Saturday, August 29, 2015

Reflections On "Advice from 30 year old me to 20 year old me"

This morning’s glimmer from "Advice from 30 year old me to 20 year old me”:
"A few people will change your life forever. Find them."
Searching, seeking, a pilgrimage of personal growth. Finding such humans ensures you grow. Such people challenge you, driving you past your internal resistances.

However, I seek more; more than to simply absorb greatness from others. I seek to Be One Of These People. If one person grows from my presence: success! Afterwards, “the more the merrier”.

What, really do I benefit embodying the values of leeches and mosquitos? Sure, at a primal level, I gain. But, I also lose. Human relationship is transactional. One-sided benefit destroys relationship and eventually leaves one isolated, alone. Lost to the greedy, immature mind: synergization, gestalt. Collaboration creates things greater than by an individual. Things greater than can even be conceived by the one. A zen quality therein, methinks.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

My Ever Deepening Frustration With Apple

Those that know me well know that I'm an Apple guy. Well, that's waning. There are several key things that have caused me great consternation, as well as a few key sector swings that have impacted my opinion.

A biggie for me: Apple's reluctance to "play well" with others. One key example: the whole iCloud thing. Calendaring drives me crazy. Gmail, Outlook, Yahoo!, all these use the same calendaring protocol. If I send an invite, or receive one, from one of the other systems, it works fine in mine (currently Gmail). Updates come through, changes come cleanly. Apple, of course, needs to do things their way. So, when my wife sends a calendar invite from her iCloud account, I check to ensure sure it's in my calendar correctly. And if she sends an update, I need to manually update. This drives me nutty. This is rudimentary. Nobody exists within one network's system, and the inability to "play well" with something as basic as calendaring shows a deep disregard for customer needs.

Once, .Mac's email (the original incarnation of the current cloud tool) was on par with Yahoo!, Gmail et al. (And was free too. Alas!) Well, that's gone. The iCloud email interface is nearly identical to its first iteration and Apple has made minimal effort to update their UI. Clunky and ugly; ironic for an entity that makes a big deal about their design chops.

More critically, though, Apple's dead silence on dealing with system issues angers me. A few years back, my Macbook would drop its wifi signal randomly and repeatedly. The wifi fan would sit and spin. I found the Genius bar useless. Then I read tons of discussions in forums, including Apple's own. Nobody found a solution, and Apple corp's insights, replies, thoughts or even a simple acknowledgment were completely absent. Well, my solution was simple: boot it into Windows. I did have it set up with Boot Camp and Windows worked fine (hence how I knew it was an OS or driver/OS issue, even though the Geniuses insisted it was a wifi network issue. Yeah, the library and Cafe Ladro and Starbucks and the local community college all configured their wifi with the same error). I've come across several issues over the years where it was clear Apple had a system problem, but we never, EVER saw anything publically announced by the company. Well, with huge PR debacle situations, they'd say a little "we value your concern and are working diligently on it" non-answer. Basically, silence. Then (like with the wifi issue above) an update rolls out and fixes the problem. Apple's unwillingness to engage with even their fans is just plain dumb.

As someone who spent a significant portion of his career working on sustainability and social responsibility issues, their unwillingness to engage and publically addresses serious issues with their environmental and labor practices really disappointed me. Yes, eventually they caved in and started addressing these, but it took quite a bit of pressure and resolve to overcome the Cupertino silence. At least that was the perception based on their silence.

Last fall I took a web development course. The entire course was focused on the PC environment. My instructor needed to look for Mac based alternatives for each program they used and it was left to me to figure out how to make those equivalents work. Eventually I solved this problem the same as with the wifi issue: run Windows. But it was very telling, as the last dev class I took and all the design classes I took focused on Macs. There was pity and some condensention towards the Windows crowd. That's dead.

If my Macbook were to die today, it's likely successor would be some Windows variant. Justifying the Mac tax is hard enough given the comparative systems now. Add to that the issues I've had and it becomes very hard indeed to justify buying a Mac.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Cruel Words Upon A Summer's Evening

Yesterday evening, harsh words drifted through the summer air. Voices of two women, brutal in their battery, stunning in their cruelty, I wondered, "are these coming from mother and daughter?" Perhaps they're romantic rivals. There are a multitude of possible roots, and it's likely I'll never know the reality. And I'm not sure I want a deeper engagement. 
Yet the rage tinged brutality engaged thereby intrigued me, intellectually. Are the speakers aware of social corrosion taking over? Can they see the destruction brought about by their words? Do they care? And what does healing look like?
Ultimately, they're about being right, not about being effective. Damage was done, whether healed from or no. And we all lose when relationships corrode .

Thursday, August 20, 2015

A Point of Frustration

Working in Real Estate, I'm currently dealing with a distinctly frustrating lender issue. The other agent (we represent the sellers) has been great. Also, the lender's mortgage staff have been great and responsive. But we have an appraiser who the descriptor "slow" is a glorious understatement. So, a few points of frustration on this. One is obvious: everything is backed up due to the sluggish progress of one individual. However, the bigger point of aggravation comes from this appraiser's routine failure to produce documentation in a timely manner. Being on-time is the rarity, as confirmed a few discussions.

It's easy to be frustrated with the appraiser, however, that's not entirely fair. When routine incompetence isn't addressed, that's a management failure. I understand that banks and appraisers need to maintain an "arms-length" relationship. However, a documented pattern of failure shouldn't, well, can't be tolerated. It is terrible customer service, and reflects poorly on the whole institution to the other stakeholders.

It's bad enough to accept mediocrity. Accepting incompetence? No, don't do it. Don't!

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Thoughts on Civility and Public Discourse

Read "The man who drove us into our national ditch" this morning, by Michael Smerconish . Though focused upon a particular "shock-jock" (Morton Downey, Jr.), it touched on the whole spectrum of political rhetoric in the United States. And reminded me of recent thoughts about the current state of US public discourse. One of the points that Mr. Smerconish makes gave me deep pause: we are in uniquely extreme times in terms of political divide.

First, I'm reminded of the long-standing uncivil thread within our political conversations. Consider the Jefferson/Adams campaign of 1800 and the Jackson/Adams campaign of 1824, amongst others. Political rhetoric and person invective have been part of our public banter as long as we've been, well, us. Also look to the uncivil history of English politics to get further context at our roots.

Smerconish, though, points to research by the National Journal pointing to truly historical levels of division. I feel this too, but am not so sure I fully agree with the absolute quality of this statement. Well, at least when considered in full historical context. Let's not forget the Caning of Charles Sumner on the floor of the US Senate. As nasty as political speech has become, we haven't had any assaults in Congressional chambers lately. Ultimately, historically rhetorical venom ebbs and flows, currently flowing at the ugliest of levels.

History aside, our ugly rhetoric compromises our political effectiveness. Exacerbating this: our 24/7 election cycle. Continuous campaigns laden with brutal, and often personal, invective, create powerful challenges to coming back together. Our areas of consensus become forgotten. And our divided house fiddles in the face of the "burning Rome" issues we face. Sadly, this gets compounded by our tendency to resist action until facing deep crisis. But that's a post for another day.



Footnotes:
  1. Forbes ran this great historical look at American political rhetoric a few years ago. I still recommend it, even with autoplay ads.
  2. While pulling this together, I found this great site: Presidential Campaign Rhetoric. Well, it's great if you are interested in the history of political communications in the United States. Sadly, it's not been added to since 2014, but it stands nicely without newer content. 
  3. Thinking larger than the US, there's a whole Wikipedia page covering legislative violence. However, the US has some un-illustrious additions to the list.