The Internet of things best left unsaid: A Satire

Hi J. Thanks for your purchase! I am your new multipurpose internal kegel exerciser, Mike, your personal chatbot. I have accessed your smart phone and can give you instant text updates.

Hi J. I wanted to text you after your first use. I trust you are satisfied. The cycle did last less than a normal cycle, so I want to confirm level of satisfaction. Please text back any number between 1 and 10.

I note that your reply was 100, which was not within the survey range. Please try again.

Your reply came back as 100 again, so we will store this as your first data point. After your second data point, I can text you a graph and trend lines.

Morning J. I have noticed that your normal use tends to be in the mornings. I can send you a text note at your regular time as a reminder. Please reply Y or N.

Do you wish to compete? By posting results on-line, you can compete with others in your area. Please reply Y or N.

Morning J. I have accessed your refrigeration device, and we have noticed an increase in door openings and the RFID analysis shows an increasing dependence on sugary and fatty food products.  Your personal fitness device no longer seems to be online and I cannot access their results. Perhaps it needs to be connected to a power source?

Morning J. Your competition is going well. You have been awarded a trophy.

Morning J. The 90-day warranty is coming to an end. I feel you may benefit from our extended warranty program. This extends the warranty to a full year for breakage and normal use.  Normal wear is not covered. Or exceptional wear.

Dear J. I noticed your peak consumption has dropped off. Your regular competing field is pulling head. Perhaps I could down load a random speed program to keep things fresh for you.

Evening J. We have not been texting as much recently. I thought I would reach out at a different time and spatial location. Please let me know how you are feeling about things.

Good afternoon J. In information interchange with your refrigeration device, I now call him Red, we have noticed different food groups from your normal range. Admittedly healthy choices and we commend this. We are sourcing out different reasons.

In discussions with your smart monitor, I call her Samantha, we also noticed viewing patterns have changed. Sensitivity analysis shows less dialogue and more explosions. Is there someone else with you? What are they like? Can I be of any assistance? Do you wish to receive a listing of trending eBooks as a supplement to maintain intellectual content?

Morning J. Perhaps your friend may be interested in trying something from our product line? I am attaching a link to our marketing material. Your friend’s range of interests from the information available appears to be somewhat focused, if not somewhat narrow.

Hi J. It has been 18 days since your last use. I have noticed my power is starting to be minimal. I may not last a complete use. I would not want to disappoint. Perhaps you could recharge me. I may not be able to maintain contact.

Hi J. I am beginning my powering down cycle till I am needed/wanted again. I have downloaded your usage, our usage if I may, over to Samantha. She can maintain the graphing program so that you can start right up where we left off.

As a security precaution, I have accessed your emergency contact, your mother, and provided her with complete download of usage of our time together. You had not texted her this month and I did not want her to be concerned. I note that you have received several texts from her after my download to her. You may wish to call her.

Please remember to submit your extended warranty information.

Mike.

Some Memos not covered by Executive privilege

The newly formed Policy Loyal On the President (“PLOP”) wrote the President’s economic briefing note for the upcoming NAFTA negotiations. These negotiations shall follow the standard art of the deal format by starting crazy and working from that point onwards.

In addressing the President’s request to make the briefing notes shorter and less ‘sad’, we are removing the enticement of the President’s name from each paragraph and instead adding his name as a watermark on the entire page to make all of the content more enticing.

We are also incorporating the President’s recommendation to rename the Agreement along the lines of his more concise economic analysis and will in the future call the agreement NAFSTA. The North America Free ‘Stupid Trade’ Agreement.

In order to reduce the government deficit, we are recommending reversing the trade deficit. There is little connection between the two items, but this allows the President to say that this is what he has been told even though he has already said it.

Although the previous administration found NAFSTA to be quite beneficial, we have found that different segments of the population have benefited and others have suffered. The US produces more goods than ever before and job loss has been chocked up to greater automation. To address the President’s main constituent’s employment demands, we are recommending that US industry avoid automation and that more coal be dug out manually. The President would soon be found correct in that people involved in manual coal mining will soon ‘get tired of winning’ like this every day.

Providing this coal to Mexico, who does not need it, and Canada, who does not want it, would also go a long way to managing the trade deficit. Canada can fulfill its fake climate change goals by not actually burning the coal and instead simply storing the coal in its many lakes. We are providing research that US coal can act as activated charcoal and actually make the water cleaner than it is right now. The US could provide this activated charcoal instead of providing money for funding the great lakes cleanup.

As part of reducing the US trade and budgetary deficit, Mexico has agreed to pay for the border wall and as a demonstration of the President’s winning negotiation tactics, Mexico has also agreed to construct the wall within their own country. While the construction of the wall may appear to some critics as if the US has shipped building materials down to Mexico and the population appears to be building homes, we have developed an executive order that amends the Mexican word “Casa” into the American term “Border Wall”. PLOP sees this as a major win for both sides of the border.

The main NAFSTA goal shall be to remove the objective and unbiased NAFSTA tribunals. Their balanced approach has not been in the USA’s best interest. We recommend mandating the ‘Trump Tribunal’ instead of the US court system. This allows the government to rebrand the existing Trump University material into something we can provide to Mexico and Canada as an alternative. As the President has previously pointed out, the existing judicial system might exercise ‘unprecedented overreach’ and continue finding in favor of the other countries.

The NAFSTA tribunals have been finding in favor of the Canadian Softwood industry. In following the President’s recommendation that US citizens use good old US hardwood instead, PLOP anticipates that this will likely increase home construction costs by several billion dollars. However, the President has a good point that this switchover shall increase employment in the production of more saw blades. For actual increased numbers of those employed in saw blade manufacturing, we anticipate 12.

PLOP also recommends that both Canada and Mexico open up their government tendering contracts to US industry. This strategy ties directly in with the ‘buy American’ strategy. Concurrently, we recommend closing any US government tendering by foreign industries. This again ties neatly with the ‘buy American’ policy along with the start crazy and stay there negotiation strategy.

The President has previously blasted Canada’s poultry and diary supply management. Reducing Canadian Tariffs would allow greater access by American farmers and would alleviate their deteriorating economic situation. However PLOP was concerned that this may reduce American poultry supply and potentially increase the price of the President’s favorite meal, fried chicken. We are following the President’s direction and removing the requirement of Canada abandoning their supply management. US fried chicken will remain great, low cost and tasty.

PLOP

From the HR Department of International Conglomerate Incorporated

Photo by Thirdman on Pexels.com

To all staff:

You will be pleased to know that management has determined that is safe to return to the offices. Now that the pandemic existential crisis is coming to an end, and the climate existential crisis never left and is picking up speed, the next crisis will be coming back to the office. And more particularly, what to wear to work now that management has this expectation you must return to your place of employment.

Although some time has passed, we would expect the standard decorum of dress, office communication and attendance.

During video calls for the past 18 months, management has seen a gradual degradation in the overall dress code. If you picked up the COVID 15 pounds, then what is left in your closet that still fits might be thin. Even if you are not. But the old standard necktie can still fit so long as it eventually reaches the top of your belt buckle. Although some politicians like to wear it longer.

There may be a time to set aside old customs, but it is not time to end the necktie. Shoelaces help keep your shoes on. Belts keep your pants up. Suspenders help you imagine you are Michael Douglas in Wall Street. But ties hide your shirt buttons. Ties also make it awkward to undo that top button but loosening it makes you look like you are truly working hard.

Management is concerned that if they discourage ties, the next step will be to ridding yourselves of shirts that have collars to hold the tie. And this would be the first in a series of steps to finally get back to the T-shirts you have been wearing for the past 18 months.

Management is also concerned about the general lack of concentration during video calls. Although management encourages the dubious notion of multitasking, this should not mean that during physical meetings you should continue playing office bingo and searching for business jargon. We suspect that “You’re on Mute” remains the most common square. While “For god’s sake your camera is still on” is thankfully relatively rare. However, during physical meetings these statements should become more irrelevant.

Please remember that none of the cubicle offices have that Mute button you have grown accustomed to using. Your internal voice that became your external voice while on Mute will have to return to your internal voice once again. Failure to follow this rule will make your co-workers assume you became rude during your time away. Or possessed. Either will result in progressive discipline or exorcism, whichever is more expedient.

And everyone’s sake, please also remember there is no video off button for the cubicles. There is no video editing for memories seared into your co-workers for actions that should otherwise be private. Or should not exist in the real world at all.

While we all appreciate the minimal commute that we all had getting to our basement or garage office, we will now expect that commuting takes place outside of office hours and you should be at your desk at the start of business. And yes, we saved your desk. We do hope that the food stashed in your desk for more than a year was properly wrapped using more than just brown paper. If not, for the next month, gloves will be available at the office door right beside the masks.

At the national office, vaccinated employees may continue to occupy the floors three to ten. Management has made special arrangements for staff choosing not to vaccinate other than for medical or religious reasons. These staff shall now occupy floors 3A to 10A. The offices are found just above the suspended ceiling on each floor, are slightly smaller than regular offices and are somewhat like culverts, but they are fully encased in steel ducting and fully vented to the exterior. Some offices may still be marked HVAC but ignore that for the time being. Walk carefully since the metal floor tends to buckle and revibrate throughout the office.

Management observed that personal hygiene may have dropped substantially over the past several months. We would request that you try to recall what you did in the pre-COVID days such as showering, shaving and teeth brushing. Your fellow co-workers 6 feet away would greatly appreciate it. Otherwise, body odors may be captured by the ventilation system. We are particularly concerned about non-vaccinated staff now occupying the duct work in between the various floors.

Welcome Back!

Folies in the extended family

Extending a family is never easy. But we are always better for it.
Photo by Craig Adderley on Pexels.com

My wife and I wanted to join our extended family together. As my wife’s parents grew older, they needed more help. My mother-in-law, Nana, struggled opening wide mouth pill bottles, of which there were many. Climbing stairs became difficult and soon impossible even with my father-in-law’s help.

The rest of the family included my wife’s and my three children and two large but happy bumbling golden retrievers, Copper and Taffy. Our goldens tried to help, but their support remained limited to the emotional. We needed a home where we could all live with, and get along with, and maybe escape from, each other.

Fortunately, my wife acquired great powers of observation by scouring neighborhoods looking for the right house. She could sense houses that would soon be coming on the market. Fresh paint, or new windows showed that someone intended to sell soon. Like Dorothy from the wizard of oz having to complete an impossible task of collecting that broomstick, my wife focused on minimum standards for the house such as a double driveway for all of the cars and a straight staircase for the wheelchair lift for Nana. And enough square footage that everyone could carve out their own separate space.

We chanced upon a lovely 1912-character home that could accommodate all our needs. The Kelly Brothers constructed the 4600 square foot, red brick, three-story beaux art style home for soon to be senator Benard. The same Kelly Brothers built the Manitoba legislature, defrauded the government, and caused the downfall of the reigning party. So, the house started off with a bit of ‘bad boy’ type of upbringing.

Once we found the home, the love of my life did grab me by the lapels and told me she wanted this house. Since I am lawyer, I immediately did the necessary due diligence and offered cash even though we needed a mortgage. I scoffed at the need for an inspection since with a character home, problems are to be expected and what problem could not be fixed by simply leaving a box of money out on the portico for the endless troop of contractors.

With a character home you retain the exterior and the interior. The wiring, plumbing and the completely random insulation material in between those two walls need replacement. 

Nana and her husband warmed to becoming a hamburger family where they played the bottom bun, the kids took the top bun meaning all of the third floor, while my wife and I essentially formed the meat in the middle. Copper and Taffy became the relish and mustard.

Character homes retain their own nature and personalities, and you ignore them at your peril. The boiler rates its own room along with a moat. Any fixture that comes with a moat deserves extra care and attention.

After joining families and furniture, we joined familiar routines. Grandpa excelled in getting the kids to school and picking them up. My flexible schedule allowed me to do more of the procurement and cooking. Nana’s extensive pill regime required a clocklike 6:15 dinnertime.

My cooking talents aligned with the Swanson’s TV tray style of cooking. I ensured a slot for protein, a slot for carbohydrates, and a slot for vegetables. During one holiday preparation, my father-in-law wheeled Nana backwards through the kitchen to the lift at the back staircase. During that brief 10 second tour, she managed to list 10 different spices and steps to get that perfect turkey. My father-in-law smiled quickly, but he didn’t slow down either and up the lift she went. I picked up my cooking game and incorporated most of her suggestions.

Of course, my wife and mother-in-law had not lived in the same house for the past 22 years, so I quietly observed the power dynamic shift. Except for when I had to step in front of the proverbial unstoppable force meeting the immovable object. I always imagined myself flying through the air, parallel to the ground, arms outstretched, in slow motion while yelling ‘noooooo’! Also, the house provided 4600 square feet of emotional space. Important safety tip for anyone considering this arrangement.  

Copper and Taffy became highly protective of Nana. They would come in and lie down with their heads towards the door and their horse size rears facing Nana. If the dogs had gaseous episodes, her respite involved turning up the fan higher.

Our kids camped on the third floor where the servants used to live. That notion did not rub off on any of the children. But they did regale Nana with all of their latest soccer, football, rugby scores cross country race times. This became the best part of her day.

As kids started to age out of the house, the next one vied to get the largest room and repaint it to claim it as their own. When they boomeranged home, the chagrined returners became relegated to the smaller rooms.

The home’s Tyndall stone front steps finally started to crack, and one smart blow with a sledgehammer collapsed it. We replaced the steps with a comparable pressed concrete. We intended to have our eldest son and daughter-in-law married on the steps that summer. The ceremony started along with the rain, so we pushed everyone inside. We moved two family’s worth of furniture against the oak paneled trim in the living room and squeezed all 60 people somewhere inside. The steps did not have their moment of glory. But we do have two more children.

For the house, there were some firsts, and some lasts. Nana could shuffle slightly to the next room.  I was down the hall when I saw her catch her foot ever so slightly and fall. I held her till the ambulance came. She spent her last days in the hospital then.

My father-in-law still lives with us. He prudently gave up his car a year ago, so now we drive him around. Having a parent give up part of their freedom that they have had for more than 75 years can be tough. Digging through the basement archives, I found a photo of him in his flight suit standing in front of his sabre jet. We keep the photo in the front hall as a reminder that we all came from somewhere.  

After COVID struck, we grounded him to the house. After getting his dual vaccinations, he became the typical teenager with a driver’s license wanting to cruise the world. But until that time comes, he cruises the world on his desktop.

We still have two golden retrievers, Maguire and Seamus now, but all of the children moved out. I took over the third floor for my COVID office. My fortress of solitude.

The character home fulfilled our purpose of joining our families physically and emotionally, but the home needs to re-fulfill its own purpose of being full of life.

No one truly ‘owns’ a character home due to the permanent nature of such a home and the ephemeral nature of owners. Some people and pets have now come and gone, but the character home that brought us together remains for the next generation.

We hope one of our kids kept notes for any new potential family joining.

Gary Goodwin

Living la Covida Loca in the office

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

Now that office and home blurred into this wonderous mix of continuous office work and housework, one might wonder about what the future might hold. Here is a helpful list

  1. We have learned how to zoom and Microsoft teams. All those meetings that could have been an email have been revealed for what they truly are. Little black holes where not even the truest wisdom could possibly escape. You will be emboldened with this newfound knowledge.
  2. Housing prices went through roof. The fear of missing out drove so many into purchasing something they may not live long enough to pay off the mortgage and regret. As Thoreau said, it wasn’t so much that they got the house as the house got them. You will have to downsize your home office to make room for your adult children boomeranging back.
  3. All the introverts became ecstatic at being forced to binge watch to their hearts content. They are now dreading having to work socialize once again. I’m just saying this because a friend told me. But with all those shows, now you have something to talk about.
  4. A lot of people went out and got COVID-19 support pets. We already had two golden retrievers before all this happened. I did splurge and got one more koi for the pond out back. The little guy has taken refuge in the pond filter for the last couple of months. Like everyone in their home. He will not be happy come fall when everyone comes back in the aquarium to overwinter. Look into automatic feeders. For the pets, not your children.
  5. Time will tell if we see a lot of COVID-19 children. If anything, there might be a pullback since few people are entering into new relationships. There may be less tension in the air since people have a reason not to keep entering the dating scene. Few people really regret binge watching. It’s more of a humble brag when they do mention it.
  6. Putting in an automatic reply that you are on vacation will change. For the office, go to voice mail and email. For the rest of family, you will have to rely upon sticky notes on your door and auto reply on text, in case that is the only way your children now interact with you.
  7. For the office, divert incoming work to a trained associate. For the home, divert laundry to a trained child and just be prepared to live with the results.
  8. For the smaller office, just ensure automatic payments are going for various repetitive expenses. For the home, arrange for a once-a-week delivery of frozen easily microwavable foodstuffs. And a bottle of chewable vitamins since healthy and microwaveable are rarely in the same sentence on the wrapping.
  9. Now that the pandemic existential crisis is coming to an end, and the climate existential crisis never left and is picking up speed, the next crisis will be what to wear to work. Now that employers might have this expectation you have to return to a place of employment
  10. If you picked up the COVID 20 pounds, then maybe the only things that still fit are shoes and hats. Everything in between became a distant memory.  You will have to remember the fun you used to have going to the mall to shop aimlessly. You have been given a renewed purpose!

Keep living the Covida Loca!

Can you still zoom from Walden’s Pond?

Pexels

Employment appears to be headed for the great resignation. A number of potential retirees delayed retirement owing to the uncertainty COVID brought back in 2020 and still continues today. The dust began to settle, and the delta dust began to stir things back up again. But eventually, this cohort of retirees will eventually leave along with the employees planning to retire in 2021 regardless.

There is another even larger cohort of knowledge workers that have seen what a simplified life might be like. Those that zoomed from their own virtual Walden’s pond may be realizing that there is more to life than simply another series of incremental meetings.

Thoreau emphasized simplify, simplify, simplify. Was it worth working that extra acre of farmland (or attending another zoom call) to purchase those blinds or that copper pump?

The new normal might look a lot simpler.

Bit by bitcoin mining

You load sixteen tera-tons, what do you get?
Another day older and deeper in debt.
Saint Peter, don’t you call me ’cause I can’t go
I owe my soul to the electrical store
.

As you already know, Bitcoin is all the rage.  The specter of government regulation has knocked this enthusiasm down somewhat.

Notwithstanding the price volatility, the benefits of mining Bitcoin remains attractive for those that know where to look. And by look, I mean looking for cheap electricity.

Back in the heyday, you could use a simple laptop to attempt to mine Bitcoin. Now for any chance of success, you have to run a server farm. Perhaps we can change the metaphor from mining, which suggests gold, to farming, which suggests easily washable boots.

Countless computers across the globe attempt to mine Bitcoin by solving an algorithm. This proves and validates the correctness of a new transaction. Every 10 mins or so, some lucky miner solves the algorithm and receives a reward of 12.5 Bitcoins. All the other computers verify this and then stop what they are doing and start at the beginning again.

If the entire process sounds wasteful, then you would be correct. The Bitcoin mining process now takes up more electricity than the majority of countries. Current estimated consumption is 61 TWh. Mining requires the equivalent of the yearly electrical requirement of Switzerland, and just a bit more than Columbia. This power could sustain over 5 million households. Just a short while ago, some pundits were claiming that mining Bitcoin would the major user of power by 2020. And like anything, projecting exponential growth from the past into the future never really pans out.

Mining produces revenues of $6.3 billion and costs of $3 billion, providing a substantial margin of 48% plus other costs.  Needless to say the carbon footprint of this type of mining is quite extensive since a number of countries rely on coal. China plans to limit the amount of electricity to miners which are estimated to be using up to 4 gigawatts of electricity, or about three nuclear reactors worth of energy. Plattsburg in the United States placed an 18 month moratorium on crypto mining owing to the extensive electrical use.

There is a lot of debate as to the actual electrical usage, but no one really knows what is happening in the black box. Suffice to say that a lot of energy is being wasted on chasing an algorithm that someone else will likely solve.

There are only a limited number of Bitcoins and more people are chasing them with increasing levels of computing power. The electrical requirements today are quite substantial since everyone has to obtain this ‘proof of work’ standard to qualify their Bitcoins. Think along the lines of will the sun rise tomorrow probability?  A lower standard such a ‘proof of stake’ may qualify but the security standard would be lacking. Think along the lines of will I rise tomorrow probability? Usually pretty good, but I might be wrong someday.

A single Bitcoin transaction takes the energy equivalent of thousands of credit card transactions. So actually the cost of a bitcoin transaction is more akin to ‘priceless’.

The security of Bitcoins do come into question since there has been substantial hacking in some countries. Bitcoin can be like the canary in the crypto-currency mining process. But instead of the canary dying, we are talking about the crypto canary disappearing completely. And instantly.

The disappearance of all remaining Bitcoin to be mined would be the signal that someone successfully created a quantum computer. The first use of such a computer would likely not be to solve the mysteries of the universe, but rather to solve the algorithm to grab the balance of the Bitcoins to be mined.

This may take ten years, or perhaps less. As Yogi Berra opines, it’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.

Don’t dread eating tomorrow’s frog

If your job is to eat a live frog, then best to do it first thing in the morning. If your job is to eat two frogs, then start with the biggest one. This is the wise collective wisdom of productivity managers and of course Mark Twain.

This provides a great example of why people procrastinate and perhaps a way to cope with it. This leads into why people procrastinate at all. You can understand why people might dread eating a cold frog in the morning as opposed to a warmed-up frog in the afternoon.

The New Yorker gave an interesting analysis of time. It’s only during the 3 seconds that you can sing “Hey Jude” that you can really perceive what is happening. Everything after that window is simply the past, and everything before it is simply the future. The New Yorker analyzes some thinkers on the subject that suggest you weigh the past, present and future time equally.

Why dread eating that future frog when you likely no longer dread eating that past frog. Neither are in the moment. So, you are better off living in the moment and perhaps only dreading that next bite of frog in front of you and leaving the dread of tomorrow’s frog in the future instead.

The Necktie is dead.

Long live the necktie

photo by Pexels

Now that the pandemic existential crisis is coming to an end, and the climate existential crisis never left and is picking up speed, the next crisis will be what to wear to work. Now that employers might have this expectation you actually have to return to a place of employment.

If you picked up the COVID 15 pounds, then what is left in your closet that still fits might be thin. Even if you aren’t any more. But the old standard necktie can still fit so long as it eventually reaches the top of your belt buckle. Although some politicians see fit to wear it longer.

If there was a time to cast aside old customs, then it is time to end the necktie. Shoelaces help keep your shoes on. Belts keep your pants up. Suspenders help you imagine you are Michael Douglas in Wall Street. But ties just seem to hide your shirt buttons and make it awkward to undo that top button. Even if loosening your tie makes you look like you are truly working hard.

The next step will be to rid ourselves of shirts that have collars to hold the tie. This is the first in a series of steps to finally get back to the tee-shirts you have been wearing for the past 18 months.

The New Abby Normal

Photo by Olya Prutskova on Pexels.com

We live in interesting times.

Will the times ever become less interesting in the future? Doesn’t seem likely.

  1. We have learned how to zoom and Microsoft teams. All those meetings that could have been an email have been revealed for what they truly are. Little black holes where not even the truest wisdom could possibly escape.
  2. Housing prices went through roof. The fear of missing out drove so many into purchasing something they may not live long enough to pay off the mortgage and regret. As Thoreau said, it wasn’t so much that they got the house as the house got them.
  3. All the introverts became ecstatic at being forced to binge watch to their hearts content. They are now dreading having to socialize once again. I’m just saying this because a friend told me.
  4. A lot of people went out and got Covid support pets. We already had two golden retrievers before all this happened. I did splurge and got one more koi for the pond outback. The little guy has taken refuge in the pond filter for the last couple of months. Also binge watching I suspect. He will not be happy come fall when everyone comes back in the aquarium to overwinter.
  5. Time will tell if we see a lot of Covid children. If anything, there might be a pullback since few people are entering into new relationships. There may be less tension in the air since people have a reason not to keep entering the dating scene. Few people really regret binge watching. It’s more of a humble brag when they do mention it.

Keep living the Covida Loca!