Selfish, Personal Post: If You Were to Start Tomorrow, What e-mail service would you use?

After a day of waiting on hold with my new internet server (I “bundled” for considerable savings but also because our local cable provider had been swallowed in a buy-out),  the last techie informed me that it was surprising I still got any e-mails – not that they were disappearing from my inbox and from deleted, etc.  (And pretty soon I wouldn’t get any.)   Suddenlink addresses, apparently, were being sent to some black hole.  Meanwhile, Optimum does not provide that service.

I guess I need to move on.  Opinions are generally well supported (and not in short supply) among Chicagoboyz; what has your experience taught you?  I’d love anecdotes  but statements like – XX is wonderful or terrible will also help.   After all, who is more savvy than a Chicagoboy?  On the other hand, I’m incompetent and totally rely on the Greek Squad so simplicity and safety are my biggest concerns.

If We’d Known Back Then What We Know Now

…and if we knew now what we will know in the future Then.

Palmer Luckey, at Twitter:

Think about what you could build with current knowledge if you were transported 100 years into the past. From industry to transportation to agriculture, many modern technologies were feasible but for the idea. In 100 years, the same situation will exist. Find those ideas now!

Seems like a fertile topic for discussion.  Two questions: What could you have created in the past (no need to limit it to 100 years ago specifically) with what you know now?..with reasonable realism constraints involving available resources and knowledge possessed by other people?  And, what could we create now that we haven’t and that will lead people 100 years from now to say, “How could they have been so dumb as not to do this?”

Miscellaneous Business/Economics/Energy Items

Apple is going to make Watches and MacBooks in Vietnam.  (More precisely, Apple suppliers will make the products there.  “Make” in this context meaning mostly “assemble”, I think.)  Apple is also planning to produce the iPhone 14 in India, with only about a 2-month lag from its initial production in China.

Intel will be partnering with Brookfield Infrastructure Partners to help pay for factory expansion projects, with Brookfield contributing up to $30 billion.  Most immediately, the money will pay for the expansion of Intel’s Ocotillo manufacturing campus in Chandler, Arizona, with Intel funding 51% and Brookfield funding 49% of the total project cost.  (This is pretty different from BIP’s typical investments, which tend to involve such things as railroads, toll roads, pipelines, and electricity transmission)

A useful overview of planned and in-development fabs, worldwide.

Electricity prices, marginal costs, and the last kilowatt.

Texas has banned BlackRock and several other firms from doing business with the state.

Finland may be facing power outages this winter.  On the other hand, if their Olkiluoto 3 nuclear power plant goes into production at the end of the year, as planned, this should help a lot.  Another plant is planned, taking total nuclear contribution in Finland to 60%.

Also,perhaps a way could be found to harness the power from their PM’s very high-energy dancing.  (If other Western leaders could dance like that, would it somehow influence their minds to adopt more rational energy policies?)

Elsewhere in Europe, skyrocketing energy prices are causing a lot of hardship–and will surely create serious economic pressures as much manufacturing in the affected countries becomes cost-prohibitive)

The Euro is not doing very well versus the dollar.  More here.

Paul Graham:

f you think people have scar tissue, you should see organizations. Each time there’s a disaster, they create a process to prevent future disasters of that type. Eventually they accrete a thick layer of these processes that prevents them from moving. Then they die.

Burnout

Emmett Shear, at Twitter (@eshear) suggests that Burnout, which he defines as “a particularly modern affliction, feeling simultaneously overwhelmed and paralyzed” is best thought of as a symptom with many different causes–the most important of which are permanent on-call, broken steering, and mission doubt.  ‘Permanent on-call’ is self-explanatory, ‘broken steering’ is the sense that your actions have no impact, ‘mission doubt’ arises when you question whether this work is really worth doing at all…ie, even if the steering was functioning properly, maybe this trip isn’t worthwhile.

It’s a useful formulation.  I’d note that some jobs have always had a permanent on-call aspect; railway workers, for example…see Linda Niemann’s memoir of her experiences on the old Southern Pacific Railroad–no cell phones or even pagers in those days, but there were ‘callers’ who would come to your residence and wake you up when you were needed.  Also sailors.  But on-call jobs are a lot more common today than they were 20 or 30 years ago.

I think the feeling of ‘broken steering’ has also long been present, in the case of large-bureaucracy employees and some manufacturing workers.  An assembly-line worker knows that his task does contribute to the final product..but the connection probably seems pretty remote and abstract when your actual job is to tighten three bolts.

‘Mission’ can be understood in two ways: the purpose of the job in terms of what it produces, and the purpose of the job in terms of income to support yourself and your family.  As the second factor becomes taken for granted, the first surely becomes more important.  (See Maslow)

Very relevant to this topic is Zeynep Ton’s recent book The Good Jobs Strategy.  She discusses the unpredictably-fluctuating employee schedules which are so common in retail..maybe not pure on-call, but close to it…and the disruptive effect these schedules have on an employee’s personal life.  She also talks about time pressures that lead to jobs inevitably being done poorly.  A former Target cashier, for example, said she was under so much pressure to ring up sales as quickly as possible that if a customer bought 10 bottles of Gatorade–in two flavors–she would scan the first one and then hit the quantity key for ten.  The inventory system thought the store had sold 10 lime-flavored Gatorades and no cherry-flavored Gatorades, rather than the mix that had actually just been sold.  She also cites a study of a $10 billion company which found that the system had the right information for only 35% of the products…for the other 65%, the discrepancies between the system inventory balances and the actual quantities available averaged 5 units…a third of the target stocking levels.  In one case, a certain item was continually out of stock, to the frustration of a regular customer.  It turned out that the inventory system thought there were 42 of these on hand, whereas there were actually none.  AND, since this particular store hadn’t sold any units in several weeks (because they didn’t have any to sell), the system automatically reduced the target stocking level for that item!  Situations like this are surely destructive both of sense of mission and of a functioning steering system.

Your thoughts?

Humor and Seriousness

Katherine Boyle is a partner at the VC firm Andreessen Horowitz and she is a thoughtful writer on many topics.  See her post The Case for American Seriousness at Bari Weiss’s substack; also, her posts at her own substack, The Rambler, especially those concerning family, parenting, and technology.

In an interview, she said “The biggest criticism I got from the (American Seriousness) piece, and other times I’ve written about seriousness, is that it doesn’t leave room for frivolity, play or the unseriousness that makes us deeply human. And I empathize with that sentiment, but I don’t think the opposite of seriousness is humor: the opposite of seriousness is irony.”

I agree absolutely that there is no inconsistency between seriousness and humor…quite the contrary, I would say.  Concerning Irony, I’m reminded of something C S Lewis wrote.  The following is from The Screwtape Letters, a book of advice from a senior devil to his protege about how to do the maximum harm to humans:

But Flippancy is the best of all. In the first place it is very economical. Only a clever human can make a real Joke about virtue, or indeed about anything else; any of them can be trained to talk as if virtue were funny. Among flippant people the Joke is always assumed to have been made. No one actually makes it; but every serious subject is discussed in a manner which implies that they have already found a ridiculous side to it. If prolonged, the habit of Flippancy builds up around a man the finest armour-plating against the Enemy that I know, and it is quite free from the dangers that inherent it the other sources of laughter. It is a thousand miles away from joy: it deadens, instead of sharpening, the intellect; and it excites no affection between those who practice it.

Irony, I think, is closely related to the Flippancy about which Lewis’s devil wrote.  Also related to irony is Sarcasm, concerning which Field Marshal Lord Wavell offered some thoughts:

Explosions of temper do not necessarily ruin a general’s reputation or influence with his troops; it is almost expected of them (“the privileged irascibility of senior officers,” someone has written), and it is not always resented, sometimes even admired, except by those immediately concerned. But sarcasm is always resented and seldom forgiven. (emphasis added)  In the Peninsula the bitter sarcastic tongue of Craufurd, the brilliant but erratic leader of the Light Division, was much more wounding and feared than the more violent outbursts of Picton, a rough, hot-tempered man.

Wavell defined Sarcasm as “being clever at someone else’s expense.”  In his view, sarcasm always offends, and a general (or, presumably, any other officer or individual in a position of authority) should never indulge in it.

I think that in many organizations in America today–perhaps, even, most organizations of any size–fear of Cancellation has reached the point at which easy interaction among people–which includes a certain amount of humor–has been replaced with a kind of fragile pseudo-formality.  This is not good for either innovation or productivity, not to mention its toxic impact on individual lives.

What are your thoughts on humor, seriousness, irony, and sarcasm?