Hey, Boomer! Would you process my unemployment claim, please?

At first I thought the headline was a joke: Wanted urgently: People who know a half century-old computer language so states can process unemployment claims.

On top of ventilators, face masks and health care workers, you can now add COBOL programmers to the list of what several states urgently need as they battle the coronavirus pandemic.

In New Jersey, Gov. Phil Murphy has put out a call for volunteers who know how to code the decades-old computer programming language called COBOL because many of the state's systems still run on older mainframes.

My programming languages from back in the day inluded FORTRAN, PL/1, ALGOL, LISP, BASIC, and assembly language for Linc-8, PDP-12 (machine language for these two as well), and PDP-11. I didn't learn COBOL because that was considered a business language (COmmon Business-Oriented Language) and I worked on the scientific side of things. But it appears to have had remarkable staying power, and Porter knew it well. Not that I see him going to New Jersey anytime soon.

"The general population of COBOL programmers is generally much older than the average age of a coder... Many American universities have not taught COBOL in their computer science programs since the 1980s."

So, Boomers to the rescue. It pays to keep people with arcane knowledge around.

I predict that someday we will regret letting our amateur radio network fall apart.

Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, April 9, 2020 at 7:15 pm | Edit
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Ya'll know how much I dislike shopping. But I made a purchase the other day that was pure delight.

I bought a mouse.

Not the kind that Elbereth—our grandson's California king snake—would like to eat, but a replacement for my computer mouse. I'd been living for quite a while with its reluctance to register clicks properly, but then its scrolling started acting up. I even lived with that for a while—I'm always too ready to believe that the problem must somehow be my fault, or a temporary glitch, or anything else that lets me avoid having to shop for something new.

But when it started not scrolling at all, and replacing the battery didn't help, I reluctantly headed to the Best Buy website. And what to my wondering eyes should appear, among all the mouse choices, but the very same model mouse that was failing me, the one that I really like and had served me well for many, many years.

Thirty years ago that wouldn't have surprised me. Now, however, I find that when it's time to replace an item, it's no longer sold. Shoes, jeans, bras, mixers, computers, software.... You name it, most of the time I am not looking to replace my worn-out item with something "new and improved," but rather with the same thing that has served me well and requires no learning curve—but in working condition. And most of the time I fail in my endeavour.

Not this time. Could I have found a better mouse? Could I have found a less expensive mouse? Perhaps. But I bought it then and there, and picked it up the next day at the Best Buy down the street. I installed the battery, plugged it into my computer, and was able to continue working with no more thought than how nice it was that my clicks and scrolling were now dependable. I consider that $20 very well spent.

If only I could achieve the same success with my jeans.  Even the pair I bought just a couple of years ago, and finally decided would be an acceptable substitute for my old favorites, is no longer sold.

I wonder if I should have bought two mice....

Posted by sursumcorda on Sunday, January 26, 2020 at 6:43 am | Edit
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Promising, practical ... and, as with so many applications of massive data collection and analysis, maybe a little perturbing. This post is primarily for the materials scientist in the family, but it should be interesting to anyone.

Scientists at MIT and Berkeley, using Artificial Intelligence algorithms to pore over abstracts from papers related to materials science, have successfully predicted scientific discoveries.

Researchers from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory used an algorithm called Word2Vec sift through scientific papers for connections humans had missed. Their algorithm then spit out predictions for possible thermoelectric materials. ... The algorithm didn’t know the definition of thermoelectric, though. It received no training in materials science. Using only word associations, the algorithm was able to provide candidates for future thermoelectric materials.

Using just the words found in scientific abstracts, the algorithm was able to understand concepts such as the periodic table and the chemical structure of molecules. The algorithm linked words that were found close together, creating vectors of related words that helped define concepts. In some cases, words were linked to thermoelectric concepts but had never been written about as thermoelectric in any abstract they surveyed. This gap in knowledge is hard to catch with a human eye, but easy for an algorithm to spot.

In one experiment, researchers analyzed only papers published before 2009 and were able to predict one of the best modern-day thermoelectric materials four years before it was discovered in 2012.

This new application of machine learning goes beyond materials science. Because it’s not trained on a specific scientific dataset, you could easily apply it to other disciplines, retraining it on literature of whatever subject you wanted.

Here's an article from MIT that's a bit more technical.

MIT and Berkeley may be doing this particular research, but anyone want to guess where the Word2vec algorithm was developed?

Google.

Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, September 16, 2019 at 7:29 am | Edit
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I have many sins on my conscience, but Evil E-mail Man proved that he was talking through his hat by choosing one that I know beyond the shadow of a doubt I have never committed.

Apparently, "I have a video of you screaming at your kids, and if you don't pay me a bunch of Bitcoin, I'll release it to all of your contacts" is not considered nearly as threatening as "I have a video of you visiting an internet porn site."  But at least it would have been credible.

Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, June 5, 2019 at 8:30 am | Edit
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This blog is my storehouse for a good deal of miscellany, since combined with Google's search capabilities, it's a good way to find things at some future time when I've forgotten them, despite assurances to myself that of course I wouldn't forget that.

Smart Lock is a feature on the Galaxy S9 (and other phones too, I'm sure, but this is the one I know about) that allows me to lock my phone yet not have to deal with the inconvenience of unlocking it every time I pick it up. You tell the phone that certain places are trusted, such as home, and it won't require unlocking when you're in that place. Yay! It worked like a charm—for the first few days.

Then, as charms are wont to do, it became fickle. I found myself having to unlock my phone all the time. It was driving me up the wall. I tried this, that, and the other thing, all to no avail. Finally, I took the problem to Dr. Google. There I found a suggestion that the poster said was crazy, but effective:

I, like most people, had accepted the phone's suggestion of my home address for a trusted site. I don't know if it's Google's fault or something else, but people have found that to stop working after a few days, as it did for me. Who knows why? The secret, they said, was to edit the home location and move the marker a bit to reset it.

That didn't work for me. Perhaps I didn't move it enough, but since Google warned that doing so would affect the location of my home in several other of its applications, I didn't want to move it too much.

Instead, I took a different approach. I set up a second trusted site that was in the correct location, but not associated with my address—it's known to the system by its latitude and longitude. That worked perfectly.

Until it didn't, and I was back to having to unlock my phone every time.

I opened the SmartLock settings again, and added yet another trusted location—the place that my phone apparently thought it was, right then

And that worked, until it didn't. The pattern seems to be this: For a day, my phone would stay unlocked. Sometimes I'd get more than one day out of it, but generally the next morning I'd wake up back at Square One.

Actually, not quite back to the beginning—I'm gradually accumulating a collection of trusted places around our house. Despite the fact that SmartLock claims to be trusting a fairly large circle around a given location, that's not they way it's acting. The trusted places on my list show differences by 0.1" in either latitude or longitude. I hoped that eventually I'd have all the bases covered....

I'm still hoping that, but it seems to be a very slow process. Apparently the latitude and longitude measurements have a finer granularity than what is displayed. The process I have settled into is this:

When I first open my phone in the morning, I must unlock it. That's what I would expect after a long pause in use. But then the next time I try to use it, the phone is locked again. So I go into the SmartLock settings and add a new trusted place—wherever the phone thinks it is. After that, the phone is good for the rest of the day. I must do this every day.

It's a pain, and it shouldn't be that way, but it works for me. For now. I'll update this if I ever figure out something better.

UPDATE 2/7/19 There is hope that my phone will eventually learn that our home is a safe place. Today began with the usual problem: I opened the phone and needed to unlock it. The same thing happened the second time, but I was too lazy to go through the process of adding a new Trusted Location. Somewhere along the line—third or fourth time, maybe?—the phone opened with no need for unlocking. Was that because I was at that point in a different room of the house, one the phone recognized? Who knows, but it gives me hope to keep observing and experimenting.

Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, February 7, 2019 at 7:12 am | Edit
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The infamous Blue Screen of Death is all too familiar to my generation of Windows users. It may be that blue screens are now causing death in a different way.

This Popular Science article reports that prolonged exposure to blue light can cause irreversible damage to the cells that allow us to see. (And truly, I thought of the Blue Screen of Death analogy before I noticed that the article's author did, too.) That would be light from our televisions, computers, phones, e-readers, and even increasingly popular LED illumination.

Catastrophic damage to your vision is hardly guaranteed. But the experiment shows that blue light can kill photoreceptor cells. Murdering enough of them can lead to macular degeneration, an incurable disease that blurs or even eliminates vision.

Blue light occurs naturally in sunlight, which also contains other forms of visible light and ultraviolet and infrared rays. But ... we don’t spend that much time staring at the sun. As kids, most of us were taught it would fry our eyes. Digital devices, however, pose a bigger threat. The average American spends almost 11 hours a day in front of some type of screen, according to a 2016 Nielsen poll. Right now, reading this, you’re probably mainlining blue light.

Obviously, more research is needed before we panic about this. But maybe it's time I stopped putting myself to sleep by reading on my Kindle, or playing a move or two in Word Chums, or praying through our church's Prayer Chain list. They say you should turn off "devices" an hour before bedtime, because the blue light can keep you from falling asleep. That's never been an issue for me. But damaging my eyes? That's a much bigger issue.

Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, August 25, 2018 at 9:13 am | Edit
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I opened up Facebook this morning to be greeted by the following "Suggested Post."

alt

Some of my readers will immediately recognize the "Castle in Arquenay" as Château de la Motte Henry, where 10 years ago we celebrated Janet's birthday. We chose that fairy tale castle not because Janet is a romantic and highly imaginative person, although she is, but because the château happens to be the home of some dear friends, whose daughter would later be the flower girl in Janet's wedding. They are the most amazing hosts, and the experience was sublime.

The wonderful thing, as Facebook so cheerily told me, is that you, too, can have the Château de la Motte Henry experience! Well, not the friends-and-family perks, but let me tell you, these people know how to host an experience for their paying guests as well! Don't let the price tag put you off—share the cost with friends; it's a huge place! (No, I don't get a commission; I just love sharing something so special.)

If nothing else, take the time to go to the booking site, browse, and dream. Check out the amenities, marvel at the photos. I quote from the overview:

*JUST LISTED AS ONE OF "THE TIMES' TOP 20 CHATEAUX IN FRANCE" FOR HOLIDAY RENTALS!* -- (If you are a group larger than 14, please inquire about additional space & rates.) Live a fairytale dream in this romantic 19th century castle with its own private lake, swimming pool & cinema. Your senses will be dazzled with stunning views, gentle sounds of birds and rippling water, and the rich scents of roses and lavender. You will luxuriate in the privacy of 29 secluded acres, but only travel 2 km to reach all amenities. Whether you are a family, corporate group, or reunion of friends, the château offers pampering, fun and relaxation in a sublime setting for groups both large and small.

The château is an historically listed property, once open to the public, and now privately owned and operated. Featuring a motte (mound) from the time of Henry II surrounded by a moat, spectacular parkland, ancient trees, a private spring-fed fishing lake, and a Renaissance-inspired swimming pool within a secluded walled rose garden, the château is a haven of peace and tranquillity.

Here one can bask in the glorious French countryside, or discover the riches of the surrounding areas of the Loire Valley, Brittany & Normandy from this central location. Children & adults alike will delight in visits to the famous Loire châteaux, Mont St. Michel, D-Day Beaches, the fabulous Puy de Fou theme park and Zoo de la Fleche, all within a 1.5 hour drive. Within 15 minutes drive, one can experience beautiful gardens, golf, riding, nature-activity parks, river cruises, museums, stately homes & more. Or, you may simply never wish to leave the grounds of your very own château...

The château offers extremely spacious bedrooms, all with en-suite bathrooms; reception rooms comfortably yet elegantly renovated in keeping with the romantic style; & wonderful facilities for self-catering, such as a recently renovated designer kitchen with granite and marble-mosaic finishes, as well as three outdoor BBQs.

Special amenities include: Nespresso Machine, Bathrobes, Slippers, Large Welcome Basket, Champagne Reception on Arrival, Toiletry Kits in Bathrooms

Here's another view, Janet's own picture from a decade ago. Can you imagine walking through the woods and suddenly seeing this through a break in the trees?

alt

Facebook is scarily good at surprising me with relevant ads, but this one was the most amazing yet.

Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, June 24, 2017 at 11:04 am | Edit
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My phone was fine when I woke up this morning. But my Peel Remote app had put a floating widget on my screen ever since the last update, and today I clicked on it to get in and try to remove the annoying thing. I didn't get very far because my touch screen immediately became unresponsive. The phone wasn't frozen, but I couldn't do anything from the screen.

My go-to solution for problems of quirky machine behavior—as it has been since my PDP-12 days—is a reboot. So I pressed the power switch. Samsung users will immediately see the problem here: doing a reboot that way requires confirmation from the touch screen. Which wasn't working. I tried holding the power button down for several seconds, which works for many devices, but that had no effect.

One obvious solution would have been to remove the battery, but I didn't really want to do that with the machine powered on and (mostly) working. So I turned to Dr. Google—definitely not a solution from my PDP-12 days. I found several suggestions, and a number of people who had had the same problem with Peel Remote, even a year ago.

The easiest and most reliable solution seemed to be to press the volume-down and power buttons simultaneously for several seconds (variously suggested from 7 to 15). I'm skittish about such things, and did not want to find my phone suddenly in safe or download mode or worse, but what else was there to do? Call customer service? I've done that before, and have been leery every since, because they recommended a hard reset (which would have wiped out all my data) for a problem Dr. Google solved with no pain at all.

So I pushed the buttons.

The happy ending is, it worked. The phone rebooted. The touch screen began working again. I then turned the phone off and back on again, because ... well, because I learned a long time ago that that's a good policy after computer troubles.

I'm telling you here because I'm really telling myself here—I know from experience there's likely to be a time in the future when I'll say, "Wait, I know I had that problem before ... what did I do to fix it?" 

Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, March 25, 2017 at 7:11 am | Edit
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I don't hate Microsoft, nor Google, nor Apple, nor any other business that I know about. There's just too much hatred—not to mention too many ill-founded accusations of hatred—going around these days, and in any case I try to limit such a destructive emotion to actions rather then entities.

But I'm very close to hating Microsoft's actions.

It's nearly inevitable that I will eventually become a Windows 10 user, and if I knew my current computer would last forever I'd probably 10 now while it's free, despite serious misgivings about it "going all Google on me" and collecting 'way more data than I want it to have. As it is, I'd much rather get a new operating system only when I must buy a new computer. I like Windows 7, but when I was forced away from XP I lost the use of my fully-functional scanner and printer. To use those devices now, I have to bring up a virtual XP window running under Windows 7, and I have little hope that I'll be able to make that work under 10—plus I'm pretty sure I'll lose access to still more of my existing peripherals.

Having finally made that decision, I'm finding Microsoft's pop-up ads for upgrading more annoying than usual. Especially since they've become more frequent (many times each day), and most especially because Microsoft has sunk to a malware trick of changing the behavior when you click on the pop-up's upper-right-hand X from just closing the window (which everyone expects) to closing the window and consenting to the upgrade at some future time determined by Microsoft. With that, users who have long ago gotten into the habit of simply closing the ad one day find that Windows 10 has been installed willy-nilly. Ditto for those multitudes who have Windows Update configured to install Recommended updates automatically.

That's just wrong.

I know people who are okay with Windows 10. I know people who love it. I know people (computer-savvy people) who chose to update only to find that 10 made their computers unworkable, tried to exercise the "you have one month to roll back to 7" option only to have it fail, and had to reinstall their whole system.

But the issue is not Windows 10 itself. It's the deceptive, strong-arm tactics Microsoft has stooped to.

Because clicking the X to close the Windows 10 ad is no longer an option, the first thing I now do when I boot my computer is bring up the Task Manager, so that I can kill the task whenever it appears. I'm glad I still have that option. But it's more than a pain, because I'm getting more and more afraid that Microsoft will defeat my precautions in the end. I only have to last till the end of July, since I'm pretty certain Microsoft won't automatically install Windows 10 once they start charging for it.

On the other hand, maybe I'll make RegEdit my friend once more, and follow the advice that worked for my sister. I'd rather not, but I've done it before.

I don't hate Microsoft. But I do hate being so dependent and vulnerable. Not enough to switch to Linux, however. Not yet. And Apple's even less attractive.

The challenge is to take advantage of a technology's substantial benefits while minimizing dependency, and it's not an easy one. It's not a new one, either. We're already dependent on systems over which we have no control for electricity, water, and other basic services. Short of living off the land and shutting ourselves off from most of what the modern world has to offer, it will always be a difficult balance.

Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, June 4, 2016 at 7:30 am | Edit
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I know people who are fond of saying, as if it were original with them and somehow encouraging to others, that we should never ask for what we deserve, because what we all deserve is Hell.  As unhelpful as this aphorism is, there are times when everyday life points to a kernel of truth there.  We remember vividly the times when we've done something stupid and paid the price, or done something stupid and managed somehow to escape disaster, but we may not even be aware of how many, many times we've been equally stupid, or more so, and escaped scot free.  How often have we taken a foolish chance while driving, or set a can of soda near the computer, or carried a large stack of breakable objects?  How many times have we thought, "I knew that was going to happen" when a foolish risk has ended badly?  Truly, when we know what we should do and act otherwise, do we deserve to escape the consequences?  No—but surprising often, grace abounds anyway.

It's an old, sad story, and out of respect for those who, like me, are not fond of suspense, I'll say up front that this one has a happy ending.

I'm usually a bit compulsive when it comes to doing backups.  I have general backups, and specific backups.  Whole and incremental backups.  Backups divided over several years and different external drives.  But I'm not perfect about it, and this was one of those times.

Mostly I find a once-a-week backup sufficient for my needs, but recently I've been working pedal-to-the-metal on processing our photos and videos from the Gambia, so I got into the habit of backing up my work every night.  See, I know the right thing to do!  But one night the backup system gave me trouble.  Instead of spending the next day sorting it out, I carried on feverishly with my work.  I was making such good progress!  Who could be bothered with a problem that was, I knew, going to be frustrating and time-consuming to sort out?  So for a few days—highly productive days—that nightly backup didn't happen.

I'm a big fan of the recycle bin.  I love that a deleted file doesn't really disappear right away, so that accidents and mistakes are reversible.  However, some files, such as video files, are too big for such treatment.  For those I use the shift-delete function, which bypasses the recycle bin and erases the file directly.

One morning I was working with a number of video files, and got a little too careless with my quick response to the "Are you sure you want to permanently delete this file?" question.  I was certain I had highlighted the video I was done with, but Windows Explorer had other ideas.  You want to delete the entire directory?  The entire directory with your final processed photos?  The directory that represents 60+ hours' worth of work?  Fine, no problem, I can do that for you in under a second.

I stared at the computer.  I didn't believe what appeared to have happened.  I turned my computer inside out, searched from top to bottom.  Finally I let myself admit that the files were gone.  Completely.  Gone.

I was surprisingly calm.  Sometimes big events leave you too overwhelmed to be upset.  Besides, I did have some backups, though they were, as I said, a few days old, and the most recent one had been corrupted by the above-mentioned problem.  But as I also said, I'm usually compulsive about backups, and if I didn't have my work in final form, I did have it in next-to-final form, and the form before that, and the form before that.  What had been done once could be done again, and though the magnitude of effort lost was mind-boggling, I took comfort in a comment reader-friend Eric once made here about work being done better the second time around.

As it turned out, we'll never know how much better I would have done the second time, and that's more than fine with me.

When files are deleted from a drive, even by shift-delete, they're not really erased.  They're no longer visible to the user, but the data's there until it's overwritten.  I knew that, but had no idea how to take advantage of it.  Then a little Internet research led me to a data-recovery program called Recuva.

Had my files been on the C drive, I may have been in trouble, because I did quite a bit of work before finding that program, and the more time that elapses, the more likely the data is to be overwritten.  But because of space considerations, my data was on an external drive that I had been careful not to write to since the loss.  The operating system, or some other program not under my control, probably did something, but—to shorten the story—with the help of Recuva I was able to recover all but about half a dozen files.  The few that had been damaged I easily recreated from the next-to-final layer.  I'm very grateful I did not accidentally delete a higher-level directory!

Curious as to what an overwritten file looks like?  Here are an original and its corrupted version.  You can still see some of the basic structure.  (Click to enlarge.)

alt   alt

Once I had the program downloaded and unzipped to a flash drive, using Recuva to restore the files was quick and easy.  The long and tedious part of the job came in checking the integrity of the recovered files, but that only took five or six hours, and by the next day I was back to where I'd been 24 hours earlier.

With one important exception:  I now have Recuva on that flash drive, available should I need it again.  It's especially important to have it handy in case I ever need to recover files from the C drive, where overwriting can happen quickly.  Which I sincerely hope never happens!

It's amazing how easy it is to accept the loss of a day's work—which normally would have had me tearing my hair—when faced with the realization that the loss could have been many times greater.

Truly, grace abounds.

Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, March 1, 2016 at 7:48 am | Edit
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I've noticed a strange error in the time stamp when I take videos with my phone.  A Google search has not led me to others experiencing the same problem, so I'm posting it here so that the problem will be "out there" in case someone comes along.

The photo and video time stamps seem to be consistent and accurate, until I change time zones.  When I do, my phone automatically updates its time to reflect local time, which is exactly what I want it to do.  Whatever time stamps my photos apparently grabs the system time, because they show the correct local time.  However, the videos do not.

When I shot videos in St. Louis, Missouri, which is on Central Time, their time stamp was still on Eastern Time—one hour ahead.  When I took videos in Switzerland, the time stamp acted as if I were still back in the U.S., on Eastern Time:  it was six hours behind.

As long as I am aware of the problem, I can easily correct the time because my file naming convention includes the date and time.  I just have to remember to add or subtract for the videos, and that's usually easy enough because otherwise they appear out of sequence.  That's how the problem came to my attention in the first place.

But what I'm really curious about is why the photos have the correct time and the videos don't.  It's the same camera that takes them both.  The only logical place for the software to get the time is from the phone's system time.  But obviously whatever stamps the videos is doing something altogether different.  Well, not altogether:  the minutes and seconds are correct.  It's just the hour that's wrong, and it's clearly a time zone effect.

If anyone comes by here looking for answers, I don't have them.  But at least you'll know that someone else has had the problem.  And if anyone comes by with solutions, thanks in advance!

Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, October 10, 2015 at 8:50 am | Edit
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Okay, Faithful Readers.  I'm listening to an instructional video on using PaintShop Pro, and the instructor interrupts his teaching to give a lecture on how important it is NOT to geotag any photos in or near your home, because "you don't want other people to be able to find out where you live.  It's not safe."  Huh?  Has he never heard of a telephone book?  And now with the Internet it's ridiculously easy to find out that kind of information.  Where you live.  What taxes you pay.  What you paid for your house.  Your birthday.  Your family members.  Your political donations.  If you're lucky enough to be a state employee in Florida, your salary.  Google will even show you the flowers in my front yard—at least what they looked like at some point in the past.  So what if someone can tell from my photograph where it was taken?  If anyone wants to do something nefarious, they have plenty of other resources.

I find the feature on my camera that detects and saves location data to be extremely useful.  I'm undertaking the incredibly, ridiculously challenging project of organizing many years' worth of photographs, and the only thing that annoys me about embedded GPS data is that it's not available on most of my photos.  Even my phone camera, which is the first I've had with GPS information, only began recording that data once I found and enabled the feature.

Privacy has always been very important to me.  This may seem odd coming from someone who writes a blog that is shared with the world, but I still consider myself a private person.  "Private" doesn't mean I don't share, any more than "introvert" means I don't like people.  To me, it means (1) I choose what I share and with whom, and (2) I accept that some things are going to be available to others whether I choose to share them or not.  In facing the latter case, I have come to realize that I can either shrink back in fear, or I can accept the small additional risk for the sake of the benefits that have come with new technology and new situations.

My blog audience my not be large, but I know it's diverse, with people everywhere on the privacy spectrum.  So I'll ask:  What's your take on geocoded photos?  Do you use that feature?  If you don't, is it because you don't find a need for it, or because, like my photo software instructor, you think it's dangerous?  If you are worried about safety, what advantage do you think it gives criminals that they couldn't easily get elsewhere?

Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, September 29, 2015 at 7:47 am | Edit
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This is my 100th blog post for this year, and I think it fitting to dedicate it to promoting another blog, just five months old but very promising:  Blue Ocean Families.

Inspired by the business concept of Blue Ocean Strategy, the Blue Ocean Families team seeks to answer the question, How can we leave this frantic modern life and carve out a peaceful blue ocean for our families?

Blue Ocean Strategy: Don’t beat the competition, make it irrelevant.

The creators of Blue Ocean Strategy illustrate their idea by envisioning traditional markets as a bloody red ocean of cut-throat competition. They propose that businesses should leave this deadly environment and carve out untapped market space (i.e. a customer base nobody else is reaching). They call this unique market space a blue ocean and explain how to create one in any industry.

Blue Ocean Families: Turn the competition into community.

The red ocean is where we try to keep up with the Joneses and fight the mommy wars. A blue ocean family doesn’t follow the status quo, but celebrates and develops its uniqueness while living in community with other families.

Here are five of my favorite posts:

Can We Trust the Path of Learning that Our Kids Choose?

Support for Parents on the Road Less Traveled

The Cost of Creativity: 9 Reasons Why You Shouldn't Want Creative Kids

Learning to Eliminate: Cultural Context

Entertainment Rethink:  Don't Forget Fun!

(It was hard to pick just five, but then I am biased.  I suppose that in the interest of full disclosure, I should mention that the founder and primary author of Blue Ocean Families is my daughter.  But that would be bragging.)

Picture the Blue Ocean. This peaceful haven is a place where just one family swims and where each family member can thrive. They have room and laughter, and time to explore and expand. They threaten no one because they chose to leave the Red Ocean and carve out space to make their very own Blue Ocean.

How do you create a Blue Ocean – a unique family culture – where each member has the freedom to thrive AND where success helps others rather than threatens them?

That’s the question I want to explore in this blog. It’s little more than a vision now, but if you find the idea intriguing, then please join me on my journey!

Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, September 21, 2015 at 9:00 pm | Edit
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Ah, I knew there was a reason I didn't want to have Amazon's "1-Click" purchase button turned on.  But when buying Kindle books, there's no choice.  Tonight I was browsing their daily deals and, somehow, accidentally clicked on a "Buy now with 1-Click" button.  I think the problem was related to the fact that something—my computer, Firefox, Norton, our ISP; I don't know the culprit—has been making the Internet unpredictably slow.  For a while it will go just fine, then lag by several seconds.  For example, typed the first half of the previous sentence in real time, then the last half took in all my keystrokes before appearing all at once.  The mouse has a similar problem, so the computer must have registered a click in the wrong place.

Whatever the reason, I was on the phone to Amazon right away.  There really needs to be a "cancel this order" button.  I know how to do that with physical orders, but could see no way to do it with the digital order.  So I called.  Yes, I, even phone-phobic I, picked up the phone.  The cost was only $1.99, not a high-risk financial move, but two bucks is two bucks, and it was definitely not the  kind of book I wanted cluttering up my Kindle.

Despite language issues, I think the Amazon rep got things straightened out for me.  The book disappeared from my Kindle all right, but the refund of my charge should come "within two to three business days."  I'm hoping it will be a bit faster than that, just because I don't think it should take so long, but I'm happy to know that such accidental purchases can be undone.  Maybe next time I'll find a "cancel" button—but I'm also hoping there won't be a next time.

Now my computer/Internet/browser/whatever really needs a rest.  Maybe it will feel better in the morning.

Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, September 18, 2015 at 8:37 pm | Edit
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My photo editing experiences are 'way below novice, having made do with Windows (Office) Photo Editor, Picasa, Irfanview, and Paint all these years. However, most of the 90s decade of my 95 by 65 project involves photo work, so it's about time I upgraded to some good photo editing software.  In particular, I want to be able to work with my photos without losing data:  Picasa, for example, does some nice things, but degrades the image every time I use it.

I am finding the Adobe Photoshop CC (Photoshop/Lightroom) subscription attractive at $10/month.  I'm sure I don't need all the fancy stuff, and the cost would really add up over a matter of years, but for getting my feet wet it seems reasonable—and it would be several months before reaching the cost of Photoshop Elements.

I've read reviews of several other programs, but am not convinced they are worth the cost.  Except for GIMP, of course, which is always an option, though when I tried it years ago I found it not as user-friendly as I had hoped—i.e. I didn't get anywhere with it.  Adobe still seems to be the gold standard.

What do you think, Faithful Readers?

Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, July 6, 2015 at 1:08 pm | Edit
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