Month: June 2007

Just Some Fun, Playing With My New Toys, Drupal and Track Back

Updated note: Hmmm, this didn’t appear to work, will probably try to setup another website of my own to trackback with and see if I can figure this out, but in the meantime, too many other shiny toys to play with

Summary: I’d like to suggest the following catchphrase for V

“Beware the Dragon Lady, for you are crunchy and taste good with diet soda.”

And here is a link to another site that has thousands of catch phrases or tag lines that you can search through, Tag Lines Galore since I figure this phrase won’t quite catch your fancy.

What follows, a long drawn out explanation of why I’m suggesting a catchphrase, that said catchphrase is not completely original and a recommendation for a site that has thousands of possibilities for catch phrases or tag lines. Okay, the ADD folk in the crowd can move along now.

The long explanation:

There is a website I found while browsing through reddit and digg called The blog is an interesting collection of stories and past history from the author who only calls herself “V” and is working to keep her anonymity through various means. I enjoy the high level of writing and the topics are of interest, to me anyway, due to them being well written , focused and having very clear meaning. Unlike my writing skills which I definitely need improve if I want to be understood by people who can’t talk to me directly and go “huh? what did that mean?”

Back to talking about V’s site, one thing that fascinated me is the articles cry out for comments but she does not support commenting on her site. I don’t blame her, I wouldn’t want spam-bots filling up my website either. However, the blog does make use of a feature called Track Back. From what I understand of the Track Back feature it allows another website to provide a link back to the original article which can then be included as a comment to the original article. It sounds really technically cool, so I’ve redone my website software, installed the feature and I’m testing it out with this article.

There are a lot of articles that I thought about commenting on the site, but after some thought I figured I wouldn’t be able to add anything meaningful or of added value. Or I would be commenting for the wrong reasons of trying to get attention or push other people’s buttons. But I still wanted to comment, and play with my new toy, when I noticed her Catchphrase Credits contest. Just a short comment and V has asked for the attention in this case, so it seemed like a good match for my immediate goals.

I gave it some thought and came up with something, partly based on the tone of the articles and on one specific article about her preferred beverage. I really doubt that she will want use this but I thought I would give it a shot. And I cannot claim complete credit for this phrase, it’s based on the phrase I like to use in my signatures.

Okay, enough suspense and wandering around, here is my suggested catchphrase, ta-da!

“Beware the Dragon Lady, for you are crunchy and taste good with diet soda.”

Well, erm, yeah, that probably sucks, but at least I get to try out the Track Back feature. And if V made it this far, first, my apologies in subjecting you to this and second, here is the site where I found my original phrase, Tag Lines Galore The site has a search engine, type in a word, for example dragon if you want to get an idea of the original phrase, and you will get tag lines that contain the word dragon. The site has thousands of entries so hopefully V can find another better saying, assuming no on else is creative enough to suggest something much better than mine.

And fingers crossed, hope the Track Back feature actually works. Although I have no idea what I would use this feature for ever again. :-p

Cancer and the Economy: How much growth is too much?

In my 14+ years of working for big companies, running my own business and having a life in between, I have some observations about our current economy, the stock market and what this all has to do with cancer. I’m not saying that our economy causes cancer, but I do see similarities between how companies plan for the future and the Big C, as it is called someplaces.

Off on a tangent for a minute, but I’ll get back to the original topic. In my mind, for simplicity, I have defined 3 states of basic activity for living things. These are normal growth, failure to thrive and excessive growth or cancer. These states all play a part in life and death, but I think what many people hope for is normal growth. There should be a balance, with a living organism not failing to change or grow but not also growing out of control and possibly consuming itself with mindless, undirected growth.

Now, back to my original thought, the economy, business and cancer. In the last 20 years, much of the focus on business has become growing continually, never stopping and always topping the previous records. If this assumption of continual, wild growth that is made in reviewing companies and their performance were made anywhere else, it would be considered mad. It would be viewed as a cancer or out of control population growth or something else and people would not invest time into keeping it alive.

But on Wall Street and in the Stock Market, suddenly this behavior is considered acceptable. If you don’t grow, you’ll be bought. If you don’t always show a profit, you’ll be bankrupt. If you’ve always shown a profit, but have one bad set of 3 months, not 3 years mind you, but 3 months, your worth plummets. Business becomes a cancer within our society requiring more and more resources to sustain growth. These resources are natural resources, such as oil, wood, food, people, etc. There is also symbolic resources being used, money, to buy more goods to continue to fuel the business cancer. More resources spent purely on business and the economy, with people wondering why we can’t feed out hungry kids, keep everyone healthy and why we have shortages of different natural items.

Now, I’m not against growth, I’m against cancerous growth, the kind that eats up the healthy parts and requires a lot of resources and effort to support. I’m against the layoffs of thousands of people because the cancer of always growing must be fed. I’m against the knee jerk reaction that is reminiscent of an animal cutting it’s leg off in a trap in order to escape the baying hounds of underperformance. I’m against the hiring of brand new, with a huge golden parachute executives, to bail out a company, and than firing them a year, two years later and having to pay out those big payments because they didn’t perform.

Now, I’m going to wimp out at this point, because I don’t have an answer to changing this view of our economy. I don’t necessarily want to go back to the “Good Old Days” when people had a job for life, but heaven help you if you were laid off because you were basically black listed. But I don’t think cutting away possibly healthy parts of the company in order to appear “serious” about making a profit is very good either. What I would like to do is explore other options, other viewpoints and treat the cancer of wild growth as a problem and not the way things have to be.

Really Re-thinking the Way Business Gets Done.

I now found myself with time on my hands since I have succumbed to the business cancer, i.e. I was laid off last month. I’ve had time to think and I still feel strongly that the current business enviroment in the United States is diseased and badly in need of review and repair. I still don’t have any answers for business in general, but I do have some ideas about my particular field, software development, and some thoughts about improving the work conditions, the quality and restoring sense and values to building software.

My ideas came about because of a talk I went to, given by the owner of Odegard consulting. By the way, it was an interesting talk, and I would certainly recommend his company just for the talks he could give. Anyway, he spoke about a more holistic approach to software development, about involving everyone, from marketing, to development, to support as a complete team to get the product out.

The part of his talk that struck me though was a comment about how companies are still run the way the way they were a 100 years ago.

I have run across this quote before and actually, it’s not quite accurate, companies are run in the same way as organizations based on 1000’s of years of human groups, which is a heirarchial structure, with someone obviously in charge, someone below that and below that, and so on. There have been some refinements, things like the idea of bureaucracy, which was a big innovation by the way, to the idea of Chief Executives and finance and free markets and the like. All kinds of things adding in to the mixture, but basically companies are run pretty much in the same way that human tribes are or gorilla bands. While a CEO may be a bit more refined when he is defending his territory from challengers, I have been struck by the similarity to rituals of display used by older cultures, the posturing, the dance like quality to how things are decided, based not necessarily upon rational decisions but upon feelings, how well someone is liked, is a person in a good mood? Basically, we haven’t evolved a new way to run things, there is still a structure, there are those who are ‘in’, those who are ‘out’ and those who become ‘outcast’, with survival in a corporate world being at stake instead of survival in a natural world.

Now, this system evolved with the small groups that humans originally belonged to and it isn’t necessarily bad. There are positive things, such as leadership that can be respected because of age, or decisions or luck at the hunt or some such thing, a feeling of being a part of a group, a sense of pride when being successful at a competition, and other items that we may be searching for without realizing it. Humans generally want to belong to some type of group and the freedom of our society today is that you can usually have a choice about which group or groups you can belong to, you aren’t limited to the place you were born and the people you grew up with. But with that freedom comes a price, the price of organizations that can grow beyond the optimum size for such tribal management and where suddenly you are on the outside just because of growth and some new challenger coming in and changing how things are done.

The problem is not necessarily with this type of management style, I feel that the problem comes in when the size of the company grows to a point where the head of the company doesn’t know everyone one, at least by sight, if not personally. When the CEO no longer knows everyone who works for him or her, when the CFO can walk down a hall and not recognize anyone, than people have become just ‘resources’, no longer individuals but simply components of the machine that is being maintained. For example, suppose someone had you in a room where you could see a complete stranger on the other side of a glass and someone that you care about very deeply, both sitting in chairs. You have a control and are given a choice to give a very strong electrical shock to one or the other of the people and you are told you have to do this or both will receive the shock. What would you do? I suspect you would give a shock to the stranger and while it might bother you, you would have a feeling of saving your loved one from pain. And you might refuse once or twice, but if you had to stay there and keep seeing your loved one shocked time after time, I suspect you would find it easier to shock the stranger, even if you were trying to hold to a higher ground.

With companies as large as they are, when it comes time to cut people, it’s easy to decide that is the best way, because they aren’t really people any more, they are numbers, you aren’t even sitting across from them as they experience the pain of being laid off. But you do see the company or people you work directly with experiencing pain because the company may not be doing well and the other person is still getting hurt because of cutbacks in other resources such as updated equipment or more people to help out with the tasks. So, you might as well lay off one group so that you don’t have to see the pain experienced by the thing you care about, either the company or people you work with or something else.

So, does this mean that big companies are no good? No, I feel that we, as humans must come up with some way to manage large numbers of people in a humane, life affirming way if we are to succeed as a species and not be just a footnote, if that to some future species that succeeds us. We have done too well, there are too many of us to turn back the clock and have small ‘tribes’ working together. I feel that we need to apply analysis and thought to our situation and not just keep doing things because we’ve always done it that way before. Maybe the problems that are occuring aren’t because of the people or the product or some such, maybe the problems are occuring because of how the company itself is structured and that perhaps the idea of a company should be re-evaluated and re-designed.

Some people are saying, “well, what we have does work, maybe there is some pain, but people are able to make a living and to support themselves”. My response would be is that good enough? Just because something is “good enough”, does that mean we should never try to improve it? If we never make the effort, we will never know.

So, after this long ramble, let me get back to the point I started with, which was improving how software companies develop software. Perhaps keeping companies running in such a structured way, but with cooperation being the goal instead of competition might be the order of business. Because the method of organizing a company and looking for competitors encourages competitiveness against the other company and I feel it also encourages competitiveness within the company as well. Isn’t there always some interdepartmental rivalry occuring, which really shouldn’t be because everyone is part of the same ‘tribe’ so to speak. But, we don’t know the people and when you don’t know the individuals, it becomes easier to reduce them to a lowest common denominator and blame them for all of your problems. So, a key part to the change is encouraging people to know each other across the normal boundary lines.

Now, obviously at a company that’s larger than say a small town, say a few hundred people, it’s going to be really difficult or impossible to know everyone. But you can know some people, especially those that are related to getting your product out the door. It should be encouraged that a team is considered everyone involved with the product, from marketing, to development, to CM, QA, documentation, training, support distribution and sales as part of the team. It doesn’t meant that everyone will like everyone or even get along with everyone, but when you know the faces, when you know the names, it becomes much harder to reduce the people to just stereotypes or ‘resources’, which, by the way, I have really come to dislike the term ‘resources’ when it’s applied to living, breathing, thinking people. To me, it’s just another way to remove the humanity and make it easier to administer that electric shock when you need to.

And maybe, instead of having just a CEO, you have a board of CEO’s for the different products who are working together to make the company stronger. So, while each CEO won’t know all of the people for the whole company, they will know them for their product and it will take a joint decision by all of them to lay people off. But maybe, just maybe, if you have that many people in the room who are trying to find ways to not lay people off, maybe they could find different solutions. And, with all of these different people, maybe they can find different solutions instead of depending on just one person to make the decision. Maybe there can be someone who could be a tie breaker, if such a thing is needed, but perhaps by having something be a group decision, coming from people who know the people who work for them, something better and more humane can be achieved.

So that’s the first step, now, I need to think some more for some more ideas. And probably refine this one a bit, I’m sure after I’ve thought about it a bit, I will have some ideas for improvment as well. Depending on how long I’m out of work will probably decide how often I updated on that, so until next time.

Why Don’t New Solutions Solve The Same Old Problems?

To start off with, I notice that not everyone agrees with my opinion, which is cool, my purpose for these columns is to give another view point that you may or may not agree with. Although, perhaps the writing style is really, really, bad and that’s why the negative votes, I know I tend to wander through a topic instead of tackling it head on. Oh well, at least people are reading and having an opinion, so on to my next topic.

A couple of topics ago I wrote a long piece about big business and communications and how improving communications, or at least that was the point I was trying to get across, would help improve business. If you have everyone communicating effectively and effeciently within an organization and everyone is in agreement and understanding about the goals, to me it would seem that the business would get done more effectively and effeciently which should improve profits. And I left it there, wondering what the next step was.

I have a found a next step, perhaps, based yet again upon my experiences in the corporate world. What I have been pondering lately, what with thoughts of layoffs, restructuring and such that are going on right now, is how do companies become “bloated” so that they need to become “lean and mean” at a later date?

I really can’t picture some manager calling down to the Human Resources department and saying, “Hey, we’re doing really well right now, so I think we need to get really bloated with unneeded people for a lot of unneeded work.” I feel that in the majority of the cases, most managers are hiring more people in order to become more efficient, not less, yet in a lot of cases, the opposite happens. My question is why? and I think I have some partial answers.

1. The first thing that comes to mind is that people who are hiring are in a hurry and want to get this chore out of the way. The way people are hired in a bigger company can take a lot of time and effort for each interview, not to mention trying to review resumes and get to the ones with a skill set that might actually help. And with the advent of the Internet and computers, it has gotten worse, because there are usually so many resumes for people to review. The Human Resources (HR) department can try to narrow the field down, but for technical jobs, I have seen where this has done more harm than good, so a hiring manager probably has several resumes to review. Than, there is the time for the interviews, not just for the manager, but for other people in the group, and just trying to hire someone really eats into their already busy schedule. So, as a result, the first candidate that looks halfway decent, isn’t carrying a gun or talking about the voices in their head and actually has some skills that match the job required is going to get an offer and the hiring manager is going to hope they take it so they don’t have to continue with the hiring process.

2. The next thing that comes to mind, is that a hiring manager isn’t necessarily trying to find someone to solve a problem within their group, but they are trying to find someone who will reduce their workload. For example, let’s take a situation I’m familiar with, where there is a software team, with a person who is normally a good technical lead and who loves to code has been having to do more and more people management because of the growth of the product. This person doesn’t like the work that keeps them from coding and he/she manages to convince their manager that it would be a good idea to hire someone to handle all of the paperwork and scheduling and stuff and that they don’t necessarily need a good technical background. But is this the right solution to what appears to be the problem, which is the technical lead not being able to code as much as they would like.

I would say, it depends, perhaps the reason there is so much people management and paperwork is because problems are being introduced by the people on the team not having the right skills for the job they are in. Perhaps what is really needed is a re-evaluation of the team and where it is going to as far as supporting the product. Skills that might have been good to have during the research and development phase, such as trying a lot of new things, having unstable code, being quick to react, may not be skills that are needed during the maintenance phase of the code. Or maybe there is already someone on the team that could help out with some of the people problems and do a great job, but due to the “real” job they are supposed to do, they don’t have enough time and aren’t sure of how to do the job they are really interested in.

This is a simplistic case, what I am suggesting is that instead of trying to hire more people just because you can, perhaps more analysis should be performed to verify what the problem is and whether more, less or the same number of people would solve the problem.

3. Finally, I think some companies get bloated, just because they can. For some reason, the company has lots of money and acts like the situation is going to last forever and it’s definitely more prestigious to be hiring instead of not hiring, so they hire more people because they can. And so, the levels of management grow, you get people in charge of moving a stack of papers from point A to point B and a lot of puzzled executives in a year or two, scratching their heads and wondering why they aren’t still making a profit.

I guess my opinion on all of this, is that a lot of hiring is done to solve the wrong problem and that no one has taken or wants to take the time to see what type of skills are really needed and first seeing if those skills are in-house. Unfortunately, by doing so, there’s an underlying attitude of “our people aren’t good enough” in some cases or just a lack of common sense. And even more unfortunate, is that it’s not usually the hiring manager who has to pay for the mistakes, it’s the people that they hired when things were going so well who have to pay for the lapse in judgement and deal with the New Economy of job impermanence.

Now, off to think of what might be another next step that corporations could look at to solve some of their problems.

Your Bias is Showing

Amazing how having a job effectively reduces the amount of time or energy I have to do updates for the site. Oh well, as I keep reminding myself, “Paycheck good”. I’m writing today because I came up with an opinion piece and thought of a cutesy title to go along with it. So bear with me, as I go off on a whimsical shift from what I’ve been writing about.

I was reminded of something this last week or so when I had lunch with a friend of mine who is now out of work. We got to talking about the response she had gotten on her resume and the response I had gotten on my resume and comparing the response that someone else was getting on his resume. While we were walking back to the car, I remembered something from a couple of years ago when I was job searching, about how I wasn’t getting much of a response to my resume while other people around me were being flooded with inquiries.

A couple of years ago, when signing up for some job boards, on one of them I used just my initials, and not my name on the listing. I got a greater response on that listing than I did on other listings with my name, a female name, at the top, with the exact same experience. Um, oops, your bias is showing.

Now, I will add in here that this is definitely my opinion only and there are other factors about not getting a response on my resume, so I’m not saying that this is the only reason. And this is ancedotal, not a scientific study, but it is something I’ve run into into talking to other woman in the tech field. Their resume seems to be ignored, while male colleagues around them are getting all kinds of call backs and response with the same kind of experience. So, my suggestion has been to try sending out their resume with just their initials at the top to see what kind of response they get back. I just wish I had thought of this a few months earlier, but things have worked out to my satisfaction at this point.

I will say that I don’t think the bias is intentional on the hiring managers part. And there are differences in individual resumes that can make one resume shine out more than another one with equivalent experience. But I will say that this experience with resumes mirrors other experiences I’ve had on the internet and one of the reasons I don’t like to give out my name or go to chat rooms. I’ve noticed that if you sign on with a female name, there is a lot of juvenile behavior, a lot of come ons and other stuff that I don’t really feel a need to deal with. However, if I use a male name, it stops, I don’t get a lot of garbage to wade through and the experience becomes more enjoyable. And it’s not necessarily just guys doing the come ons, its women too, so I’m not trying to pick on one gender or the other here.

Anyway, I basically wanted to share my observation and add it to the list of other like observations from other people. It would be interesting to do some study on this just to see what bias is still out there with people. And it reminds me that I need to check my bias as well if I review resumes in the future so that I don’t end up with…

My Bias is Showing. 🙂

Why do PHB’s seem so out of it?

I have noticed in the past that there seems to be a change in people when they get promoted to a certain level and I have puzzled over this for the last couple of years trying to figure out why the change occurs. For people at the lower levels, it looks like higher managers don’t care about the customers and are out of touch. I have hypothesized that part of this out of touch impression is due to the fact that managers in the middle are insulated from the customer and the interest turns toward fulfilling upper management’s needs and ideas that may or may not be based on real situations.

However, I think I have another thought on this theory after seeing someone I have known who has been promoted out of the technical area into a business area. When you get to a position like this, you are still concerned about keeping the customer happy, but it’s for a different reason, the reason for keeping the customer happy is to ensure that money keeps coming in to the projects for the manager. Now, for the manager, this may mean different things, I think some managers want the money so they can build up their group and power or other managers want the money to make sure they can keep the people under them employed, and or some combination of these reasons and have managers wanting to keep the money flowing in. So, if a customer says something and there is an implied threat that the money will not come through, for whatever reason, the manager gets worried and starts pushing to do whatever the manager thinks it might take to keep the customer happy, including making promises that the people under them may or may not be able to keep for them.

For the developers, they want to keep the customer happy so that they don’t have to hear complaints about what they’ve built. The more complaints, the more drudge work they feel they have to do, when they could be working on other cool new technology. So, developers tend to want to build code that they don’t have to deal with again, except in a way that they want to. Now, this can take affect in different ways as well, some developers like fiddling with their code exclusively, so they write it in ways that only they understand, others try to give their code to others to maintain after they’ve done the fun stuff and some write code and document it so others can maintain it or some combination thereof. But all developers think their code is the best there is and that other code they have to deal with is no good, unless they have worked with someone a while and have come to understand their code, in which case, they have added another coding model they can trust to their environment. This means that when the manager is coming down with promises they have made that may involve other people’s code being modified, developers think the manager is crazy and doesn’t have any understanding of the task. And all the manager thinks is “Code is Code, what’s the big deal?”, hence the disconnect between the two groups.

I’ve become more interested in the change that occurs as someone is promoted because I have become the technical lead for a group and I want to avoid the disconnect that can happen with promotions. My solution is to keep talking with both management and development and to keep both sides in view as I make decisions about how to do things. Sometimes those decisions will lean towards the money making side, other times towards the technical side, but I don’t want to lose sight of either, because both sides have value during development. I feel that when one side is weighted against the other that problems occur and I can understand how easy it can be to get out of balance. And a lot of times I have to remind myself to take another look at a decision in order to verify that I haven’t weighted things too much towards management or development.

Anyway, the issue of change occuring upon promotion is something I want to continue to look at, because I think the change is a key as to why companies lose their original focus of customer satisfaction along with employee satisfaction.

What’s the Next Ism?

1. Action; process; practice: terrorism.
2. Characteristic behavior or quality: heroism.
3. a. State; condition; quality: pauperism.
b. State or condition resulting from an excess of something specified: strychninism.
4. Distinctive or characteristic trait: Latinism.
5. a. Doctrine; theory; system of principles: pacifism.
b. An attitude of prejudice against a given group: racism.

*Source The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition Copyright © 2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.

Or, I think a better way of stating it:

“The world grew light-headed, and forth came a spawn of isms which no man can number. –S. G. Goodrich.”

However, getting back to all these ism’s, I think the definition to focus on is ism as a doctrine, theory or system of principles. Note that word ‘theory’ in the midst of all of that, which in science means that you haven’t proved that an idea definitely describes something completely yet, although it certainly is a good contender for the top place. So, now lets take a look at the definition for capital:

1. a. A town or city that is the official seat of government in a political entity, such as a state or nation.
b. A city that is the center of a specific activity or industry: the financial capital of the world.
2. a. Wealth in the form of money or property, used or accumulated in a business by a person, partnership, or corporation.
b. Material wealth used or available for use in the production of more wealth.
c. Human resources considered in terms of their contributions to an economy: “[The] swift unveiling of his… plans provoked a flight of human capital” (George F. Will).
3. Accounting. The remaining assets of a business after all liabilities have been deducted; net worth.
4. Capital stock.
5. Capitalists considered as a group or class.
6. An asset or advantage: “profited from political capital accumulated by others” (Michael Mandelbaum).
7. A capital letter.

Source: The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition Copyright © 2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.

In particular, look at 2.c, “Human resources considered in terms of their contributions to an economy”. Hey, you think that means you and me, maybe? Nah, what could a human resource possibly contribute to “Material wealth used or available for use in the production of more wealth”. Oh wait, without those human resources, the material wealth doesn’t get created, does it? Hmm, think maybe that’s important?

I think so and I think the problem lies very much in the wording used, “Human resources”, i.e. people, men, women, children, blacks, whites, red, yellow, indigo with spots, you know, those “human resources” we interact with each and every day. But if you call everyone a ‘resource’, than, that person becomes just another piece of a machine that is used to build wealth for some other human resource that has a better handle on running the wealth machine.

Now, do I think that we should have a totally equally distribution of wealth or some force re-accounting of wealth in order to make sure people are treated ‘equally’? Nope, that’s the furthest thing from my mind. (Hey, I want to win the lottery, too you know) However, I do think that we should realize that there are people that are affected by the decisions being made by companies and that our community as a whole can be no better off than the person who has the least in the community. Each company should have a responsibility towards the community or communities it is a part of and in fact become another true citizen of our society. We are already part way there, in that corporations are considered a person in the eyes of a law, but the law does not go far enough.

The way the laws are written now, they are designed to protect the individuals driving the corporation and not requiring enough responsibility of the corporation towards the community it resides in. Imagine if you or I decided to start accepting motor oil and dumping it in our backyard or if you or I decided to running a business that paid below minimium wage or no wages, well, I don’t think we’d get very far for very long before we would be found out and charged with breaking laws of the community. However, when you become a corporation of a sufficient size, doing things like dumping extra garbage or not complying with community standards that individuals must comply with is okay, because the business is adding jobs and helping the economic ‘health’ of the community.

My opinion is that this isn’t enough anymore, businesses must take responsiblity and become members of the community which is affected by their behavior. The key is responsiblity once a business has decided to do business in a community. Some businesses do help out by contributing to charities and making sure they pay their fair share of taxes to keep the community completely healthy, not just for them with plenty of workers who are inexpensive, but for all people who reside there. Unfortunately, these communities and businesses are too much the exception and there are too many businesses that take advantage of communities. And when there is no more capital that can be extracted out, often times the businesses will leave to go to another area, leaving behind a town left with mess to clean up.

As usual, I have no idea on how to implement such an idea and I would be reluctant to just go in and try an idea without testing it out. But something has got to work better so that a stable environment can be built that encourages growth of everyone within a community.

Show me where the money went!

Heavens, it’s been a long since I’ve updated, mostly because I’ve been too busy to make note of much to write about. However, I’m taking some classes again and I was struck by a discussion in one of them.

Our instructor was explaining about how company structures in the USA had changed since the 1960’s and gone from a hierarchial, department structure to team oriented, product focused groupings. As a result of this reorganization, there were many middle layers of management that were taken out in order to streaminline the organization, which meant that the company was able to spend less to put out the same products.

So, I was thinking, the company saved money and prices have been cut on some products, but not necessarily a whole lot comapred to prices and wages in the 1960’s, so where’d the money go? Basically, can someone show me where the money went?

I got to thinking about this more and I’ve been noticing more articles about how wages have not really kept up with the prices of things, such as houses and cars. My parents bought their first hours for $16,000 and my Dad’s salary was probably around $4,000 to $6,000 a year at that time, so it was around a 4 to 1 difference between wages and the price of a house. Cars were several hundred and food was comparably cheaper and of higher quality as well.

Now, for example, in California, the average wage is $35,000 a year and the average price of a house is above $300,000, which is 10 to 1 difference. A middling car starts of equivalent quality to those 1960’s cars starts at around $20,000. Hmm, quite a bit of difference in the ratio of salaries to those purchased items. Food has stayed at about the same ratio in regular grocery stores, but the quality seems to have gone down. I remember eating Red Delicious APples growing up and they were really good. Now, if I eat one from a grocery store, it has no flavor and chews more like mush then an apple. So, am I really getting the same value my parents did?

Finally, in our local paper there were two articles one Sunday, which really seemed to capture the difference in wages between now and the 1960’s. One article was about the loss of jobs and earning power of USA workers since the 1970’s and the more recent loss of jobs due to the problems in the economy, job outsourcing and other factors. Which makes it look like the money is ending up with people doing regular work in our country.

The next article was at the bottom of the page and was about CEO’s and other company heads are receiving even more bonuses and higher salaries in the last year and that these raises continue a trend that has been going on since the 1970’s and 1980’s.

Hmm, so who can show me where all the money went?

Some links to articles of interest:
CEO Salaries on rise again
Weak Job Growth

Why The Economy Isn’t Picking Up: It’s the Layoffs, Sweetheart.

Amazing how having some time to think about things brings up all kinds of insight and new articles to inflict upon the world. This week I have been seeing articles about the recession, or possible lack thereof, why business isn’t picking up, why spending isn’t picking up, etc. I had a thought about the whole situation and about why people like myself aren’t spending. Not just people without jobs, but those with jobs as well. Maybe, just maybe, people aren’t spending more because they are also worried about being laid off and surprise! if you’re worried about you’re next paycheck, you may not be spending as much as you used to.

I came up with this insight, which is probably being repeated many times over, as I thought about the fact of what would happen once I do get a job. I can tell you right now, my family and I will be working to spend less because we are going to have a worry that it might happen again. Which is going to mean there is less need for goods out there, which means there will be less work, which means less money for companies, which means they might layoff some more people, which means they’ll be spending less and so on and so on. Hmm, so when people aren’t confident about how they are going to survive in the future, they may put less into the economy.

So, my point, if there is one, is that perhaps this idea of laying off people may contribute to the economy not doing well. There are that many fewer people out spending money and even if they do get a job, their spending is likely to continue being a lot less. Now, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but if our economy has come to depend on this outrageous amount of spending just to keep going, than it would be nice to lessen that dependence gradually. I, for one, would prefer to not see a return to soup lines and people without homes, especially if my family is part of that.

Maybe companies could start looking at alternatives to layoffs and start looking at people as an investment that needs to be taken care of instead of burden they have to put up with. Maybe the heads of companies could start asking their employees what could be done to cut costs, they might be surprised at the creativity the comes up when your job may be on the line. And maybe the streets will be paved with gold tomorrow too, in other words this is all unlikely, but perhaps if enough people start passing the idea around, things would change. I can hope, can’t I? And I would like my child to live in a better world where he doesn’t have to worry about being let go from a company because of some arbitrary rules instead of being based on his performance.

Neat Linux Commands

I’ve been gathering up neat Linux commands in various places and thought I would put them in a place that I can reference  easily at work or home. So here they are:

Commands for setting up SSH proxies

Hard drive copy command over network

Setting up PXE install with Ubuntu 

Debian Administration :: Resetting a forgotten MySQL root password

Debian Administration :: Interested in securely sharing a secret?

ssss: Shamir’s Secret Sharing Scheme

Debian Administration :: A couple of tricks with the secure shell