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”

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Location:20th Ave NW,Seattle,United States


How to Send a Nastygram?

I had an issue last year with a coworker acting a bit below his status — less professional than his position should require. I may be a bit sensitive to this simply because this sort of thing is critically bad in the military and every management and leadership book I’ve read. Sometimes I wonder if that’s a benefit or a curse.

Due to being geographically separated and always on-the-move, it was logistically impossible to meet up and discuss. I’m not one to let an issue sit and fester, nor am I one to discuss with everyone around to get them to fix my problems (like some Passive-Aggressive) — I’d rather address things head-on. This is the best I came up with trying not to be overly harsh, yet setting him back on his heels that this sort of thing never ends well. Let’s call him “Ron”:

Hi Ron;

You’re chastising me in a broadcast email, this tends to cast a poor impression that is difficult to repair. Some professionals chastise in private, especially when they have unchecked suspicions. You may not realize that it also makes you appear difficult to work with.

You don’t know that I told the customer about interval-vs-total, but you’re assuming I didn’t. It might be better to confirm assumptions.

You haven’t given me anything concrete that I can take back to the customer, there’s a lot of “doesn’t look” and “looks to me” which we’ve tried to depend on before without success.

Chastising me publicly on poor assumptions while giving me no benefit tends to sour working relationships, something those in leadership roles tend to have to learn through the bridges burned. I hope you can reconsider this habit.

In the end, we have to work together: that’s why I’m sending this to you in a private email to see if we can avoid tainting this relationship.

How would you write this?


August Travel: BVI, USVI, Panama, Other?

Thinking on where to go for August — although very soon after July in Vegas, it coincides with some other peoples’ available vacation times.

I only have 9 Comp Days right now, I would probably travel on comp. I’d be wanting to hook up with HO, TS, and AK, but if there was agreeable visa status for Chinese, WD could also join — you all know who you are — so that’s why I intend to grow this post over a few days of research. This is simply an easy way to track down my notes if someone else is interested.

loc interest Visa issues?
BVI HO, TS US: might be UK Visa
CN: easier with UK past?
US fly-thru?
Panama AK CN/US same: $5 Visa-on-Arrival
see also: CN US
no serious crime issue
CN: LAX fly-thru needs C-1 Visa
via DS-160 and app fee
CN: As difficult as US?
US fly thru as well?

How To Detect The Worst Shipper

April 26 my home was packed up in London.

The shipper had so many errors in the destination address, only the country and zipcode has any resemblance to accuracy.

In the following weeks, the company has told me:

  1. What? Your stuff hasn’t arrived yet? Oh it should only be a few more days then
  2. Your stuff is on a ship, but we don’t know which one, there’s no tracking number you can use
  3. Your stuff hasn’t shipped, it’s in our warehouse

Looks like the last one is most accurate; they asked me today (5 weeks later) for pages and pages of customs information — maybe they just realized today that New York, NY, 10035 is in a different country (the only possible error would be the word “York” in the name, ignoring all other parts of the address).

They’re also looking for a Notary Public; yeah, those are free. The chickenshit nature of after-the-fact hunting down some stranger to sign a paper for money seems both a late-term pain-in-the-ass and honouring the age-old tradition of strangers saying/writing/stamping anything for money as the basis for a fair, open, accountable administrative system.

Today they asked me the value of all contents of my home — from memory, since I haven’t even seen a manifest, much less have the time to value and depreciate each item.

Since they screwed up the actual sending of the contents, and late-realization of customs forms, I’m worried they’ll choose the Titanic as a ship to blindly toss it at with free abandon.


Model Mayhem in My Crib

I guess for some (you know who you are) it’s a common thing to have a young slim girl having her photo taken in your living room, but this was the first in my world. Apparently there were issues, but hey, it was a day of seeing some skilled people getting shit done.

For as much as I joke that “work fascinates me, I can watch it for hours”, it’s cool to see people doing what they like and being productive at the same time. Oh, and the hot chick in my pad is kinda cool too — the ones behind the camera as much as the one in front. The entire experience was fairly cool for me, and now that I have improved from “knows nothing” to “knows slightly more than nothing” I can be of more assistance during the gig.

Let’s see how the next one goes!


Familiar Surroundings

I start every day as though I’m waking up somewhere new; this is more difficult given the amount of travel I do, where most days tend to be in a hotel room, and I start by guessing what city I’m in.

Memory is triggered by familiar things — there’s a reason I take photos of so many things on vacation. As well, discussing shared experiences tends to reinforce things. I regret the things I’ve forgotten, but luckily I may never discover what I’ve lost.

The staff at restaurants and hotels in this city recognize me — just yesterday, a woman named Janet recognized me from her other job at a hotel. The sandwich shop girl knew I prefer #5 without tomato. I don’t necessarily know who they are.

The feeling that I’ve forgotten something is both frightening and common. You’d think I’d be used to it by now. The unfamiliar surroundings make it more difficult in a world where “we want to go where everybody knows our name”. When I’m with someone, that person an his/her thoughts are the familiar surroundings to trigger other memories.

The hardest part of travel for work is that I start every day with that reboot, alone, unfamiliar surroundings, and the feeling I’m missing more than my comfy chair and favourite cat.


Volcanically Grounded: 10 Whole Days in the Same City

So there’s this erupting volcano that everyone knows about. (pop quiz: did you know it’s been erupting for a month or more?)

The strange thing is that it has forced me to stay in the same city for 10 days. The coffee girl recognizes me, the security at the Datacenter I’m working at knows my face, the other security guy jokes about our hotel rooms “at his hotel”, and whether we need more towels. (Actually, this security dude refused me entry to the datacenter one night, but he was doing his job; he’s a super-funny guy)

As mentioned in FB, I have received free dinner, free beer, free laundry/drycleaning. I have feasted much upon defenseless stromboli.

Despite the perks, I’m getting itchy feet. It’s time to move on.

I’m starting to talk a little like North Carolinians. ..North Carolinans. ..North Carolina pod-people.

C’mon, Volcano, quit it. How’s a guy to get his airmiles?


For-Profit USA Healthcare, HIPAA, and Too Many Details

So I’m changing back to the US, five months behind schedule.

When I left the US, I had to change to a healthcare provider that handles overseas/international coverage — why? Because the for-profit healthcare non-provider I had doesn’t cover international. I guess we don’t get hurt when we’re not in the US.

So I changed, triggering a “changed healthcare” and “stopped healthcare” event, which causes me to receive piles of mailbox spam: options for “continuing healthcare after stopping your healthcare”, “why did you leave us?” pamphlets, and “you’re uninsured, did you want us to take your insurance payments instead?”. My paper-based mailbox didn’t feel so popular until that moment in its poor life.

There I was, in the UK, life was fine. I needed some exploratory surgery, fine and dandy. The non-provider I had for international coverage did a remarkable job throwing time, delays, signatures, late requests for additional information, HIPAA information privacy, and a last-minute interrogation of my past medical history for 10 years to avoid paying. Of course, knowing I’m not in the country, they chose the slowest physical method of interaction — US Postal Service mail — knowing full well that being outside the country means I cannot check my mailbox. In my case, I have an option that is merely slower and expensive rather than prohibitive.

Nothing breeds trust, friendship, and good feelings like discovering a “terminate your case if not responded within 30 days” tucked into a mailbox you won’t see for 8 months. Thanks. You do your shareholders proud.

They still haven’t paid.

Now the change back is happening. I have to beg for coverage in another non-provider. “please, will you take money to avoid paying coverage?”

What’s my overage, in detail, and dollar amounts? Do I have dental? Since what date? How much? Deductible? Is it Group or Individual? Date coverage began? Ended (hint: It Hasn’t Ended). All of this information is only intended to find reasons to avoid paying — because that reduces liabilities, hence boosting overall profit.

Modern countries have healthcare. Modern countries don’t have these loopholes to attempt to avoid coverage. Some modern countries still use paper-based letters to communicate, but some have discovered this thing called “email” and “internet”. HIPAA/privacy? SSL.

The US landscape of lawsuits makes any company afraid to innovate.

Avoiding risk requires multiple people to confirm any sort of drug — so everything in the US is a prescription. That makes the $8 drug in UK (after VAT and conversion) cost $55 in US and take two weeks to schedule the consultation. This is all expensive.

I can see why US for-profit healthcare non-providers do their best to avoid providing healthcare: it’s a business. They may imply that are family-oriented, caring, moralistic, but they’re a business. Businesses are measured by stock, profit, loss.

Why is this ever-present, everyone-knows-about-it issue on my mind? I’m annoyed at having to research for hours for a four-page document that, inevitably, will be used against me in the attempt to avoid providing healthcare. If it’s to their benefit, they should pay me for collecting it. …but that’s like jury duty: a huge suck on daily efficiency that no one repays, and we cannot see why more efficient countries are booming during our liability-laden risk-averse, war-weary (thanks, Bush and Bush), cover-your-ass recession.