Thursday, January 26, 2012

Kodak's decline and the rest of the story.

My middle daughter, Middlest, recently told me, “Dad, you’re pretending to know things again.” Yes, the joy of parenting teenagers has struck. No longer am I the smartest, handsomest, and most wonderful man in the world. I am now the man who “makes up stuff he knows.”

Unfortunately, a recent event further convinced Littlest of this. I was sharing with someone about my wife’s cousin, who after a near 12 month, all expenses paid (by the United States Army) junket to various exotic locations, whose names rhyme with Iraq and Afghanistan, had just returned home—to Oklahoma.

As soon as she heard me say, “Oklahoma.” Littlest burst out, “Dad, there you go again, pretending to know stuff again. He doesn’t live in Oklahoma; he lives in Kansas.” Unfortunately, I have never been good with names and it tripped me up. Kansas and Oklahoma are so similar. Both are out in the middle of the country somewhere, and they are both flat. It is hard to tell them apart. This apparent similarity was completely overlooked by my daughter.

The analysis I have completed of Kodak is not made up. I exhaustively researched this topic and by that, I mean I Googled some stuff until I was exhausted and I was sure my hypothesis was right.

Kodak’s current problems are not the result of mismanagement, poor branding, or too much reliance on film. They are because of Martians. In the late 90’s NASA successfully launched the Mars Rover, which very soon began to transmit digital images back to earth. These images were captured on a Kodak digital camera. This camera was a stock model, modified only to endure the rigors of space travel. This landing on Martian soil capped off years of visually monitoring the planet, much of which was done using cameras and telescopes with lenses and mirrors manufactured by Kodak.

This may seem to us like normal, healthy curiosity. However, to the Martian species it is not. The Warner brothers, documentary film producers, have documented Martian-Earthling interaction with one Martian, whom they dubbed “Marvin” with some of earth’s wildlife. It is apparent, after just a few moments of viewing, that Martians are quiet, private, and almost innocuous beings, with a penchant for violence when they are aggravated and angered.

The next item to consider is the absence of Kodak top executives and the sudden resignation of some members of the board of directors. Many Rochester journalists have been trying to speak with Antonio Perez, Kodak’s CEO, but he has been unavailable for interviews. I myself have undertaken a search for these top executives.  and have had little luck. I have searched my local Wegman’s, Kmart, bank, Pizza-hut, McDonalds, along with a few other places and have found only one of these top executives.

Based on these facts, it is apparent that many of Kodak’s top executives have either been abducted by Martians, or have had their bodies taken over as hosts for these aliens.  The exceptions being chemists, who have absorbed so many chemicals into their bodies that Martians find them unsuitable for habitation. This also explains the departure of two members of the board of directors. Their contracts specifically precluded them from alien infestations, and that is why they relinquished their positions on the board.

The end goal of the Martian invasion of Kodak is to keep their plan private and away from the prying eyes of the world. Therefore, as soon as they have dismantled Kodak’s efforts to spy on Mars, everything will return to a semblance of normalcy.

In the interest of full disclosure, neither I nor anyone in my family either have been abducted by aliens, or have been a host to alien beings; although my brother is a bit out there, if you know what I mean.

Friday, January 20, 2012

My father's rules and boats.

This past week marked the sixth anniversary of my father’s passing. As fathers go, I have to say he is the second best one I have ever had. Second best because, as Eldest observed when she was in preschool, “I have two Daddies, my heavenly father, and my down here daddy.”

My father, like all fathers, wanted his children to be healthy and successful. In fact two of his most oft repeated sayings were, “You don't drink enough water,” and “I don't care if you grow up to be a bum, just be the best bum you can.” Some world events from the past week have reminded me of a few other serious lessons my father impressed upon me as I was growing up. Do not show off. Do what is right—no matter how hard, and when you do wrong, own up to it. Always change your underwear. These were a few of the lessons my dad used to guide me in my youth.

Francesco Schettino would have done well to have met my father and listen to his words of wisdom. Schettino was the captain of the Costa Concordia, the Italian cruise ship that ran aground off the coast of the small Italian island of Giglio. I once was listening to a U.S. Naval chaplain speaking about ships. He told the audience that the bridge of the ship was up high, so the captain could view the entire ship and the sea around the ship. He said, “The captain keeps a close eye out so he doesn't run into anything, because if he did, it would ruin his whole day.”     

Apparently, Mr. Schettino was not keeping a close eye out. He piloted the cruise ship, with 4200 souls aboard, past an island with a population of 900 for this time of year. He was piloting the ship close to the island for the benefit of the headwaiter. The close distance was in direct violation of the cruise ship owner’s policies. It was also in violation of my father’s first rule. Never show off. Just like a child riding his bike, gleefully shouting, “Look ma, no hands!” just before crashing to the ground in a heap. Mr. Schettino was piloting the ship proudly. Perhaps even thinking to himself, “look how important I am, piloting a ship with five times as many people on board as there are on your tiny little island.” That is until the horrible sound of metal on rock shook the boat. Apparently, the large boat and the small island disagreed as to whom was more important. And the island won.

Sometime after running his rather large boat into a rather large rock, Captain Schettino found himself in a lifeboat. By his admission, he did not intend to get in. He apparently, “stumbled into” it. Whatever happened, he abandoned the ship. There were still passengers trying to escape and he was in a lifeboat. While in the lifeboat he was talking on the phone with a coast guard captain, who told him, “You have abandoned your ship; you are no longer in charge. I am in charge. Now get back on the boat!” Mr. Schettino hemmed and hawed (one of dad’s favorite idioms) and did not do what was right. It was a hard thing and he did not want to do it.

Lastly, Mr. Schettino stated that the rocky outcropping that his boat struck was not on nautical charts. This may be, but trying to evade responsibility is never admirable. Neither is abandoning ship, nor obeying a direct order from an officer.

I can only hope Mr.Schettino does better at my father’s last rule. After all, it is a simple rule and the entire world is watching.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Is it election time already?

This past weekend I was pondering what to blog about this week. It is too soon for the Superbowl;it is a few weeks away. The New Year is just about two weeks old, and I definitely do not want another Emergency Room—leading to surgery—visit for anyone in my family. Looking for some inspiration, I turned on the TV, which I soon realized was a dumb move, as I scrolled through the barren waste land of TV entertainment. Then, just before I switched it back off, there was a fleeting mention of Republican caucuses in Iowa.

Yes, it is that time again-- presidential election time. This is when politicians act like pre-schoolers. They run from state to state and city to city, raising their hands in the air, bouncing up and down, full of excitement and energy, saying, “Ooohh ohhhh, pick me! Pick me!” This behavior is especially evident at this early point in the presidential race, the time known as primary season. When politicians are not in the midst of campaigning, they are acting like Junior High students. Trying to impress members of the opposite gender, assessing their place in the world, and being chauffeured from place to place.

The first official primary is held in New Hampshire. The state has written and passed a law that they will hold the first primary of the presidential elections. This, to me, was an amazing revelation on self-determination. I have decided to use that same concept while waiting in line at the Department of Motor Vehicles. I will boldly tell the clerk that I passed a law so that I will now be first in line. How liberating and simple.

But, what about Iowa. They just had a republican primary kind of thing just before the New Hampshire primaries. How did they get away with that? I researched this and found out that Iowa does not actually have a primary-- they have a caucus.  One problem solved and another created. What is a caucus? A caucus is just like a primary, only different. The word caucus is an Americanism derived from the Greek word kaukos, which means to drink and first appears around 1755.  This is probably because most political gatherings were held in pubs, where people drank and boisterously debated about whom they would support in the next election, leading to the term, “Raucous caucus.”

Republicans in Iowa caucus just like it was a primary, with everyone showing up to polling places to vote. The Democrats have a much more complicated process, involving huddling around signs with the name of their chosen candidates and belittling each other for making such poor choices. If not enough people huddle around a particular candidate’s name, they have to disband and move to a different candidate’s sign. I saw the formula that is used to set that threshold and quickly realized I should have paid more attention to my Calculus professor in college.

With Iowa and New Hampshire behind this budding class of preschoolers…errm, politicians, now the stumping really begins as they hustle across the country, shaking hands and extolling their own virtues, and saying, “Pick me!” An interesting item to note regarding the origin of stumping. I believe it comes from our first president George Washington, who chopped down his father’s cherry tree, leaving a stump. When confronted with the stump, George replied, “Father, I cannot tell a lie.” This is likely the last time a politician has not told a lie.

Friday, January 6, 2012

What was your New Year's resolution?

January 6, 2012
It is the beginning of a New Year, and along with that New Year comes the usual onslaught of New Year’s resolutions. Someone on facebook posted the other day, “What are your New Year’s resolutions?” I feel somewhat guilty about considering a New Year’s resolution, since the year is already almost a week old.

I have not made a New Year’s resolution in quite a while, and being out of practice, I decided to research some potential resolutions. With the help of Google, I found a few good ones. First, Huffington Post’s, Laura Schocker has a list and I do like number 5 on the list; Remember to breathe. This is a great one. I know a few people over the years who have forgotten to breathe, and I sincerely mourn their passing. If the truth be told, there are a few people who I sometimes hope will forget to breathe. That is unkind, I know, but I am beta testing a ‘sharing my feelings more often’ New Year’s resolution.

Resolutions are so popular the US government actually posts their top ten most popular ones. . At least I thought they were the government’s top ten resolutions. As it turns out, it is a list of what the government thinks the top ten resolutions for American’s are. The fact that the government is tracking this information is disconcerting and perhaps an invasion of my privacy, not to mention the potential for abuse by the TSA in profiling air passengers. I can envision a TSA agent asking an unsuspecting traveler about his or her NYR (New Year’s Resolution), “What was your NYR this year?” The passenger, caught off guard and unsure of what the acronym NYR stands for, answers, “Umm, I dunno?”  To which the agent responds, “I am sorry, that answer is not accepted as one of the US Government’s official answers, documented on the NYR-one-zero list. Please report to ICE and cool your jets until an investigation is completed.”

However, I digress, which gives me two more possible resolutions to test. First, eradicate all clich├ęs from my writing, and second, stay on target. In researching for this post, I read that only 12% of New Year’s resolutions are kept—apparently I am not the only one having trouble staying on target. Since there is such a low percentage of successful resolutions, I am searching for an easy to keep resolution; one that, if possible, cannot be broken. I am thinking of resolving to not keep my New Year’s resolution. Then when I break it, I will have actually kept it. This kind of folding back on itself logic scares me a trifle though. I am concerned that if I actually make this resolution and then break it (which really cannot be done), I will self-combust and only leave a pile of ash on the floor and a wisp of smoke in the air.

This idea is fraught with danger. If Beloved, my wife, finds that I have left a big pile of ash on the floor, she will kill me. Frankly, I do not want to die. Therefore, I will not use that one.

 The idea of breathing is a good one, but it seems like it might be just a trifle too easy.

I think perhaps I will fall back to a good old standby resolution, I will procrastinate less.

Oh wait, what is today?