Thursday, May 28, 2015

Technology Shock

Well, last week I got rid of my trusty old Blackberry and replaced it with a spiff new Galaxy 6S. Still getting used to the ins and outs, but overall the experience is quite good.  Texting and answering e-mails are both marginally better, if for no other reason than the size of the screen makes input easier. Plus Internet search is 1,000% improved. And the camera is about a thousand percent improvement, too. I can now take a selfie and see what I’m doing. Ain’t technology grand!

There are a few things that aren’t so hot, like having 2 million names in the contact list for texting. I think resolving this  one is just a matter of cleaning up my various gmail contact lists. (Some of the names I don’t even recognize.  There are two Barbara D’s. One I know; one I’ve never heard of.)

And the new Galaxy is a tad on the large size. (Had to buy a new wallet to accommodate it.) Of course, the larger size makes texting and e-mailing easier. (I’m sick of trade-offs.)
But overall I’d give the Blackberry to Galaxy transition experience an A-.

Having settled in with my new, very smart phone, I decided to put off purchase of a laptop replacement for a bit.

And then my trusty Dell – now 3+ years old, and longest I’ve ever managed to hold on to a laptop – started to kick into nag-to-the-glue-factory mode.

Things were running ultra-slow. Apps – and here I’m talking Office apps, pretty much the only ones I use – were taking forever to load. Mouse and keyboard inputs were jumping around a bit more than usual. The laptop would freeze up on me, and not come out of sleep mode without my removing power source and battery.

And then it started to make noises. Really bad, whining, nasty noises.

At first I thought it might just be the fan, but the fan fixes and workarounds weren’t working.
Plus it started to make noises other than really bad, whining, nasty ones. It started making really bad, clicking, nasty ones.

When I Googled up all the symptoms, it started sounding mother-board-ish. Or, at any rate, something bad.

I have an interview later today with a client’s client for a customer user story. Tomorrow, I’m taking part in a 4-hour analyst session for another client. For both these calls I’ll be taking notes, and I can’t afford to have things go from bad to worse.

I had already decided on a Surface Pro 3 as the replacement. So what was I waiting for, other than the obvious of not wanting to shell out, in one month, for:
a) a costly new phone: seriously, how does something that’s supposed to cost $200 end up setting me back $450; it’s not all because I sprung for the cool Kate Spade case, is it?
b) a vacation (heading to Edinburgh for a week in June);
c) my homeowner’s insurance bill.
This is purely a psychological reluctance, a holdover from a no-money childhood in which being able to load up on goodies was an unimaginable luxury. Seriously, I better get used to minor expenses adding up if I’m ever going to get my kitchen and bathroom rehab projects off the ground.

Anyway, yesterday I found myself at the Microsoft store.

I’ve already test-driven the Surface Pro 3, and, although the keyboard’s a bit tinny, it’ll do. The weight (or lack thereof) makes up for the tinny-ness (and, of course, accounts for it). Hopefully, I’ll get used to the overall flimsiness for what is going to me my workhorse.

Of course, there are some aspects that I just out and out don’t like.

I’ve degunked most of the things I’ll never use from the main screen, but I don’t like the swoop your finger stuff.  I don’t like where it puts things where I can’t find them. I want the task bar where I can see it.

I don’t like the fact that my trusty old laptop always had at least four bars on my wifi network, while the new sucker doesn’t seem to chug above three. (What’s that about?)

And lots of other little things.

Oh, I’m sure that this will just take some getting used to, and once I’m into the new finger-swooping UI (which is also on the phone) I’ll be fine. But I’m someone who was just as happy managing files at DOS level well into latter-day versions of Windows.

This post may be the last thing I ever do on this laptop (sniff, sniff).

New phone. New computer.

I’m suffering from some sort of technology shock that’s making me long for a rotary dial phone and a typewriter – you know, the sorts of devices you couldn’t take on vacation with you.

I’m sure my suffering will be temporary.

I’ll get used to the new stuff. I always do.

But why does everything have to be so freaking hard?

You’d think I hadn’t spent the last 35 years in the technology biz…

Anyway, if Carbonite manages to back everything up onto my new best friend, and if I can get my blog writing app (nice, no longer supported blog writing freeware from Microsoft – by far the best blog writing app I’ve ever used), and if I’m in the mood, there’ll be a Pink Slip post on Friday.


If not…you'll know I'm still sitting around in a state of techno-shock.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Turtle farm in the North Korean soup…

If someone made up North Korea’s Kim Jong Un (and his father, and grandfather before him), the character would be dismissed as over the top, preposterous. And if it weren’t for the violence and out and out mind-fuckery he inflicts on his country, the real-life Kim Jong Un would be a laughing stock. Oh, wait. He is a laughing stock. And I find myself laughing right along with it, until I remember his wanton cruelty. (A typical recent incident: he reportedly had his aunt poisoned because she was upset that KJU had killed her husband.)

I can’t imagine how awful it must be to live in a country under the thumb of such a depraved individual.

And yet, here he goes again, showing the world the idiocy of totalitarian rule in general, and his version of totalitarian rule in particular, this time going on the record with a stinging critique of a terrapin farm that failed to make a go of a  lobster breeding initiative – a project that had been backed by Kim Jon Un’s father, Kim Jon Il.

There are so many paths this story could take me down…

The most obvious, of course, is promoting a luxury good like lobster in a country that in recent memory experienced a self-induced famine that may have killed one-tenth of its population. And which still experiences famine conditions with some regularity. I suspect that lobster is a delicacy that most North Koreans can only dream of. That is, if they’re aware of lobster’s existence to begin with. It’s not as if the countryside is full of summer shacks where you sit at picnic tables and gorge yourself on lobster, all the while drooling melted butter down your chin and onto your plastic lobster bib.

The average North Korean’s probably happy to have their rice bowl full, and to have spent another “free” day when neither they nor any family member was whisked off to a prison camp.

There is, of course, no such thing as a famine for Kim Jon Un, who is notorious for living the good life, replete with expensive booze, cigars, and food.

And then there’s that poor turtle farm. Just their luck that the Dear Leader would decide to come calling.

Kim expressed his supreme displeasure with Taedonggang Terrapin Farm for being out-of-date -- and worse, not revolutionary enough -- during a tense visit reported by official newspaper Rodong Sinmun. He was particularly angry that a two-year-old lobster breeding project never got off the ground, calling it a "manifestation of incompetence, outmoded way of thinking and irresponsible work style." (Source: Huffington Post)

Well, I too have worked in companies that were "manifestation of incompetence, outmoded way of thinking and irresponsible work style." But it never made the news, and, while we may have feared for our jobs, we never feared for our lives.

And to think – as I suspect the managers of the Taedonggang Terrapin Farm were thinking – it was just a few years back that Kim Jong Il was praising the farm for having:

…"proved in practice that the word 'impossible' is not to be found in the Korean vocabulary."

So what was this terrapin farm doing with lobsters to begin with?

Apparently Kim Jong Il put it all together in one of those epiphanies that supreme leaders tend to have, combining the notion of the impossibility of finding the word “impossible” in the Korean lexicon, and his desire to tuck into a lobster dinner. And why not? I suspect that KJI would be able to chow down on lobster without having to do any of the dirty work: no twisting, cracking, picking, pulling to get the precious meat out. No, there’d be some lackey to wield the lobster crackers, the lobster pick, the tiny little fork.  (Having waited tables at both the Union Oyster House and Durgin-Park, I am past-master of working a boiled lobster, which means, I suppose, that I could have been that lackey…)

Anyway, Kim Jong Un was especially pissed off because the 70th anniversary of the founding of North Korea is soon upon them, and he was apparently hoping to have lobster on the menu for the celebratory clambake. (Wonder if Dennis Rodman will be invited.)

Of course, if North Korea had anything resembling a normal market economy, the farm managers, having gotten wind of the impending visit of Kim Jong Un, might have been able to scoot over to the local lobster pound or grocery store and stocked up on live lobsters. They then could have, quite humorously (ahem), scooped a wriggling crustacean out of the tank and held it in front of Kim Jong Un’s face – which surely would have been a Dear Leader pleaser, especially when they pointed out that the thick rubber bands on the lobster’s claws would prevent anything untoward – like a nip at his nibs’ nose – from happening.

Beyond the farm not having been able to produce lobsters – either via production or purchase – they were in for even further grief when Kim Jong Un discovered that:

…the farm did not even have a room dedicated to education about the "revolutionary history" of his family's regime. "The employees who failed to bear deep in their minds [Kim Jong Il's] leadership exploits could hardly perform their role as masters in production," Kim chided. He continued with the ominous warning: "They may bring such grave consequences as impairing the prestige of the party."

There were a few times over the course of my long career when I did something that ticked off the powers that were. But I never had to worry about “impairing the prestige of the party.”

All this went down a few weeks ago.

Wonder if the managers of the Taedonggang Terrapin Farm still have a livelihood. Or even a life.

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Thank you, Valerie, for pointing this one out to me.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

What next?

Last week, a group of VCs taking part in a tech trends dinner out in Silicon Valley predicted what technology is going to bring us over the next five years.

Shervin Pishevar has what to me is a fairly dire forecast:

Before we know it, apps driven by artificial intelligence will predict our needs and make decisions for us, for example, where we want to go in an Uber, and when we want to arrive somewhere if our flight is delayed. (Source: Forbes)

I’m quite certain that, while Shervin Pishevar may have a more odd-ball name, he is smarter and richer than I am. But is it just me, or is having an app know where you want to go actually a good thing? I can see the Uber driver showing up and insisting that you want to go to the airport, when you really want to go to Brookline. Just who will win these battles? You or the Uber driver?

As for having an app that can tell us “when we want to arrive somewhere if our flight is delayed,” am I missing something, or is the answer – app or no app – going to be “as soon as possible” at least 99.9999% of the time?

Rebecca Lynn predicts that, while bitcoin will bite the dust, startups will start taking over some of the functions of banks. These startups may not, however, provide things like “back-end infrastructure.” Ummm, isn’t it the back-end infrastructure that makes things go? If the fancy-pants front-end apps take away all the fun stuff and do it oh, so cheaply and efficiently, won’t the banks start charging more for the fancy-pants startups for the use of their boring, tedious, back-end systems? But what do I know…

Jenny Lee predicts that we’ll all have so much data out their we’ll all have a “virtual me” out there. She said:

“I hope that someday, someone will tell me what I want to do, or what I want to buy.”

This sounds a lot like what our friend Shervin was saying. Either way, I really don’t want big data telling “me what I want to do, or what I want to buy.” Sheesh. I already have my sisters for that.

Steve Jurvetson thinks that “low-altitude satellites will give affordable broadband access to the unconnected billions.”

The good new is that the unconnected billions will be able to improve their lives. The bad news is that that unconnected billions will now be able to waste time googling, start making rancid comments in on-line forums, engage in cyber-bullying and get recruited by ISIS. And become ‘virtual me’s”.

With all these “virtual me’s out there, “more of the economy will become “personal”, with transactions that are online and often one-on-one. Who needs to go to a brick and mortar store, anyway? Especially when we all have sophisticated 3-D printers humming along in our spare rooms, churning out products that we’ll sell in our online boutiques – or on Etsy. Then, once someone gets sick of using our products, they’ll sell them on eBay and Craigslist.

While I do order quite a bit of stuff online, I do not look forward to a brick-and-mortar-less world, with no retail stores to shop at. Plenty of days the only reason I have to get out of the house is to go buy grapes or toilet paper. Having a drone drop my order off on my doorstep will not satisfy the basic human need to have a conversation with someone, even if it’s only an exchange over whether or not you want a receipt.

Bill Gurley believes that:

“We may have hit what’s called peak car. Kids aren’t showing up on their 16th birthday to get a driver’s license. The smartphone is more of a social status than a car is.”

As a car-free Zipster, can I get an “Amen”?

Sure I can. But, realistically, I can’t see the US becoming much less of an auto-nation any time soon. Not that I don’t look forward, with Shervin Pishevar, to hyperloop trains that could get me to NYC in 20 minutes. As for “massive drones”, all I can say is 21st century Lindbergh baby.

Then there’s the robocar, which Steve Jurvetson sees in our future. (We’ll still be auto-nation. It’ll just be that the cars will be driving themselves.) And for those who believe that Uber’s self-employment model is the future of work, here’s a scary thought:

Jurvetson said Uber CEO Travis Kalanick told him that if Tesla cars are autonomous by 2020, Kalanick wants to buy all 500,000 that are expected to be produced.

Other predictions?

Remember the ladies:

“In the next 5 years, half of computer science students will become women, which will lead to more female founders and CEOs.

These CEOs will be focus on smiley tech things, like nice-girl games:

”Instead of killing people, you need to be helping animals,”[Rebecca Lynn] said.

And, of course, smartphones will “be the remote control of our life.”

At least now, with my Android, I have a smartphone that’s capable of doing so.

Just keep that damned massive drone off of my doorstep, thank you.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Up the Republic! (And Happy Memorial Day.)

On holidays, I usually have a post about the particular holiday, and Memorial Day has been no exception.

My first post, Decoration Day, was written in 2007. (Which means I started posting in 2006. Now that I have something to shoot for, I guess I’ll keep Pink Slip alive at least until I hit the big 1-0 in 2016.)

Last year, I had a sad Memorial Day post, as I’d lost both my husband and oldest friend in the preceding moths.

This year, while I will keep up the tradition of thinking about veterans in general, and my dead loved ones in particular, my shout out this Memorial Day goes to The Republic of Ireland, which last Friday became the first country to approve gay marriage by popular vote. And that popular vote wasn’t close at all: 62.1% voted a resounding YES!

I must note that the one and only voting constituency (out of 43 in the country) that voted NO (narrowly) was Roscommon, from whence cometh the Rogers family. My other ancestral precincts (Mayo an Louth) were with the majority.

One area of Donegal which, like Roscommon is rural and remote, narrowly voted YES – by 33 votes.

Many years ago, my husband and I spent a weekend in Donegal Town (population 2,600), and on Saturday went into a pub for a traditional session. We were struck by the number of seemingly gay men who were there. Now I’m not sure that these lads, who were mostly older, were actually out, but they sure seemed gay. And they were having a great time singing along with the session musicians, and busting a few moves. We had a great time, too. As the Irish might say, it was a good bit of the old craic.

I thought of these fellows when I read about that small margin that carried YES in Donegal.

I like to think that at least some of the Town’s voters went to the polls and voted YES because they knew some of those lads who Jim and I had run into in what was, at least for that Saturday night when we were there, Donegal’s gay bar, and said, ‘Fair play to them.’

YES, indeed.

Imagine that: poor, backward, priest-ridden Ireland…

Anyway, this being Memorial Day, I will be heading out tomorrow with my cousin Barbara to put geraniums on family graves, including those of our great-grandparents John (Co. Roscommon) and Margaret Joyce (Co. Mayo) Rogers, and Matthew and Bridget Trainor (both from County Louth).

Up the Republic!

And Happy Memorial Day to all.

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Friday, May 22, 2015

One more reason I’m glad I dumped my Blackberry

For the longest time now, I’ve lived with the burden of being one of the last people on the face of the earth still using m Blackberry.

Not that I was especially enamored of it. It certainly outlived its usefulness a couple of iPhone versions ago. But I was just too lazy to replace it.

What got me unlazy happened a few weeks ago.

I woke up at about 4:30 a.m., checked my e-mail, looked at the headlines, and then – I actually had a reason – looked up Carl Yastrzemski’s birthday. I then set my B’berry down on the nightstand, only to hear something that sounded like the phone ringing. On the other end.

I picked up the phone and saw to my horror that my not-so-smartphone had random dialed a friend and neighbor who lives up the street. I quickly turned the phone off, hoping that the call hadn’t gone through. (Hah!)

Sure enough, at 8 a.m. I got a call from Bill asking me if I were okay, and telling me he’d missed my call because his phone was charging in the living room. At least it hadn’t gotten him and his wife up in the middle of the night, panicking that there was some kid or grandkid crisis.

I explained that the phone had just gone off on its own, but I’m sure he was thinking drunken, middle of the night, stalking widow.

So I figured it was time. And now I have swell new Galaxy S6 that’s probably the size of the screen on my parents’ first Philco TV. But it’s nice. And hip (enough). Or would be, if I weren’t old enough to actually remember Philcos.

Anyway, I was especially relieved that the Blackberry is no more when I saw an article in the Boston Globe on the difficulties of aging in the tech start up space, which had as it’s URL Does This Blackberry Make Me Look Old?

The article talked about how difficult it is to be in your 40’s and 50’s and working in a tech startup where everyone else is in their 20’s or 30’s.

I can sympathize – in spades.

I work almost exclusively with tech companies, occasional startups, and it’s a rare event to see anyone my age on prem, unless someone’s hosting “Take Your Grandparents to Work Day.”

Recently, I was at a startup client’s with workspace at a trendy NYC tech incubator. The head honcho is no kid – he’s 50 – but he’s not old, either. Yet he had a good twenty years on everyone else I saw buzzing around the space. Our meeting included his PR guy, who’s about my age. When we went into the communal kitchen for coffee, we stood out completely (not to mention raised the average age by a decade or so). Sure, we all looked plenty hip and current by my standards, but we were the only people in that room who weren’t lanky twenty-somethings in skinny black jeans, Chucks, and hipster glasses.

A week or so later, I was on the elevator at another of my client’s when the CEO stepped on. The woman I’m working with introduced me, and we looked each other up and down, age-gauging. He’s younger than I am. But not by much.

I’ve yet to see anyone at this company other than him who looks north of 40.

I’ve worked for these folks for years, and the people I originally worked with are all long gone. Most of them would now be somewhere in their late 30’s to late 40’s. They’re all still in tech, but were they starting to feel age inappropriate in a business that, while established, tries to maintain a startup culture?

More to the point, would I still be working for them if they had any idea how old I am?

They all know I’m old enough to be their mother, but I observe ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell.’

So I won’t be volunteering that Medicare coverage is great and that I just got my geezer pass for public transportation.

I’m just happy that they’re still throwing work my way. And in any case, it’s their world not mine:

There are 53.5 million of them, and their ease with all things digital, social, mobile, and Meerkat is making even fortysomethings feel like old timers…

In the first quarter of 2015, millennials surpassed Gen-Xers as the largest generation in the US labor force, according to the Pew Research Center. (The millennials, generally considered to have been born after 1980, blew by the baby boom generation last year.) (Source: Boston Globe)

And none of them use a Blackberry:

At 51, [Maria] Cirino, the venture capitalist, has not only observed others struggling to avoid the dreaded “in my day” syndrome, she’s living it. She recently ditched her beloved BlackBerry because it was pegging her as old.

“I’d go to meetings and a lot of guys had never seen one,” she said. “They’d say, ‘Is that a BlackBerry? I didn’t think those were still around.’ ”

The article also threw in the Mark Zuckerberg quote: “Young people are just smarter.”

I will  note that Zuckerberg is now in his thirties, so I’ll remind him what we used to say: Don’t trust anyone over thirty.

We weren’t right, and neither is he.

But it may be worth listening to Satchel Paige:

Don’t look back. Something might be gaining on you.

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Thursday, May 21, 2015

Put on your high-heeled sneakers…and head on over to Cannes

This week’s big fashion news has been the women who were turned away from a screening at the Cannes Film Festival for not wearing appropriate footwear, i.e., sky-high heels. That one of the women who was – at least initially – given the (ahem) boot had a partially amputated foot just seems to have added to the stir. As did the fact that the women caught flat-footed by the fashion police were mostly in their 50’s. Not to mention that the women whose entrances were spiked were on their way to the film Carol, which is about a lesbian romance.

And it’s not that the women who were turned away were wearing New Balance walking shoes or Topsiders. They were on trend and wearing pricey rhinestone-encrusted flats.

Those who squawked were initially told that high heels were part of the dress code from women, just as black tie is required for men.

There is, of course, one important difference.

As far as I know, black ties do not cause wearers to suffer temporarily from aching feet, and long term from all sorts of foot, back, and hip problems. Admittedly, black ties get loosened and heels get kicked off over the course of an evening, but that’s about the only similarity I can see.

Maybe the old theater good luck wish, “Break a leg”, should be updated for Cannes. It’s now, apparently, “Break an ankle.”

Whenever I see women teetering down the street in ultra-high heels, I just have to shake my head in amazement. I always want to ask them two questions: Why do you do it? How Do you do it?

Okay. I get at least some of the why they do it: guys like it.

But guys in ancient China liked tiny little hoof feet, so women’s feet got bound. That doesn’t mean it makes sense to do it.

Other than the guy thing, I just don’t get the ‘why’. And when someone tells me that it’s actually comfortable to walk around in a four-inch spike with a pointy toe, I really do have to call BS. (Ever been to a wedding where 90% of the women’s shoes are kicked off by the end of the night? Me neither.)

As for the how they do it, well, I do know you have to practice, which I did last year for the two weddings I went to that required the wearing o’ the pointy-toe, relatively-low-but-still-treacherous black patent leather numbers that are now back on the shelf where they belong. And, as I have observed when I see the young couples of Boston pounding our brick pavements, it helps to have a man to hang on to.

When I was growing up, girls started wearing something called “squash heels” when they began wearing nylons – around in sixth grade. These were short, stubby heels – one step more grown up than flats. By eighth grade, we graduated to spikes for formal occasions. Spikes were three inches high, and plenty difficult to walk in, as I recall.

Over time, shoes seemed to get more comfortable. Either that or I just never bothered with uncomfortable shoes. But in the 1980’s, high heels – again the spikes of the three and maybe now four inch variety -  made their way into the workplace. They were even worn – can my memory be correct here? – with the menswear skirt suits we wore with menswear shirts and floppy bow ties.

For every pair of high heels a working gal had, however, there was a pair of moderate-heeled glorified loafers that gave the wearer a lift and were comfy (and, of course, dowdy). And there was the fashion pièce de résistance: the clunky white athletic shoes we wore to and from work. (Today, I have noticed, the to-and-fro footwear for the young is more likely to be support-free ballet flats or flip-flops. These will not cause problems as grave as those produced by wearing heels. Still…)

I’m at the sensible shoes point in my life. Other than those kitten heels I’ll truck out only for weddings, if it ain’t comfy, I’m not wearing it.

Admittedly, I do still experience the pedestrian foot woes associated with breaking in new shoes, and sometimes end up with blisters a plenty.

Still, I never have to fear breaking either a heel or my neck.

Unlike those who attend premieres at Cannes.

Cannes festival organizers has, by the way, issues a clarifying statement, saying that women must wear appropriate footwear, with no mention of how high the heel or how Christian the Louboutin. They have also apologized for the overzealous staff members guarding the gates against fifty-year-old amputees with the audacity to try to storm in wearing flats.

As for me, I’m staying out of Cannes altogether. Too comfy hanging in my sneakers of the non-high-heeled persuasion.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Dubuque Rebuke

In 2009, IBM – tax-incentives happily placed in their grasping, outstretched palm – established tech centers in Dubuque, Iowa and Columbia, Missouri.

That was then, and this is now: half of IBM’s Dubuque workforce has been laid off, and Missouri’s headcount – thanks to lay-offs there – has dropped below the 500 employee threshold for their tax credits. Between them, the cities forked over $84M that resulted in a few years employment (albeit well-paid employment) for a couple of thousand folks.

Back when the deals were struck, both cities were no doubt envisioning a restart for their economies would build off of the IBM and become tech centers.

Hey, if it happened to Research Triangle, why not us?

Rick Dickinson, a Dubuque official who helps lure new employers, said he’d expected IBM to put the city on the map and help Iowa transcend Midwestern stereotypes he describes as: “red barn, silo, Holstein cow, hog and a bale of hay.” No company before IBM has moved into town or ramped up so quickly - - only to scale back, he said. (Source: Bloomberg)

Alas, that just ain’t the way the world works, and it looks like it’s back to red barn silo, Holstein and hog for Dubuque. Which kind of fits, given that two of the major employers in town are Hormel (think hog-to-Spam) and John Deere (think field-to-silo-to-hog).

This is, of course, terrible for the towns and for the employees who no longer have work, and are in an area where there’s not a lot of other tech options for them.

Which is one big difference between losing your job in a place where there are many like opportunities out there – tech centers like Research Triangle, Silicon Valley, Boston, NYC… – and losing your job in an isolated area where the firm you worked at was a one-off.

Part of this is just how the economy works these days: an acceleration of what happened in the latter part of the 20th century when the Northeast and Rustbelt factories first moved South chasing cheaper labor, and then out of the country entirely. The fortunate places, like Boston, were able to replace manufacturing with medical, education, tech/bio-tech. The less fortunate places, like Detroit, found themselves hollowed-out.

Now it just happens faster, especially in technology, where yesterday’s know-how is tomorrow’s so what.

Yet there remains the lure of having a big name like Big Blue smile benevolently on you, even if you paid for that smile. Caveat, Dubuques:

“Going after big names makes you vulnerable to the vagaries of the company’s fortune,” said Howard Cure, director of municipal research at Evercore Wealth Management LLC in New York.

This reminds me of my stint in a company that claimed its sweet-spot was mid-market organizations, and in fact put it in its mission statement. The CEO was fond of saying how well-suited we were to serve mid-sized companies, because we ourselves were mid-sized.

My mantra to sales was ‘if you’ve heard of the company, they’re probably not right for us.’

Despite all our pronouncements, our sales guys were always on the elephant hunt, dragging in big name accounts – like IBM, in fact – that were never, ever, ever going to work with us – at least not on reasonable terms. I was once accused of being defeatist when I told a rep that it wasn’t worth responding to an RFP from Bank of America, since we clearly didn’t meet several criteria explicitly presented as deal-breakers. (I threw in on the RFP because I didn’t want to be blamed for the loss. But predictably, we didn’t get the deal.)

And when we did get a deal with one of the elephants – like IBM, in fact – we had to jump through so many hoops and promise them so many things: customizations, free support, deep discounts – that we always lost money on them. All for the glory of having their name – fleetingly –on our customer list. Anything for a bad deal!

If elephant-bagging incentives don’t work on the micro-level like this, they don’t seem to work all that well for cities and states, either.

Yet the promise of rebirth, the lure of bringing in good jobs. It’s just irresistible.

And for the IBM’s of the world, if it makes at least temporary economic sense, why not?

If it doesn’t work, on to the next…

Governments seem to do an even worse job when they actually invest in a new enterprise. Talk about a place that the market should be taking care of…I can see government getting involved in training, but investing in start-ups? How about leaving that to VC’s who can afford to lose on nine out of ten deals.

And don’t get me going on tax incentives for Hollywood.

If someone wants to make a film that takes place in New England strike a note of authenticity by actually being filmed in New England, they’re most welcome. I love seeing places I recognize, and enjoy movies being made on my door-step. Why, just last summer I narrowly missed seeing Johnny Depp and Benedict Cumberbatch on my block making a movie about Whitey Bulger.

But if we need to bribe them to do so on the sketchy promise of job-creation and boost to the local economy (c.f., box lunches), well…

Let those who must be bribed to film here take their camera crews elsewhere – and suffer the scorn of the cognoscenti when those of us in the know spot the fakery.

A few years ago, there was a TV series – something dystopic starring Noah Wylie – that was supposed to take place in and around Boston. I watched an episode, and one scene took place on the town green. I was just telling myself that this didn’t really look local when they panned on a war monument, which gave the dates of World War II as 1939-1945. Oh, Canada!

Conviction, an otherwise pretty good movie set in New England, was shot on location in Michigan. Which looks vaguely like New England if you’re from the Southwest, but nothing like New England if you actually live here.

Back to Dubuque and Columbia. I feel badly for those who’ve lost their jobs with IBM, and don’t have a lot of other local options.

But this is the way the world works, and it’s only going to get worse as globalization and automation keep chugging along.

Today it’s a rebuke to Dubuque. Tomorrow it’s your job.

I don’t know what the solution to what seems an intractable problem for those interested in stability in their professional and personal lives, who want to live and work in wherever their own private Dubuque is. But I’m pretty sure that government tax breaks aren’t it.

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