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The Story Of Labor Day

Monday, September 4th, 2017

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pullman_Strike#/media/File:940721-remington-givingthemthebutt-harpersweekly.jpgHave you ever taken time to wonder why there is a holiday dedicated to people who work?


Then before you get too caught up in shopping, beer and BBQ, take a minute to learn exactly where the holiday comes from.

It’s the result of an 1894 labor strike against the Pullman Company (think aspirational, luxury private railroad cars).

Engineer and industrialist George Pullman’s workers all lived in company-owned buildings. The town was highly stratified. Pullman himself lived in a mansion, managers resided in houses, skilled workers lived in small apartments, and laborers stayed in barracks-style dormitories. The housing conditions were cramped by modern standards, but the town was sanitary and safe, and even included paved streets and stores.

Then the disastrous economic depression of the 1890s struck. Pullman made a decision to cut costs — by lowering wages.

In a sense, workers throughout Chicago, and the country at large, were in the same boat as the Pullman employees. Wages dropped across the board, and prices fell. However, after cutting pay by nearly 30%, Pullman refused to lower the rent on the company-owned buildings and the prices in the company-owned stores accordingly.

Federal troops used extreme force to break the strike resulting in 30 deaths, while rioting and sabotage left 80 million dollars worth of damage in its wake.

Indiana state professor and labor historian Richard Schneirov said President Grover Cleveland’s decision to declare Labor Day as a holiday for workers was likely a move meant to please his constituents after the controversial handling of the strike. The president was a Democrat, and most urban laborers at the time were Catholic Democrats.

Congress approved (knowing their constituents would also be pleased).

Makes you wonder what the current president and congress would do.

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

Fun and Games with NSA

Wednesday, August 24th, 2016


The Federal government is definitely out of favor, whether for doing too little or too much depends on your MAP (it never does enough for us and does too much for them).

In no part of the government is this more obvious than NSA; the poster child of dislike, distrust and disdain.

But those feelings should hold only for the leadership, not the techies who staff the place.

NSA hires a lot of techies and techies are techies the world over. One of the things they all have in common is that they love puzzles, especially math and logic puzzles—not just to work them, but to create them.

“Intelligence. It’s the ability to think abstractly. Challenge the unknown. Solve the impossible. NSA employees work on some of the world’s most demanding and exhilarating high-tech engineering challenges. Applying complex algorithms and expressing difficult cryptographic problems in terms of mathematics is part of the work NSA employees do every day.”

So if you love puzzles click the link above and try your skills. Here’s a sample from a software developer.

Four friends, Holly, Belle, Carol, and Nick, gather for May birthdays. Holly announces that she has a game before dinner. She hid gifts for each of her friends inside three separate boxes secured with padlocks. She challenges her friends to figure out the combination without consulting each other.

She provides the following information. All the padlocks have the same combination. The padlocks use 3 digits from 0 to 9. She also tells them that the sum of the three digits is equal to nine, and every digit is equal to or greater than the previous digit. Holly tells each of her friends one of the digits in the combination. She states, “I’ve given the first digit to Belle, the second digit to Carol, and the third digit to Nick.” The caveat is that the friends cannot share their numbers with each other or they will forfeit the gifts.

Then Holly gives her friends 30 minutes to open the padlocks while she watches and finishes dinner.

The three friends begin to think of the solution. One by one, they each try their hand at their padlock, but none of them opens the padlock. Seeing that no one has succeeded, suddenly Carol realizes she knows the answer, and successfully opens her box, revealing a new fitness tracker. Following this, Nick opens his padlock, revealing a new tablet; and Belle opens her box to find new pair of headphones.

Having watched this entire event unfold, can you determine the correct combination?

Hint: Belle knows her digit is a 1.

Click and scroll down for the solution.

Have fun, everybody.

Image credit: NSA

If the Shoe Fits: How Much Profit is Too Much?

Friday, October 3rd, 2014

A Friday series exploring Startups and the people who make them go. Read all If the Shoe Fits posts here

5726760809_bf0bf0f558_mDecades ago computer manufactures, such as IBM and DEC, created closed systems that wouldn’t/couldn’t talk to each other.

Apple chose to keep a closed system for years.

While closed systems seemed to enhance profitability, in the long-run the strategy failed to protect the companies from competition.

What closed systems did do was cost customers millions when, for business reasons, they had to be made to communicate.

Closed systems are back again only this time forcing compatibility is costing billions.

And it is you and I who will end up footing the cost.


Because this time the incompatibility is in the proprietary electronic medical records (EMR) systems that are mandated under the Affordable Care Act and, far more importantly, are an imperative for the health of the entire population.

The money in play is substantial; privately held Epic is one of the largest suppliers and its founder, Judith R. Faulkner, is supposed to be worth around $2.3 billion.

When you’re making that kind of money who worries about lives ruined or lost because of EMR incompatibility?

While the companies building incompatible systems are doing just fine, those who have to buy the systems aren’t—although size does make a difference.

The University of California Davis Health System has 22 specialists installing the technology so that doctors can share patient data between its Epic system and other internal systems, like the hemodynamic monitors in its critical care unit, or with some non-Epic systems outside the hospital. “We’re a huge organization, so we can absorb those costs,” said Michael Minear, the chief information officer at the U.C. Davis Health System. “Small clinics and physician offices are going to have a harder time.” (…) “The systems can’t communicate, and that becomes my problem because I cannot send what is required and I’m going to have a 1 percent penalty from Medicare,” Dr. Raghuvir B. Gelot said. “They’re asking me to do something I can’t control.”

What about regulators?

Regulators responded that interoperability was a “top priority” and that they recently set out a 10-year vision and agenda to achieve it, in an emailed statement from the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology. The office’s spokesman added that achieving interoperability “requires stakeholders to come together and agree on policy-related issues like who can access information and for what purpose.”

So much for regulators.

Perhaps Congress… No; that’s a really stupid thought.

I guess the only sure things in all this is that the entrepreneurs who created the incompatible systems will increase their net worth, US medical costs will continue to skyrocket and you and I will pay the bills.

Image credit: HikingArtist

mY generation: lol wat r u doin

Sunday, March 1st, 2009

See all mY generation posts here.

The farce of self-regulation

Friday, August 1st, 2008

Yesterday I asked, “What else does Wall Street and the financial industry do besides cripple corporate strategic efforts?”

thunderbolt_2.jpgThey fight for self-regulation, assuring watchdog agencies and Congress that they are good guys that should be trusted to do the best thing and that the economy will tank if any kind of control or regulation is enacted—and they win.

They win based on the money spent to focus the efforts of well-connected lobbyists on stopping cold, or at least significantly watering down, any legislation or rules that might offer protection to us—the people who keep them all in BMWs and champagne.

Wall Street and the other financial services industries aren’t alone in this, every industry does it, but the money guys seem to be exceptionally successful—until something blows up. Then, when public outcry is loud and tempers are hot, Congress has the leverage to pass anything—whether it fixes the problem or merely makes them look like they care.

Deregulation was one of the prime factors in the S&L mess in the eighties; earnings pressure combined with personal greed fueled many of the recent corporate financial fiascos—think Enron, WorldCom, Adelphia Communications, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, J.P.Morgan Chase, Deutsche Bank, and others.

And now, of course, we have the Sub-prime debacle with which to contend.

And after each of these, Congress, the SEC and others all run to add laws and rules to prevent it from happening again.

The repercussions from the latest snafu (Navy term meaning ‘situation normal—all f*ked up’) are reverberating through the credit markets making it more than difficult for corporations, small business and just plain folks to access it.

Who will step into the breach to provide investment and liquidity?

Private equity and big hedge funds—both with even less regulation and even larger egos and greed factors than more traditional Wall Street firms.

“But a landgrab by big hedge funds and private equity firms might create new problems. The Securities & Exchange Commission and the Finance Industry Regulatory Authority oversee investment banks to some degree, and the Federal Reserve is moving in that direction. But hedge funds are largely unregulated and aren’t bound to make any disclosures to anyone but their investors. Even that information is often incomplete. A move by hedge funds into traditional corporate finance would mean even less transparency than exists on Wall Street now.”

It’s a sad fact that the 214-year-old force that was instrumental in building the most powerful industrial nation on the planet could be just as instrumental in presiding at its demise.

Understand, it’s not that I have much faith in government regulation, but have seen little-to-no proof that self-regulation works—it’s too much like having the fox care for the hen house.

So-called government intrusion is the result of the inability of various industries to “self-regulate” for any reasons other than short-term profit, doing as much they can get away with and pushing the boundaries beyond what’s reasonable.

So you tell me, how can we get well-reasoned laws that aren’t defeated or seriously watered down by special interest groups and industry lobbyists before the crisis?

Your comments—priceless

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