Mar. 26–27, 2009

Observations from the Emerging Technologies for the Enterprise conference in nearby Conshohocken, Pa.:

  1. I can’t recall attending a conference with a longer, clumsier name. Its abbreviation doesn’t work, either — ETE sounds like a medical condition.
  2. The complimentary, dark-green T-shirts were even worse — they actually read, “ETE at Joe’s.” (Wow. That won the slogan contest?)
  3. In the hotel parking garage, I noticed a handful of SUVs parked in cramped spaces clearly marked COMPACT. The irony is making my head hurt.
  4. Both keynote speakers were very good, but neither one could resist pandering to the techie crowd with some obligatory Microsoft-bashing. C’mon, guys, we came here to learn, not listen to sales pitches or open-source sermons.
  5. In one session, the speaker was a dead ringer for the Simpsons character Comic Book Guy, right down to the receding hairline, ponytail, and goatee.
  6. Another presenter mentioned “scrum master” (a role in agile development) as one of his credentials. To be honest, I had only heard the term recently, and I had thought we couldn’t do any worse than the arrogant title “Webmaster.”
  7. The refreshments had a genuine Philly flair — the mini-cheesesteaks for lunch were only surpassed by the wide assortment of Tastykakes during the mid-afternoon breaks. I approve!
  8. At such a male-dominated conference, it wasn’t terribly surprising to see the tables turned — after each session, the lines for the men’s room were noticeably long, for once.

[ No. 512 ]

Mar. 24, 2009

Look, I know everyone makes mistakes, especially when it comes to e-mail. Most of us have to write so many messages each day that an occasional misspelling or grammatical error is practically inevitable.

But when you contact hundreds of people on behalf of a vice president with a meeting invitation that contains a subject line that reads YOUR INVITED, you should be ashamed of yourself.

[ No. 511 ]

Mar. 19, 2009

After last year’s sudden, sharp spike in gas prices, did you think a company could ever become the target of more hatred than ExxonMobil?

That story is so 2008. AIG, a self-described “world leader in insurance and financial services” that’s been bailed out by the U.S. government on four occasions in the last six months to the tune of $173 billion, can now claim the dubious title of Corporate Public Enemy No. 1. And assuming you’ve watched any news coverage over the last week, you already know that the mere mention of AIG inspires one specific reaction: outrage.

Sure, AIG has received a heap of financial assistance, but the government has come to the rescue of several other ailing corporations without much kerfuffle. But taxpayers and lawmakers alike are seething over AIG’s plans to honor pre-bailout contracts that would pay $165 million in bonuses to the very executives whose foolish, risky decisions led to the bailouts in the first place.

During a House Financial Services subcommittee hearing yesterday, AIG’s government-appointed CEO Edward Liddy admitted that the bonuses are “distasteful” and mentioned that he’d asked his employees to voluntarily return the majority of their “retention payments” (nice euphemism). Unimpressed, the House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a bill earlier today that’s designed to impose a 90% tax (!) on any AIG bonus recipient with an annual income over $250,000.

Time will tell where AIG goes from here, and whether a huge, after-the-fact tax could survive a constitutional challenge. But for now, I’m happy to see our government take a stand and show some backbone for once.

[ No. 510 ]

Mar. 14, 2009

Having hosted St. Patrick’s Day parties in 2007 and 2008, I continued the tradition with a third annual party for my friends and family.

St. Patrick's Day party / 3.14.09

The attendance of 36 was roughly on par with last year’s crowd, and fortunately, everything came together quite well once again. Thanks to my admittedly obsessive note-taking, I was able to replicate many of the successes from 2008, especially in terms of the food and beverages. The pigs-in-blankets and Guinness were still a huge hit, and my decision to try out a Costco batch of scallops wrapped in bacon was equally well-received (and quickly eaten).

Last year, I installed two green light bulbs in the fixture above my front balcony, mostly for decoration. But after several guests mentioned that the colored lights actually doubled as a helpful beacon to locate my place, I decided to reprise the emerald-tinted illumination out front.

Mark your calendars for March 2010 — my fourth St. Patrick’s Day bash will be here before you know it.

[ No. 509 ]