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

The importance of holidays!

brown-yellow-black-cross-orb-weaver-spider-51394

We started holidays for a couple of weeks and headed off to the cottage to be closer to nature. Job one involved unloading all the stuff at the cottage. Job two involved brushing off all of the spiders from the gazebo. Normally not a problem, but if you haven’t been up for a few weeks, the spiders have baby spiders.

Once you finish removing all of shelob’s webs and carcasses, you start to realize that you have not dealt with all of the microscopic baby shelob spiders climbing around your legs.

One must persevere to be close to nature, but perhaps not have it that close in Steven King sort of way. One can possibly start to miss the relative sterility of the office.

#motivation #inspiration #business.

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Retirement Untethered: National Burnout Vacation; Can Retirement be Better?

woman wearing sunglasses and sun hat
Photo by Andre Furtado on Pexels.com

Clark Griswold:
Despite all the little problems it’s fun isn’t it?

Ellen:
No. But with every new day there’s fresh hope.

National Lampoon’s Vacation

 

Like many people, you may have gone on vacation, or perhaps you plan to go on vacation.  So, what constitutes a vacation? And would retirement be one extended vacation? Webster’s defines vacation as a period spent away from home or business in travel or recreation, a scheduled period during which activity (as of a court or school) is suspended, a period of exemption from work granted to an employee, a respite or a time of respite from something.

So, did this actually happen? Did you totally go off the grid for that period of time when you had a choice? Probability suggests you checked your email, perhaps late at night or first thing in the morning before the family woke. A little quality time with your iPad perhaps.

 

Why do people go on vacation? Chance of pace? To get away from it all? Family pressure? To de-stress? Perhaps test what retirement might feel like?

 

Perhaps you hope that this de-stress hormone lasts for at least as long as the vacation itself. Or that you can you store the de-stress hormone up as easily as the extra weight you may have put on from the extra consumption of alcohol, fats, carbohydrates that you would have otherwise avoided.

 

In a 2018 American Psychological Association survey of more than 1500 US workers, two-thirds of the respondents said that the mental benefits of vacation disappeared within a few days. So the vacation calmness disappears far before the weight loss does.

 

The reasons for increased après-vacation stress can be obvious. The workload undoubtedly accumulated in your absence, things moved on during your gallivanting. Now you must move double time to catch up and all of that stress filled time you spent before the vacation appears not to have been enough to keep you ahead.

 

If you feel stressed before the vacation, and even more stressed after the vacation, then one starts to wonder about the efficacy of going on vacation in the first place.

 

This becomes a good time to talk about burnout. In the 2015 edition of Acta Psychopathologica, work-related stress occurs when the demands of the work environment exceed the employees’ ability to cope. The Diagnostic Statistical Manual 5 states that disorders precipitated by specific stressful and potentially traumatic events in the workplaces are included in a new diagnostic category, “Trauma and Stress-related Disorders”. Mind you, this abstract was dealing with the police in Italy.

 

If you sprain your ankle playing tennis for the first time since forever during your vacation, you likely know RICE, rest ice, compression and elevation. The same RICE can identify burnout with Regret, Inefficacy, Cynicism and Exhaustion.
Over 40% of California lawyers would do something different if they had to do it over again. This constitutes a high level of regret. Lack of actualization can lead to a feeling of inefficacy, and difficult as it may seem, burnout indicates even higher levels of cynicism that what you normally have. Exhaustion likely originated during articling and never dissipated.

A number of firms insist upon employees taking vacation. The firm’s rationale could range from an actual concern for employee health or for the ever expanding health benefit costs. If an employee leaves as a result of stress, there comes the extensive cost of locating, rehiring and training new staff. Far better to maintain the mental health of the existing staff.

In addition to vacations, employers should be considering breaks during the work cycle. Standing up and getting that wilted salad to eat in front of the computer does not cut it. An employee requires greater dedicated time to mental breaks along with physical activity on a regular basis. The same APA study found that staff became far more productive and content with their position when employers cared about employee’s mental health.

 

 

#retirement

 

The Gig Economy

woman playing guitar while singing beside man playing bass guitar near microphone
Photo by Brett Sayles on Pexels.com

Should we embrace the gig economy? Although this seems relatively new, musicians in 1915 called short-term engagements as gigs.

Now days, gigs comprise short-term engagements which allow employers to engage workers for short periods of time. This certainly allows for substantial cost savings. Gig workers can be hired to fill in when demand for the employer services rises. Of course, benefits are rarely payable, and defined benefit plans have gone the way of the polar icecaps. Slowly retreating.

The downside of gigs becomes apparent with the workers. Insecure periods of paid work. Lack of work life balance, which was a major concern just a few years ago. And now the main concern is simply finding work in the first place.

Ultimately the employer suffers too. The culture of the organization slowly melts away, returning to the icecap metaphor. In addition, innovation will eventually suffer. Innovation initially starts with inspiration, which is hard to achieve when you are busy learning what your new ‘gig’ is all about.

Retirement Untethered: Devil’s Playground

clear glass jars on white wooden shelf
Photo by Taryn Elliott on Pexels.com

After travelling out of the country, we self-isolated. This is sort of like retirement. Twice the husband and half the income. So of course I organized the pantry.

An idle mind is the devil’s play ground. I thought about organizing items according to ability to open them. Perhaps cardboard on one level, bags on another and cans on a different another. Using mind-mapping, I decided on three levels. The first level would be food regardless of packing material. Salmon and pasta. The next level would be stuff you put on food. Tomato sauces, panko crumbs. The top level would be stuff you put on food, but probably shouldn’t. Things like syrup and jams.

Fortunately, my wife only laughed. Retirement looks positive!

 

Retirement Untethered: The first step

adult adventure beautiful climb
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1.  Alice in Wonderland

Time to be existential

 

“Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.” – Mark Twain

 

If you just recently came back from your vacation, you likely addressed the greatest of all existential questions. When can I retire?

 

Not that we all hate work, but some of us long for something more. Or perhaps just something different.

 

But what does retirement mean? Is this simply stopping work? Most of us stop work while we sleep. Some of us may dream of work, but that requires greater psychotherapy than what we have time for right now.

 

Retirement becomes a transition from one phase to another phase of life. Some consider retirement a transition into leisure, which requires its own definition.

 

Robert Stebbins, a sociologist, wrote a number of books including The Idea of Leisure, First Principles. He describes leisure as an uncoerced, contextually framed activity engaged in during free time, which people want to do and, using their abilities and resources, actually do in either a satisfying or a fulfilling way. Although this seems to suck all of the fun out of it, He suggests taking four different ways to achieve this type of leisure.

 

Firstly, a person requires a good balance of activities. Constant leisure may be a difficult thing to achieve. One must include any number of things one does not want to do. Call them duties.

 

Secondly, leisure also requires positive continuous improvement. Sitting on a beach with an unending supply of tiny umbrella drinks sounds pleasant, and it likely could be for the first hour. Or two. But he suggests continuously improving oneself, even though this sounds exhausting

 

Thirdly and fourthly, he suggests positive relationships and positive interaction with the community. We are better overall interacting with the rest of society. After all, we are all in this together, and no one is getting out of here alive anyway.

 

Retirement then involves leisure hopefully, but it involves much more.

 

 

 

 

Retirement Untethered: Crisis nudge

white paper on a vintage typewriter
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That’s still a long list

 

Never let a good crisis go to waste.
—Winston Churchill

Churchill recognized the basis of good change management. If you needed to get something done but couldn’t under normal circumstances, then a good old-fashioned crisis usually allows you to get the changes you want.

 

Following a new path requires some serious change management thinking. Setting some small achievable goals, getting some quick wins, obtaining buy in from the top amongst others. Getting buy in usually means your significant other. But having a bit of urgency always helps the change management process.

 

Nearing, or entering retirement the sense of urgency should become more apparent. The ride of your life is starting to enter the end game, so it’s time to up your game for what is ahead. This is not the end of times, but you can start to see it from here.

 

That seems a bit morbid, but the time to change what your future might look like begins now. Now is the time to seize what the future can actually look like.

 

 

 

#retirement #motivation #inspiration