Monthly Archives: September 2011

The Second Recession

One of the best posts on the economy I’ve seen.

It’s Seth Godin. He’s talking about the two recessions, the people aren’t buying stuff and the other one.

The other recession, though, the one with the loss of “good factory jobs” and systemic unemployment–I fear that this recession is here forever.

And he’s right. I’ve already seen it starting.

Factories were at the center of the industrial age. Buildings where workers came together to efficiently craft cars, pottery, insurance policies and organ transplants–these are job-centric activities, places where local inefficiencies are trumped by the gains from mass production and interchangeable parts. If local labor costs the industrialist more, he has to pay it, because what choice does he have?

No longer. If it can be systemized, it will be. If the pressured middleman can find a cheaper source, she will. If the unaffiliated consumer can save a nickel by clicking over here or over there, then that’s what’s going to happen.

I’ve said this before a few days ago. It doesn’t make good sense, good business sense, for a company to pay high five figures or more when eight equally talented people half a world away can do the eight times the work for the same money.

The industrial age, the one that started with the industrial revolution, is fading away. It is no longer the growth engine of the economy and it seems absurd to imagine that great pay for replaceable work is on the horizon.

This represents a significant discontinuity, a life-changing disappointment for hard-working people who are hoping for stability but are unlikely to get it. It’s a recession, the recession of a hundred years of the growth of the industrial complex.

He seems to see it as the end of the industrial revolution, the one that led the U.S. to be the industrial power we’ve become. He believes a second kind of revolution of connection will take place. I wonder about the 99% of us, these people and how they’ll make the transition. Hell, I wonder how I will.

Myers-Briggs Serenity Prayer

Found on the internets:

  • ISTJ – God, help me to begin relaxing about little details tomorrow at 11:41:32 am
  • ISFJ – Lord, help me to be more laid back, and help me to do it exactly right
  • INFJ – Lord, help me not be a perfectionist (Did I spell that right?)
  • INTJ – Lord, keep me open to others’ ideas, wrong though they may be
  • ISTP – God, help me to consider people’s feelings, even if most of them are hypersensitive
  • ISFP – Lord, help me to stand up for my rights (if You don’t mind my asking)
  • INFP – Lord, help me to finish everything I sta
  • INTP – Lord, help me be less independent, but let me do it my way.
  • ESTP – God, help me to take responsibility for my own actions, even though they’re usually not my fault
  • ESFP – God, help me to take things more seriously especially parties and dancing
  • ENFP – God, help me keep my mind on one thing – Look, a bird – at a time.
  • ENTP – God, help me follow established procedures today. On second thought, I’ll settle for a few minutes
  • ESTJ – God, help me to try not to run everything, but if You need some help, just ask.
  • ESFJ – Lord, give me patience and I mean right now
  • ENFJ – God, help me to do only what I can and trust You for the rest. Do You mind putting that in writing?
  • ENTJ – God, help me to slow downandnotrushthroughwhatIdoAmen

Global Economics

Having earned a degree in Economics, it’s hard for me to argue against the solid financial aspects of globalization. Since it’s also unavoidable, it’s also impractical. But at the same time, globalization is also filled with sticky areas. It’s the typical face off between people and money.

This is something that I believe predominates more in big business rather than smaller ones. Small businesses are equally focused on making money, but being smaller, they’re  often more localized. They spring up in a local town because that’s where the owner lives. He or she starts up their business, hires relatives and friends and local talent and grows the business to the point it’s providing a decent living for all, owners and employees. At a small business level, it’s got almost a quasi-familial, quasi-small town attitude and point of view. Owners and employees are both invested in the success of the business and they relate to and with each other with more familiarity. The owner’s children may be on the same ball team as the janitor’s kids. The owner depends on the people who work there almost as much as the people depend on the owner.

Big businesses have the same sort of friendships and relationships that develop, but there’s a bigger, deeper and wider hierarchy involved, an institutional aspect that allows the cold reality of dollars and cents to drive things. Decisions aren’t necessarily made in the individual offices. Globalization aspects like outsourcing exist and come into play more rapidly in the large business, institutional sort of environment than they do in a smaller entrepreneurship.

And on the surface, outsourcing is a huge money-saving operation, where it is successful. It’s simple dollars. If  you can hire a person with two degrees in a specialty field and their salary and benefits combined run less than $10,000, why would you ever want to hire someone else with one degree for seven to ten times that amount just to cover the salary alone, much less any benefits? It just doesn’t make sense. And that’s the underlying decision of globalization. Those willing, available, and interested people in China or India or wherever are happy and grateful to get health and life insurance, transportation assistance, lodging & meals assistance (all standard benefit packages abroad) on top of a salary. Over there, the equivalent of $10,000 in local currency is a good wage. Over here, it’s not. Over here, the salary itself for technical positions, for example, usually runs in excess of seven times that and fringe benefits add another 30% on top of that. Once it’s all said and done, there can be a ten-fold difference.

So it makes good financial sense and cents. Let people go over here and hire them over there. So why is this a big deal? Well for me it’s all about the people and the economics, the local economics. That camaraderie and friendship is important to me. My company is outsourcing. Not huge numbers, just small ones, but they are people and they are friends. It’s not the first time it has happened, and it won’t be the last. Most of these people who were released are over 45 and will have a harder time finding work. They’re at a point in their lives where they probably haven’t saved enough to retire early and their salary levels are higher than people just starting out. Life’s not going to be easy for them. And, as a result, the local economy where they live will be impacted because people on unemployment and severance don’t spend much. That hurts here and now at the same time the company is saving in the neighborhood of a half a million dollars a year.

One of them has late stage breast cancer. She’s now in a race to see whether her insurance coverage or her life lasts longer. It’s the people that matter.

To Whom It May Concern

OK, like many people I listened to a fair bit of the President’s address to the joint session of Congress (I had some chores to do last night so I only listened while I was eating) and here’s my take on it (obligatory warning of possible bad language that I may or may not edit out) for those who make decisions in Washington, D.C.

President Obama proposed a lot of things. Some will be opposed by progressives and some will be opposed by conservatives. That’s called life in the real world. If, by some strange means, you could get every last person in the country to vote, neither people who think of themselves as progressive liberals nor those who think of themselves as strict conservatives would constitute a majority (or even a significant influence, most likely). We, the people, are not full of you and we are not ideologically committed to your points of view. We’re more what you would call pragmatists. We want things to work. That’s our minimal standard of excellence – it works. Not flawlessly, not magnificently, just works. Anything beyond that is like extra milk gravy on the mashed potatoes.

There are only two things you need to know and I’ll number them so it’s easier on you. I know how easily you can get distracted in the land of your own self-importance.

  1. We don’t give a shit whether you think spending more or less or reducing or increasing taxes are the way to fix the economy and we don’t want to hear about the arguments any more. Stop arguing and get together and fucking well do something. Compromise.
  2. Whatever you do must absolutely, concretely work and it must be completely obvious to everyone that it did. Unemployment must drop below 7% before the next election and be trending down. More would be better, but we don’t want to strain your little self-absorbed minds.

There, wasn’t that easy? Oh, if you don’t, we’ll be coming for you. I’d prefer it to be with votes, but, all things considered, I won’t rule out pitchforks and torches. We’re really tired of the bitching and whining and finger-pointing. Love & kisses.

Whirlpool Fails at User Experience

We’ve had an older refrigerator that had incontinence problems for a while. We’d come into the kitchen and would find a trickle of water running across the kitchen floor to clean up. Finally we went out (to Sears) and bought a new refrigerator, a Whirlpool one with a built-in dispenser for water and ice on the freezer door. Like many refrigerators these days, they include a built-in water filter. Those improve the taste of the water remarkably so we had one on the old refrigerator, but it wasn’t built in and I had to roll the refrigerator out to change the filter.

So we decided it probably would be a nice idea to stock up on spare filters for when it finally goes out. There’s this indicator light when you open the door that glows green, yellow or red to tell you if the filter needs changing, which is handy. So I go down to get the manual out of the file cabinet to find out what it says about the filter – how I change it, what filters to use, etc.

I read the whole manual. It tells me how to hook up the water supply and where and mentions that there is a water filter but nowhere does it specifically say where the water filter is located. You’d think that would be useful. Nor does it mention how you change it. What does it have? There’s a page containing four seemingly identical governmental regulation oriented “information” on the filter – the kind of thing that looks like an ingredients label on a box of cereal. I’m sure there’s some useful information there but I can’t tell the difference among any of those four blocks of information. Then that page is followed by four more pages, again with detailed specifications on the filters, including filter model numbers and part numbers. Closer inspection tells me that the first two pages have the same model number for their filters but the next two pages have different model numbers but there’s only one letter different. SO WHICH ONE DO I NEED? Beats me. I can’t tell anything useful from the manual, period.

So I think, I’m an IT professional, I know what to do, I’ll search the Google! Well, lo and behold, Whirlpool has a site that will help me. Outstanding. All I need is the model number of the refrigerator. So I carry my iPhone up to the refrigerator, open the door and key the model number from the label into my phone and click find. Sorry, Whirlpool doesn’t recognize that as a valid  model number. I enter the number and letter combo more carefully – same result. I’m starting to get ticked off by now. But, Whirlpool also has a Water Filter Finder. They’ll help me find what I need.

Right. The first little picture is easy – it’s a side-by-side refrigerator – click – we’re making progress now!!! What’s next? Oh. Where is my filter located? Well, I don’t know where the hell it is – the manual doesn’t say. But – my two options according to the little pictures are at the bottom in the grille or at the top on the inside of the refrigerator. So I open up the refrigerator and see nothing that looks even vaguely removable, so it’s got to be in the grill at the bottom. Click – next! Next set of pictures says How do I remove it? and it shows a button option and a turn option. The image for the button is two concentric circles, like a big radio button. There’s nothing that looks like that on my grille. The image for Turn is a circle with a horizontal line through the center overlaid by a turning arrow. What I see on the grille looks more like the turn thing , well except that there’s something adjoining it that makes it look more like the turn thingy is sort of egg-shaped. But the rounded part of what appears to be the turn thingy thing looks almost exactly like the image, so I’ve got to be gold here, finally!

Hooray!! I now see five different filter pictures along with their part numbers. Finally, something ties to the manual!  Nirvana, surely. Nope. Not a damn one of the part numbers even comes within four million of being close to what was in the manual. Backtrack time. The only other option seems to be the push button and it doesn’t look like that, but I’m desperate so I click it. And right there we have entirely different-looking filters but it’s that part number I saw in the manual. And I can order a three-pack and save $10. What a deal! All I need now is to find out how to install the darn things. (Once I got to work and had a larger screen, I found out that the Whirlpool site actually does have instructions, but they’re only online and only accessible on a regular computer-based browser.)

So I decided to order a three-pack so I didn’t have to suffer through this again. Of course, there’s a form to fill out and required fields are marked with red * characters, which is common online. The first required field was “Recipient”  so I’m thinking “What??” Recipient? What does that mean? Do they mean my name?  No, they asked for that too. Right after they required me to enter my title. Sadly Emperor was not available as an option. I have no idea what Recipient stands for, but somewhere there’s a smart remark in their system.