Monthly Archives: May 2004

Corrections? I�d like to know

Corrections? I�d like to know who thought up that name. Arizona no more has a true Department of Corrections than it has a Department of Fairies. The current state of the Arizona prison system corrects nothing: in fact, it can be said to ensure that the offenders who pass through its doors will emerge uncorrected, unaided, unrehabilitated, and unemployable. I know I have only anecdotal evidence to back up this tirade, but after I lay it out, you tell me what YOU think.

It was a beautiful weekend for a drive up to Flagstaff, as Amanda and I loaded the dogs into her new car and took off. Less than three hours later, there we were: at the Cocononino County Detention Center.

Three guesses why. Yes, you already know. They have moved Little Jerry, my former foster kid and someone I still think of as my son, again. Last time we visited, only a month ago, he was in Globe. Before that, he was in Buckeye.

He has been in prison for trafficking in stolen goods (a non-violent crime in which he, a teen-age drug addict with bipolar disorder, tried to sell hot cars to an undercover policeman) for the past eighteen months. There�s no way to get him out in less than another eighteen months, because this was his third strike. The first two were warrants for minor items: a ticket he didn�t pay; a car he broke into to steal a tool kit. He�s not a criminal; he�s pathetic � a sick kid from a terrible home in which the father committed suicide and the mother became a crack whore.

During this time, his sister Amanda and I have laced the state trying to visit him, to give him hope for the future. I�ve been trying to make plans with him for a business, so he won�t feel unemployable. I�ve been sending him books about business plans and real estate, so he can stay connected with a world I know well. I want to try to prevent the recidivism that�s endemic to the system.

I�ve been to Marana, Alhambra, Buckeye, Globe, and now Coconino. Good thing I can afford gas and tires. At each prison, I �put money on his books.� That means I send about three hundred dollars so he can have a Walkman, an electric razor, a lamp, a pair of running shoes, and other overpriced items sold in the prison commissary. I also send books and a subscription to the Arizona Republic.

Each time he is moved, the things he has bought (with my money) are confiscated, and have to be re-purchased at the next �yard.� Except for the books. The books have to be shipped home, because a prisoner can�t have more than nine books in his possession. Are the guards afraid of death by literature? Suicide by crossword puzzle?

I have bought the same items over and over again. I have sent money for college classes, which take months to get into. Each time he starts one, they transfer him.
The progress he has made stays at the last prison. He has to re-enroll and start again.

What�s scary is that he is not angry at all this; he is resigned. He just says he�s �doing his time,� and �paying for his mistakes.� Every once in a while, when the guards treat him like a sub-human, he vents to us on the phone. But mostly he does his time patiently. I�d be furious by now, because the guards treat every prisoner alike � like an animal.

We surprised LJ this weekend, because his birthday is Monday. He will be 22. He�s 6�4� and a man, and when he went in he was still a kid. Amanda and I were planning to go in together singing happy birthday. But in this prison, only one visitor can go at a time, and there�s no contact � it�s all through a glass with a telephone. If you call, they tell you the visiting hours are from 8AM to 8 PM. But when we got there, the prisoners were at lunch, and we had to wait. Then they let everyone in one at a time, and it was almost �lockdown� (a time when they count all the prisoners and everyone has to be in his cell) by the time I got to see Jerry. In reality, there are about two hours in every day when prisoners can really receive visitors.

But just the look in Jerry�s eyes when I picked up the phone was enough. He was overjoyed that anyone cared enough to make the drive.

All right; I�m resourceful. I have time, energy, and money for gas. Suppose Amanda wasn�t living with me. Suppose I were someone who works in a Circle K for minimum wage and has four kids and no car. How do I see my loved one in a prison 150 miles away? How can you correct someone if there are no programs, no continuity, no training beyond the same sold substance abuse classes? You are not correcting them. You are wasting their time, my time, my money, and yours.

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You know me: I can’t wait

You know me: I can’t wait to try Google’s new Gmail. That’s partly because I can’t. I am so anxious that I even logged in to a site called and tried to swap something for a Google account, because these accounts are now only available to beta testers, and I am not one of them.

After blowing an hour trying to find a way to get one of these accounts, I finally stopped to ask myself why I care. The account is free; that�s good, but I have a free Yahoo acount and a free Hotmail account. It�s web-based, that nice, but I have that with Yahoo. And anyway, I�m not a real fan of web-based email, which I use on the road with mixed results (dialing in at an Internet caf� in Costa Rica and having to read 200 messages while waiting for the screen to change each time is not my idea of how to spend a vacation). YahooMail often drives me crazy when the servers are busy, the network is slow, or whatever else can happen to frustrate a user.

Like all free email services, Gmail will be supported by advertising. Google will scan each email message and, when it delivers the message, it will also deliver a relevant ad. This is very clever, especially since the ads are the same kind of unobtrusive text ads you see on the Google search site.

When the technology was first announced, privacy �experts� went bananas. They had visions of people in green eyeshades opening and reading everyone�s email, the way prison staff opens and reads every piece of mail sent to an inmate.

But that�s not how it works. No human beings will read your email. Messages will be read only by computers, and they will scan them for keywords that match up with advertisers. So the hullabaloo about privacy has died out, even before the actual product launch.

Google will also give its subscribers one Gigabye of storage, which is more than I get on Yahoo for upgrading to YahooMail Plus (although I have just read that Yahoo has jumped on the 1G bandwagon, and so has Lycos.)

Why do we need all that storage? Because Google hopes to replace our virus-ridden desktop email systems with its ad-based webmail. By making the storage almost boundless, and by making email searchable as well, Google thinks we�ll be won over by the convenience of its service.

Searchable email is, for a person like me who lives and dies by email, the holy grail. I do spend an inordinate amount of time searching through my junk mail for things that are deposited in there by my overactive spam program, and foraging through my deleted items for things I read five months ago that have suddenly become relevant. A while ago, I tried a product called Bloomba, which features searchable email. But Bloomba was so buggy that I couldn�t use it, even after I spent a couple of weeks trying to train it. (You had to train it to put things in the right folders and train it to recognize spam).

So I think the fact that Gmail is truly searchable (yes, Outlook has a search function, but you could grow old and die before it delivers what you were looking for) might be the killer app, rather than the storage space (although they really do go hand in hand, because you can�t search messages you have totally deleted).

Apparently, Gmail isn�t yet ready for prime time. A few of the reviewers I�ve read have commented that the ads they received were wildly inappropriate � window glass companies when the email is about Windows � but I bet none of the reviewers really found that a bug. More like an amusement. And today there was a confusing test or bug that gave everyone 1000G of storage for one brief moment in time.

But I�m sure Google will get all that straightened out in time for its IPO, because the release of Gmail is the best way I can think of to raise the price of the stock. I would try to ask them about their strategy, but I�m sure they won�t tell me. After all, they ARE in a quiet period. And Sergei Brin is not Mark Benioff.*

*An in joke for people who know that�s IPO was just postponed because the arrogant Mr. Benioff went blabbing to the New York Times during *his* company�s quiet period and, strangely, a member of the SEC read about it.


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In thirty years of living

In thirty years of living in a home, I have never seen my appliances. I’ve bought them, I’ve used them, I’ve even sworn at them when they didn’t work properly. But I have never been present to them. They were white, square, and plain, they were upright or canister, they were GE or Hoover. They were the cheapest ones I could buy; it’s kind of like spending a lot of money on underwear when you are not having an affair. However, the latest set of additiona to my household have revealed to me that appliances have finally entered the stage where they can interest me –indeed, the fascinate me, and make me spend money. I’ve given up cotton for leather and lace.. Why? Because appliances have entered the age of technology.

In 1996, when I was at Intel, we had a dream about the smart home — a home in which the refrigerator spoke to the PC, saying things like “We’re out of milk, let’s go online and order some.” Intel’s tag line at the time was “PC everywhere”, and its vision was of the home network that connected all the appliances. thought this was hilarious and that no one would ever care. Man, was I ever wrong.

I recently sold my high rise condominium in Esplanade Place, where everyone has multiple plasma screens and SubZero refrigerators, and housekeepers to use them, and rejoined the working class in a fifty year old fix-up. (The story of how my dogs got evicted from Esplanade Place after fighting every other animal in the building is for another time). The first thing I did was set up my wireless network. The second thing I did was buy a plasma screen for over my office desk. After that, I put my yard sprinklers on a digital timer ( the dashboard for it looks like my car’a).. And then I went to Home Depot to buy the next white cheap washer and dryer.

However, at the end of the aisle, waiting for me, was the magnificent Maytag Neptune, a futuristic looking set of machines twice as expensive as any others, in which the washer and dryer communicate with each other, and the washer doesn’t have anything in the middle that spins around. Instead, the washer is a big open space inside, with another digital dashboard. You can choose from a dozen choices of load, including bulky items. (The story about the time my washer in Esplanade Place overflowed because we put a comforter in it that got wound around the center post and the water ruined my maple hardwood floor is for another time.) Then you shut the top, the machine begins to hum, and your wash is done without all that shaked rattle and roll. While my old washer used to dance itself into the middle of the room during the spin cycle, this boy stays put. Because it doesn’t dance, it uses less soap, water, and electricity.

Somewhere in that almost inaudible hum is a communication between washer and dryer that helps the dryer know what’s coming to be dried, and that allows the dryer to set itself with just a bit of help from the operator. This assures that clothing will no longer be decapitated, wrinkled, shrunk, ripped, or lost in the dryer. These appliances are immune to pilot error; they are self-diagnosing and self-healing, or the closest things to it. I can almost imagiine the next generation, with is robotic arms handing the laundry from washer to dryer.

I have to admit I didn’t have the space to get the most awesome device: the laundry center, in which clothese simply hang or lay flat while they dry. But I am truly looking forward to my next fixer-upper, where I will plan for a laundry room into which this magnificent machine will fit.

I thought I was done. Tthen I called my daughter, who had just bought a Dyson vacuum cleaner; the first true advance in this particular technology in a hundred years. Of course I had to have one, although it cost $600, and my old vacuum, from Costco, was $60. Of course my old one didn’t pick up anything, but I had never notices. When the Dyson arrived and I opened the box, I actually ooh-ed and aaah-ed. It was gorgeous. It was spiritual. It was purple! (The Dyson Animal model, with the special attachment for pet hair is purple, while the run of the mill Dyson is only bright yellow).

Completely assembled, it’s bagless, with lots of attachments that fit in clever compartments on the upright. It even has a carpet cleaner. But the two greatest features are how it empties (the bottom drops out of the clear bagless part and the dirt goes right into the garbage without human intervention) and the way it sucks up dirt (it’s strong enough to eat the fringes off my Oriental rugs if I let it, and it takes up ALL the pet hair — even that which is left after the rugs have been “professionally” cleaned).

The Dyson, which is made in the UK, is such a tremendous success that my business partner wanted to borrow it. He brought it back in awe.

I know what you’re thinking: she should go back to writing about India or semiconductors or outsourcing. Well, she will. But now she’s going to look at refrigerators. No sense wasting that wireless network.

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Watch out. This is a

Watch out. This is a rant, and you probably will disagree with some of it even if you love me.

But I would like everyone to shut up about outsourcing. Your anger is not going to help; things aren�t going to change back. I know you went to DeVry and they told you there was a shortage of MCSEs. Or you went to the state university and they trained you to be a software engineer. And you earned six figures before you were thirty, but you�ve been laid off for two years and you have spent it all.

I don�t care what political candidates say or what policies we debate in Congress or even enact. Change is inherent in human life; we grow new hair and fingernails, we age, we have children. Flowers die. We become a 24/7 global economy.

As I work, I listen to CNN and CNBC and all the debates about the �jobless recovery.� But that message � about inevitable change � is rarely delivered.

I�m a lifelong liberal or libertarian (never mind � I can�t figure out what box I fall into) on most issues. I believe in gay marriage, woman�s right to choose, and almost every other form of freedom. So I also believe in the ability of companies to remain competitive by moving jobs to places where labor is less expensive.

What I don�t believe is that every American is entitled to a well-paying job. How did we get this idea? To me, it�s not very much different from expecting other entitlements, such as AFDC (Aid to Families with Dependent Children) or welfare. Why should someone whose skills are not current, someone who dropped out of high school or even someone who drank his/her way through some Ivy League college have the expectation that he�s got a ticket to ride? It�s like thinking �Leave it to Beaver� is about current families.

I think my programs in entrepeneurship through the Kauffman Foundation and my travels around the world have brought me to this position. The Kauffman Foundation programs are dedicated to teaching survival through entrepreneurship. Although the Foundation does hold Angel Summits and give internships to venture capitalists, much of its focus is on training youth and encouraging lifestyle businesses � the ones that you or I can start when we get laid off. Here I meet people ready to sacrifice their homes and families to a passion or an idea. Here I meet people who have run up their credit cards, taken temp jobs to survive, and endured real hardship for the privilege of creating YOUR JOB.

Nowhere that I have travelled do people have the privileges we do. Much of the world lives on $2.00 a day. We have Mexicans dying in the desert to seize the opportunity to mow my lawn, which the kid next door refuses to do. We have a shortage of nurses and of health care professionals in general. Local health care organizations are recruiting pharmacists and nurses from other countries to fill positions. We have a shortage of graduates in the sciences and we still have a shortage of engineers. We have the smallest cohort of 30-year-olds in a long time.

But we have a surplus of people who think they should have the same job no matter how many flowers die or babies are born. We have a surplus of people receiving mediocre educations that don�t have anything to do with the worlds they will inhabit. We have a surplus of professors at universities who want to teach the same stuff no matter what industry wants. And we have a surplus of professional, educated white people who have decided not to have children because it interferes with their freedom�which means that twenty-five years in the future we will again have a shortage of brilliant, well-educated kids who can keep us competitive.

Blame things on outsourcing. Go ahead. And then say you want better returns from the stock market at the same time, and a greater commitment to corporate ethics. How is any management team supposed to execute on these conflicting values? Let�s see: I�m the CEO and I can�t outsource to lower my costs, but I can�t do fancy bookkeeping, I can�t lay people off, and I can�t take money away from �shareholder value� for marketing, customer service, or training. Hmmm�we will probably see the return of the two-Martini lunch as CEOs grapple with these issues.

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