Archive for February, 2013

Yahoo’s Merissa Mayer: I Can Have it All- You Can’t

February 27, 2013 Leave a comment

She was six months pregnant when, at age 37, she took the job as the CEO of troubled internet giant, Yahoo. How’s she going to manage that, the world asked as it marveled at the brilliant young woman who had just become the youngest female top executive officer of a Fortune 500 company.

Well, it turns out she came to work a mere two weeks after the birth of her baby last autumn. That’s how she handled it. And now we learn, after announcing the end of telecommuting at her company last week, that you can go back to work just days after you give birth- if you build yourself a nursery in your office and bring the kid in with you.

Business Insider, which broke the story about Mayer’s nursery, interviewed the husband of one of the female telecommuting Yahooo employees who now has to trade her home for a cubicle every day beginning June 1st.

“I wonder what would happen if my wife brought our kids and nanny to work and set ‘em up in the cube next door?”

A lot of folks are critical of Mayer’s anti-telecommuting move arguing it’s a step backward in the evolution of humane, family-friendly working conditions but some former Yahoos think she was right to do it because many employees there have been abusing the privilege and had not been particularly productive. Some argue she’s clearing the deadwood and getting them to step down, which is a much cheaper move than paying severance for laying people off.

Then again, some predict it’s the weakest employees who will show up to their cubicles come June 1st and the smart ones who will get recruited by other internet companies who will let them keep working from home.

The real problem here is that Mayer has opted for a one-size-fits-all option. One of the arguments Yahoo’s HR director made for banning telecommuting is that a lot of good ideas get discussed in casual meetings and hallway conversations. Ok- then make the creative and business development types come in to work. But a pure tech-geek who writes code all day? I’m guessing they’ll be working for Mayer’s former employer, Google, by the end of May.

By the way, on its news page, Yahoo has reprinted a Christian Science Monitor article favorable toward the company’s anti-telecommuting move. There’s no mention whatsoever of Mayer’s office nursery. Which is their editorial right. It’s also their right to make employees come to the office if they want to continue to get a paycheck. Who knows, maybe it’s exactly the right thing for Yahoo to do.

But what may be right for Yahoo may not be right for every other business in America. There really is a lot of research that shows telecommuting employees have high productivity rates. And there are certainly a lot of children in America who could use more time, not less with a parent around- even if that parent is working out of a home office.

My Tenuous Relationship with Social Media

February 22, 2013 6 comments


I’m really only half connected and I think that’s the way I want it to be. Mostly, I find social media potentially exhausting.

Of course, the grand daddy of them all, Facebook, has been a nice way to reconnect with a lot of people whom I would have completely lost track of. Because of FB, I carry all elements of my past life bravely into the future: my high school friends- the folks I connected with at every job I ever had. I appreciate that they are sort of “in for the ride” with me, and I with them.

I have found that some of life’s challenges like sudden unemployment or health issues have been easier to deal with because of friends that seem to come out of the woodwork at these crucial moments. My friends are very, very kind and have a way of making me feel warm and loved and have been there at some pretty damn critical junctures.

But I look at some folks I know who have purposely avoided social media and I feel a little jealous. Their privacy is total. Their journey is not necessarily a lonely one because they have friends and family with whom they communicate the old fashioned way; around a kitchen table, on the phone- or God forbid, sending an e-mail or a post card- but it is a narrower if not more intimate and possibly more substantive existence.

I am, in fact, amused that those few who avoid social media are kind of like 21st century Henry David Thoreau’s; their internet-free lives the modern day equivalent of living in isolation in the 1840’s at Walden Pond. Thoreau was a lot of things- a poet, an abolitionist, a historian, a surveyor- but mostly he’s known for being a leading transcendentalist and his book, Walden, was a tome to simple living in natural surroundings. I would call that the exact opposite of the way we lead our lives now.

Oh, I imagine there are a lot of folks into meditation or yoga who get glimpses of internal quiet, calm and centeredness and are then perfectly capable of tweeting 140 characters on something or other when they’re back in social mode.

But I don’t know about ‘ol Twitter. I use it as a marketing tool to basically announce when I have posted something on this blog. But I’ve never really used it they way you’re supposed to. First of all, if I have something clever to say about current events, for example, I prefer to write several paragraphs than create snarky Haiku. I’m just too wordy and editorially undisciplined for Twitter.

I do appreciate the role Twitter has played in being used as a tool for truth and as a vehicle for mobilization in regard to a number of recent global political revolutions. But it is also the purveyor of rumor, innuendo and outright falsehood and has done a remarkably effective job at humbling a number of media organizations through the years.

I find it amusing that with social media still being kind of new, there is so much focus on the medium itself instead of its content. For example, when something weird happens in the world, like a black-out during the Super Bowl or Clint Eastwood talking to a chair at a political convention, the headlines are not about the public reaction, but how that reaction gets disseminated. How long do we have to go on reading headlines that read “Twitterverse explodes over X event,” or “Social Media abuzz about X transgression.”

Really, who cares HOW the reaction is going public. Shouldn’t the focus be on the content of the reaction instead of the tool that was used to broadcast it? I suppose some reporter somewhere once wrote that the President arrived to a particular town by train. But eventually, people figured out trains were here to stay and so they just started writing that the President arrived without mentioning how he got there.

Don’t get me wrong, Twitter reactions to the world’s events can be hilarious and highly entertaining. And it’s kind of cool that you can follow, say a famous person like a ballplayer and you can send them a message and sometimes they respond.

But remember Foursquare (it still exists)? For awhile there, people stopped using Facebook to announce where they were and started using Foursquare to communicate their location at an event, restaurant, sports arena, museum or whatever. Who cares?

And then there’s Linked In. I’m supposed to care about Linked In. I get e-mails all the time telling me that someone is trying to connect with me or join my network or has endorsed me. Thank you, I very much appreciate being endorsed. I hope my friends who have tried to reach me or connect with me via Linked In don’t take it personally that I only log into the thing about twice a year, approve 30 or 40 connections and then get back to my life again. I’m just not a Linked In kind of guy. I’m sorry. I do feel guilty about it. That’s why I get on the site twice a year to kind of clean things up. But, sheesh, why should I feel guilty about not really caring two bleeps about Linked In?

There are lots of other social media I am totally missing. Wikipedia lists about 180 social media sites, of which I am familiar with about six. Some of this ignorance on my part is totally due to the fact that I am getting old. I know, I know, a lot of people don’t consider 56 to be old. But I am and sometimes all of this social media stuff just exhausts me. “Help me, I’ve fallen, and I can’t keep up!”

Hell, I was born the year the last known Union Civil War soldier died. I was born a year before the Soviets launched Sputnik. I’m so old, I would have to explain to 85% of the world’s population what Sputnik was.

And I was born just 94 years after the passing of Henry David Thoreau, who, in turn, was born just 40 years after the American revolution:

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practise resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion.

Irony Alert: I would have really enjoyed his blog.

Will Nightmare Cruise Passengers Survive the Media?

February 14, 2013 1 comment
The absurdly named Carnival "Triumph"

The absurdly named Carnival “Triumph”

CNN is taking no prisoners. A breathless anchorwoman just told me the Cable News Network is covering the arrival of the crippled Carnival cruise ship, Triumph, by sea, air and land. A CNN-chartered helicopter is flying over the vessel. I assume there’s a rented CNN boat. And of course CNN and six billion other news organizations will be awaiting the poor passengers when the cruise from hell finally comes to an end in Mobile, Alabama.

Imagine surviving the heat, the cold, the darkness, the onion sandwiches for a week after the ship’s engine blew and now you have to swat away microphones like they were a swarm of aggressive gnats.

There will, of course, be the award-winning journalism taking the form of unique questions like: “Excuse me, sir, how did you survive the urine-soaked mattresses?” “What’s it like to do #2 into a plastic bag?” “How would you describe the smell, kind of like sewage and rotten food?”

For some reason that escapes Mobile, Alabama Mayor, Sam Jones, Carnival has rented 1,200 hotel rooms in New Orleans for the exhausted passengers- readying buses that will cart them for two hours so they can spend one night and then board an airplane that will take them to Houston/Galveston, where this trip from hell started. Mayor Jones points out that Mobile has hotel rooms too and they only take five minutes to reach.

And isn’t it just a tiny bit ironic that after spending a week smelling that much sewage, that you’d end up on Bourbon street which has its own unique aroma following the Fat Tuesday celebrations of just 48 hours ago?

While I would not wish this past week aboard the Carnival Triumph on even my most dreaded enemies, I do have to point out that these folks did avoid a fate that befell 32 passengers of the Costa Concordia, another infamous cruise trip from hell- nobody died.

Anyway, there’s this great scene in the movie adapted from the John Irving novel, “The World According to Garp,” in which Garp, played by Robin Williams, is house-hunting with his wife. They watch incredulously as a small plane crashes right into the roof of the house they’re visiting. Garp turns to his wife and announces they’re buying the house. As she looks at him with a disbelieving face, he says- “What are the chances that is EVER going to happen again?”

Armed with that basic philosophy, I’m seriously thinking about taking a cruise. I’m thinking there’s bound to be an industry-wide slash in fares and what are the odds there’s going to be another cruise ship incident in the next week or two? I mean what are the odds another engine will blow, or another cruise ship captain will ground a vessel or that the Norwalk virus will spread like wildfire from cramped cabin to cramped cabin?

On second thought, my comfy couch and the next episode of Downton Abbey is looking like a much safer bet.

Provocative Acts: North Korea and Ted Nugent

February 12, 2013 Leave a comment
(Rocker Ted Nugent and   North Korean Military)

(Rocker Ted Nugent and North Korean Military)

I’m not exactly sure which is more provocative- Texas Republican Congressman Steve Stockman’s invitation to Ted Nugent to attend the State of the Union address or North Korea conducting a nuclear test to go along with a recent successful missile launch.

I’m going with the nukes.

This new North Korean dear leader, Kim Jong Eun, seems, regrettably, to be much more competent than his father or his grandfather. The North Koreans put a satellite up in space just a few months ago and despite initial reports that the polar orbit of the device was slightly off, it seems like they actually had a successful rocket launch and deployement. You can keep track of that North Korean satellite here (click on KWANGMYONGSONG 3).

This nuclear test which was ominously detected as a 4.9 earthquake in North Korea around 10pm, ET last night- was conducted in a horizontally carved out tunnel in a remote North Korean mountainside. There is no way to verify claims by the North Koreans that it was a lighter, smaller, miniaturized type of nuke that could be used as a warhead on a missile. This is not good news any way you look at it.

Last week, the North Koreans released a bizarre video complete with Michael Jackson’s “We are the World” in the background, that ended with shots of a destroyed New York City that were actually edited in from a scene in the video game, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3. At the time of its release it seemed funny and the film a pathetic statement about the state of North Korea’s propaganda machine. But that was before they proved capable of setting off a nuclear blast as strong as a 4.9 earthquake.

I’m not sure how you further isolate a country like North Korea that is already the most isolated, poverty-stricken nation on the planet. But between successful missile launches, crazy videos and real nuclear explosions, they appear to be, officially, a regional menace. The Chinese did not want the North Koreans to conduct this nuclear test, so one would hope the Kim Jong Eun’s largest sponsor will try to do something to keep these guys in check.

As for Congressman Steve Stockman, who has threatened to file articles of impeachment against President Obama for proposing new gun control laws- his invitation to rocker/crazy-pro-gun-guy, Ted Nugent has been accepted.

After the State of the Union speech is completed, reporters all flock to Statuary Hall to get the reactions to the big speech and, apparently, Mr. Nugent will be holding court there along with lawmakers. He should be quite interesting. Among Nugent’s spicier quotes (some of which led to interviews with real Secret Service agents):

If Barack Obama becomes the president in November again, I will either be dead or in jail by this time next year.

Our president, attorney general, our vice president, Hillary Clinton — they’re criminals, they’re criminals…we need to ride into that battlefield and chop their heads off in November.

Obama, he’s a piece of sh*t. I told him to suck on my machine gun. Hey Hillary [Clinton], you might want to ride one of these [brandishing two automatic rifles] into the sunset, you worthless b*tch.

Ted Nugent at the State of the Union speech- another great chapter in the moderation of our public political discourse.

The Power Outage, the Commercials, the Glory of Super Bowl 47

February 4, 2013 1 comment


A most entertaining Super Bowl, indeed. For the first time ever, both the game and the commercials were overshadowed by…the power outage. The half-hour interruption of the Super Bowl just after the start of the 2nd half is officially a hot potato as multiple people and agencies and companies deny it was their fault and point fingers at one another.

“Wasn’t us!” said Entergy, the local power company providing electricity to the stadium. The stadium people are now saying it was all due to their safeguards that worked really, really well. “A piece of equipment that is designed to monitor electrical load sensed an abnormality in the system,” tripping a breaker and adding “backup generators kicked in immediately as designed.”

The world was atwitter with all kinds of theories. It was Drew Breese and the Saints getting their revenge against the NFL for the harsh penalties imposed in connection to bounty-gate. It was Beyonce, whose high-powered, high-tech half-time show somehow fried the electrical grid.

I officially endorse the Puppy Bowl conspiracy. It was those dogs and cats and hedgehogs over at Animal Planet whose appetite for their spectacular ratings earlier in the afternoon, led them to take out the actual People Bowl over at CBS.

But I digress. How about them commercials? Some instant poll found everybody liked the baby Clydesdale spot of the horse running back to a trainer from the horse’s colt days, all edited to tug at our heartstrings with Stevie Nick’s “Landslide” playing in the background.

The Dodge Ram “Farmer” spot proved to be really appreciated. A beautifully written speech from a generation ago by the late, great ABC broadcaster, Paul Harvey, on the down home qualities of America’s farmers.

And on the eighth day, God looked down on his planned paradise and said, ‘I need a caretaker.’ So God made a farmer. God said, ‘I need somebody willing to get up before dawn, milk cows, work all day in the field, milk cows again, eat supper, then go to town and stay past midnight at a meeting of the school board.’ So God made a farmer.

Most of the Doritos ads were pretty cool; cross-dressing is always a guaranteed winner for taco chips.

I laughed hysterically at the VW ad featuring the dude from Minnesota with the Jamaican accent- “land of the ten tousand lakes, mon.” I learned later it was apparently politically incorrect to like that ad.

My informal polling found the GoDaddy commercial with the model kissing the nerd with the horrible complexion to have been something that should never have been produced much less shown on national television.

And what was that Coke ad where a bunch of different people are inexplicably competing against one another in a desert chasing after a carbonated beverage? We were all supposed to vote or something on who would win. All I know is it made me hate Coke.

And then there was Beyonce. Honestly, I liked her Super Bowl press conference where she sang the national anthem, better than her actual half-time performance but she was beautiful, talented and high-tech and several people I was with were touched when her old Destiny’s Child co-stars appeared with her. There’s also a whole twitter meme about how she shorted out the entire Superdome with her sheer energy and ferociousness.

Oh- and what a game! The 49ers made it really close and tense and only one of the greatest goal line stands in history preserved the win for the Baltimore Ravens. Ray Lewis got his perfect retirement gift and even Ray Lewis-haters had the opportunity to send snarky tweets making oblique references to the murder charges he had to fend off 13 years ago.

Thanks Super Bowl, XLVII- you big lug you. I laughed. I cried. I ate large quantities.