Friday, July 28, 2017

Roomba: hoovering up your personal info

God knows, I’m no futurist, but many years ago I was on a panel at a tech conference and a question posed to the panelists was what we thought was a coming big issue of the future. My answer: privacy.

God knows, I had no business being on that panel to begin with. A colleague had made a last minute request for me to speak for him at the conference. Since I knew very little about the topic – beyond what was in his canned preso – I should have said ‘no, no, a thousand times no.’ But he was desperate and, with a guarantee that I’d have a tech resource in the standing by to whom I could lob any question I couldn’t answer, I said ‘yes.’ Well, the presentation went fine, as did the morning’s first panel. The questions were high level enough, and I knew just enough about the topic, that I could hold my own. And I could hold my own so well, in fact, that the stand-by techie decided to leave. Unfortunately, the afternoon questions became techier, and my answers to the audience turned into “this isn’t really my area of expertise” – as if the audience hadn’t gleaned that bit – or, if another panelist had answered before me, a variant of ‘what he said…’

The final question was the crystal ball one and, in talking about privacy, I think I acquitted myself quite well.

With all the data grabbing going on, I often think about privacy. Or lack thereof.

I use my debit card at the grocery store, so Roche Brothers and Whole Food know entirely too much about me, including that I’ll pay $2.99 for cherries, but won’t pay $4.99 for cherries if they were $2.99 the day before. Roche Brothers knows I like pumpernickel. Both stores know I like Tate’s chocolate chip cookies.

At CVS, despite the fact that I never take advantage of the so-called benefits of using it, I was generally scanning my CVS whatever card. Then I said to hell with it. Why should they know what toothpaste I like? So I no longer swipe the whatever card, and try to pay cash. (Which, at CVS, is becoming more difficult by the day. I anticipate that there will soon be a surcharge for paying with cash, since it’s more costly to handle (supposedly) than electronic payments, and, more to the point, because it deprives CVS of my information.)

Anyway, I thought about the privacy issue when I saw an article in the NYTimes on Roomba. Roomba, it seems, may be doing more than vacuuming under the sofa. It may be spying on you.

High-end models of Roomba, iRobot’s robotic vacuum, collect data as they clean, identifying the locations of your walls and furniture. This helps them avoid crashing into your couch, but it also creates a map of your home that iRobot is considering selling to Amazon, Apple or Google. Colin Angle, chief executive of iRobot, told Reuters that a deal could come in the next two years, though iRobot said in a statement on Tuesday: “We have not formed any plans to sell data.” (Source: NY Times)

Well, that’s clear.

Of course, as a non-Roomba owner, what Roomba does or doesn’t do is not my worry.

I do have a vacuum cleaner, but it’s a 20 year old Oreck. Plug it in, hang on, and away you go. It’s dumb as a rock. Which is exactly the way I prefer my appliances.

Fitbit knows how many steps I take a day. And, as mentioned, Whole and Roche know my grocery-buying habits. But that’s about it. (Other than, of course, that Google knows every website I’ve ever crashed into accidentally, on purpose, or accidentally on purpose.)

In the hands of a company like Amazon, Apple or Google, that data could fuel new “smart” home products.

That’s nice. More junk to worry about spying on us, potentially being hacked, and likely breaking down at some point.

Not to mention that:

…the data, if sold, could also be a windfall for marketers, and the implications are easy to imagine. No armchair in your living room? You might see ads for armchairs next time you open Facebook. Did your Roomba detect signs of a baby? Advertisers might target you accordingly.

Which is all much creepier than having the ads pop up based on your recent purchases. (You know, just because I purchased a pair of Asics online last week, doesn’t mean that I need another pair again this soon…)

“Just remember that the Roomba knows what room your child is in,” Rhett Jones wrote in Gizmodo. “It’s the one where it bumps into all the toys on the floor.” In its written response, iRobot said that it was “committed to the absolute privacy of our customer-related data.” Consumers can use a Roomba without connecting it to the internet, or “opt out of sending map data to the cloud through a switch in the mobile app.” “No data is sold to third parties,” the statement added. “No data will be shared with third parties without the informed consent of our customers.”

Key phrases here are “opt out” and “informed consent.”

How about “opt in”? And consent that’s not implied, or stems from permission granted by not reading some convoluted fine print policy.

We used to have a reasonable expectation of privacy in our own homes. That’s going out the window – the window no doubt sitting behind a fixture that’s recording every time you raise or lower your smart blinds.



Can’t say I didn’t warn you.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Chip in the old block

I remember the first place where I had to punch in using a time card: H.H. Brown Shoe Company, where I worked one summer on the shop floor helping make paratroop boots for the South Vietnamese Air Force (tiny feet) and chartreuse work boots with red top stitching for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. (The thought was that no one would walk out accidentally wearing footwear of such a zany color. This was just as psychedelic Yellow Submarine clothing was coming into style, after which point chartreuse work boots with red top stitching no longer seemed quite so zany.) As I recall, you’d get docked 15 minutes if you were late by 1 minute. On Friday afternoons, the factory workers would gather by the time clock a few minutes before punch-out time at 4 p.m. Once the magic moment occurred, we’d all punch out as rapidly as we could – old tmers at the front of the line.Unless overtime had been declared, there was absolutely no reason to have a few extra minutes on the clock.

I remember the first place I worked where we were issued electronic badges. To use the rest room, you had to leave our space – and, unless you were willing to walk around to the reception desk and get back in that way, you needed your badge to get back to your office. There was copious grousing about lack of privacy, and about whether “they” were going to start monitor our bio breaks. That was 20 years ago. I’m guessing that, these days, there are very few companies that don’t use some sort of electronic badging system and, at least theoretically, have the ability to check all sorts of goings and comings among their workforce.

There are flaws to electronic badging – who hasn’t borrowed a colleague’s badge at some point – and, for extra security, some companies added biometrics to the fray, with retinal scans or fingerprints.

At least one place is taking things one step further, with pet-style chips for their employees.

On Aug. 1, employees at Three Square Market, a technology company in Wisconsin, can choose to have a chip the size of a grain of rice injected between their thumb and index finger. Once that is done, any task involving RFID technology — swiping into the office building, paying for food in the cafeteria — can be accomplished with a wave of the hand. The program is not mandatory, but as of Monday, more than 50 out of 80 employees at Three Square’s headquarters in River Falls, Wis., had volunteered. (Source: NY Times)

Not all employees are sanguine about the new technology. Some are leery about getting something embedded under their skin, so are opting for a ring with a chip in it instead. (This is fun tech: I used to have a decoder ring that I used as my pass for public transportation. It didn’t work for seniors, so I gave it up when I hit 65 and was eligible for the quite splendid half-price T-pass. Worth sacrificing the fun of sporting that decoder ring.)

There’s no doubt in my mind that implanted microchips are the wave of the badging future. And – more creepily – the payment method of the future, as well. We’re already moving toward cash-free – there are some CVSs where none of the self-checkout stations accept cash – so why bother with a plastic card or your phone when you can have the everything you need not at your fingertips, but in your fingertips.

There’s an entire tick-list of concerns around this type of technology. Privacy, of course: the inevitable concerns about monitoring bathroom breaks, and where it goes from opening a door or operating the copier. Then there’s security: how hackable is the chip, and could it be hijacked for nefarious purposes. (Okay, at present, it’s not all that smart. Still…)

Health concerns are more difficult to assess. Implantable radio-frequency transponder systems, the technical name for the chips, were approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2004 for medical uses. But in rare cases, according to the F.D.A., the implantation site may become infected, or the chip may migrate elsewhere in the body.

Migrate elsewhere in the body? Shades of Fantastic Voyage, a truly terrible movie from the 1960’s in which a miniaturized Stephen Boyd and Raquel Welch traveled around a scientists body to perform some very delicate brain surgery. Or something.

If I live long enough, I’m sure I’ll be implanted with some medical monitoring chip at some point or another. Until then, I’m just as happy I’m not working for an outfit that wants me to punch in and out by waving my thumb in their direction.

I’m no one’s chip off the old block, and I don’t want a chip in the old block, either.

Meanwhile, people in some quarters are freaking out, giving Three Square 1-star ratings in Google reviews, ranting about end times and the mark of the beast.

And away we go…

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Geriactives? Nyppies? Talking ‘bout my generation.

Born in December 1949, I’m an early wave Baby Boomer, part of the vast cohort born between 1946 (when my parents had their first child) and 1964 (when the last sib in  our family turned 5).

Part of me gets that I’m now old. But the other part of me…

I’m still taken aback when I hear someone on the news referring to a person my age as elderly. Elderly? Who you calling elderly? That’s a fightin’ word, youngster.

The Economist had a recent special section “The new old.” The first illustration was a photo of The Stones. First off, these dudes aren’t Boomers. Both Keith Richards and Mick Jagger were born in1943. The Mick, in fact, turns 74 today. I also have to say that both of these bad boys look pre-cadaverous. Too many drugs in their sex, drugs, and rock ‘n roll mix, I’m afraid. Yet it’s still admirable that they’re still rockin’, lunch pail performers still looking for a payday.

And while their paydays are larger than those of most of us seniors still working, there are plenty of golden agers still out there. Some plugging away by choice, some by necessity. Good thing, given that the longer we work, the more we contribute to the economy and the less of a drag we are on the young folks. What you want to do is keep a nice healthy ratio between geezers and workers – tougher to do, given that lifespans have increased so dramatically.

As the world greys, growth, tax revenues and workforces will decline while spending on pensions and health care will increase. So, at least, goes the orthodoxy.

Doom-mongers tend to miss a bigger point, however. Those extra years of life are predominantly healthy ones. Five of the additional six years that a British boy born in 2015 can expect to live, compared with one born in 1990, will be healthy, according to the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, at the University of Washington. Too many governments and firms fail to recognise this fact, instead lumping all the extra years in the damning category of 65 and over. This binary way of thinking, seeing retirement as a cliff edge over which workers and consumers suddenly tumble, bears little relation to the real world. It also encourages unimaginative policy, whereby the retirement age is occasionally moved as lifespans lengthen. (Source: The Economist)

The Economist makes an argument that, to remedy this, we need to stop lumping everyone over 65 in the one-step-from-the-grave category, and carve out a new brand-name for those of us over 65 but under real old age. (Whatever real old age is. Look to the Boomers to keep pushing that up. I suspect that by the time I’m 80, old age will start at 90. Or 100.)

Branding an age category might sound like a frivolous exercise. But life stages are primarily social constructs, and history shows that their emergence can trigger deep changes in attitudes. Such change is needed if the questions that swirl around rising longevity are to get a fitting answer.

So, they’ve come up with a few suggestions for what to name the baby(boomer). Geriactives is mentioned but discarded: sounds too shuffle-boardy and senior village. (“Welcome to Paradise Hills, where we put the ‘active’ in ‘geriactive.”) Then there’s nightcappers, which The Economist thinks sounds patronizing, but which I think sounds boozy. Not that there’s anything wrong with that…

Perhaps “Nyppies” (Not Yet Past It) or “Owls” (Older, Working Less, Still earning) ring truer.

By their description, I’m an owl. But I rather like the sound of nyppie, even though Nippy was the name of a neighborhood dog (beagle, owned by the FitzGibbons, and, yes, the dog was nippy) of my childhood. (The FitzGibbons had a way with dog naming. They later had a shepherd called Rasputin.)

So, nyppie. We used to be yuppies. Nyppies seems to suit.

Anyway, I do think it makes sense to come up with some sort of catchy name for us. Forget golden ager, senior citizen, old fogey. I may be kidding myself, but none of those seem to apply. I’m all for something a bit less geezerish. (And for the older set, maybe something a bit less judgmental than senior citizen and old fogey. Revered elder might work.)

Marking out youthful old age as a distinct phase of life might have a similar effect [similar to the creation of the idea of “teen-ager,” which occurred in the 1940’s], prodding employers and policymakers to think differently about how to keep the young old active. As life becomes longer, the word “retirement”, which literally means withdrawal to a place of seclusion, has become misleading. At 65 you are not clapped out, but pre-tired. So, as they embark on the next stage, here’s to all those pre-tirees.

Pre-tirees, huh?

Seems like only yesterday my friends and I were heading to the movies to watch the howlingly ridiculous late 1960’s flick, Wild in the Streets. I don’t remember the full plot, but one of the themes was getting the vote into the hands of kids. The battle cry was ‘Fourteen or Fight.” And I think that everyone over 30 was farmed out to some blissed out geezer-farm where they could spend all their time tripping on acid. Or something like that. After all, we were the folks muttering ‘don’t trust anyone over 30.’ Best to keep them out of their gourds, no?

Hope the millennials don’t decide to remake Wild in the Streets. I’d hate to see what they’d have in store for us.

Meanwhile, I’m down with The Economist’s idea to just give us a brand new brand name.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

The Open Book (I can dream, can’t I?)

I know a lot of writers. And plenty more readers. This past weekend was spent in the company of a number of my most beloved among them, and I came back with a tote-bag full of books. (What I’m reading now is Priestdaddy, a memoir by Patricia Lockwood. Lockwood is a poet whose father was a Lutheran minister who switched to Catholicism and could, thus, be that oddity: married Catholic priest with kids. So far, so good.)

Anyway, what the writers and readers among us share, besides trading books and authors, is that, at one point or another, most of us have fantasized about running a bookstore.

Even now, when I’m at age when I know plenty better, when I’m walking down Charles Street with my friend Marin and we spot an empty store front, we’ll stop for a couple of minutes, peer in, and discuss where we’re going to put the armchairs when we open up shop. We know, of course, that running a bookshop would more than likely be a losing proposition – a fool’s errand to end all fool’s errand. And, mostly, we admit to ourselves that in our bookstore, the doors would mostly be locked, and we’d just sit around in our armchairs, drinking tea, eating scones, and reading. Fortunately, in our bookstore-running fantasy, we don’t need to make any money. In fact, we can lose money. (Good thing. What’s a fantasy for if it can’t be perfect anyway?)

There’ve been bookstores on Charles Street in the past – a nice indie one, a really lame-o Lauriat’s... But it’s been a couple of decades since we’ve had one around. For the life of me, I can’t figure out how a neighborhood of highly educated and presumably literate people can support two shops that appear to sell nothing but doorknobs and not one freaking bookstore. Sigh. At least we have the excellent Trident Booksellers & Cafe just a mile and change away…

Anyway, my writer/reader friend Sophia had a recent post on FB that linked to an article (from last year) on a bookstore in the charmingly-named Scottish town of Wigtown that has a studio upstairs that they rent out on Airbnb:  

The first ever bookshop holiday / residency experience, Scotland's National Book Town welcomes you to play-bookshop for a week or two. We'll give you your very own apartment and bookshop below, supported by a team of friendly volunteers to make your trip as lovely as possible. Set up by The Wigtown Festival Company, The Open Book's aim is to celebrate books, independent bookshops and welcome people around the world to Scotland's National Book Town. The fee for your stay is low because we are a non-profit. It covers the running costs of the holiday but that is all. A laptop and WiFi are provided, plus bicycles for those who like to explore the bucolic countryside on two wheels


I’m not quite sure how it works, but it sounds like trying your hand at running the shop is optional:

We offer you the bookshop, apartment and orientation. All the rest for your bookshop holiday is up to you. Please note that this is not a volunteer opportunity, nor are we paying you to work. This is a holiday that you are paying for, classified under cultural tourism and you can enjoy the bookshop as you wish.


But most of those who’ve Airbnb’d there seem to have become shopkeepers for the duration of their stay. Here’s Jared, the most recent reviewer. (And, by the way, all 44 reviews are five-star.)

I know what some of you are thinking - how can I take a week off from work, fly all the way to Scotland, and drive through the countryside just to spend a week volunteering in a bookstore. Well its more than just that. This is the most unique traveling experience I've ever had. I don't know if I have run into a community more giving, kind, and willing to open up their doors and lives to strangers. Go to Wigtown, be a shopkeeper, hike the trails, cliffs, and woods that surround the town, have a pint at the pub, explore, and talk to people. Book the trip (if you can!), trust me you won't regret it.

Jared ain’t kidding about book it if you can. I looked out a year and couldn’t find much of anything.

The pictures, of course, look heavenly. My first reaction was that there are only a couple of days a year when things are so picture-perfect Brigadoon/Finian’s Rainbow-ish in Scotland. The country is beautiful, but not exactly known for its lovely weather. But I looked it up, and this neck of the Scottish woods has weather that’s milder and sunnier than other parts of the country. Which is not to say that it’s like San Diego. Even so, I like just thinking about sitting there – even in the dark and gloomy – sipping a cup of tea and eating a scone, selling or not selling a book.

I can dream, can’t I?

Monday, July 24, 2017

Haters gotta hate (by state, state, state)

There really is an app for everything and everyone.

And for singles who want to connect with people who share the same antipathies they do, there’s Hater. (The URL, by the way, is Or as they put it:

Meet someone who hates the same stuff.
The first dating app that matches people on the things they hate.

The app was “inspired” by an academic study “that found that when people share a negative attitude about a third party, it becomes a pretty effective bonding tool.”

I tend to think of things you like as being a bonding tool, but it does seem logical that the converse would also hold. These days, I’m certainly seeing plenty of bonding among those I know who fear and loathe Donald Trump. (And that includes friends who lean conservative – and I actually do have a few of them!)

The app prompts users to select (via swiping, of course) whether they love, hate, like, or dislike a famous person, activity or concept. A rep from Hater told HuffPost that the app offers its users over 3,000 topics to swipe on. Once a user has logged a number of likes, dislikes, loves and hates, the app uses an algorithm to find compatible matches based on the info provided.

According to the company, they have been keeping tabs on what their “few hundred thousand users” in the United States despise since the app launched in February. And it turns out, people in different states hate very different things. (Source: Huffington Post)

With all this nifty data, Hater gave us a real treat by creating a nifty map of the 50 states, showing what the Hater members in those states hate the most.

It’s hard for me to believe that the people in Massachusetts hate NY Giants quarterback Eli Manning more than they hate Roger Goodell. I mean, Eli Manning hating is so yesterday.As is Eli Manning. NFL Goodell shirtRoger Goodell, now, there’s a football-related name well worth the hate, as Deflategate – a crisis that resulted in our Tom Brady being suspended for four games last season – still hasn’t gone away, even though the Pats (and our Tom) won a thrilling Super Bowl this year. The hatred may dissipate after Goodell shows up at Gillette Stadium for the home opener this season, but it will still be there. Tee-shirts like the one shown here are really worn in these parts. (That’s Goodell with the clown nose.) Anti-Eli Manning shirts? Can’t remember if I’ve ever seen one.

What people hate

I can understand why people in Texas hate sleeping with the window open. It’s hot there, and they need their AC. Nevadans hate feminism; folks from Utah hate porn. Both positions seem to make sense. I’m not surprised that Iowans don’t like long hair on guys. Arizonans hate sand, probably because they have way too much of it.

No state can be faulted for hating polo shirts (New Mexico), gluten-free (Wyoming), and waiting in line (Vermont). And who isn’t with the good citizens of Arkansas who admit to hating to clean? (That said, I don’t think I’ll be looking to check into a hotel there any time soon.)Tennessee hates foraged food. Must be a lot of roadkill possum stew going on down there.

But what’s up with Oklahoma that their citizens don’t want to hear the latest gossip? How prissy and self-righteous is that? Or maybe they’re liars. Unlike the Louisianan truth-tellers who hate being the designated driver.

And what to we make of the fact that North Dakotans hate tapas. Are there really enough tapas joints in North Dakota to hate?

Why does Delaware hate Casey Affleck? And, for God’s sake, why does New Hampshire hate God? And who would have imagined that poor little Rhode Island harbors antipathy towards Middle America? That seems like so much more of a Massachusetts attitude to cop.

The cynics from Washington, DC, hate the idea that everyone has a soulmate. But apparently they’re still willing to give yet another dating site a whirl, even if they don’t believe that a shared hatred is the basis for soulmate-hood.

Some of the hatreds are just plain weird. What up, Illinois, that you hate biting into string cheese? Does it really come up that often?

My friend Gwen grew up in Michigan. I will not be breaking it to her that her native state hates Pride and Prejudice. Not after she named her daughter after Jane Austen.

As for Indiana, which hates bloggers. I never did like your state to begin with.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Poor Chipotle! No wonder I Boloco…

Although I’ve eaten there a number of times, and my food has always been fine, I’m not the biggest Chipotle fan on the face of the earth. But I certainly wish them no ill, and feel a bit sorry for their ongoing bouts of bad health.

In 2015, they had a few “foodborne-illness outbreaks”, including a humdinger local incident that occurred in December 2015, when over 140 folks took ill after eaten at a Chipotle near Boston College. With the exception of the victims, I can pretty much guarantee that there weren’t a ton of Bostonians who lost any sleep over a bunch of BC students getting sick. Still, most of us have had that winning combo of gastro-intestinal yuck, so it’s hard not to feel sympathy for those who come down with it. (When I was in college, something or other went through the student body (literally) – was it after they served chicken a la king in the caf? – and so many students were down with it that no one was able to make it to the infirmary. Nurses came through the dorms, distributing lomotil door to door. Definitely the no fun zone.)

The making of a whole lot of sick customers, of course, had a major impact on Chipotle’s business and stock price. And it took them a lot longer to recover from it than it did for those BC kids to get over the unpleasantness that was visited upon them.

But the world is a (mostly) forgiving place. Chipotle has a lot of fans. The food is tasty and cheap enough.  And sometimes you just want a burrito. So, Chipotle made its way back.

Then this spring, Chipotle experienced a different sort of virus when “a malware attack struck its point-of-sale technology.” While I’m not afraid I’ll catch anything from POS tech, and I wouldn’t use a debit or credit card to pay for a burrito anyway, I sure wouldn’t want my debit or credit card hacked because someone’s POS tech was definitely POS tech with respect to its security.

The point-of-sale hack wasn’t quite the same as getting sick, but it’s still not good news for a business that’s still got something of the shakes. And then there was this:

The reports were familiar: In the space of 48 hours, a handful of people said they’d gotten sick after eating at a Chipotle Mexican Grill.

Bang: Wall Street’s judgment was swift -- and brutal. Chipotle’s stock plunged nearly 8 percent on Tuesday, erasing its gain for the year. The episode, which involved a single location in Sterling, Virginia, recalled the string of foodborne illnesses that upended the chain two  years ago, and underscored the fact that the company remains on probation with both customers and investors. (Source: Bloomberg)

I’d hate to be a company spokesman for Chipotle. I’d hate to be in Chipotle marketing. I’d hate to be on their PR team. I’d hate to be someone working in a Chipotle store. And I’d sure hate to be Jim Marsden, who is the executive of food safety for Chipotle. Marsden was hired after the fiascos of 2015, and he’s sure had his job cut out for him – even if this latest problem (a few folks at a suburban Washington Chipotle) turns out to be nothing whatsoever to do with food safety standards at Chipotle. It could just be a fluke.

Chipotle isn’t just looking a making sure that all their acts are cleaned up, they’re looking to make some changes.

Chipotle is adding new menu items, such as melted cheese and dessert, part of its bid to win back customers.

If my tummy were roiling, I don’t know if melted cheese and dessert would get me to check back in on Chipotle. But I’m sure they’re focusing on the customers who aren’t currently throwing up after eating there.

Meanwhile, after I had completed and queued up this post, my brother-in-law (not aware of my upcoming Chipotle topic) emailed me with another fresh piece of Chipotle news. A Dallas Chipotle had an incident that I think out noroviruses the foodborne illness stories.

A day after Chipotle Mexican Grill faced an outbreak of norovirus at a Chipotle restaurant in Virginia, the company’s PR team is dealing with yet another embarrassing public-health incident. A Dallas TV station reported that, at one local Chipotle restaurant, customers’ lunch was ruined when several rodents reportedly fell from the ceiling and landed inside the dining area.

Footage of the incident - as one angry customer remarked - is enough to put one off from eating at the chain indefinitely (Source: Zero Hedge – includes a swell and very appetizing video.)

There are few things worse than rats in restaurants. (Having worked as a waitress in a place that was quite literally a rat hole, I know whereof I speak.)  Norovirus might be a rogue employee who sneezed. Rats falling from the ceiling…. Well, that’s another story. 

Anyway, I for one am wishing Chipotle a hearty ‘get well soon.’ But if I want a burrito – and mine is the Bangkok Thai with white meat chicken on wheat –  I’m going to Boloco, our local chain. So far, so good.


And a tip of the Pink Slip hat to Ricky T for being so prescient with this one.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

That does it (or, suffering from technology fatigue)

Every once in a while, I see a headline that stops me dead in my very tracks. That was my reaction when I saw this one the other day on Bloomberg:

Ethereum Co-Founder Says Crypto Coin Market Is A Time-Bomb

The opening paras were more confounding than the headline.

Initial coin offerings, a means of crowdfunding for blockchain-technology companies, has caught so much attention that even the co-founder of the ethereum network, where many of these digital coins are built, says it’s time for things to cool down in a big way.

“People say ICOs are great for ethereum because, look at the price, but it’s a ticking time-bomb,” Charles Hoskinson, who helped develop ethereum, said in an interview. “There’s an over-tokenization of things as companies are issuing tokens when the same tasks can be achieved with existing blockchains. People are blinded by fast and easy money.”

Okay. I know what crowdfunding is. And blockchain technology. And, of course, crypto currency. Not to mention a time-bomb. But the whole thing makes my head hurt. Real bad. Having an organization that’s gone all e.e. cummings and dubbed itself ethereum doesn’t help much either, headache-wise. Because it’s just so much easier to figure out that ethereum is a proper-noun entity, rather than just another any-old-word, if you don’t capitalize it. (No wonder people hate marketing.)

That non-capitalization is almostashelpfultothereadingpublicasleavingoutthespacethatseparateswwords. And even more helpful to readers than the folks that decide that - despite the fact that, since Gutenberg printed that first Bible, the easiest way to read something is black lettering on white background - their website should use yellow letters on black.

Yikes! When I saw that headline I almost decided, then and there,that I was never going to read another word about technology. Which would be a tough go, given that I make my living writing about technology. Sigh.

It brings to mind one of my all-time favorite New Yorker cartoons (which, alas, I could not find online. Thanks, technology.) It goes back to the late 1960’s, when New York City was in shambles, and Mario Procaccino was running for mayor against incumbent John Lindsay. NYC in the late 1960s was a financial and just plain living disaster. Among other pleasant occurrences was a strike by the sanitation workers that lasted over a week and resulted in quite the trash pileup. Anyway, in the New Yorker cartoon, two gentleman are looking up at the Empire State Building, which is being attacked by a King Kong on steroids. And one says to the other, “That does it, I’m voting for Procaccino.”

Nearly fifty years on, this cartoon still makes me laugh.

So when I saw that Crypto Coin headline, my natural inclination was to tell myself, “That does it, I’m never reading about technology again.”

It’s mostly the topic, to which I say: Crytpo-Schmypto. What’s wrong with cash? Or credit card? Or PayPal. Krugerrands? An IOU scribbled on a cocktail napkin? Hell, what’s wrong with barter?

The Bloomberg headline just below the one that knocked me out of my gourd was a bit easier on my simple mind:

Chipotle's Tarnished Image Means Every Sneeze Is Under Scrutiny

Now that’s a story I can sink my aging teeth into!