INFLUENCERS

June 6, 2020


Some of the most remarkably written articles are found in the publication “Building Design + Construction”.  This monthly magazine highlights architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) describes building projects and designs around the world.  Many projects underway are re-construction and/or refurbishment of existing structures; i.e. schools, churches, office buildings, etc.  The point I’m trying to make, the writing is superb, innovative and certainly relevant.  The April edition featured INFLUENCERS. 

If you investigate websites, you will find an ever-increasing number of articles related to Influencer Marketing.  Influencer marketing is becoming, or I should say, is a significant factor in a person choosing one product over another.   One of our granddaughters is an influencer and her job is fascinating.  Let’s look.

DEFINITION:

  • the power to affect the purchasing decisions of others because of his or her authority, knowledge, position, or relationship with his or her audience.
  • a following in a distinct niche, with whom he or she actively engages. The size of the following depends on the size of his/her topic of the niche.

CLASSIFICATIONS:

There are various classifications depending upon circumstances.  Those are given below.

Mega-Influencers Mega influencers are the people with a vast number of followers on their social networks. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, Utube, etc. are social instruments upon which influencers ply their trade.  Although there are no fixed rules on the boundaries between the different types of followers, a common view is that mega-influencers have more than 1 million followers on at least one social platform.  President Donald Trump, Kim Kardashian, Hillary Clinton and of course several others may be classified as Mega-influencers. 

Macro-InfluencersMacro-influencers are one step down from the mega-influencers, and maybe more accessible as influencer marketers. You would consider people with followers in the range between 40,000 and one million followers on a social network to be macro-influencers.
This group tends to consist of two types of people. They are either B-grade celebrities, who haven’t yet made it to the big time. Or they are successful online experts, who have built up more significant followings than the typical micro-influencers. The latter type of macro-influencer is likely to be more useful for firms engaging in influencer marketing.

Micro-Influencers Micro-influencers are ordinary everyday people who have become known for their knowledge about some specialist niche. As such, they have usually gained a sizable social media following amongst devotees of that niche. Of course, it is not just the number of followers that indicates a level of influence; it is the relationship and interaction that a micro-influencer has with his or her followers.

Nano-InfluencersThe newest influencer-type to gain recognition is the nano-influencer. These people only have a small number of followers, but they tend to be experts in an obscure or highly specialized field. You can think of nano-influencers as being the proverbial big fish in a small pond. In many cases, they have fewer than one thousand (1,000) followers – but they will be keen and interested followers, willing to engage with the nano-influencer, and listen to his/her opinions.

If we look further, we can “drill down” to the various internet providers hosting the influencer packages.

Bloggers— Bloggers and influencers in social media have the most authentic and active relationships with their fans.  Brands are now recognizing and encouraging this.  Blogging has been connected to influencer marketing for some time now.  There are many highly influential blogs on the internet.  If a popular blogger positively mentions your product in a post, it can lead to the blogger’s supporters wanting to try out the specific product.

YouTubers—Rather than each video maker having their own site, most create a channel on YouTube.  Brands often align with popular YouTube content creators.

Podcasts— Podcasting is a relatively recent form of online content that is growing in great popularity.  It has made quite a few household names now, possibly best epitomized by John Lee Dumas of Entrepreneurs on Fire.  If you have not yet had the opportunity to enjoy podcasts, Digital Trends has put together a comprehensive list of the best podcasts of 2019.  Our youngest son has a podcast called CalmCash.  He does a great job and is remarkably creative. 

Social Posts Only— The vast majority of influencers now make their name on social media.  While you will find influencers on all leading social channels, the standout network in recent years has been Instagram, where many influencers craft their posts around various stunning images.   

Now, if we go back to “Building Design + Construction”, they interviewed five influencers that apply their skills to the AEC profession.  I will give you, through their comments, the thrust of their efforts:

CHRISTINE WILLIAMSON— “My goal is to help teach architects about building science and construction.  I want to show how the “AEC” parts fit together.”

BOB BORSON—He is the cohost of the Life of an Architect podcast which gets about two hundred and sixty (260) downloads per day.  He would be a nano-influencer.  “Influencer” is a ridiculous word.  If you have to tell people you’re an influencer, you’re not”.  His words only.

AMY BAKER—Launched her Instagram account in 2018 and is the host for SpecFunFacts.  She discusses specifications and contracts and has around one thousand (1,000) followers.

CATHERINE MENG– Ms. Meng is the host of the Design Voice podcast. 

MATT RISENGER—Mr. Risenger hosts “Buildshownetwork”.   He first published Matt Risinger’s Green Building blog in 2006.  This was the manner in which he publicized his new homebuilding company in Austin, Texas.   To date, he has seven hundred (700) plus videos on YouTube.  Right now, he has six hundred thousand (600,000) subscribers.

CONCLUSIONS:  From the above descriptions and the five individual influencers detailed in the AEC magazine, you can get some idea as to how influencers ply their trade and support design and building endeavors.  Hope you enjoyed this one.

OUR SHRINKING WORLD

March 16, 2019


We sometimes do not realize how miniaturization has affected our every-day lives.  Electromechanical products have become smaller and smaller with one great example being the cell phone we carry and use every day.  Before we look at several examples, let’s get a definition of miniaturization.

Miniaturization is the trend to manufacture ever smaller mechanical, optical and electronic products and devices. Examples include miniaturization of mobile phones, computers and vehicle engine downsizing. In electronics, Moore’s Law predicted that the number of transistors on an integrated circuit for minimum component cost doubles every eighteen (18) months. This enables processors to be built in smaller sizes. We can tell that miniaturization refers to the evolution of primarily electronic devices as they become smaller, faster and more efficient. Miniaturization also includes mechanical components although it sometimes is very difficult to reduce the size of a functioning part.

The revolution of electronic miniaturization began during World War II and is continuing to change the world till now. Miniaturization of computer technology has been the source of a seemingly endless battle between technology giants over the world. The market has become so competitive that the companies developing microprocessors are constantly working towards erecting a smaller microchip than that of their competitor, and as a result, computers become obsolete almost as soon as they are commercialized.  The concept that underlies technological miniaturization is “the smaller the better”; smaller is faster, smaller is cheaper, smaller is more profitable. It is not just companies that profit from miniaturization advances, but entire nations reap rewards through the capitalization of new developments. Devices such as personal computers, cellular telephones, portable radios, and camcorders have created massive markets through miniaturization, and brought billions of dollars to the countries where they were designed and built. In the 21st century, almost every electronic device has a computer chip inside. The goal of miniaturization is to make these devices smaller and more powerful, and thus made available everywhere. It has been said, however, that the time for continued miniaturization is limited – the smaller the computer chip gets, the more difficult it becomes to shrink the components that fit on the chip.  I personally do not think this is the case but I am a mechanical engineer and not an electronic or electrical engineer.  I use the products but I do not develop the products.

The world of miniaturization would not be possible at all if it were not for semiconductor technology.  Devices made of semiconductors, notably silicon, are essential components of most electronic circuits.  A process of lithography is used to create circuitry layered over a silicon substrate. A transistor is a semiconductor device with three connections capable of amplification in addition to rectification. Miniaturization entails increasing the number of transistors that can hold on a single chip, while shrinking the size of the chip. As the surface area of a chip decreases, the task of designing newer and faster circuit designs becomes more difficult, as there is less room left for the components that make the computer run faster and store more data.

There is no better example of miniaturization than cell phone development.  The digital picture you see below will give some indication as to the development of the cell phone and how the physical size has decreased over the years.  The cell phone to the far left is where it all started.  To the right, where we are today.  If you look at the modern-day cell phone you see a remarkable difference in size AND ability to communicate.  This is all possible due to shrinking computer chips.

One of the most striking changes due to miniaturization is the application of digital equipment into a modern-day aircraft cockpit.  The JPEG below is a mockup of an actual Convair 880.  With analog gauges, an engineering panel and an exterior shell, this cockpit reads 1960/1970 style design and fabrication.  In fact, this is the actual cockpit mock up that was used in the classic comedy film “Airplane”.

Now, let us take a look at a digital cockpit.  Notice any differences?  Cleaner and fewer.  The GUI or graphical user interface can take the place of numerous dials and gauges that clutter and possibly confuse a pilot’s vision.

I think you have the picture so I would challenge you to take a look this upcoming week to discover those electromechanical items, we take for granted, to discover how they have been reduced in size.  You just may be surprised.

 

TELECOMMUTING

March 13, 2019


Our two oldest granddaughters have new jobs.  Both, believe it or not, telecommute.  That’s right, they do NOT drive to work.  They work from home—every day of the week and sometimes on Saturday.  Both ladies work for companies not remotely close to their homes in Atlanta.  The headquarters for these companies are hundreds of miles away and in other states.

Even the word is fairly new!  A few years ago, there was no such “animal” as telecommuting and today it’s considered by progressive companies as “kosher”.   Companies such as AT&T, Blue Cross-Blue Shield, Southwest Airlines, The Home Shopping Network, Amazon and even Home Depot allow selected employees to “mail it in”.  The interesting thing; efficiency and productivity are not lessened and, in most cases, improve.   Let’s look at several very interesting facts regarding this trend in conducting business.  This information comes from a website called “Flexjobs.com”.

  1. Three point three (3.3) million full-time professionals, excluding volunteers and the self-employed, consider their home as their primary workplace.
  2. Telecommuting saves between six hundred ($600) and one thousand ($1,000)  on annual dry-cleaning expenses, more than eight hundred ($800) on coffee and lunch expenses, enjoy a tax break of about seven hundred and fifty ($750), save five hundred and ninety ($590) on their professional wardrobe, save one thousand one hundred and twenty ($1,120) on gas, and avoid over three hundred ( $300 ) dollars in car maintenance costs.
  3. Telecommuters save two hundred and sixty (260) hours by not commuting on a daily basis.
  4. Work from home programs help businesses save about two thousand ($2,000) per year help businesses save two thousand ($2,000) per person per year and reduce turnover by fifty (50%) percent.
  5. Typical telecommuter are college graduates of about forty-nine (49) years old and work with a company with fewer than one hundred (100) employees.
  6. Seventy-three percent (73%) of remote workers are satisfied with the company they work for and feel that their managers are concerned about their well-being and morale.
  7. For every one real work-from-home job, there are sixty job scams.
  8. Most telecommuters (53 percent) work more than forty (40) hours per week.
  9. Telecommuters work harder to create a friendly, cooperative, and positive work environment for themselves and their teams.
  10. Work-from-home professionals (82 percent) were able to lower their stress levels by working remotely. Eighty (80) percent have improved morale, seventy (70) percent increase productivity, and sixty-nine (69) percent miss fewer days from work.
  11. Half of the U.S. workforce have jobs that are compatible with remote work.
  12. Remote workers enjoy more sleep, eat healthier, and get more physical exercise
  13. Telecommuters are fifty (50) percent less likely to quit their jobs.
  14. When looking at in-office workers and telecommuters, forty-five (45) percent of telecommuters love their job, while twenty-four (24) percent of in-office workers love their jobs.
  15. Four in ten (10) freelancers have completed projects completely from home.

OK, what are the individual and company benefits resulting from this activity.  These might be as follows:

  • Significant reduction in energy usage by company.
  •  Reduction in individual carbon footprint. (It has been estimated that 9,500 pounds of CO 2 per year per person could be avoided if the employee works from home.  Most of this is avoidance of cranking up the “tin lezzy”.)
  • Reduction in office expenses in the form of space, desk, chair, tables, lighting, telephone equipment, and computer connections, etc.
  • Reduction in the number of sick days taken due to illnesses from communicable diseases.
  • Fewer “in-office” distractions allowing for greater focus on work.  These might include: 1.) Monday morning congregation at the water cooler to discuss the game on Saturday, 2.) Birthday parties, 3.) Mary Kay meetings, etc etc.  You get the picture!

In the state where I live (Tennessee), the number of telecommuters has risen eighteen (18) percent relative to 2011.  489,000 adults across Tennessee work from home on a regular basis.  Most of these employees do NOT work for themselves in family-owned businesses but for large companies that allow the activity.  Also, many of these employees work for out-of-state concerns thus creating ideal situations for both worker and employer.   At Blue Cross of Tennessee, one in six individuals go to work by staying at home.   Working at home definitely does not always mean there is no personal communication with supervisors and peers.    These meetings are factored into each work week, some required at least on a monthly basis.

Four point three (4.3) million employees (3.2% of the workforce) now work from home at least half the time.  Regular work-at-home, among the non-self-employed population, has grown by 140% since 2005, nearly 10x faster than the rest of the workforce or the self-employed.  Of course, this marvelous transition has only been made possible by internet connections and in most cases; the computer technology at home equals or surpasses that found at “work”.   We all know this trend will continue as well it should.

 

I welcome your comments and love to know your “telecommuting” stories.  Please send responses to: bobjengr@comcast.net.

ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE

February 12, 2019


Just what do we know about Artificial Intelligence or AI?  Portions of this post were taken from Forbes Magazine.

John McCarthy first coined the term artificial intelligence in 1956 when he invited a group of researchers from a variety of disciplines including language simulation, neuron nets, complexity theory and more to a summer workshop called the Dartmouth Summer Research Project on Artificial Intelligence to discuss what would ultimately become the field of AI. At that time, the researchers came together to clarify and develop the concepts around “thinking machines” which up to this point had been quite divergent. McCarthy is said to have picked the name artificial intelligence for its neutrality; to avoid highlighting one of the tracks being pursued at the time for the field of “thinking machines” that included cybernetics, automation theory and complex information processing. The proposal for the conference said, “The study is to proceed on the basis of the conjecture that every aspect of learning or any other feature of intelligence can in principle be so precisely described that a machine can be made to simulate it.”

Today, modern dictionary definitions focus on AI being a sub-field of computer science and how machines can imitate human intelligence (being human-like rather than becoming human). The English Oxford Living Dictionary gives this definition: “The theory and development of computer systems able to perform tasks normally requiring human intelligence, such as visual perception, speech recognition, decision-making, and translation between languages.”

Merriam-Webster defines artificial intelligence this way:

  1. A branch of computer science dealing with the simulation of intelligent behavior in computers.
  2. The capability of a machine to imitate intelligent human behavior.

About thirty (30) year ago, a professor at the Harvard Business School (Dr. Shoshana Zuboff) articulated three laws based on research into the consequences that widespread computing would have on society. Dr. Zuboff had degrees in philosophy and social psychology so she was definitely ahead of her time relative to the unknown field of AI.  Her document “In the Age of the Smart Machine: The Future of Work and Power”, she postulated the following three laws:

  • Everything that can be automated will be automated
  • Everything that can be informated will be informated. (NOTE: Informated was coined by Zuboff to describe the process of turning descriptions and measurements of activities, events and objects into information.)
  • In the absence of countervailing restrictions and sanctions, every digital application that can be sued for surveillance and control will be used for surveillance and control, irrespective of its originating intention.

At that time there was definitely a significant lack of computing power.  That ship has sailed and is no longer a great hinderance to AI advancement that it certainly once was.

 

WHERE ARE WE?

In recent speech, Russian president Vladimir Putin made an incredibly prescient statement: “Artificial intelligence is the future, not only for Russia, but for all of humankind.” He went on to highlight both the risks and rewards of AI and concluded by declaring that whatever country comes to dominate this technology will be the “ruler of the world.”

As someone who closely monitors global events and studies emerging technologies, I think Putin’s lofty rhetoric is entirely appropriate. Funding for global AI startups has grown at a sixty percent (60%) compound annual growth rate since 2010. More significantly, the international community is actively discussing the influence AI will exert over both global cooperation and national strength. In fact, the United Arab Emirates just recently appointed its first state minister responsible for AI.

Automation and digitalization have already had a radical effect on international systems and structures. And considering that this technology is still in its infancy, every new development will only deepen the effects. The question is: Which countries will lead the way, and which ones will follow behind?

If we look at criteria necessary for advancement, there are the seven countries in the best position to rule the world with the help of AI.  These countries are as follows:

  • Russia
  • The United States of America
  • China
  • Japan
  • Estonia
  • Israel
  • Canada

The United States and China are currently in the best position to reap the rewards of AI. These countries have the infrastructure, innovations and initiative necessary to evolve AI into something with broadly shared benefits. In fact, China expects to dominate AI globally by 2030. The United States could still maintain its lead if it makes AI a top priority and charges necessary investments while also pulling together all required government and private sector resources.

Ultimately, however, winning and losing will not be determined by which country gains the most growth through AI. It will be determined by how the entire global community chooses to leverage AI — as a tool of war or as a tool of progress.

Ideally, the country that uses AI to rule the world will do it through leadership and cooperation rather than automated domination.

CONCLUSIONS:  We dare not neglect this disruptive technology.  We cannot afford to lose this battle.

WORDS OF WISDOM

January 28, 2019


If you are like me, you would hope that elected “public servants” at the federal level are as smart if not smarter than the average American.  Is that not too much to ask?  Coming home just now I listened to an XM Radio broadcast from the White House Media Room.  Questions and answerers, or the lack thereof, addressing difficulties with our immigration laws and what the Dems and Pubs will do in the next eighteen (18) days to fix it. If no fix results, we are shut down for another period of time—an expensive period of time.   Members of the media, Congress and the Oval Office always address the “broken immigration” problem and promise to fix it although they have not done so for decades.  The Oval Office tells us a border wall, a fence, a barrier, etc. will solve this problem.  I have no real idea. All I know is we have a back and forth that is very detrimental to our country and gets nothing accomplished.  In the southern part of our country we call this a pissing contest. Ego vs Ego.

I long for words of wisdom from our dumb-ass politicians realizing they are merely politicians and not statesmen. With this in mind, I sought out others noted for their wisdom.  Here is a small portion of what I found:

  • Accept challenges so that you can feel the exhilaration of victory—George S. Patton.
  • If you must speak ill of another, do not speak it, write it in the sand near the water’s edge—Napoleon Hill.
  • The best way to make your dreams come true is to wake up—Paul Valery.
  • Nothing is so frightening as ignorance in action—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.
  • Two men working as a team will produce more than three men working as individuals—Charles P. McCormick.
  • Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that—Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
  • Nothing is more dangerous than an idea, when you only have one idea—Emile-Auguste Chartier.
  • An ambitions man can never know peace—J. Krishnamurti.
  • Never leave well enough alone—Raymond Loewy.
  • You may be disappointed if you fail, but you are doomed if you don’t try—Beverly Sills.
  • Where would the gardener be if there were no weeds? —Chuang Tsu.
  • Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts—Winston Churchill.
  • We see things not as they are but as we are—H. M. Tomlinson.
  • Getting along with others is the essence of getting ahead, success being linked with cooperation—William Feather
  • Ability may get you to the top, but it takes character to keep you there—John Wooden.
  • I’m not one of those whom expressing opinion confine themselves to facts—Mark Twain.
  • In great matters, men show themselves as they wish to be seen; in small matters, as they are—Gamaliel Bradford.
  • Work like you don’t need the money; love like you’ve never been hurt; dance like nobody’s watching—Satchel Paige.
  • The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing—Socrates.
  • If what you did yesterday seems big; you haven’t done anything today—Lou Holtz.
  • To conquer without risk is to triumph without glory—Pierre Corneille.
  • The trouble with having an open mind, of course, is that people will insist on coming along and trying to put things in it—Terry Pratchett.
  • The strength of a nation derives from the integrity of the home—Confucius.

As you can see, we are a long way from wisdom relative to our three branches of government.


My posts are not necessarily aimed to provide public service announcements but I just could not pass this one up.  Take a look.

On November first of 2018, Honeywell released a study founding that forty-four percent (44%) of the USB drives scanned by their software at fifty (50) customer locations contained at least one unsecured file.  In twenty-six percent (26%) of those cases, the detected fire was capable of causing what company officials called “a serious disruption by causing individuals to lose visibility or control of their operations”.  Honeywell began talking up its SMX (Secure Media Exchange) technology at its North American user group meeting in 2016, when removable media like flash drives were already a top pathway for attackers to gain access to a network. SMX, launched officially in 2018  is designed to manage USB security by giving users a place to plug in and check devices for approved use. The SMX Intelligence Gateway is used to analyze files in conjunction with the Advanced Threat Intelligence Exchange ( Exchange (ATIX), Honeywell’s threat intelligence cloud. Not only has SMX made USB use safer, but Honeywell has gained access to a significant amount of information about the methodology of attacks being attempted through these devices.

“The data showed much more serious threats than we expected,” said Eric Knapp, director of strategic innovation for Honeywell Industrial Cyber Security. “And taken together, the results indicate that a number of these threats were targeted and intentional.” Though Honeywell has long suspected the very real USB threats for industrial operators, the data confirmed a surprising scope and severity of threats, Knapp said, adding. “Many of which can lead to serious and dangerous situations at sites that handle industrial processes.”

The threats targeted a range of industrial sites, including refineries, chemical plants and pulp and paper facilities around the world. About one in six of the threats specifically targeted industrial control systems (ICSs) or Internet of Things (IoT) devices. (DEFINITION OF IoT: The Internet of Things (IoT) refers to the use of intelligently connected devices and systems to leverage data gathered by embedded sensors and actuators in machines and other physical objects. In other words, the IoT (Internet of Things) can be called to any of the physical objects connected with network.)

Among the threats detected, fifteen percent (15%) were high-profile, well-known issues such as Triton, Mirai and WannaCry, as well as variants of Stuxnet. Though these threats have been known to be in the wild, what the Honeywell Industry Cyber Security team considered worrisome was the fact that these threats were trying to get into industrial control facilities through removable storage devices in a relatively high density.

“That high-potency threats were at all prevalent on USB drives bound for industrial control facility use is the first concern. As ICS security experts are well aware, it only takes one instance of malware bypassing security defenses to rapidly execute a successful, widespread attack,” Honeywell’s report noted. “Second, the findings also confirm that such threats do exist in the wild, as the high-potency malware was detected among day-to-day routine traffic, not pure research labs or test environments. Finally, as historical trends have shown, newly emerging threat techniques such as Triton, which target safety instrumented systems, can provoke copycat attackers. Although more difficult and sophisticated to accomplish, such newer threat approaches can indicate the beginnings of a new wave of derivative or copycat attacks.”

In comparative tests, up to eleven percent (11%) of the threats discovered were not reliably detected by more traditional anti-malware technology. Although the type and behavior of the malware detected varied considerably, trojans—which can be spread very effectively through USB devices—accounted for fifty-five percent (55%) of the malicious files. Other malware types discovered included bots (eleven percent), hack-tools (six percent) and potentially unwanted applications (five percent).

“Customers already know these threats exist, but many believe they aren’t the targets of these high-profile attacks,” Knapp said. “This data shows otherwise and underscores the need for advanced systems to detect these threats.”

CONCLUSION:  Some companies and organizations have outlawed USB drives entirely for obvious reasons.  Also, there is some indication that companies, generally off-shore, have purposely embedded malware within USB drives to access information on a random level.  It becomes imperative that we take great care in choosing vendors providing USB drives and other external means of capturing data.  You can never be too safe.

DECISION PARALYSIS

January 5, 2019


The idea for this post came from “Plant Engineering Magazine”, December 2018.

OK, now what do I do?  Have you ever heard yourself muttering those words?  Well, I’ve been there—done that—got the “Tee shirt”.  We all have at one time been placed or have placed ourselves in the decision-making process with a certain degree of paralysis.  If you have P and L responsibilities, own a house, contemplate the purchase of any item that will impact your checkbook or finances, you’ve been there. Let’s take a look at eight (8) factors that may cause decision paralysis.

  1. RAPID CHANGE: The manner in which we conduct our daily lives has changed dramatically over the past few years. Digitalization is sweeping across the domestic and commercial world changing the way we do just about everything. The way we shop, bank, and travel can be accomplished on-line with delivery systems reacting accordingly.  Everyone, including the
    “ baby-boomers” need to get on-board with the changes.
  2. COMPLEX PROCESSES: Old-school processes are inadequate for managing today’s very complex issues. Our three sons and all of our grandchildren have probably never purchased a stamp.  Everything is accomplished on line including paying the bills.  There will come a time when every acquisition will start online.  One of the most fascinating web sites if U-tube.com.  I have never been faced with a “fix-it” problem that is not described on U-tube. It is a valuable resource.  Get ready for digitization now—its coming.
  3. DEMANDING CUSTOMERS: Today’s consumers have high expectations for attentive service, high value, and timely communication. It is no longer enough to be content with trusting the process will deliver value for the customer.  My greatest complaint with COMCAST is customer service.  The product itself is adequate but their customer service is one of the most pitiful on the planet.
  4. PHYSICAL THREATS: I do NOT mean burglars and home invasion.  Aging infrastructure systems, including our power grid, air traffic control, bridges, railways, pose significant threats to reliable communication, transportation and safety in general.  In-house and in-store equipment may not be sophisticated enough to handle growing demands brought on by our “digital world”.  Upgrades to physical equipment and programs driving that equipment become more frequent as we try to make decisions and choices.
  5. TOO MANY CHOICES: While choices are really nice, too many options can present a real burden for the decision maker.  We should and must prioritize the growing list of choices and choose the most viable options.  This includes possible vendors and companies offering choices.
  6. CYBER THREATS: We MUST incorporate systems to protect digital infrastructure.   If you read the literature, you find we are losing that battle. It’s almost to the point that every household needs an IT guy.
  7. DATA OVERLOAD: “Big data” is swamping us with information at an ever-growing rate due to an endless list of features and functionality relative to digital devices. As you well know, CDs and DVDs can now be purchased with terabyte capabilities.  Necessity is the mother of invention and this need will only grow.
  8. TIGHT BUDGETS AND FINANCES: In most cases, making the proper and correct decision will require some cost. Once again, this can cause delays in trying to choose the best options with the maximum payback in time, money and effort.

There may be others factors depending upon the situation or the decision you must make on a personal basis.    Let us now consider steps that just might ease the pain of decision-making.

  • EARLY DETECTION OF A PROBLEM: There probably are early warning signs that a problem is coming necessitating a solution. It is a great help if you can stay attuned to warnings that present themselves.  It gives you time to consider a possible solution.
  • SCHEDULE AND CONSIDER YOUR “FIX” EARLY: If at all possible, solve the problem before it becomes a panic situation. Have a solution or solutions ready to incorporate by becoming pro-active.
  • MONITOR THE FIX: Make sure you are solving the problem and not a manifestation of the problem.  We call this “root-cause-analysis”.
  • TRACK YOUR COSTS: Know what it costs to resolve the problem.
  • MAINTAIN RECORDS AND CREATE A PAPER TRAIL: Some times the only way you know where you are is to look back to see where you have been!

HOW MUCH IS TOO MUCH?

December 15, 2018


How many “screen-time” hours do you spend each day?  Any idea? Now, let’s face facts, an adult working a full-time job requiring daily hour-long screen time may be a necessity.  We all know that but how about our children and grandchildren?

I’m old enough to remember when television was a laboratory novelty and telephones were “ringer-types” affixed to the cleanest wall in the house.  No laptops, no desktops, no cell phones, no Gameboys, etc etc.  You get the picture.  That, as we all know, is a far cry from where we are today.

Today’s children have grown up with a vast array of electronic devices at their fingertips. They can’t imagine a world without smartphones, tablets, and the internet.  If you do not believe this just ask them. One of my younger grandkids asked me what we did before the internet.  ANSWER: we played outside, did our chores, called our friends and family members.

The advances in technology mean today’s parents are the first generation who have to figure out how to limit screen-time for children.  This is a growing requirement for reasons we will discuss later.  While digital devices can provide endless hours of entertainment and they can offer educational content, unlimited screen time can be harmful. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends parents place a reasonable limit on entertainment media. Despite those recommendations, children between the ages of eight (8) and eighteen (18) average seven and one-half (7 ½) hours of entertainment media per day, according to a 2010 study by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.  Can you imagine over seven (7) hours per day?  When I read this it just blew my mind.

But it’s not just kids who are getting too much screen time. Many parents struggle to impose healthy limits on themselves too. The average adult spends over eleven (11) hours per day behind a screen, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.  I’m very sure that most of this is job related but most people do not work eleven hours behind their desk each day.

Let’s now look at what the experts say:

  • Childrenunder age two (2) spend about forty-two (42) minutes, children ages two (2) to four (4) spend two (2) hours and forty (40) minutes, and kids ages five (5) to eight (8) spend nearly three (3) hours (2:58) with screen media daily. About thirty-five (35) percent of children’s screen time is spent with a mobile device, compared to four (4) percent in 2011. Oct 19, 2017
  • Children aged eighteen (18) monthsto two (2) years can watch or use high-quality programs or apps if adults watch or play with them to help them understand what they’re seeing. children aged two to five (2-5) years should have no more than one hour a day of screen time with adults watching or playing with them.
  • The American Academy of Pediatrics released new guidelines on how much screen timeis appropriate for children. … Excessive screen time can also lead to “Computer Vision Syndrome” which is a combination of headaches, eye strain, fatigue, blurry vision for distance, and excessive dry eyes. August 21, 2017
  • Pediatricians: No More than two (2) HoursScreen Time Daily for Kids. Children should be limited to less than two hours of entertainment-based screen time per day, and shouldn’t have TVs or Internet access in their bedrooms, according to new guidelines from pediatricians. October 28, 2013

OK, why?

  • Obesity: Too much time engaging in sedentary activity, such as watching TV and playing video games, can be a risk factor for becoming overweight.
  • Sleep Problems:  Although many parents use TV to wind down before bed, screen time before bed can backfire. The light emitted from screens interferes with the sleep cycle in the brain and can lead to insomnia.
  • Behavioral Problems: Elementary school-age children who watch TV or use a computer more than two hours per day are more likely to have emotional, social, and attention problems. Excessive TV viewing has even been linked to increased bullying behavior.
  • Educational problems: Elementary school-age children who have televisions in their bedrooms do worse on academic testing.  This is an established fact—established.  At this time in our history we need educated adults that can get the job done.  We do not need dummies.
  • Violence: Exposure to violent TV shows, movies, music, and video games can cause children to become desensitized to it. Eventually, they may use violence to solve problems and may imitate what they see on TV, according to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

When very small children get hooked on tablets and smartphones, says Dr. Aric Sigman, an associate fellow of the British Psychological Society and a Fellow of Britain’s Royal Society of Medicine, they can unintentionally cause permanent damage to their still-developing brains. Too much screen time too soon, he says, “is the very thing impeding the development of the abilities that parents are so eager to foster through the tablets. The ability to focus, to concentrate, to lend attention, to sense other people’s attitudes and communicate with them, to build a large vocabulary—all those abilities are harmed.”

Between birth and age three, for example, our brains develop quickly and are particularly sensitive to the environment around us. In medical circles, this is called the critical period, because the changes that happen in the brain during these first tender years become the permanent foundation upon which all later brain function is built. In order for the brain’s neural networks to develop normally during the critical period, a child needs specific stimuli from the outside environment. These are rules that have evolved over centuries of human evolution, but—not surprisingly—these essential stimuli are not found on today’s tablet screens. When a young child spends too much time in front of a screen and not enough getting required stimuli from the real world, her development becomes stunted.

CONCLUSION: This digital age is wonderful if used properly and recognized as having hazards that may create lasting negative effects.  Use wisely.

BORDER SECURITY

October 27, 2018


Some information for this post is taken from the publication “Military & Aerospace Electronics”, October 18, 2018.

For more than a week, thousands of migrants from Central America have been marching north towards the United States. They say they are fleeing persecution, poverty and violence in their countries of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. The journey poses a host of dangers, such as dehydration and criminal gangs.   Many of the migrants say they feel safer travelling in numbers and I am certain they are correct. One can only guess as to how many will die along the way but there is safety in numbers.

On 12 October, in the crime-ridden Honduran city of San Pedro Sula, a group of one hundred and sixty (160) people gathered at a bus terminal and prepared to set off on the dangerous journey.  By the time the group set off in the early hours of 13 October, more than one thousand (1,000) Hondurans had joined. Honduras, which has a population of about nine million, has endemic problems with gang violence, drug wars and corruption. The wider region has one of the highest murder rates in the world.

I will not debate the pros and cons of allowing them into the United States but our federal government is positioned to stop as many as possible from entering.  This post will strive to detail the methodology used by our military and the Office of Homeland Security to facilitate that effort. The technology is striking and, for the most part, developed by the military.  Homeland Security is using that technology.  Please keep in mind, these programs have been developed over the years and not specifically for the caravan slowly approaching our boarders.  Let us now take a very quick look at some of the methods used.

  • Air-based technology
  • Apex border situational awareness
  • Artic communications and technologies
  • Biometric technology engine
  • Canada-U.S. Enhanced Resiliency Experiment (CAISE)
  • Countering violent extremism—actionable indicators and countermeasures project
  • Data analytics engine
  • Eye-dentify
  • Future Attribute Screening Techniques (FAST)
  • Ground-based technologies
  • Identity and access management engine
  • Low-light internet protocol cameras
  • Pat-Down Accuracy Training Tool (PATT)
  • Polar Scout
  • Space-based technology
  • Port of entry-based technology
  • Port and waterway resiliency
  • Port of entry people screening
  • Port and coastal surveillance
  • Port of entry forensics and investigations
  • Post Tracking System (PTS)
  • Small dart aircraft, or the hunt for drug-smuggling aircraft at the borders
  • Tunnel detection and surveillance
  • Video-based training for border patrol trackers
  • Virtual shooter

For the sake of time, I will let you discover the specifics of the list above but as you can see, it is very extensive and laden with cutting-edge technology.  Most of the technology, if not all, was developed for the U.S. military but adopted by Homeland Security.

If members of the caravan are successful they will be on U.S. soil. In the very near future The Border Patrol will have to take them into custody and unless Mexico agrees to take them back, the migrants will be held in detention until they can be deported.   If the migrants are accompanied by children, the government has virtually nowhere to put them.  Let’s just hope there is no more separating children from mothers and fathers.

The Trump administration has been preparing to expand family detention capacity by housing detainees on military bases, but those facilities do not appear to be ready. And once asylum-seeking migrants are on U.S. soil, it becomes significantly harder for the government to deny them access to the legal system, with the rights and protections it affords, in accordance with international laws and norms.

At this writing the caravan is still more than one thousand (1,000) miles away from U.S. territory, and there is a great deal of Mexico left to traverse. If the group manages to advance fifteen (15) miles per day, it would take more than two months for the caravan to arrive at the Rio Grande.  That timeline changes significantly if caravan members manage to board buses, trucks or freight trains, in which case they could reach the U.S. border in less than a week. But that’s a major if, absent a significant fundraising effort to provide mass motorized transport.

I cannot imagine living in a country in which it is unsafe to go to the market, making a doctor’s appointment or visiting a family member.  This is the condition that seemingly exist in the three countries mentioned earlier.  Then again, look at the southside of Chicago on any one given weekend.

As always, I welcome your comments.

GOLF—A GOOD WALK SPOILED

September 13, 2018


Once a month I get together for lunch with a group of guys I’ve known forever.  We meet at a small restaurant called Marsha’s on Brainerd Road in Chattanooga.  Marsha’s has one of the best bowls of chili on the planet and even though it’s summer time the “heat” is worth it.  They also have great tuna fish and chicken salad.  We met this past Tuesday and the first question to be asked—what’s happening in the world?  One member of our group said he is backing off from watching the news due to his doctor’s requests.  He is having issues with high blood pressure and the doctor indicated not watching the news just might help his condition.

No news and more golf he said.  “I’ve seen you play golf and that’s not going to help your blood pressure”.  You need to stop playing golf AND stop watching the news.  I thought about this and just wondered if there might not be a little humor (if not a lot of humor) in the ancient game.  Let’s take a look.

  • Two golfers are ready to play on the 11thtee as a funeral cortege passes by. The first player stops, doffs his cap, and bows his head as the cortege passes. “That was a really nice thing to do,” the second golfer says. “It’s good to see there is still some respect in the world.” “Well, it’s only right,” the first golfer replies. “I was married to her for 35 years.”
  • After a particularly poor round, a golfer spotted a lake as he walked despondently up the 18th. He looked at his caddie and said, “I’ve played so badly all day, I think I’m going to drown myself in that lake.” The caddie, quick as a flash, replied, “I’m not sure you could keep your head down that long.”
  • A hacker was playing so badly that his caddie was getting increasingly exasperated. On the 11th, his ball lay about 160 yards from the green and as he eyed up the shot, he asked his caddie, “Do you think I can get there with a 4-iron?” “Eventually,” replied the caddie, wearily.
  • Two Mexican detectives were investigating the murder of Juan Gonzalez. ‘How was he killed?’ asked one detective. ‘With a golf gun,’ the other detective replied. ‘A golf gun?  What’s a golf gun?’ ‘I don’t know, but it sure made a hole in Juan.’ (Sorry for this one.)
  • A couple was sitting at a table in a very stylish restaurant waiting on the meal they had just ordered. The guy said, “you know, even though this is only our forth date I think I know you well enough to tell you anything. ““Yes, you can and I feel the same way so go ahead—you first”.  The guy says, “I love golf.  I watch the golf channel seven day a week and if I could play seven days a week I would.  Now your turn”.  The young lady says—“I’m a hooker”.  The guy looks at her are says,” OK, just keep your head down, grip the club firmly and square the head so it’s perpendicular to the ball”.  (My favorite.)
  • A golfer sliced a ball into a field of chickens, striking one of the hens and killing it instantly. He was understandably upset, and sought out the farmer. “I’m sorry,” he said, “my terrible tee-shot hit one of your hens and killed it. Can I replace the hen?” “I don’t know about that,” replied the farmer, mulling it over. “How many eggs a day do you lay?”

This has to cheer you up a little.  Now go out and play a round.

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