Thursday, January 27, 2005

Cliches and Catch Phrases

Just Procrastinating Has a Dream: develop a cliche that will be universally adopted.

This is a worthy goal, and similar to a major professional aspiration for advertising executives: creating a massively used "catch phrase". While cliches are truisms that people use for specific cases, catch phrases usually don't designate any deep truth or meaning, and - ideally - relate back to the product. In addition, cliches are generational or regional, while catch phrases usually last a few months, tops (example: "I love you man!")

Besides advertising, catch phrases also come from movies ("I'll be bak"), comedians ("Now, isn't that Special?!)" and TV shows ("Don't have a cow, man!").

The thing is, our culture generates so many catch phrases that there is there is a board game which names the catch phrase, and you name the source.

Based on this I will create my own cliche: Everyone in America will generate a catchphrase once in their life (okay, maybe I am ripping of Warhol's idea a little).

Monday, January 24, 2005

A Tech Guy Who's Behind The Tech Curve

I got my VOIP box today. Set it up in 30 seconds. Works great. No more long-distance toll calling for me.

Thing is, I am a little late to the VOIP revolution - even my 66 year old parents had it before I did. But the fact of the matter is that I have always been a non-innovator when it came to tech:

This is a little surprising from someone who has a Electrical Engineering degree and has worked in tech for 14 of my 16 professional years, but it's because I work in tech that I wait a bit. I know what bugs, problems, and general crap that is put out there early. I have seen that you really need to let the Innovators work the bugs out and - more importantly - wait for the price to come down into the consumer space. If I think about various technical items around my home, I have been pretty consistent in this strategy:
Personal Computer - Probably the only device where I was even close to the Innovator stage, if only because my parents saw the opportunities it could open to their 13-year-old. They were right - look what I do for a living. I wonder what ever happened to that Commodore PET?

PDA - The only reason I was an early adopter on this one was that I came to work one day in 1997 and saw that everyone - and I mean everyone - was walking around with a Palm. Turns out some manager okayed expensing them to the company, so everyone ran out and bought one. Who was I to turn down a free Palm?

Cell Phone - I was a Late Majority on this one not because I wanted to wait for the technology, but because I didn't want to be tethered to my boss. I got my first one in 1999, a bit late to the party, although my boss did make me carry a pager for a year before that.

Digital Camera - This one is pretty funny - I didn't get one until 2001, but I worked at a company starting in 1999 that (planned to) make chips for this market. I was really hoping my first camera would have MY chip in it, but the company went belly-up before I had the opportunity. I was probably right at the Early/Late majority border. I "acquired" a camcorder that same year since I had a kid - a required accessory to a camcorder.

DVR - 2003, almost exactly two years ago. Don't know how I lived without it. Probably Early Majority.

VOIP - Today, probably Early Majority.
I still don't have a flat screen TV (waiting for LCDs to get a lot bigger and cheaper) or HDTV (waiting on the flat panel, plus don't want another box cluttering up my TV area). I may also wait until the whole Hi-Def DVD thing works itself out. There is going to be another Betamax/VHS fight with BlueRay and HD-DVD, and I don't want to invest on the losing side of that war.

If First You Don't Succeed....

There's nothing wrong with failure as long as you learn from your mistakes. So, I want each of you gentlemen to reflect on why you failed, and then go out there and give it the ol' college try again. The world is behind you on this one: Mass Suicide Attempt at Gitmo.

And, boys, if you fail there, maybe the good ol' USA can ship you to Oregon and let them assist you in the process. There's nothing wrong with a little help from time to time.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Because There Is No Amex in Hell

Thinking about currency collecting, I thought I would mention a somewhat unusual practice out of Asia: Hell Notes:

This is money that you burn and send down to Hell in front of you. By the time you die - and assuming you're going down instead of up - you can build up a nice account for yourself down there for, well, whatever is on sale down in Hell (You think there is a Hellmart?). You can also burn Hell notes to send down to other people who might be down there, but hey, why bother with charity if they're already in Hell?

There is no equivalent Heaven note. Does this mean Hell is capitalistic and Heaven a commune? I shudder just thinking about it. I'll just assume that Heaven doesn't have any scarcity, so has no need for money.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Caption Contest

I don't have the traffic of the "majors" to make it as interesting (I average 85 hits a day), but let's try anyway (hit picture for a link to the actual story):

My caption entry: Unlike human males, bull elephants can be taught to put down the seat when they're done.

Put your entry in the comments section. Bonus points to anyone who comes up with a political theme.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

I'm Not Setting Foot On This Plane

As a frequent flier, I actually am one of those people who makes note of the model of plane being offered when I book reservations. The issue ranks below scheduling in order of importance, but all things being equal, there are some planes I prefer to be on than others (I avoid MD 80s - aka Multiple Defect 80s - for example).

Well, here is one plane that I will change schedules to avoid: Airbus Unveils Monster Passenger Jet. Why? Let's count the reasons:
1. Bigger means more crowded - Getting on a rinki-dink 737 for a short-haul trip takes half an hour for 120 passengers to get on and stow their 4 carry-on bags. How long you think it will take to load 555 passengers?

2. Bathroom Lines - What do you want to bet this thing has the same number of bathrooms as planes that carry half as many passengers?

3. Thirsty? - Since they increased the number of passengers, they'll probably increase the number of stewardesses. Yeah, right.

4. European - I'm sure this plane will hold up as well as the airports the French built for it.

5. Bomb Magnet - For those terrorist cells running low on martyrs, this is a can't-pass opportunity to kill twice as many passengers with half as many suicide bombers.

Monday, January 17, 2005

My Aching Back

An almost imperceptible decline in strength, muscle mass, metabolism, and aerobic activity begins after you enter your fourth decade.
- Ultimate Flexibility, Page 71

After the common cold, back pain is the most common medical complaint in the United is the number one cause of limited activity for adults under age forty-five.

- Ultimate Flexibility, Page 54

What doesn't kill us makes us stronger.

- Nietzsche

I have been really impressed with my physical improvement since I started taking Tae Kwon Do two months ago, although it hasn't been easy. The first two weeks, my legs were so sore I could hardly do more than walk. I worked through that, but then the joints in my legs started aching. That worried me a little, but it went away after another week as my body adapted. As I have been working deeper into my stretches and higher on my kicks, I have had pretty constant "good soreness" throughout my legs, and in only two months I have gone from hardly being able to touch my toes to being able to put my forehead just about a fist's width away from my knee. In another six months I figure I'll be resting my head on my knee while I stretch.

Starting about a month ago I started feeling a very minor pulling sensation in my lower back. Like the stiffness and soreness in my legs, I thought my body would adapt and work through it - just a part of the conditioning - so I just made sure to always stretch my back.

I wasn't even using my back when it felt like someone stuck two knitting needles into both sides of my lower spine. I was doing a warm-up exercise called a slalom jump where you hop back and forth over a small object to get the heart rate up: back-forth-back-forth-MY BACK! You should have seen me hopping then.

Essentially I have been putting too much stress on the lower back without giving it enough time to recover, as I have been working out four times a week. Jumping isn't particularly stressful on the lower back, but it was the proverbial straw that created a pull in my lower back.

It wasn't all that bad after it happened - I walked it off and took it easy the rest of class, but I knew that after I cooled down that I would be in big trouble. My back never went into a full lock-up, but it hurt enough the next day that I was hobbling around like a much older man than I really am.

This morning - two days later - I was still having trouble walking without pain in the morning, but am probably 90% this evening. I figure I won't have any problems tomorrow, then will take a few more days off before - yes - I get right back out there and keep doing what I was doing. I will also take it a little more easy for a few more weeks to give muscles more time to adapt, but I will say that this would never had happened to me just ten years ago.

Getting old sucks.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

The Japanese Circle of Truth

One of the interesting things about working in Japan, as well as most other Asian cultures, is the concept of "truth" as changeable, malleable concept.

For those of us in the West - at least those not working at CBS - the truth is a digital concept of yes/no, on/off, black/white that can be divided by a hard fast line:

In Japan, however, the concept is a little different. Imagine absolute truth as Westerners understand it as a point. Then draw a circle around that point. This Circle of Truth is the amount you can change facts, data, or any other information you want while still being "truthful":

This concept can be difficult to grasp, and even maddening, to Westerners doing business in Asia. Not only do customers and vendors use this concept, but also any local hires, subcontractors, and subsidiaries you might have working for you. For this reason any hard data you want to present to an overseas client - especially bad news - should be presented by someone flying over from the States. If you give data to one of your local people to present, there is a good chance that the data will be changed by the time your client sees it.

So when doing business in Asia, just keep this concept in mind when being presented with "facts". They are more malleable than you think.

Monday, January 10, 2005

Do You Buckle Up? Is It Because of a Law?

Searching Snopes on another topic today, I ran into the following true story:
Anti-seat belt law advocate is killed in automobile accident
Talk about ironic.

Seatbelt laws were passed in my state while I was in college. The only time before where I wore a seatbelt was in driving school and for the drivers' test. Once I had my coveted license (I can date!) I never buckled up again until the law went into effect (especially since seatbelts interfered with certain aspects of a date, if you get my meaning).

When the law went into effect I felt somewhat like this guy ("Uncle Sam is not here to regulate every facet of life no matter the consequences"). So I grumbled and started buckling up only if I thought a cop was in the area. Then I started buckling up most of the time. Then almost all the time. Then all the time.

Today I feel naked without it. If the seat-belt law were repealed or I moved to a location that didn't have it I would still buckle up.

Being nearly 20 years older and wiser now, I know that the belt is one of the only things keeping me safe on a highway filled with idiots. So although I might agree with the sentiment about government regulation, this is one area where I agree with the nanny state since this regulation gets people into a habit that might save their life.

Sunday, January 09, 2005

What Do You "Know" Is Wrong??

1500 years ago, everybody "knew" that the earth was the center of the universe. 500 years ago, everybody "knew" that the earth was flat. And 15 minutes ago, you "knew" that humans were alone on this planet. Imagine what you'll "know" tomorrow.

- Tommy Lee Jones as "Kay" in the movie "Men in Black"

Dean's World is stirring up a hornet's nest on what science has told the public about AIDS and areas where science could be wrong. I am not saying I agree with Dean, but there does seem to be gaps in the research.

Looking at the discussion from a larger perspective, it makes me wonder how much we "know" is wrong. I think every generation for the last 100 years feels that "their" science has proven incontrovertible facts, but then developments happen a generation or two later showing that those facts were not only wrong, but absurdly wrong. What do we "know" today that will fall into this category in 100 years?

Friday, January 07, 2005

World's Easiest Quiz

In honor of the discussion in the comment thread of the below post, I am giving everyone the World's Easiest Quiz today. (The original source for this quiz was the The People's Almanac #2):

Scroll down for answers:
1. In which month do the Communists celebrate the October Revolution (this one is a "gimmy" from the below post).

2. How long did the Hundred Years War Last?

3. In which country are Panama Hats made?

4. From which country do we get Peruvian Balsam?

5. Which seabird has the zoological name Puffinus puffinus?

6. From which animal to we get catgut?

7. From which material are mole-skin trousers made?

8. Where do Chinese gooseberries come from?

9. Louis the XVIII (18th) was the last one, but how many previous kings of France were called Louis?

10. What kind of creatures are the Canary Islands named after?

11. What was King George VI's first name?

12. What color is a purple finch?

13. In what season of the year does Shakespeare's "Midsummer Night's Dream" take place?

14. What is a camel's hair brush made of?

15. How long did the Thirty Years War last?

1. As noted below, the stupid commies celebrate the October Revolution in November.

2. 116 years, from 1337 to 1453

3. Ecuador

4. El Salvador. The herb is grown by the Balsam Indians.

5. Common name is Manx Shearwater.

6. Sheep.

7. This one is easy since it is pretty common. Moleskin is made of cotton.

8. New Zealand.

9. Sixteen. Number 17 died in prison never having gotten on the throne.

10. Dogs, from the Latin Canariae Insulae, or Islands of the Dogs.

11. Albert.

12. Red.

13. Spring: April 29 to May 1.

14. Squirrel hair.

15. 30 years. Duh!
How many did you get right without web searching? The first time I took it I think I got four right off the top of my head. And this is an easy quiz!

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Advice: Moving from Engineering to Management

From The Director's mail bag:
I'm looking for a job again. I'm really trying to get away from technical stuff and into management, but all my real professional qualifications are for engineering type things. Got any pointers?

This is a tough one. Traditional employers are hesitant to put anyone in a management position who doesn't already have management experience. It's the Catch 22 of employment: you can't get a management position without experience, and you can't get management experience if you don't get the position (actually this is true of just about any position).

For this reason, I think your chances of walking in and getting a managerial position from a random organization is, unfortunately, very small. So my advice is as follows:
1. Move your Goal Out - Accept a job in an engineering position that fits with your resume, but make it clear during the interview and, more critically, once you are in your new role, that your long-term plans are to move into management. Unfortunately, this will probably add three or more years to your career goal of management, but many hiring managers look for engineers they can hire now for an immediate project, but that they can groom for management positions later. The bottom line is that without experience, it is easier to move into a management position in an organization you are already in than to get one coming off the street.

2. Leverage a Contact - One way to get a managerial position without experience is to leverage a contact who knows of your abilities. Friends, former co-workers, fellow students, or even family members know of your ability to manage even if you don't have it on your resume. There may be a chance someone you know is a higher level manager in an organization and can put in a good word in for you.

3. Start Your Own Business - The obvious solution since you don't have to worry about things like hiring managers and resumes. If not on your own, then maybe with a group of like-minded people. In my experience, however, this does not guarantee a "management" role since when there are only six people in a company, no one really "manages" the others.

Any other advice from others out there?

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Why Do We Keep Personal Libraries?

I don't do News Years resolutions, but one thing I do every New Year is clean out some of the more cluttered areas of my home, including the bookshelves.

As I sit in front of all these books, I wonder why I keep most of them. Outside of reference books there is little need to keep most of them. Novels make up the largest part of my library, and I certainly won't re-read the vast majority of them, partly because I seem to be interested in a certain type of genre depending on my age:

Teens - Sci Fi & Fantasy
20s - Spy/Espionage
30s (Now) - Historical Fiction
If I stay true to form I will be into biographies in about 10-15 years.
At any rate, I decided to list the different reasons that most Americans (or I, anyway) keep relatively large libraries of books
Reference - I have a dictionary and thesaurus, but they don't get much use these days with always-on high-speed internet. I also have a physics text that I actually reference about once a year, a few business texts that come in handy when doing things like NPV and IRR, a gardening book, baby raising books, hobby references, and the like. I would include the Bible and other religious texts in this category.

Showing Off - I have the Complete Works of Shakespeare, which I actually have read most of (I took a class in college), as well as lots of other literary classics and impressive looking college texts that I haven't looked at in a long, long time. Let's face it, it shows off that expensive education my parents paid for. There is also the factor of "that's a book an educated person should have in their library", although what these books are is a matter of opinion.

Identity - Whenever you go to someone's office you look at the items and pictures on their desk to get a sense of who they are. If you are in their home, you take a look at their bookshelf (and the medicine cabinet if you get a chance). Taking a look at my non-fiction bookshelf (which are mostly from Mrs. Director's personal collection), you know not to mention any disappointment of the results of the last U.S. or Ukrainian elections. A sample includes: The Wealth of Nations, Turning Right, The Politics of Diplomacy, Slander, biographies of Reagan and Nixon, and lots and lots of books on Ukrainian Nationalism.

Sentimental Value - There are a few books I received as gifts from my Grandmother where she inscribed a note, including a copy of The Silmarillian she gave me in 1978. I have inscribed books from other family members and friends, a few that were signed by the author, and one Clancy novel that I bought in Hong Kong that I just can't get rid of since it reminds me of that really fun trip. I know some people who would put some of their college texts, books they read in high school, or a book that really moved them into this category.

For Guests- For some reason I think I should have a collection of decent novels lying around in case a houseguest is in need of something to read. I think in my lifetime this maybe has happened once. These days the most frequent question I get from guests is "Do you mind if I use your computer to check email?"

Series that I am Waiting to Get Finished - David Gerrold claims he will one day finish his Chtorr series, and if he does, I will need to re-read the first books from over a decade ago, so am holding onto them. Ditto for the various unfinished works of Goodkind (who has a new release this month), Cornwell, and a few other serial novelists.

Books That I Will Actually Re-Read - The Lord of the Rings, the first three books of the Dune series, The Great Gatsby, a couple of business books (which might count as reference), a couple of motivational books I liked, a few others.

Books in Queue - I have about half a dozen unread books in queue for last minute overseas trips and similar situations where I won't have time to browse a book store.

Any reasons I leave out?