Middle Class

I had an interesting conversation with my young friend S about the future of the middle class in the world. From his teenage American perspective, we focused on what was local to both of our experiences.  He argued that the risk of the death of the middle class is greatly exaggerated and cited examples of many young people who squarely belonged there because they were able to live the middle class life-style. 

My counter argument to that was when the gap between the very rich and the very poor is extremely large and the so called middle class is way closer to the very poor than to the very rich and you plot the median incomes on a graph, its easy to see a huge void in the middle. Also, living a certain life style does not equal being able to afford it naturally and easily. 

Everyone is clustered toward the bottom or the top just based on the scale. It is no longer possible to see the small variations between very poor, somewhat poor, somewhat middle class, solidly middle class and so fo…

Alignment in Values

Sometimes in life, the deepest friendships can be challenged by alignment in values. Do you believe in the the other's cause or mission and reciprocally do they in yours? Some of us pursue what we value or hold dear with more doggedness than the others; yet there is always a line in the sand that defines our un-breachable limit. In a friendship, it is possible to arrive at that line and wonder where to from here. You find that you do not share some very important values and even alignment to them is fractious. 
So you need to determine how best you support each other across the chasm that cannot be crossed. If just love, affection and care is enough to make up for what does not exist. You become aware of how different you are at a human level from this person you care about very deeply. I had this very experience recently and had to ask myself what defined the essence of us- the part where it is possible to love and care so easily or the one where we confront the other's line i…

Life and Fiction

This is straight out of Black Mirror - Uber uses ratings to deactivate drivers and now riders. There is fairness in that ofcourse. No reason only drivers should bear the brunt of poor ratings. You have to wonder if this works like a popularity contest and also if jerks can pay their pay to a better rating. 

I can see a scenario where at the end of the ride, driver and rider give each other ratings based on a tip amount. No tip equals nasty rating even if you are Mother Theresa. A jerk on the other hand can buy their way out of obnoxious behavior with a 30% tip on the ride. Everyone gets the ratings they need to stay in business and get on with their lives. 

Every time a customer declines to a pay a tip where tipping is an option, there is a chance the system rates them as undesirable in some way. The Chinese takeout, the Taco food-truck, the local Panera and so on. At an aggregate level a customer can be classified "Awful Tipper" which could translate into second and third tie…

Amateur Naturalist

I have been using the iNaturalist app iSeek in my own backyard and wherever I happen upon a plant or a tree I do not recognize. I have long waited for an app just like this and could not be happier. Thank you Nat Geo and California Academy of Sciences for giving the botany challenged but nature curious folk like myself, such a wonderful learning tool! 

The weeds in my yard each have a name now so they have gone from being pesky strangers to friends and acquaintances. There is profusion of lyreleaf sage these days for instance. A weed with pale blue flowers that turns out to be a very useful herb besides being pretty. Look forward to learning the gifts of nature in my yard and everywhere I go.

Social Cues

M was a former client from over ten years ago. Recently, I was at the company where she now works for a customer meeting that did not involve. I decided to stop by at her office to say hello and was very warmly received. She asked why I had not let her know sooner so we could have done lunch or dinner. It has been my experience unfortunately, a lot of times these statements are made without much sincerity - just as a social gesture, a filler of space in a short, impromptu conversation. And such thinking has led me to frequently treat them as such.

As a social experiment, I decided to inform M a few weeks prior to my next visit there. Almost predictably, she politely declined claiming a prior engagement that would preclude the possibility of dinner - maybe next time. Logically speaking, ofcourse I could let her know the next time too and see how that goes - and in my greener years I would take people at their word and do what's logical. 

As I grow older, my desire to try again dimini…

Breaking In

These lines from Alice Munro's Dear Life reminded me of a networking event I was at recently.

She watched for a conversational group that seemed to have a hole in it, where she might insert herself. She seemed to have found one when she heard the names of movies mentioned. European movies, such as were beginning to be shown in Vancouver at that time. She heard the name of one that she and Peter had gone to see. The Four Hundred Blows. “Oh, I saw that.” She said this loudly and enthusiastically, and they all looked at her and one, a spokesperson evidently, said, “Really?”

Unlike the character in this story Greta, I was not brave enough to forge ahead when I found such a "hole". Instead I tried to make eye contact with people who had not yet coalesced into a larger groups that functioned like a self-contained island. I had the distinct feeling that no one particularly loves networking or barging in where holes appear in groups. We do what we have to somewhat awkwardly and ov…

Everybody Lies

The name of the book drew me in and I made an effort to read Everybody Lies: Big Data, New Data, and What the Internet Can Tell Us About Who We Really Are, a book on the aforementioned topics presumably for the lay person. Sadly I lasted only until the middle of chapter one - I did not think I would learn very much from sticking with it to the end. 

The author, Seth Stephens-Davidowitz begins by stating that big data analysis of note is usually explainable to a reasonable person. I would totally agree with that when it is not, we are probably dealing with a peddler of snake-oil. He went to explain that grandma offering relationship advice is indeed big data. She has the most data points on the topic and has observed outcomes over the long years. Based on that she can see patterns and offer a recommendation for the person at hand. A very reasonable explanation of what data and analysis is all about.  

Somewhere in chapter one the author proceeds to make a liar out of grandma based on ana…