Monday, March 27, 2017

Office supply

I worked in “corporate” for enough years to recognize that there’s an office supply full of predictable types. In a recent column in the Chicago Tribune, Rex Huppke catalogued some of them.*

He starts out with that instantly recognizable type:

The $%&hole:Every office has one. Some offices have many. It's even possible that you're one and don't realize it. These people are disruptive, difficult and only interested in advancing their own careers or somehow making yours more miserable. There is nothing you can do with an $%&hole, aside from report her or him to your boss or human resources if the behavior becomes too bad. But there's also a chance your boss or HR representative is an $%&hole, so reporting another person from this category is pointless. Best to just steer clear and take comfort in the fact that every co-worker who does not fall into this category hates the person as much as you do. (Source: Chicago Tribune)

Long-term readers will recognize that I’ve been on to this topic for almost as long as there’s been a Pink Slip.

Here I am in 2006 – on my birthday no less – with one of several posts spurred by Stanford Professor Bob Sutton’s terrific The No Asshole Rule, which has just celebrated the 10th anniversary of its publication. (Congratulations, Bob.) In my post, I focused on three sub-categories:

  • Credit Grabbers (inverse: Blame Gamers)
  • Weaklings
  • Charismatic Assholes (CA's)

CA’s are really in a class by themselves, and I have worked with some beauts over the years. Enough so that I gave them a post of their own, All Worked Up, in which I described three of the most incredible CA’s I worked with (each of whom I reported to, so I really got to see them all up close and personal). I didn’t use real names, but, for the record, in no particular order, that would be Mark, Rob, and Paul. The use of the name “Dennis” for one of these guys was an inside joke, as in real life “Dennis” was the most deplorable asshole I ever worked with, and one absolutely lacking in charisma. What Dennis lacked in charisma, he absolutely made up for in terms of sheer malevolence. As in chortling and high-fiving himself when he laid off one of his direct reports while the fellow was in the NICU with his wife, keeping vigil over a newborn who was in danger of not making it. Ah, Dennis.

I also gave a shout-out to a Bob’s book on the occasion of its publication.

So, yeah, I’ve been on to a-holes for quite a while now.

Back to Rex Huppke, among the other types on his list are:

  • Hand-Raisers, who prolong meetings with their tedious questions. He doesn’t consider them a malicious type, but he’s not thinking of the malicious subtype: the brown-nosing hand-raiser, who’s only waving their hand as a prelude to some ghastly suck-up-ery.
  • The Narc, who spends their time undermining their colleagues. Great bit of advice on the Narc: “Once identified, you should treat a Narc as a live microphone and assume anything you say will be recorded and used against you.”
  • Snack-Noses who are to a sheet-cake as Smokey the Bear is to a fire before it starts to flame. The minute there’s a goodie in the office, they’re on it! Sometimes they actually chip in a bit for that sheet-cake. But mostly they’re just there, sniffing around for crumbs+, and not giving a hoot that Kristin’s having a baby or that Andy just turned 50.

These were all good categories, and his readers sent in some additional ones, of which my fav was:

The Sports Guy: Tanned. Wears cuff links from the NCAA Final Four. Can't resist shooting crumpled papers into trash cans. Runs office pool for every major sporting event and keeps an Excel spreadsheet of staff winnings. (Source: Chicago Tribune)

Sports Guys don’t necessarily wear cuff links, but if they do, you can bet your LeBron James’ that he’s a sales guy. Just sayin’.

I also liked:

The Hide-and-Seekers: These folks go out of their way to be missing from their office from 8:30 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. Then they appear like magic at 4:46 and are working diligently. They wait until everyone else leaves the office so it appears they work harder than everyone else.

I would have thought that decades of dead-wood layoffs would have rid the workplace of this sort, but apparently not. My closest encounter was when I worked at Wang in the late 1980’s. Two of my colleagues would show up at 8 a.m., drape their suit jackets over the backs of their chairs, and head down with their newspapers to the caf for a nice leisurely breakfast. They returned to their cubicles in time to leave for the gym, followed by a long lunch, followed by their afternoon coffee break.

Wang was a matrix organization to beat all matrix organizations, and, if you were in product management, you had to deal with parties spread across many different locations. Given this, you could be anywhere. So if someone came looking for Kevin or Dick, it was reasonable enough to assume they were down in engineering, over in manufacturing, meeting with marketing, off with customer service, hanging with sales. I liked both of these guys, but when the grim lay-off reaper showed up at their cubes swinging his scythe, I thought it was a righteous hit.

Anyway, always fun thinking about the office types, and I’ll be giving it a bit more thought over the next couple of days to see if I can find some types that have so far been missed.

Meanwhile, if you have anything to add, you can comment here or send your suggestions on to: rhuppke@chicagotribune.com/

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*I saw the column thanks to a head’s up sent from my Chicagoland cousin Ellen who, this time of year, is reading The Trib from the warmth of Florida. So a doff of my worker’s cap to Ellen.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Float like a drone, pollinate like a bee

I suspect that one of the things that allows us to turn a blind eye to all sorts of environmental depredations, whether all-natural or man-made, is the belief that technology will bail us out.

Ocean level rise? We’ll put gates at the mouth of Boston harbor?

Wind power. Solar. Scrubbers. We’ll figure things out.

Sorry about the fact the wooly mammoths no longer roam? Let’s find some frozen DNA and make us some new ones. Hell, maybe we can even shrink them down and make them household pets. No more endangered species! No more extinct, as long as we can find a viable frozen specimen.

This belief in technology isn’t all that unfounded. Technology solves a lot of problems. A man, a plan, a canal, panama and all that.

One of the environmental problems that’s gotten a lot of publicity over the past couple of years – even if the problem has apparently been a bit exaggerated – was the collapse of bee colonies, a situation that was supposed to wreak havoc with all those parts of the food supply that rely on pollination. Stuff like almonds, asparagus, blueberries, cherries, clover, eggplant, squash, and watermelon. Oh, turnip depends on pollination, too, but, frankly, the end of turnip would be no great loss as far as I’m concerned. (With apologies to my cousins Babs and MB, the only people I know who actually like turnip. There weren’t many foods that my parents gave us a pass on growing up. If creamed corn was put on your plate, you ate it, dammit, even if it did taste like vomit. But, for some reason, the Rogers kids were allowed to omit turnip from our plates. We even had a chant for it: turn up your nose at turnip. My father must have hated turnip. The chant sure sounds like him.)

Anyway, while the demise of the pollinating bee colonies may have been greatly overblown, just in case it does happen, there’s a technical solution on the horizon.

That’s thanks to Japanese scientist Eijiro Miyako

Miyako has invented an adhesive gel that collects flowers’ pollen grains and deposits them on other flowers upon contact. His goal is to offer farmers a tool to complement, not replace, bees and other natural pollinators. (Source: Bloomberg)

There are some decidedly low-tech aspects to his work. “The gel is applied to a small patch of horsehair.”

I know that horsehair is (still) used for bow strings and paintbrushes, but there’s something so quaint about the idea of horsehair. It brings up thoughts of horsehair plaster (defunct in this era of sheetrock, no?). And horsehair mattresses. (I had a friend in high school whose ancient family house at the Cape actually had horsehair mattresses – blue leather stuffed with horsehair. It was like sleeping on a bolder.) Not to mention hairshirts (which, creepily, you can buy online).

But Miyako’s innovation is mostly techie. It is, after all, a drone. Bee drone

Miyako pilots the drone from flower to flower, rubbing the horsehair against pistils and stamens. Like the adhesive in a Post-It note, the gel is tacky but not sticky, so it releases some of the pollen grains on contact.

No word on drone safety, but so far the gel has passed do-no-harm experiments on mouse cells, and it “could be tweaked to be made biodegradable.”

To his wife’s chagrin, Miyako paid for the drones himself. Last year he received a $32,000 grant from the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science to further develop them.

To which I say, thank you Miyako-San.

I will sleep better tonight, knowing that if the bee colonies actually do collapse, I’ll still be in clover, cherries, and watermelon.

Yay, technology!

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Making Wisconsin Great Again, one butter pat at a time

Jean Smith lives in Wisconsin. As in Dairyland USA Wisconsin.

Alas for Jean Smith, she can’t buy Kerrygold butter in her home state. Thus, she has to cross the state border and stock up – 20 bricks at a time – so that she doesn’t have to go without. And for Jean Smith, going without is really going without. She even “plops a tablespoon of the Ireland-made butter into her tea each morning.”

Well, that I haven’t tried, but I do love Kerrygold.Kerrygold

Other than for baking, I don’t use a ton of butter. But when I want butter on an English muffin or a piece of toast or a slab of soda bread, I’d just as soon it be Kerrygold, which is absolutely delicious and – get this – actually tastes like butter. That’s because it comes from contented, hormone-free, grass-fed cows. Cows with nothing better to do all the long day than mosey around in those naturally-irrigated green fields, chomping on all that un-pesticided green grass, and chewing the old cud. And mosey around they do. I read somewhere that Irish cows spend more time grazing and cudding than do cows anywhere else.

The fact that Kerrygold is banned in Wisconsin is not a reflection on its quality. Not at all.

It’s just that Wisconsin has a law on the books that requires that any butter sold in Wisconsin has to be graded by US or Wisconsin inspectors. For Kerrygold, that’s an impossibility, given that their gold is produced and packaged in Ireland. There may be US customs officials stationed in Ireland, but there aren’t any butter inspectors.

Some stores do risk fines and jail time to sell it – not really much of a risk, given that it’s not particularly enforced – but few stores carry it regularly. And, while the state doesn’t go about fining and jailing over butter, they do inform/warn grocery stores. So it’s easier to just not have any Kerrygold on the shelf, where it would compete with home grown product.

So a group is suing the state of Wisconsin to get rid of the law that’s keeping Kerrygold off the shelves:

Wisconsin is the only state in the nation with such a stringent butter provision, which the lawsuit argues amounts to an unconstitutional "government-mandated 'taste test.'" The Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, a conservative legal group representing the plaintiffs, said the grading process is subjective and doesn't protect consumers. The real issue, the group argues, is personal freedom. (Source: ABC News)

I’m all in favor of buying stuff made in the US. Especially food stuff, even though I turn a blind eye to wear those winter fruits and veggies are being flown in from. But I’m no rabid locavore, and Kerrygold is so damned good…

And, of course, this is a global economy, despite what they think in some quarters.

I suspect that keeping the fatwa on Kerrygold in place isn’t going to impact the Wisconsin dairy economy much one way or the other. There are only so many Wisconsin-ites (Wisconsinners?) who want it in their tea and who are going to load 20 bricks into their shopping cart when they’re at Piggly Wiggly, especially when they’d have to pay $7-9 a pound for it. Not when Land o’ Lakes goes for a lot less than that. So keeping Kerrygold out won’t be making Wisconsin great again, one pat at a time.

Me? I don’t use enough butter to blink at the price tag, so I’ll keep buying my Kerrygold. I may even try it in my afternoon cup of (Barry’s) tea. Maybe. (I did google butter tea, and apparently it’s a Tibetan thing, generally made with yak butter.)

Anyway, Kerrygold Abú!

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A tip of the Pink Slip scally cap to both cousin Rob K (not to be confused with cousin Rob W) and brother-in-law Rick T (not to be confused with brother Rick R) for pointing this one my way. Goodon yez.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Industrious prisoners

When I was a kid, we all knew that prisoners made license plates. And every once in a while there’d be some small frisson of excitement when a plate with a “bad word” was found. We never actually learned what the word was, just that it was plenty bad. Were these rogue plates discovered by the prisons? The Registry of Motor Vehicles? Or some lucky motorist who pulled their license plate out of its wax paper sleeve, only to discover that it contained the F-word?

You actually couldn’t blame the prisoners. How boring to be stamping license plates, day in, day out, and never getting to drive a car bearing one of your plates. All for way, way, way less than the minimum wage.

Anyway, prisoners are pretty industrious. According to an article I saw in The Economist (and using their very British spelling):

At the federal level, the Bureau of Prisons operates a programme known as Federal Prison Industries that pays inmates roughly $0.90 an hour to produce everything from mattresses, spectacles,road signs and body armour for other government agencies, earning $500m in sales in fiscal 2016. Prisoners have produced official seals for the Department of Defence and Department of State, a bureau spokesman confirmed. In many prisons, the hourly wage is less than the cost of a chocolate bar at the commissary, yet the waiting list remains long—the programme still pays much more than the $0.12-0.40 earned for an hour of kitchen work. (Source: The Economist)

And most states get in on the act as well. California prisoners work as meat cutters. In Idaho, they roast potatoes. In the 1990’s, female prisoners in South Carolina made lingerie for Victoria’s Secret. And, not to be outdone, prisoners in Massachusetts produce:

…Braille transcription, business cards, clothing, decals, embroidery, eyeglasses, flags, furniture, letterhead, license plates, metal products, pillows, printing, sheets, & pillow cases, signs, silk screening, towels, & face cloths, mattresses & box springs, and wastebaskets. These products are sold primarily to state and local government entities and are also available for sale to private entities. (Source: Mass Department of Corrections)

Massachusetts prisoners also make binders, presumably the ones that our former governor (and thwarted presidential candidate) Mitt Romney stuffed full of women. (I know it’s hard to recall the quaint old days when there were election kertuffles over claims that one had “binders full of women.”)

Most of the items produced by our Massachusetts prisoners seem sensible, but I’m sitting here wondering what state and local government entities are doing with embroidery. Maybe embroidered items get sold to private entities. And, sexist me, I’m having a hard time envisioning male prisoners sitting there with their embroidery hoops, making French knots. This is not just the sexist me, by the way, it’s the child embroiderer me – the one who knew the blanket stitch, the feather stitch, and how to make a French knot.

The reasoning behind having prisoners occupying their time with useful activity is fine. Here’s the reasoning from my very own Commonwealth:

In an effort to develop strong work habits and employable skills, MassCor operates manufacturing plants at various facilities. MassCor employs more than 350 inmates in several institutions where emphasis is placed on developing strong work habits and employable skills that can be used by the offender when he/she is returned to the community.

I don’t know just how transferrable pillow case making is to the real world, textiles having fled our fair state decades ago. But the work habit intent makes sense. And if this helps the state and city governments save on what they’re spending on pillowcases and box springs, well, that’s all well and good. (Even if I do have to wonder how much the city of Boston spends on pillow cases and box springs in any given year.)

Whether these justifications prove out is another question. There aren’t a ton of metrics to support the case.

But there’s something a bit off-putting at the idea of private industry profiting by paying next to nothing to a captive workforce. I’m pretty sure that most of the work schemes are voluntary. Still, something more than $.90 an hour seems in order. In the summer of 1967, I made $1.40 an hour working in a shoe factory. Surely embroidery, an altogether higher-skill task than cleaning rubber cement off of combat boots, should be worth at least $2.00 and hour in this day and age.

There was no mention of Maine in the article, but I rather like their approach. Oh, I have no idea what they pay their prisoners, but they sell their wares in a uniquely wonderful and completely oddball retail outlet in Thomaston, Maine – right on the main drag in town, so you can’t miss it. There they sell all kinds of items made out of wood, and a few soft goods (tee-shirts, ball caps). You can’t buy their products online, but you can check out the gallery here.

I’ve been there a couple of times, and have a pair of toaster tongs to show for it.

It’s just such a Maine thing. Nothing fancy. In keeping with Maine’s being the Pine Tree State, and having a lot of forests. The products are old-fashioned, simple, well made. (Still using those tongs I got a long time ago.)

Other than for a couple of holidays (Christmas, Thanksgiving, New Year), a few days for inventory, and snow days, they’re open daily, and if you’re in that neck of the woods, it’s definitely worth a stop and shop.

Are Maine’s recidivism levels any better than other states? I don’t have a clue. But I do like to think that someone making toy wooden fire engines that are sold in a store that’s open almost every day has a better shot at successful life on the outside than someone getting paid exploitative wages that put profits in the pockets of private industry.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

“A specialty cocktail served in an ostrich eggshell”

I have been to a few upscale weddings in my day. You know. The kind where you really can’t help running the numbers in your head, followed by making at least one discreet cost comparison with someone sitting at your table. And I will say that I really enjoyed myself at those upscale weddings. What’s not to like about beautiful venue, great food, fun band, open bar, and – if you’re lucky – the chance to take home a centerpiece?

But I have yet to be served “a specialty cocktail served in an ostrich shell.” The closest I came was being offered a Moscow Mule in a copper mug, which I took a pass on, opting instead for a Kir Royale.

Then again, I wasn’t on the guest list for the $3 million dollar shindig that celebrated the nuptials of Alix Carl. Her parents had actually intended to put on a more modest event, somewhere in the $1M range. That’s strikes me as a reasonable budget. (As if!) But $1M or $3M, it really doesn’t matter. That’s a big budget event with a lot of details to manage. So Joan and Bernard Carl hired a wedding planner, and brand unto herself, Mindy Weiss.

Well, $1M wedding ain’t what it used to be, and Mindy apparently assumed that she had a blank check, while the Carls assumed that they would have some control over costs.

Live and learn, I guess.

And what you learn is that 3,500 white roses “individually studded into the lawn” of the Carls’ Southampton estate, where part one of the movable feast took place don’t come cheap. At Southampton:

The reception included a specialty cocktail served in an ostrich eggshell; the after parties offered a Calvados and cigar bar, plus hot chocolate and brownie stations. (Source: WaPo – may need a subscription to access)

Cigar bar. Brownie station. No big deal. But a cocktail served in an ostrich eggshell? Who dreams up this stuff?

While she may not have “authored” the splosh concoction herself, that would be Mindy Weiss, Hollywood wedding-planner extraordinaire. Weiss has worked with the likes of “Sofia Vergara, Ellen DeGeneres, Gwen Stefani, the Kardashians and ABC’s “The Bachelor.””

Mindy’s also into favors. Because the 250 guests wouldn’t want to come home empty handed. No Jordan almonds in a net bag for her weddings. She spent:

$4,300 for totes, $5,000 for T-shirts, $1,000 for hangover Tylenol pouches.

Okay. When you’re spending $3M, or even $1M, for a wedding, what’s $10K on party favors. But it’s only $40 per guest, so the guests who were doing their running mental calcs of costs may well have felt slighted, wondering why the Carls had stinted on gifteens for them. I spent $2K to attend this wedding and all I got was this crappy tee-shirt. Still, who needs this stuff? I can guarantee that, while the hangover pouches might have come in handy, most of those totes and T-shirts ended up at Goodwill.

It wasn’t just Weiss who was going all-in.

The mother of the bride commissioned monogrammed napkins for each place setting, as well as a custom fabric for the tables and the flower girl’s dress.

Probably not as cra as it sounds, given that the Carls own D. Porthault, the luxury linens purveyor. Still: custom fabric? Sheesh!

Part II of the wedding was at the Carls’ Loire Valley chateau. To make up for the lack of specialty cocktails in ostrich eggshells, this part featured hot air ballooning.

This wedding made the news at the time – the double dos were featured in Brides Magazine – because it was so pricey and fancy. It’s in the news now because Weiss is suing the Carls for unpaid fees ($340K) plus $1.4M in damages. And she’s hanging on to the wedding video until they pay up.

For folks who were sufficiently enough successful financially that they could afford to throw a $1M wedding, the Carls were a bit on the naive side when it came to the business side of things. They were the ultimate “owners”. So why weren’t they managing the wedding planner better? A question I’m sure they’ve asked themselves plenty of times..

It’s something of a they-said/she-said sort of deal.

In the lawsuit, Weiss contends that the Carls “expressed an interest in an extravagant affair, never mentioning the word ‘budget.’ ” That assertion is “absolutely, unequivocally, totally untrue,” Carl says. He says he expected to spend in the neighborhood of $1 million and was waiting to see her proposal before discussing final numbers. (The event ended up costing more, although he would not disclose the final tally.)

The bottom line on the bottom line was that it wasn’t until 6 weeks before the wedding that the Carls saw the $3M proposal. Talk about poor business practice. Talk about feeling cornered…

The father of the bride was stunned and refused to pay some charges that he considered to be wildly inflated. Because Weiss had waited so long to submit her plan, he says, it was too late to hire other vendors.“In mid-May, this wedding was very close to being almost canceled,” he says.

“At one point, I told Joan I was prepared to write a very big check to the kids as a wedding present, cancel the wedding and sue Mindy. I was done. I was really done.”

Bet that would have gone over well, all the way around.

Anyway, here we have it: Mindy Weiss suing the Carls. And the Carls really do want to get their mitts on that wedding video.

But Mindy Weiss and the Carls sure sounds like a marriage made in hell, doesn’t it?

Plan on the next Carl kid wedding not being planned by Mindy Weiss.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Come on, a trial would be waymo interesting

Well, the news came in last week that Google v. Uber might not be going to trial, but could be heading for arbitration instead. Is it just me, but – costs be damned! – wouldn’t a trial be waymo fun? After all, arbitration tends to result in a confidential finding. If we don’t have access to the facts of the matter, guess we’ll have to follow the current trend and just make up our own alt facts, which will depend, I guess, on whether we like Google better than Uber or vice versa. That’ll be a hard one. I am an occasional Uber-er, once every couple of weeks or so. But I’m a daily/hourly Googler. My natural tendency would be to lean Google, as their motto – “Don’t be evil.” – is a lot more woke than Uber’s “Evolving the way the world moves.”

For those who hadn’t gotten word about the autonomous car brouhaha, Waymo is Google’s self-driving car division. It – or their parent company, Alphabet, which no one calls anything but Google – is suing Uber:

…for allegedly using 14,000 documents of proprietary information stolen from Waymo by former employee Anthony Levandowski, who went on to start autonomous truck company Otto—which, in turn, was purchased by Uber. (Source: The Drive)

How this all came to light was that someone from Uber accidentally included someone from Waymo on an email that attached some Otto designs that had a suspicious resemblance to Waymo design. Oops…

Anyway, this whole thing is/was a lot bigger than Uber CEO Travis Kalanick’s recent set-to with one of his drivers. With Google coming after them:

…the company must worry about a legal dispute that could cost it a truckload of money, kill its self-driving research, and even land more than one executive in prison. (Source: Wired)

If this incident goes to arbitration, it’s unlikely that anyone will be Ubering off in an orange jump suit. After all, arbitration has been dubbed “corporate America’s ‘get out of jail free’ card.” But truckload of money and killing their self-driving initiative don’t sound like Ubers to the beach, either. Wonder if there’s claw back so that Uber – if it ends up with a big fine – can retrieve the $680M is spent last summer to acquire Otto. Anyway, if the allegations are true, well, is this any way to evolve the way the world moves? I think not…

Part of the forensic evidence was that, on his way out the Waymo door, Levandowski allegedly sucked gigs of data pertaining to Waymo’s trade secrets on LIDAR (LIght Detection And Ranging) out of his laptop and onto an external hard drive. LIDAR’s what helps those autonomous cars and trucks get around without crashing into other autonomous cars and trucks. It’s a really big deal.

…a legal loss could devastate Uber’s self-driving car program, and thus the company’s future. Uber’s developing a self-driving car in the hope of cutting out the expensive middlemen, its drivers. But it’s also a defensive move, because if another player—Waymo, Ford, GM or anyone else in this race—gets there first, they could do the same thing, undercutting Uber’s human-dependent service….

This is an existential crisis.

Existential crises sure aren’t what they were when Sartre was a boy, but as current day existential crises goes, this is right up there.

As so often happens, this really big deal reminds me of a really no big deal incident that occurred in the course of my long and really no big deal career.

Back in the day, I worked for an underfunded software company that had great ideas and technology, but could never get out of its own way. It didn’t start out all that underfunded. In a time when $40M was a lot of money, we had managed to suck that amount out of our hapless investors, a group that included (of all things) a true widows and orphans fund. But then our investors ran out of patience – you know how those widows and orphans can be - and we were limping along with one of our great ideas, just trying to stay in business. The market for this particular tech application area was just getting hot, but our technology hadn’t gotten a ton of care and feeding. So we were just getting by. Everyone knew what we needed to do – get rid of our dependence on OS/2 (an IBM operating system), develop an interface that someone who was not a core programer could actually use – but pretty much all we were able to do was patch it up and get it out the door, hoping each month that we could find enough custoers to keep the roof over our heads.

The lead engineer on this product had been “working from home” for a good swath of time over an extended period. He was supposedly head down coding some new miracle version of our pathetic and worn out product. But we weren’t seeing anything of it.

Then there was the day when a couple of developers walked out the door with a server. Which a day later they returned, and proceeded to give in their resignations, as did the lead engineer. And they went off to found a company in the same domain we were in.

Only they were starting with a blank slate and investment money.

I really don’t think that they stole our IP. Who wanted a product based on OS/2? This was, after all, just about the time that Info Week had a cover depicting OS/2 in a coffin with a lily on its lid. But I do believe that what this crew had been doing was spending their last couple of months at our company working on the new exciting stuff for their new company. Thus, the walk out with the server. It wasn’t our stuff; if was their stuff. Sort of. They’d quite dishonorably done their work on our dime. (Why did they need to “borrow” the server? Were there no portable hard drives they could have backed it up to then? This would have been somewhere in the mid-90’s.)

Fast forward, and we ended up suing them. They settled with us for less than $1M, but that was a big deal for us, and it was a cash infusion that we sorely needed. But they had real investment money, and they flourished while we just managed to keep our nose above water. We lasted a few more years before being acquired for chump change, but chump change was all we were worth. A few years later, they were acquired for non chump change. ($100M.) I lost a friendship over the law suit. As Michael Corleone famously told his consigliere Tom Hagen, “don't let anybody kid you. It's all personal, every bit of business.”

Anyway, it will be interesting to see how this Google-Uber thing plays out.

A trial sure would have been interesting, though.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Faith and Begorrah

This will be the 11th time that Pink Slip celebrates St. Patrick’s Day. All I can say to that is beejaysus.

Today I have no plans to do much by way of celebrating. I’ll probably listen to some Irish trad CDs, but there’s nothing special about that. I do that plenty.

I’ll check and see if WGBH (PBS) has some type of concert on. Failing that, I’ll probably watch the evening boy-o lineup on MSNBC: Chris Matthews, Chris Hayes, Larry O’Donnell, Brian Williams. (I’m guessing three, possibly four, green ties in there.) Of course, if I’m up for the full liberal lament lineup, I’ll also watch Rachel Maddow (the rose amid the thorns) in there, too.

I will water me shamrock, drink Barry’s tea, and eat some soda bread with Kerry Gold butter.

I will wear green, at least to PT in the morning, when I’m up for an eval of the tendonitis in my ankle that’s been treated since the first of the year. Having worn a green jumper throughout grammar school and high school, I’m not all that big on the wearin’ o’ the green, that’s for sure. But I do have a green workout shirt. And some cheesy shamrock earrings.

Last Friday, I went to an Irish music concert in Worcester with my sister Trish and cousin Barbara.

We had dinner at Bab’s before-hand, and I brought an entirely fitting Roche Piedessert, which I’d seen by chance at the Roche Bros. that morning. Now I ask you, is that a spectacular looking lemon meringue pie or what? It was actually very tasty. (Apologies to flag purists, by the way, I know that the orientation of the Irish flag is green-white-orange, not the other way around.)

As for the concert, young Irish tenor Emmet Cahill sings some of the corniest of cornball Irish (or Irish-y) songs – if “Danny Boy” and “I’ll Take You Home Again, Kathleen”* came to your mind, you’d be dead on - but he has a gorgeous voice, and is an extremely warm and personable performer. (Not to mention completely adorable.) Plus he took my request (“Galway Girl”) and seemed happy to receive it, as most of the requests he fielded were for dirges and “Galway Girl” is a lot of fun. (Here’s a very entertaining performance of it done by Mundy and Sharon Shannon on the streets of Galway last summer, with a crowd in the thousands singing and playing along.) One of the requests was, bizarrely, for the “Irish National Theme Song.” I think the guy meant anthem… There was a promise to end up the concert with it (as was often done at trad sessions when I first went to Ireland many years ago; not so much any more), but that didn’t happen.

Young Mr. Cahill did have the good sense to say that he couldn’t do “Mother Machree”, claiming he didn’t know it. Good on him. I like to think I contributed to what may have been temporary amnesia on his part, because when I heard the request go out for “Mother Machree” I let out an involuntary and quite audible groan. (This was a small venue – full house, but maybe 300 or so folks.)

Emmet also blessedly ytranslated someone’s request for “Molly Malone” to “My Irish Molly O”.

“Galway Girl” and “My Irish Molly O” (both apt, given that my niece Molly is a Galway girl for the semester) more than made up for “I’ll Take You Home Again, Kathleen.”

Plus, he ended with “The Parting Glass,” a lovely tune (and one dear to my heart: it was sung at my husband’s memorial service).

Last night, I attended The Celtic Sojourn concert in Beverly. I’m writing this before that event, but I’ve been to Celtic Sojourn (a Saturday program on WGBH radio I often listen to) concerts in the past, so I’m pretty sure that it will be great craic, and that I’ll much enjoy myself.

So, that’s it for this edition of St. Patrick’s Day, except to add slán agus sláinte

And to provide a list of past episodes, some of which are pretty good reads:

2016: Kiss Me, I’m Half Irish

2015: The Wearin’ O The Green

2014: St. Patricks’ Day 2014

2013: The Ides of St. Patrick’s Day”

2012: Answering Ireland’s Call

2011: St. Patrick’s Day 2011

2010: St. Paddy’s Day No More We’ll Keep.

2009: Irish Eyes Not So Smiling These Days.

2008: You Say Po-tay-to, I say Po-tah-to. Who’s Irish and Who’s Not.

2007: Kiss Me, I’m Irish.

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*A song that my sister Kathleen most heartedly despised. I suspect if we’d had a brother Daniel (the boy’s name lined up for my sister Trish), he wouldn’t have been all that wild about “Danny Boy”, either.