Monday, February 25, 2013

Technology Hoarder

Confession is good for the soul ---  and I confess I am a technology hoarder.  I can not bring myself to throw away any hardware, software, diskettes, hard drives, wires, cameras, phones, adapters  and the lists goes on and on. Today, I wasted hours messing with two old laptops (one with XP and another with Vista). 

My unfinished basement is a Smithsonian Museum of old technology equipment.  My technology hording extends into other facets of technology including keeping to many old emails - thinking I might one day need to access that data.  It's like keeping a box of letters from loved ones (which I do) but adding to that all bills (which I keep also), and all junk mail received at the house -at least I throw most junk mail away - or Susan does it before I can save it :) 

Fearing loss of data, I have disk after disk, hard drive after hard drive of backups that are cluttered, disorganized and most likely unreadable.  Even if I tried to find an old email it might take hours of recovery and then searching to find the document.  Yet, like a hoarder, I am not courageous enough to just throw it away.

The beauty of technology hoarding is that it all fits on a hard drive or memory stick - out of sight, out of mind.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

O Scars

"Who will win the Oscars tonight", I asked Susan.  "Who cares", replied Susan ..... "and why do they have them anyway?".   That's simple - we live in a world of competitiveness; there is a desire to know who is the best; the need to rank everything from high to low.  This world of first place ....  and last place has the potential to create scars - the "losers". 

As a statistician, I am always ranking items from high to low, marveling over the distribution, calculating the mean and standard deviation.  To me, it's not about winners and losers - it's the normal distribution of any set of data.  Without two standard deviations the world would be boring.  Winners and Losers are needed to create equilibrium in life. 

The best picture is also a function of how you define "best".  In the case of the Oscars the rules are 31 pages long and you must be a member (by invitation only) of the non profit Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (in 1927 with 36 members is now over 6000). It looks pretty incestuous and biased (from a statisticians point of view).  Maybe that was George C. Scotts reason for refusing the 1971 Best Actor award for his role in Patton - or maybe it was the 31 page rules and required signature and regulation on acceptance of the Oscar (see page five of the rules). 

And what determines the most votes?  Is "best" the count of only the first place votes .... or is there an algorithm that weights the second, third and fourth choices of the ballot.  Who is auditing this method and tally?  How do we know the process is fair and unbiased?  Hmmm......   The Best Picture gets a number but what does that really mean?  

Maybe Susan is right-   WHO CARES ?   Take out the "w" the "h" and "e" - randomize the letters and rearrange them and you get OSCAR.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Movie Memories

Certain movies have an impact on you growing up - especially in your teens.  Of course that dates me back to 1964 to 1969 (ages 12-17).   It was just around this timeframe that the MPAA film rating system took effect (G-M-R-X) -  persons under 16 not admitted without a parent or legal guardian to view an 'R' movie.

It was ironic that during those years of highest desire to see big screen movies (the days of meeting the girls at the movies) that I used to attend church in a movie theater.  Mom and Dad had started a church in Slidell La. when we moved there in 1963.  It first started on Wednesday nights at our house and after a period of time expanded space was needed so they got permission to use the movie theater on Sunday mornings.  So every Sunday I would see the billboard movies currentlyplaying/coming soon and got very comfortable sitting in the seats.

It was always a negotiation to try to get Mom and Dad to allow me to go to the movies (part of it was  the expense but most of it was the emerging language,  revealing skin, and controversial moral subjects that made Mom reluctant to approve.  Those movies today are considered PG or PG-13 -  Dr. Zhivago, 007 Movies, etc.  You always remember your first 'R' movie and for me it was Bonnie and Clyde (1967) -  I think D'Lane and I saw it with Dad in Berwyn, Pa.

Sunday will be the 85th Academy Awards night and they are now simulcasting the show at some movie theaters.  This year my vote for best picture is Argo - even though I have only seen four of the nine nominated movies.  However I did see Life of Pi twice. 

Movie memories like songs can "peg" you to relationship connections, time and place.  Try it - pick a popular movies that had lots of hype that you just "had to see quickly" - example Jurassic Park -  you will remember the theater location and who you went with.

Thursday, February 14, 2013


I watched the State of the Union address and pondered (as an educated economist) the pros and cons of raising the minimum wage.  The more I thought about it - the more I felt compelled to write a letter to the Cincinnati Enquirer.

‘Obamonomics’ creates money instantly
“It would mean customers with more money in their pockets” President Obama State of the Union Address.

Obamonomics is a curious new field of Economics. The President believes that with a wave of the governmental wand, new customers and new money can be created instantly. The first use of this wand was with the Affordable Healthcare Act. Instantly the Healthcare Insurance industry would find new customers with more money in their pockets. With that magic now complete, President Obama suggests government use the magic wand to increase minimum wage from $7.25/hr to $9/hr a mere 24% increase. Magically someone earning $14,500 per year will now earn almost $18,000 and this will mean ” the difference between groceries or the food bank; rent or eviction; scraping by or finally getting ahead”.

But this counterfeit money will buy nothing in the long term. As small businesses exit; large businesses raise their prices; more illegal immigrants find entry for jobs paying below minimum wage; as entry jobs get outsourced; when charities eliminate staff and services; as job training opportunities disappear ; and as inflation drives us all into higher tax brackets – we will see that we all magically will pay more taxes to create this money.

Or maybe we should avoid the hidden taxes and just go further into debt. It’s no magic to create money – just take it from “working folks” and their children.

Garen Wisner
Indian Hill

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Blowing in the Wind

I just finished the book "The Defining Decade - Why your twenties matter and how to make the most of them now" by Meg Jay Phd.  At first I didn't like the way the book was written (with stories about her twentysomething patients) but soon the book was littered with my yellow stickies of quotes and interesting passages that I wanted to remember. 

The chapter "My Life should look better on Facebook" was especially contemporary.  Dr. Jay states that most Facebook time is spent examining others' pages vs adding content to your own - Social Surveilance.  It is less about looking for friends as LOOKING AT friends (contemporary voyeurism or reality TV). Your own Facebook postings becomes a self advertising about how good your life is.  "We don't recognize that most everyone is keeping their troubles hidden".  Facebook is Exhibit I in our own book of self criticism and doubt.

"Blown about by every wind of criticism" Samuel Johnson - begins Dr. Jay's chapter titled "Calm Yourself" - Exhibit II of other peoples criticisms   She uses the analogy of a tree with leaves and roots to make the point about aging.  "As we age, we feel less like leaves and more like trees ... our sturdy trunks may sway but they don't break in the wind."

SO  ---   "The art of being wise is knowing what to overlook"  William James  -  Father of Research Psychology

Stop looking at Facebook - Plant some Roots!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Animal Combinations

Today is the start of the Chinese New Year (well not really since official New Year time is Beijing CST which was yesterday).  We did celebrate last night (on the official Beijing day) with the Issets (a tradition) at Sichuan Bistro in Mason.  You know it's close to authentic when the menu is written in Chinese.

This is the year of the snake.  As I researched the Chinese Zodiac, I discovered all kinds of interesting facts and fables.  The fable of the "Great Race" and hence the precise order of the Chinese animals (Snake is #6 of 12) is fascinating - see wikipedia Chinese Zodiac.

Also I discovered that the year is only one pillar of four that is meaningful in the Feng Shui of Chinese Zodiac mystery.  The other three pillars with the relevant animals assigned are month, day, and precise hour of birth.  The assignment of these animals becomes complicated by a different order, the lunar calendar, and time of birth must be Beijing CST.  Why four pillars? The first pillar animal (year of birth) denotes your Outer Animal, lineage of grandparents and how you are viewed by society. The second pillar animal (month of birth and the most important in determining your adult life) denotes your Inner Animal, your parents and business talents.  The third pillar animal (day of birth) denotes your True Animal or your inner self and marriage. The four pillar animal (hour of birth) denotes the Secret Animal thought to be a person's truest representation. 

Curious now?   Go to to find out your four animals. 

The real benefit of four pillars is creating a perceived uniqueness about you - after all how many people could possibly be born on the same day and hour as you?   Now I could launch into the Statistician's Birthday Problem (see my previous blogs - Erroneous Company; A Statistician's Birthday) or just give an estimate of from various Internet answers to number of births worldwide per second - 4.17 (of course that is a moving target since as population grows so does the number of births per second and it is an average). 

And since Chinese Zodiac is only precise to the two hour increment (24 hrs divided by 12 animals) that means 30,024 people have your same combination of four pillar animals. Not very unique - is it.

So next time you read your detailed Chinese horoscope (all four pillars) remember over thirty thousand people lives are mirroring yours. 

[Errata-  Actually the 30,024 was underestimated.  Since the animal cycle repeats after 12 years - the same combination of animals will occur in the twelfth year.  So to avoid that potential redundancy the Chinese Zodiac adds one of five fixed elements (Metal, Water,Wood, Fire and Earth) to the animal and that creates uniqueness for another five twelve year cycles.  Example - My birth year (1954) is Yang, Wood Horse and is not repeated until 2015 (the 60 year sexagenary cycle - 5 times 12).   That means after 60 years there could be as many as 60,048 people with the same combination of four pillar animals and exact fixed element.  Even less unique.] 

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Mock Recruiting

Today was a nostalgic reenaction of my recruiting days at Accenture.  I participated in the Miami University training of mock interviewers and today was the first actual day of interviewing.  It was no surprise to me that Accenture has progressed in their interviewing methodology and I read the Accenture Workbook on Case Interviewing as a guide to maybe incorporating that into the mock interviewing process.  Until that happens, I will just use the old tried and true behavioral interviewing technique that I used twelve years ago.

But I can't resist blogging my top (of many) recruiting memories at Accenture.  Toward the end of my career, I had the opportunity to recruit at Miami University with the Accenture team, headed by S.W.  The recruiting team came from various offices and stayed at Miami for the multiple days.  Naturally the  interviewing team would debrief over food and drinks for the evening and, naturally, there would be stories about the recruits that were screened.  S.W., that evening talked about a particular recruit, that during her interview was "sweating like a pig".  This story and many others were filled with "you wouldn't believe what happened in my interview ......"

Well about 2-3 weeks later, I was in my office (the rare time I was in town) and my style when in office was to directly answer my line (vs have my secretary screen all my calls).  When I answered my phone that morning, the voice on the on the line was unfamiliar.  Here is the memory I have of the conversation [with my thoughts in red]:

"Hello, this is XX and my dad is the dentist of Al Cambridge [Al was the previous Managing Partner of the Cincinnati Office - and one of my key mentors -  this name dropping and connection is a stretch but I'm willing to listen for a few  more seconds].

 "I will be graduating from Miami and wanted to determine if I could get an office visit." [This is an easy answer - if you missed the screening at Miami you're probably out of luck].

"OK XX, we were on campus just a few of weeks ago - did you miss us?"

"No I was there, and didn't get a Office visit invitation"  [OK - I give you credit for calling again and name dropping Al Cambridge, but I'll just let him know he is out of luck - maybe he can try to plead his case to Human Resources].

"Tell me what happened on the Campus interview" [I might as well hear his plea before giving him the bad news].

"Well I just had a bad day"  [and ..........]   "Because I was profusely sweating during the interview"  [a big smile comes to my face ....  I can't believe it  ....  I'm talking to the SLAP guy (Sweating like a Pig) ! ]

"OK XX,  tell me alittle about yourself........"   [The conversation continues but after that forthright statement, I was convinced I would figure a way to get him an office visit and maybe be cantankerous enough to schedule part of the day with S.W.]

So now the end of the story -   XX did get the office visit and we hired him.  That was over 13 years ago and he still is at Accenture - and probably an executive and recuiting new graduates (like I did) on campus.

Second chances do happen - but it takes character to make them happen!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013


In the past two weeks I've driven 3,036 miles (Cincy to Kansas; and Cincy to Wilmington NC) so that gave me plenty of time to listen to books in the car - Magnificent Mind at any Age; Natural ways to unleash your Brain's maximum potential by Daniel Amen and Healthy Aging: A lifelong guide to your well-being by Andrew Weil M.D. Both books were filled with interesting facts, scientific studies, and nutritional advice (including vitamin supplements).   The last four months, I have been on this journey of investigating longevity - so these two books added to my knowledge base. 

I liked Dr. Weil's book the best, as he was very practical and realistic about the aging process (and the lack of scientific proof of anything that can reverse this universal law).  Time is absolute and just can't be turned back.  In fact time can't be slowed down - at least on earth.  Dr. Weil suggests that each of us should "come to grips" with the law of aging.  Not only should be accept aging, we should understand the process and it's role in shaping our complete journey.

Experience is the great teacher of aging but doesn't guarantee wisdom.  "Maybe experience can not make a bad person good but it can make a good person great."