Y2K Was All Hype?

Watching David McCandless’s Data Visualization talk, he does a great job of both data and showmanship, but (as you can tell my the title) there was something that bothered me.

Y2K was a factual issue; it was known and understood over a decade before, and the hype around the date was needed in the final two years in order to get action moving.

It is because of that hype that budget was expended.

It is because of that budget that the engineers of the world were tasked to react.

It is because we all did such a good job that these various billing and control systems didn’t randomly stop. Indeed, I finished my final deliverable, pushed it out, and dropped straight into a drivers’ seat for a 2-hr icy drive to meet my buddy for New Years. I got there just before the countdown.

We all know that Y2K was a real issue, and that it turned out OK; the part that so many seem to forget is that budgets and people were needed to effect this smooth changeover. This wasn’t a natural disaster like an earthquake or comet striking the earth, but a man-made issue with man-made solutions.

Many of us were part of that man-made solution. We worked very hard. We don’t want medals, but for the love of your internet and billing systems and lights that turn on, how about not implying that “it was nothing”, that “all the hard work that engineers and scientists and project managers put in was a sham”.

ps: for your lack of appreciation, you friggin fax-loving luddites, bite me


Where’s My Bloody Stone Chisel?

I’m amazed at how our worship of paper persists.

Seriously — it’s ridiculously easy to forge a signature, and facsimile technology is so wretchedly old and inefficient, why haven’t we moved on? Moore’s Law pushes CPUs and RAM efficiency and overall throughput further and further so that Microsoft can make software that entirely fills that space, runs no faster, but gives us control over microscopic font-kerning parameters (have you noticed how MS Word today is no more efficient today than it was 5 years ago?) … but FAX and paper, nah, no reason to speed those up.

HP makes a mint every year on the “cheap razor, expensive blades” market with cheap printers that need expensive ink — in fact, if you factor in the cost of $80 to replace all my inks, and the printer with ink is $100, then that printer is either ridiculously cheap, or HP knows full well that we will keep paying annually.

OK, 3 times per year — it only takes 2-3 months for a brand-new set of inks to go completely dry without printing more than a dozen pages.

Facsimile is a different equation: it costs for the machine, and you’re shelling out for an additional line (or if you use your home phone line, your number will be sold out by any facsimile machine to whom you send anything so that 4 times per day fax machines will call you — ask me why I had to ditch my 212 number). Facsimile was made commercially-viable in 1966 based on a string of innovations that started in 1902 and carried through past Xerox’s 46-pound monstrosity — but we the consumers didn’t care before or after the sacred Facsimile Machine shipped. So you’re shelling out for a fax line, and don’t tell me that the telephone companies aren’t silently happy that a 1966 technology hasn’t quite died yet.

In 1998, it was made possible to relay Facsimile through digital lines, but no, we still use the analog dial-ups. We like our 1966 cutting-edge technology.

I think the Fax is up there with the people who use Excel to write a letter… because there’s nothing a spreadsheet can’t do. Except anything. … but the omnipotence of a spreadsheet is a faith-based argument I haven’t actually tried to debate since the fellow signing my invoices in 1997 used Lotus-1-2-3 to write memos.

… and that’s why Fedex (in their stores nee Kinkos) charges $2 per page: because facsimile is free. Wait, it’s not?

If facsimile was sold today like HD TVs are, the cheap-ass fax-boxes would be dead years ago. 100dpi? 200dpi for “fine”? Can I get that n Full-HD? 1080dpi please? Yeah, Full DPI thanks.

So we’re paying HP and their ilk $240 per year to allow up to print something, sign it, and $2 per page to send it, when it’s free to digitally sign a document and email it back in 100% digital fidelity rather than twice-degraded (see also Shannon Theory, and Aliasing) can-no-longer-read-it document with a forged signature.

Before the strawman argument of “it’s not legal to digitally sign”, it’s been legal since Oct 1, 2000. So you friggin’ Luddites, quit worshipping the God of Papyrus or whatever you’re calling it this week, and BAN THE FAX.

We were better off with friggin chisels and tablets.


Local Daimyo

We collect into functional groups where no other exists to fill that void.


Family is a funny thing — Asians are better at keeping a family communicating even if they are unimpressed with each other. One could claim that the non-existence of social security is the driving force, to which I argue that there are more altruistic and Confucian reasons to stick together; but aside from that, the downward spiral of Social Security implies we’ll need that skill.

North Americans are so quick to trash their family. Lacking one nearby (or unwilling to accept the blame for another’s self-inflicted issues) those of us who are social, and want to participate on a big over-arching house need to go elsewhere to meet that need.

I had dinner at a friend’s house –I get to practice a little cooking for more-than-one. Simple cooking. This friend is very much like family, and they practice a very open door… Along the lines of “if I don’t answer my phone, you have door keys for a reason”. I think all five of us tonight have such keys. This is very similar to my father’s open-house, and my aunt and uncle’s ” pay it forward” mentality.

Such a grand open house is like a great land baron or head of estate of old: replace the arts sponsorship of yesterday with a sponsorship of associates towards more enjoyable mix of drop-ins at home.

I think it’s the right way to go about it; I’d just like to be the guy inviting people into my house to share my table. Being the younger brother role is not so bad.

My pride is ok with having other outlets through which I can “pay it forward”

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Location:20th Ave NW,Seattle,United States