Monday, November 24, 2008

A single second

This fall has been quite the ride for me personally. I crashed my car and realized that I was just a muscle twitch from seeing the death of another human. My youngest son turned 10 and I realized that 10 years had passed in a blink. One of my longest and closest friends passed away and I realized that any time with someone you love is a blessing. I almost lost another good friend and realized how lucky the world was that it didn't go the other way. Finally, my ex wife - another of my most dear friends is gravely ill and I realize how important she is to me and my sons. I've made huge changes in my life and my personal outlook as a result. Most of them with the help of people who's only interest was to do the right thing in helping someone else.

With this in mind and in this season - with Thanksgiving and whatever you celebrate around the winter solstice fast approaching - for me anyway, food tastes better, music moves me to tears and sunsets tend to turn me to mush. I've learned that while a life can change in a single second, what makes it all worth while are the people around you. Count your blessings, Love your family, Appreciate your friends, thank your boss, and help the person next to you however you can.

Happy thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Election Pride

I must say - even though I expect the state to vote the dark side again - I'm very proud of how we do things here. At least in my county we put pen to paper. Count the votes electronically - but we have actual paper ballots. Also none of that discrimination or intimidation at the polls - not only could you vote early but you can walk up to the poll on election day and register right there. Way to go Wyo!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Painful Socialization

I've been doing a lot of thinking about the recent socialization of the financial market. Couple that with the thinking I've been doing about the upcoming elections and the related issues being discussed. Something very near and dear to my heart is health care. It's dear from a couple of angles. I work in the industry and as a father of two – provide health care for my sons.

The “crisis” is very real to me. I have a very good job in the health care industry and have probably the best insurance this side of being a US senator. Still – I can barely afford to provide health care for my kids let alone myself. I'm still paying on a 3 day hospital stay that my son had 2 years ago and I haven't been to a doctor (other than emergencies and serious illness) in years. Granted, part of that is my loathing of doctors but a huge part of it is that I simply can't afford to spend the money for something as seemingly frivolous as a checkup when I feel fine.

In case you have any doubt where I stand on the issue – I'm a very firm believer that the only real answer is a single payer system. Similar to what you find in England, France, Norway, Denmark etc etc. If you aren't yet convinced, and the word “socialized” makes you think of the USSR. Here is the one fact that you need to know. Only four governments in the world spend more money per capita for their citizens health care than we do 1. And yet we have a system where we, each individual is supposedly paying our own way! The average government spending in countries that have single payer systems (socialized health care) is much less than what the US spends in a system where the government only pays for a small portion of it's citizens! Just to drive home the point. Health care bills are the number one reason for personal bankruptcies in the US!5 On top of all that we still rank 37th in the world in the quality of our health care.2

Unfortunately, I also must believe that a single payer system is not possible in the US under conventional political means. In the US we have to hose with everything. Look at our tax system for example. A simple idea of paying a percentage of your earnings. We have mucked around with that until the tax code has to be hauled around in a Mac truck and there is a multi-billion dollar industry built around paying your taxes! Absurd!

This fall's events on Wall Street got me to realize what we are facing and what, ultimately must happen in the US for a single payer system to come to pass. You wont like it. But it just might be happening anyway.

To get a handle on what I think might happen you first must understand a couple of things about the US health care industry that most Americans don't. You see, in the world of health care there are really only a few ways to be profitable. When you are talking hospitals it's all to be found in one area really. Elective surgery done on individuals that are relatively healthy to begin with - and have really good insurance or are wealthy enough to pay the bill themselves. That means things like back surgery, orthopedic surgery, and even cardiac bypass surgery on fairly young, healthy, people like me and better. If you can pay the bill and won't stay very long – you my friend are what hospitals (and surgical centers) want. Medicare / Medicaid pays about .30 on the dollar and it takes around 6 to 12 weeks to receive payment. Everyone else is either written off as charity, simple bad debt or is reimbursed by the local government on some level as “indigent care”. Usually at much less than .30 on the dollar.

What is happening in our country's population centers is this. Surgical specialty, and private hospitals are opening - or have been for years in the major cities. They are private enterprises that do not have to take anyone but the best patients. Healthy, wealthy or healthy and well insured are the name of the game. These are often hospitals that resemble nice hotels.

Who wouldn't want to be treated there, and great if you can afford it. Since 50 million of us or more 3 don't have health insurance that means at least 1/4 of us go to the local "county general" hospital for our primary health care. Those hospitals are increasingly finding that 30 cent on the dollar mark to be the best they can get. How long do you think that can go on?

I live in a small city where this is just now taking place. It's been going on in major population centers for years in some cases. The hospital I work for is just shy of doing ¾ of a billion dollars a year in revenue - with an annual operating budget somewhere north of 50 million. The city has an annual budget of about 25 million and the county, even less. How long do you think they can support a failing county hospital?

Health care is a $2.26 trillion dollar a year business in the US.4 Plus it's run by large companies and paid for by large insurance companies. The very ones being bailed out. When health care fails, who do you think will step in? Your local government - not likely. Not even likely to be your state government with these numbers. How many lives will be lost in that socialization? How many will be stock brokers or congressmen?

Update: Maybe it's already happening.

Friday, October 17, 2008

If `Joe the Plumber' is like my plumber, he can go pound sand

Eric Zorn of the Chicago Tribune had a hilarious take -
If `Joe the Plumber' is like my plumber, he can go pound sand

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Inovate or die!

I'm a huge fan of Tim Ferriss and his book "The Four Hour Work Week" AND the fantastic movie Fight Club based on the Chuck Palahniuk novel of the same name. So this post is right up my alley: Tyler Durden's 8 rules of Innovation.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Driving me to Drink (or at least to "Tivo")

Last night was a crazy night for fall tv premieres. There was so much on that even with a dual tuner DVR I had to make a decision which shows I would stream online later. Some of this is directly caused by the networks putting their best stuff on in the same time slots. This used to be just good old fashioned competition. Now I think it is having the effect of pushing viewers (at least those that are somewhat tech inclined) online.

Whats more is that I swear during the 3 hour season premiere of Heroes (another competitive game) NBC so oversold the advertising that it seemed to be 1 line of dialogue followed by 3-5min of commercials. Plus the obvious product placement throughout the show. Talk about driving your audience to DVRs...

Take note networks you now officially have no room to claim that DVRs are driving you out of business. We love your move to stream your content online - now if you will give in and let us download the shows directly to our DVR/home media servers (with ads intact) we would love you even more.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Wrong Woman

Why isn't it big news that Gloria Steinem wrote an OP/ED titled "Palin: Wrong Woman, Wrong Message"?

When the matriarch of the feminist movement thinks she's the wrong person for the job shouldn't all these PUMAs sit up and take notice. This ran in papers all over the country but the LA Times version was the first to come up on Google:

Saturday, September 13, 2008


All hail Tina Fey and Amy Pohler...

Monday, September 08, 2008

The Hate Party

Douglas Rushkoff has a post on his blog that sums up some of what I was feeling during last week's convention.

I felt a bit nauseous watching the Republican convention last night. I’m very much a give-the-benefit-of-the-doubt kind of guy, so I try to listen to the arguments people make even when they’re made in over-the-top or patronizing ways. Sometimes it’s good to distinguish between the rhetorical devices and the underlying substance. Even people who use manipulative language sometimes have an important point beneath their persuasion techniques (ads against smoking, for example).

I usually don’t feel uneasy when I put those filters on, but last night - during the Guiliani speech - I realized I was no longer filtering a speechwriter’s intentional manipulation; I was trying to look beyond real hate. These folks were gritting their teeth, shaking their fists, and smiling the way gladiators do when going into combat against barbarians. And this is the incumbent party. The ones currently in power.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Pay Pal Plug-in

UPDATE: I just checked and PayPal has finally updated the plug in to work with FireFox 3.

This may be the most useful thing I've found in a long while. I've used Pay Pal for years - buying online - on ebay and even to send and receive money from friends on a couple of rare occasions. I love using it for online purchases since I don't have to go digging around for a credit card and enter a bunch of numbers - or even usually my shipping address. But allot of sites still don't take PP for some reason. For those sites there is now the Pay Pal plug-in for both Firefox and IE (on Windoze only at this time).

This little gem does allot of stuff - like check your balance, let you send money all that Pay Pal type stuff. The really cool thing however is that it will generate a "secure card". Basically a single use credit card number - paid from your pay pal account (and the accounts tied to it). I know many banks do this too - but, it does this in a fantastic way. It notices when you get to the "checkout" and pops up asking if you want to generate a card. If you do you pump in your Pay Pal password and it generates the card - then it fills in the form for you! When the transaction is done it even asks if you would like it to save the receipt page for you. If you do nothing it just goes away and leaves you in peace.

Bravo Pay Pal!

P.S. for some reason Blogger has decided to not let me stick HTML in my posts this evening - There is a link int the post title - if for some reason it doesn't work here's tiny URL that goes to the same spot:

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Introverts Unite

I spent the entire day at a management retreat today. Lucky me. Actually as they go this one wasn't too bad. Actual work was accomplished and there was only one time that I felt like leaving.

My boss - who was involved intimately in the planning and production of the program warned me about a particular section. Turns out that he was 100% correct. He, and as it turns out actually all of those in attendance were required to sing - a contrived version of lyrics over a classic rock tune. Twice. About the most uncomfortable - non fun - 15 minutes I've had since my mother set me up with a blind date. The entire time it was going on those around me (and several other introverts I could see in the room) were laughing and pointing and having a merry time at our expense. It's been brewing and pissing me off ever since.

I know some reading this are thinking "so what". The problem is that this isn't a big deal to most extroverts. Fun even. If you are an extrovert, you are probably thinking "you weirdo introvert you just need to get over your problem - loosen up and have fun..."

Well you karaoke singing - public masturbating sicko, FUCK YOU!

This is not some abnormality or mental issue I can just get over. This is who I am! It's my personality. I was born this way. It's not something to be made fun of. I feel that there may even be grounds for legal action in some cases of this kind of abuse and persecution.

It's time for all of us introverts to stand up and call this what it is. Abuse. I've got no problem with tequila fueled extroverts butchering Puff the Magic Dragon in front of an audience if they like, or being the willing court jester in other ways. I accept that it's normal - for them and whats more it's their choice. I'm sure someone will tell me to "chill out" it's not that big of a deal.

Well, you American Idol wannabe, for starters, I would never force and extrovert to do something contrary to their personality. I certainly would not further take pleasure in doing it. I would also never dream of telling them there is something wrong with them because they don't like what I'm forcing them to do. And if I did that in a business environment to my employees for example, I'd expect legal action and most likely the loss of my job. I don't think the lawyers would settle for my explanation that "hey, it's no big deal".

If you ask someone to be involved in a stunt like this and they say "no" take them seriously. You never know when a freak like me will make a huge deal out of it. If you setup a situation like this and introverts leave don't be surprised. If you threaten my livelihood because I left your shindig - expect to talk to my attorney and get some of that attention you crave in the local media. I may be an introvert but I also know know abuse when I see it and I refuse to be on the receiving end.

Note to my boss: don't worry, you didn't set me off on this - it's been brewing for a long while.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

How to Tap IT's Hidden Potential

Note: I originally wrote this post weeks ago. Doing housecleaning this morning turned it up. I think it says something important so I punched it up a little and pulled the trigger. I hope you agree.

How to Tap IT's Hidden Potential A really bad title for a decent article in the Wall Street Journal. If you know a CEO - send them this link.

"CEOs who use obsolete metrics such as head count or benchmarking the competition to decide on the role and evaluate the performance of IT in their companies run the risk of being blindsided by competitors who take full advantage of IT innovations. Furthermore, IT is key to a company's ability to satisfy regulations such as the Sarbanes-Oxley Act on corporate governance, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act and legislation in various states on the privacy of customer information."
Preaching to the choir. I'm fortunate in my case to work for a company where our CIO has both a head for business and an understanding and interest in tech. Our CEO also seems to get the importance of that balance, and the amazing benefit of leveraging good technology. In some cases this mix only effects the employees and the shareholders. In others it can have much greater impact. Government and health care come quickly to mind.

Was a time when good IT basically meant the bills were paid on time. As time has marched on poor IT management has the potential to run entire governments or their large projects into the ground. Imagine a non-working public transit project in NYC or a miscount on an election that would result in a bond issue to fund a public water project in LA.

It frightens me to also say it, but there are actually hospitals where this isn't understood. Imagine a hospital with a non-working telephone system. Or the ability to track which patients got which medication or even if they have received their meals. Management decisions that were once simple cost cutting moves, to cut training, service contracts, or staff and training in the IT department have these type of effects in today's technology environment. In fact I worked in such an environment for a while. Recent events remind me how fast our lives and the organizations we work for can change. One person, can make all the difference.

I, like most, have seen single management changes destroy a once great organization - then another change bring it back like the much lauded phoenix from the fire. But what most don't see is that one person - even in a large group can change the history of an organization and even effect lives and communities. I've seen one poison front line employee bring sourness and anger into a big business and I've seen the departure of one key person in IT take the forward momentum of nearly all that organizations projects when he left. Don't underestimate your importance where you work. Especially if you are in a support role like IT or Engeneering or Finance. And please, if you find yourself with management or administrative responsibilities - listen to your staff and move with care.

Counting my blessings...

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Blame Handles

Blame Handles. Thats what I call it when people - in my case mostly users of the systems my group administers - grab onto something and blame it for (all) their problems. Oddly it's almost never the actual cause of their woes and most usually, it's something that they have no idea about. Many times it's a buzzword - if even only local. Allot of the time it's a new system or an update to an old one that gets to be the scapegoat.

In my world the most popular blame handles are "the wireless network" and "VPNs". Sometimes it's just "the network" or even in some really scary cases, "the computers". If you ask the persons using these terms what they mean they usually throw up their hands and shake their heads. If you ask why they think that x blame handle is the problem they sometimes even get angry. Like it should be obvious to you that they are correct.

I find myself getting frustrated when my users do this. I'm the guy that usually knows what the real cause is (when it's a technology problem) and can even usually find a way to get it fixed. When the next unrelated problem shows up and the users again wield the same blame handle I pull my hair. "That has never been your problem! Why do you persist in blaming it!" I hear myself say. Only to get the head shake and angry reactions...

Lately I've come to a couple of conclusions. The first is that I'm sure I do it too. I think it's a human trait. I'm not sure what I do it with though. My guess is that if it were something that I understood I wouldn't do it. So I'm watching for the time that someone asks me why I'm blaming whatever it is. Instead of throwing up my hands and shaking my head - I'm going to ask why they are sure it isn't and see if I can learn something. The second conclusion - well it kind of smarts to admit. I'm sure in my professional position, that I myself (or at least my name) is actually or could easily be a blame handle for someone.

My resolution for the week. Don't be a blame handle - or at least have a pocket full of others to offer up in my stead.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Gadget Love

Just returned from a week long trip with only two gadgets. My Treo 650 and my Nokia n810 Internet Tablet. First things first. The Treo. I have a love/hate relationship with the Treo. It reminds me of at least one relationship I've had with the fairer sex. Beautiful package crying out to be touched - and lots of toys I want to play with if only the damn thing would let me.
Don't get me wrong, the phone and PDA are fine. Nearly perfect in their intent - with just a few misses in execution. However this is my third 650. I've now paid as much in insurance deductibles as I would have paid for a new phone. Two weeks after I got the latest one it stopped working 150 miles from home in the middle of a medical emergency last summer - I was ready to throw it against the wall. I kept in only for the data it contained. Fully intending to end my infatuation at first opportunity.

A lucky drop on the pavement seemed to revive the vile device however. Never mind that all my calls since sound like everyone in my address book is a cricket. A few weeks later I was happily sending text messages to my Son on the other side of the country as I enjoyed a music festival and kept tabs on the office from 200 miles away. Back in love. 30 days after that I had a fit in front of my kids and literally punched it in the face as it refused to get online for much needed directions in an unfamiliar town. (Until I pulled the battery, cursed and threatened it's existence anyway. Arrh!)

I'm now regularly surfing Verizon's website like a lonely member looking for a new relationship, but I've been burned and am heart broken. It will take allot more than a pretty face and the promise of EVDO to win my affection this time.

The Treo did not disappoint me on this last trip (crickets aside). Perhaps she suspects my heart and is looking for a way to get that last stab at my tender emotions. That, and I did not ask her to be anything other than a phone/txt device. In fact I have not asked more than that from her since that day last summer.

Enter the other woman... The Nokia 810 Internet tablet.

Drop dead sexy. 10 times as smart. Open source. Oh my! She even speaks my language. WiFi, GPS, Bluetooth, Vo/IP. She gets it all! Laptop schmaptop. Who needs that huge, heavy old thing. A day or two of DVD ripping and I even had the latest movies for the flight! Wow! Every time I was lost and wandering all I had to do was ask. She would take me by the hand and lead - she even has cute little quips to say as you arrive at your destination.

Yes my tablet has become the apple of my eye (gadget wise). I take her everywhere. I've stopped using the Treo for my schedule - I can see my GroupWise calendar from anywhere there is WiFi. Honestly - in the US that's just about anywhere. Most airports and almost all hotels these days have free access. If you can't find an open network where you are - walk 50 feet. I'm even starting to wonder about the need for a cell phone at all. With the tablet's deft handling of not only SIP but Gizmo5 and Skype and any (or all) IM service - what' a cell phone for again?

I'll probably soon replace the Treo with a more average, non-smart, phone. Soon after that though... Watch out cellular providers - you might not see it yet but you are in as much danger of becoming irrelevant as the regional bells have recently proven to be. The same advice might just apply to the makers of laptops and most certainly to Microsoft. I do carry a foldable bluetooth keyboard for the tablet for serious writing. Even with that and a charger the the 810 weighs POUNDS less than my laptop alone and does not require a separate bag.

In case you missed it - a year ago I carried a laptop (power adapter, mouse, spare battery, headset). A GPS (charger, mount, car power adapter), my Treo (charger, headset, spare battery), and a handful of DVD's for the plane (I could have ripped them I know). All this in a bag the size of a small suitcase.

This year on the same trip - I had my Treo, charger, battery. My tablet, charger, car power, car mount, the bluetooth keyboard and headset are shared between the Treo and Nokia. In a bag that WAS my suitcase. Plus, I could have left the Treo et al, at home.

Now Nokia has a tablet that sports both WiFi and Wimax! If only they had an EVDO version...

Links worth your time:

The Nseries Tablet
My SIP provider:

Saturday, April 05, 2008

& Teller

From Crackle: & Teller

Friday, April 04, 2008

Cool tip

Tried this - Nice tip! Windoze only though. I love - probably should add them to my surf section...

Label a flash drive with your name and number.

P.S. you don't need to use the icon and you can make the label anything you want.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

One nation. Under surveillance. With CCTV and biometrics for all...

The State of Privacy - 2007