Category Archives: Business

Here Comes Your 19th PC Breakdown…

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back when we were held hostage to comcast for our cable tv, the service when out pretty regularly and one of the explanations was that the outage was due to sun spots. no lie. sun spots. i have since read that sun spots actually can disrupt electrical fields and could pose a problem to our devices, which in no way absolves comcast and rather just proves that they will pluck any story out of the news to explain their shitty service. btw, we have long since moved to fios and our service almost never goes out and i’m pretty sure there are still sun spots.

i bring this us because i’m searching for an explanation as to why my laptop suddenly went berserk to the tune of a couple hundred bucks and about five other people had the same thing happen to them around the same time and finally because i walked into work on monday to find the blue screen of death on my work pc.

now nasa is saying that we’re actually in a period of time when there are fewer sunspots which would lead me to search for another explanation as to why it seems that many of the computers around me are suddenly attempting suicide, or in the case of my pc at work, actually succeeding at suicide.

i guess suicide is a dramatic term for my work pc since only the hard drive failed. given that i work for three independent businesses who are all in investment and insurance, and run the overall office for yet another insurance and investment business, having a dead computer means i can’t do a single thing. and other people cannot scan/email anything because my computer acted as the server.

it also means that i’m the tech department. i have a tech resource that i can call to do some things, but not purchase and install a new computer.

so off to microcenter to pick up a new computer. now, my tech friends are wondering why i don’t just pop in a new drive instead of buying a new computer and to them i say, “you could volunteer to come out an pop in a new drive for me” but i’m going to take advantage of the situation and buy myself a computer i really want to replace the five year old one i had.

i did not purchase the last computer and i would not have purchased it because it was not robust enough to be used in an office environment but the person who purchased it didn’t bother to ask me for my input. the person who bought my last computer is constantly crashing his by clicking on all kinds of links that install malware, etc. on his machine and also still doesn’t know how to attach a document to an email.
over the years i have purchased and installed a fair number of computers at various businesses, but these days the process involves nowhere near the kind of agony it used to. of course i say that because i use a cloud based backup service and enterprise software and connect to a server through microsoft exchange. the tricky part is networking to the shared copier/fax/scanner, which i didn’t even attempt and instead called the it dept. at the company from where we leased the machine. trust me, it’s a damn tricky process that involves an on-line interface for which i don’t even have a login.

i now believe in planned obsolescence of these devices. isn’t it interesting that just about the time that there’s a new operating system coming out you start to see all kinds of failures on machines? alright, so “about the time” is a relative term since we’re talking about windows 10 and no one knows when that’s really going to come out, but still. oh, and don’t send me any of your cult comments about the almighty apple because the fact is that those machines are waaaaay to expensive and don’t play nice with the software and enterprise systems necessary to conduct our business.

personally, it’s not too far-fetched to believe that a windows update did something to fry a bunch of machines and a welcome side effect of that was a spike in new purchases. so i got my new smokin’ fast computer at work and all updated software, which makes up for the small agony of installing a new machine.

now if i can just get through the next few months without the other three office computers failing. trust me, installing a new computer for the guys i work for – that is people who stand over your shoulder and second guess or try to control or change every step of the installation when they haven’t a clue as to how the damn thing works — is an agony not even comcast could match.

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Filed under Business, computers, work

Whiners, Bullies and First World Problems

louis ck has some brilliant standup making fun the culture of whining, which seems to be a mainstay of our modern world. at one point he talks about how people constantly whine and complain about their phones and he points out that just a scant few years ago we didn’t have the privilege of walking around with the very same “phones” or mini computers about which we all now complain. scathingly to the point.

i thought about louis ck’s routine as i read marc vetri’s tirade about food journalism.

marc vetri really has a problem with perspective here.

for those of you not familiar with vetri, he’s a 2005 james beard award winner for “best chef mid-atlantic”, named one of food and wine magazine’s “ten best new chefs”, owner of multiple restaurants in the philadelphia area, food blogger and prolific foodie on twitter, instagram and every other social media platform. he’s also very involved in the philadelphia schools and community.
i’ve only been to one of his restaurants and the food was delicious, the service excellent (except for the requisite snooty sommelier) and the bill substantial. c and i have long wanted to go to his flagship restaurant, vetri, but that would involve almost a mortgage payment. i’m not kidding (speaking as someone whose mortgage payment reflects a house purchased in 1989). vetri has a prix fixe tasting menu that costs $155 per person. yep, $155 per person. you can add wine pairings for $90 which will buy you 1.5 glasses of wine or you can purchase a bottle, which could run you about the same or substantially more. so you spend $310 for the food, say another $100 for the wine, $90 or so for tip and another $30 for parking or $60 for uber ride.

clearly, if you’re charging that kind of dough for a meal, the meal had better be every superlative anyone can think of (and maybe even then some). understandably, vetri he wants fine dining to have a different rating scale than other dining and he wants the food writer and reader to be as invested in all of his magnificence as he is.

not surprisingly, food writers piled on in retaliation against vetri and yet another food fight began.

at the end of the day, though, this is whole lot of whining and fighting over a simple necessity (food and nourishment) that has been turned into not just a first world problem, but a first world problem for the fraction of a percent who would be able to luxuriate in vetri’s bastion of fine dining.

while vetri spends his time whining about how food journalism is as stale as day old bread, i wonder how much of the world’s hungry belly would gladly accept that day old bread.

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Filed under Business, Food

Which America?

The US economy is back! Well, maybe. The stock market is surging, though that’s not really a good sign of an altogether healthy economy.

Since I work in the financial sector, what I see is mostly anecdotal evidence that the economy is working well… for some.

High net-worth individuals are walking into our office with five and six digit bonuses, clients who are trust fund baby report that they’re jetting off to the far ends of the earth with their every increasing yields and our everyday investors are calling and expecting their returns to be double digits. The corporations they work for (or own) are sitting on piles of cash and just about everyone is upsizing their home or buying a second one.

There’s more evidence in the local news.

A couple of stay-at-home moms recently started a small business called I Hate Camp Laundry , which does pretty much what you guess it does – picks up and cleans your kid’s camp laundry so you don’t have to do it when they get home. Their tagline is: “For just about 1% of the cost of camp, all your cleaning is done!” That 1% equals $169, so you can do the math from there.

I also just read a review of a new restaurant in Philadelphia that seems to indicate a return to the “roaring” economy of the past. Not only do you have to buy “tickets” to the restaurant in advance, once there you are in for 15 courses and four hours of your time, all of which can be had for about $250 per person. And prices are going up this fall. (Interesting aside: the space where the restaurant is located was partially funded with public (state) funds). Some of us are doing well enough to consider, in the words of reviewer Craig LeBan, “… a mortgage payment” on a single dinner for two but how many of us?

Hopefully we’re all benefitting from the first America, but let’s not forget about the other America.

There is still an increasing need for food banks in the area and kids who participate in the school lunch program during the school year sometimes go hungry over the summer.

More people might be employed now that at the height of The Great Recession, but they’re working at lower paying jobs. There’s a persistent notion that raising wages will tank a fragile economy in spite of evidence to the contrary.

So government policies protecting the wealthy and corporate profits have worked and the model of floating monies to the top in the hope that it will trickle down hasn’t worked.

There’s increasing evidence of two Americas. I’m not as militant as Randy Moas

But I think that Nick Hanauer might have a point.

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Filed under Business, Charity, civil rights, economy, patriotism, politics, Vote, Wealth

The New Thinking Pledge

In this the season of thankfulness and giving, I got to thinking about wealth. Or, more accurately the relationship between the wealthy and their wealth and the greater society and whether that relationship has changed. There’s been a lot of press lately about how the rich in the U.S. are getting richer while the middle class is staying stagnant or going backward.

At the same time, the distain for those not wealthy has grown and I can’t really figure out why that is. There’s been a lot of scholarly studying of these new billionaires and the conclusion seems to be that the age of greed is spectacularly upon us. Listen, if your goal is to be wealthy and you work for it, kudos to you. It’s the distain of everyone else part that I’m not getting.

On the flip side, the wealthy give billions to support various charities that benefit us all and there’s a movement being led by Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffet to get billionaires to pledge to give away half of their fortunes. Take a look at this list and you may be surprised. So maybe we should just lay off the wealthy.

I actually looked up many of the people on this list to find out how they made their money. We’re all familiar with the tech billionaires (Gates, Zuckerberg, Allen, Moore, Dell etc.) and maybe some of the financial guys (Soros, Icahn, Simons, Arnold, Robertson). I was enlightened to learn about Eli & Edythe Broad who started KB Home, makers of affordable housing; Chuck Feeney, founder of Duty Free Shopping; Hansjorg Wyss, maker of medical devices and J. Wayne & Dolores Weaver of 9 West Shoes. We’re probably familiar already with the Koch brothers and Sheldon Adelson, although maybe not so familiar with their broad based support of charities.

Still, there’s something about this relationship between wealthy and charity and society that bugs me. A lot of people give to charity, in fact, everyone I know gives to some charity and even volunteers for charities. Difference is, we don’t receive accolades and I would venture to say that none of us are actually even looking for them.

Peter Buffett (yes, that Buffett) wrote this editorial that probably summed it up best.

I wonder how much of each of these people’s fortunes would have been reduced if more of the workers in their companies were paid a decent wage. When one of the largest employers in the U.S. has a food drive for their own workers, maybe there’s a problem here.

If they can afford to give away billions now, would they have noticed a fraction of those billions had they been paid to workers? Here’s why it matters.

There was a 60 Minutes report recently about The Giving Pledge, Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett’s and while the people who agreed to be interviewed were passionate and articulate, I couldn’t help but think back to Peter Buffett’s assessment.

I was particularly bothered by one South African mining magnate, Patrice Motsepe. The only black mining owner, his is an impressive rise and he is truly a self-made man and now his charity is to be admired. Still, I wonder if there is a better way than continuing to make great wealth while paying notoriously low wages for awful work in awful working conditions just to give great gobs of it away later to charities that maybe people wouldn’t even need if they had access to a better education and made better money.

Too simplistic? Afterall, you can’t just upset the balance of business and wages and change how things works and… or can you?

As part of the 60 Minutes piece there was a general acknowledgement that wealthy entrepreneurs got that way for thinking outside the box. Well, maybe changing the playing field so that more people have the ability to have their work pay off and help them get ahead and as a result fewer charities and less charitable giving is even necessary is one way to think outside the box.

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Filed under Business, Charity, Wealth

The Beige Book

pssssst! want some inside information on the economy? want to get a leg up on the competition in anticipating how you should be spending and saving your money? i know where to get a copy of the beige book.

never heard of it? me neither.

in the middle of the all the information coming out about nsa accessing private individual’s private records and the argument for intelligence and data gathering as a necessity of analytics, comes a story on npr yesterday about the beige book.

as one economist quoted in the story describes it, the beige book is an “ask your uncle” way of finding out what’s going on in the economy. a bunch of economists at the federal reserve get on the phone and call different types of businesses around the country and ask, “how’s business?” then they take the narrative and compile it into a series of anecdotes that paint a picture of business around the country.

i don’t know about you, but i always thought of steven levitt the economist who teamed up with writer stephen j. dubner to create the franchise of freakonomics as super smart guys. these guys boiled down number crunching to anecdotal tales that made the information interesting and palatable. if you’ve ever read the books, you’ll know that some of the conclusions are also a little bizarre.

turns out we taxpayers fund the same thing over at the federal reserve and it’s ours free to download 8 times a year. there’s some analysis at the beginning of the beige book, but the interesting stuff is in the district reports. as the npr story points out, “…much of the value in the beige book lies in all the weird, anecdotal details. richard fisher, president of the dallas fed, told us that beer sales at convenience stores, combined with reports from beer distributors, were one early sign of a slowdown in the homebuilding market before the crash.” because construction workers buy cold beer to enjoy at the end of a hard day. less building = fewer workers = less beer buying.

reading the beige book is kind of like reading the old farmer’s almanac that we still get every year. maybe it’s not as accurate as all the sophisticated computer models, but it’s a heck of a lot more fun to read.

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Not so fast, partner

quick, what century is it? you sure about that? in the same week that marriage equality was a hot topic of conversation, a story bubbled up in the philadelphia inquirer about a different kind of marriage equality. the topic: denise scott brown.

don’t know who she is? i didn’t either until this article appeared. she’s an architect who, along with her husband and business partner, designed projects together, wrote several “paradigm-shifting books” together and taught classes together. but when it came time to be honored for their work with the most coveted prize in architecture, a pritzker award, it went only to robert venturi, the man of the partnership. venturi accepted the honor but, to venturi’s credit, when only he was offered an award from the american institute of architects (aia), he turned it down because it didn’t include his partner.

okay, so that happened in 1991, surely things have changed since then. not so fast. this year the pritzker was awarded to wang shu, without mention of his partner and collaborator, lu wenyu. lu wenyu happens to be wang shu’s wife. this is 22 years after denise scott brown got ignored.

it’s interesting this use of the word “partner” here. these couples really embraced the meaning of partnership in every respect and yet the world around them saw only a narrow view of that partnership for only the women involved. consider how that could not happen today with same sex couples if only because same sex marriage is not recognized. but if it were, ponder whether the idea of partnership would be different. maybe it would be different only for females in same sex partnerships? why are there some things that still stubbornly refuse to be changed?

so sure, there have probably been countless women who entered the architecture field because of brown and half of all architecture students are female, and i’m sure she’s pleased and proud of being inspirational. but, like every other professional, she wants to be recognized for her professional achievements and continues to be “very sad” about this slight.

surely now that we are 13 year into the 21st century it’s time to be finished with the 19th.

you have chance to weigh in on this by signing the petition titled, “the pritzker architecture prize committee: recognize denise scott brown for her work in robert venturi’s 1991 prize”.

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Filed under Business, women

when all else fails, scream slut!

the american public saw an important example of the rules of public discourse recently, namely that there are ways to get your point across:

1.     make a measured and intelligent argument

2.     reframe the argument

3.     scream slut 

nothing is more effective than name calling.  and if you’re a man up against a topic that involves women where women are speaking out for their own best interests, revert to the most base kind of name calling.  

i felt like i was back in high school last week.  not just because of the immature and prurient attitudes surrounding the topic of women’s healthcare (yes, healthcare.  yep, discussing control of our ‘lady parts’ with our doctor is something we need), but because the kind of talk i was hearing harkened back to the early 1970s when i was in high school.  (of course even the 1970s were nothing compared to earlier eras)  few people thought anything of the kind of attitudes and insults that were a part of everyday life for women not that long ago.   

every woman i know remembers facing this kind of gutter talk, often in retaliation for being smarter, more reasonable or more accomplished than a fellow student or co-worker. to watch it play out on a national stage over forty years later is shocking, unbelievable, frustrating and sad.  the fact that those in political prominence, who court the good graces of a drug addled radio bully, don’t speak out against the base insults he screams, speaks volumes.    

i’m speechless to witness how some here would invite the kind of religious fervor at the same time that our soldiers are dying in nations where the freedoms of citizens (especially women) are severely limited by religious fervor.   

i have mentioned to C many times over the past decade how it seemed that younger women don’t quite understand how playing into certain kinds of chauvinistic attitudes harms themselves.  it’s also been clear that many young women are too far distanced from the days when their futures were severely limited by the fact of their gender to understand that kind of prejudice continues (albeit to a lesser degree thanks to the power of law) today.  

there’s a successful radio show on during morning drive in the philadelphia market whose focus is essentially ‘let the frat party live on’.  (full disclosure: i listen to the show sometimes because the stuff on there that’s hilarious is when they make themselves the butt of the joke)  it’s bothersome enough to listen to them celebrate so called gentleman clubs, strippers, porn and the like, (this from fathers of little daughters) even more disturbing to hear women clamor to join in on trips to these same clubs for  lap dances from the women who work there.  i guess being one of the guys is always cool (even if you’re not a guy).   

C is fond of telling a story about our trip to universal studios.  they were requesting volunteers from the audience to get strapped into a harness and ‘fly’ in front of a blue screen.  the caveat to being a volunteer was that english had to be your native language.  the reason?  when people are in a panic situation they revert back to their native self.   

the language of the drug addled radio host (not name calling, just using descriptive language) showed his true self.   

but then, you knew that already.  

my hope is that younger women (and men) with take note of this moment and refuse to continue the wholesale dismissal of others by the swipe of vile name calling.   

oh, and that they put enough pressure on sponsors so that there is no funding for loudmouth drug addled radio hosts.  (not likely, but a girl can dream)

 

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Filed under Business, Fall, religion, scandal