pm
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So we stagger towards an inevitable election between Obama and Romney, two men who no longer excite anyone. Obama certainly offends no one, but similarly the excitement of Barack the campaigner has given way to the boredom of gridlock and squandered hopes. To quote Barry: “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.” Yet so many of our policies remain the same, from lots of troops in Afghanistan to the embarrassment of Guantanamo to the assault on women’s rights… that it sometimes feels like W is still chortling to himself. I understand the root cause is politics and the parties, but understanding that does not give me any excitement about the upcoming election. Where is the hope? Why did we squander a nation’s willingness to sacrifice in 2008, when real change was possible?
Romney has been gored by a Catholic leading evangelical protestants to the polls in a futile round of mutual destruction, and demeaned by a peevish professor whose brief tenure running the House was a fiasco of lies, deceit and a government shutdown. Romney has had months now to say things that he will regret after the election, most recently citing Russia as our most fearsome foe (apparently his national security advisor is Sarah Palin…) and criticizing Obama for anything he can think of (the price of gas? really?)
Aside: does Newt the professor really think that Newt Fuel is going to cap the price of gas?
A few unrelated observations:
1. The Afghan people hate us. They have nothing we need. Support for the ongoing war (longest in US history) is below 50%. We need to get out.
2. We are (finally) a net exporter of petroleum. This happened on Obama’s watch. Fracking and deepwater drilling, and high prices that depress consumption, have given us some freedom from the oppression of the oil addict. High oil prices hurt us as consumers, but do not increase our national trading deficit as they did five years ago.
3. Cars are headed towards much greater efficiency targets, even if the current crop of sippers remains a sliver of the total fleet. Gas prices drive the purchase of newer, more efficient cars and the auto industry in the US is saved.
4. State government deficits in the US are as bad as countries in Europe, but no one panics because they are different in important ways. They can raise taxes, and they can sell bonds. But we really need to look down the road a few miles, not just to the next election. The cost of the services we demand is not supported by the taxes we are willing to pay — and the state governments have got to cut services and raise taxes soon.
5. People stopped talking about global warming, yet we are having some of the weirdest weather patterns ever recorded and alternative explanations don’t make much sense. One of the former high-profile skeptics changed his mind, after additional review…but it just seems (like “universal health care”) to be a topic that politicians cannot discuss without losing support, and the public doesn’t want to hear about because there is no call to action.
6. The Chinese government has pumped billions into producing solar cells, right when newer technology promises to make those cells and that capacity obsolete. Yet we focus on Solyndra, which I am ignorant about but know smart people who say it was the wrong idea — and got $500 million from our government. Where is the global balance sheet of investment and spending?

It’s raining, and baseball and softball have been cancelled repeatedly. Since I am taking time off to coach these teams (okay, perhaps I am using the teams as a reason to loaf?), it reminds of a Gary Larsen cartoon. Two deer standing together, one with a target etched on his chest — the other, to him “Bummer of a birthmark, dude!”
George



Social Media and big data
March 14, 2012, 4:41 pm
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So, a company is going to aggregate the many little parts of me that I leave stranded in digital islands and they are going to piece together something useful. They are going to read my tweet, eat my cookie, and query my LinkedIn profile … to determine that I am an attractive prospect for certain businesses. They are then going to try to sell that insight to said businesses, who will try to figure out how to market to me legally. Well, if I haven’t given them my email … they don’t have great ways to reach me. They can buy the same ad words that they are already buying, but of course they don’t control where those are placed. They can assume that the aggregated knowledge is more useful than the deeper puddles they can get themselves (tracking cookies, getting me to visit their site or download their paper) but I think that they would be wrong. Knowing I am a VP of Engineering doesn’t help unless they know a lot about the company I work for; knowing I coach a team doesn’t help unless they know what the team is.
Big data used to mean TBs of information that was unwieldy to process. Recently I have heard the term thrown around about relatively thin streams of infrequent data, simply because there are millions of those streams. I hate to say it, but given the rapid expansion of storage and database capabilities you don’t really need Hadoop to rate all of the Go players in the world or to rack and stack every TV show ever created based on multiple dimensions. Let’s keep “big” to refer to meaningful things, like all the POS data or RFI data that is being generated by millions of people and things, with a short half-life of value.
The real truth is that most “important” people have someone else writing their blog anyway, and the marketing team is always cajoling interns to say something provocative. It doesn’t mean the busy exec is actually thoughtful, and I don’t want to spend my time reading an intern ghost-writing for them. This social media stuff is simply overrated!
George



Aging parents and aged parents
March 1, 2012, 3:51 pm
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The Sandwich Generation is defined by two burdens borne at the same time: taking care of your aged parents while raising your own next generation. We have two kids in elementary school, and two elderly parents (one in a retirement community, one living at home). We are the salami, the mustard and the cheese in this sandwich and at times feel pulled pretty thin.

We waited until late in life to have kids, which creates this inevitable situation. Of course we have more resources, more experience, and more perspective … but as we lose our flexibility, as our eyesight worsens, as the accumulated years of wear take their toll on our knees, it is easy to think “gee, this would have been a lot easier ten years ago…”

How old or how mature does a kid need to be to appreciate the Washington Monument or Yellowstone? A friend told me about a vacation with a kid to a spectacular natural park, and the kid’s favorite (or only) memory was the waterslide in the hotel. Yes, it was a nice waterslide. But I expect that they will have to make that trip again some year. I hope to take our kids to see national parks, monuments, and historic places. I will take pictures, so when they question my (admittedly aging and failing) memory I can back up my story.

Non sequitur — this promises to be a fascinating year, both in American politics and in world power politics. What a collision of coincidence that we have Syria on fire in a civil war, Romney and Santorum leading the race for Republican candidate, and Iran and Israel about to face off! Throw in a change of leadership in North Korea and in China this year, and it appropriately screams “Year of the Dragon”!

More soon on social media and big data. Not ready to actually type down what I am thinking, but I have been noodling on both recently.

George



Aging parents and aged parents
March 1, 2012, 3:50 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

The Sandwich Generation is defined by two burdens borne at the same time: taking care of your aged parents while raising your own next generation. We have two kids in elementary school, and two elderly parents (one in a retirement community, one living at home). We are the salami, the mustard and the cheese in this sandwich and at times feel pulled pretty thin.

We waited until late in life to have kids, which creates this inevitable situation. Of course we have more resources, more experience, and more perspective … but as we lose our flexibility, as our eyesight worsens, as the accumulated years of wear take their toll on our knees, it is easy to think “gee, this would have been a lot easier ten years ago…”

How old or how mature does a kid need to be to appreciate the Washington Monument or Yellowstone? A friend told me about a vacation with a kid to a spectacular natural park, and the kid’s favorite (or only) memory was the waterslide in the hotel. Yes, it was a nice waterslide. But I expect that they will have to make that trip again some year. I hope to take our kids to see national parks, monuments, and historic places. I will take pictures, so when they question my (admittedly aging and failing) memory I can back up my story.

Non sequitur — this promises to be a fascinating year, both in American politics and in world power politics. What a collision of coincidence that we have Syria on fire in a civil war, Romney and Santorum leading the race for Republican candidate, and Iran and Israel about to face off! Throw in a change of leadership in North Korea and in China this year, and it appropriately screams “Year of the Dragon”!

More soon on social media and big data. Not ready to actually type down what I am thinking, but I have been noodling on both recently.

George



Aging parents and aged parents
March 1, 2012, 3:46 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

The Sandwich Generation is defined by two burdens borne at the same time: taking care of your aged parents while raising your own next generation. We have two kids in elementary school, and two elderly parents (one in a retirement community, one living at home). We are the salami, the mustard and the cheese in this sandwich and at times feel pulled pretty thin.

We waited until late in life to have kids, which creates this inevitable situation. Of course we have more resources, more experience, and more perspective … but as we lose our flexibility, as our eyesight worsens, as the accumulated years of wear take their toll on our knees, it is easy to think “gee, this would have been a lot easier ten years ago…”

How old or how mature does a kid need to be to appreciate the Washington Monument or Yellowstone? A friend told me about a vacation with a kid to a spectacular natural park, and the kid’s favorite (or only) memory was the waterslide in the hotel. Yes, it was a nice waterslide. But I expect that they will have to make that trip again some year. I hope to take our kids to see national parks, monuments, and historic places. I will take pictures, so when they question my (admittedly aging and failing) memory I can back up my story.

Non sequitir



Aging parents and aged parents
March 1, 2012, 3:45 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

The Sandwich Generation is defined by two burdens borne at the same time: taking care of your aged parents while raising your own next generation. We have two kids in elementary school, and two elderly parents (one in a retirement community, one living at home). We are the salami, the mustard and the cheese in this sandwich and at times feel pulled pretty thin.

We waited until late in life to have kids, which creates this inevitable situation. Of course we have more resources, more experience, and more perspective … but as we lose our flexibility, as our eyesight worsens, as the accumulated years of wear take their toll on our knees, it is easy to think “gee, this would have been a lot easier ten years ago…”

How old or how mature does a kid need to be to appreciate the Washington Monument or Yellowstone? A friend told me about a vacation with a kid to a spectacular natural park, and the kid’s favorite (or only) memory was the waterslide in the hotel. Yes, it was a nice waterslide. But I expect that they will have to make that trip again some year. I hope to take our kids to the Grand Canyon, to Bryce, to Zion, to the Olympic National Park (Ho Rain Forest) and to Yosemite.