THE BRYCE IS RIGHT!

Software for the finest computer – the Mind

  • Tim’s YouTube Channel

  • Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    Join 2,086 other followers


  • "BRYCE's UNCOMMON SENSE SERIES"
    4 New Printed Books & eBooks from Tim on:
    Change/Technology, Management, Politics, and the American Scene
    Click HERE.

  • Categories

  • Fan Page

  • Since 1971:
    "Software for the finest computer - The Mind"

    Follow me on Twitter: @timbryce

    hit counter

     

  • Subscribe

Archive for September, 2009

THE HEALTH CARE BILL – HOW I WOULD HAVE DONE IT

Posted by Tim Bryce on September 30, 2009

Like most Americans, I have been watching the wrangling over the Health Care bill carefully. Something that has bothered me from the beginning is how it was developed which, frankly, sounded like it was cooked up in some back room in typical lawyer fashion. I may not have the answer for solving the problem, but I most certainly would have gone about addressing it differently than the politicians did. Here’s what I would have done:

1. Develop a Project Scope – I would have carefully specified the problem to be addressed and identified all of the parties involved. including what parts of the government are affected as well as the populace. In other words, who is directly involved, indirectly involved, and not involved at all. I would also clearly identify the existing system(s) to either be modified or replaced.

2. Study the current system(s) – this would involve interviewing a wide spectrum of people involved with the existing health care systems, such as insurance carriers, hospitals and clinics, physicians and health care workers, malpractice attorneys, etc. Basically, anyone associated with the Project Scope. From this, a “Current Systems Analysis” is produced specifying the strengths and weaknesses of the current mode of operation. This includes what works well, what is deficient, and what is truly broken. Also, consideration would be given to cheating and abuses of the system, not just that it occurs, but why it occurs.

3. Specify Requirements – detailing what is needed from a mandatory, strategic, and tactical perspective. This would include the requirements of the American public, the government, health care providers, etc.

4. Review – “The problem well stated is half-solved.” Before we try to solve the problem, let’s make sure we have the Project Scope, Current Systems Analysis, and Requirements properly and carefully defined. If this is wrong, any solution devised to satisfy it will be wrong.

5. Develop System Approach – to satisfy the requirements, consideration is given to proposed alternatives, including modifying and/or correcting deficiencies in existing systems, devising whole new systems, or both. This would include the sub-systems and infrastructure needed to support them. Because of the enormity and complexity of Health Care, it would be wise to develop multiple solutions in order to propose alternatives with a recommended solution suggested.

6. Prepare System Evaluation – for each approach offered, a cost estimate is prepared (not just development costs, but implementation and on-going support costs as well), along with how it is to be financed, including a cost/benefit analysis (consisting of such things as break even points and return on investment). From this, we can put a price tag on each proposed solution and consider which one we can afford.

7. Review – all of the material thus far is assembled into an organized report with an executive summary highlighting the major points. This would then be presented to lawmakers in Congress for their review and deliberations. The outcome from this would be to accept it as is, ask that it be revised, or discontinued completely.

What I’ve just described is called a “Feasibility Study” as used in corporate America on a daily basis. No, it’s not cheap and can take some time to produce, but business people long ago accepted the fact that you must “look before you leap” into a major project. Yes, it would be tough to prepare, but I know nothing of substance that has ever been done without some sound research and planning, but as far as I can see, this has not been done by anyone, least of all Congress or the President.

Some politicians would argue that we don’t have time for a proper Feasibility Study. Interestingly, I hear this same argument from programmers in the Information Systems world who also don’t believe in the necessity of upfront planning and prefer hacking away at program code instead, leaving an ugly disjointed mess that never gets finished. The fact remains though, no amount of elegant programming or technology will solve a problem if it is improperly specified or understood to begin with. I contend we haven’t got time NOT to do this vital upfront work.

If our Congress went through the motions of building a true Feasibility Study, it would promote cooperation through effective communications, thereby eliminating partisan sniping; it would produce a proper solution for the right set of problems, and; it would go a long way to improving the trust in the government by the American people, simply by assuring them that the “T’s” were crossed and the “I’s” were dotted (that it has been thoroughly thought through).

I guess what concerns me, as well as a lot of Americans, is not so much what is being presented to us as much as the process by which it was developed which, to my way of thinking, was in a vacuum. If Americans don’t trust it, they will not embrace it and may even revolt against it.

Remember, it’s Ready, Aim, Fire; any other sequence is counterproductive. Then again, our attorney/politicians don’t know anything about management.

Keep the faith!

Tim Bryce is the Managing Director of M. Bryce & Associates (MBA) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For Tim’s columns, see:
http://www.phmainstreet.com/timbryce.htm

Tune into Tim’s new podcast, “The Voice of Palm Harbor,” at:http://www.phmainstreet.com/voiceph.htm

Copyright © 2009 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

Posted in Healthcare, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

OUR CHANGING TASTES

Posted by Tim Bryce on September 29, 2009

I’ve got a friend who owns a family style restaurant offering basic comfort food. It’s not cheap, nor is it expensive either; just a family-run restaurant that offers basic home cooking. I’m sure you know such a restaurant in your neighborhood.

Periodically, I help my friend update his menu. In the course of doing this I’ve asked him why he no longer offers certain items on his menu; things like lamb shanks, beef stroganoff, beef tips on noodles, Chicken a la King, Salisbury Steak, stuffed peppers, Sausage and peppers, pot roast, casseroles and the like. These were items I remember well from my youth but are disappearing from menus across the country. The only rationale my friend could offer was that people’s tastes were changing, and such items were more identified with the older generation than the new. The younger people seem to relate more to burgers, chicken and pizza; items that are more associated with fast food franchises as opposed to anything else. Consequently, the idea of a home cooked meal is becoming more of a nebulous concept to them.

Bread is another commodity that has been changing as well. Instead of white, rye, and whole wheat, people now want shibata, muffala, and panini. I remember a time when sourdough was considered the epitome of exotic bread, now it is generally regarded as nothing special. The new breads are nice, but somehow the idea of a PB&J on panini doesn’t sound right.

Our cuts of beef and chicken haven’t really changed, but fish has. At one time, your only choices were cod, haddock, swordfish, flounder, and maybe some tuna (in a can). Now we ask for tilapia, grouper, mahi-mahi, ahi tuna, and orange roughy. As an aside, years ago grouper was considered a “garbage fish” that fisherman routinely discarded, but somehow we developed a taste for it.

Soft drinks have also changed as well. Whereas we used to live on colas, lemon/lime drinks, root beer, ginger ale, ice tea, fruit juices, and Kool-Aid, now we have power/sports drinks in a variety of colors and tastes to hydrate us, and others loaded with caffeine and sugar to shock our system. Orange juice was orange juice. Period. Now we have varieties with pulp, without pulp, with added vitamins, lower acid, and of course the blends with other fruit juices. Ice tea is no different; now we have a wide variety of flavors to suit different tastes. Coffee has also changed in this regards, instead of a basic black cup of coffee in the morning, we now have all kinds of ingredients to make it look like a hot fudge sundae or some other dessert.

Speaking of desserts, cakes and pies are still around, but are a little harder to find. Then of course there are items like tapioca pudding, rice pudding, and other flavored puddings, most of which the kids turn their noses up over. Ice cream is still a favorite, but we’ve come a long way since basic vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry. The competition in the ice cream world is fierce and consequently many new varieties have been introduced with strange names (and higher prices). I have to admit though, I am a sucker for Graeter’s Black Raspberry Chip or their Pumpkin Pie which comes out around October.

For breakfast there was oatmeal, farina, Maypo, Cream of Weat, Malt-O-Meal, Pancakes, Waffles, and, of course, bacon and eggs. These have all been replaced by such things as Pop Tarts, Granola Bars, breakfast drinks, and other instant snacks. Heck, basic cereals are even struggling as people are rushing out the door in the morning.

I’m not suggesting our tastes are any better or worse today than yesteryear; I’m just noting the change. However, I wonder how much of this push to multiple varieties and instant meals is a result of our changing tastes as opposed to creating a higher profit margin for the vendors; I suspect the latter. More than anything, I believe our tastes change because of vendor competition and the need to make a buck. No matter how you slice it though, there is nothing better than “mom’s home cooking.” The only problem though is that a lot of people today think baking and cooking are two towns in China.

Such is my Pet Peeve of the Week.

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is the Managing Director of M. Bryce & Associates (MBA) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For Tim’s columns, see:
http://www.phmainstreet.com/timbryce.htm

Tune into Tim’s new podcast, “The Voice of Palm Harbor,” at:http://www.phmainstreet.com/voiceph.htm

Copyright © 2009 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

Posted in Food, Life | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

WAS THE ECONOMIC PANIC MANUFACTURED?

Posted by Tim Bryce on September 25, 2009

Here’s one for the conspiracists out there; please pause from your studies of UFO’s, Big Foot, the Loch Ness monster, Elvis, the JFK assassination and the Illuminati for a moment. I think we’ve got something MORE interesting for you, namely the cause of the current recession. I won’t deny it doesn’t exist, but some things just don’t add up for me; for example:

  • National credit scores are not as bad as we think. If so many people have defaulted on loans, you would think our credit score would be much lower than it is. It isn’t. As a matter of fact, the United States has a solid “B” rating.
  • All things considered, the stock market seems pretty resilient and is bouncing back faster than expected.
  • Inflation has been arrested and we are now experiencing deflation for the first time in several years, thereby lowering prices.
  • Worker productivity has soared this year and is now the highest in six years.
Originally, this recession was touted as the worst since the Great Depression of the 1930’s (which lasted four to ten years depending on who you talk to). Economists though are telling us we are now emerging from the recession in the fourth quarter, which means it lasted less than two years, which makes me wonder if it was more of a “correction” than a “recession.”

Admittedly, unemployment has risen, the real estate market is still recovering slowly, and we have infused cash into struggling companies, but my question is primarily concerned with HOW this recession was started. I’m sure the real estate bubble and risky loans helped trigger the recession, but I suspect it was blown out of proportion for political purposes. The fact that it occurred during a presidential election year is too much of a coincidence for me.

A recession during an election year is not without precedence. For example, let’s not forget the 1992 recession which cost George H.W. Bush his second term as president. Keep in mind, his popularity during the first Iraqi war was very high, but in spite of his success, simple economics did him in. Unfortunately, Americans seem to have a short memory in this regards.

Let’s assume for a moment that I am correct, that the recession was manufactured to appear bigger than it actually was; what does it mean? If I was forced out of a job or saw my company disintegrate in front of my eyes, I would be vexed. Or if it forced me to lose my house, retirement portfolio, to declare bankruptcy, or if it ultimately caused the death of a loved one, I would be more than just a little upset, I would be mad as hell. It is one thing to panic due to natural events, quite another to induce a stampede for personal gain. If this is true, you have to wonder who is calling the shots. If it turned out to be a group of politicians, the media, or both, I think they should be apprehended and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law or beyond, such as a good horsewhipping. Think about it, such a vicious plot would make Bernie Madoff’s shenanigans seem like child’s play.

So, come on all you conspiracists out there, let’s get with the program. We have a hot topic right here in front of us. Wouldn’t it be interesting if we could really catch someone with their hands in the cookie jar? It would be fun, but not without risk, as such power would inevitably be greater than anything we’ve seen before.

Such is my Pet Peeve of the Week.

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is the Managing Director of M. Bryce & Associates (MBA) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For Tim’s columns, see:
http://www.phmainstreet.com/timbryce.htm

Tune into Tim’s new podcast, “The Voice of Palm Harbor,” at:http://www.phmainstreet.com/voiceph.htm

Copyright © 2009 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

Posted in Politics, Society | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

EASTER ISLAND STATUES

Posted by Tim Bryce on September 22, 2009

“If the mind really is the finest computer, then there are a lot of people out there who need to be rebooted.” – Bryce’s Law



Have you ever gone into a fast food franchise and felt you were being processed essentially no different than their product? I think we all have, and frankly I don’t like it. Let me give you a couple of examples.

First, I had a friend who recently visited a Taco Bell and placed an order that came to $3.17. He then paid the cashier with a $5 bill, but for some reason the cash register wasn’t working properly and couldn’t tell the cashier what the change was which, according to my scientific calculation, is a whopping $1.83. My friend waited patiently for his change, but noticed a strange blank look coming over the cashier’s face, kind of like the gaze of an Easter Island statue. After waiting a sufficient amount of time, he snapped the cashier out of her trance by simply asking, “Can I have my change?”

The clerk responded, “Ah, ah….,” as she looked like a deer caught in the headlights on an oncoming automobile. The food order itself was efficiently processed, bagged, and presented to my friend, but he grew impatient for his change. He insisted, “Miss, can I please have my change?” Her look now turned to fright as the machine steadfastly refused to tell her the correct amount.

“Look, it’s really quite simple,” my friend said, “You owe me $1.83.”

“Are you sure?” she responded.

This probably upset my friend more than anything. Instead of performing simple math, she was as locked up as her computerized register was, and the line of customers grew and grew behind my friend.

The next incident involved a recent visit I had to a KFC in Georgia. It had been several years since I had visited the home of the Colonel, and it will probably be several more years before I return again. Probably the biggest thing that commands the consumer’s attention in the store is the impressively large menu board, with dozens of food combinations displayed on it. As for me, I just wanted six chicken wings, but couldn’t seem to find it in the menu maze. The only thing that came close to matching what I wanted was something called “Hot Wings.” Thinking this was it, I ordered it from the cashier who then dutifully asked me what kind I wanted.

Innocently, I said, “original recipe,” thinking back to a time when there was only two types of KFC chicken, original recipe and extra crispy.

“No sir, what kind do you want?”

Unbeknownst to me, and not marked as such on the menu maze, there were three types of coating you get, probably some sort of honey glaze or different levels of heat, none of which I wanted.

I then said to the cashier, “No, I just want six original recipe chicken wings and that’s all.” Sounds simple, right? This caused the clerk to turn into another Easter Island statue as she was dumbfounded how to answer me. If it wasn’t on the menu maze or her cash register I guess you were SOL. The impasse was finally broken by the manager who said it would take too long to cook the wings and cost more than the regular “Hot Wings” which she recommended I purchase instead. Realizing a line of impatient customers was building behind me, I just threw up my hands and said, “Thank you, you’ve been a great audience,” and I exited stage left.

I learned quite a few things from all of this. First, you can, in fact, program people as easily as you can any machine. Simply create a dependency on technology and tightly control the parameters by which it works. In most cases, the human being will trust the machine’s judgment over their own. Second, deviation from the system is simply unacceptable. You can either take it or leave it, but you dare not ask to have it your way.

More than anything though, I learned that I won’t be returning to these franchises any time soon. Call me old fashioned if you want, but any time you put the machine ahead of the human being, I think you’ve got a problem.

Such is my Pet Peeve of the Week.

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is the Managing Director of M. Bryce & Associates (MBA) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For Tim’s columns, see:
http://www.phmainstreet.com/timbryce.htm

Tune into Tim’s new podcast, “The Voice of Palm Harbor,” at:
http://www.phmainstreet.com/voiceph.htm

Copyright © 2009 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

Posted in Life, Society | Leave a Comment »

THE ALPINE INN

Posted by Tim Bryce on September 18, 2009

The Alpine Inn is a nice little bed and breakfast nestled in the mountains of North Carolina. It is located in Little Switzerland, a little hamlet about 90 miles east of Asheville, and a stone’s throw from Mt. Mitchell, the highest peak in the eastern part of North America. The scenery of the Blue Ridge mountains is simply spectacular, particularly from the back porch of the Alpine Inn. In addition to the scenery, the area is great for hiking, has some fine golf courses, excellent trout fishing, hunting, and is renown for gem mining.

I visited the Inn recently in order to get in some fly-fishing. It is run by a couple I know, Susan & Ron Lough, who took it over about four years ago and have been steadily improving it. As I said, the Inn is small and unassuming and is easily dwarfed by any of the hotel chains. The premise behind the Inn is simple, it offers nothing; nothing but a clean and comfortable room, peace and quiet, clean air, and a magnificent view of the Blue Ridge Mountains. For someone from the hustle and bustle of city life, it is a welcome change of pace. No, it’s not Mayberry, but you’re starting to get the idea.

I call the road to the Alpine Inn “Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride,” as it winds around the mountain. There’s no need for police to run their radar guns here as the road twists and turns in such a way as to naturally prevent speeding. Think of it is as San Francisco’s famed Lombard Street, except on steroids. The idea is to start to slow down and enjoy the scenery.

Having visited the area before, I relished the quiet serenity the Inn has to offer, but I’m afraid not everyone would agree with me. On this last trip, I observed a family who had stopped for the evening at the Inn. They had two teenagers who were not initially impressed by the Inn and complained the rooms lacked air conditioning, television and phones. First, being tucked away in the mountains, the rooms are naturally cool even on the warmest summer day. Second, the scenery is such that it makes everything on television pale by comparison. And Third, cell phone reception in the mountains is just fine thank you. The teens were stressing out from technology withdrawal for quite some time, but eventually calmed down after their parents pulled out a board game which the family played outside on a picnic table. Actually, it seemed like they were having a great time after they acclimated to their new environment.

If you are looking for all of the creature comforts familiar to you in the hotel chains, the Alpine Inn is probably not the place for you. However, if you want a quiet and cozy getaway, a place where you can decompress from the rat race, the Alpine Inn is worth checking out. Then again, maybe we need more places that offer “nothing.”

Such is my Pet Peeve of the Week.

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is the Managing Director of M. Bryce & Associates (MBA) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

Tune into Tim’s new podcast, “The Voice of Palm Harbor,” at:

http://www.phmainstreet.com/voiceph.htm

Copyright © 2009 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

Posted in Travel | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

HOW MUCH DO WE TRUST GOVERNMENT?

Posted by Tim Bryce on September 15, 2009

I recently developed a poll in Facebook whereby I was curious how Americans generally felt about their government officials, specifically how much they trusted them. To this end, the question was simply:

“For U.S. citizens only. In terms of your government officials (including Federal, State, and Local), how much do you TRUST your government?”

66 people participated in the poll, not exactly a landslide in terms of people, but still a respectable number. Here are the results:

0 – TOTAL TRUST – government officials have my best interests in mind. Keep everyone in office.

9% (6) – SOMEWHAT TRUST – I tend to believe in my government officials and I will support those I think are doing a good job.

12% (8) – AVERAGE – I am ambivalent. I can go either way depending on circumstances.

52% (34) – SOMEWHAT DISTRUST – I am suspicious of my government and I am inclined to vote out of office those I think are incompetent.

27% (18) – TOTAL DISTRUST – Government officials do not have my best interests in mind, I will vote out all incumbents in the next election.

I guess the results of the poll were to be expected. Even if more people participated in it, I believe the percentages would still be about the same. People today simply do not trust politicians. If we are so dissatisfied though, why do we reelect the same people over and over again? It seems we tolerate their behavior regardless of what they do. It’s kind of like thanking someone for mugging us, but with a little more finesse.

I sense a backlash is in the offing though as people become more aware of our growing economic problems, not just the meltdown of 2008, but our growing debt that looks more insurmountable with each passing day. In a way, it reminds me of the 1978 taxpayer revolt in California where the people finally got fed up with escalating property taxes and implemented the legendary “Proposition 13” to limit it (anyone remember Howard Jarvis?). This revolt helped propel Ronald Reagan into the limelight and launch his conservative movement.

From the discontent I am hearing today, I believe a similar groundswell is in the offing, and it will be so large, it will register shock waves on the Richter scale. In the next election, do not be surprised if you see a record number of incumbent officials voted out of office, not just at the federal level, but state and municipal as well.

I remember a time when we openly trusted our government officials, but I think the 1960’s changed all of that. When the stock market was clicking along on an upswing and we balanced the federal government’s budget, it seemed we were more inclined to overlook the indiscretions of our officials. Today though, as the economy stagnates, it is difficult to be trusting of any government official. I’m just thankful that I am not a politician as I believe people today will be giving a lot of them their walking papers in the next election.

Such is my Pet Peeve of the Week.

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is the Managing Director of M. Bryce & Associates (MBA) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For a listing of Tim’s Pet Peeves, click HERE.

Tune into Tim’s new podcast, “The Voice of Palm Harbor,” at:

http://www.phmainstreet.com/voiceph.htm

Copyright © 2009 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

Posted in Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

HUMOR IN THE WORK PLACE

Posted by Tim Bryce on September 11, 2009

I have been a fan of NBC’s popular sitcom “The Office” for quite some time. More than anything, the secret to the show’s success is its ability to develop a humorous parody of true life office situations, such as boring meetings, an irrational boss, office politics, competition, even romance. One of the areas the writers work on is humor in the work place. Two situations in particular come to mind: Michael Scott’s (the boss) inane ability to tell jokes to his staff, which nobody appreciates, and Jim Halpert’s barrage of practical jokes on his nemesis at work, Dwight Schrute (moving Dwight’s desk into the men’s room was my personal favorite).

In Scott’s case, as manager he simply wants to lighten things up in the workplace. Although he genuinely believes he is being witty, he is oblivious to the fact his delivery is not only bad, but his comments are embarrassingly crude and politically incorrect. Although he has the best intentions, his staff is simply shocked by what comes out of his mouth. In other words, instead of easing the tensions in the office, he compounds it.

In Halpert’s case, there is considerable tension between Schrute and himself, but because of Dwight’s offbeat persona, he makes an easy target for Jim who gets satisfaction watching his foil react to his pranks. This greatly relieves the stress of work, at least for Jim and Pam. However, Jim can become distraught if his practical jokes backfire.

The lesson from both scenarios is there is a fine line between adding levity to the workplace and making matters worse.

There is a trend in management today to promote humor in the workplace in the hopes it will relieve the tedium of work. Although this sounds all well and good, there are also pitfalls. First, not everyone shares the same sense of humor. What one person considers funny may be considered obnoxious or distasteful to another. Second, it is very easy to go over the line and tell a politically incorrect joke, thereby paving the way for a reprimand or, even worse, a lawsuit to be filed against the person, the company, or both.

Sarcasm is perhaps the most common form of humor found in the workplace, but this can get old quickly if done excessively and perceived in a negative context. Imitations of people can be comical, but it also reveals your true feelings about someone, plus, if your target finds out about it, you might earn their wrath or turn a friend into an enemy. To me, imitations of people in the office are the first hint that someone has their foot on a banana peel.

Practical jokes are still around, but not to the degree as exemplified in “The Office.” The biggest danger here is if the joke is manifested in front of a prospective or existing customer, thereby affecting business. Company newbies, particularly recent college graduates, beware: be wary of sophomoric hijinks in the workplace. Humor in the office is vastly different than what you experienced in college.

Is there room for humor in the workplace anymore? Yes, the prime intent is to relieve stress, engage the brain, and reinvigorate your coworkers. You should be cognizant though of the fine line between silliness and getting in the way of accomplishing productive work. Like any comedian, you should know your audience and tailor your humor accordingly. No, we no longer live in an era where crude jokes can be openly told in the workplace. We must be careful not to offend, but aside from this, there is nothing wrong with a little levity to liven things up.

And for God’s sake, don’t try some of Jim’s practical jokes at work.

Such is my Pet Peeve of the Week.

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is the Managing Director of M. Bryce & Associates (MBA) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For a listing of Tim’s Pet Peeves, click HERE.

Download Tim’s new eBook (PDF), “Bryce’s Pet Peeve Anthology – Volume I” (free) DOWNLOAD).

Copyright © 2009 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

Posted in Business, Life, Management | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

SOFTWARE VERSIONS AND RELEASES

Posted by Tim Bryce on September 8, 2009

One of the little quirks in the computer software field that bothers me is when people start talking about “versions” and “releases” as if they were interchangeable. They’re not, and it just rubs me the wrong way. They most definitely are not synonymous.

When it comes to software, a “version” refers to an adaptation to suit a particular computer environment, for example; a single program that works on MS Windows and another version that works on Linux, another on the MAC OS, etc. (distinctly separate operating systems). Each operating system has its own unique nuances that prohibits a program written for one operating system from operating on another. Perhaps the best way to think of this is from the old videotape wars, whereby a movie was distributed in “VHS” or “Beta,” one did not work in place of the other.

“Versions” have always been a headache for software vendors. Inevitably, when a program is first written it is done so for a specific platform, normally one that dominates the industry. It is then converted to other platforms and incorporates their peculiarities. This of course means there will always be one version released ahead of another. To get an idea of how pervasive this problem is, see the Adobe Reader download web page.

“Versions” would be an obsolete concept had everyone adopted the Java programming language years ago whereby a single program could be executed on any operating platform, but this never happened as the software industry tends to buck any attempt of standardization. Plus it would make the operating system a triviality, something the people in Redmond simply wouldn’t sit still for. Oh well.

In contrast, a “release” is just that; an issuance of software to their customers. Although, it could be numbered sequentially as 1, 2, 3, etc., most software vendors long ago adopted a three positioned numbering convention, such as “9.02.05”. Under this scenario, the first position refers to a major release of the software, usually with some significant changes to the file layouts; the second position represents modifications/improvements added to the major release, and; the third position represents corrections to defects. This numbering convention served the computer field well for a number of years until, unfortunately, it was bastardized by vendors who would increment the initial number as a marketing ploy to indicate they were ahead of their competitors thereby making it meaningless. Believe me, comparing the numbering conventions of different vendors is like mixing apples with oranges. It is simply nonsense.

Then along comes our old friend Bill Gates who decides to break with tradition and release his company’s products based on a given year; e.g., Windows 95, 98, 2000, 2003, 2007. MS Office followed suit, as did many other vendors hanging on Microsoft’s coattails. The only problem with associating a year with software is it has a tendency to put pressure on vendors to produce a new major release every year, as in the automotive industry. Unlike the automotive manufacturers though, software vendors tend to miss delivery dates and, as such, it is not realistic to expect a major new release every year. Bottom-line, the whole concept of naming releases after specific years is retarded and should be dropped. Interestingly, it appears Microsoft has done just that as it prepares to release the next generation of their operating system, “Windows 7.”

A software release should denote nothing more than a distinctly separate issuance of a product, nothing more, nothing less. It should definitely not be labeled for marketing or competitive purposes. More importantly, stop using the words “version” and “release” interchangeably. It simply doesn’t make sense. Then again, common sense is not very common when it comes to computing.

One last note, do yourself a favor and never experiment with “beta” release software (experimental). You can get burned and it is simply not worth it.

Such is my Pet Peeve of the Week.

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is the Managing Director of M. Bryce & Associates (MBA) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For a listing of Tim’s Pet Peeves, click HERE.

Download Tim’s new eBook (PDF), “Bryce’s Pet Peeve Anthology – Volume I” (free) DOWNLOAD).

Copyright © 2009 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

Posted in Computers, Software | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

RAISING HELL

Posted by Tim Bryce on September 4, 2009

“So, I want you to get up now; I want all of you to get up out of your chairs; I want you to get up right now and go to the window, open it, and stick your head out, and yell, “I’m as mad as Hell and I’m not going to take this anymore.”

– Newscaster Howard Beale (Peter Finch), “Network” (1976)

The purpose of my pet peeves is to allow me to vent my frustrations with some of the oddities of life we all experience which I personally find to be rather therapeutic. I see no sense in bottling up life’s disappointments, but rather to develop a dialog and hopefully find some alternatives. I recognize that not everyone wants to put pen to paper to voice their displeasure, but I think we are doing a disservice by acting like sheep and accepting the status quo at face value.

We now live in an age of pitiful customer service whereby companies have devised bureaucrat schemes to frustrate consumers from returning merchandise. Government is just as bad as officials really do not want to hear from their constituents thereby allowing them to do as they please. This results in an apathetic general public which allows others to walk all over them. If you want to do nothing and accept the status quo, then you better learn how to say “baa,” or you can become more proactive. Surprisingly, it’s not as difficult as you might think. Here are some ideas:

Not happy with a product you’ve purchased? Take it back! Remember, companies are counting on you not to return something as it cuts their expenses down. If you are not happy with their return policy (or the clerk processing your request), ask to speak with a manager. Still not happy? If the company is big enough, ask to see an H.R. representative to complain how you were treated. (Just asking for the H.R. rep usually does the trick though).

If you can’t find what you want or are not happy with something, write to the company. Just about every company has a web page today; go to their “contact” section and register a bitch, not just once, but as many times as is necessary until you get a satisfactory answer. E-mail is a lot simpler than snail mail. Depending on the severity of the problem though, a well prepared letter works wonders. Depending on the severity of the problem, mentioning you are “seeking legal counsel” usually gets their attention.

Write to newspapers about your gripe. Even in this age of the Internet, a well written “Letter to the Editor” can rally support for your cause. To locate a newspaper in your area, see:

World Newspaper locator (refdesk.com)

A lot of local television stations have a consumer problem-solver unit. Call and explain your problem to them. It’s worth a shot.

If you have a problem with a particular service person, notify their superior. It might not result in anything, but it will be recorded by the superior as a mark against the employee. Actually, you would be doing the manager a favor. If enough people complain, he or she will get the message and do something about it.

Don’t be too fast in discarding a customer satisfaction form. Fill it out and send it in. Again, if enough people point out a problem, something will eventually be done about it.

“Birds of a feather” – Network with other people of similar interests. We all know there is strength in numbers and the Internet offers a multitude of discussion groups to discuss problems and devise strategies for addressing them.

The Internet also has an abundant number of places to voice your concern or displeasure about something; for example:

Complaints.com – to post a consumer complaint

Consumer Affairs – for reporting automotive problems

Better Business Bureau – complaint form (useful for BBB related companies)

Government related sites for the consumer:

U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission

U.S. Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) Problems, Concerns and Complaints – for air transportation

U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Complaints (including junk faxes, identity theft, and bad programming)

U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Consumer Protection (including identity theft)

U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)

Note: Most, if not all, state governments also have consumer protection agencies you can check with as well.

In terms of expressing your voice to politicians, you can find the name and address of your representatives in the federal government at:

U.S. House of Representatives – to write your Congressman

U.S. Senate – to write your Senator

Office of the President of the United States

Rally Congress – create petitions for Congress

Check with state, county and municipal web pages for local leaders. You may also want to get involved with a Political Action Committee to network with people of similar interests. Nonetheless, one of the best things you can do to voice your displeasure is to simply VOTE.

One area that causes considerable frustration to the consumer is technology, particularly with computer hardware and software. Surprisingly, very few companies in the technology sector (if any), have an on-line complaint registration process. I find this rather ironic, but I guess they fear they would be overwhelmed if they did. For example, to register a complaint to Microsoft, you need to write a detailed letter and mail it to:

Microsoft Corporation
ATTN: Complaint Dept.
One Microsoft Way
Redmond, WA 98052-6399
USA

IDEA: In automobile traffic, I don’t think we use car horns enough to get people to pay attention behind the wheel. There are, of course, a couple of exceptions to this, such as New York and Miami who have raised the use of car horns to an art form. The horn is an effective way to get people off their cell phones. Three short beeps means, “Get off the cell phone and drive.” Try it. It works.

When registering a complaint, don’t just be a hothead (unless you cannot get the attention or action you want thereby justifying you to become one). Instead, try to be as articulate in your objection as possible. Understand this, when listening to customer complaints, customer service personnel play the role of “Doctor” with you, whereby they are trying to diagnose a symptom (as expressed by you). Your interpretation of a problem may be one thing, the true cause may be something entirely different. The more clearly you can define the problem as you see it, the better they can diagnose and solve it for you. Avoid the temptation to swear or berate the other person as this is generally frowned upon and your comments are discarded out of hand. However, if you cannot get satisfaction, a fiery tongue may be your only alternative. At least you’ll get the pleasure of calling someone an idiot (or worse).

When it comes to registering a complaint, your mantra should be “‘Tis better to give than to receive.” Unfortunately, we live in an age where if you don’t speak up, people will walk all over you. The key to success is to simply be persistent. If you’ve got a problem, doggedly follow it through as long as it takes, which might be quite awhile. Remember, “the squeaky wheel gets the oil.” This is why I have added, “Tim’s Complaint Box” in my main blog, to expedite finding the channels to register a complaint.

As Howard Beale in “Network” said, “…first you have got to get mad. You’ve got to say, I’m a human being, God damn it, my life has value.” If we could get enough people to stand up and yell, “I’m as mad as Hell and I’m not going to take this anymore,” maybe we would sleep better at night knowing our interests are being maintained, and I could finally discontinue my pet peeves. Until then, I’ll keep on truckin’.

One last note, if you’re willing to complain, also be willing to extend a compliment when you see something done properly.

Such is my Pet Peeve of the Week.

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is the Managing Director of M. Bryce & Associates (MBA) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For a listing of Tim’s Pet Peeves, click HERE.

Download Tim’s new eBook (PDF), “Bryce’s Pet Peeve Anthology – Volume I” (free) DOWNLOAD).

Copyright © 2009 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

Posted in Life | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

TALK SHOW FORMULA

Posted by Tim Bryce on September 1, 2009

I’ve been watching the late night talk shows for a number of years. I clearly remember Johnny Carson, Jack Parr, Joey Bishop, Dick Cavett, Merv Griffin, Arsenio Hall, Jay Leno, and a variety of substitutes, not to mention the current crop of hosts such as David Letterman, Conan O’Brien, Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel, et al. When I watch today’s shows though, I’ve come to the inescapable conclusion that they’re no longer funny, just boringly predictable as they all follow a formula. Let me illustrate:

1. Each show opens with a monologue of jokes pertaining to current events of the day and people in the news. There is the customary slam of political figures, both Democratic and Republican. The host then reviews who is on the show that evening.

2. Commercial break.

3. The host performs some sort of comic routine. For example, Leno had his “Headlines” and “Jaywalking” routines; Letterman had his “Stupid Pet Tricks”; and Carson had “Carnac” and “Stump the Band.” All of the hosts have some sort of gimmick they follow.

4. Commercial break.

5. Next, we have our first guest of the evening, usually a motion picture star hawking his or her latest film. This is interrupted by a commercial break, and finished afterwards.

6. Commercial break.

7. Following this, we have the next guest who is allowed nothing more than five minutes with the host.

8. Commercial break.

9. Finally, the show is concluded by either a musical group or rising comedian.

Applause, applause, and we’re out.

Day in, day out, the talk shows dare not deviate from the formula. So much so that you can’t even tell the difference between a rerun and a live show.

I guess what I’m driving at is they have all lost their spontaneity. We no longer have guests who just “drop by” such as a Bill Cosby, Charles Nelson Riley, Dick Shawn, George Goebel, Jonathan Winters, and Paul Lynde, who came on Carson’s show to liven things up, not to sell anything. Jack Parr was known to periodically change his format to possibly focus on one interview or to take his show on the road to such places as Berlin or Africa. In other words, one of the main reasons you watched the show is because you didn’t know what to expect, but you knew it would be interesting and entertaining.

This tells us either the entertainment field lacks creativity, or the American public is content with mediocrity, or both. Either way, I feel sorry for a young guy like Jimmy Fallon who will never be allowed to improvise and try something different, just follow formula.

Such is my Pet Peeve of the Week.

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is the Managing Director of M. Bryce & Associates (MBA) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For a listing of Tim’s Pet Peeves, click HERE.

Download Tim’s new eBook (PDF), “Bryce’s Pet Peeve Anthology – Volume I” (free) DOWNLOAD).

Copyright © 2009 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

Posted in Life, Media | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

 
%d bloggers like this: