The anniversary of Target Canada’s demise and my knowing head-nods to data problems behind it, the inspiration for the singular Disney villian Ursula in the Little Mermaid, and how J.K. Rowling’s 2008 Harvard commencement speech is still just as pointedly applicable in today’s culture of fear—it’s this week’s Jeneral finds of the week: 2016-01-30
During my days at Accenture Canada, implementing SAP systems was the crux of what my colleagues and I did. Many of these same colleagues were staffed at the Target Canada SAP implementation project. Several of my own project experiences were in the area of data migration and data enhancement for the Loblaw SAP implementation, so it’s with great interest that I read this article from Canadian Business, “The Last Days of Target Canada“. I found myself nodding my head knowingly as the story unspooled. Again this underlines the extreme importance of the quality of data, as the huge volumes of both master data and transactions combine with errors in said data to take down the retailer. I’m sure the folks at Loblaw are feeling pretty good about their own implementation in comparison after reading this.
There was always something thrilling and compelling about Ursula the sea witch in the Little Mermaid animated Disney movie. This was one of my favourite movies growing up, and it’s still enjoyable now but for completely different reasons. Much of it has to do with Ursula and her power to get what she wants by trading it for what others foolishly want. Plus that song “Poor unfortunate souls” is bonkers. “Unearthing the Sea Witch” by Nicole Pasulka and Brian Ferree tell the story about the inspiration for the character, particularly a real life Baltimore drag queen named Divine.
While poking around Youtube looking at David Foster Wallace’s commencement speech, I came across J.K. Rowling’s 2008 Harvard Commencement. It is a remarkable address that again demonstrates she is a great writer in how she deftly uses humour and personal example to provide inspiriation to not fear failure, and the importance of imagination and empathy in our world of uncertainty, complexity and fear. It resonates just as clearly now, nearly 8 years later, and I have no doubt will stand the test of time to resonate truthfully into the future. (The transcript of her speech: bit.ly/1zeUPfA)
And many prefer not to exercise their imaginations at all. They choose to remain comfortably within the bounds of their own experience, never troubling to wonder how it would feel to have been born other than they are. They can refuse to hear screams or to peer inside cages; they can close their minds and hearts to any suffering that does not touch them personally; they can refuse to know.I might be tempted to envy people who can live that way, except that I do not think they have any fewer nightmares than I do. Choosing to live in narrow spaces leads to a form of mental agoraphobia, and that brings its own terrors. I think the wilfully unimaginative see more monsters. They are often more afraid.
What is more, those who choose not to empathise enable real monsters. For without ever committing an act of outright evil ourselves, we collude with it, through our own apathy.
Obama and Amazing Grace, what’s keeping America (and in a growing way Canada) so bitterly divided on so many fronts, the US Supreme Court ruling that love is love, and figure skating as an X Game event? These are my Jeneral Finds of the week (or rather, month): 2015-06-29
Please, make the time and effort to watch the entirety of President Obama’s eulogy of Rev. Clementa Pinckney, one of the 9 fatal victims of the massacre at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina 8 days earlier on June 17, 2015. It is tempting to skip straight to the end when Obama sings a portion of “Amazing Grace”. But have patience, it is even more moving and significant when you have the full weight of Obama’s speech leading up to it. He not only celebrates and honours the lives lost, he urges a rallying cry to continue the work to fight against the prejudices and racism both overt and subtle. There’s a brilliant cadence in his delivery, and marks him as one of this generation’s noted orators. (here’s a great discussion on why Obama’s use of grace as a central theme is so powerful)
On a lighter note, I just heard today about a new figure skating competition form that is exclusively based on the jumps, and will take on more of an X-Games vibe. Meet “Freezer Aerials“! (that’s a terrible name though, it should find a new moniker). The purist in me scoffs at the idea, but I realize skating needs to evolve for the sport to survive and attract an audience outside of the ardent fan. I just hope they don’t get to the point where skaters have their own theme songs they enter the arena in.
Here are this week’s interesting things I’ve stumbled across: 2015-04-28
“The Internet’s Original Sin”is not pornography, as you might originally conclude. In this article in The Atlantic, one of the early developers of the web outlines how the good intentions of the heady days early days of the internet evolved into our current state of “advertising-supported, ‘free-as-in-beer’ constellation of social networks, services and content that represents so much of present day web industry… Surveillance as the default, if not sole, internet business model.” This is what happens when you refuse to pay money for things, you pay with a loss of your privacy and control of your data. The linked lecture by Maciej Ceglowski in 2014 is also an enlightening, if longer, read. Both should have you at least pondering whether you want to whole-heartedly and blindly continue to support this business model on the web. And whether we want our children to not know a choice.
There is a name for this affliction we have with our smart phones and social media, and it’s been around since 1998- Continuous Partial Attention. This interview with the person who coined the phrase, Linda Stone, had some points that really made me sit up and notice, such as “Kids learn empathy in part through eye contact and gaze. If kids are learning empathy through eye contact, and our eye contact is with devices, they will miss out on empathy.” http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2013/06/the-art-of-paying-attention/309312/
Then when I read this article The Full-Stack Employee, the juxtaposition of these ideas on how to be hyper-productive in today’s workforce against the previous ones of presence over productivity was amusing, for sure. But it’s still relevant for me to think about as I’ve returned to the workforce, and trying to figure out how to best stay valuable so I can demand concessions to be made on flexibility in my schedule.
Remember back in 2006 when the International Astronomical Union decided that Pluto was no longer classified as a planet? This video gives a good explainer why in less than 5 minutes.