20 March 2015

Starbucks serves up fine white whine

When I started working at my current employer, I attended a full day diversity training session. It covered race, gender, sexuality, religion — all the things people often shy away from talking about. It was interesting, and at the end almost everyone thought it had been worthwhile. When I heard about the Starbucks #RaceTogether campaign, however, I suspected it wouldn’t go well, for several reasons. First of all, context. Someone going to a work-mandated training session is hopefully going to be at least willing to listen to things they may not want to hear, and will have prepared themselves accordingly. ... Read more

18 March 2015

Etymology of “You’re fired!”

Tonight I watched a 90 minute documentary about Thomas J. Watson Sr, founder of IBM. (No, I didn’t get paid to watch it.) The most interesting thing I learned wasn’t about IBM, though. Before IBM, Watson worked for the National Cash Register Company, aka NCR. The head of NCR at the time was John Henry Patterson, who makes Steve Jobs look like the Dalai Lama. As well as randomly terminating the employment of people who failed to answer even trivial questions to his satisfaction, Patterson would sometimes lay off executives just to “break their self esteem”, and then hire them back once they clearly knew he was alpha bastard. ... Read more

15 March 2015

SXSWi Screenburn 2015 report

Biggest screenburn ever, with a big “indie zone”. Upsilon Circuit. A reality TV gameshow arranged around an action RPG. The “stars” play 8 at a time, and when they die they’re permanently eliminated. The real game is what the audience do to intervene in the game. It’s a bit like crowdsourced D&D. I could see something like this becoming a TV show. It has its own Max Headroom style presenter who resembles Doonesbury’s Ron Headrest. ... Read more

14 March 2015

Iterative bad design

« Concerns have been raised about intermittent faults when opening the doors of the Class 377 trains at certain stations on the Thameslink route. » The original problem? Engineers decided to use GPS location to determine whether the trains are in a station. Unfortunately, GPS is provided by satellites, so it doesn’t work in tunnels or underground — for example, at stations like St Pancras. The engineers’ solution: Install GPS repeaters in the stations to transmit GPS signals down the tunnels. ... Read more

10 March 2015

The ACLU gets it wrong

The ACLU has decided to take the side of the Washington Redskins: Last June, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office cancelled the football team’s federally registered trademark, which it deemed disparaging to Native Americans. We don’t disagree with that judgment, but the government should not be able to decide what types of speech are forbidden – even when the speech in question reflects viewpoints we all agree are repellent. ... Read more

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