Category Archives: Stupid

It’s Been a While Since I’ve Rambled

It’s been a while since I’ve written an entry in this blog.  I think this says a lot about the state of things.  In general, there’s not much to say, and, in general, there’s not much nice for me to say.

About a month ago while driving home from a night out at the movies, my husband asked me if I wanted to go to Best Buy or Fry’s and wander the aisles.  My response was, “For what?”  That’s when we came to the sad realization that, beyond the iPad, there is nothing for gadget freaks and computer nerds to be excited about right now.  3D TV repulses me and there’s no reason to buy a new TV just because it has yellow pixels.  There are no new speed leaps in PC hardware and I already have a multitude of iPods and PC’s in various form factors.  Ironically, the next day, while listening to Marketplace on my local Public Radio station, one of the news stories was about how sales at Best Buy had fallen.  I guess my husband and my sentiments are widespread.  There’s nothing new and wonderful to aspire to purchase (except for an iPad) and we are only buying on necessity for the purpose of replacing  broken items.  Sadly enough, our non-functioning XBOX360 doesn’t rise to the level of necessity.  We are now watching Netflix VOD on the laptop that’s connected to our TV.

This realization brought about further thoughts about the current state of things.  There’s a push/pull conundrum with the jobs situation.  People are holding back on spending because they feel insecure about their jobs and finances and companies aren’t hiring because there’s not enough demand for produces and services.  I think though, that job and financial insecurity are only a  part of the demand problem.  I think a big part of the demand problem is that there’s nothing exciting and new for consumers to consume.  Why do I say this?  Well, because of Apple, of course.  Despite the downturn, they continue to churn out great products and they don’t seem to be having any problem selling them to cash strapped consumers.  And believe me, my unemployed-behind is saving my husband’s money for a Christmas iPad.

I’m tired of hearing companies whine that they won’t hire because there’s no demand for their offerings.  My response to that line of complaints is “what are you offering?”  If it’s not something new and exciting, regardless of state of the economy, demand will slump.  In good times and bad companies have create demand by innovating and coming up with great new products to drive consumption.  So, in other words, big companies are going to have to spend some of the money they are sitting on, hire some people, and offer some great new products and services in order to kick start demand and spark the economy.  At the same time, there has to be investment in innovative small companies to get new ideas out.

My Dad likes to say that the economy won’t  revive until some sort of phenomenal shift happens — something on scale of the Internet or the steam engine.  I’m not sure if I agree.  It seems to me that there are a lot of “little” things that can get done, too.  Interestingly enough to me, it seems like clean energy isn’t fueling people’s imaginations.   I thought the clean energy revolution would be a phenomenal shift, but it isn’t.  Why?  I think it’s because oil is very much ingrain in our worldwide psyche.  I’m not sure I understand this emotional attachment to oil, but despite the damage being done to the Gulf, I hear the tears in people’s voice as they talk about the spilled oil ruining the environment, while at the same time, ruining job prospects and a way of life in which oil and fishing are intertwined.  The same is true for families in the coal mining industry — it’s like coal mining is part of the family.  It’s weird to me — why love something that kills you and hurts everyone on the planet?    Also, I think oil and coal are tangible whereas solar, wind, nuclear, and the biological and chemical methods of energy generation seem abstract to most people.   I imagine “blue collar” workers don’t see how they fit into a world that they associate with hard science and engineering — though, it seems entirely ridiculous to me, but understandable since BP saw it fit to fire the very engineers and scientists that could have prevented or more reasonably responded to the Gulf oil spill.  (By the way “technicians,”  “engineers,” and “scientists”  are not interchangeable!)  Anyhow…it seems to me that our reliance on fossil fuels is emotional and until that emotional tie is cut, other forms of energy generation cannot rise in its place.  The “everyday worker” has to see how they fit into a new energy future before they will buy into it.    Making alternative energy seem more accessible is a good problem for marketers to solve…

On the other fronts…well,  inventing new ways to print money never got us anywhere.  Yet, “Wall Street innovation” will continue, driven by finding new ways to scam people without technically breaking the law…personally, I don’t need it…but I imagine the new legislation that just passed will fuel a whole new round of “Wall Street Innovation…”

On a personal front, I’m watching and participating in the electronic manga revolution.  I want to be more active in it.  I think, though,  this is one of those things in which the large companies have to reach out to the smaller companies and hobbyist groups to get things moving in the right direction for consumers.  I just hope lawyers and greed don’t blind folks such that we end up losing the current opportunity.

Printing from Mobile — uh, Why?

I’ve had the misfortune, lately, of watching TV with commercials.  In general I put commercials out of my mind, but the commercials from mobile service providers and a prominent printer company showing people panicking because they lost or forgot their paper presentations and then rejoicing as they remember they can, in some shiny near future, print their presentation are annoying me.  My problem — when was the last time a professional or a student presented anything to a group of people huddled around a spiral bound notebook?  If your presentation is accessible by mobile, you’re golden.  Download it and project it like you have been doing for the past 10-years.

It’s actually rather sad to me to watch the lack of imagination and the stagnation of thought in these commercials.   Did the marketing people who came up with these commercials present the concept for the commercials in a spiral bound notebook?  I shudder to think of the brains behind “print from mobile” and it appalls me to think that any company would actually spend precious R&D dollars on something so pointless.

The Trouble with Checking out Potential Employees on the Internet

I made the mistake again of Googling my true name.  AUGH…the Internet presence of my name clones is growing and most of them are up to no good in terms of job seeking.  I’m VERY frustrated because how is an employer to know which person I am and are potential employers stupid enough to believe that names are unique.  I’ve written about this topic before, but now that it could affect my ability to keep my roof above my head, I feel a certain sense of urgency on the matter.  I do love the Internet, but how some people use it is questionable.

Giving what I’ve seen from Googling myself, I see that the Internet is, indeed, a sewage filled wasteland.  There’s are some people who are up to things that may be objectionable to employers all sharing my name and all very active on the Internet.  What’s a dull engineer like me to do to reclaim my identity and assert my dull, non-controversial self as a safe hire?  Do I put on my resume that I’m the “dull engineer” with patents and not these other folks?  How many job opportunities have passed me by because a potential employer Googled my name and found other people with the same name and then decided that I was unemployable based on prejudice and bias towards my name clones?

It is my belief that the Internet is not a reliable source of information about the personality or activities of a person.  Googling a name is pointless because there are many people on this Earth with the same name.  If a person explicitly gives you Internet URLs to check out, then I think it’s safe to say that is their Internet presence, or at least the Internet presence they want to feature as a potential employee.  I know I could shout this to the wind and get laws passed outlawing Google as a tool for hiring and, regardless, people are still going to be curious and do an Internet search.  However, keep in mind, that you REALLY have no idea what you’ve found and that you may be missing an opportunity to hire a great employee by “interviewing” the Internet, rather than the actual person who applied.

Wow, GM, Wow…

Uh … perhaps it’s not a good idea to so boldly put the name of a competitor’s car in your advertising …”Accord” is so big.  Do you have any idea what this car is?  Uh, …, Is a “compromise”  a bad thing? For me a compromise  is a win-win solution for all parties.  Wow … looking at this ad, I take away the Accord is a good value, maybe I should check it out.  It doesn’t help that the car’s styling is vanilla in the current style of the Accord and Camry …Wow …

And the second ad:

Uh … so is GM apologizing for the styling of this vehicle by implying it’s an “AppleCart?”  The redness of the vehicle reinforces this notion.  Yeah, yeah, we’re supposed to think the car “upset the apple cart” — so why not say that?  And call it an “AppleCart” instead of an “apple cart” makes me thing “AppleCart” is a brand name.  Wow … that’s something GM …wow…

Both of these ads suffer from mixed messaging that doesn’t reflect well on the GM brand, and, in the case of the Accord ad, may turn a potential customer to a competitor immediately.  I know the intention was to be ironic, but the mental and visual cues are doing the opposite of what may have been intended.

On top of killing the Saturn brand, it makes me wonder whether everything is okay at GM.

Saturn/Penske Deal Fell Through

I felt a little dagger go through my heart as I read the headline.  My second car was a Saturn.  I got it at the end of my first senior year in college.  It was a little gold SL1 that I named “spud” because it looked like a potato on wheels.  I always loved the Saturn concept and felt had wiser and smarter heads prevailed, the Saturn brand could have been the car equivalent of Apple.  But alas, GM is GM, and I don’t have anything nice to say about the company.  He’re a link to a story about Saturn’s demise:

link

I seriously feel like I’m going to cry because in my heart I know this may be the end of automotive innovation within the US.  Of all the parts of GM I wanted to survive, Saturn was the only one I was really pulling for.

Can Netbooks and Media Save Each Other?

Here’s an interesting editorial from Ad Age.  The author, Simon Dumenco postulates that free or very cheap netbooks can save the media industry through a subscription based content model.  Hahaha!!! This is nothing new.  I remember when the first round of “Internet Appliances” tried to come out in the late 90’s early 2000’s.  There was talk that a portion of the screen would be filled with ads to pay for the cost of the hardware and the software.  That idea died quickly.  Fast forward to now … so I’m gonna get a free netbook so I can pay$xx.99/mo. for each cloud application I want to access?   Oh, and by the way, some portion of the screen will be filled with advertisements to pay for the cost of the hardware and the software.   And, wow, isn’t it great to watch Hulu on an 8-in screen — how about a 8-in portable DVD player and a Blockbuster card?

Now some words about “Netbooks.”  When I initially heard about these devices, I thought the idea was ridiculous.  Being the type of person I am, this meant I had to get one to see if I could make sense of the hype.  My parents gifted me an HP Mini 1000 for Christmas and I really like it.  It’s a great little computer for the kitchen to look up recipes, read e-mail, and do little online shopping tasks when it’s inconvenient to go up to the office and fire up my PC or “real laptop.”  I, also, use it to read manga online while in bed and it’s much easier and less worrisome to bring this little guy on trips rather than a bulky laptop, when all we want to do is e-mail and check the news while out.  I think what makes this netbook and ones like it successful is that it is not as underpowered as I expected.  My netbook has comparable technical specs to my 3-yr “real laptop” so I can watch downloaded anime in the high-def file formats and I can have a “Rich Internet Experience.”  Granted, though, it’s nothing like my gaming PC or my smokin’ media laptop.  All-in-all, I’d have to say most netbooks are nice little products suitable for people on the go, children, and people looking for a secondary PC or laptop.

And some thoughts on media:  I still go to the movies because I like to watch good movies on a big screen with a crowd.  I feel watching a good movie is a good use of $11 and 2-1/2 hours of a weekend — the key words being “good movies.”  Good or better products and good or better experiences built around these products will always attract a crowd.  I think media outlets should concentrate on the content and make delivery of the content a better experience than piracy, rather than worrying about pirates and wasting brain cells coming up with the next free-but-not-free gimmick.

Lastly, to the author’s suggestion that hardware/software companies have to become media companies — well, this is not an old idea either.  The problem is, neither hardware/software companies nor media companies want to share because each wants it all.  On top of that, there are neat anti-trusts laws protecting us consumers from something like a DellMicrosoftNBCUniversalTimeWarner catastrophe (banish the thought now!).

In conclusion, can netbooks and media save each other?  I don’t know.  However, I do know selling a product for less than it cost to make and racing to the bottom in a price war is not a viable business plan.  Neither is free content.  I think hardware/software and media companies have to do the hard work and apply business fundamentals and some good old-fashion product innovation, as well as, take away the “free candy” from consumers in order to survive and thrive.  I think Apple is a great example of this on the hardware/software side.  As for media and piracy, if you want to beat the pirates, then join them and figure out how to make a paid experience that is much more appealing than piracy.  Again, I stress, media companies should impress upon potential customers that bad people can hide malicious code in free downloads.  I think this would be a far more compelling argument against piracy than copyright violation because you are offering protection from identity theft and the like, in addition to great entertainment.  (AUGH!!! It’s so frustrating watching the media industry pointlessly twisting in the breeze …)

The News Agencies Are Digging Their Own Graves

I’m beyond irritated with the quality of news we get in the US.  It seems their latest thing is trying to scare the crap out of everyone about the “Swine Flu.”  This morning I even saw rumblings about the Swine Flu thwarting the economic recovery.  If I’m not mistaken, the news agencies are funded by advertising and the amount companies spend on advertising is linked to how well the economy is doing.  So … isn’t it best for the news agencies to have a good economy?  It seems to me their deliberate drive to scare the crap out of everyone is very short-sighted.  Sure panic and sensational headlines may grab eyeballs, but those eyeballs aren’t the ones paying media producers to deliver the news.  I’m not saying that the news should only report good things — but what I’m suggesting is perhaps the news should get back into the business of delivering the news instead of opinion and tabloid sensationalism.  A balance of good and bad news would be nice.  Clearly separating the news from opinion and taking a serious look into what is news worthy and what is not would be nice.   Seriously, does 40 confirmed cases of the Swine Flu, which so far has manifested itself as the normal flu, equal a pandemic and the precursor to global financial meltdown?  And, seriously, do the media producers wish for global financial meltdown, because that would mean they would go extinct too.  So media producers and news people out there, give the news some thought before you start spouting sensational headlines and spinning everyone up with apocalytic prophecies and crazy what-if-a-frog-had-a-glass-ass scenarios.  Be responsible in your reporting and most importantly quit “driving” world events into the ground!  It’s irritating.  So irritating in fact, that I’ve limited my access to news to ~about 1-min/day to make sure the world still exists, while at the same time keeping myself from spiraling into mental depression.