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    Entries in pop culture (26)

    Friday
    Mar092018

    n = 1

    1. Tariffs: I am not an economist, and I don't even play one on TV. But these blanket tariffs, (code for taxes), sort of feel wrong to me. It is super complicated for sure, but the idea that in 2018 we (America), wants to value one kind of industry over another, mostly based on some romanticized recollection of the past, is misguided. We will see how this pans out of course, and like lots of these kinds of things the impacts will likely be less dramatic in the real world than the current headlines suggest.

    2. TECH: Yesterday I shared some data about the growth and marker share of the 'smart speaker' market - Echo, Google Home, etc. I am incredibly bullish on how these devices and voice assistants in general are going to impact workplace tech. In my down time I have been working on a little project for the Amazon Alexa platform that I hope to get launched in the next week or two. Stay tuned for that.

    3. Winter: it is still snowing here in Western NY. That is not surprising so it can't really be described as disappointing. It is sad though. A few items below there's another observation about Rochester, NY that will make more sense when considering how long and cold and miserable the winters can be here.

    4. HR Happy Hour: Lots of great stuff on the HR Happy Hour Show and the HHH family of shows. Go to the HR Happy Hour Show Page to get caught up, and subscribe wherever you get your podcasts. We started the HR Happy Hour way back in 2009. Amazing it is still going strong after all this time.

    5. Sports: I have never been less interested in my New York Knicks. Once franchise player (and hopefully savior), Kristaps Porzingis went down injured the team has become simply unwatchable. I think I can name more players on the US Olympic Curling Team than I can on the current Knicks. Dreadful.

    6. JOBS: Writing this over a coffee as the monthly US Employment report hit the news. Wow - 313,000 jobs added in February 2018. That's a huge number. Unemployment rate held at 4.1% due to lots more people re-entering the labor force - makes sense since the economy is adding so many jobs. Have fun recruiting for those 'hard to fill' positions. Maybe, just maybe it's time to raise wages?

    7. Location: On the same CNBC show that I caught the Jobs report update, one of the 'expert' analysts was discussing job and skills training, and the role of the private sector vs. the public sector with respect to re-skilling workers who are impacted by automation and shifting labor market needs. My ears perked up when explaining why companies need to 'own' training current and future workers he remarked, 'Let's say you own a company in Rochester, NY, (NOTE: Where I live). No one is relocating to Rochester, NY to take your open jobs. You have to re-train the people who are already there if you want to fill those jobs." Ouch. Probably more or less true. I am about 15 months from getting out of here myself.

    8. Oscars: Trish and I did pretty well on our Academy Awards Predictions on the Happy Hour. Sufjan Stevens was robbed in the Best Song category though. (Embed below, email and RSS subscribers click through)

    9. Social Media note of note: I have pared down my social media use to (mostly automated/scheduled) Twitter updates and (oddly enough) posting travel pics on the Chinese social media app WeChat. Over a decade on various social apps has me burned out from them. I have not logged in to Facebook in probably a year, (although links to the blog still post there) and stopped posting (and checking) Instagram last summer. Not that anyone cares. But once in a while someone tries to get in touch with me on one of those apps and I just wanted to let anyone who does care know that I don't see any those messages. I kind of feel like I'm not alone in drifting off in terms of social media use/addiction. Who knows, maybe blogs will stage a comeback!

    10. FOOD: Shamrock Shakes are back. Enough said.

    Have a great weekend!

    Tuesday
    Feb272018

    More from the 'Robots are making people obsolete' front lines

    I was fully prepared to write up a 'There's no way a robot could have done what I did this weekend' piece after having spent most of it painting some rooms in the house, building some furniture, and hanging about a million pictures and posters on the wall. The work was too imprecise, too unstructured, and required too much moving about in tight, crowded spaces for any robot (based on my current understanding of mainstream robotics capability), too manage.

    So after doing all that work over the weekend I felt pretty good about my ability to remain (reasonably) useful and relevant moving forward. I mean, between coming up with sort of interesting blogs, and general domestic tasks, (I am also very handy with a chainsaw), I had a hearty chuckle to myself, thinking about the doomsayers, (sometimes me too), fretting about the impending obsolescence of the human worker in the face of technological innovation.

    But these good feelings kind of dissapated a bit when I caught this piece on Fashionista (What, are you surprised I follow Fashionista?), on how some enterprising drones took the place of some fashion models at the recent Dolce & Gabbana show in Milan.

    Turns out drones can 'model' as well as (or better), than the human fashion models (at least in some instances). From the piece on Fashionista:

    It’s 2018, and as further proof that we’re already living in the future, what’s more fashionable than drones? Drones with handbags, according to Italian luxury fashion house Dolce & Gabanna, which sent a bunch of flying drones down its runway during the house’s fashion show in Milan on Sunday.

    Here's a look at the drone runway models as seen on Twitter: (if you can't see the video, click through)

    Make progress against the robots in one area, (painting a room in bad lighting and full of odd angles and corners), and lose it in another, (looking glamorous while showing off the latest in designer handbags).

    All this reminds us that the path to workplace automation, and the more widespread loss of jobs for people, is going to progress in spurts, in fits and stops, will surprise us in some ways and shock us in others, and is, probably, still inevitable.

    Have a great day. Let me know if you buy one of the D & G handbags.

    Monday
    Feb192018

    Presidents, ranked

    For a 'one of those holidays, but is it really a holiday?' Monday, I present to you, faithful reader, this unscientific, unresearched, highly subjective, incredibly incomplete, and 100% accurate ranking of Presidents - defined very loosely.

    Here goes...

    15. Francis Underwood (House of Cards)

    14. Grover Cleveland (Often overlooked. But not on this list. You go Grover)

    13. President Snow (Hunger Games)

    12. John F. Kennedy (Little known fact, my high school was named after JFK)

    11. (Future) President Dawn Staley (USC Gamecocks Women's Basketball Coach, amazing leader)

    10. Selina Meyer (Veep)

    9. Thomas Jefferson (Louisiana Purchase - best real estate deal ever?)

    8. (Future) President Jeff Bezos (it is inevitable, no?)

    7. Thomas J. Whitmore ('Independence Day' the movie)

    6. Dwight Eisenhower (defined the Power Bald for a century)

    5. Colonel Sanders (not really a President, probably does not belong on this list. Oh well.)

    4. Teddy Roosevelt (altogether a tough customer)

    3. Franklin Delano Roosevelt (also tough. Also the only person you have ever heard of named 'Delano')

    2. Abraham Lincoln (the best #2 ever. Kind of like LeBron)

    1. George Washington ('Independence Day' the actual thing)

    You could disagree with these rankings but of course you would be wrong.

    Happy President's Day! 

    Friday
    Nov242017

    Steve's Holiday Gift Recommendation #2 - The Rocker T-Shirt You Used to Have

    For your 'Black Friday' reading and shopping pleasure, wanted to run out a fresh Gift Recommendation installment. For folks who may have missed the first shot at this last week, here is a quick reminder of what this series is about:

    It's the end of the year, things are a little quiet, and that, coupled with after almost a decade of blogging in one place or another, every topic I thought about hitting for the end of the week felt tired and played out, I decided to start a new series to run on Fridays until the end of the year - Steve's Holiday Gift Recommendations for 2017.

    Each Friday I will share something I would love to receive as a gift this season, and since according to my view of the world (and massive ego), if I like something, then you (and the people in your life), should love to receive as well.

    I will try to make the gift recommendations affordable, appropriate for pretty much everyone, and easily obtained. And finally, there are no affiliate links or kickbacks on any of these items. These are just cool gifts that I think anyone would love. And please, please resist your temptation to order and send these gifts to me. This is not what this is about.

    Wow, that was a long preamble. Here goes...

    Today I am not pointing you to one specific item, (the image on the right is just an example, but a cool one for sure), but rather a website that has dozens if not hundreds of cool, retro-style T-shirts and other items featuring rock stars and bands past and present - Rocker Rags.

    Take a quick look through Rocker Rags inventory and you'll find reproductions of such beauties as Aerosmith's 1977 'Boston to Budokan' Tour shirt, (I have that one), Journey's 1981-82 'Don't Stop Believin' Tour, and Soundgarden's 1994 'Superunknown' Tour. 

    And there are tons more vintage look band, concert, and performer shirts from just about every band you used to think was cool. And the neat thing is these kinds of classic shirts are even popular with today's kids - I know I have picked up a Clash shirt or two for the Gen Z'er on my list.

    So for today's Black Friday recommendation, check out Rocker Rags, relive that concert you went to in 1988, and get yourself or someone on your list something pretty fun, original, and neat.

    Have a great weekend!

    Monday
    Jun262017

    Get Lucky

    This weekend, a decent, reasonably warm beginning of summer weekend in Western NY, while in the car on my way to either the gym or the gun club or my volunteer work with the homeless, 2013's song of the summer, Daft Punk's 'Get Lucky' came on the radio.

    You have to remember 'Get Lucky'. It was peppy, infectious, ubiquitous on the radio and on play lists just a few year's ago. The perfect summer song, probably. For some reason after hearing the song again, and for the first time in a while, I thought about a profile/interview of the guys in Daft Punk, (hardly anyone knows their real names, so I won't bother with them here), that ran in GQ, right around the time when 'Get Lucky' was on high rotation.

    If you don't know much about Daft Punk, you probably know at least this - 'Get Lucky' was their biggest commercial hit, and that Daft Punk are the guys who wear the robot helmets, and have almost never been photographed without them (see pic on right).

    The reasons for the helmets, disguises if you will, are as inscrutable as the performers themselves, but probably are not too hard to at least guess at.

    By wearing the helmets the Daft Punk guys get to concentrate on the art, not some kind of curated image, (actually it is a curated image, it's just one they define and control 100%), and also get to enjoy life outside of Daft Punk and the helmets as more or less 'normal' people. For international pop stars, the ability to walk down a street in New York or Paris or anywhere else and not be bothered by selfie-seeking fans has to be pretty valuable.

    But back to the reason why I thougth about this and wanted to write about a four year-old song and interview.

    In the GQ piece, the writer tries to learn more about how some of the songs on Daft Punk's new album were put together. Specifically, he asks which of the two Daft Punkians were responsible for a particular robot voice sound effect that is present on much of the material, as the effect stands out quite a bit.

    The answer from Daft Punk?

    "It doesn't matter.

    Love that answer. The two guys in Daft Punk have their partnership and process down so much, and are so comfortable with each other's position that they don't need to claim ownership of any particular aspect of the creation. 

    Can you imagine McCartney or Lennon answering a similar question about 'Hey Jude' the same way?

    If you are really, truly, going to have a successful partnership or a team, one that can withstand all the ups and downs that naturally are going to test you, I think the Daft Punk position of 'It doesn't matter who did what, just listen to the result" might be the most important and telling condition for that kind of success.

    If the robot on the left was interested in tying to make sure he got the credit and the acclaim for every element that he specifically contributed to the results, then you don't really have Daft Punk any longer. 

    You have two guys dressed in robot costumes.

    What's the song of summer 2017? 

    Have a great week!