Java Zen:Thinking Out Loud Thursday, 2017.04.27
Never ask the barber if you need a haircut.

2006.03.16

Taking the “e” Out of e-Commerce

These good people deserve a plug for making me laugh. I’d ordered several Zoe Keating CD’s and this is the e-receipt that was sent. Normally I barely glance at these things, but this one managed to make the transaction a little less electronic.

Thanks for your order with CD Baby!

Your CDs have been gently taken from our CD Baby shelves with
sterilized contamination-free gloves and placed onto a satin pillow.

A team of 50 employees inspected your CDs and polished them to make
sure they were in the best possible condition before mailing.

Our packing specialist from Japan lit a candle and a hush fell over
the crowd as he put your CDs into the finest gold-lined box that
money can buy.

We all had a wonderful celebration afterwards and the whole party
marched down the street to the post office where the entire town of
Portland waved 'Bon Voyage!' to your package, on its way to you, in
our private CD Baby jet on this day, Monday, March 13th.

I hope you had a wonderful time shopping at CD Baby.  We sure did. 
Your picture is on our wall as "Customer of the Year".  We're all
exhausted but can't wait for you to come back to CDBABY.COM!!

Thank you once again,

Derek Sivers, president, CD Baby
the little CD store with the best new independent music
phone: 1-800-448-6369  email: cdbaby@cdbaby.com
http://cdbaby.com

This is also where you can find the excellent tunes from David M. Bailey.

2006.03.02

From the College-Is-Stranger-Than-Fiction Department

As a self proclaimed act of public obedience, some students from Atlanta took it upon themselves to drive down the highway, four cars abreast, at 55 miles per hour.

In my view, this was a poorly thought out stunt. Alan, Esq has indicated this is far from being an act of public obedience, rather it was against the law (Follow the link for an excellent discussion on the stunt.) Without the consent from all the other “participants” in this stunt, their act was certainly unethical. Without a plan in place to respond to the dangerous situations that were likely to arise, their act was reckless. Watching the video leaves the distinct impression the plan was to just do it and see what happens. There is no sense they considered when things were getting out of hand and what they would to de-escalate the situation they created.

The lives and well being of real people were put at risk because of the irrational response from a few drivers this stunt provoked. What will never be known are the extended consequences of the delay this group imposed. How many appointments were missed or meetings and deliveries delayed? What other unintended consequences may have resulted from this stunt? There my have been no emergency vehicles involved during their 10 minute stunt, but the video shows how they almost created the need for one. How much safer, and less sensational, would they have been driving single file, convoy-style, in the far right lane?

The objective was “follow the rules and show them how stupid those rules are.” In the end what did they really prove? That some drivers are assholes? This bit of insight is about as profound as revelations the sky is blue. What they demonstrated is that assholes can take it upon themselves to run unethical and dangerous experiments at the expense of everyone else. Lets hope their next project doesn’t involve guns.

2006.02.22

Cherubim Foundation Update III

I knew the Board had handed Judy Holland unprecedented powers as part of their feeble efforts to find an Executive Director, but this is unbelievable. Ms. Holland is listed as Cherubim Foundation’s Founder on the Colorado Nonprofit Association’s web site (original screen capture here), presumably for the past 8 months. I noted previously they seemed to loose track of when Janet actually passed away. But to loose track of who actually founded the organization? A lot of people are owed an apology. Wow.

Colorado Nonprofit Association Listing for Cherubim Foundation

2006.02.18

From the We-Don’t-Need-No-Stinking-Badges Department

Its -11°F here in Denver this morning and the power to the neighborhood has been out for the past 30 minutes and counting. What caused me to shiver wasn’t Mother Nature’s biting cold, rather this from an article in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer:

Houston’s police chief on Wednesday proposed placing surveillance cameras in apartment complexes, downtown streets, shopping malls and even private homes to fight crime during a shortage of police officers.

“I know a lot of people are concerned about Big Brother, but my response to that is, if you are not doing anything wrong, why should you worry about it?” Chief Harold Hurtt told reporters Wednesday at a regular briefing.

And just who is it, Chief Hurtt, that decides whether or not what I’m doing is “wrong” in your Utopian Police State? You and your stripe? That there are American citizen who think like this is not what is frightening. Its when they are leaders in the police force, and in a position to “advise” politicians, that this thinking crosses the line. Is the Fourth Amendment safe?

Signs like this have increased in frequency since the terrorists of 9/11 gave their domestic counterparts exactly what they needed to push an agenda which believes the only secure society is one that is safely tucked under the heel of a boot. The signal is above the noise and has been for some time.

This isn’t a ding against the police. I have great respect for the job they do. The concern is directed at the neo-Luddites who’s understanding of a consequence couldn’t win them a game of tic-tac-toe. Its of special concern when such thinking wears a uniform – police or military. Nano-surveillance of law abiding American citizens isn’t the way to better security. It is, however, a substantial invitation for abuse. It moves me closer to buying a gun. Not because I feel the need for one. But to do so while I still have the right. The founding fathers of America understood the only real check against a totalitarian government was an armed citizenry capable of tearing down any despots. Despots know the only sure way to stay in power is to disarm the citizens. And detailed surveillance of every citizen would be a useful tool for finding who has what and with whom they are meeting.

[Edit History]

2006.02.24 – Bruce Schneier is running an interesting thread on this story.

2006.02.16

Not sure weather or not I believe this, but…

Avast ye scabbers dogs! Shiver me timbers and call me “Sunshine”, matey. Who’d a thought. Arrrrrrr.


You Are Sunshine
sunshine.jpg

Soothing and calm, You are often held up by others as the ideal. But too much of you, and they’ll get burned.

You are best known for: your warmth

Your dominant state: connecting

What Type of Weather Are You?

And then there’s…


You Are a Boston Creme Donut
boston-creme-donut.jpg

You have a tough exterior. No one wants to mess with you. But on the inside, you’re a total pushover and completely soft. You’re a traditionalist, and you don’t change easily. You’re likely to eat the same doughnut every morning, and pout if it’s sold out.

What Donut Are You?

Actually, haven’t had a donut in years. Gave them up until someone invents a wheat-free, sugar-free donut. But then, that wouldn’t be a donut, would it.

2006.02.08

Mohammad in the Gutter

In an unfortunate display of example following postulation, the flame fanning by Muslim clerics behind the Danish newspaper [Jyllands-Posten] cartoons as reported by the Wall Street Journal echos points I made regarding the “War on Christmas” crusade being waged by various fundamental Christian groups (See Jesus in the Checkout Line)

In writing how unthinking followers confuse the symbol with the real thing, in this case how a tree IS Christmas:

This is where the dogmatic followers in the “War on Christmas” crusade are stuck – the label. The crusade leaders know this and use the effect on the followers to advance their agenda.

Now match this with what the Wall Street Journal reports:

Keen to “globalize” the crisis to pressure the Danish government, Mr. [Ahmed] Abu-Laban [a fundamentalist Palestinian cleric] and his colleagues decided to send delegations to the Middle East. They prepared a dossier to distribute during the travels. The document, which exceeded 30 pages, featured copies of the published cartoons and Arabic media reports about the controversy. It also contained a group of highly offensive pictures that had never been published by the newspaper, including a photograph of a man dressed as a pig, with the caption: “this is the real picture of Muhammad.”

(more…)

2006.01.26

Jesus in the Checkout Line

Thankful to have survived another season of holiday shoving…er…shopping, there are a few things which stand out about the past few months, in particular, that give pause to reflect on just what motivates the galaxy of agendas among the teeming masses each November and December. By the time the corporate marketing machine had “The Big Push” to full power, I had pretty much tuned out – the paper was down to Sunday only delivery, the TV and radio off for weeks at a time, SPAM filters nicely tuned and most shopping done on-line when I already knew what I needed and from where.

I’ve never been easily led by marketing campaigns anyway. As a kid, there just wasn’t the level of saturation there is today. Since then, years of Zen meditation and Aikido practice have instilled a strong sense of balance when it comes to material things and the stuff I consume. The set point for that balance is definitely on the minimalist side of the scale where less is more. Having less stuff, less reliance on things and “services” gives me greater liberty and freedom. This type of life style kills more sales pitches than anything else I know. Back in the mid 80’s, for example, when I didn’t have a TV, the cable TV companies would go door to door pitching their service. “I don’t have a TV” squashes any deal they may be offering and renders any strategy for overcoming objections DOA. Likewise, complaints from people around me about the cost of cable service carry about the same level of interest as complaints about the cost of escalator service on Jupiter. (more…)

2006.01.01

A New Year

Putting 2005 behind me, that’s a good thing. A new year. There is an implicit forgiveness about a new year. A resetting of life that allows us a new beginning to an existing life. That is, if we have the courage to seize the opportunity and act “as if” we have it all to do again. When we turn the calendar, its January again. We have had January’s in the past which makes us feel like we’ve been here before, yet hopefully with a bit more wisdom and insight. The seasons hold a built-in opportunity to do January again, only different. And by extension, an opportunity to do all the other months again, only different. Hopefully, better.

Happy new year and carpe diem everyone.

2005.12.15

Cherubim Foundation Update II

I have begun work to codify the business model which had proven successful for the first six years of Cherubim Foundation’s existence but elusive to new members of the organization. This will include components that worked, triage of those that didn’t and possible remedies to those weaknesses. Clearly, Cherubim Foundation’s transformation since Janet’s passing has exposed many of these weaknesses and as such will provide valuable insight into strengthening the business model. This will likely take a while as there is considerable material to work through. With plans to release under a Creative Commons license, I anticipate having a first draft ready for public review late in 2006. It is likely that at about the same time I’ll make a determination on whether or not to start a new organization in line with the vision Janet and I held for Cherubim Foundation.

Meanwhile, it seems the Board of Directors for Cherubim Foundation isn’t interested in taking responsibility for their decisions or answering questions. They wouldn’t do it privately and they’re not going to do it publicly. They’re quitting. Funny, the Board builds a wall while I press for answers until I’m spent. Tape a weblog note on the window to the world and the whole thing collapses. When it was eight fending off one lone voice of concern it was no doubt easy to wrap themselves in patronizing platitudes. How things change when it becomes eight against hundreds. Thank you all for your support.

Rather than do the work to move Cherubim Foundation toward a successful future, a process made significantly more difficult by their failure to correct bad decisions rather than having made bad decisions, they’re quitting. The latest missive follows with my comments included in-line. (more…)

2005.12.08

From the Just-Between-You-Me-And-The-Cube-Farm Department

I never assumed I was alone in detesting the Interactive Voice Response (IVR) phone tree systems which are becoming ubiquitous when calling companies of just about any size. I was delighted to find that a gentleman named Paul English maintains a list of keypad cheats called “The IVR Cheat Sheet“.

While I begrudgingly submit to having to learn yet another way of negotiating the information age’s equivalent of walking across hot coals (i.e. the phone tree), my concern for this latest “advancement” goes deeper. Namely, if I wish to discuss a bill with my insurance company, for example, I am forced to say my account number and social security number loud enough for the machine to understand me across a voice line. (This assumes I don’t know the cheat codes.) The required volume needs to be sufficiently loud enough such that anyone within 20 feet or more is going to hear me recite my account information. And if the machine doesn’t understand, those within hearing range will benefit with the repetition of sensitive account information. In order to protect this information, I now have to secure my environment, which is not always possible. Such IVR systems are decidedly less convenient and less secure.

This point is, not surprisingly, omitted in a response to Mr. English’s cheat sheet by Angel.com, a leading provider of on-demand IVR solutions. Angel.com has released their own “cheat sheet” for the business which use IVR products. Tip number two reads:

Do not hide the option for callers to speak with a live agent. No matter how useful your IVR system is for customers, there will always be a segment of customers who prefer to speak to a live agent to resolve their issue.

Prefer? It should be a requirement that account information must be keyed in via the telephone keypad. Several provision of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) were put in place to protect patient privacy. Most generally this applied to hospitals and doctor’s offices. I see no reason why insurance companies shouldn’t be accountable for providing the same level of privacy to their customers.

[Edit History]

2006.03.09

A related story on the problems of speaking aloud from Peter Cochrane’s blog, “Snooping on a BlackBerry fool”, and a discussion on Bruce Schneier’s blog.

2006.08.13

Updated link to Paul English’s “IVR Cheat Sheet“.

2005.12.06

Picking Up the Cello at Age 44

GPE - Cello

Since I was about age 10, I though the cello would be the coolest instrument to play. Thirty four years later that hunch is confirmed. I’ve started playing cello and it is cool. Its like giving music a hug. Had my first lesson a little less than 3 months ago. Before that I hadn’t so much as touched a cello. I’m certain Janet and my friend Reed Bernstein (a violin maker) were the only people who ever knew of this secret ambition. Janet and I talked on occasion about finding a cello, but the opportunity never happened.

It’s partly an experiment and partly by design in keeping with this year’s “And now for something completely different.” theme. With my world turned on end and spun out of orbit, the opportunity is there for learning new things. Much of my thinking has returned to that childlike state of wonder where all things are possible and no rules apply. Fear not, I’ve retained my values and sense of what is right and wrong. Its just that many things I cared about no longer matter and space has opened up to be curious about anything that crosses my path. There are many grown-up attitudes that more than ever strike me as tragically sardonic, self imposed and needlessly limiting to the human potential. As adults, we limit ourselves unduly with “supposed to.”

I have played piano for many years and own a beautiful Petrof baby grand. Unlike piano, the cello is demanding a far greater awareness of my entire body while playing. The balance required is surprising and it makes the skill of such masters as Yo Yo Ma and Pablo Casals all the more amazing. All those years of piano and I never learned to read music and play anything I wanted at the keyboard on sight. I’d have to pick through the score and iteratively practice until the entire piece was committed to memory. With cello, I have the opportunity to do that differently. After about 3 months of lessons, diligent practice and efforts to read music while playing, the experience just keeps getting better.

My teacher is excellent. A cellist for the Colorado Symphony Orchestra, she fits my criteria for having attained a level of recognized mastery. She’s good with adults as well, another important criteria. It must be more challenging to teach adults as there are bunches of things which we must unlearn before new lessons and understanding can result.

About a month into my practice (I’ll give myself 10 years and then decide if I have a chance at being any good.) I hit my first plateau and wasn’t sure if it was related to my clumsy technique or the quality of the cello, a high school orchestra quality instrument borrowed from my neighbor while he and his family spend a year in France. My teacher suggested we find out and handed me one of her cellos (as a professional, she has cello stuff about the place like I have computer stuff). WOW! What a difference! Yes my technique had a part, but so did the instrument. She handed me another cello, “Try this one.” DOUBLE WOW! The good news was that my technique wasn’t so far off the mark and I had already begun to outgrow the loaner instrument after one month. The bad news was the first cello I tried was a 50 year old Italian cello worth $25,000. The second cello was a 100 year old Czech instrument worth bunches more. Ouch.

We talked about what it would take to acquire an instrument which would suit my emerging skill for the next couple of years. So I hooked up with a recommended broker and settled on a $5,000 instrument made last year. It sounds wonderful! Included a better bow in the mix as well. I figured to use the money from a small life insurance policy I had on Janet to finance my studies and cello upgrades. Seems like a good use and a way to honor her musical talents.

2005.12.05

9 Down, 45 To Go

WhooHoo! Small miracle, I’m still a straight “A” student with two more classes under my belt (Software Engineering and Operating Systems.) Not because of the material, mind you, but because of the technology employed by one of the professors. Its different from the on-line course software used during the Fall quarter. Equally disconcerting is that yet another professor buggered out due to some sort of personal crisis leaving the virtual classroom empty for weeks at a time. I really hope this isn’t a trend. I’ve initiated a conversation with DU regarding the particular issues and hopefully they’ll be resolved.

One thing is clear, the quality as well as the quantity of student participation on the discussion boards is critical. Without it, the class is pretty much like being self taught and who needs to drop 1,000+ bucks for that?

2005.12.01

From the You-Can-Run-But-You-Cannot-Hide Department

[This post is a little out of sequence as this trip actually happen in mid August, 2005. Reading the previous few posts will give you a sense as to why. It took a little extra time to prepare the graphics and get them on line. – GPE]

You would think four months after Janet’s death I’d catch a break. Nope. The Universe has other plans and I’d be a master wizard if I could figure it out. After a mini Odyssey trying to get to Kaua’i (thanks in great measure to United Airlines – I’ll spare you the details.), I rolled up to a neat looking cottage. I found it on the Net and rented it based on photos from a “sister” cottage. This one was new and no photos had been posted to the owner’s web site. Its very beautiful, elegantly decorated and simple in a way that appeals to my Buddhist sensibilities – all except for the absence of an indoor shower. Privacy wasn’t so much the problem as there was a constant breeze up that side of the hill which makes for a chilly shower experience. I had thought to skip the whole cottage route entirely and camp on Anini beach like we had done so many times before but lacked the time to properly prepare. Well, at least I got the campground shower experience. (more…)

2005.11.04

Cherubim Foundation Update I

Someone sent along a copy of the new brochure for Cherubim Foundation. Is anyone in the office proofreading? Are they paying attention to any details? Janet died in April, folks.

It also incorrectly lists Fresh Squeezed Books as supporting the organization. Fresh Squeezed Books does not support Cherubim Foundation.

[Edit History]

2006.02.22 – A printing of this brochure from a month earlier actually had the correct date for Janet’s passing. The incorrect date was an intentionally modification. The first printing had its own problems, however, including trademarked material belonging to another organization used without permission. Hence the second printing.

2005.10.14

Once more unto the breach, dear friends – Cherubim Foundation’s Future

I’d like to start with a brief measure of your moral and ethical fortitude. Imagine you are coming out of a store and you see a car pull out of a parking space and smash into another car. You watch as the car drives away, making note of the offending driver’s easy to remember vanity license plate. As far as you know, you are the only one to have witnessed this accident. How would you respond? Would you call the police? Leave a note on the damaged car? Or would you just get on with your life and not get involved? Image the same story, except you recognize the damaged car as belonging to a friend you had met while shopping. Now what would you do? Your response to these scenarios will help put what follows in context.

This past August I was on an island in the South Pacific, relaxing into a little space to clear my mind and find some peace since Janet’s death in April. The month after her death had required my full attention as I worked to provide a memorial for family, Janet’s extended and impressive network of friends and any members of the public who wished to show their respect. Concurrent with and following this event has been a depressing solitary process of disassembling what remained of Janet’s life – her cremation, her psychotherapy practice, her business interests, her bank accounts, her medications, her clothes and uncounted smaller changes that if nothing else reminded me she was gone. Sorting through many, many thoughts and memories on Kaua`i, what emerged were five or six key areas I wanted to focus on in hopes of rebuilding a foundation for the future. (more…)


All content copyright © 1994 - Gregory Paul Engel, All Rights Reserved. The content or any portion thereof from this web site may not be reproduced in any form whatsoever without the written consent of Gregory Paul Engel. Queries may be sent to greg dot engel at javazen dot com.

Page 20 of 23« First...10...1819202122...Last »

No posts for this category or search criteria.