Archive for the ‘Trends’ Category

The Driving Factor

Haven’t been here for awhile.  Brain tired, not sure why, and spend most of my free hours playing with trains (insert long explanation here).

There has been a lot of talk in the news lately about self-driving cars.  Google and others are trying to perfect the idea.

You can see the future: climb in the car, tell it to take you to work, then sit back and read until the motion stops.  In a city, you wouldn’t even need own a car, there would be fleets of automated taxis, just push a button on your phone and one stops in front of you within a minute.  Cross-country trips would take less of a toll on your mental health, assuming fuel costs are low, and you could even sleep through the trip; New York to Los Angeles in two days.  Accidents would be rare, traffic better (because these beasties can drive safely at high speed, bumper to bumper), along with the lower pollution that comes with more efficient roadways.  Please read the many articles coming out on this subject – some of what they are demonstrating is truly amazing.

Yet I have a problem with this future.  No, it really sounds great, especially for those of us approaching our Golden Years.  Having a car that can drive us around sounds really good.

The problem is, I do not see a path to this future.  At some point, along the path, there will be the halfway automatic car.  First there will be a version of Cruise Control Plus, able to take over in controlled conditions, like freeways, but not really safe on the streets with driveways and pedestrians and kids playing stick ball.  Then there will be the better and better versions that can handle more and more of the load.  Then there will be the version that can handle every possible scenario – until it can’t and those stories will make national headlines, but by then the buy-in will be such that people will still use and trust their cars, just like they get on planes today.  Finally, they will produce the fully automatic car, one without any manual controls, just get in it and tell it where to go.  Of course, the jokes just write themselves, like the call to tech support because the car won’t move and they tell you to – wait for it! – close all your windows and open them again.

But to get to all this, you need to get through that first step, the Cruise Control Plus.  How is that going to happen?  Don’t know what I mean?  Imagine this conversation on the sales lot:

Salesman:  Of course, this wonderful car comes with the latest version of Cruise Control Plus.  Just get it out on the freeway and let it drive itself.

Prospect:  But I could still drive it myself, right?

Salesman:  Of course, sir.  But why would you want to?

Prospect:  Uh, well, how fast would it go?

Salesman:  The posted speed limit, of course.

Prospect:  The posted limit!  But nobody drives the posted limit.  Why can’t I set it faster?

Salesman:  Well, we’d love to, sir, but there are liability issues, you understand.

Prospect:  But I can set my current cruise control over the limit?

Salesman:  Yes you can, but that is a choice you make yourself; you are still in control of the car.  If CCP is driving, it has to obey the local limits, because it is in total control, or so the insurance companies tell us.

Prospect:  So I am going to be letting this car drive me around, while everyone else buzzes past me?

Salesman:  Well, you can read a book.  You probably wouldn’t notice.  Or care.

Prospect:  Oh, I’d care.  I don’t want to sit in a car and read, I want to get to work on time.  I want to do so as quickly as possible.  So why can’t I set the speed up, like I do right now?

Salesman:  Because CCP determines its speed from the road signs or from highway department transponders.

Prospect:  And you won’t let me juice that speed up a little?

Salesman:  Even if we did, I doubt we could let you do that any further than the next road sign or transponder.  The system is made to drive itself and respond to changes in speed limits, traffic, and weather.

Prospect:  Including construction zones?

Salesman:  Of course.

Prospect:  But nobody obeys construction zone limits!  Not when there aren’t workers present!

Salesman:  Maybe, sir, but you know, safety first!

Prospect:  Safety first.  I suppose I wouldn’t be able to get up on the tail of the guy who refuses to get out of the left lane and let people by, too?

Salesman:  Of course not!  The CCP would probably get closer than you safely could, because it can respond faster, but it isn’t designed to intimidate other drivers.

Prospect:  No?  How did you get to work today?

Salesman:  I drove.  I don’t have CCP.

Prospect:  Did you speed?

Salesman:  Um, maybe a little.

Prospect:  Did everybody else speed?

Salesman:  Um…  Probably.

Prospect:  So you want me to be the guy driving fifty-five in the slow lane?  With the Mack truck right behind me?

Salesman:  Well of course not, but…

Prospect:  Never mind!  What else do you have?  Maybe something a little sporty?  With a manual transmission?

This is going to be a real problem for the car companies.  Fourth-generation commuters simply won’t stand for it.  They will want to find a way to be flexible on the speed, but the lawyers will never let them.

Categories: Technology, Trends

Third Way

Here is the latest from the Gary Johnson people.  Help spread it around.


New Libertarians are Born Every Day

If you are twenty-one and not a liberal…

Mozilla Magilla

Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich has resigned his position, which he held for two weeks, because somebody discovered he had donated $1000 of his own money to an anti gay marriage group back in 2008.  What stuff and nonsense!

There is no evidence that he ever used his positions in any untoward or unfair way and he has upheld Mozilla’s inclusion policies.  So, this little Firefox firestorm seems to be about nothing other than purging non-believers from positions for no other reason than they might make somebody uncomfortable.

The strident left is using this tactic all too often of late – note how anyone who questions climate change is publicly branded a “denier” – and I suspect this is going to backfire on them in the fullness of time.  You cannot claim to champion diversity while doing all you can to expel diverse opinion.  People will catch on.  The pendulum will swing back.

Here is hoping it swings back soon.


Who’s the Boss

A few days ago, many websites were showing their support for the very trendy #banbossy campaign.  What is it?  The little bit I read about it – before searching for, you know, news stories of import – is that it is trying to correct the attitude some, mostly male, have towards female bosses.  They say that when a man is in charge, he is called a “leader” and is respected for making decisions and giving orders, but when a woman is in charge, she is instead called “bossy” and receives little respect.

Well, as is often stated, he (or she) who defines the rules wins the debate.  I, on the other hand, challenge the precepts.

I have had many bosses over the years.  As it happens, other than a shift manager at McDonalds in my teens and one of my drill instructors in basic, I do not recall working directly for a woman.  I have, however, worked for many, many men.

Did I respect all of them as leaders?  As bosses?  I did as they directed, when I had to, but I hardly respected all of them.  Many of them were just plain bad bosses, some from the perspective of the employees, some from the perspective of the employer, and some from both perspectives.

They were just plain bad at the arts of leadership and management and they should never have been put in those positions in the first place.  Many of them were fine people, many were technically competent in their industry, but they could never seem to navigate to the twin goals of Mission and Morale.  They could not lead the team to their goal or they could not do it without damaging the team in the process.  Of course, a couple of them really were immoral bastards.

Such bad bosses were often called names, sometimes behind their backs and sometimes to their face.  Bossy?  They probably would have enjoyed being called bossy.  Instead, they were called far worse, “asshole” being about the mildest.

So, no, I do not have much sympathy for women in leadership roles who are being called “bossy.”  You have far more important things to worry about than whether your team is using hurtful words to describe you.  You have a job to do.  Go get your team together, get the job done, and try not to drive your team to other employers while you are doing so.  Grow a spine and quit complaining.  If you cannot do that, then find a non-leadership role that you enjoy doing and, in any case, move on, just like the failed male leader you probably replaced.  Do not be upset if you have to do this; leadership is not a job that everyone can do.  Find a job you are good at.

As for the rare team member, male or female, who constitutionally cannot work for a woman – there are some, of course – then you will have to decide how to move him on to another position or, if he turns out to be more important to the mission than you are, how you can move onto another position.  You are not going to change him.  If this is the issue, then whether or not he refers to you as “bossy” – or other words starting with “B” – is really not all that high on the priority scale, now is it?

In the end, whether somebody commands respect is the responsibility of the leader, not the follower.  Get on with it.


Categories: Pet Peeves, Trends

No Feel for History

The other night, I wasted a couple of hours watching “Lizzie Borden Took an Axe” on Lifetime.

First off, it is a strange movie for Lifetime, in that the villain of the piece was female.  This just doesn’t happen.  I suppose, though, that they really wanted to dwell on the parts of the movie where Lizzie was getting batted around by the male-dominated justice system of the Nineteenth Century.  Still, wasn’t that bad for her, because – *spoilers!* – she was acquitted by said justice system.

But the real problem with the movie was its style.  During the murder scenes, which are pure conjecture in any case, we were given views of bright-red blood sluicing through the air in slow motion, with lots of sharp edits and other tricks out of MTV.  There were at least a couple of times where characters were walking down the street – again, in slow motion – to a dirty guitar grunge rock soundtrack.  Grunge rock?

The modern era is such that, should you want to make a TV movie about a horrible murder or two, there would be plenty of such events to choose from, without having to go back more than a decade or two.  To choose to retell the story of a famous murder from the 1890’s, with all the added expense of historical settings and costumes, one should really be dedicated to recreating that world for the viewer.  Instead, I found myself constantly taken out of the past, so that the director could display his music video chops for us all.  I thought it a stunning waste of good material.

Also, the movie – as always, billed as a “true story” – doesn’t play up much mystery; it seems married to the notion that Lizzie Borden was, in fact, the murderer.  She may well have been, but there are plenty of other theories out there as well and the woman was acquitted by a jury that would probably have found life easier if they convicted her.  Instead, they end with a scene where Lizzie whispers in her sister’s ear, while we are shown gruesome clips of how she might have done it, ending with the sister leaving in disgust and anger.  Then we are told that the sisters never saw each other again.  Well, there was, in fact, an argument between the sisters, after which they never spoke again, but it happened a dozen years after the trial.  During the years between, they lived together.

Christina Ricci was fine, as was the rest of the cast.  These sorts of things are rarely the fault of the actors.  And Ricci is actually pretty close to the right age, unlike Elizabeth Montgomery, who was ten years older than her subject when she played the role, but played it in a much better movie, although that movie assumed Lizzie’s guilt as well.

I guess my real objection is the usual one: Hollywood’s idea of a “true story” seems to translate as “people with these names once lived.”  The phrase “based on a true story” translates as “SOME people with these names once lived.”  It is a pity.  They could do some good history, if they wanted, and still make it entertaining.


Categories: Trends

Odd Ads

December 24, 2013 Leave a comment

Small matter, but I’ve run into it for about the tenth time in the last month or so.  We are all familiar with pop-up ads and that, in the last few years, they have become much more personalized.  Amazon and Google, in a not-so-subtle manner, keep track of what you are looking at and what you are buying, then send you ads in those categories.  It actually makes a lot of sense and it is good that I don’t get a lot of ads for, say, professional wrestling and such.

But the concept fails rather quickly at times.  What do I mean?  This morning’s pop-ups are for portable computer speakers.  You see, I got a Chrome Book laptop recently and I have tried watching a few streaming videos on it.  Overall, the experience was a good one, except that the audio was just too low.  Nothing I did could make the speakers loud enough.  So, I looked around on Amazon, where I had originally gotten the Chrome Book, and found a portable speaker that connects with a USB cable, providing the audio connection and the power.  Just got it yesterday and haven’t tried it, but I have high hopes for it.

You see the problem?  I have already purchased the speaker.  I am done.  Amazon knows this.  But I keep getting ads for portable speakers and the like.  Why?  Not so much a problem for me – I basically ignore pop-ups in most cases.  But what a waste of money and opportunity for the advertiser!  Why try to sell me on what I – very obviously! – do not need.

Same thing happened when I bought the Chrome Book a few months ago.  For weeks, I got ads for Chrome Books, most often the one I already purchased.  Did they think I was going to buy more?  Right away?  Hopefully, I won’t need or want a replacement for several years.  And if I found it such a good product that I wanted to buy one for every member of the family, I certainly wouldn’t need an ad to remind me.

So, Amazon and Google – and all you little advertisers out there – review your algorithms.  You are doing something wrong.  Instead of trying to sell me what I already bought, try to figure out what I am going to need next.


Categories: Pet Peeves, Technology, Trends