Archive for the ‘Life Lessons’ Category

Who’s “One laptop per child” really for?

Tuesday, September 18th, 2007

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I am at such a crossroads on this subject. If you haven’t been in the know on this, for a year or more now it’s really been a big thing to create an affordable laptop for use by children in Africa or impoverished Asian country. The laptop is supposed to be $100 (that’s why you may also hear of it as the $100 laptop). Here’s my dilemma. I’m of African decent so I’m treading very carefully there. Also, my wife is a special education teacher and I started out teaching children computers.

Here’s the beef. Who are these laptops for… Really? The reason being this world isn’t that generous. I can guarantee you that the second these pan out that you’ll see quite a few of them at Starbucks. That’s the only reason for everybody is so concerned with it. Of course there are going to be pictures of a couple of kids in Africa that have no power or lights at home but will be smiling and using the laptop.

What’s the point in that? Why are we trying to fool ourselves? A computer is a tool. Please, don’t see it more than this. If you gave me a tractor today it would be utterly useless to me. If they started the one tractor per man project I’d think, “Wow, that’s great, but I could have just used a lawn mower for my lawn.” It’s the same here. I don’t want to deprive their growth but why not just have learning centers where they have desktops? The reason is we are not as altruistic as we want to seem. I can guarantee that fifty times more of these laptops will end up in modern suburban homes of people that could afford to pay more but are saving money. We don’t like to pay for anything. I know I don’t.

So if for one second you believe that we’re trying to help out all those kids (especially BOYS that can’t get into the Oprah Winfrey Girls learning center that is totally sexist), you’ve been deceived. The laptops that aren’t funneled into the corrupt local governments of these countries will be in the cities.

The good thing is, the laptops run Linux. You don’t really need to hack them that much to make them totally usable with everything. Just a little bit of know how.

Sorry for the rant it’s just been in the news and bugging me. How could we possibly believe that a group of people that don’t have much food, water, or power could be thinking or want the chic factor of a laptop.

Things computers can’t do

Saturday, September 15th, 2007

Here’s a great post I found on Digg. It totally backs up a previous blog I wrote about “Live free or die hard.” (Don’t fear world, it’s just a movie)

It’s called 5 Things Hollywood thinks computers can do.

Emotionally drained tech guy

Monday, September 3rd, 2007

It’s good to be me but sometimes it’s just really really hard. I love what I do. I do consulting work for companies. I usually go in, make everything work well, and leave. The problem with this is going through recruiters. Don’t get me wrong, I like the recruiters I work with or I just don’t work with them anymore. However, they get you interviews and you have to end up selling yourself to people over and over again. That really sucks.

I’ve never been one to really focus on myself so it’s hard to make people believe they should go with you on this project. I do understand their side though. If you just went by resumes, some people would be ruler of the world for a day. However, I’m the kind of guy that just likes to get things done. That I do well no matter what you put in front of me.

With a son in college, a wife getting her masters, and three other kids that need food in their mouths it’s easy. You do what you have to do.

When are you good enough?

Thursday, August 16th, 2007

To live is to learn. This old saying has bounced around in my mind since childhood but has never held more true now. I periodically go through stages which I call my learning stages. What this is is a time when I just have to read, listen to, and watch as much information as I can stuff into my brain. I have friends who tell me I overdo it but knowledge is power. This kind of power isn’t the diabolical knowledge of the arch-villian to your comic book superhero but the knowledge of freedom.

My dad always taught me that I’d have to know twice as much as the guy next to me to be certain I’d get the job. With that I’ve never ended my learning. He also taught me I’d have to be totally self sufficient because you really can never count on anyone for help. So, with that I was given my marching orders. Learn all that you need for life.  There are no man only or woman only skills there are just skills.  If the shirt needed sewing.  You did it.  If the sink needed plumbing.  You did it.  If a meal needed to be cooked.  You did it.

As time goes on in your life it becomes fine to outsource some of these jobs.  For example, I don’t work on my car at all now.  I haven’t changed oil or the brakes myself since my early twenties.  However, this only gives me more time to learn. I have a fancy radio in my car that takes USB sticks and plays the audio off of them.  This way I just copy podcasts, lectures, and audiobooks to it and listen to that while I drive and only to the radio when the kids or my wife is with me.

Is that too much? I don’t want to be the guy that’s the regular at Starbucks discussing politics and the nature of being while dropping names of obscure politicians, actors, or activists hoping that people have to look up what I’m saying when they get home on Wikipedia.  Nor do I particularly want to be the person everyone calls when they have any problem in the world because I am that guy now and that’s grown old.  Every call I get is somebody that wants something from me.  I just want to be free.

Free like James Bond or the character in a new TV series I’ve been watching called Burn Notice.  People you could just drop anywhere on the planet and they would survive and do it well.  The problem is that once you’ve started on this road the gas stations (reflection points) are few and far between and once you reach one you never remember you wanted to turn around.  Honestly, I’m really not sure if I ever want to.  There’s so much to learn.

How adaptable are you?

Wednesday, August 8th, 2007

The landscape of the world today is so very different than it was thirty years ago. When I was a kid the world seemed to be pretty stagnant. Granted, there were new inventions and mechanization of manufacturing plants. In the 70’s it was considered a big thing to have a plant that robotic equipment was killing the cows as well as milking them. Someone turned up the speed on the treadmill though. The lazy aren’t keeping up. It’s becoming a scene from a old “I love Lucy” re-run.

What’s going on? Computers are changing our lives as everybody knows. This train is on the express lane and if you’re not at the stop on time you’re getting left. What can you do? How can you get on the train like those people that are leisurely walking on instead of the guy running at full stride and slamming against the door just as it closes? Easy.

Be adaptable.

Sounds simple enough but I’ve found that it’s just changing the though processes of the people I have to work with. In my project management role I have to build teams and make people believe that once this new software is put in that their day will be more productive. How do I do that? Make people believe in an abstract not the concrete. Say for example, I teach one group of people the concepts of word processing and the other group Microsoft Word. The first group can go to any word processor and figure out where the features they need are and move on. The second set will look for some of the exact features that Microsoft told you were necessary and be stuck. This first group will be able to sit in front of any word processor and soon be proficient at any job they go to.

The word processing example was really a mild one because they are pretty easy to use however, imagine other technologies? This teaches people to be adaptable. To never think they are old dogs that have to learn new tricks. Thats an uphill battle. However, when I watch 70 year old ladies using computers and figuring out how to use the new software that they’ve been given whereas a 30 year old complains everyday about the new software they’re being migrated to I can only think of the train analogy. The 70 year old lady is already sitting on the train knitting while the 30 year old runs to catch the door of life.

Visionary vs. Reactionary

Saturday, July 28th, 2007

The world is a very predictable place in a lot of ways. I have yet to document my methodology for picking winners but I have to learn to truly take advantage of this ability. As a person who is big on the stock market but only puts money on stock with a widget that I use like a fantasy league (and yes I’m winning a lot with my starting line up) you can tell how much I really jump out on a limb for new ideas in areas outside my expertise.

Thus my commentary today was a throw back to a conversation I had earlier with a friend of mine that I just figured out was a tech guy of the Cisco router persuasion. My cousin in tech enlightened me on the fact that he is big into Voice over IP and it took me back for a second. I knew that would be a big winner. I remember at the time telling a friend of mine that was a telecommunications guy, “I don’t think people are really going to want to pay $50,000 for a phone system just to get 20 phone lines in the near future. You should really get your Cisco or Nortel certifications in this area and stay ahead of the curve.” Of course I laughed talking to my new cousin in tech about where that person is now relating his staunch rebuttal of “This will NEVER dry up” as the calling card of the VHS over DVD guys.

(more…)

The ugly girl quitting you

Friday, July 20th, 2007

I don’t know how many of you out there are self-employed like I am so I’m not sure if you’ll be able to relate but follow along anyway. I was not in the best of moods yesterday and I’ve got to say that’s abnormal for me. On any given day you will find me smiling, laughing, and generally enjoying life. However, yesterday dealt me a curve that I was unprepared for. It was all over a business deal.

I had been referred to a client and all the initial meetings went beyond great. They loved me and were prepared to compensate me at my rate without question. I was a little weary of the fact that they were a dot-com company that really looked like a rip off of another company that I will remain nameless. However, I figured I’d give it a go. The next thing I know I got a call that they had a smaller budget than expected and could I come down off my rate a bit. Reluctantly, I decided that I wanted to take it just for the challenges they were experiencing. That afternoon, the owners of the company were there and decided they wanted to talk with me. I could barely understand them through their accents but I felt I had outstanding answers to their questions.

The next morning I was leaving the house at 7am and called the guy who referred me to them because he was going to since he was trying to work another deal with them as well. To my shock he’d found out even earlier that morning that they decided they didn’t want me and cancelled the contract.

“They can’t do that to me!” I thought. “I was helping them out. I even lowered my rate!” That’s like going out with someone that you know is ugly out of the kindness of your heart then they dump you. The ugly girl can’t dump me! I should have dumped the ugly girl before she was in a position of power.

Don’t be like me. I felt this was a bad match because of my instincts telling me that they were not the right kind of people for me but I still settled on my rate. Stick firm to your instincts in situations like this. In retrospect I lost more money by booking them for time that I could have been somewhere else.

Where are the ideas?

Monday, July 9th, 2007

As you may have noticed. I haven’t posted in about a week. Unfortunately, I have been sick with the flu. This is horrible during a beautiful California summer. On top of the fact that I rarely ever get sick I didn’t remember how to cure myself of what to do while I’m sick. I’ve had tons of ideas and book reviews in the works but found myself totally brain dead, dehydrated, and sleeping all the time.

As you may guest I’m not good at being sick. I was totally restless and kept a couple books next to the bed, laptop at the ready, and magazines to boot. In the last 5 days I’ve used absolutely none of them. My brain has just started to form coherent thoughts so I will be back with more interesting posts on software, operating systems, tips and tricks, and all kinds of fun life lessons.

Not being sick many times, this has been a life lesson for me. When I do honestly get totally sick I’m going to give in and not fight it. Forcing yourself to think during those times is totally counter-prodcutive.

Media has changed your accent

Monday, July 2nd, 2007

I don’t do an extravagant amount of travel. However, I do watch a lot of videos on the internet, BBC on the TV, and talk on the phone to people all over the globe. Even as a child I watched a lot of TV shows on PBS from England. I have found one thing that over time has changed to me. Media has changed our accent.

This is my own hypothesis but I have found that with the world getting smaller and smaller because of TV and internet Texans don’t sound so southern. New Yorkers don’t sound so different. British people don’t sound so British and people from India sound more like people from down the street. Of course there are exceptions but in general this is true.

I am keeping an objective mind to this because I know how I felt crowds were much louder at sporting events when I was a kid but when you grow up people don’t seem as tall either. Take that idea for a stroll around your neighborhood and see what you find. I hope this doesn’t make your ears overly keen though. You may start to notice all the differences you never noticed before.

Women in technology: Role models needed, please…

Monday, June 18th, 2007

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picture of Carly Fiorina (former CEO of HP and Gwen Stephani)
Maybe because it’s because of Father’s Day that I’ve been inspired to write this post on women in tech. You see, it started as most of my brainstorms do with one look at my 5 year old daughter. As my mind started to drift into one of those TV show dream sequences beginning with one of those showers of distorted wavy lines and drowsy music. I thought to myself who would I like for my daughter to model herself after. Of course immediately the industry I had in mind was technology. Thing is, I couldn’t think of a good one for her. Maybe it’s my criteria.

You see, I think of raising complete adults. My basis for life is healthy mind, body, and spirit. However, I like most parents want the icing. Ambitious, stylish, beautiful, and good speaker/conversation. Why is Carly Fiorina (former CEO of HP) the closest I could come up with? Help me here. I need suggestions for business or technology women of all ethnicities. Honestly, brains does count more than looks but looks and style open doors in every arena. On the same note Janet Reno does turn this whole argument upside down.