Monthly Archives: October 2013

Engineer on the Piano

Since today is Friday, it feels appropriate to begin the weekend in a fun, relaxing fashion. One way to achieve this universal goal of ours is by listening to uplifting music.

With this in mind, everybody’s favorite engineer who is not a doctor seems to have a real knack for providing this type of joy for the masses. “The Big Bang Theory” episode from last night featured a beautifully written and orchestrated performance by Howard Wolowitz and friends for his quarantined wife Bernadette. It’s moments like this that really make this sitcom such a massive success.

But remember, last night’s song is not the only one Howard has written for his beautiful blonde biologist…

They’re just two green light sabers, glowing in the night…

Rule #21: When Possible, Change the World

The United States of America is struggling. Among its many, many issues, the workforce is experiencing a paradigm shift. The world we live in today is collectively causing and forcing friction with the nation’s population by forcing 20th century norms and preconceived notions to crash, coincide and adapt to 21st century promise, mystery and reality. The debate of public vs. private extends beyond technology and is a dilemma that will long hang over our society like an overcast cloud for years to come.

“The Internship” is a buddy comedy starring Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn who star together in a movie for the first time since their 2005 smash hit and cult classic, “Wedding Crashers.” The opening sequence will undoubtedly get you psyched out of your mind for the long-awaited comeback!

It’s a film about great watch salesmen, Billy (Vince) and Nick (Owen), who discover during a pitch at a fancy restaurant that their company had recently folded. The time had arrived for two stellar salesmen of the 20th century to slowly walk into the strange playground of the 21st century.

The premise of the movie is that they are two individuals, who are not tech savvy, that apply for internships at technological giant Google.

Let the hilarity ensue.

Not only does the story contrast and expose generational differences between ’70s kids and Millennials, but it presents a pretty fantastic template for the immediate and far off future:

The competitive internship program.

“The Internship” has, without revealing any critical story or plot details, shown that a competitive internship program with a pool of 5-10 or even up to 100 people (depending on the company) could be the perfect test for employers to assess, judge and determine if an applicant or applicants are truly qualified for a job at their company. Individual and team exercises, plus voluntary employee interactions, would ultimately determine if an offer would be extended for employment.

Instead of relying so heavily on a résumé and a singular interview, an engaging competition of sorts could be the bridge between not only employers and hopeful applicants, but also the bridge between the 20th century and the increasingly interactive and connected 21st century.

Yes, it’s true that most companies do not have the free flowing cash for such an extravagant program like portrayed in “The Internship,” but it should be used as a template to varying degrees. It has been reported that companies are cutting back on training, which contributes to an applicant having to try to unrealistically meet 100% of the advertised skills for a job opening. Even with a great education, not everybody is perfectly fit for a job in most any industry on their first day. There is a learning curve. An important quality to consider is if the person applying is like a fine wine:  great core knowledge with exciting flavors/skills that only get better with each passing day.

Competitive internship programs, for certain industries, could provide the public with one of the most critical qualities missing from most of today’s employers: an opportunity. Just to give people a chance to try, learn and shine.

That’s really what most people are yearning for these days.

Correction: That’s what most Americans are yearning for these days.

After all, the concept of opportunity was part of the foundation of the United States of America. It’s time for a 21st century reboot of that brilliant idea.

It could work.

The Man in the Black Fedora

Thanks to the digital magic of the DVR, “The Blacklist” was last night’s feature once the awesomeness of, “The Goldbergs” rocked its final inspiring nostalgic note for the week. Another great half-hour journey back to the ’80s.

The power of the VHS tape…

Focusing back on, “The Blacklist,” this national security mystery added yet another name to the aforementioned list. The diabolical characteristics of the villains continue to shock and surprise, while the anti-hero Reddington remains a constant. However, Reddington is different than most television leads.

Why?

The answer boils down to the actor who plays him…or is it the other way around?

James Spader is weird, smart, sharp, cocky, borderline creepy and full of ambiguous intrigue.

He’s like a perplexing painting in a museum. At first glance, you think you have it all figured out. Then, as you begin to walk away, you take a second look and something’s changed. You gently rub your eyes in a bewilderment, but you’re still convinced something definitely changed. After a minute passes, you don’t want to or think you need to stay in the room, but you’re in a trance. The experience is downright odd, leaving a void of all the answers you seek. You can’t help but continue to look, searching for the exciting answer.

Spader has played lots of memorable roles, but Reddington suits him as perfectly as the three-piece suits he wears (plus the dynamite hats). As crazy and insane as it may read, it’s easy to imagine that James Spader is like Reddington in his spare time. As in that’s how he acts on the weekend. No big deal, just a Thursday-Saturday excursion to the Bahamas to Paris to D.C. with the itinerary consisting of moral dilemmas, beautiful women, breathtaking locations and powerful enemies to manipulate and defeat.

And one cannot forget about a delicious and savory meal in a five-star hotel with a bodyguard.

His eerily reassuring presence is one of the primary reasons why this show has been such a success thus far. Writing and portraying the story lines of, “The Blacklist” for network television without a major motion picture budget has proven to be difficult in the past. Consequently, the final product has come off as campy and, therefore, lacking in believability.

Not “The Blacklist.”

The action is explosive, the suspense is palpable, the settings are realistic, the characters and their movements are precise and gritty and the twists are startling and fun.

“The Blacklist” is accomplishing (so far) what all good television shows and movies achieve, which is temporarily relieving the viewer from his or her reality to fully immerse ones self into the dramatic, comedic and/or action packed world for a short period of time. We’re not simply watching the actors or actresses portray characters, but are instead embracing an engaging, puzzling story unfold through the guidance of a reticent lead.

Who is Reddington exactly? Why does he insist on working with Agent Keen?

We’ll just have to wait until next week for the 6th episode…or viewing.

The good news about a television show and a museum is that there are no visitation limits.

The Wisdom of the Garage

Public vs. Private.

This is a fiercely debated and complex issue that has a myriad of avenues to explore and a variety of micro and macro points to consider for in-depth analysis. Today, the focus will be centered on the latest example of this classic, everlasting battle of ideology and basic societal structure.

Speaking of putting ourselves into the right mindset…

Regarding ObamaCare, the people do have a fever of frustration and the only prescription appears to be increasingly less government.

The federal government, under President Obama, has had between 2-3 years to put together a website for his signature achievement…in the 21st century…in the year 2013.

Now, healthcare is recommended to be dealt with over the phone by the government.

Can’t imagine any problems or scams there. In a related story, Nigerian princes are discovered to be very happy this week.

Aside from fact that the policy of the law is unequivocally flawed, bad, unworkable, unsustainable and unfair, let’s focus on the website. Consider that Facebook (“thefacebook” back then) was digitally built by a group of college students (granted, from Harvard) that took user’s information and compiled a personal profile for them that was capable of being viewed, updated, shared and commented on by his or her friends with seemingly no limit on activity.

It worked.

Why?

Put simply, the founders and builders of “thefacebook” had the market incentive to create the best product because of the competitive landscape in social networks. They had to be the best for survival’s sake. Therefore, the company had to recruit the best talent with the skill-set to continually innovate and improve their product for the public and, most importantly, their voluntary members. Money had to be allocated prudently and the business decisions required great intelligence and foresight.

In the private marketplace, you have to be the best or you will very likely fail and go out of business. For many, that is the bottom line and the daily reality.

Conversely, in government, there is no such marketplace. Money is provided, which is usually bloated beyond belief. Correction: The public’s/our money is provided to the government contractors and is bloated beyond belief. Even still, the transaction is done so through a maze of red tape and is absent any competitor, let alone several. The public sector is not conducive to consistently producing high quality and innovation influenced by a variety of critical market incentives, pressures and rewards.

“Our team is bringing in some of the best and brightest from both inside and outside government to scrub in with the team and help improve HealthCare.gov.” As reported yesterday by Washington Post columnist Ezra Klein, the aforementioned statement was a weekend notice from the Department of Health and Human Services.

The obvious question: Why weren’t the best and brightest brought in in the first place?

The obvious answer: The best and brightest don’t work in the government.

Silicon Valley is the hub of technological genius in the United States and even around the world. This is one of the places where the best and brightest work. Freedom to imagine is coupled with personal responsibility and monetary limitations, which creates the atmosphere for ingenuity and potentially terrific outcomes. Contemplate how many successful start-ups and society-altering companies were born in garages (Apple, HP) and small offices just outside San Francisco.

People in a garage with nothing more than a crazy, outlandish dream and a little business savvy have established a better and a more cognitive environment than the hundreds of millions of dollars the federal government doled out for the new healthcare.gov website that had years to be constructed.

If Apple or Google had premiered like this, there would be no Apple or Google today.

Actually, that’s not true.

Apple and Google never would have concocted, put together and premiered such an unworkable and fiscally unsustainable disaster for the public.

That’s the lesson from the best and the brightest.