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."

Thursday, July 3, 2014

NIMBY and the cloud - can a breach of DARPA's free range virus compound affect you?

I know that many of the students and educators who read this blog are on summer vacation, but this post has some required reading. Because I am merciful, I will provide my own version of copyrighted brief "Notes" that are usually found in yellow booklets with a name that rhymes with Riffs.

Required reading number one is NIMBY in Boston - the town and gown debate preventing, or causing, bioterrorism. I wrote this on Tuesday, April 22, and it describes concerns held by some members of the Boston City Council. You see, educational institutions within the city of Boston were conducting research on "Biosafety Level 4 Agents" - a fancy name for things that cause diseases for which there is no treatment. The City Council members were worried that terrorists could grab the agents and wreak havoc in Boston.

Required reading number two is YIMBY in South Carolina - maybe they can get Boston's health facility also, from Friday, April 25. The South is different from the North, and in this case South Carolina was complaining that the Feds were trying to get out of an agreement to process weapons-grade plutonium in South Carolina. You see, the state WANTS to have dangerous plutonium within its area, because of the jobs and all that.

The third and final piece of required reading is NIMBY in Cambridge (and New Haven) - the gown itself debates novel potential pandemic pathogens (and Godwin's Law). This one's more recent - I wrote it on Tuesday, May 27. We are again in Massachusetts, only this time it's the universities themselves (or at least people associated with the universities) that are sounding the alarm on working with dangerous stuff. Specifically, they allege that the H1N1 virus epidemic in 2009 resulted from some stuff that got out of a laboratory.

Continuing on the overly academic theme, it's time for a quiz on the required reading. This is a one-question quiz, and it will count for 100% of your grade in Empoprise-BI 2014 Summer School. You did the required reading, didn't you? OK, get ready to take the quiz.

EMPOPRISE-BI 2014 SUMMER SCHOOL
QUIZ

QUESTION 1 OF 1
(MULTIPLE CHOICE)

1. Which of the following is true of all three situations discussed in the readings?
a. All three involve the state of Massachusetts.
b. All three involve a Belgian-Brazilian company that promotes U.S. patriotism.
c. All three involve medical threats that could impact a particular geographic location, or multiple geographic locations.


OK, turn in your quizzes. You'll receive your grade later.

As almost everyone in the United States knows by now, "viruses" are not confined to the physical world. There are virtual viruses and other online threats that can affect the electronic systems upon which we depend. Although these online threats won't cause fevers or make your hair fall out, they can do significant damage to personal systems, business systems, and military systems. Because of this potential for damage, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, in cooperation with Lockheed Martin, has been starting to work on a project.

Late last month, DARPA -- the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency -- announced an intriguing award given to the nation's biggest defense contractor, Lockheed Martin (NYSE: LMT ) . For $14.2 million, Lockheed Martin will construct and operate the U.S. Army's National Cyber Range, a virtual world where viruses of all shapes and sizes can roam free.

The National Cyber Range - which, in true government-speak, has its own acronym (NCR) - allows us a place to examine threats from the Chinese government, script kiddies, and others who do Bad Things. But we don't need to worry about this.

Designed as a "secure, self-contained facility where complex defense and commercial networks can be rapidly emulated for cost-effective and timely validation of cyber technologies"....

Whew. The facility will be SECURE and SELF-CONTAINED, and there is NO WAY that any of these viruses can escape the free range and get out into the wild.

Um, I'm sure that alarmists won't be comforted by these reassurances. Forget the recent breaches against commercial systems; as early as 2011, a Reuters special report warned that all sorts of targets were being probed - and breached.

In recent months hackers have broken into the SecurID tokens used by millions of people, targeting data from defense contractors Lockheed Martin, L3 and almost certainly others; launched a sophisticated strike on the International Monetary Fund; and breached digital barriers to grab account information from Sony, Google, Citigroup and a long list of others.

The latest high-profile victims were the public websites of the CIA and the U.S. Senate - whose committees are drafting legislation to improve coordination of cyber defenses.

Terabytes of data are flying out the door, and billions of dollars are lost in remediation costs and reputational harm, government and private security experts said in interviews. The head of the U.S. military's Cyber Command, General Keith Alexander, has estimated that Pentagon computer systems are probed by would-be assailants 250,000 times each hour.


And, of course, mention of Keith Alexander's name reminds everyone of the 2013 breach of files from the National Security Agency itself. (On a related topic, where did Edward Snowden go during his initial weeks in Hong Kong, before he checked into the Mira Hotel on June 1?)

No system is totally secure. All we need is one disaffected military person, or one person who carelessly opens a Wi-Fi port, and the "free range" virus playground may become much more free than originally desired.

So who would object to this? The civil liberties folks and the progressives are too busy worrying about the military-industrial complex to care about loose viruses. The parties involved in NCR itself obviously don't want to publicly disclose security risks, since that would endanger funding. And everyone else is worrying about 2 1/2 year old Facebook psychological experiments and doesn't really care about the potential risks of an NCR breach.

Why not? Because it's not in our backyards. It's not at a university or a nuclear facility down the street from us. It's somewhere "out there," in the cloud.

And since we can't see it, it's not a problem.

POSTSCRIPT: As many of you would note, there's no need to be alarmist about the whole thing. Certainly DARPA and the companies involved are looking at potential security risks, and are designing mitigations that can reduce those risks. And it's obvious that these specifics wouldn't be publicly discussed by the parties involved.

But why is the public discussion on this limited, or non-existent?

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

YIMBY and New Mexico procurement

Let's start with the standard disclosure that the views expressed in this post are my own and do not necessarily reflect the views of my employer.

I have a NIMBY post scheduled for tomorrow, so I guess I should counter-balance it with a YIMBY post. If these acronyms puzzle you, NIMBY is an acronym commonly used to represent the phrase "not in my back yard." YIMBY, of course, would be "yes in my back yard," used when you want to encourage a particular activity to take place locally.

Enter the Association of Commerce and Industry (ACI), which functions as a chamber of commerce within the state of New Mexico. Chambers of commerce encourage commerce, and governments purchase things, so it makes sense that the ACI would take an interest in the procurement practices of agencies within the state of New Mexico.

ACI is working to keep businesses, jobs, and opportunities here in New Mexico. Our members have raised concerns that New Mexico companies may not be getting a fair chance to compete for New Mexico tax dollars through the procurement process. If we want to grow as a state and improve the opportunities available to New Mexicans, our state government needs to be looking for opportunities to keep our money here in New Mexico, instead of handing over even more jobs, opportunities, and money to other states.

Of course, there are two potentially contradictory terms in the statement above. One is the request that state procurements be "fair." The other is the request to "keep our money here in New Mexico." Certainly if New Mexico procurement officers had a "we don't want any of this local stuff" attitude, that would be one thing. But how do you define "fair"?

To determine whether New Mexico procurements are actually going to New Mexico companies, ACI has selected three state agencies for its request:

Today, The Association of Commerce and Industry (ACI), New Mexico’s statewide chamber of commerce, submitted requests under the New Mexico Inspection of Public Records Act (IPRA) for records pertaining to contract purchases by the New Mexico Department of Transportation, the New Mexico Department of Information Technology, and the New Mexico General Services Department. The records requested will show what percentage of state taxpayer money in these departments is being spent outside of New Mexico, instead of in contracts with in-state businesses to promote local growth.

Now for the second disclosure of this post - my employer happens to do business in the state of New Mexico, although I don't know if any of our contracts came from the three agencies listed. And I don't think that my employer has a New Mexico billing address, so if we did show up, we'd show up as an "out of state" entity (we have more employees outside of New Mexico than we do within New Mexico).

Obviously chambers of commerce in Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, and elsewhere would vehemently protest what the ACI is doing - but of course would fully support similar investigations in their own states.

And what the ACI is asking for isn't unreasonable. In the state and local world, I have run across Requests for Proposal (RFPs) that explicitly award higher points to vendors who employ people in particular locality. This is a valid responsibility of government, since it is in a government's interest to increase both business revenue and tax revenue within its own jurisdiction.

Whether it is "fair" or not is another question entirely.

And is it fair that the ACI website features Intel as a "sustaining investor," despite the fact that Intel is headquartered in Santa Clara, California? Isn't that an "out of state" firm? Well, consider what Intel says:

Intel began operations in New Mexico in 1980, with 25 employees on a small piece of land previously used as a sod farm. More than three decades later, Intel is the largest industrial employer in the state, with approximately 3,500 employees at its campus in Rio Rancho. The site is home to Fab 11X, one of Intel’s 300mm semiconductor manufacturing facilities.

So is Intel a New Mexico company, or a California company, or perhaps a Delaware company if Intel is one of the slew of companies that is incorporated in Delaware?

It depends.

You have to have an ear for this stuff - confusing a famous uncle with his nephew

While I dismiss motivational posters as a bunch of ho-hum, I'm a sucker for motivational articles, especially when they are seemingly founded in reality.

Seemingly.

Inc. Magazine recently published an article entitled These 7 Motivational Navy SEAL Sayings Will Kick Your Butt Into Gear. The idea is that you can extrapolate lessons from Navy SEALs and apply them to business. Since I'm a fan of extrapolation, I read the article.

Here's part of the description of saying number 6.

6. No plan survives first contact with the enemy.

This is from Helmuth von Moltke, a German field marshal from World War I. Similar is this sentiment from Mike Tyson: "Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face."


Of course, with the World Cup still being played out, any mention of Mike Tyson recalls his famous ear-biting incident. In an effort to see if von Moltke ever had a Van Gogh/Suarez/Tyson moment, I decided to look him up...

...and discovered that there were two Helmuth von Moltkes, a nephew who was active in World War I, and an uncle who was active in the Franco-Prussian War. Since Inc. specifically mentioned World War I, I read up on the nephew...

...and discovered that the nephew's biography didn't match the saying attributed to him. Moltke the Younger was the Army Chief of Staff for Germany, and inherited a plan from his predecessor for the invasion of France.

His predecessor had drawn up the famous Schlieffen Plan, to be used during war to quickly defeat France in the west by means of a rapid, overwhelmingly powerful flank attack through Belgium and Holland, whilst a small army kept Russia at bay in the east.

Certainly von Moltke wouldn't rely too much on this plan, and would be able to improvise if things went wrong. Germany had no problem getting through Belgium (speaking of the World Cup), but things got worse as the Germans approached Paris. And von Moltke didn't improvise:

Failure to give clear orders during the Battle of the Marne in early September, as his forces neared Paris, resulted in field commanders ordering a retreat. Stalemate followed with trench warfare.

Wilhelm replaced Moltke with Erich Falkenhayn as Chief of Staff on 14 September 1914, effectively retiring Moltke.


Well, I did some more research, and it turns out that the statement about planning was not uttered by Helmuth von Moltke, the German field marshal from World War I. It was uttered by his uncle. It appears that the Inc. writer confused the two of them, citing the Younger when he should have cited the Elder.

The Navy SEALs have a saying about that:

7. All in, all the time.

Or, as the Inc. author put it,

Mediocrity and moderation won't get the job done. Give everything you do everything you've got.

And I, a high qualtiy writer who never makes misteaks, am willing to help Brent Gleeson do just that.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Obviously I am not in Budweiser's target audience

In about an hour, Americans who are suddenly interested in soccer will turn their attention to Brazil, in which the United States and Belgium will square off in an elimination match.

Needless to say, advertisers are salivating at the chance to advertise in advance of this match, and Budweiser is in a prime position to seize the opportunity.

Budweiser could have aired a very funny commercial today. I can just imagine it. The commercial opens with a bottle of Stella Artois and a bottle of Budweiser, sitting next to each other on a football/soccer pitch. In fact, the words "soccer" and "football" (or "voetbal") could even appear in the ad, to accentuate the difference. A corporate executive could then nervously approach the camera.

As the employees of Anheuser-Busch InBev watch the match in Brazil today, we sincerely hope that...that the best team wins.

Such an ad would be witty and creative, and I personally would love it.

But such an ad wouldn't sell beer in America, so that's why people in the United States are seeing this ad instead. And yes, the ad is labeled "HYPE."



Yes, it's your typical Budweiser ad...well, maybe a little more over the top than your typical Budweiser ad. As Dan Carson describes it:

Featuring fireworks, motorcycles and the company's trademark fleet of giant horses, the ad is a nonsensical montage of things Americans ostensibly like.

Bikini-clad woman on a surfboard? Throw it in there! Fireman chopping wood? You know it! Horses backed by fighter jets? They're coming for you, Belgium! Rock, flag and eaaagle!


Now that's how you sell beer. Well, at least it would work in the pre-social media world.

But Budweiser forgot that when you share an ad like this via social media, people can use that same social media to comment on the ad. Carson himself offered the following observation:

This ad had me pumped me to the point where for one shining red-white-and-blue minute, I forgot that InBev—the company that bought Anheuser-Busch in 2008—is based in Belgium.

Womp womp.

Yep, it's a bit of a buzzkill realizing your adrenaline gland just pumped out four quarts of American pride over a commercial ultimately benefiting our Belgian overlords.


And it's even worse when the unknowing, whipped up by Budweiser into a patriotic frenzy, respond with a "Go USA" chant. For example:

The bar I'm at in Boston doesn't carry @Budweiser products...needless to say I will be watching #USA elsewhere

The tweeter got a response to that.


(And by the way, Miller is a foreign-owned beer also.)

Of course, Budweiser can - and has - argued that the beer itself is brewed in the good old USA, regardless of where the Euros are counted. Unless, of course, you count the original Budweiser beer, but since the Czech Republic isn't even in the World Cup, Anheuser-Busch InBev dodged that particular obstacle.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Biometrics and commerce

As an employee of a biometric software provider [DISCLOSURE: I AM AN EMPLOYEE OF A BIOMETRIC SOFTWARE PROVIDER], I'm used to seeing a whole bunch of people speak about biometrics. Law enforcement. Immigration experts. Privacy experts. Lawyers. More lawyers. But as I was perusing one of my information sources, I ran across a piece by Rich Cooper, the Vice President of Research & Emerging Issues for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation.

Hmm...the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. I haven't run across them weighing in on these issues.

But it makes sense. While a lot of the attention within my country focuses on government use of biometrics, other parts of the world are looking at biometrics from a business perspective.

Japanese companies Hitachi and Fujitsu have separately developed vein-scanning systems that are already being used by major banks around the world, such as in Brazil, Poland and Turkey....

South Africa has used fingerprint scanning at ATM machines since 1996. Brazil uses similar biometric technology at more than 55,000 ATMs....


While there are similar moves here, including incorporation of biometrics into mobile phones and Google's efforts to profit from its Neven Vision acquisition, things aren't moving as rapidly in the U.S. as they are in other countries. Cooper attributes this to a "widespread cultural concern" in the United States - the same thing not only makes us resist biometrics, but also makes us resist using Social Security Numbers as identification numbers, converting drivers' licenses to robust identification devices [DISCLOSURE: A SISTER COMPANY TO MY EMPLOYER PROVIDES DRIVERS' LICENSES], and telling the government every time that we buy a gun.

It appears that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is concerned that the U.S. is getting (if I may borrow another U.S. cultural term) left behind. The think piece by Cooper was entitled "Unlocking the Promise of Biometrics," and concludes as follows:

While we are not yet at a point where biometrics are a fool-proof method of authentication, the potential these technologies present for innovation and advancement are huge. Just one more example of how data and technology are changing the world for the better.

And we, with our guns and our insecure drivers' licenses and our chipless credit cards, are yielding ground to the Japanese and the others. Maybe.

Or, as the libertarians and the moralists may contend, the rest of the world is heading off a cliff while The Greatest Nation In The History Of Civilization is remaining as a shining city on a hill.

Who's right?

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Bob .@Lohfeld on why you SHOULDN'T create a best of breed, one size fits all presentation

I could go on and on about this, but I'll confine myself to one sentence that Bob Lohfeld wrote.

[I]f you are five minutes into your briefing and you are still explaining your company’s org chart, the meeting is pretty much over, and the only person in the room who doesn’t know it is the person doing the briefing.

Remember - it's NOT all about you.

Friday, June 20, 2014

GoFundMe and Free Jeremy (Meeks) - the end of civilization, or the empowerment of the individual?

(The views in this post are my own, and do not necessarily represent the views of my employer or any forensic organization.)

In case you haven't heard, a particular mugshot has received a lot of attention after its public posting.

Why are mugshots publicly posted? For two reasons. First, the posting of mugshots is intended to be a public shaming that deters crime - if you're going to be a criminal, we're going to let everyone know when you're arrested. (It is appropriate to note, as the sites often do, that arrested persons are considered innocent until proven guilty.) Second, the posting of mugshots is intended to be a warning to the citizens. If person X is arrested for robbery, then perhaps you may want to keep an eye on the person if he or she shows up in your store.

Regardless of the intent of posting of mugshots, the Stockton Police Department received a whole other reaction when they posted a mugshot recently. First, here's the text that accompanied the mugshot:

SPD NEWS - WESTON RANCH OPERATION CEASEFIRE ENFORCEMENT MISSION

Due to a recent increase of shootings and robberies in the Weston Ranch area, the Stockton Police Department just completed a multi-agency Operation Ceasefire enforcement mission. Through an Operation Ceasefire analysis of the recent shootings, we identified a new active group in the Weston Ranch Area.

In response during these challenging times, this type of collaborative response through the use of allied resources is an invaluable tool to reducing crime in the City of Stockton. The Stockton Police Department would like to thank the following participating agencies:

Members of the Stockton PD Gang Violence Suppression Unit, Community Response Team, County Wide Gang Task Force, San Joaquin County Sheriff’s SWAT, Lodi Police Department’s SWAT, Manteca Police Department, Lodi Police Department, County Wide METRO Narcotics Unit, Federal Bureau of Investigation, United States Marshal’s Task Force, Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms; and the AB109 Task Force.

The enforcement groups served search warrants at the following locations:

1300 block of Kimiyo St.
2400 block of Laguna Ct.
1200 block of Lloyd Thayer Cir.
4100 block of Degas Ct.
1900 block of Flatboat St.
16800 block of Shady Mill Wy, Lathrop
4100 block of Seurat Ct.
4900 block of Tiller Ct.
1700 block Bartlett Ct.
1809 Dominion St.
4100 Kassady Ct.

The enforcement groups served search warrants at the following locations:

Felony Arrest: 4
Firearms Confiscated: 4
Traffic Stops: 1
Ceasefire Custom Notification Admonishments: 5

Arrests from the today’s mission:

• Jeremy Meeks, a 30 year old man, convicted felon, arrested for felony weapon charges.
• Terry Bailey, a 22 year old man, convicted felon, arrested for felony weapon charges.
• Juzri Coleman, an 18 year old man, arrested for felony weapon charges.
• Joelin Coleman, a 44 year old man, arrested for felony weapon charges.


Note the first name on that list of arrested individuals, Jeremy Meeks. It was Meeks' picture that accompanied the Facebook posting...and it was Meeks' picture that received a lot of attention. One sample:

Joyforlife Dawson Tear may mean he killed someone but he killed the camera on that day.

Joyforlife was not alone. This single Facebook post from the Stockton Police Department has been liked over 69,000 times.


But not everyone believes that Meeks is dreamy. In fact, some are offended by the fact that Meeks is receiving tons of attention, while others are not. Loren Feldman's comment:

Welcome to social media.

I disagree with Feldman, to a point. While social media certainly facilitates the ability for lovestruck people to fall in love with felons, there is nothing inherent in social media that causes this. I'm sure that people went gaga over John Wilkes Booth back in the day - he was a celebrity, after all.

But social media doesn't only facilitate love of felons - it also facilitates crowdfunding for felons. See the GoFundMe page for Free Jeremy, which is attempting to raise $25,000 for - well, I'm not sure what for, since his bail is much higher than $25,000. Anyway, the site was started by Meeks' mom, who comments:

He has a job and ... He was on his way to work. With no gang affiliations as per two of the charges. He has old tattoos..which causes him to be sterotyped. He's my son and he is so sweet. Please help him to get a fair trial or else he'll be railroaded.

Now I'll grant that I am not a mother, but if I were, I would think that I would be a little uncomfortable that the people who are donating to your son's cause ($865 last I checked) are writing things like this:

$5.00
Jaclyn Schneider
59 mins ago
marry me?

$50.00
Frances White
1 hour ago
Get this behind you. Get an agent and training. I want to see you in the movies.

$10.00
katja steinhaugen
4 hours ago
I can see in your eyes that you are a warm and loving person. I hope you can hire a good lawer and get a fair trile. I wish you and your family the best! Love from Norway

$100.00
A Carter
6 hours ago
Hit me up when u get out daddy, I got a list of naughty things I wanna do to you ..


Yet at the same time, it's important to remember that social media is not CAUSING this. Human nature is what it is, whether we're using carrier pigeons or Facebook likes.

Manufacturing consensus - what Sylvan Goldman had to do to make the supermarket super

I don't think I'm exaggerating when I say that Dr. Matt Barney is a business disciple of Dr. Robert Cialdini. He has cited Dr. Cialdini in his previous publications, and I recently attended a webinar at which Dr. Barney presented on behalf of Influence at Work. The topic of the webinar was consensus, and Dr. Barney emphasized that as social beings, we respond to (and exhibit consensus with) people who are like us.

As an aside, Dr. Barney shared the story of how Sylvan Goldman achieved consensus, and made a lot of money in the process.

I have previously talked about the rise and fall of the supermarkets - how they wiped out the markets, and how they in turn are being wiped out by the hypermarkets and the virtual markets. A supermarket, by definition, is larger than an old fashioned market, which means that you have the potential to buy more things at a supermarket. But if you buy more things, how do you get them out of the door? After all, you only have two hands, and two hands can only carry so much.

Sylvan Goldman, a supermarket owner in Oklahoma, was pondering this problem in the 1930s, and came up with the idea of a cart that could be used while shopping. You could simply place everything in the cart, and would therefore be able to buy more things. After a false start, he worked out the mechanics of this cart - we now know it as a shopping cart - and was ready to take over the world and make a ton of money as people bought more stuff in his stores.

Only one problem, according to birgit lohmann (who, as you will see, doesn't care for upper case letters). People refused to use the shopping carts.

men found them effeminate (you mean, with my big strong arm
that I can’t carry a darn little basket like that?);
women found them suggestive of a baby carriage
( I have been pushing enough baby carriages.
I don’t want to push any more...).


So Goldman had to lure the people into using these shopping carts, despite the social consensus that they were unacceptable. The first thing that he tried was marketing, via a series of posters that emphasized the benefits (not the features) of the gizmo. While his visuals were certainly creative, and while they were clearly customer focused, they were not enough to overcome the social consensus against supermarkets.

So what did Goldman do? He manufactured a new consensus.

but only after hiring several male and female models to push
his new invention around his store and demonstrate their utility,
shopping carts became extremely popular, and supermarkets were
redesigned to accommodate them.


Yes, that's right. If the people around you aren't supportive of shopping carts, bring in new people. Even though Goldman was not a Cialdini Method Certified Trainer (CMCT), he still knew that people can be influenced by people who are like them. So his models included both men and women - men to demonstrate to the male shoppers that shopping carts were manly, and women to demonstrate to the female shoppers that while baby carriages bring joy during infancy, pushing shopping carts brings lifelong joy.

Hey, you can't argue with success. Shopping carts are now standard in all supermarkets, and Goldman's original design with two small baskets has been redesigned to be bigger and to allow shoppers to buy hundreds of dollars worth of stuff.

But without the shopping cart - and without the effort that was made to promote its adoption - would supermarkets have become as super as they did?

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Unintended consequences - look for a flood of offensive Redskins products, thanks to the opponents to the Redskins' name

Isaac Garcia shared a Politico article that details a recent court ruling.

In a major blow to the Washington Redskins, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Wednesday canceled six federal trademarks of the Washington Redskins team name because it was found to be “disparaging” to Native Americans.

“We decide, based on the evidence properly before us, that these registrations must be cancelled because they were disparaging to Native Americans at the respective times they were registered,” the patent office’s Trademark Trial and Appeal Board wrote in a 2-1 decision.


From previous items that I have read, I know that the "at the respective times they were registered" point is key. The Politico article doesn't detail the exact years of registration of the relevant trademarks, but apparently the Patent and Trademark Office felt that even then, the name "redskins" was derogatory to Native Americans.

Let me briefly interrupt myself for a relevant disclosure.

[DISCLOSURE: I GREW UP IN THE WASHINGTON DC AREA, AND AM A FAN OF THE REDSKINS OR SKINS OR REDNECKS OR WHATEVER YOU WANT TO CALL THEM.]

For those who haven't followed this particular story, there has been a decades-long debate over whether the "Redskins" name (derived from the time that the team was in Boston) is a hallowed historical name, or an offensive slur that does not belong in the National Football League. (As opponents have noted, the name "Redskins" has connotations that other sports team names do not have - Indians? Braves?) Opponents argue that Native Americans and others oppose the name. Proponents argue that only a minority of activists are getting fired up over the name.

But for the moment, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has spoken, although the ruling can be appealed.

But if the ruling sticks, there's an interesting little unintended consequence of the ruling, at least in the short term.

Of course, the move to remove trademark protection from the name "Redskins" is an effort to get the Redskins - legally, an entity known as Pro Football, Inc. - to come up with some other name. However, there's nothing to prevent the team from continuing to use the name, as Politico notes:

Critics of the Washington Redskins name who had turned to the trademark office note that the ruling against the team by the patent office does not stop the organization from continuing to use the term. But it could potentially devalue the name because anyone would be able to use the unprotected name, meaning that companies not affiliated with the team could, for instance, print and sell t-shirts, posters and whatever other products they wanted without having to share any revenues with the Redskins’ owners.

Now take a moment and think about the ramifications of THAT.

In essence, if the ruling sticks, this means that anyone can produce Washington Redskins products without having to pay a license fee to the NFL or to Daniel Snyder. With the removal of the license fee restriction, more people will enter the market and produce Washington Redskins products. Ironically, efforts by opponents to suppress the name will, at least in the short term (until Snyder caves) result in the name being used a lot more.

But wait, it gets better.

While the trademark was under the control of Pro Football, Inc. and the NFL, Washington Redskins licensed products needed to conform to certain minimum standards of taste. As a multi-billion dollar corporate entity or group of corporate entities (take your pick), the National Football League could not afford to be associated with anything that would anger its advertisers.

But now that this restriction has been removed, all sorts of Redskins products are possible. I was not old enough to remember the days when the Washington Redskins were the NFL's southernmost team, and coincidentally the last team to add a black player to its roster, but you can bet that businessmen in the South (and yes, in Boston) will take the opportunity to produce products that proclaim the Redskins are the best, the Cowboys [expletive deleted], and that those who don't like it can [expletive deleted]. I don't think Roger Goodell will be happy.

Oh, and the danged foreigners and organized crime won't be happy either, as new people muscle in on the market for unauthorized Redskins products. Consider Robert M. Tyler's description of the situation in 2013, back when the Redskins trademark was protected like any other:

Just before this year’s “big game” (in another article, we’ll talk about the use of “Super Bowl” in advertising), U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced it had led a nationwide enforcement operation netting almost 200,000 fake or counterfeit NFL souvenirs valued at over $17 million. The investigation targeted not only international shipments but also warehouses, stores, flea markets, online vendors and street vendors. Forty-one people were arrested.

So, by now, perhaps you’re thinking, “Fine, Rob, my business should think twice before selling unlicensed NFL merchandise. But what’s the harm if I buy my kid a fake jersey online and save some money?” Granted, you’re not going to get sued for buying a counterfeit product. But it may trouble you to hear of increasing evidence tying organized crime to counterfeit sports merchandise.


Obviously the opponents of the name hope that Snyder and the NFL will cave quickly and change the name. But as Redskins/Skins/Rednecks fans well know, Daniel Snyder marches to his own drummer, and he may very well continue to use the Redskins name, despite the loss in revenue, and despite the fact that we're going to see a flood of offensive unlicensed material that would even make Bill Watterson cry.

Amazon, unit pricing, and other recess hijinks

Unlike others, I do not believe that the tech world is just a very rich version of a high school, with all of its petty gossip, frenemies, and hurt feelings.

I believe that the tech world is like an elementary school.

Except that there are no recess monitors to keep you from hitting others, and there are no lunch ladies to force you to eat your vegetables.

The latest example? For better or worse, the New York State Attorney General has brokered an agreement between six online retailers to provide unit prices on their websites.

The six companies? Walmart, Costco, Walgreens, FreshDirect, CVS, and Drugstore.com.

Amazon is missing from the list, despite the fact that they provide unit prices for some items, and despite the fact that their unit prices tend to be low.

So why didn't they participate? Gartner's Bob Hetu speculates:

I think it's just that they don't like to be pooled in with the other retailers.

Amazon had better watch out, or else it won't be invited to Walmart's house for the cool pool party and sleepover. (Of course, there will be a fight over whether to serve Kirkland hot dogs or Sam's hot dogs, but that's part of the fun.)

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

On de facto industry regulation of industry - nowhere to run, nowhere to hide...and no indication that you should be running

Whether you like it or not, deadly pathogens are traveling all around the world. And if we're not going to combat them (per my previous post on Boston's opposition to research on Biosafety Level 4 agents), then the only thing that we can do is to warn people when they show up, so that people can kinda sorta take precautions. I say "kinda sorta" because I don't write sometimes good, and also because in such situations, you can only hope that you are able to avoid the pathogen.

But what if you're never warned that the deadly pathogen is out there?

Antibiotic-resistant germs continue to plague hospitals across the United States. In Florida, several hospitals handled antibiotic-resistant germ outbreaks without alerting the public. A Palm Beach Post investigation found that since 2008, twelve outbreaks have affected at least 490 people statewide, and the Florida Department of Health (FDH) did little to inform the public....

FDH has not released the name of hospitals involved in the twelve CRE outbreaks, and state lawyers have denied public disclosure requests, pointing to an exemption in the open-records law for epidemiological investigations. Hospitals themselves are not motivated to publish that they have highly resistant germs in their facilities, and the state law which requires outbreaks of any germ to be reported have been enforced loosely. In the past five years, Florida’s Agency for Healthcare Administration, which licenses and inspects hospitals, has cited only one hospital for failing to report an outbreak, said agency spokeswoman Shelisha Coleman.


Obviously part of the issue is that regulators are not motivated to regulate. William Sanjour explains the problem from his perspective as a 30-year employee of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency:

After some catastrophe or new technology, Congress creates a new regulatory agency in a wave of enthusiasm, giving it money and following the same pattern of broad, vague discretionary authority to control the richest and most politically savvy forces on Earth. But the interest of Congress, the press and the public can only be maintained for a few months or years. There are a lot of other things going on. But there is one group whose interest never wanes or wavers. The life, the existence, the future of the regulated industry depends on the pressure it can exert on the regulatory agency. At least that’s what the special interests believe.

The regulated community constantly deals with regulatory agencies through congressional committees, the courts, and meetings with top government officials. This is what the public sees, but it does not stop there. Industry also constantly interacts with individual agency employees at every level, working directly with the field inspectors and permit writers responsible for making regulatory decisions.


What kind of, um, "interacting" takes place?

[T]he inspector general of the Minerals Management Service concluded that officials in the agency had frequently consumed alcohol at industry functions, had used cocaine and marijuana, and had sexual relationships with oil and gas company representatives.

But this case isn't about oil, but about hospitals. As noted above, hospital inspections in Florida are performed by the Agency for Healthcare Administration. This agency is headed by Elizabeth Dudek. She was appointed to her position by the Governor of Florida; while this ensures that she is in alignment with the Governor's views, critics could argue that political appointees may not always have the best interests of their agencies at heart.

Dudek actually worked within the Agency for Healthcare Administration prior to heading it, and at one point was "a registered lobbyist providing testimony before the Legislature on behalf of the Agency." Yes, you read that right - the government had an official lobbyist to lobby the government.

Before this, did Dudek acquire the necessary experience to regulate hospitals? Well...

Ms. Dudek has over thirty years of health care experience; ranging from direct care work with developmentally disabled individuals in a state institution to testifying for the Agency as an expert in health planning.

Yup...she came right out of the industry that she is mandated to regulate.

On the other hand, critics would argue, you need to have people from the industry to regulate the industry, because people from outside the industry wouldn't understand the issues involved.

And therein lies the problem.

UNRELATED POSTSCRIPT

I intentionally began this post with the words "whether you like it or not," and wanted to find an appropriate link to Gavin Newsom's original comments. Well, I found this link:

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom may have sealed the fate of marriage equality in California with his triumphant — and misjudged — cry celebrating the legality of gay and lesbian family rights “whether you like it or not,” writes John Diaz, the editor for the San Francisco Chronicle’s editorial page.

Wrote Diaz in an Oct. 14 story that appeared in the Chronicle, “Like it or not, Mayor Gavin Newsom is proving to be the gift that keeps on giving for the campaign to deprive same-sex couples of their right to marry.”


Californians will recall that Newsom's quote was played, over and over, by opponents of gay marriage. Kilian Melloy was convinced that this would be disastrous for gay marriage proponents.

Those TV spots, paid for by a torrent of money that has rushed into Calif. –l argely from Mormons and Catholics nationwide, whose church leaders have instructed them to promote the anti-gay legislation — are fueling a ballot initiative to rewrite California law from the ground up in a way that will build discrimination against gay and lesbian families into the vary fabric of law.

Of course, we know what happened after that - opponents of gay marriage DID win the proposition battle, gay marriage was outlawed in California, Gavin Newsom was reduced to obscurity, and Brendan Eich led Mozilla out of its terrible financial state.

Well, the position of Lieutenant Governor of California is relatively obscure...

Monday, June 16, 2014

List the sovereign states that can issue Western Hemisphere Travel Initiate-compliant cards. Whoops, you missed one.

When I last renewed my passport, I had the opportunity to not only obtain a traditional passport book, but also to obtain a special card that I could use for selected international travel. I can't use it to board a plane to Finland, but I can use it to drive a car into Canada or Mexico.

It turns out that these cards are part of something called the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative. I happened to go to the U.S. Department of State to obtain my WHTI-compliant card.

But certain people wouldn't go to the U.S. Department of State. They would instead go to...the Seneca Nation.

"The Seneca Nation?" you may asked. "Aren't they like Indians or Native Americans or something? Why don't they go to the U.S. Department of State?"

Well, as its name implies, the Seneca Nation is a nation. Or as they explain it:

The relationship between the Seneca Nation and the United States is one of a sovereign government to another sovereign government. This principle has shaped the entire history of dealings between the federal government, the states, and the tribes. The United States government entered into treaties with tribal governments that exchanged tribal lands for federal protection and services. These treaties still form the basis of much of the Tribal-Federal relationship.

In that spirit, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security reached an agreement with the Seneca Nation that allowed the Seneca Nation to issue its own WHTI-compliant cards, referred to as "Enhanced Tribal Cards." These can be used for travel between the U.S., Canada, and certain other countries, just like my Department of State-issued card can.

[DISCLOSURE: The cards themselves will be produced by MorphoTrust, a sister company of my employer.]

Speaking for myself personally, I often forget that when people are talking about Federal, state, and local governments, we need to remember the tribal governments also. After all, there are 566 of them, managing nations that are as large as 16 million acres (the Navajo Nation). And nations can be national - the Navajo Nation, for example, uses Daylight Saving Time, unlike Arizona. (And yes, this means that the Navajos are more advanced than the rest of Arizona...)

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

#whoyouknow Mike Malone is better than George Station - according to Malone's criteria

George Station probably won't be applying for a particular job that requires the applicant to have authored 25 books:

Only 24 books to go and I'm eligible! ...Oh... make it 25...

One of the hashtags that Station used in this Google+ post was #whoyouknow. And there's a reason for this, because the job requirements are somewhat unusual:

The successful applicant will have at least 25 books on topics ranging from the history of Silicon Valley to the biography of microprocessing to interviews with entrepreneurs to the history of human and mechanical memory; will have been published by presses such as Harper/Collins, Doubleday, Random House, St. Martin’s, and SUNY Press; will also have e-books on topics such as home life in the US, home life in the UK, and water conservation; will have worked as both a journalist for a print newspaper and for magazines; will have hosted television and radio productions for PBS, cable television, and ABC; will have worked in electronic media such as being editor of Forbes ASAP or a weekly columnist for ABC.com; will have founded or co-founded at least two start-ups; will have professional connections to Oxford University in the UK as well as to numerous media (print, electronic, and television) in the SF Bay Area and beyond.

Now where is Santa Clara University going to find someone who meets ALL of these bizarre qualifications? Inside Higher Ed explains:

This litany of qualifications seemed staggering for a position that, although competitively compensated at $6,000 per course, was far from an endowed professorship. In fact, only one person meets these requirements: the internal candidate Santa Clara had already planned to rehire.

Mike Malone – a self-described “Silicon Valley guy” who holds two degrees from Santa Clara – had been teaching writing at the Jesuit university for the past three years. He really has written 25 books, he said.

“I had no idea what the standard operating procedure was on this,” Malone said. “They wanted me to teach the class because I created the class. Then they threw my short bio into the application.”


It appears that the university has (surprise!) found a candidate to fill the position, because the job listing is no longer active. But Malone is lucky that the applicant didn't have to satisfy one additional requirement:

I don’t even know where the copying machine is.

The real reason why ISO is so interesting in controlling counterfeiting

I recently wrote about how businesses respond to economic restrictions by working around them. And it's not just minimum wages that keep company executives up at night. Some companies have to deal with little intellectual property restrictions that restrict them from issuing their own name-brand jeans or medications. So they counterfeit.

I've been employed by software companies for the majority of my working life, so I obviously don't have a high regard for counterfeiting and other forms of intellectual theft. But if you want to know who REALLY hates counterfeiting, you have to look to ISO.

ISO doesn't just say that counterfeiting is bad. They author standards that battle counterfeiters.

But why would ISO be so interested in setting standards in this area?

Prof. Hyeonho Park, Director of the Institute of Crime Science at Yongin University, Republic of Korea, says that the health risks associated with counterfeiting are diverse.

Examples include lethal amounts of melanin in infant formula, carcinogenic Sudan Red food dye, medicines with little or no active ingredients, aircraft replacement parts that fail, and substandard electrical cords that catch fire.

One of the most harmful forms of counterfeit goods is fraudulent medicines. In recent years, there has been a marked increase in the manufacturing, trade and consumption of these products – often with harmful, and at times fatal, results.


Actually, that's not the reason why ISO is so gung-ho about battling counterfeiters.

The sheer size of the counterfeit industry is staggering. A report from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) put the value of counterfeit goods that crossed international borders at over USD 250 billion in 2007. That’s far larger than other scourges of the underworld economy, such as weapons smuggling and human trafficking. It even rivals the international trade in illegal drugs.

It's not that either.

[C]ounterfeiting can significantly reduce the profitability of legitimate businesses. Internationally, the trade in counterfeit products is estimated to cause economic loss to legitimate companies in the range of USD 500 to USD 700 billion annually.

Getting warmer, but that's not the real reason.

Where’s the harm, you might ask ? The truth of the matter is quite startling. Counterfeits create an underground trade that deprives governments of revenue for vital public services and imposes greater burdens on taxpayers.

Bingo.

As you can see, not only are the counterfeiters economically motivated, but the people who battle the counterfeiters are economically motivated also. You don't mess with the tax man, as Al Capone discovered.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Economies are like the Internet - SeaTac businesses work their way around restrictions

Those who champion freedom and occupy and other kewl wUrdz often marvel at the capabilities of people to get around Internet restrictions. If an oppressive government locks down the Internet to prevent people from getting to child porn - whoops, I mean information about Tiananmen Square, there are ways to work around the firewalls and get to the information that you need to get.

However, the champions often neglect the fact that economies work the same way. Throw up a roadblock to a business, and the business will simply work around it.

Let me acknowledge at the beginning that there is no such thing as a "free market" - a totally free market requires all people to have access to all information, and that just doesn't happen today. However, there are clearly gradations of a free market, where you can work for anyone for whom you wish to work provided your views are not deemed offensive, and you can live anywhere you can afford unless the neighbors don't like you.

At the same time, governments impose restrictions that affect the economy. Taxes, insider trading bans, and zoning restrictions are but a few examples, but one example that everyone likes to talk about is the minimum wage. For proponents, a minimum wage potentially helps to ensure that citizens do not depend upon governments for other types of assistance - if the wage is high enough, people can take care of themselves. Opponents state that artificially high wages depress the local economy, as companies do not hire, and jobs move to other cities or perhaps other countries.

Right now, a lot of these opponents are looking at the town of SeaTac, Washington. Why? Because the much better-known town of Seattle just passed a $15 minimum wage - a minimum wage that is already being implemented in the Seattle suburb of SeaTac. SeaTac happens to be right next to Seattle's airport (while not including the airport itself), so a lot of hotel employees and parking lot attendants are now making $15 an hour.

According to the opponents, SeaTac is now going to hell in a very expensive handbasket.

When I see claims such as this, I want to verify the claims to see if they are true. Here are some of the things that I've found over the past few days. From a February Seattle Times article:

At the Clarion Hotel off International Boulevard, a sit-down restaurant has been shuttered, though it might soon be replaced by a less-labor-intensive cafe....

To be sure, SeaTac’s $15 minimum wage has claimed some casualties.

The 215-room Clarion Hotel closed its full-service restaurant in December, laying off 15 people, said general manager Perry Wall. The hotel also let go a night desk clerk and maintenance employee and is considering a 10 percent increase in room rates for the spring travel season, Wall said.

He estimates that without a reduction in head count, the hotel’s annual payroll costs would have increased $300,000. It still employs about 30 people for jobs Wall describes as more in-demand than ever.

“I just think unskilled workers are going to have a harder time finding jobs,” he said. “You’re going to have people from as far away as Bellevue or Tacoma wanting these jobs, and they’re going to come with skills and experience. For $15 an hour, they’ll go that extra distance.”


But, on the other hand:

Even management at the Cedarbrook Lodge, which had been a vocal opponent of the minimum-wage measure, went quiet after breaking ground in December on a project to add new rooms and a luxury day spa.

Cedarbrook general manager Scott Ostrander, a former co-chairman of the campaign against Proposition 1, said when announcing the expansion that it would generate additional revenue to help pay for higher wages.


One of the companies mentioned in the February article is a parking lot known as MasterPark.

The new surcharge of 50 cents a day at MasterPark in SeaTac is an attempt to recoup some costs of the $15 minimum wage, said managing partner Roger McCracken.

He said he also is considering cuts to MasterPark’s advertising budget, but he called layoffs “foolish” and rejected the notion that cashiers soon would be replaced by automation.

“Whatever we do, service is key,” he said. “We want an employee answering our phones, and anytime someone pulls into one of our lots, they’re greeted by a human being.

“That’s great news for our employees,” he added. “They’re pretty happy campers right now.”


Well, MasterPark is making the news again in June, because that 50 cent per day surcharge has increased.

Consumers are also picking up the tab, in the form of increased prices. Many SeaTac businesses have tacked on an additional fee to mitigate the increased cost of labor. On the receipt below, a $6.93 "living wage surchage" was added to a $84.00 parking charge....

Incidentally, the article above claims that "(m)any SeaTac businesses" have added additional fees, but the only evidence that's been presented is the MasterPark surcharge. Minimum wage opponents, your arguments would make more sense if "many" were greater than 1.

The surcharge works out to 99 cents a day, which is what MasterPark is currently advertising on its website.

MasterPark charges, taxes, and fees include a 'Living Wage' surcharge of 99 cents per day. This is due to the new $15 per hour minimum wage requirement for certain businesses in SeaTac. The surcharge covers a portion of the resulting increase in operating costs.

There's another thing that needs to be clarified - the living wage in and of itself does not necessarily REQUIRE that affected businesses raise their prices. After all, price SHOULD be set by the market, not by costs. If all of the other parking garages in SeaTac suddenly reduced their prices, for whatever reason, you can get that MasterPark would discontinue this surcharge in a second - or perhaps MasterPark would do the things that they said in February they wouldn't do, such as firing employees.

In essence, SeaTac's living wage is just another market condition. While some businesses are affected by frosts in Florida or war in the Middle East, SeaTac businesses are affected by government regulations.

And MasterPark, the Clarion Hotel, the Cedarbrook Lodge, and other SeaTac businesses have the freedom - within limits - to decide how to respond to these market conditions.