Tuesday, September 2, 2014

If you want to work for the FBI, get an accounting degree

Having worked in the automated fingerprint identification system industry for a number of years, I have a somewhat skewed perspective of what the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) does. When I think of the FBI, I think about fingerprints and palmprints and mugshots and stuff like that.

Obviously, that isn't all that the FBI does. Everyone knows that FBI agents have guns and cool scientific tools and spend their time running down alleys, chasing terrorists and other criminals.

Well, it turns out that the common view of the FBI is also skewed.

Source: FBI

Take this recent FBI post:

Public corruption arrests and convictions in major metropolitan areas usually garner a great deal of national attention. But big cities don’t have a monopoly on crooked politicians—they can be found anywhere.

Like Progreso, Texas, a small town a few miles north of the U.S.-Mexico border. For almost a decade—from 2004 to 2013—several members of the same family, all Progreso government officials, used their positions to exact bribes and kickbacks from city and school district service providers. Through their illegal activities, they distorted the contract playing field, cheated the very citizens they purported to serve, stole education money from the children whose educations they were supposed to ensure, and lined their own pockets in the process.

Until the FBI got wind of what was going on, that is, and opened a case. Our investigation—which included confidential sources, undercover scenarios, financial record examinations, and witness interviews—collected plenty of evidence of wrongdoing and ultimately led to guilty pleas by the defendants.


Now a lot of this marries up to the popular depiction of the FBI agent. "Casey, you go contact confidential source in Progreso and see what's going on. Mickey, you set up a dummy school supply store and see if the Progreso officials try to bribe you. Reggie, you go talk to that cousin and see if you can persuade him to speak."

But one point doesn't make the cut in your average FBI drama.

"Johnstone, you check the school district invoices and compare them against the physical inventories that were conducted."

Huh? That's not an FBI agent, is it?

Let's go back to another FBI story that I shared back in February, about some California DMV employees who earned some extra money by helping a driving school owner get his clients licenses - no questions (including test questions) asked. That was a $50,000 fraud case - and you know that accountants were needed to look at that.

The FBI has described this aspect of its work:

Accountants have been woven into the fabric of the FBI since its creation in the summer of 1908, when a dozen bank examiners were included among the original force of 34 investigators. Today, around 15 percent of agents employed by the Bureau qualify as special agent accountants.

Non-agent accounting positions at the FBI date back to the early 1970s, when we created a cadre of accounting technicians to help agents working increasingly complex financial cases. During the savings and loan crisis of the 1980s and 1990s, the FBI’s ability to address complex, sophisticated financial investigations was elevated further with the addition of financial analysts to our ranks.

Post-9/11, the criminal landscape changed again with large-scale corporate frauds and a multitude of other complex financial schemes. And once again, we adapted by adding new resources and skills. One key element was the 2009 creation of a standardized, professional investigative support position known as a forensic accountant.


One forensic accountant described the importance of the profession to the FBI's mission:

Almost every investigative matter the Bureau is involved in has a financial nexus—it’s always about money. The forensic accountant can serve as a consultant/advisor to agents on financial and economic matters, assist in interviews—especially those involving financial aspects—and assist in identifying key records for subpoena requests or search warrants.

Whether you're talking about the Mafia or a foreign terrorist group, you can often find the group by looking at the money trail. Don't forget that Al Capone didn't end up in Alcatraz because of a murder conviction - income tax evasion brought him down.

Monday, September 1, 2014

It's Labor Day, Charlie Brown!

I'm going to pull an Ann Landers and recycle some old material.

Actually, I'm going to be worse than Ann Landers and not recycle the old material, but merely link to it.

Whenever you talk about Labor Day, you have to talk about May Day. And I've talked about it (at least) three times.

May 1, 2009:

While the majority of readers of my blogs are from the United States, I do get readers from other parts of the world. And most of those international readers are celebrating May Day today.

But in the United States, most of us aren't.


May 1, 2012:

Each of us is undoubtedly influenced by the environment that we encounter throughout our lives. Which is why I, as an American, have a different attitude on May 1 than the attitude held by much of the world.

Many people throughout the world celebrate May Day in different ways. Some attend military parades. Some dance around poles in post-pagan rituals. Some throw sailor hats into the air – well, at least I call them sailor hats.

I do not do any of these things.


May 1, 2013:

In a sense, it's unfair to compare the attitudes of one generation with the attitudes of another. Just because Thomas Jefferson didn't endorse interracial gay atheist marriage doesn't mean that he's a fascist - especially since fascism didn't exist in the 18th century.

But it is illuminating the compare the attitudes of different generations.

Last year at about this time, I wrote a post in my tymshft blog that explained why those of us in the United States don't join in the worldwide May Day celebrations. As part of that post, I quoted extensively from a page at the Massachusetts AFL-CIO web site. This site explains why one of the AFL-CIO's predecessors, the American Federaion of Labor and its leader Samuel Gompers, opposed May 1 labor celebrations.


This begs the question - if I'm such a true red, white, and blue Murican, then why did I write all of these posts on the Commie May Day? Why didn't I write them on the Murican Labor Day?

So follow the links, read the posts, and pretend that I wrote them on a Monday in September.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Two sides to every story - SEIU/UHW vs. Prime Healthcare

I ran across this release from a local (Ontario, California) company, Prime Healthcare. It discusses Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers West (SEIU-UHW). A few excerpts:

Prime Healthcare Services, a California-based and award-winning hospital management organization, has filed a complaint under the federal RICO statute against SEIU, SEIU President Mary Kay Henry, UHW, UHW President Dave Regan and affiliates....

Filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, San Francisco Division, the lawsuit accuses the defendants of conspiring to extort, threaten and force Prime Healthcare to enter into a "neutrality agreement" that would enable SEIU to force all employees into the union regardless of employee choice.

Among other unlawful conduct, the defendants have issued malicious and false statements, funded operations with money unlawfully received in violation of federal law, coerced the California Hospital Association to impose neutrality agreements on its members including Prime Healthcare, and threatened to prevent acquisitions of hospitals by Prime Healthcare unless it concedes to the defendants' demands and provide them control of all Prime Healthcare hospitals.


I figured that the SEIU and UHW would have a different spin on the story. I was right:

A growing coalition of community leaders and SEIU-UHW members are speaking out to hold Prime Healthcare Services accountable.

Prime has a shameful history of buying struggling hospitals, then laying off large numbers of staff and reducing patient services in order to increase profits. Prime’s business model has been bad for patients, bad for taxpayers, and bad for workers.


And Prime Healthcare isn't the only hospital chain that has incurred SEIU-UHW's ire:

Shortly after reaching a truce with much of the hospital industry...California's largest healthcare union vowed to step up its criticism of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and two hospital chains that balked at the agreement..

On an internal conference call leaked to the media, a leader of the Service Employees International Union lashed out at the three holdouts and talked about using the new deal to bring them "to heel."...

Under the agreement, the California Hospital Assn. and a majority of the state's 430 hospitals approved a new "code of conduct" to make it easier for the union to organize thousands of workers....

But [SEIU-UHW President Dave] Regan singled out Cedars-Sinai, Prime Healthcare Services Inc. and the Providence Health & Services hospital chain as the top three "bad actors" who didn't sign on.


And SEIU-UHW is receiving criticism from the other side:

Some rival unions and patient advocates have faulted SEIU for making this deal and for being too cozy with hospital management.

You just can't win.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

If you fail at one business, get into another - .@peterose_14 continues to hustle

Baseball may have a new commissioner, but it still enjoys looking to its past. Earlier this month, baseball held its annual Hall of Fame induction ceremonies in Cooperstown, New York. Obviously an event such as this is bound to lead to reminiscing, but sometimes a look at the past is not appreciated by everyone. Take this story shared by Staten Island reporters Charlie Greinsky and Jay Greinsky.

During a break for a TV commercial, [Jane Forbes] Clark asked Barry Larkin to name the greatest moment in baseball history he witnessed. His reply was Pete Rose's 4256 hit. The crowd went wild and Commissioner Bud Selig sat expressionless.

Selig, you see, is part of the group that is enforcing Pete Rose's lifetime ban from baseball for betting on the sport. Whatever one may think of the ban, you have to admit that it dictates the Stalinist-style treatment of Rose as a non-person (Jim Murray's words) whenever official baseball events take place.

Yet Rose still made his way to Cooperstown - just not in an official capacity. You see, because of all the fans who congregate in Cooperstown, a number of retired baseball players like to show up and sign autographs - for a fee. Rose was no exception.

Also signing at his usual spot was Pete Rose. Pete was signing balls with crazy inscriptions such as " I am sorry I bet on baseball, I was not in Dallas Nov. 22, 1963, I did not shoot Lincoln."

The Greinskys went on to say:

He spends his time now living in Vegas signing balls from dawn to dusk four days a week.

You can't blame him - autographed baseballs at Rose's official website sell for $99.99 and up. The $199.99 version:

Hits 4256
Steroids 0



Selig probably doesn't like that either.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Because politics - Federal banking recommendations on disaster recovery, and what happens when a U.S. Senator takes an interest in the topic

I should caution my readers that the technical capabilities and limitations discussed below are primarily of historical interest. The articles cited in this post date from 2003, which is ancient history when you talk about communications.

Not that disaster recovery is no longer a concern; it clearly is. In a disaster recovery scenario, you set up two computer systems, with the hope that if something happens to one computer system, all processing can be shifted to the other computer system.

But what if a disaster occurs that affects BOTH computer systems? Certainly an earthquake or a hurricane could adversely affect both systems - depending upon where they are placed.

The U.S. Government, in its recommendations to the banking industry, had to grapple with that very issue - but chose not to do so, for reasons outlined in this April 2003 article.

Three U.S. regulatory agencies have released disaster recovery guidelines for financial institutions notable for their lack of any recommended minimum distance between primary and secondary data centers....

In August, an interagency white paper that was released on strengthening the resilience of the U.S. financial system was soundly criticized by banks and brokerages for its suggestion that there be a minimum distance of 200 to 300 miles between a primary and backup data center (see story).

Many firms considered it technically unfeasible. For example, Fibre Channel, the most common network protocol used between data centers, has a distance limit of about 62 miles, or 100 kilometers.


Ah, this is refreshing. Government agencies make decisions solely based upon technical factors.

But I couldn't help but click on the link that appeared at the "(see story)" parenthetical statement. And that link, to a January 2003 article, told an entirely different story.

In letter to U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), the heads of the Federal Reserve System, the U.S. Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission said they will now work individually with companies to develop contingency plans that will help keep backup sites in New York.

"At a time when New York is scrambling to keep businesses downtown in the wake of 9/11, it would have been disastrous to force the mainstays of New York's financial industry to move out of the city," Schumer said in a statement.


It's interesting to note that the January article said nothing about Fibre Channel or its 62 mile limitation. Instead, it talked about a New York Senator who was worried about business moving out of New York. Apparently Senator Schumer worried that the secondary sites, rather than being located in Buffalo, might be located in Raleigh - or perhaps even Boston.

Of course, as Dave Barry once said, any action by a government agency is automatically negated by an equal an opposite reaction from another government agency - something that can be seen when you look at the examination preparation materials issued by the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council.

Geographic Diversity

When determining the physical location of an alternate processing site, management should consider geographic diversity. In addition, alternate sites should not rely on the same critical infrastructure system that provides utility services such as electricity, telecommunications, transportation, and water. While geographic diversity is important for all financial institutions, this is a particularly important factor for financial industry participants whose rapid recovery is critical to the financial industry. Financial institutions should consider the geographic scope of disruptions and the implications of a citywide or regional disruption. The distance between primary and back-up locations should consider RTOs and business unit requirements. Locating a back-up site too close to the primary site may not insulate it sufficiently from a regional disaster. Alternatively, locating the back-up site too far away may make it difficult to relocate the staff necessary to operate the site. If relocation of staff is necessary to resume business operations at the alternate site, consideration should be given to their willingness to travel, the modes of transportation available, and if applicable, lodging and living expenses for employees that relocate. When evaluating the locations of alternate processing sites, it is also important to subject the secondary sites to a threat scenario analysis.


On the other hand, the text above is couched in phrases such as "management should consider," and no minimum distance is mandated or even mentioned. In other words, there are enough loopholes in this to guarantee that if the senior U.S. Senator from New York raises a stink, any geographic diversity recommendations can be safely disregarded.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Are you suffering from gluten deficiency?

(DISCLAIMER: These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. In other words, we don't know what the heck we're talking about, but it sounds really good.)

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Friday, August 15, 2014

Facebook ventures beyond Silicon Valley

When we think of major companies such as Facebook and Google, we often picture them within the confines of Santa Clara and San Mateo County. Sure they have branch offices here and there, but we still think of them as "somewhere else."

Well, Steven Streight set me...you know...about that. Streight is from Peoria, Illinois, and he recently attended a local event.

Name: Facebook Small Business Boost
Date: August 12, 2014
Time: 4:00 PM - 6:00 PM
Website: Register for this event at http://fbpeoria.eventbrite.com

Event Description:
Through a special partnership with local business organizations, Facebook invites you to join experts from Facebook's Small Business Team as they share best practices,success stories, and strategies for how to grow, manage, and understand your small business identity on Facebook. There are over one billion people on Facebook. Learn how to reach the right audience for your business and turn them into loyal customers.


I didn't even know that Facebook did something like this, but they do. And not just in Peoria, Illinois; they recently ventured to Stockton, California. (For those who don't know California's geography, Stockton is not within Silicon Valley.)

Facebook Small Business Team Leader Bess Yount...illustrated the strategies small businesses can utilize Facebook to bring people to company pages with key objectives being: building awareness; bringing people into a physical store; and increasing online sales. "You can reach the right audience and turn them into loyal customers."

And because it's a partnership, attendees can interact with local businesses and organizations.

Sounds like a win-win.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Why we hate transparency - the .@espn suspension of .@max_kellerman

Over the last few years, you've probably seen comments such as this one:

It’s not surprising that we overwhelmingly trust recommendations from people we know because we expect them to be transparent. Overall, increased trust in other forms of advertising has occurred during the past six years because advertisers understand that in a socially connected world, there are more people sharing their opinions about marketing. As a result, marketers must be more respectful and transparent with consumers.

If you believe the hype that transparency is rewarded in the market, think again.

Remember how BP's Tony Hayward was rewarded when he said those five fateful words, "I want my life back"?

Remember how TV reporter Shea Allen lost her job for saying things such as "I am better live when I have no script and no idea what I'm talking about"?

Well, late last week a new example of the dangers of transparency emerged.

Let me start by explaining that there are two ways that a journalist or commentator may choose to cover sports.

The first way is to focus on the game. People often treat sports as a release from everyday life - it's no accident that one of the most popular activities associated with sports has the word "fantasy" attached to it. Proponents of focusing on the game argue that the contest itself is paramount.

The second way is to acknowledge the outside issues that impact on the game. Proponents of this view argue that sports is not performed in a vacuum, and that issues surrounding sports are a legitimate topic for discussion. City Council zoning decisions, racial and sexual issues - all are fair game to people in this camp.

Perhaps these two views can best be contrasted by noting that Frank Gifford is the poster boy for the first view, and Howard Cosell is the poster boy for the second view. And those two shared a broadcast booth for over a decade.

Two proponents of this second view are ESPN's Max Kellerman and Marcellus Wiley. I've never heard their TV show, but I often hear their afternoon radio show in Los Angeles. Without fail, when some major event happens in the sports world, Kellerman and Wiley take the time to cast the event in light of broader societal currents. Issues of race, sex, class, and other "off the field" topics are often explored by the duo, who often take the time to share their personal perspectives, based upon their lifetime experiences.

Great transparency, right?

(Source: Wikipedia)

In that spirit, Kellerman offered an on-air comment a few days ago that impacted on a major story - Ray Rice's assault on his then-fiancee, and the resulting punishment by the National Football League.

On the "Mason & Ireland " show, which leads into his afternoon-drive program, Kellerman admitted to hitting his girlfriend many years ago....

On ESPN-LA, Kellerman told a story going back years when he and his then-girlfriend Erin, who now is his wife, attended a college party.

Kellerman said they both had to much too drink. He said when he tried getting things under control his then-girlfriend slapped him. Kellerman said he slapped her back. He was quick to tell listeners that the woman is now is his wife and they have been happily married for 20 years.


Some would think that this is a prime example of transparency, in which Kellerman admitted to a youthful failing. The New York Daily News account does not say whether or not Kellerman explicitly compared his experience to that of Rice, and as it turns out, ESPN is not going to be willing to provide a transcript of that particular conversation.

Industry sources said while the content of his story was disturbing, the suspension was all about Kellerman...not adhering to ESPN brass' warning concerning the Rice topic being a highly sensitive one....

While the topic became even more charged after [Stephen A.] Smith's remarks and suspension, ESPN personalities were warned to measure and consider their commentary as soon as Rice's two game suspension was handed down by commissioner Roger Goodell.

Kellerman's remarks were briefly posted on an ESPN-LA podcast but quickly pulled down and never widely circulated.


The New York Daily News claims that Kellerman was formally suspended by ESPN for his remarks. ESPN would not confirm this, merely saying, "Max Kellerman will return to ESPN-LA Radio and 'SportsNation' on Thursday."

Kellerman's suspension, if true, is actually the third recent suspension of an ESPN on-air personality, as John L. Goodman notes.

ESPN which seeks edge & controversy has now suspended Stephen A. Smith , Dan Le Batard & Max Kellerman

Could Keith Olbermann be next?

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Hey, Shaun, I guess I can Twitter about the International Association for Identification now #99IAI

2007 and 2008 were a long, long time ago.

Back then, I was working for a company called Motorola. The separation of Motorola into two separate companies was still several years in the future. The sale of my division from Motorola to Safran would not become official until 2009.

I was working as a product manager. I wouldn't find out about my return to Proposals until late in the summer of 2009, and I wouldn't actually return until the fall.

I was a regular attendee at the annual conference for the International Association for Identification - San Diego in 2007, Louisville in 2008. I had no way of knowing that the 2008 conference in Louisville would be my last (so far).

Oh, and I was using this application called Twitter. My early adoption of Twitter was more luck than conscious planning, but I was active on Twitter (under a pseudonym), had learned about hashtags, and had even looked at hashtags from a time perspective - enough to get me listed on the Twitter Fan Wiki (although my contributions pale in comparison to those of Boyd, Messina, and Ritter).

As I noted in a 2008 post (again, under a pseudonym), all of this stuff about Motorola, product management, the IAI, and Twitter intersected together one day. One of my fellow product managers, Shaun, had a suggestion for me. (Incidentally, Shaun is the person who took the picture of me in this post - the "pirate with his Motorola Q" picture.)


The second largest conference that I attend every year is the International Association for Identification (IAI) annual conference. (That's why I was in Louisville in August, by the way.)...

My co-workers know about my various obsessions, so one of them suggested to me, "Hey, while we're at the IAI, why don't you Twitter it?" The idea was that this would be a good way to get some publicity out of our efforts there.

Unfortunately, this would only make sense if anyone were listening. I performed a search of both Twitter and FriendFeed, and I was unable to discover anyone other than myself who even had a passing interest in the IAI. If an IAI tweet lands in the Twitter forest, it WON'T make a sound.


(It shows you how long ago this conversation took place when you see that I searched FriendFeed for meaningful content.)

You may be exclaiming, "The people in the IAI in 2007-2008 were such bozos! Why weren't they on Twitter?" But before you get into that mode, consider this - back in 2007 and 2008, why SHOULD the IAI have been on Twitter?

It was one thing for Oracle to be active on social media at that time. Oracle produced very technical computer software products (no hardware yet; Exadata wouldn't appear until 2009). In addition, the Oracle Technology Network was led at the time by Justin Kestelyn. It was reasonable to expect that a company like Oracle would be active in Twitter and hashtags and the like.

The International Association for Identification was a different story. Sure, the IAI folks were technical, but for the most part they were interested in a different kind of technology - those types of technologies that could be used to gather forensic evidence at crime scenes. And yes, there were companies like Motorola and its competitor Safran that provided computer hardware and software to do this, but these systems were mostly back behind firewalls and not interacting with, say, Twitter. (Or even FriendFeed.)

Well, times have changed. I no longer work for Motorola; nobody does (Motorola as such no longer exists). I am no longer a product manager. I am not at this year's IAI conference in Minneapolis, and haven't been to IAI since 2008. But I am still using Twitter; a link to this post will appear on Twitter after I finish writing it.

Oh, and the IAI has adopted hashtags.

This year we are trying something NEW! Our conference has an official hashtag! Use #99IAI on both Twitter and Facebook when you post about your time in Minnesota this week! #99IAI will be searchable in both formats so that we can see what everyone has to say! Have a great week everyone!

And if you're wondering why the 2014 conference has a hashtag with "99" in it, the explanation is here.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Government investment spurs private industry advances! Um, but...

There is always a debate about the targeting of funds to government agencies. Purists argue that this is an inefficient use of economic resources. Proponents, argue, mount the counter-argument that investing money in government agencies will often lead to advances in the private sector. The space program is cited as an example; as we in the United States targeted money to land a man on the moon, we lavished procurement dollars on private enterprises, and we got...Tang. Well, we got other stuff too.

There's a similar discussion going on right now, but with a little wrinkle. You see, the U.S. Army wants to get a new gun for the first time in several decades, and is mounting a procurement effort to achieve this.

Several gun makers will compete for the lucrative contract, developing weapons that are more reliable and more powerful than those currently in service....But the last time the military challenged the industry to make a better handgun, all the innovations intended for the battlefield also ended up in the consumer market...

Great, huh? Government investment spurs private advances! But let me finish that sentence.

...and the severity of civilian shootings soared.

As Defense One explains, a disturbing trend was noticed in the 1980s, as patients at Washington DC hospitals became more and more likely to show up with multiple gunshot wounds. The spike in these injuries occurred at precisely the same time that Beretta won an Army contract to produce handguns - and immediately released a civilian model with similar features. Meanwhile, those who lost in the Army competition took their improvements and released them to the civilian market also.

While there were other issues - the Firearms Owner Protection Act of 1986 served to deregulate the market at the same time - certainly government indirect investment in the gun industry played a role in the hospital statistics that followed.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Come here! Go away! (On linking)

All social media services want you to connect to people. "Connect, connect, connect," they will constantly say - up to a point. Then they turn around and say, "Why are you connecting to so many people?"

I was on LinkedIn one day, and noticed its list of suggested people to whom I may wish to connect. Often I haven't even heard of the people that LinkedIn is suggesting, and sometimes the person is someone who I don't really know that well.

But in this case, I saw the name of someone that I knew online. Although I haven't worked with this person in a business relationship, I have seen the person's work (the person is a content creator) and have been very impressed by it. In addition, I've seen previous comments from the person about looking for work.

Now this seemed like an ideal candidate for a connection. Although I don't directly work in this person's industry, there's always the chance that a LinkedIn connection could eventually lead to business for this person in the future. So I followed LinkedIn's recommendation to connect to this person...and was asked to enter the person's email address. While I know this person online from several services, I've never exchanged email and don't know the person's email address. So I went to another service and looked at the person's profile. The email address wasn't listed there either.

There's a bit of irony here. According to research, it turns out that the reason that I have to enter an email address to link to this person is because...in the past I tried to link to too many people who said that they don't know me. (I only recall one instance of this, a person who used to work at the poster company, but apparently there must have been at least five such occurrences.)

So LinkedIn continues to suggest that I link to people...but throws up a roadblock that makes it hard to link to them. I guess there's some logic somewhere, but I'm not sure where.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

When monuments disappear - yes, you can pry my Autonetics plaque from my cold dead wall

Back in June 2013, I wrote a post in my tymshft blog entitled "Of personal interest – Stanley A. White’s and Richard Reneau’s accounts of the beginnings of Printrak." The post made several mentions of a former company called Autonetics.

What I failed to mention in that June 2013 post was that there is a monument to the company Autonetics. The monument can be found in Anaheim, California - a bit away from Disneyland, so most tourists never visit it. The part that excited me about the monument was that it briefly mentioned Autonetics' pioneering work in automated fingerprint identification systems.

A few months ago, I went to visit the monument again, but was unable to get to it because of construction. It's just as well that I didn't get there, because in December 2013, the monument was vandalized:

The monument, which stretches 72 feet long and rises from 3 to 14 feet, featured seven plaques dedicated to the prized work done by the company and its workers, 36,000-strong in its 1960s heyday. The Autonetics plant, on the 3300 block of La Palma Avenue, was absorbed by Boeing.

Six of those metal plaques are now gone, pried from the wall.


At this point I don't know if the monument has been restored. Time for another visit.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

SUPERBUG defeats Super Bowl

In a recent post, I referred to a Slate article but didn't quote from it. I'll quote from it now. The article mentioned the tendency to prescribe antibiotics, even when the illness in question is viral in nature. While this may not harm the individual directly, it leads to something else.

Of more concern is the direct connection between antibiotic use and the emergence of drug-resistant "superbugs": As the medicine eliminates germs that are sensitive to it, drug-resistant mutant strains prosper. The result is a major public-health problem. Antibiotic-resistant infections such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus may cause more deaths in the United States than AIDS does.

Since I love acronyms anyway, I'll use the much shorter term "MRSA" instead. And while MRSA hasn't made it to a Hollywood blockbuster yet, it's certainly making it in other places...such as the football field.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers and offensive lineman Carl Nicks have agreed to mutually part ways, the team announced on Friday.

Nicks was one of three Bucs players who suffered from some form of MRSA last season, although the Pro Bowl lineman didn't specify whether or not MRSA played a role in his decision to leave the team. Nicks also insinuated that he may be done with football....

The MRSA outbreak hit Tampa's facilities in mid-August and Nicks one of the players diagnosed with an infection. Nicks was eventually cleared to play and he saw in action in two games before the infection returned in October.


Jay Glazer used the word "settlement" to describe the agreement between the team and Nicks, implying that the Buccaneers paid money to Nicks.

But Nicks, so far, has been lucky. Nearly a decade ago, in 2005, 18,650 people died from MRSA - more than died from AIDS in that year. Some claim a much higher death rate today.

Monday, July 28, 2014

On summer colds

A few facts from about.com:

Colds are caused by viruses, not the weather, so they can occur at any time of the year. They are more common during the colder months because the virus is able to spread more easily in cold, dry air. People also tend to stay indoors more during the winter months, which means they may have more exposure to other people and their germs. But that doesn't mean they don't occur during the warmer months. The viruses that cause colds are always around.

More here. And note the repeated use of the word "virus" in the description above...and how that pertains to a Slate article entitled "The Pink-Bubble-Gum- Flavored Dilemma: Why doctors give out antibiotics you don't need."

And yes, by the time you read this post, I'll be on my fourth day of antibiotics. By not at least asking about the prescription that I was given, am I part of the problem?

Thursday, July 17, 2014

The NFL does not want me as a customer - DirecTV won't let everyone cut the cord for NFL Sunday Ticket

People like me whine about content providers who only provide their content to service providers, and won't provide it directly to customers.

But my whining doesn't do any good, because content providers like HBO and ESPN are better off making deals with service providers like DirecTV. Despite the occasional dustup, service providers are willing to give lots of money to content providers. Why rock the boat?

So when a content provider - in this case the National Football League - appears to support those who want to cut the cord, lots of rejoicing is heard. The NFL has cut a deal with DirecTV, and until now, you had to be a DirecTV satellite subscriber to get the NFL's "Sunday Ticket" package.

No more.

Now you can access live, out-of-market NFL games without a DIRECTV satellite TV account—no matter what team you follow! NFLSUNDAYTICKET.TV lets you stream games on your computer, tablet, phone, or game console. All while keeping up with real-time player stats and your fantasy teams.

All that you have to do is input your name and address, and DirecTV does the rest!

And, according to Mark Rogowsky, that's where the catch comes in:

It appears if you live in a residence that DirecTV deems COULD easily get their satellite service, they won’t sell you Sunday Ticket over the internet.

So this isn't an effort to allow people to cut the cord. This is an effort to expand offerings to places such as apartments that can't get the cord (or in this case, the dish).

Anyway, since I've been thinking about customer-centric marketing lately, I'm interpreting this as a failure of DirecTV (and ultimately a failure of the NFL) to secure me as a customer. If the NFL wanted me as a customer, they'd provide a Sunday Ticket-like service over the Internet. Oh, and it would be a lot less than $200 also. Am I going too far by claiming that since the NFL hasn't done this, the NFL obviously doesn't want me as a customer?

And can I use this same logic to decide that the Dodgers and Lakers don't want me as a customer? After all, I couldn't get their games with my current or previous provider, and I certainly couldn't get them when I cut the cord for a few months.

And what about the two Albertsons grocery stores that closed in my area? I guess Albertsons doesn't want me either.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Adam Winter - rich reality star, and entrepreneur, or impoverished blackmailer?

I haven't watched much reality TV since about season 4 of the US Big Brother, so I missed this episode of the Millionaire Matchmaker when it came out in February. The show's host, Patti, wrote about one millionaire:

[M]y other client is a young Southern boy from Tennessee. I call him “the Beverly Hillbilly” because like on the TV show, he’s just picked up and moved to Beverly Hills. Well, he made a lot of money in green transportation. He’s a smart kid, Adam. The problem is he isn’t sure what he wants. He made his money out in LA, the big city, but his heart is back in Tennessee. So he needs a modern city girl who also has one foot planted in the country.

The reference to "green transportation" is a reference to Adam Winters' company Green Technology Transport. And if he wasn't wealthy enough from that, he recently launched an app called Shipey.

Shipey, Inc. (pronounced ship’ ee) was founded in 2013 by entrepreneur Adam Winters. Shipey’s first smart device app launches in May 2014. Shipey is an app that allows almost anyone with a vehicle act as a transport driver.

So what does this Beverly Hills guy with a new business servicing San Francisco do in his spare time? Well, for that we'll turn to that noted business publication called The Smoking Gun.

Adam Winters, 25, was named in a May 23 criminal complaint charging him with attempting to extort money through an interstate communication, a felony....

As detailed in the criminal complaint, Winters earlier this month sent an e-mail to the firm that manages and operates the Y-12 National Security Complex, a Department of Energy facility in Oak Ridge, Tennessee that produces and refurbishes nuclear weapons components and stores nuclear material....

[His] slides--“from the 1940’s-1980’s”--contain “enough documentation that shows enough evidence where this could win tons and tons of lawsuits if they were to get out,” Winters wrote in the e-mail, which he also sent to the FBI’s Knoxville office and Vice President Joe Biden. The correspondence, which included Winters’s name and phone number, concluded with the warning, “You have 48 hours to respond before these go to Auction.”


So Winters arranged to meet with someone to sell the slides, but that someone was an undercover agent who arrested him.

Oh, and The Smoking Gun mentioned one other thing.

[A] federal magistrate ruled that Winters was eligible for a court-appointed lawyer since his sworn financial affidavit revealed that he “does not have the funds to retain an attorney.”

When customer-centric goes too far

Over the last few weeks, I've been professionally concentrating on customer-centric proposals.

As an example, I recently gave a brief presentation to the California chapter of the Association of Proposal Management Professionals. To be fair, I didn't present my findings; I summarized a presentation previously given by J. Daniel Janowski on added value. Janowski believes (and I concur) that the most effective marketing doesn't happen when you try to get the customer to change so that the customer buys your stuff; the most effective marketing happens when the customer changes you so that you sell stuff that the customer wants.

In that spirit, one of my co-workers has shared the following quote from Cicero:

If you wish to persuade me, you must think my thoughts, feel my feelings and speak my words.

This is talked about in various places online. For example, Angela Schuster talked about it here.

I was searching the tubes to discover the context of Cicero's quote, and in the course of my searching I ran across a statement that began as follows:

I feel like everybody who nears me could hear my thoughts clearly...

Sadly, this was written at healthcentral.com.

A slightly different take on the whole customer-centric thing can be found at Ethan Allen's website. No, not the patriot - he never created a website - but the furniture company. While my local Ethan Allen closed several years ago, the company is still flourishing in other areas, under the wise leadership of M. Farooq Kathwari. See the About Me - whoops, I mean the About Us section for more information on Kathwari.

Before you assume that Ethan Allen is self-centered, let me assure you that the company culture is client-focused. (Let's ignore the fact for the moment that "client-focused" is an empty term that Janowski and others urge writers to avoid like the pla- uh, never mind.) Anyway, Ethan Allen is client-focused, and wants you to know about it.


Client-Focused

We treat clients like guests in our home. We’re always asking, how do they live? How do they want to live? How can we help? That’s the thinking behind our product development as well as our overall commitment to outstanding service. Staying focused on our clients’ needs keeps us focused on what’s important: inspiring people to live better and making it happen while saving them that elusive and precious commodity — time.


While it's good to be client-focused, I hope that Ethan Allen doesn't take it too far. I wouldn't want to come home one night and find an Ethan Allen sales rep on my couch, peppering me with questions. "How do you live? How do you want to live? How long are you going to sit on that couch tonight?"

Monday, July 14, 2014

When .@kraftfoods had a "Krazy" idea (Jim Bumgardner's copyrighted work ends up on a macaroni and cheese box)

Jim Bumgardner (a friend of Mark Givens) works at Disney Interactive Labs, and therefore most assuredly possesses both (a) a creative spirit, and (b) an appreciation of intellectual property law. When Bumgardner isn't doing software stuff for Disney, he's doing software stuff for himself. One of his passions is mazes, and he has a web page devoted to the mazes he has created. At the bottom of the page, the following text appears:

All puzzles ©2005-2014 KrazyDad.com. Feel free to reproduce the puzzles for personal, church, or school use. If you would like to purchase new puzzles for a book or periodical, contact me at dad@krazydad.com.

Last night, Bumgardner was out shopping and noticed something in one of the grocery aisles - a box of SpongeBob Squarepants Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. What attracted his attention was a maze on the back of the mac and cheese box.

Looking at my website, I found the original pretty quickly. The artist took Maze #1 from Book #1 of my Intermediate Mazes, and turned it 90 degrees clockwise, and altered it in a handful of spots. Alas, he or she forgot to ask permission to use my design! They also failed to notice my copyright notice. I can only assume that they figured I wasn’t a consumer of Kraft Macaroni & cheese, or that I would never touch the SpongeBob variety that this maze appeared on (true – I prefer the classic elbow variety, which is getting increasingly hard to find for some reason).

If by chance you have never heard of Kraft before, I should point out that Kraft is not a church or school, and while Kraft is a "person" in some legal aspects, this does not qualify as "personal use."

Now perhaps Kraft will argue that I have been completely fooled by Bumgardner, and that he saw the box last night, immediately created an entire website, and is now trying to claim that he created something that was originally created by Kraft.

Somehow I doubt it.

Donnie Anderson and the economics of dog fighting

The FBI recently posted information about someone to pleaded guilty to charges of staging dog fights. If you examine the FBI post, there are a number of issues involved, including humane treatment of animals, privacy issues related to wiretapping, and how participation in one criminal activity can result in participation in other criminal activities.

But there are also business issues involved. Dog fighting is, after all, a business - the organizers don't do it for free.

In his plea agreement, [Donnie] Anderson admitted to organizing and holding dog fights—mostly in the Auburn, Alabama area—from 2009 to 2013, as well as charging spectators an entrance fee of between $100 to $150 (although owners of dogs fighting at that particular event got in for free). He also said that dog owners and spectators were betting on the outcome of the fights, putting up a total of anywhere between $20,000 and $200,000 per fight.

Unfortunately - and sadly - there are also issues that arise due to rapid depreciation of company assets.

After a fight, the losing dog is often killed.

Friday, July 11, 2014

#occupysiliconvalley - In Silicon Valley, water occupies you

There have been recent squabbles between the "haves" and the "have nots" in Silicon Valley. (I've written about this squabble before.)

From the perspective of the have nots, the rich spoiled cyberworkers from leading Silicon Valley firms are hogging bus stops (there are even dog buses) and impoverishing the real working population of the Bay Area.

The haves argue that they are contributing to the local economy. For example, Robert Scoble recently snapped a picture of a bumper sticker on the door of the Surfrider Café in Santa Cruz, California. The bumper sticker read:

Die Techie Scum
#DefendTheBayArea


Scoble's observation:

What was funny was they didn't turn away my money.

But if you are an #occupy type of person, and if you're a religious person to boot, then you probably believe that your deity of choice will punish the greedy Valley evildoers. If so, the headline of this article will cause you to rejoice:

Sea Rise Will Bring Severe Floods to Silicon Valley

A vengeful deity washing the dog buses out to the Pacific Ocean sounds wonderful to some people. (And yes, I realize that there are mountains between Silicon Valley and the Pacific, but if the dog buses are washed into the Bay and eventually float beyond the Golden Gate Bridge...)

But before you rejoice too much at the destruction of the evildoers, read the fine print:

San Mateo County is ground zero for sea level rise impacts. More than 90,000 people and $21 billion in property are at risk of flooding. More than half of the people affected are from immigrant and minority communities, mirroring an important fact about sea rise in the Bay Area: it affects more people of color here than whites.

When you think about it, that sounds about right. If it were SOUTHERN California, perhaps rich people would be more likely to live directly on the beach. But the wealthy of the Bay Area apparently prefer to head for the hills.

I encourage you to read the article, which explains the precise conditions under which such flooding could occur. The article happens to mention the El Niño activity in late 1997 and early 1998, which caused flooding in Palo Alto.

As a personal note, I was also affected by the El Niño conditions, but since Ontario, California is hundreds of feet above sea level, my only concern was a leaky roof. My house wasn't washed out into the Pacific.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

When a business is criticized for its practices, don't be surprised if it changes its practices

We all know that there are evil businesses in the world that do terrible things that offend progressive thinking folk. (Obviously I didn't want to say "right thinking folk" here.) Oil companies pollute our waters and cause wars that kill people. Fast food outlets supersize all of us. So when someone compiles a blacklist of evil companies, it's no surprise that it includes Exxon and McDonalds.

And if anyone thinks about it, it's no surprise that these companies gravitate to things that are less offensive to the blacklisters. Take solar, for example. There's a good chance that if you decide to snub your nose at the evil oil companies and go solar, you may be getting your solar from...Chevron. And you may be getting your healthy food from...McDonalds.

Which brings us to Archer Daniels Midland, which has its share of critics.

Between 1980 and 1995, ADM cost American taxpayers tens of billions of dollars to maintain subsidies on 43 percent of its goods.

ADM is one of the leading producers of genetically engineered corn and is partly responsible for the “genetic pollution” of organic corn species.

ADM was part of a suit brought against several companies by the International Labor Rights Fund (ILRF) for involvement in the trafficking, torture, and forced labor of children who cultivate and harvest cocoa beans that the companies import from Africa.


Obviously a devoted progressive would try to avoid ADM products at all costs, and would instead seek a much greener company. For its investors, KKR maintains a "green" portfolio, and one of the featured companies is a European company called Wild Flavors.

WILD Flavors is a leading private producer of natural flavors, ingredients, and systems to the food and beverage industry. The information and data below relate to WILD Flavors’ European production footprint....

In 2012, as part of the Green Portfolio Program, WILD continued measuring energy consumption. In absolute terms, GHG [greenhouse gas] emissions from these sources have decreased an estimated 9% compared to a 2009 baseline. Over the same time period, efficiency has improved by an estimated 30% (GHGs/ton of product). The improvement in efficiency helped WILD to avoid more than €2.7 million, or approximately $3.4 million, in costs and roughly 16,000 metric tons of GHG emissions since 2009....

In 2012, as part of the Green Portfolio Program, WILD continued its focus on reducing and recycling waste. Since 2009, WILD’s waste production has decreased by 26% in absolute terms and waste efficiency has improved by approximately 43% (kg of waste/ton of product). In addition, since 2009, WILD has reduced the hazardous waste produced in absolute terms by approximately 3% and has improved its hazardous waste efficiency by more than 25% (kg hazardous waste/ton of product). Since 2009, these improvements have helped WILD to avoid an estimated €166,000, or approximately $144,000, in costs, more than 5.3 million kg of waste, and almost 77,000 kg of hazardous waste....

In 2012, as part of the Green Portfolio Program, WILD continued focusing on reducing (fresh) water consumption in its manufacturing facilities. Since 2009, WILD has increased water consumption in absolute terms by approximately 19%. This is partially attributed to the increase in product batches that results in additional cleaning cycles, where the majority of water is consumed during operations. Over the same time period, WILD has improved its water efficiency by approximately 8% (liters of water/ton of product). These improvements helped WILD to avoid approximately 160,000 liters of water.


Impressive results...and results that would make green-responsible investors gravitate to Wild Flavors. And for any such investors, their investment decisions are about to be rewarded.

Private equity group KKR, which bought a 35 percent stake in Wild in 2010, has more than tripled its investment, a person familiar with the investor said.

How did the value of Wild Flavors shoot so high? Well, Wild Flavors is being sold.

To Archer Daniels Midland.

Monday, July 7, 2014

(empo-tuulwey) There are many possible solutions to the India Ministry of Information and Broadcasting attendance problem

(DISCLOSURE: THERE WILL BE A DISCLOSURE LATER IN THIS POST.)

In the nation of India, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting does all sorts of important things. Unfortunately, one thing the Ministry doesn't do is provide a brief description of its activities on its About page. Instead, we find a resume of the minister, and learn about very important things, such as the fact that the minister's son is a dentist, poet, singer, and music composer.

However, I'm certain that the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting does all sorts of important things, since the website has a number of pages devoted to broadcasting, information, films, and other topics. All of this work obviously requires employees, and the minister - one Prakash Javadekar - obviously wants to make sure that his staff is working on these important things, and not composing odes to teeth or whatever.

So Javadekar stopped by the office one day:

On July 1, the minister had made a surprise check where he found that several employees of the ministry came late to work.

Javadekar had expressed his displeasure over the lack of punctuality among officials, and directed all staff to be present in office during working hours.


So how will he make sure that officials in their offices on time? He will adopt a solution that is being adopted - and debated - throughout India.

(DISCLOSURE: I WORK IN THE BIOMETRICS INDUSTRY.)

His solution was announced on the Ministry website:

Installation of biometric device for Attendance System (through finger print/face detection/ smart card) with in-built time and attendance software in office of the Ministry of Infonnation and Broadcasting (MS), Shastri Bhavan, New Delhi- regarding.

Yup, the employees of the Ministry are going to have to clock in, possibly with a fingerprint or facial image. So if Ian places his finger on a biometric reader at 10:17, and he was supposed to be in the office by 9, his tardiness will be recorded.

Does the wonderful world of biometrics provide a solution to the Ministry's attendance problem?

No.

Biometrics provides a TOOL that may help to provide a solution to the attendance problem. Biometrics itself is not the solution.

To actually solve the problem, you need to explore the reasons behind tardiness. Perhaps traffic is terrible. Perhaps the employees are culturally obligated to listen to their children recite poems about teeth, and are therefore late to work. Biometrics does not solve these problems, and in fact the employees could even be sufficiently motivated to defeat the biometric system.

There are other ways to solve the attendance problem. For example, if people are supposed to be at work between 9:00 am and 4:00 pm, you could simply lock the building doors between 9 and 4, preventing anyone from going into or coming out of the building. You could have a Human Resources person stand at the door of the building, and if someone walks up at 9:05 in the morning, the HR person can hand out a notice of termination.

In fact, Minister Javadekar himself has come up with an alternative solution:

When asked by Karan Thapar whether India could move towards a future where the I&B ministry “ceases to exist”, Javadekar said “Philosophically or ideologically I’d be willing to do that.”

Frankly, this is the perfect solution to the Ministry's attendance problem. If there is no Ministry, the attendance problem simply goes away.

Team Reichert AND DelBene

Back in the summer of 2010, I wrote a post about two U.S. House of Representative candidates in the state of Washington, incumbent Dave Reichert (a Republican) and challenger Suzan DelBene (a Democrat who I knew back when we were both students at Reed College). For the record, Reichert won that election - but DelBene won an election for another House seat two years later.

With all of the news about Washington (the city, not the state) gridlock, we often think that people from opposite sides of the aisle spend their time peppering each other with body slams.

But this isn't always the case:

Jun 12, 2013

Washington, D.C – United States Representatives Dave Reichert (R-WA) and Suzan DelBene (D-WA) today applauded House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings’s (R-WA) announcement that his Committee will soon begin consideration of new wilderness proposals. Specifically, the Subcommittee on Public Lands and Environmental Regulation, Chaired by Congressman Rob Bishop (R-Utah), will hold a legislative hearing in July on Rep. Reichert’s Alpine Lakes Wilderness Additions and Pratt and Middle Fork Snoqualmie Rivers Protection Act (H.R. 361). This legislation, which he re-introduced with Senator Patty Murray, along with Congresswoman Suzan DelBene earlier this year, proposes a 22,000-acre expansion of the existing Alpine Lakes Wilderness Area. The expansion would include important lower-elevation lands and complete watersheds, and designation of both the Pratt and Middle Fork Snoqualmie Rivers as Wild and Scenic.

“I was encouraged to hear Chairman Hastings’s announcement last night,” said Reichert. “Protecting resources and preserving recreational opportunities has long been a strong, bipartisan tradition for the Washington delegation. I have been working with the support of my colleagues since 2007 to ensure the protection of these lands and encourage the benefits this could have for local communities and businesses that rely on the support of recreationists from across the country. Consideration of this bill by the Public Lands and Environmental Regulation Subcommittee is an important step so this legislation can finally be signed into law and our natural heritage and the incredible beauty of our state can be preserved for future generations.”

“Washington state has a long, bipartisan tradition of protecting our wild lands, rivers and lakes. The announcement by Chairman Hastings of the House Natural Resources Committee’s plan to take up the legislation to expand the Alpine Lakes Wilderness and protect the Pratt and Snoqualmie Rivers is great news for our state, outdoor enthusiasts and the local communities that depend on this precious habitat and pristine environment,” said Congresswoman Suzan DelBene, original cosponsor to the House bill. “I want to thank Chairman Hastings for his willingness to consider this important legislation and to Congressman Reichert for his leadership on the issue. This bipartisan bill is an opportunity for us to protect our natural landscapes and expand the great recreational opportunities that make living in the Northwest so special.”


When it is mutually beneficial to work with "the enemy," do so.

Of course, some allege that Republicans and Democrats already work together AGAINST the people, but that's a whole other topic.

Returing to Alpine Lakes, there were high hopes for passage in July 2013, but since H.R. 361 remains stuck in a subcommittee, the measure appears to be dead. Again.

Friday, July 4, 2014

MONSTER TURBINES!!! Bring the kids!

Normally I don't schedule posts for U.S. holidays, but this one was too good to pass up.

Today, of course, is July 4, the day on which Americans celebrate our independence. And we celebrate in a variety of ways.

Nine years ago, my family and some Finnish houseguests (who had been on a plane all day) celebrated this American holiday by watching...monster trucks.

After the bikers did their tricks, and the monster trucks did their thing (with one truck falling on its side in the process), everything was ready for The Fire Truck.

And yes, it was a fire truck. It looked like a fire truck, it sounded like a fire truck. And, when it got in front of a pickup truck, it spit out fire, incinerating the pickup.

As Butt-Head would say, "Cool."


I couldn't help but think about that evening as I read about the latest slice and dice fight - this one in England.

PLANS have been submitted for a turbine so large it has been dubbed the Hatherleigh Monster.

Mi-grid, the firm behind the plans, have submitted an application to West Devon Borough Council for a 77 metre turbine on land at Heane Farm, Runnon Moor Lane, near the market town.

Opposition towards the turbine has grown with more than 130 people attending a public meeting at Hatherleigh Community Centre.

Around 10 people in the town have joined forces to form the Hatherleigh Monster Turbine Group.


Sadly, the Hatherleigh Monster Turbine Group's online presence (if it has any) cannot be found, so I don't know if they're treating monster turbines like monster trucks.

COME ON DOWN TONIGHT AND WATCH THE MONSTER TURBINE!

BRING THE KIDS AND THE POPCORN!

AS A SPECIAL FEATURE THIS EVENING, AN AFRICAN SWALLOW AND A EUROPEAN SWALLOW WILL FLY TOWARD THE MONSTER TURBINE SIMULTANEOUSLY!

WHICH ONE WILL BE SLICED AND DICED FIRST? PLACE YOUR BETS!


As Butt-Head would say, "Cool."