One of the quirks of modern life is how the electronic information revolution has increased our appetite for paper rather then reduced it. I see it where I work, as the appetite for "hardcopy" remains unsatiated, while our ability to generate ever increasing numbers of ever more elegant graphs, charts, and documents soars. I also see but fail to understand people who routinely print out their email. At the printer you can always find copies of email. On a system that allows you to save and organize email electronically, this makes no sense. The only possible reason is that some people just have to hold a piece of paper in their hands when they read. I suppose I should embrace this diversity, but I can't help but feel that in some way such people are challanged (I know, look who's talking, since I'm one of those people who works all day looking at a computer screen and then goes home and looks at a screen some more for fun). I'll start suggesting to people that they hold the same blank piece of paper while they read their email (and anything else for that matter) off their screen and see the reaction. I think I'll try it out on co-workers before I move on to bosses (the worst offenders) though.
In a widely expected move today, Judge Jackson ordered that Microsoft be split in two. The only suspense after his previous rulings was whether or not he would split the company in two or three parts.
To recap for those of you who don't pay attention to these things, years ago the Justice Department investigated Microsoft, and after finding questionable business practices -- the most notorious of which was the OS tax Microsoft collect: for every computer a DOS/Windows licencee sold, they paid MS on the order of 100 dollars, whether DOS was installed or not -- MS signed a consent decree which limited certain business practices, including the "tax". A few years ago, after complaints from MS competitors, the Justice Department reinvestigated and decided that MS had violated the consent decree. MS denied it. The matter went to court. After lengthy delays (well, lengthy to an average person, perhaps a lawyer would think it was "speedy"), there was lots of testimony. MS denied everything. The problem for MS was that their own email contradicted their testimony, and essentially every one of their witnesses was caught telling less than the truth. You might be able to get away with that in front of a jury, but you can't pull that in front of a judge - they don't care to be disrespected in court. After months of pondering the testimony, Judge Jackson found as a matter of fact that MS was indeed a monopoly that had used monopoly power to reduce competition. He then directed the parties to try to settle and appointed a mediator. Despite the judge's finding of fact (in legal terms a gun to their head) and a friendly mediator, MS decided to find out if Judge Jackson would really pull the trigger.
They got their answer when after the initial Justice filing during the penalty phase Judge Jackson asked them why they hadn't asked to break MS into three companies instead of two (and no, Justice did not reply "because a shotgun only has two barrels"). After a flurry of filings and responses, he ruled today that MS should be broken in two because they had violated their earlier consent decree, admitted no guilt now and could not be trusted to follow a future consent decree. If you think the fat lady has sung, guess again. We are only half over in this saga, which I predict will ultimately reach the Supreme Court. I think that unless MS changes tactics, they'll lose there too because Supreme Court justices also don't like to be disrespected. If you think MS got a raw deal, consider this: many of the other major players in computers like Intel, Sun, and Cisco have been investigated for anti-trust violations. The difference is that they all cooperated, and in some cases fessed up to dirty deeds, promised not to do them again, and kept their promise. If Bill Gates understood what has happened, he wouldn't run laughable ads about how MS is a big innovator (Al "internet" Gore must have written them), but instead acknowledge that MS has met the enemy, and the enemy is MS.
But before we go on, let me step back and explain a few things. First off, the internet itself (or you could say the TCP/IP protocol) as well as the web (HTTP) is built on trust. And by that I mean that these protocols trust people to do the right thing. Security is pretty much a later bolt on that works to varying degrees of success. And given that some companies' products (Microsoft most notably) suffer from that same trusting philosophy, probably because they were all written by well meaning engineers, who, as collaborators against nature, trust other engineers implicitly, the web is not really secure. Maybe when TCP/IP 2 and HTTP 2 are implemented with input from sales and marketing, security will be designed in from the ground up.
In my continuing efforts to demonstrate just how out of touch I am with current fashions of all sorts (in fact, I was going to entitle this section Fashion Surprise but ceased and desisted when E! sent me a notice that I was infringing on their trademark for Fashion Emergency with Emmy, World's Largest Good Looking WomanTM), I offer this latest tidbit. My wife (World's Best Looking Woman I Ever MarriedTM) and I belong to the Columbia House CD club, which is unlike any other merchandise club I've ever belonged to because they don't send me postcards every few weeks hoping I won't check Decline All and mail back before the deadline, but instead they send catalogues with such titles as Order One, Get Second CD Free, which I find personally irresistible (I've had to stop eating at all you can eat places since I have a strong impulse to get my money's worth, even if doing so makes me sick and miserable). So naturally when I'm sent a great money saving offer I just have to avail myself of it, even if I don't really need or want another CD, and that's how I bought the Duran Duran Greatest Hits CD. I wanted it for a single song - Ordinary World, which I first thought Cheap Trick (aka Two Pretty Boys and a Nerd) did, but after buying their Greatest Hits CD, I discovered the error of my ways. So anyway, the point of all this (wow, there really is a point!) is that while 15 years ago when Duran Duran was hot I wouldn't have been caught dead listening to them, now the more I listen to the CD on my headphones at work, the more I like it. I'm looking forward to the day, about five years hence, when at last instead of considering grunge rock just a bunch of whiny boys, I'll enjoy the immense bathos and sentiment embodied in the delicate melodies. Well, more like bracing myself for that day anyway.
I'm going to hit you with a bunch of stuff. First, when did the washerwoman look catch on? You know, where women wear bandanas tied around their hair and across the forhead, with the point hanging down in the back? I've always associated that look with charwomen working away, but now it's trendy. I first noticed it last year when we were down in Gulf Shores - our adjacent condo mates left one day, and the next morning a car pulls up with three young women with the bandanas in the hair, and I'm thinking for sure its the cleaning crew getting the place ready for the next paying customer. So did my wife. Imagine our surprise when soon thereafter a young boy and his parents followed them up the steps and into the condo, and all shortly thereafter they all came out in their bathing suits and joined us at the pool. Now its all the rage here, and considered stylish. I guess I'll wait for my painting bibs with matching hat to come into fashion. Now that we office workers dress down for work, has (real) work attire become chic?
On a happier note, let me recommend the video of Joseph and His Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. I was surprised - it's a fun romp with catchy music. So catchy, in fact, that "I close my eyes, draw back the curtain, to see for certain ..." is going through my head right now (and probably still when you read this). My mind has been invaded by the music, and the songs go through my head all day. So I'm kind of hoping that if you get the video, the songs will leave my head and take up residence in yours (it's sooo much nicer there!). We taped it off of PBS - and they didn't even do that annoying logo trick. We then bought the CD of the original production from '82, but it isn't near as good, so my wife recorded the video version on cassette tape, and I'd better stop now before the copyright police come and take me away.
And to wrap it all up (whew, I thought he'd never shut up!), we managed to snag The Phantom Menace the first day it went on sale -- that's Star Wars I to the uninitiated. In some ways, it's better at home than the theater. Okay, we have a 35" TV with stereo surround sound, so we're not giving up much there, and when you watch it at home several times, you pay less attention to all the plot holes and inconsistancies with the first, er, last, er, other Star Wars movies, not to mention you pay less period. Given how formulaic it is, I wonder why more movies like it aren't made. When you consider all the great science fiction stories out there, why do we have to put up with The Fifth Element? I guess Hollywood is too busy congratulating themselves on how important they are while they make mostly drivel. Oops, drivel "with an edge." I don't want an edge, I want quality. Call me old fashioned, just don't call me late for the popcorn.
I work for a large corporation. A very large corporation. So large, in fact, that not only do we workers feel that our jobs don't effect the big picture in the slightest, but the big bosses act in such away that seems to indicate that they too don't think what they do effects the big picture. The corporation just settled a couple of discrimination suits recently (both sex and race) and lo and behold a black woman is appointed to a position of some importance, and her picture is splashed all over the building announcing her appointment. I have nothing against her (nobody gives themselves a promotion), but the message is as obvious as three day old fish. But a funny thing happened when I saw her picture a second time - it is clear she is a nerd, and let me hasten to add, a fellow nerd. The glasses, the facial expression, the clothes, everything just says "nerd". But that's fine with me, in fact I'm down right happy because it means that they've appointed someone just like me, more like me than any superficial gender or race matching could ever achieve. We are siblings of the mind, a more important connection than any other.
You might have thought the Microsoft trial was almost over a couple of months ago. Hah. We're not even half over. I forgive you for losing track since this long, drawn out affair has been pushed out of the national conciousness by a combination of political reporting on the Presidential primaries and the never ending saga of "Who wants to marry a millionaire." In the meantime, Microsoft has announced a game console, The Big X, in an industry that historically has only supported two major players and currently has three. And let's not forget that Bill Gates stepped down as CEO to become "Chief Software Architect, while remaining Chairman of the Board, thus becoming his replacement CEO's (Steve Ballmer) boss and subordinate. You can do wild and wacky stuff when you're a monopoly.
Will Microsoft get broken up? Certainly not by choice, so don't look for any negotiated settlements. Instead, look for delay, delay, delay. If there is one thing American jurisprudence is good at, it's delay. And why not? The lawyers get paid more the longer the suit drags on.
If you believe in the cycle theroy of history, you'll agree with my prediction that in a few years TV will be overrrun with musical comedy variety shows. Updated with stereo music and computer generated wizbangs, but just as the sixties followed the fifties, variety hours follow game shows. Instead of Carol Burnett, we will have Chris Rock taking questions for the audience and ad libbing humor. I take no joy in this, but I just want you to be ready when it comes.
I've noticed (finally!) that goatees are coming back. Not by themselves mind you, but in combination with the fu manchu mustache. I don't know what the combination is called, but I'm sure if I watch E! long enough, I'll find out. Mark McGuire may not be single handedly responsible for it, but he certainly gave the look a big boost when he whalloped his seventy home runs while wearing it. I've always found the look somewhat menacing, but not in a professional way. I associate professional menace with clean-shaven guys named Guido wearing a nice suit. I associate freelance menace with goateed/fu-manchued guys wearing bowling shirts who take a dislike to your face and feel the need to rearrange it to a more esthetically pleasing shape -- typically much puffier with shades of black and blue. But this look is catching on with doctors, lawyers, accountants, in other words with the professionally menacing guys again.
Let's talk Superbowl. By now the excitement of the game has worn off a little, so I can be slightly coherent. This was an atypical Superbowl, since the game was exciting, and the ads were lousy. OK, not all of them, I did like the "Herding Cats" (which I often say when trying to get my two children to do something) and the "Money Coming Out The Wazoo" ads. But some of them were creepy, like the one one where the guy chases down a cheetah and pulls a soda out of its belly, some were predictable, like "Rex's Saddest Day", and most were just downright stupid.
The game, however, had a cliffhanger ending that kept this Rams fan (hey, I live in St. Louis) on the edge of his seat and reminded everyone just why I don't watch games that have a team I'm rooting for in public. People would get tired of my constant yelling at the TV -- the refs, the coaches, the players, and the announcers just can't get by without my constant correction and direction. After watching just one game last seasonwith me, my son would say "Where's the flag?" after every play.
I'm sure that by now you're familiar with the Kurt Warner story, so I'm only going to bring it up to make a point about personnel policy that I haven't heard yet - possibly the only angle on the story I haven't heard. Since Warner didn't play for a big name school, didn't set the college world on fire, wasn't drafted, nobody expected anything of him and so didn't notice what he could do. And when you compare him to a couple of players the Rams drafted as first round picks (namely Tony Banks and Lawrence Phillips) who never amounted to much but who were given chances galore, you understand how important both expectations and the investment of personal prestige are. This doesn't just apply to football, but wherever personnel decisions are made. If people don't expect much from you, they just won't notice what you can do. And once someone has invested some of their personal prestige in a personnel decision (well, almost any kind really), they'll stick with it long after its clear to every other observer that they made the wrong decision.
Thank you sir, and could I have another please?
Take me back to The Murphy NexusTM, please. I've had enough of this.
This page last updated 14 June 2000.
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