Saturday, November 17, 2012

School pranks can have serious consequences

On Tuesday Nov. 13 CJ was taken to hospital in an ambulance after he suffered a neck injury due to a stupid school prank. Thankfully, X-rays showed it was only whiplash.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Parking like an idiot

I don't know why some people insist on blocking access to fire hydrants. If a building was on fire, I think keeping fire crews from doing their jobs would qualify you as a selfish, inconsiderate jerk.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Fool Me Twice, Shame On Me

A lot has been written and said about the Apple-Samsung trial, in which Apple accused Samsung of copying certain features of Apple products, specifically the iPhone and iPad. Some people cry foul and point out that Apple does not have a monopoly on black rectangles with rounded corners. Well, of course it doesn't. This trial isn't just about industrial design, or software "look and feel"—although to the casual observer it may seem to be primarily about these surface details.

This trial is about memory—bad, in Apple's case. Two (of several) possible interpretations:

Claim 1: Apple seems to have a bad memory because it keeps repeating past mistakes, such as refusing to license its technology and losing market share as competitors produce lower-priced alternatives, forcing Apple to resort to (unjust) litigation to protect its margins.

Claim 2: Apple has bad memories of being screwed over, and wants to set things aright. In short, it's payback time. Now that it has more money than some national governments, it can afford to sic its legal team on just about anyone who crosses it. In short: "thermonuclear war" on its frenemies.

Both No. 1 and No. 2 seem plausible, and neither exactly paints a flattering picture (i.e. Apple as sore loser to Samsung, Apple as bully). But on closer examination, No. 2 has more merit, and Apple even looks for all the world like a legitimately aggrieved victim, despite its current financial success. Why?

Contrary to popular perception, Apple did not steal its ideas from Xerox, but in fact Apple has had its intellectual property stolen before—and, in at least one case, by a trusted partner.

So...when you've been stabbed in the back, not once, not twice, but multiple times, and undergone a near-death experience, wouldn't that make you...a bit sensitive to betrayal?

As I write this, the trial is still underway. Regardless of the outcome, may the truth always prevail.

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Ordination 2012

Ordination 2012, a set on Flickr.
At 7PM on Friday, June 22, 2012, four young men were ordained as priests in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Calgary. The assembled congregation filled St. Mary's Cathedral almost to bursting, it was standing room only.

Saturday, June 09, 2012

Be Brief, Simple, and Clear: Is It So Hard?

Why is business writing so awful?

Original corporate memo:

We would like to personally thank all who took the time and effort to participate in the Regional Engagement Survey conducted in April. We are very appreciative of your level of participation (64% of you responded) and we are pleased with the feedback we received.

As a company, our level of engagement was rated very near the top quartile when compared to other companies within the survey database. As is always the case, we need to strive for continuous improvement and learn from the areas of opportunity that were identified.

The feedback provided by you has given us some great insights into what is important to you and how we as a leadership team are doing.

We did extremely well in the areas of client focus, safety and sharing our knowledge with one another. This does not mean that we can let up in these areas as these items continue to be important and valued.

Based upon the survey results, we need to improve in the areas of cross-business cooperation, retention of talent and communicating the actions that we take as a result of the survey.

Each of our operations will be conducting debrief sessions where specific survey results relevant to your area will be communicated.  As the survey results vary from operation to operation, specific action plans will be developed and implemented by each operation in conjunction with staff.

Thanks again for your support and feedback.

What it meant to say:

Thank you for completing the April Engagement Survey—64% of you responded, a level near the top quartile compared to other firms in the survey database. 
You gave us insight into what you value and how we’re doing as a leadership team. We did well in client focus, safety, and knowledge sharing, but we can’t be complacent. We need better cross-business cooperation, talent retention, and organizational communication. 
Expect debrief sessions on specific survey results, which vary by operation and will need action plans tailored for each.
Again, thanks for your feedback.
92 words vs. 238 in the original—a 61% reduction.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Almost Like New, Again

The front edge of the right palm rest on my 4-year old MacBook started to chip again, exposing a gap in the case through which dust could enter. Once again, the Apple Store replaced the entire top plate, including keyboard and trackpad, at no charge. This time they did it in under two hours despite the store being very busy. This, for a computer I had bought refurbished online, that was three years out of warranty. I'm very impressed.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Monday, January 23, 2012

The Fate of the US, Canada...and China?

US poverty map
I'd skimmed the New York Times article on the disappearing American middle class, but I didn't go back and read it carefully until I came across this summary:
Apple doesn't build iPhones in the United States, in other words, because there is no longer an ecosystem here to support that manufacturing. There's no supply chain, there aren't enough super-low-cost workers, and there are not enough mid-level engineers.  And many Americans looking for work are still hoping for a return to jobs, salaries, and lifestyles that have simply disappeared.
Uh oh. This might help to explain this Sunday's ominous statement from the Bank of Canada's Mark Carney:
It’s going to take a number of years before they get back to the U.S. that we used to know — in fact, they are not, in our opinion, ultimately going to get back to the U.S. that we used to know,” he said.
Hold that thought.

It reminded me of something unsettling I read a while back—a pensive piece authored by former Intel chairman Andy Grove:
I fled Hungary as a young man in 1956 to come to the U.S. Growing up in the Soviet bloc, I witnessed first-hand the perils of both government overreach and a stratified population. Most Americans probably aren't aware that there was a time in this country when tanks and cavalry were massed on Pennsylvania Avenue to chase away the unemployed. It was 1932; thousands of jobless veterans were demonstrating outside the White House. Soldiers with fixed bayonets and live ammunition moved in on them, and herded them away from the White House. In America! Unemployment is corrosive.
As I reflect on Carney's unsettling comment from yesterday, I worry about the future of the American middle class, not least because their well-being is intertwined with Canada's.

Sure, some U.S. real estate is becoming more affordable for well-off Canadians, but do the long-suffering citizens of Vancouver, BC really want to move to a country where the water in several large metro areas may already be running out?

And what about our erstwhile trading partner China, with its dangerously skewed demographic profileIs it Canada's turn next?

At a Chinese New Year's banquet I attended last night, one of my dinner companions remarked that "something feels awfully off-balance in the world today."


Tuesday, January 10, 2012