Ginny Machann

Ginny Machann, who contributed to this blog from 2004 until July 2023, died this past Friday. An obituary is here. The funeral will be tomorrow, Saturday, September 23 (the obituary has details).

Here is a link to Ginny’s Chicago Boyz posts.

Ginny was a lovely person. She delighted in the discussion of ideas and was a delightful person with whom to discuss ideas. She grew up in Nebraska and lived in the East-Central Texas melting pot. She was vastly well read, a PhD and English instructor who had — unusually for an academic person — run her own business and believed that she had learned much about life from doing so. She was curious and insightful about human nature and human possibilities. In recent years she was a valued participant in this blog’s regular Zoom meetups. I hope that she got as much out of our discussions as the rest of us did out of her participation.

I was fortunate to meet Ginny and her husband, Clint, in Austin a few years ago. It was, I think, a great time for all of us (Sgt. Mom and the late Shannon Love were there too). Ginny and Clint very sweetly gave me a gift of local kolachkes and wine. My heart goes out to Clint and to their daughters, Alena, Tessie and Sarah.

RIP, Ginny. עליך השלום — May you have peace.

Another Brand Bites the Dust?

So Dove, a venerable brand of bar soap (owned by Lever Brothers, AKA Unilever, which has an enormous stable of household brands) looks to have trod heavily on its metaphorical private parts in falling for the supposed magic of an internet celebrity “influencer”, a woman who bears a notable resemblance to the Venus of Willendorf and is a malicious racist besides. I swear, I wonder if someone has spiked the coffee urns or the water coolers at whoever is the most currently popular advertising agency with hallucinogenic compounds, or if the advert creators and the approving corporate C-suite executives have all just drunk too deeply of the magical diversity madness. There is a place for edgy – and it’s not with mainstream commodities with a long history of appealing to a wide segment of consumers. On recent examination, I deduce that they are not teaching this in marketing classes lately.

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Another Great Road Trip – Victoria, British Columbia

If you do a quick search through the Lexican’s blog, you will see that I like to travel. And in addition to plane travel, Road Trips are right up there. I’d have to say when the opportunity arises I am like a house-bound dog who suddenly bolts out the front door when he sees it briefly open.

Actually, as a pure traveling experience, I would put road trips ahead of cross-country plane trips. Because for me, the journey is as fun as the destination. It’s the unexpected people and places along the way that add to the memories. From an interesting used book seller (with 100,000+ books) in rural Montana to an old Army buddy in Colorado Springs, they would not have been known but for a car drive.

For this drive, both the journey and the destination were exciting.

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Technology, Regulation, Capitalism, and Innovation

An interesting and very dynamic presentation from venture capitalist Bill Gurley on the topic of regulatory capture.

Cases that he discusses include municipal wi-fi projects, electronic medical records systems, and Covid testing.

In response to Bill’s presentation, Sophie @netcapgirl says:

it’s lowkey a shame because the origins of the digital era are rooted in a collaborative environment between government & industry (and academia) that are hard to imagine today. for instance, JC Licklider (instrumental in the computer revolution) held positions at ARPA, MIT & IBM

They’re both right, IMO–Bill is correct about malign impact of regulatory capture on innovation, and Sophie is correct about the historical importance of government involvement in digital innovation.

So what conclusions should we derive from this polarity?


Of Springs and Cables

Here’s an essay written by 17-year-old Ruby LaRoca, winner of a Free Press essay contest.   There’s a lot in it, but I was particularly struck by this:

As I head into my final year of homeschooling, I often think about the dilemma in American education, which perhaps should be called the student crisis (it’s also a teacher crisis). Students and teachers are more exhausted and fragile than they used to be. But reducing homework or gutting it of substance, taking away structure and accountability, and creating boundless space for “student voices” feels more patronizing than supportive. The taut cable of high expectations has been slackened, and the result is the current mood: listlessness.

I like that phrase “the taut cable of high expectations.”  It reminded me of something that Antoine de St-Exupery wrote, which I had previously cited in a post and had been thinking about referencing again.

In St-Ex’s unfinished novel Citadelle (published in English under the unfortunate title Wisdom of the Sands), the protagonist is the ruler of a fictional desert kingdom.  One night, he goes to the prison in which a man who has been sentenced to death in the morning is being held. He muses that this man may well contain an inward beauty of some form–perhaps he should commute his sentence?…but goes on to justify his execution:

For by his death I stiffen springs which must not be permitted to relax.

The context in which I had been thinking of this passage was the present situation in San Francisco.  Failure to enforce laws–while endlessly searching for ‘inward beauty’ in the perpetrators of a wide range of crimes–had resulted in a relaxation of those springs of which St-Exupery wrote.

Our society at present suffers from both the loosening of Ruby LaRocca’s ‘taut cables’…which act to pull people upward…and St-Exupery’s ‘springs’…which reduce the incidence of disastrous falls.