Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Field and Stream: Cabela’s comes to town

Years ago, I worked for a hosting company, and one of our clients was Cabela’s, the hunting and fishing outfitters.

Up to that point, I had never heard of them, but they were a great client and I enjoyed working with them on a couple of things – a customer story, a holiday campaign in which we encouraged employee to do some of their shopping with our consumer products customers…

I know that I bought something from them, but I can’t imagine what it might have been. The women’s clothing may have spiffed up a bit since then, but at the time it was pretty clunky, even by my standards. It made L.L. Bean duds look cutting edge enough to show up on a Fashion Week runway.

And it’s not as if my husband was in the market for any camo gear, duck calls, or semi-automatic handguns. (Even just looking at the guns, which I did just now on their website, gives me the creeps.)

But the news around here is that a Cabela’s store has just opened.

Sure, it’s out in the wilds of Central Massachusetts – in Berlin.

But it’s still a surprise that they’d open anything in Massachusetts.

Of course, that’s what I said when the Bass Pro Shop – very similar to Cabela’s – opened in Massachusetts, at Patriot Place, the shopping and eating “destination” that’s part of the Gillette Stadium complex where the New England Patriots play.

Neither Cabela’s nor Bass Pro seems like an especially Massachusetts place to shop.

Oh, we do like the rugged gear look and feel.

But we’re in our duck boots as a fashion statement when we go out to walk the yellow lab.

And those barn jackets? We’re wearing them to Whole Foods to pick up Non-GMO green beans and veal from calves raised in loving homes.

What me hunt? What me fish?

Okay. Some people I know fish.

But, since my husband’s Uncle Bill died about 15 years ago, I don’t think I’ve spoken to a soul who hunts.

Oddly enough, my Uncle Bob and Uncle Jack (my mother’s brothers) – Chicago city boys, born and bred – were both hunters, and fishermen.

But my father? Hah!

The thought of him staring down the barrel at a buck makes me laugh out loud. As does envisioning him wrestling a marlin onto the deck of a cabin cruiser.

My father was an active guy. He played poker. He drank beer. He was a superb natural athlete who excelled in any sport he took up. One of my great pleasures as a child was watching my father ice skate. He’d take us to Elm Park, strap on our double-runners, and patiently help us shuffle around the ice for a while. But then he’d take off on his own, skating fast and fluid. Skating backwards – something that I never mastered. He was graceful and lovely to watch. Other people watched him to, making his little ones mighty proud.

But hunting and fishing?


Dad golfed.

Thinking of my husband hunting and fishing produces even more by way of outright, prolonged laughter.

As a kid, Jim had done track and played basketball. In his twenties he’d taken up tae-kwon-do. But even though he grew up in the mountains of Vermont, and as much as he adored his Uncle Bill, the thought of him sitting in a duck blind waiting for Daffy to fly over head, or behind a tree waiting for Bambi’s mother to show up….

Hah. I say hah, hah.

He couldn’t have kept his mouth shut long enough.

My brothers? My brothers-in-law? My cousins? My male friends? My colleagues?

Fishing maybe, but hunting?

Har, har, hardee har har.

Okay. Maybe there’s Jim’s cousin Steve, Bill’s son.

I know that he used to hunt, but I bet he hasn’t shouldered a rifle in decades. (I’m seeing his daughter in a couple of weeks. I’ll have to ask her.)

And us women folk?

Why, the idea is even more preposterous.

So if I extrapolate from all the Massachusetts residents I know, I can’t can’t come up with enough prospective shoppers to keep the doors of Cabela’s open. Then again, I wouldn’t have bet on NASCAR holding races in New Hampshire, either. (Okay, maybe in New Hampshire.)

Of course, I do live and work in my own little enclave of LL Bean and REI-wearing folks who spend time in nature – hiking and the like – rather than arming up and going after nature.

But here we are.

When the store opened last weekend, there were folks camped out in the parking lot waiting for the store to open. Thousands of them.

And they were in for a treat.

A full-fledged celebration featured a ribbon-cutting ceremony with a unique touch . Patrick Murray, a store manager who won a competition for the honor, took a seat about 10 feet in the air, bow in hand. With a steady hand, and to the equally steady blare of classic rock music, he fired an arrow straight into a clay pigeon. (Source: Boston Globe.)

(Wondering if they were playing “Cat Scratch Fever” by Ted Nugent?)

“We’re used to big crowds at our openings,’’ said company official John Castillo, “but even this one exceeded our expectations.’’

Cabela’s takes off in Massachusetts?

Who knew?

Anyway, I do remember them fondly as a customer, and I hope they do well here. (As long as they don’t end up selling handguns to punks, that is…)

Monday, March 30, 2015

A $10K fine for a bad tenant review? Yelp!

I’m not much of a Yelp user.

Oh, I’ll occasionally take a look at what they say about a restaurant or hotel I’m thinking of going to.

But mostly when I’m trying a new restaurant, it’s one that I’ve heard about word of mouth. And for a hotel, I’ll usually do a flea-bag check on TripAdvisor, and google the hotel’s name and the word “bedbug.” (Hmmmm…I just checked the place I’ll be staying – on the recommendation of my client - in NYC tonight, and there was a bb incident last year. I’ll have to flip the mattress when I get in, which won’t be until nearly 10 p.m. Rats! I mean bedbugs!)

But once I started thinking about Yelp, I decided to search for what was being said about the property management company that manages our condo building, as well as a number of rental properties in the city. Their rating was 1.5 starts out of 5, which seems about right, if not a tad generous. I have no desire to get on Yelp and trash them, however. They’ve been generally responsive when I have had a problem that was “caused” by the building and not particular to my unit. And a lot of the problems we have working with them are no doubt due to the flakiness and inconsistency of our condo board (composed of all the owners, me included). That said, they have pulled some real boners in the past, and I would not recommend them.

But maybe I should start listening to vox populi more often.

What brought Yelp to mind was a story I saw a few weeks back on the ridiculous reaction that an apartment complex in Florida had to its frequent negative reviews in Yelp and elsewhere on social media. Windemere Cay began forcing:

…new tenants to sign a "social media addendum" that threatened a fine of $10,000 if they gave the place a bad review online…[The addendum] also forces tenants to sign away their rights to any photos, reviews or other material about the complex posted online.(Source: Huffington Post)

Specifically, the addendum stated:

“Applicant will refrain from directly or indirectly publishing or airing negative commentary regarding the Unit, Owner, property or the apartments,” the addendum reads. “This means that Applicant shall not post negative commentary or reviews on Yelp!, Apartment Ratings, Facebook, or any other website or Internet-based publication or blog."

Well, people have been complaining about landlords for as long as there have been landlords.

I well remember my first apartment, in Boston’s Fenway area, which I had my senior year in college.

Our landlord was Maurice Gordon, one of the most notorious slumlords of the era.

And, guess what? We knew he was a slumlord before we signed the lease, which just goes to show you that even before the days of social media, it was possible to actually know stuff.

Despite what we knew about Maurice Gordon, but he was pretty much the only game in that part of town, and all our other off-campus going friends were snapping up apartments on Queensbury and Peterborough Streets. So we did, too.

If this had been the age of social media, we might have had something to say.

Sure, they had painted the rooms before we moved in, but they hadn’t cleaned a lick.

Under the claw-foot bathtub, we found dust kitties the size of coon cats, and all sorts of empty liquor bottles.

The stove/oven was a relic from the 1920’s – a little enamel number on spindly legs called the Detroit Jewel. It was replaced somewhat early on, but it took a while to get a real refrigerator with an actual freezer to replace the archaic fridge (same era as the Detroit Jewel; a one step improvement over an ice-box). Of course, the old fridge was replaced with a new fridge that didn’t work.

Our complaints to the landlord fell on deaf ears, so my roommate and I took that train down to Dedham (I think), where there was some sort of GE appliance facility. After going haywire for a bit in front of a kindly manager, we got a fridge that worked.

I am blocking out what the floor in the kitchen originally looked like. All I remember is that we bought a blue and green linoleum rug remnant, which my roommate’s boyfriend – now husband – put down for us.

I remember Tommy going the extra mile to edge it with wood trimming, which he painted. (Hey, Tom, did I ever thank you for that?)

Our trash was thrown down a chute in the hall, which blasted out hot air when you opened the chute’s door. In my mind, the trash emptied directly into the furnace, but that is not, of course, possible. (At least I don’t think it is.)

The bad news was that some of the tenants left their trash outside the chute, in open paper bags.

Any wonder there were cockroaches? (I guess we can’t blame Maurice Gordon for  that.)

Once we settled in and got the appliances worked out, I don’t remember actually calling the landlord for anything. We were pretty self-sufficient. We knew how to use a toilet plunger, and Tommy – who was up most weekends – was plenty handy.

The place was a dump, but the public areas weren’t that bad. The front area – some grass and a walk – was reasonably well kept up. We were ultra neat and ultra clean in our own cozy little apartment.  (Although the one and only time my father saw the place, a few months before he died, we had to step over a drunk sleeping in the entry way to get into the building.)

Anyway, Joyce and didn’t really have much to complain about, but I’m quite sure that if the blogosphere had existed when I was in college, I would have gone to town on the move-in condition of the place and about our quest to acquire a fridge that worked.

Good luck to Maurice Gordon if he’s tried to collect $10K from us. He was lucky to get the $150 a month we paid him. Two bedroom flats in that area now go for $2-$3k. Even with inflation, that’s lot of money, so I suspect that expectations are higher than ours were. Which is probably true of Windemere Cay tenants as well.

As it turns out, Windemere Cay has rescinded the $10K gag order, claiming it had been put in place by earlier management.

But what were they thinking to begin with?

They should have just done what sensible companies do when they’re criticized in social media: a) calmly reply to the complaint; and b) if it’s your fault, do something about it or suffer the consequences, which will include more bad social media, in which folks challenge every calm reply you’ve given, claiming that you’re nothing other than a big bad of lying wind.

Did Windemere Cay actually think that the threat of the $10K fine was going to work? That there aren’t workarounds – as in ‘my friend lives in Windemere Cay…’ for someone who really wants to get after you?

I understand that it’s difficult to deal with online complaints, which may not always be legitimate and are generally anonymous, which no doubt makes some people more spiteful than they would be if there name were attached.

But the complete and utter stupidity of trying to stop the tsunami of social media by imposing an unenforceable fine on someone for participating in it.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Welcome sweet springtime…

No Pink Slip today, I’m afraid.

Two client deadlines yesterday, and no reserve posts in the queue. (Which never happens, but apparently just has.)

So I’ll leave you with this:


Which is, admittedly, a terrible picture, even by my exceedingly low standards.

So if you can’t quite tell what it is, other than that it includes someone – that would be me – casting a mighty shadow – it’s the first crocuses that popped up out front just yesterday morning.

Now, I don’t know whether I accidentally ordered mini-crocuses last fall, or whether my normal-sized crocuses were stunted by all this year’s snow and cold….

All I know is that, when I went out to the cobbler yesterday a.m. to drop off a pair of shoes, there were no flowers out front. (I know this because I stepped into our, ahem, garden to pick up some recently-revealed winter trash, including someone’s discarded parking ticket, and there were no fleurs in sight.) By the time I returned, 10 minutes later, those little suckers had burst through.

Even if they are mini versions of what I expected to see, they were are sight for some very winter-sore eyes.

And last night I dreamed about forsythia.

Welcome sweet springtime!

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Spec house, schmeck house. (The bigger the better? I think not.)

As anyone who knows me well realizes, I am quite interested in – perhaps even obsessed with – the Tiny House movement.

I am not a johnny-come-lately to this.

In fact, I’ve been fantasizing about living small, and designing compact living spaces in my head, since I was a kid, when I’d lounge in the tub until the water got cold figuring out what would go where if I were going to convert the bathroom into a house.

As an adult, visiting my sister in Wellfleet, I always look with longing at Brownie’s Cabins on Route 6 when I pass by. Sure, it seems ridiculous to pay for accommodations when a lovely home (and a wonderful host and hostess) are just around the corner, but someday I promise myself that I’ll spend a night or two at Brownie’s.

So, yes, I do have a strong interest in Tiny Houses.

I don’t think I could go as far as the 100  square footers. But I could definitely survive , if needed, in a 200 foot house. And could live large  - and comfortably – in 400 square feet. (Been there, done that, now that I think of it. I did live for a number of years in a small studio.)

And then there’s the other end of the spectrum. That would be the Ginormous House movement which, in contrast with the Tiny Houses. While Tiny Houses tend to be small footprint and green-built, Ginormous Houses are both big-arse and de luxe. As in the spec house built by Shelly and Avi Osadon in (where else) Beverly Hills which includes:

…a custom chandelier with 25 handblown glass balls for the entryway. They installed $5,000 “hands-free” toilets with heated seats in most of the home’s 10 bathrooms. They even bought $350 electric toothbrushes custom designed by “dentist to the stars” Jon Marashi.

Now all the Osadons need to do is find someone who wants to buy their dream—ideally for their $35 million asking price. (Source: WSJ Online)

Oh, I almost get the heated seat – I live in a cold climate. And “hands free”? Why not? (Although I don’t see how a trip to the toilet is ever going to be fully “hands free”) But a $350 toothbrush? Does it guarantee ‘look my, no cavities’? Permanent fresh breath? No plaque build up? No gingivitis?

Just part of a new trend in which:

More developers and investors are racing to build increasingly lavish homes on spec. Built on prime lots with master suites larger than most homes and spas and entertainment spaces comparable with those in hotels, many of these homes are also attempting to break new price records.

In Florida, a 30K square foot is going up, complete with underground parking for 20 cars. ($45 million.)

Not to be outdone, there’s another place in Florida – in the aptly-named town of Golden Beach – that’s gong for $36M. This baby:

… has a 5,000-square-foot spa and five kitchens. And in Los Angeles, a $55 million spec home with expansive city views includes an air-conditioned “auto gallery” with a spinning turntable and room for 15 cars.

As a Tiny House aficionado, it’s my head that’s spinning, not my car. (Which, of course, I don’t own anymore.)

Much of what’s driving this is the usual roundup of Russian oligarchs and Mid-eastern oil-princes, who are looking “to park money.” (Vs. a Tiny House purchase, in which you park the house.)

But some are being snapped up by home-grown moguls. (Think young software guys and handbag designers.)

Hey, it’s only money. And it’s only their money. So if someone has $45M to throw at someone-or-other’s spec dream house, they’re entitled.

Me? Even if I had $45M, it wouldn’t go into a house with a 2,500 square foot master bedroom.

But if I had $45M, I’d sure be willing to shed $45K for the Tiny House of my dreams.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Traitors, beware!

Was it just  yesterday that I was at least quasi-decrying using data to figure out whether an employee was in danger of saying ‘sayonara?’ (Not that, as a manager, I couldn’t have used such data analysis tools in couple of situations…)

Well, in today’s episode of “What Software Can Do For You,” it’s not about worrying whether your employees are leaving. It’s about worrying whether those employees have got cheatin’ on their minds. As in making off with your company’s intellectual property.

Nothing new about walking out the door on that last day with a few  little goodies to bring to your next gig. And we’re not talking about a stapler and a couple of pens here. We’re talking about customer lists, product specs, business plans. Stuff like that. Which will sure come in handy, given that the next company you’re going to may well be a competitor.

Sure, you may have signed a non-compete, but your non-pen-holding fingers were crossed. Besides, that non-compete is probably not enforceable, and, let’s face it, you’re much more apt to get a better offer from a company in the same industry.

In the most notorious instance of making off with the goods I was ever witness to, a couple of techies – including the lead engineer – who thought we weren’t getting to market fast enough and/or were going about it the wrong way walked out the door with a server. Which they returned after they’d stripped off the code they wanted.

They then went off to found a competitive company that, because it was able to get investment money behind it that we were not, managed to more or less eat our lunch. (We, unfortunately, had already exhausted our sources of capital, that’s for sure.)

Anyway, the upstart start-up also hired away a number of our employees, including a few folks I was very friendly with.

Not that I’m a saint, but when I was approached to join them, I didn’t feel right about it. I knew too much, and didn’t want to be disloyal to the leave-behinds. (The closest of my friends who went over to the other side – who was the one who attempted to recruit me – knew nothing about our technology or our plans for it.)

While they (now “the enemy”) may have eaten our lunch, we got a few just desserts.

Our president decided to sue them, and the settlement money, while not a huge amount, helped us survive for a while.

I was heartsick over the lawsuit when I learned about it, as it specifically named my friend, who had a quite senior position in the enemy camp. I was okay with the suit in general: these guys were definitely double-dealers and the founder and president, in fact, had been “working from home” and largely inaccessible for months before their coup. He was collecting a big, fat paycheck from us while pulling together his new company. He deserved to be sued! But my friend?

Unfortunately, my friend stopped speaking to me. More unfortunately, she died before we could mend the rift.

Anyway, I do know that people steal stuff from their companies that goes well beyond what they can grab and go after a quick riffle through the supply cabinet.

Another incident I lived through was during the height of the tech run up of the late 1990’s, when companies were hiring like lunatics (and paying like lunatics while they were at it).

Someone in my group decided to help a recruiter friend out by sending him the list of everyone in our business unit so that the recruiter friend could contact them, presumably to place them elsewhere and earn a big fee.

This charmer was caught because she was using a company fax to send the list out to her friend. She compounded her stupidity by leaving the fax in the machine, where it was found by someone in HR.

(Yes, she was fired.)


The problem predates the Internet: the salesman who takes the entire customer list with him when he quits, or the engineer who makes off with key product designs. But technology has only made it easier; now the salesman e-mails the data to his Gmail account, and the engineer can put product designs on a USB drive. In an embarrassing episode for Morgan Stanley, the bank dismissed an employee earlier this year for taking information about an estimated 350,000 clients of its wealth-management division…

Guarding against such risks is an expanding niche in the security industry, with at least 20 companies marketing software tools for tracking and analyzing employee behavior.  (Source: Bloomberg)

Software can analyze emails (privacy, what privacy?) or look for something that’s out of whack – like downloading information you’d never accessed before.

But, as with all good things, it can go a bit too far:

Some of the methods at companies that hire Securonix make even [Chief Scientist Igor] Baikalov wonder how much is too much. He cites the practice of matching information on user behavior online with feeds from video cameras and other systems that monitor physical locations. Some companies, he says, have created ticket systems so employees can report suspicious behavior by colleagues. “Is it too much, or is it actually the right amount of diligence?” he says. “I’m really curious how much we will get out of it. It’s really the extreme in kind of Orwell-like monitoring.”

Love the idea of have a ticketing system for reporting suspicious behavior. (Is the product name “Stasi” taken?)

But, ah, if we’d had tracking software in place, and if our faxing young friend had been sending out a list she’d downloaded, rather than one she’d photocopy, we might have caught her before the recruiter got his greedy mitts on it.

So traitors, beware!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Retaining walls.

I count myself blessed to have dropped out of “corporate” before the rage for all sorts of employee analytics began.

Oh, sure, back in the day we had HR departments, but there never seemed to be much of a scientific overlay to what they were doing.

Sometimes they’d come around and tell all the managers that they had to do annual reviews; sometimes the managers ignored them. (I went years during my career when there was no such thing as a review.)

Sometimes reviews were tied to salary increases. Other times, they weren’t. Sometimes managers rated employees the way they were told to, sometimes they did what they damn well pleased.

In one classic example, the managers in my company were forced – after years of doing nothing – to give everyone a performance review. Managers were told that they should be very parsimonious about giving high ratings. The vast majority of employees, they were instructed, should receive a “3” on a 5-point scale. If there was someone really terrible in a group, they could be given a “4” or a “5”, but “2’s” should be scarce. And no employee in the history of mankind could ever be given a “1” for uber excellence.

It almost goes without saying that my manager followed orders from headquarters, and gave us all a “3” rating. Other managers Lake Wobegone’d their folks and gave out “1’s” and “2’s” like M&M’s. Which mattered because, come raise time, “1’s” and “2’s” got better raises.

Overall, in most places I worked, the evaluation, promotion, and pay increase processes were haphazard, at best.

But although much of my career was spent in companies trying to figure out who and how many to lay off, there were also occasional schemes to try to retain key employees.

It was all completely arbitrary, and generally came down to whether your manager liked you or not.

Sometimes the retention initiatives meant getting to go to training, sometimes it meant a bonus, sometimes it meant a raise.

My favorite reward was a week long trip to Hawaii.

What happened was that my company had booked an expensive resort for its sales winners’ reward trip, but ended up with not enough sales guys making quota. So they picked a couple of dozen non-sales folks to fill in the already paid for slots.

Great trip, but did it help retain me?

Nope. A year later, I was begging to be put on the layoff list, which actually took some maneuvering, as I’d just been one of the anointed who’d been sent off to a weeklong mini-MBA program at Babson College. There, we watched films of Jack Welch in action and worked on a company strategy that no one was ever going to implement. But being part of this mini-MBA initiative meant you were exempt from layoffs.

Fortunately, the need to fill the layoff lists was so great that, with the support of three VP friends, I was able to weasel my way on to it.

Of course, after that layoff round, the halo around the Babson Fifty had lost its shine, and they were booting my fellow strategists out left and right. I’m sure I would have eventually been given the heave-ho.

So I really have near-zero experience in companies that tried to be at all scientific about how employees were rated and retained.

But I suspect that if I’d stuck with corporate a while longer, the analytics would have caught up with me and I would have been contributed data that would enable analysts to scientifically rate members of my team, and, in turn, been scientifically measured by my manager. (Weighed-and-found-wantings, all around, I’m sure.)

Anyway, there are now analytics packages that predict which of your employees is likely to leave. Given how costly it is to train an employee, let alone go through the trouble of hiring and training their replacements, this has become a big expensive deal.

Corporate data crunchers play with dozens of factors, which may include job tenure, geography, performance reviews, employee surveys, communication patterns and even personality tests to identify flight risks, a term human-resources departments sometimes use for people likely to leave.

The data often reveal a complex picture of what motivates workers to stay—and what causes them to look elsewhere.

At Box, for example, a worker’s pay or relationship with his boss matters far less than how connected the worker feels to his team, according to an analysis from human-resources analytics firm Culture Amp. At Credit Suisse, managers’ performance and team size turn out to be surprisingly powerful influences, with a spike in attrition among employees working on large teams with low-rated managers. (Source:  Wall Street Journal)

Interesting that, at Box, pay doesn’t matter. (Hah!) But does it take an analytics expert to determine that a crappy manager is a “surprisingly strong influence.”

And what might companies do with all this data?

Sure, they want to retain the folks they want to retain.

But do not organizations also want some people to go without their having to lay them off, give them severance, and incur the costs of them collecting unemployment benefits.

I can just see the HR-ers: let’s put these three guys on a large team with a lousy manager. They’ll be gone in no time, and we won’t even have to confront them. (Surely, there are few managerial satisfactions the equal of having an employee who’s on some type of performance plan hand in their resignation? Oh, we’re not suppose to say this, but sometimes there is addition by subtraction.)

VoloMetrix Inc., which examines HR data as well as anonymized employee email and calendar data, found that it could predict flight risk up to a year in advance for employees who were spending less time interacting with certain colleagues or attending events beyond required meetings.

Man, forget concerns about employees with flight risks, it gives me the willies to think that someone’s out there collecting data on what colleague interactions people are having, and whether they showed up for the company holiday party.

Glad I’m no longer in this particular game…

Monday, March 23, 2015

“Race Together.” Well, their heart’s in the right place, and, you know what, their head’s kind of in the right place, too. (Almost…)

By now, you have no doubt read about Starbucks’ “Race Together” initiative, a noble idea intended to get folks talking about an issue that – for all the attention it gets – most of us actually tend to avoid talking about.

Racism has been the elephant on the American table for, oh, a couple of  hundred years. And for all the self-congratulatory headway that’s been made over those years – Look! A black president! – we’re still quite a long way from race-blind anything.

It’s such a tough and complex (not to mention divisive) issue. Frame any conversation on race that’s around the  structural, and you’re playing the race card.  Frame any conversation on race that’s around the cultural, and you’re a KKK-level racist.

What’s a country to do?

Well, part of what Starbucks thought it might do was have tis baristas write “race together” on latte cups in hopes of engaging customers in conversations on race.

Just what the average bleary-eyed caffeine addict wants first thing in the morning, no? Not to mention the bleary-eyed caffeine addicts lined up behind the person engaged in said conversation, who just want their damned vente…

Not to mention that this conversation, which is apparently impossible for the elected and media powers that be to conduct – think of all the flak the president got when he tried to make an empathetic statement about the hypothetical: if he’d had a son, he might have looked like Trayvon Martin – might be a bit tricky for the average barista to conduct in anything other than an awkward manner. Would they all have been given training on how to  introduce sensitive subjects and diffuse difficult reactions? This is a such a heated topic, perhaps best not addressed when someone’s holding a cup of scalding coffee.

And yet…

I laud Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz for trying to take the conversation out of the one-hour-a-year-devoted-to-diversity-in-the-workplace and make it subject matter for the day to day.

Anyway, baristas will no longer be writing “Race Together” on cups. That’s been rescinded as of yesterday. If Shcultz withdrew that program element he did so:

…while laying out additional activities for the coming months. These include employee forums, dialogue with police and community leaders and a commitment to expanding stores to urban communities…Starbucks [had]announced the Race Together initiative March 16 to “stimulate conversation, compassion and action around race in America.” . (Source: Bloomberg)

Well, good for Schultz.

At any rate, I wouldn’t have been part of any of the store-based conversations.

There’s a Starbuck’s less than 10 seconds from my front door, but I never go there.

I don’t drink coffee, and if I did drink coffee, I’m a Dunkin’ Donuts kind of gal. (I do drink DD iced coffee.)

The last time I stepped inside the local Starbucks was shortly after my husband died. I wanted to get rid of  the heavy-duty prescription drugs we had around, and the FDA had a list of what you could flush (I believe morphine was on the list), and instructions for how to get rid of the rest. Which was to embed them in coffee grounds and put out with the trash.

A barista quite kindly gave me a big bag full of coffee grounds.

Anyway, I would be happy to talk about race. Just not in a coffee shop.

Other than a couple of acquaintances, I don’t really know any black folks.

I grew up in a mostly Irish Catholic (i.e., white) neighborhood, and went to mostly all white Catholic schools, up through college. This wasn’t a deliberate plot to avoid the “other”. As they say, it was what it was.

The city I grew up in – Worcester – had a relatively small African-American population, well below the national average.

My career was in high-tech, where the black faces were few and far between.

I live in a pretty-darned lily-white neighborhood.

As they say, it is what it is.

Although I am one of the most white-bread looking people you’re ever going to find – fair skin, lightish hair, blue eyes - I actually thought that I might have some African blood in me.

My father had black hair, hazel eyes, and – unlike my mother – could tan without burning.

I always thought that, since some of his family was from the West of Ireland, there may have been some Moorish blood in there.

Alas, when I got my reading back from Ancestry.com, there was no African. (The exciting bit was some probability of a trace of Mongol horde…)

When you get down to that level of granularity, of course, you realize that race is a pretty BS construct.

One that, I hope, we’ll all manage to grow out of someday.

But that won’t happen unless we start admitting that there’s an elephant in the room.

So thanks, Howard Shultz.

And please do consider running for public office.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Day Stay

When my husband and I traveled to Europe, we sometimes took our chances that we could show up at a hotel at near crack of dawn and get into our room. Or we reserved (and paid for) a room for the night before.

When we took the former option, we  mostly got lucky. Sure, sometimes we ended up sitting in a lobby, slacked-jawed and drooling while waiting for our room to become available, which, given our slack-jawed and drooling presence, was probably a few hours earlier than it would have been if we’d dropped our bags and headed off for a zombified tourist day, obediently returning for a 4 p.m. check in. One time, in Limerick, Ireland, our room wasn’t ready, so they checked us into a smaller room where we were able to take a couple of hour nap and a shower and were, thus, good to go and un-jet-lagged for the trip. gOnce we were refreshed, they moved us into our grander digs. (This was Limerick, so it wasn’t all that much grander.)

When we took the latter option, we mostly go lucky. Reserving a room for the night before is not as easy a task as one might imagine, especially in the days before the Internet, when the reservation involved phone calls, faxes, and – in some countries – incredulity that anyone would actually pay for a room they weren’t using. One time, in Bunratty, Ireland, we tumbled off the plane at Shannon at 6 :30 a.m., delighted to know that we had lined up a one-night stand (but paying for a two-night stand) at a nearby hotel (where we had stayed several times), and that we could just roll right into our room. Not so fast. When we tried to check in, we were told that our room wasn’t ready. How was that possible, I asked, brandishing the confirmation fax. We’ve already paid for it for last night.

“Oh, darling,” the clerk told me. “There were some people who came in last night, and we were full up. They needed a room, and we knew that you’d want them to have yours.”

Well, they obviously didn’t know us if they thought that was what we wanted.

In fact, we wanted nothing more than to have that room for ourselves.

“Of course, you won’t be charged for it,” the clerk said, as if this were some magnanimous gesture he were making.

On another trip, this time to Prague, we had a six-hour holdover in Frankfurt.

We rolled our bags across the road in front of the terminal, and into a colossal hotel (Sheraton maybe) and asked if they could give us temporary shelter. They could and they did. Six hours worth of room for one-third the overnight rack rate. Sold!

We never did one of these partials again, but it always helped in planning to know that, at the big European airports at least, it was a possibility.

And now it’s a possibility that’s becoming possible in Boston:

Beginning this spring, visitors to Boston will have the option of booking day-use rooms through a website and app called HotelsByDay. It’s a burgeoning category of lodging: Book your room online, check in at 9 a.m., check out at 5 p.m. (or 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.), and pay from 30 percent to as much as 70 percent less than for an overnight stay. (Source:  Boston Globe)

Well, in by 9 a.m. wouldn’t work on some of those dawn flights to Ireland, but it would sure beat hanging around the lobby or the streets of a strange city until late afternoon.

HotelByDay, which is available in Europe and in a few cities in the States, is mostly:

…aimed at business travelers, families who want to shower and change after a day at the beach, or people waiting for departing evening cruise ships in foreign ports of call.

Of course, as the article notes, there is at least one further application that springs to the mind of any normal person, and that’s the use of the day rate for No-tell Motel purposes. (Speaking of which, in Tucson last week, we actually passed a rather seedy looking joint that was, in fact, called the Notel Motel.)

The burgeoning day-stay business is out to dispel the “sleazy stereotypes.” My first reaction is to hope they don’t try too hard. Why not grant that middle-aged couple, staggering off a too-hot, way-stuffy, sleepless overseas flight that little tryst frisson?

Although I wasn’t aware of it, day stay has apparently been working in Europe for the past decade. There are now 1,500 hotels there that offer day stays via sites like HotelsByDay and others. (As an aside, doesn’t HotelsByDay sound a bit like it’s something else by night, in some sort of half whore/half madonna kind of way?)

Over the past decade, we mostly rented short-stay flats when we were in Europe, and were generally able to arrange an early availability. Traveling in the States, you’re often able to arrange your arrival to better coincide with room availability. And, in any case, unless your going to/coming from Hawaii, or taking the red-eye from the West Coast to the East, you’re not going to suffer the jet lag you do heading for Europe.

Still, when I was in NYC with my niece Molly before Christmas, it was kind of a drag that we couldn’t check right in. We weren’t jet lagged, and were able to check our bags and take off for the day. Still, it would have been nice to be checked in right away.

So far, daytel-ling is already available in NYC, LA, Chicago and Miami. And, as noted, coming soon to Boston (where I have my own day stay, so won’t be needing one). Acceptance of the concept has been somewhat slow-going.

The founders of these websites confess that it’s been an uphill battle changing attitudes of US hoteliers who fear they will sully their brands by selling daytime rooms.

Ah, yet another instance of American Exceptionalism: prudery.

“They’re used to seeing dodgy walk-in customers during the day,” said Peter de Lorme, president of BookaDayRoom. “But we’re trying to alter that mindset. We’ve had initial opposition to the idea, but I think once you explain other uses it becomes clearer.”

Beyond the sleazy-dodgy factor, daytel does raise a couple of potential issues. Will folks now have to pay for early check in, which most hotels will now let you do if the room’s available? And, more critically, with the average hotel room experiencing more and more turnover, are we going to be seeing more bedbug infestations?

Oh, no, I thought I was over EFOBB (extreme fear of bed bugs)…

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Olympics? Not in my front yard.

Other than concerns about the taxpayers being left on the hook, life as we know it being disrupted, and having the whole thing turn into one ginormous cluster, I had been running pretty neutral on Boston’s bid for hosting the summer Olympics in 2024.

And then I read about the possibility of hosting the beach volleyball event on Boston Common.

Well, that one made no sense.

Boston Common is not that large – only 50 acres*. And a whole lot of that 50 acres is taken up by things like the softball/Little League fields, the Frog Pond skating rink/wading pool, the Frog Pond playground, the ancient cemetery, the Parkman Bandstand, the dog play area, the Soldiers and Sailors Monument, two subway stops, four entrances to the under-the-Common garage, walking paths, and an awful lot of very old trees. In other words, there is precious little by way of wide open spaces in which to erect a beach volleyball court and stands without putting a lot of other activities (i.e., the kind that us non-Olympic athletes take part in, like walking the dog) on hold and, more than likely, destroying some of our precious and rare outdoor space.

And, given that Boston is actually on the, duh, ocean, might a place that’s actually a beach, duh, not be a better site for beach volleyball. Why, in Boston proper alone, there’s Savin Hill Beach and Malibu (yes, indeed) Beach. Spectators could take it all in from the Dorchester Yacht Club. And right outside of Boston, there’s plenty of other beaches, of which Revere Beach would seem to be an excellent venue. (I’d vote for Nantasket, but at high tide there is no Nantasket.)

Anyway, beach volley ball on the Common: BAD IDEA.

And then things went from bad to worse, and I saw that the group putting together the bid was considering the Public Garden for road cycle events.

When I read this one, my head began to spin off of my neck.

Compared to the Public Garden, the Boston Common looks like Nebraska.

All of 24 acres, the Public Garden is perhaps the most beautiful public park in the country. Public Garden - 2


Okay, the image is a bit fuzzy, but you get the picture.

It’s small. It’s lovely. It’s flowery. It has lovely trees. It has grassy areas (in an urban neighborhood where there are no lawns). It has the swan boats. It has fountains, monuments (including one dedicated to the invention of ether and another dedicated to the local victims of 9/11), and a really cool bridge.

And we’re going to have cyclists racing, and spectators trampling, through it?

Maybe they just threw this idea in there hoping that folks would concede on the beach volley ball on the Common suggestion.

If so, the organizers are wrong.

The organization that maintains the Boston Common and the Public Garden has a message for those looking to bring the 2024 Olympics to the area: Stay off of our lawns.

“If we are a host of the Games, the parks should be premier places where people can come and visit. They should be open to the public, and not places that require ticketing,” said Elizabeth Vizza, executive director of the Friends of the Public Garden. (Source: Boston Globe)

Oh, the organizing committee says that these are just ideas being floated, and that they’ll listen to the communities that will be impacted.

But [Rich] Davey [of Boston 2024, the organizing committee] also pointed at the potential benefits the Games could have for Boston’s green spaces.

“We believe the investment we could make in the Boston Common as a result of hosting the Olympic Games would be a tremendous legacy,” Davey said.

And what might that legacy be? I really don’t think we need a beach volley ball court in our midst. Even placing it on the Esplanade that runs along the Charles River would make more sense. (Don’t tell the Friends of the Esplanade say I said anything.)

Vizza said the Friends of the Public Garden aren’t against bringing the Olympics to town, and they welcome an open dialogue about alternative ways to use the parks if the city is picked to host the games.

“We made [Mayor Martin J. Walsh] aware of the vote, and reassured him it wasn’t about the Olympics as a whole—it’s just about our parks,” she said. “They are valuable, and they are vulnerable.”

When I walk out my front door, I’m looking at the Public Garden. When I turn left and walk a very short block, I’m opposite the Boston Garden.

The Friends of the Public Garden is a private group that works with the City to keep the Common and Public Garden nice. They’re HQ is right next door. I’ve been thinking about joining. And now I’ll be doing so.

Let the games begin. Just not in my front yard.


*For the sake of comparison, New York’s Central Park is 843 acres, and Chicago’s Lincoln Park covers 1,208 acres.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Where are they now? Dennis Kozlowski edition.

Perhaps Pink Slip hasn’t been looking hard enough, but it seems that the corporate scandals these days are just not as compelling as they were in days of blogging (let along pre-blogging) yore. It may be that organizations are more honest and compliant these days (hmmmmm….). Or it may just be that we have all become so jaded that it would take a real doozy for any of us even notice that some big hedge fund or corporate mahoff had gone off the rails.

The most recent tales of things gang agley, business-wise, all seem to be about intemperate use of social media or good old fashioned résumé inflation. All the ‘too big to fail’ guys were, apparently, ‘too big to get indicted.’

Compared to the days of Ken Lay and Jeff Skilling, of Stephen Cohen, of Bernie Madoff (talk about God’s gift to bloggers for a while there), of Raj Rajaratnam, of Bernie Ebbers, I seem to be coming up empty of late on the scandal beat.

And then I saw an article  on Dennis Kozlowski, the Tyco tycoon who, for a while there, was living as LARGE as any of the corporate scofflaws.

If you’ve forgotten the details, Kozlowski was most famous for a lushly furnished NYC apartment, with lush furnishings that included a bespoke $6K shower curtain. (You can’t really have a flat that sports a Monet and a Renoir and go with the kind of plain white plastic shower curtain you can pick up at your local True Value, can you?) He also threw a $2M birthday party in Sardinia to celebrate the 40th b-day of his now ex-wife. This soiree – paid for by Tyco – featured an ice-sculpture of Michelangelo’s David peeing Stoli, and a $250K guest appearance by Jimmy Buffet. (Seriously, I like Jimmy Buffett as much as the next guy, but has a two or three hit wonder ever loomed so large and expensively on the cultural landscape?)

Mostly what Kozlowski was known for was playing fast and loose with the Tyco cookie jar, helping himself to compensation and expense money (e.g., $6K shower curtain) that may have been wink and a nod okayed, but was never formally approved by Tyco’s board. Just the sort of a-hole, good old boys “governance” that led to the proliferation of so much regulation.

Anyway, I read about Kozlowski the other day, and his $2M Stoli-pissing-ice-sculpture days are in the rear view mirror. He’s out of prison and now living a bit more modestly in a two-bed apartment on the East Side than he was in his glory days (but a bit more comfortably than when he was in the hoosegow in  upstate).

Ten years and a lifetime ago, Kozlowski reigned as the archetype of avarice. It is what helped lead to his conviction in 2005 for looting nearly $100 million from Tyco, for which he served 6½ years in prison. That showy shower curtain was in his corporate residence on Fifth Avenue — paid for with Tyco funds.

“I was piggy,” he said during a series of recent interviews with The New York Times. “But I’m not that person anymore.” (Source: NY Times via the Boston Globe)

Although conceding that he was piggy (or, perhaps more accurately, hoggy: after all, pigs just get fat, hogs get slaughtered), Kozlowski also:

…maintains he was unfairly convicted, especially in light of how few big names were brought to trial in the most recent period of Wall Street malfeasance. “After 2008,” he said, “nobody was prosecuted.”

There are plenty of others who believe that Kozlowksi was innocent of being anything more than a showy spendthrift whose extravaganza ways left him vulnerable. As a result of being so ridiculously and publicly greed-is-good-y, he may just have found himself railroaded by an over-zealous prosecutor and hung out to dry by a board that had ignored his antics, if not tacitly approved them, until the dogs of prosecution began to howl. And, whatever else you can say about him, it was on his watch that Tyco significantly increased in value and, as the article points out, unlike Enron and WorldCom are still standing and employing lots of people.

Because Kozlowski was prosecuted by the state (NY) rather than the feds, he didn’t get to go to a particularly cushy prison. (I suspect that nothing near Utica, New York can be categorized as cushy.)

Now he’s back to work, sort of.

No, he’s not the CEO of a multi-billion dollar conglomerate, but he does some:

…“’low level consulting’ on mergers and acquisitions and serves on the board of Fortune Society, which assists former convicts.

The Fortune Society sounds like an especially worthy organization for someone to be involved in, given how so many ex-cons become recidivists precisely because they can’t find that point of re-entry into society.

Kozlowski’s not dead broke, but he’s not the guy who owned the Renoir and the yacht, or showered in the $25M apartment. And at 68, he’s unlikely to ever recoup what he was worth – at least on paper – at the height of his career. (He does own a tiny piece of the New York Yankees (hiss-boo).)

Anyway, the man’s done his time.

Interesting to see that he’s out and what he’s up to.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The Wearing o’ the Green

Sure, isn’t it another St. Patrick’s Day that’s just rolled around. Time to join in the funs of the jigs and reels. Time to bake soda bread. Time to wear a bit o’ the green. Which I’ll do, if only my shamrock earrings.

On Sunday, I did go to the Celtic Sojourn St. Patrick’s Day Concert at Sanders Theater in Cambridge. The Celtic Sojourn is a Saturday afternoon radio program on WGBH, and I listen to it once in a while.

A few Saturdays ago, I had it on while the host was - what else? this is public broadcasting – doing a bit of fund raising and luring donors in with the promise of tickets to the show. I kept ignoring the pleas (I’d already gotten sucked into a WGBH donation via an old Peter, Paul and Mary concert), but then I thought, what the hell.

And there I was, the last caller to gain a coveted pair of tickets for the sold-out show.

Well, I like Celtic music, and the concert was fun. There was even a sing-along or two, so my sister Trish and I (who listened to plenty of Clancy Brothers tunes growing up) got to release our inner Carmel Quinns (an allusion for the younger folks: Sinead O’Connors).

I’ve always liked St. Patrick’s Day just fine, although I could live without the UMass drunken hooley called the Barney Blowout (toned down this year after a major melee in 2014) or the St. Fratty’s Day Party at Cal Poly, which combines the worst of all possible worlds: the drunken excess of a frat party with the drunken excess of a St. Patrick’s Day celebration. Not to mention the weekend-prior celebration that turns some parts of downtown Boston into an outdoor vomitorium. (Okay. Just looked up the word, and it’s actually a part of a theater or stadium that has nothing to do with hurling. Still, the word should mean what it says, and, to me it says place to throw up.)

Oy. Just plain oy.

Over the blogging years, I’ve had plenty to say about St. Patrick’s Day, and some of it’s pretty good. (Personal favorite: You Say Po-tay-to.)

So click away for my thoughts on this day of days.

And Happy St. Patrick’s Day, Top of the Morning, and Wearing of the Green to all of yez.

2014: St. Patricks’ Day 2014 (Not a great one and, on re-read, forgot to mention that The Parting Glass was going to be sung at my husband’s memorial service.)

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.

Looks like next year will be my tenth annual St. Patrick’s Day post. Talk about oy, just oy…

Monday, March 16, 2015

Arizona. (Tucson, anyway.)

God knows I could never live here permanently. Too much dry and dusty.  Too many venomous snakes. Too much blazing scorchery. Too many Joe Arpaios. Too much urban sprawl.

But, but, but…

After a Boston winter that would turn the most ardent of seasonites (as in “what I love most about living here is that we have four seasons”) into a mewling coach potato who curls into a fetal ball whenever an ad for Jamaica or Sandals appears, I completely appreciate the beauties of a March escape to the desert.

Thanks to my sister Kath and her husband Rick, I got to spend last week in warm and sunny Tucson.

Beyond the evergreen beauties of vacation - good company, lolling around, reading and napping – I’ve got to say that Tucson has an ample supply of “stuff” (attributes, attractions) that make it an excellent winter getaway.

  • In Tucson, it’s sunny.In Boston this winter, we have had precious few sunny days. There was a stretch of something like 40 days when we only had what could be called a sunny day twice. Sure, we’re used to gloomy overcast (albeit not this much gloomy overcast), but we’re also used to a few more sunny days. However brittle the snow, when the sky is blue and the sun is shining, it is easier to get out of the fetal position and off of the couch. In Tucson, it’s sunny.
  • In Tucson, it’s warm. In Boston this winter, we have had precious few warm days. We had a stretch of something like 40 days when it never got above freezing. Sure, we’re used to cold (albeit not this much cold), but we’re also used to a few days of January thaw. I won’t even get into my heating bill, but if I multiplied last month’s bill by 12, it would put me right about at the Federal poverty guideline for a household of one. Meaning if I had that as my income, I would expend it entirely on heat. And I haven’t exactly been jacking the heat up. I keep it at 68. I wear a fleece. I sleep in flannel PJ’s the thickness of movers’ pads. Plus I have a new and efficient HVAC system that I guess is not so efficient when you have a string of days when it never gets over 20 degrees. So, factor in the huge electricity rate increase and…I’m sitting there in a fleece, mitts, and a scarf around my neck paying an exorbitant heating bill. In Tucson, it’s warm.
  • In Tucson, there are interesting desert hikes. Other than one day, when we rested and exercise consisted of paddling across the pool to get a noodle to float on, we took some type of desert hike each day. Each was varied and interesting and, because the area has had more rain than usual, a lot greener and more flowery than when we were taking desert hikes last year. Quite beautiful. And even exciting. When we were on the tram to a trail head at Sabino Canyon, they gave instructions on what to do if you encountered a mountain lion. Not that I’m apt to encounter a mountain lion on the Rose Kennedy Greenway or the Esplanade, but it’s good to know that you stand tall, look the mountain lion in the eye, raise your arms over your head (better even if you have walking sticks), and, while slowing backing away, make noise. Like I said, in Tucson, there are interesting desert hikes.
  • In Tucson, there are javelinas. A javelina is a large peccary, ravenous for garbage, and we actually spotted one attempting to commandeer our lidded, roll-away garbage can and grab out the contents. Once a flashlight was trained on him, he disappeared into the sage brush. But I got to see a javelina nearly up close and personal, something that had eluded me on my earlier trip here. Sure, I wish we’d seen a marauding pack of javelinas, but I’ll take the lone ranger. It sure beats looking out back and seeing a rat tearing through the trash. So one thing that makes this town great is that, in Tucson, there are javelinas. Saguaro
  • In Tucson, there are saguaros. I’ll admit that, until last year, I had never heard the word pronounced, so I didn’t know that it’s a swah-ro cactus, not a sa-gwah-ro cactus. But I really enjoy seeing all the saguaros all over the place. Something about them just releases the inner cowgirl in me and makes me want to holler yippy-ki-yay-o, git along little dogie. This even though I think that most of the cowboy shows of my youth were supposed to take place in Wyoming, Nevada, or Montana – places devoid of saguaros. Nonetheless, I love the cowboy showiness of saguaros, and find the other sorts of cacti interesting as well. As a steady diet, I prefer a nice maple, copper beech or oak  – I like shade, I like leaves. But for a change of scenery, a plentitude of saguaros will do. And in Tucson, there are saguaros.

And now I am back to the land of slush, cold, heating bills, and snow piles that are forecast to be with us until mid-April at the earliest.

No, I couldn’t take a steady diet of Tucson, Arizona. But as a brief interlude in a brutal Boston winter, I’ll take it any old day.


In a weird twist, I have four first cousins – all from Chicago – who live in Arizona (Phoenix area), and until last year my brother was here (Flagstaff) as well.

Friday, March 13, 2015

“Mule Train”. (Don’t say I never gave you anything.)

In the history of humankind, has there ever been a time sink that could hold a candle to the Internet?

I think not.

When I was caught up in a recent time sink black hole, I came across a site that let’s  you know what song was #1 on the Hit Parade on the day of your birth.

Mine was the decidedly unglamorous, unromantic, unhummable, unsingalongable “Mule Train”, as sung by Frankie Laine.

Is there any cosmic force at play here? Was a doomed from the get go to be a nose-to-the-grindstone drudge?

At work, I always use to describe my style as workhorse, not racehorse. Little did I know it was actually mule. Which isn’t even a real animal now, is it? It’s a goofy hybrid.

Thanks, Hit Parade.

While it obviously only took a couple of seconds to look up my own birthday, I was able to sink quite a bit of time looking up the birthday songs of friends and family. Some were quite apt, I must say. Was it destiny that made my brother Rich a union official, given that his b-day tune is “Sixteen Tons.”

Anyway, I’m on vacation this week, so this is as much as Pink Slip is willing to do for this Friday.

But click here to start your own time sink of the day.

And don’t say I never gave you anything.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

And the winner is… (Here’s what you have to look forward to.)

Like most every other red-blooded American with a buck in her pocket and greed in her gut, I have been known to play the lottery.

Oh, I’m not obsessive about it. I don’t have a regular number. But once in a while, I slap down a few on Powerball, Megabucks and Mega Millions.

I think that the most I have ever won is seven dollars
But when the jackpot is big, I enjoy a couple of days “what if” fantasizing. So when I pluck down my cash in exchange for a quick-pick, what I’m really buying is not a chance at riches, but the experience of running ‘hey, big spender’ scenarios through my head for a bit.

Should I end up with a lucky day, I pretty much have it all planned out, starting with a call to my lawyer, followed up by an e-mail that contains my wish list on how the money will be distributed.
Breadth of dispersion and magnitude of the largesse contingent on the size of the jackpot. Sorry, folks, winning a couple hundred thou, paid out over 20 years, is not going to be divvied up that far and wide. Still, it’s fun playing around with the Lady Bountiful idea, which has intrigued me since I was a kid watching Michael Anthony distribute the fortune of John Beresford Tipton on the old B&W TV show, The Millionaire. (Remember when “millionaire” meant rich?)

Then I read a rather sobering article in Forbes on the perils of lottery winning.

Sure, I”d read enough accounts about folks who won a lot of money and pissed it completely away. And I understand that there are plenty of hard luck cases (and/or scam artists) who come out of the woodwork when someone wins, making personal GoFundMe pleas. But it hadn’t occurred to m ethat you might be plagued by claimants.

Ah, but such is the litigious society we live in. And such is the allure of free money.
And, so, a cautionary tale, in which, not only does the taxman take his bit, but friends, family, co-workers, and even the guy who sold you the ticket, may have their lawyer call your lawyer, looking for their payday. After all, you promised.

A woman in California won a relatively paltry $1M prize.
Eva Reyes is the winner, but the owner of the liquor Store where she bought the ticked has sued. Laxmi Bhardwaj owns USA Liquors in Milpitas, California, where Ms. Reyes bought the ticket. The store owner claims Ms. Reyes promised to split the money—$350,000 each after taxes—for fronting the money to buy the tickets.
The plaintiff claims there is a signed note guaranteeing him half the winnings. But Ms. Reyes claims the deal was for $50,000, not half. The terms of the note are sketchy, with just the dollar amount and a signature, according to Ms. Reyes. (Source: Forbes)
Well, Ms. Reyes, that’ll show you not to a) borrow money to buy lottery tickets; and b) make sure you don’t leave any room between the $ and the 50 when you sign a promissory note. It goes without saying that a 50 percent payback on this sort of loan is truly outrageous. Even the $50K payout is a bit steep. I suggest that Ms. Reyes put some of her winnings towards a negotiations skills class.
As for Laxmi Bhardwaj. Tsk, tsk, tsk on all fronts. This is just not a happy-dappy business scene any way you look at it.

Since my guess is that few people actually borrow money from their lottery ticket seller in order to buy their tickets, this scenario is not likely to crop up that often. And don’t the retailers get a cut, anyway?

Mostly, it’s people you know looking for their scratch of your scratch.

The bigger the prize, the bigger the downside, with the number of co-workers, family and friends who remember that you promised to split it with them increases in direct proportion to the size of the payout. After all, these miffed co-workers, family, and friends were going to split their winnings with you if they’d won. Miff. Miff. Miff. (The only lottery winner I know is a friend’s husband who played joint tickets with co-workers. They ended up with a cool million. And speaking of cool million, when she was dying, my mother – who wasn’t much of a lottery player – uttered the words “Cool Millions. Cool Millions.” shortly before she died.

Thinking that Liz’s Rosebud moment might mean that she had a winning “Cool Millions” ticket in her possession, we did look around a bit.

After my mother died, my sisters and I went through all her many pockets, and all her many pocketbooks, before we brought them over to the St. Vincent de Paul shop. Alas, we did not find any tickets, winning or otherwise. Perhaps we missed something, and someone at the St. Vinnie d’s thrift shop got lucky. Of maybe it was in the jacket pocket of her favorite Pendleton suit. If so, it went with her to her grave.

By the way, I will say that one of the best thing about my sibs is that, if we had won anything, we would have split it even-steven, no complaining, no law suiting…That said, we issue blanket advice that those bringing lottery tickets as their Yankee Swap bring relatively low award amount scratch tickets. We don’t want any scenes…
The problem with these lawsuits – just in case your sibs are not as clear-thinking and good-hearted as mine – is that they’re costly, and you may not be able to deduct the lawyers fees as a cost to go against your winnings. (I believe you can deduct the cost of the lottery ticket itself, along with any gambling losses.)

The best advice is to consult with a tax attorney before you call the lottery with the B-I-N-G-O news.
That’s what I’ll be doing (if nothing else, to have someone appear before the cameras for me).
In the meantime, I have just two words for you: Cool Millions.

You heard it here!

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

You go, greybeards!

When I read yet another article about a start-up, I’m always struck by how young the start-uppers are.
Why this continues to surprise me, I don’t know. When I was first in the “tech sector”, coming on 35 years ago, we were pretty young, too. (Even if we weren’t a grand and glorious, ingenious, well-funded, all-gonna-be-rich outfit, we were tech, we were on the edge. Of course, the edge back then was a dumb terminal (VT 131) tethered to a mainframe. But nonetheless…) And we even had some of the hip/happenin’ office things: video games in the kitchen (or were they pinball machines?); Friday party with beer and wine (and, I’ll admit it, joints); and a couple of office ties that the head guys would put on when a client came for a visit.

We also had a greybeard.

I don’t think Dick was all that much older than the rest of us – ten or twelve years. But he had grey hair. And a grey beard. So he was our eminence gris. He was both senior in age, and senior in demeanor. Whether he needed to be there  or not, he was brought in on any of those client meetings to lend an air of gravitas. Especially if one of the clients was over forty. Those pre-Baby Boomers must have had the same feeling about us as we do about the Millennials. Sometimes you just want to see a familiar set of wrinkles.

(D was also my manager’s manager, and when he was coming to a meeting, he would not enter the room until everyone else was there. He stick his head in, figure out who wasn’t there yet, then wander around with his coffee cup until we were all in our places with bright shining faces. Then and only then would he take his seat. We called his wandering around “creeping Dick-ism”.)
Ah, the good old days.

Anyway, given all the focus these days on “the kids”, it was refreshing to read an article in The Boston Globe the other day about Onshape, a startup – and a decently-funded one at that ($64M) – that’s headed by a bunch of greybeards. The average age of the founders is 50+. And they’ve put away their childish things:
…no foosball or ping-pong table in evidence, no scooters leaning against desks…
But they still talk like 20-something disruptors. Onshape’s founders contend the world of CAD software, long dominated by big players like PTC of Needham, California-based Autodesk, and Dassault Systemes, the French software maker with a major campus in Waltham, has grown stagnant. What a new generation of designers and engineers desire, they say, is powerful software that doesn’t have to be installed on your own machine — think Google Docs -- and can be accessed with any device, even a smartphone. (Source: Scott Kirsner in The Boston Globe)
Computer Aided Design used to be the province of automotive and aerospace engineers and the like. But with 3-D printing taking off, hey, we’re all product designers. (Note to self: stop in at the 3-D printing place on Newbury Street, that, when I walked by last week, was seasonally decked up: the window sills were full of hideous little leprechaun statues.)

Unlike the entrepreneurs who are inventing things (or, more often than not) as they go along, creating new stuff that we never knew we had a need for – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram – OnShape is an extension of what found Jon Hirschtick has been doing all along.  An earlier CAD company Hirschtick had founded was bought out by Dassault, and the product that came with it enjoys a remarkable 62% market share among designers and engineers.

What OnShape is doing is shape-shifting: moving the deployment and pricing model:
The mission was to build a CAD system that wouldn’t entail installing software — and one that could basically sell itself, with a free trial for casual users and a $100-per-month model for those who want to use it regularly…
The demo is impressive. As a user, you can watch live as someone on your team makes changes to a fan blade -- even if she does it on a phone or laptop a continent away. Onshape keeps track of who changes what; it can allow several different versions of the fan blade to be designed in parallel.
Okay, the Onshape guys may be Baby Boomer tail-enders. They may even be Gen X-ers. They may not actually have greybeards. But I will be rooting for them. I actually think it would be fun to do some work for them. I’ve been around long enough. Surely, I know someone who knows someone on this crew.

Sure, youth must be served and all that, but I just like the idea that not every good idea, not every breakthrough, not every startup belongs to the young folks.

Go, greybeards!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Armadillo stew, or, where is Father Damien when we need him?

In general, I’m quite fond of animals. And in particular, I’m quite fond of armadillos. At least in the abstract. On the cuteness scale, they rate armadillopretty darned high.

But, I was not aware, they are something of the Typhoid Mary of leprosy.

As they’ve found in Florida, where leprosy is on the increase.

Three new cases were diagnosed in Volusia County over the past five months. Officials say it's probably linked to armadillos. These adorable little armored mammals are soooooo kissable, but they also happen to carry the bacteria that can cause a leprosy infection. And here's the really distressing part – you could contract leprosy from one and not know it for years, because symptoms can take up to 10 years to show up after infection. (Source: Orlando Sentinel)

Well, even before I knew that armadillos were leprosy carriers, I don’t know about armadillos being kissable. They’re not exactly dogs.

But it is good to have an update on leprosy, given that most of what I know about this potentially dreadful disease was gleaned from Ben Hur – remember when Ben Hur’s mother and sister contracted leprosy, turned grotesque, and had to go live in a cave?. And from reading about Father Damien – now a saint – in a Vision Book (a series for Catholic kids) about his life caring for lepers in Hawaii.

Other than Hawaii – with the Damien connection – the only other state I associate with leprosy is Louisiana, where the Carville Leprosarium was located. (How I know this, I haven’t a clue. Other than that it’s the kind of thing that people used to know as a matter of course.)

Who knew that Florida had lepers, too?

(I didn’t want to be too uppity-snobby here. Massachusetts used to have a leper colony on an island in Buzzard’s Bay, near where my cousin Barbara has a summer home. When Carville closed down, our lepers were transferred there. Leprosy is rarely diagnosed in Massachusetts – or in any cold-weather state, for that matter – and, when it is, it’s found in immigrants.)

Two of the three infected Volusia County patients said they had "close contact" with armadillos, which people sometimes catch and eat. They're known to some as possum on the half-shell (shudder), poor-man's pig or Hoover hogs, because people started eating them during the Depression when many people couldn't afford to buy traditional meats.

Catch and eat, eh?

Sometimes I’m just as happy to be a near-vegetarian…

Which is how I felt a few years back when I read about folks in Cajun country who ate nutria. (Never ingest an animal with teeth the color of a meld of candy-corn yellow and candy-corn orange.)

Man, how desperately poor (or carnivore) do you have to be to eat armadillo or nutria?

How fortunate we are to be able to scoot over to Whole Foods and buy pricey hamburger from grass-fed, hand-raised cattle when I have a meat jones…

The good news is that leprosy is curable (if caught in time – the leprosy, not the armadillo). And most of us are immune to it, anyway. Which is for sure a relief.

If you’re wondering how I came across an article in the Orlando Sentinel, my dirty little non-secret is that I first read about this in the Daily Mail. which is where I also learned that there are only about 100 cases reported in the US each year.

Worldwide, it remains a big deal. And where, I suspect, most cases aren’t caught in time.

One more reason to count your blessings.

The DM also reported that:

Armadillo chili and other dishes based off of the animal are eaten in southern states such as Texas.

Not living in southern states such as Texas is yet another reason to celebrate my good fortune. (Sorry Joyce, Tommy, John, and Rolf…)

Meanwhile, I read that armadillos are moving north, and may even be on their merry way to Cape Cod.

May need to rebuild that leper hospital on Penikese Island in Buzzard’s Bay. Babs has a major lobster pot, but I don’t anticipate that she’ll be filling it with armadillo, even if they do end up being road kill in Bourne.

Monday, March 09, 2015

Excelling at Excel

In the beginning, there was VisiCalc.

And it was good for adding up numbers. Far better than a calculator. Faster, easier to correct mistakes, plus you had a copy of your work.

But I think it only ran on Apple.

So that wasn’t so good.

And then there was MultiPlan, which came to us from Microsoft.

And because it came from Microsoft, and I worked for a company that had a big fat man crush on Bill Gates, we signed up for licenses for a whole boatload of copies that we were going to embed in a product that allowed folks to upload and download data. Which we were going to sell for a boatload of money.

One place we were going to sell a boatload for a boatload was Japan. And when a bunch of guys from Japan came to see our nifty MultiPlan-based product, I got to give the demo.

As it happened, we had an employee who was fluent in Japanese – he had lived there to become a Go master, I believe – so we had a translator on board. So I narrated while the Go master translated. I nodded along, especially when there were words I understood: up-road-a and down-road-a.

But, but, but…before we could figure out how many yen worth of MultiPlan-based software we were going to unload – unload-a? – Lotus released 1-2-3, which was so much more dazzling in every way, shape and form. And MultiPlan -  including the thousands of licenses we’d bought –became shelf ware.

But because my company didn’t have a big fat man crush on Lotus founder Mitch Kapor, we just built stuff around 1-2-3, not on top of it. So no licensing deal to get stuck with. (We did have a little woman crush on Mitch Kapor, however. I was on the shuttle, heading to NYC with my (female) boss and we were sitting across the aisle from Mitch. My boss asked for his autograph.)

And then there was the product that nobody heard of: Javelin.

What was wonderful about Javelin was that, unlike the earlier spreadsheets, it “understood” time.

Which was a big deal for my company, given that a lot of what we had to offer was financial and economic data in time series.

But before we could do much with Javelin, it seemed to disappear on us.

And then there was Excel.

And since then, there’s pretty much been Excel.

Now, I am no Excel wiz – I’m definitely better with Word and PowerPoint – but I’m fairly proficient with it. And use it pretty regularly to (gasp, am I really saying this?) run my business. (I.e., I keep track of my hours, income, and expenses in spreadsheets that I’ve home grown.)

So I was delighted to learn that, if I were entering the job market, and I had more than a high school education but less than a college degree, and if I were thus looking for a middle-skill level job, my Excel (and Word) capabilities would qualify me.

Understanding spreadsheet and word-processing software is a baseline requirement in nearly 80 percent of all middle-skill job openings, according to the report, first discovered by Lauren Weber at the Wall Street Journal. (Source: Huffington Post)

Well, I don’t know if I’d use the word “discovered” here. But, apparently the WSJ was where HuffPo first read about a report from Burning Glass and Capital One.

Outlook, PowerPoint, SAP and Oracle are also on the list.

It’s good to be qualified!

“Technological illiteracy, much less technophobia, is no longer a sustainable option for the modern worker,” the researchers say in their report. “Effectively, entire segments of the U.S. economy are off-limits to people who don’t have basic digital skills.”

Those who can use dinosaur apps like Excel may not be getting hired for the super high-paid tech jobs, but they’ll make more money and have more opportunities than those without working knowledge of productivity tools.

We read a lot about how “tech savvy’ the young folks are these days.

But it looks like they’ll need to augment their ability to use Instagram and Candy Crush by learning to use boring, clunky old stuff like Excel.

Either that or they’ll be plenty of job openings for us oldsters before we drift into full geezerhood.

Friday, March 06, 2015

It’s official (or, at least unofficial): I’m a crazy little old lady

My husband used to laugh about the first time he was called “sir.”

He was a grad student, somewhere in his late twenties, and was meandering around the textbook section of The Harvard Coop when Jim was approached by a youngster working there, who asked if he needed any help. Whippersnapper!

I don’t remember the first time I was “ma’am’d”, but I suspect I was no older than thirty. And, even though I’m more than double that age, I’m still always a bit taken aback when someone calls me “ma’am.” Shouldn’t that honorific be reserved for, well, old ladies…

And then there came the event, just last weekend, when I do believe I officially became a little old lady. Make that a crazy little old lady.

Oh, there’ve been signs leading up to it. I’ve been channeling my mother, whistling under my breath, for a number of years now. (At such times, my sister Trish refers to me as “Ma.”)

But last Sunday, I did something so crazy old lady that I do believe I’ve officially crossed the line.

Here’s what happened.

I was heading out to the ‘burbs for the baby shower of a friend.

This is a friend my husband and I met twenty years ago when Jim sat next to her on a flight from Shannon to Boston. Long story short, L decided to stay and we became friends with her, and with her family back in Ireland. She’s now a U.S. citizen, and she and her husband are expecting her first child. As her oldest friend in the States, I was delighted to be at the shower.

I’d been to her new home out in the burbs  – site of the shower – just once, and I had been a no-attention-paying passenger. (Her old house I knew how to get to.)

There was no GPS in my Zipcar. My ancient Blackberry doesn’t really navigate. And both printers in my house are broken. So I hand wrote the directions and hopped in my Zip.

Well, I may have skipped a step along the way. Or it may be the traditional Massachusetts problem, in which there are street signs on the side streets, but not on the main drags. In any case, I found myself tootling into Watertown, telling myself ‘hey, this is Watertown heading into Cambridge, not Waltham.’ And finding myself at the gates of Mt. Auburn Cemetery, which is where most of my husband’s ashes are at rest.

After a couple of gas station stops for directions, I did eventually find myself on the main street (a.k.a., Main Street) in Waltham. Well, this could have worked, except that I had no idea at this point which direction on Main Street I was headed in. And I couldn’t find the street I was looking for.

And then I saw the police car idling in the parking lot of yet another gas station.

So I pulled in and asked the officer for directions.

While the officer pulled up his online map, I went into a ramble about having to get to a shower. And having ended up at the gates of the cemetery where my husband is buried. And, by the way, on top of everything else, this would have been my wedding anniversary. (Not that we celebrated it, but still…) No doubt I threw in that, on the way to being lost, I drove by the funeral parlor where my cousin Charlie was waked, and the church where his funeral was held.

Officer John  – by now we were on a first name basis - started reeling off the directions. I laughingly asked him if he had a printer on board. He didn’t.

I thought I was being pretty funny about the whole thing, but I’m pretty sure that he was thinking, what a dizzy dame. (Or whatever young folks call dizzy dames these days. Maybe crazy old lady?)

As he watched me madly writing down the complex and convoluted directions, John shook his head and said, “You’re never going to find it.”

“Not unless you drive me there,”I joked.

“Okay,” he said. “Follow me.”

So I did, and after a complex and convoluted journey, I got to my street.

John stopped the patrol car. I got out of my Zip. And we hugged each other.

“Sorry about your husband,” he told me.

(Had I really played the old lady sympathy card that hard? Apparently so.)

Meanwhile, half the folks on this quiet residential street were looking out their windows to see what was going on.

One old white-haired grampy actually came out on his front steps and waved to me.

Maybe he was just welcoming me to the club.

Thursday, March 05, 2015

Lumber Liquidators: doing a lot more than liquidating lumber

Interesting piece on 60 Minutes last Sunday on Lumber Liquidators.

You know them. Those guys with the lurid yellow and black logo. The “can this possibly be right” prices for flooring. And all those ads showing happy folks grabbing wood right off the shelf, and heading home to joyfully snap it all into place.

Anyway, the company started off selling liquidated lumber  - in West Roxbury, Massachusetts, of all places. (It’s long since decamped to Virginia.) As Lumber Liquidators grew, they added laminate flooring to their mix.

While Lumber Liquidators is the largest hardwood retailer in the country:

More than 100 million square feet of the company's cheaper laminate flooring is installed in American homes every year. (Source: 60 Minutes/CBS)

And why not?

Laminate flooring has a lot of appeal. It might not be as sturdy and attractive as the hardwood floor real thing but, aside from tacking down a linoleum rug, it’s probably the easiest flooring to install. And because it’s cheaper than the real thing, a lot of folks opt for it who like the look of wood. I’m one of them. When(ever) I get around to my kitchen reno, I’m probably going to go with wood. (That would be hardwood. I don’t think that the Beacon Hill poobahs would okay a project that used laminate.)

Where there’s Chinese manufacture, there is a tendency to have a bit of toxicity, and:

… much of its [LL’s] laminate flooring is made in China, and as we discovered during our investigation, may fail to meet health and safety standards, because it contains high levels of formaldehyde, a known cancer causing chemical.

An investigation of the company’s laminate flooring revealed that:

While laminate flooring from Home Depot and Lowes had acceptable levels of formaldehyde, as did Lumber Liquidators American-made laminates, every single sample of Chinese-made laminate flooring from Lumber Liquidators failed to meet California formaldehyde emissions standards. Many by a large margin.

By such a large margin that the investigators thought their measurement equipment wasn’t working properly.

But it wasn’t the equipment that was bad, it was indeed the flooring.

How bad is bad?

Beyond the risk of cancer – oh, that – bad laminate flooring can cause respiratory problems, including asthma, especially in children.

Every box of laminate flooring Lumber Liquidators sells carries this label - stating its CARB Phase 2 Compliant - CARB is an acronym for the California Air Resources Board, which sets strict standards for formaldehyde emissions in wood flooring. Congress adopted California's limits when it passed the Formaldehyde Standards Act in 2010. That law is scheduled to take effect nationwide this year.

Flooring from stores in California as well as stores in states that don’t have California’s strict standards was tested. Of the 31 samples from stores outside of California:

… only one was compliant with formaldehyde emissions standards. Some were more than 13x over the California limit. Both labs told us they had never seen formaldehyde levels that high.

All of the California samples flunked the test.

It was a typical 60 Minutes  investigative reporting outing, including the interview with the head guy. And as is typical on a 60 Minutes investigative reporting outing, the head guy being grilled comes across as a weasel supreme.

Founder Tom Sullivan claimed that the tests were bogus. That the guys who’d instigated all the investigating were short sellers, trying to drive down Lumber Liquidators’ share price. And that if there were a problem, he would look into it.

Meanwhile, the sleuths from 60 Minutes went to China for an undercover visit to the plants making the flooring that was labeled compliant when it clearly was not. They found – surprise, surprise – that the factories were producing sub-standard flooring, but claiming it met requirements, in order to keep their costs down.

Hmmmmm. Where have we heard this before?

A few years back, Pink Slip wrote about rotten, Chinese-manufactured sheetrock. Rather than use pure gypsum, some factories were mixing it up and mixing in yucky stuff. This caused walls to smell, wiring to rot, and eyes to water in homes where the bad dry wall was installed.

As it turns out, the formaldehyde-ridden laminate isn’t the first brush with infamy that Lumber Liquidators has had. (Curiously, every time I go to type Lumber Liquidators, I start out with Liquid Lumberators…)

A money manager had been keeping an eye on Lumber Liquidators – and shorting it – because their profit margins had gotten “unusually high.” (This fellow had nothing to do with the short seller who’d backed the pre-60 Minutes investigation.) As a result of their profits, Liquidators’ stock price increased by nearly an order of magnitude between 2011 and 2013.

The money manager’s suspicions, as it turned out, were right on the money.

He learned they were under federal investigation for allegedly buying timber illegally logged in Russia. U.S. agents had raided Lumber Liquidators' headquarters in September 2013. The company denies buying illegally logged wood but announced just this week the Department of Justice may file criminal charges against them.

The tainted flooring, however, may be the bigger deal.

Buying illegally logged lumber is one thing; causing asthma and cancer in unsuspecting customers is quite another.

Can you imagine building your dream house – or just redoing the floor in the new baby’s nursery- only to find out that you’d installed bad Lumber Liquidators “made in China” floors – and that those nifty new floors could be killing your kid?

Greed, as Liquid Lumberators might well find out, is not always good.

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

It’s tough being a S.T.E.M. woman…

Next weekend, there’s a big gaming show coming up in Boston – PAX East.

The big news around it as that Giant Spacekat, a locale gaming company that’s led by a woman (Brianna Wu) was pulling out of the event because she fears for the safety of her staff.

There’s a major issue around sexism (and threats of violence directed against some of the more outspoken women) in the gaming community, which I won’t get into here. I’ll just say that the situation is pretty awful.

But even when you factor gaming out, it’s still tough being a S.T.E.M. (Science. Technology. Engineering. Math.) woman.

This was the subject of a recent article in the L.A. Times, “Why Are Women Leaving the Tech Industry in Droves?”

There were a couple of tech women interviewed – women with strong S.T.E.M. backgrounds – math and science majors working as programmers who, because of what they experienced as a hostile work environment, were packing it in.

This doesn’t exactly help the tech economy, which is trying to figure out where their employees are going to come from.

Women in tech say filling the pipeline of talent won't do much good if women keep quitting — it's like trying to fill a leaking bucket.

"It's a really frustrating thing," said Laura Sherbin, director of research at the Center for Talent Innovation. "The pipeline may not improve much unless women can look ahead and see it's a valuable investment."

When I look back on all the techies I worked with, I can pretty much count the deeply technical women on one hand (by my definition, that would be women coding at the systems – rather than applications – level). All of them were quite brilliant; only one, as far as I can tell, made her way into a executive management position.

Although I’m not a S.T.E.M. girl myself, the tech world was where I spent my career.

So I’m not surprised to read:

A Harvard Business Review study from 2008 found that as many as 50% of women working in science, engineering and technology will, over time, leave because of hostile work environments.

The reasons are varied. According to the Harvard study, they include a "hostile" male culture, a sense of isolation and lack of a clear career path. An updated study in 2014 found the reasons hadn't significantly changed.

Most women in the Harvard study said the attitudes holding them back are subtle, and hence more difficult to challenge.

Yep, tech can be tough on a woman.

It’s interesting that, when I read about what the women interviewed in the L.A. Times article experienced, it was quite similar to things that happened to me, especially once I “made it” into management, where at times I was the lone women at the table, working (generally) for a male boss, and (often) with only males as my peers.

Your “assertions weren’t trusted”. Small things – none on its own worth complaining about – would mount up, so that you didn’t feel like a real part of the team. (What, exactly, are they talking about when their standing next to each other at the urinals?) Just plain not being heard.

I used to say that a women’s voice is like a dog whistles: not all ears are attuned to hear it.

For women in tech, the ears not attuned to hear it are the ones that matter: the male bosses, the male colleagues, the male investors.

At one of my jobs, I finally got sick of my points being ignored when they came out of my mouth, but picked up on a bit later when voiced by a male. Once in a while, I would smile and thank “Dave” for backing my point. Mostly I just let it go.

What is it with tech that’s so much worse than other industries?

Or are other industries and professions equally difficult for women to get ahead in?

Why is it that some things don’t ever seem to change?

The aggressive guy is just the aggressive guy. The aggressive woman is a pushy bitch.

I’ve been at meetings where we were supposed to dissect a failure. So why was I, as often as not, one of the few people capable of pointing out systemic failures. Even if there was no finger pointing – who wants to be part of that? – the men for the most part didn’t seem interested in rehashing the failures. It was always on to the next. Even if it would have been supremely helpful to try to learn something from the past.

And admitting to any role you may have played in the failure?

When I ventured to say that I had screwed something up, or could have done better, there were two reactions. 1) Phew, we’re off the hook: it’s her fault. And 2) She has two heads.

I find it very sad that, 30+ years after I started in tech, S.T.E.M. careers are still tough on women.

We’re good enough for the “soft” jobs like HR and marketing (sort of), but not for the guy stuff.

What a shame…