Thursday, October 31, 2002
THE TOUGHEST DECISION: SHOULD MY LOVED ONE BE PLACED IN AN ASSISTED COMPUTING FACILITY?
For family members, it is often the most difficult and painful decision they will face: to accept that a loved one - a parent, a spouse, perhaps a sibling - is technologically impaired and should no longer be allowed to live independently, or come near a computer or electronic device without direct supervision. The time has come to place that loved one into the care of an Assisted Computing Facility. But you have questions. So many questions. ACFs like Silicon Pines want to help.
WHAT EXACTLY IS AN "ASSISTED COMPUTING FACILITY"?
Sometimes referred to as "Homes for the Technologically Infirm", "Technical Invalid Care Centers", or "Homes for the Technically Challenged", Assisted Computing Facilities (ACFs) are modeled on assisted living facilities, and provide a safe, structured residential environment for those unable to handle even the most common, everyday multitasks. Most fully accredited ACFs, like Silicon Pines, are an oasis of hope and encouragement that allow residents to lead productive, technologically relevant lives without the fear and anxiety associated with actually having to understand or execute the technologies themselves.
WHO SHOULD BE IN AN ACF?
Sadly, technology is advancing at such a dramatic rate that many millions, of all ages, will never truly be able to understand it, putting an undue burden on those friends and family members who must explain it to them. But unless the loved one is suffering from a truly debilitating affliction the decision to commit is entirely personal. You must ask yourself: "How frustrated am I that my parent/sibling/spouse is unable to open an email attachment?", "How much of my time should be taken up explaining how RAM is different from hard drive memory?", "How many times can I bear to hear my dad say, 'Hey, can I replace the motherboard with a fatherboard? Ha ha ha!'".
MUST IT BE FAMILY, OR CAN I PLACE ANYONE IN AN ACF?
Several corporations have sought permission to have certain employees, or at times entire sales departments, committed to ACFs. At present, however, individuals can be committed only by direct family or self-internment. The reason is simple: there are not nearly enough ACFs in the world to accommodate all the technologically challenged. For example, there are currently only 860,000 beds available in ACFs, but there are 29 million AOL users.
HOW MUCH WILL IT COST?
ACF rents range from free up to $12,500 per month. The disparity is currently a point of contention in the ACF industry. Many residents are covered through government programs such as Compucaid or CompuServe, but reimbursement rates are low and only cover a portion of the fees. Exacerbating the situation are the HMOs (HelpDesk Maintenance Organizations), which often deny coverage, forcing residents to pay out of pocket or turn to expensive private techcare insurers such as BlueCache/BlueScreen. Offsetting the costs are technology companies themselves, many of which subsidize ACFs. Firms such as Microsoft, Dell, Qualcomm, and America Online will pay up to 100 percent of a resident's monthly bill, but there is a catch. ISPs, for instance, require residents to sign service contracts lasting a year or more. Microsoft, meanwhile, prohibits the installation of any competitive software, while Priceline requires that residents buy shares of its stock, which seems onerous but saves residents on tiolet paper.
HOW OLD MUST I BE TO HAVE SOMEONE COMMITTED?
Until very recently, you had to be 18 or older to legally commit a family member. However, the now famous court case Frazier vs. Frazier has cleared the way for minors to commit their parents. In that case, 15 yr old Bradley Frazier had his 37 year old parents committed to an ACF after a judge ruled Ian and Janet Frazier were a 'danger to themselves and the community'. According to court records, Bradley told his parents about the I Love You virus and warned them not to click attachments, then the next day his parents received an I Love You email and clicked on the attachment because, they explained, "It came from someone we know."
WHAT SHOULD I LOOK FOR IN AN ACF?
First, make sure it's a genuine Assisted Computing Facility, and not an Assisted Living Facility. To tell the difference, observe the residents. If they look rather old and tend to openly discuss bowel movements, this is probably 'assisted living'. On the other hand, if they vary in age and say things like, "I'm supposed to figure that out? I'm not Bill Gates in case you didn't notice!", this is probably assisted computing. Also, at a well-run ACF, residents should lead full, independent lives, and should be allowed the use of many technology devices, including telephones, electric toothbrushes, and alarm clocks. However, only a facility's Licensed Techcare Professionals (LTPs) should perform computational or technological tasks such as installing programs or saving email attachments. And LTPs should NEVER answer residents' questions because studies have shown that answering user questions inevitably makes things worse. Instead, residents should simply have things done for them, relieving them of the pressure to 'learn' or 'improve'.
CAN A RESIDENT EVER GET OUT?
OK, THIS SOUNDS PROMISING. HOW CAN I LEARN MORE?
For your enlightenment, Silicon Pines offers extensive information on the ACF lifestyle. Whatever you decide, keep in mind that due to demand, ACFs now have long waiting lists. WebTV subscribers alone will take years to absorb.
Monday, October 28, 2002
Went on a tour of Chennai's backstreets today so I could get my cooking gas (LPG) refilled. Hard to believe that $6, 12kg tank lasted 8 months. As we passed a small apartment complex, I had the driver slam on the brakes:
Sunday, October 27, 2002
OMG! I'm diddling the TV remote & there's our boy Gedde playing the role of At Toon in his 2nd film, Volunteers. He's the side-kick to a young Tom Hanks. Tom's love interest is his future wife, Rita Wilson. There's even a relatively thin and alive John Candy.
Ms. Kristin makes reference to Long Duk Dong and many readers may conjure a XXX menage with Won Hung Lo and Cum Sum Yung Boy. In truth, real-life Gedde Watanabe got his start in the Brat-Packer "16 Candles" of 1984. We later not only saw him on "Sesame Street", but other TV spots like "Seinfeld", "Home Improvement" & "ER". Then there's the cameo in this year's film "Slackers", Jason Schwartzman's sequel to "Rushmore". As long as there are sophomores, there will be a Gedde Watanabe ;^)
It's 75F & grey in Chennai, break out the Winter coats. I ran out of cooking gas (LPG) halfway thru last night's dinner so I won't be using my stove (2-burner hotplate) to heat up the apartment. Gee, that reminds me of Dave Diminski's apartments in Spencerport.
Saturday, October 26, 2002
Continuing the theme, Hummers are fantastically unique, yet spew forth a lot of emissions. Some might consider that pollution, but for the sake of patriotism, I could go for a Hummer. Who out there couldn't tolerate a Hummer?
Now that I've had a week-long discussion with my host on the concepts of service, pix are working again. While we drove to Bangalore, here are some alternatives:
Monday, October 21, 2002
It was recently suggested that global warming is due to methane & India seems to have the market cornered on cows (tho the stink-o-meter pegged after my recent adventure with curried brains). It was further suggested that I lead the bloated bovine flatulentors out of India, but why should Pakistan reap this energy source when they're already armed & outfitted by the U.S. military? Instead, I say let them go to the the highest bidder or the economic systems with which India chooses to partner:
You have two cows. You keep one and give one to your neighbor.
You have two cows. The government takes them both and provides you with milk.
You have two cows. The government takes them and sells you the milk.
You have two cows. The government takes them both, shoots one, milks the other, pays you for the milk, and then pours it down the drain.
You have two cows. You sell one, buy a bull, and build a herd of cows.
You have two cows. You sell one, force the other to produce the milk of four cows and then act surprised when it drops dead.
You have two cows. The government taxes you to the point that you must sell them both in order to support a man in a foreign country who has only one cow which was a gift from your government.
You have two cows. Your neighbor has none. You feel guilty for being successful. You vote people into office who tax your cows, forcing you to sell one to raise money to pay the tax. The people you voted for then take the tax money and buy a cow and give it to your neighbor. You feel righteous. Barbara Streisand sings for you.
A CHRISTIAN DEMOCRAT:
You have two cows. You keep one and give one to your neighbor. Then you covet it.
You have two cows. Your neighbor has none. So?
A FRENCH CORPORATION:
You have two cows. You go on strike because you want three cows. You go to lunch. Life is good.
A JAPANESE CORPORATION:
You have two cows. You redesign them so they are one-tenth the size of an ordinary cow and produce twenty times the milk. They learn to travel on unbelievably crowded trains. Most are at the top of their class at cow school.
A GERMAN CORPORATION:
You have two cows. You reengineer them so they are all blond, drink lots of beer, give excellent quality milk, and run a hundred miles an hour. Unfortunately they also demand 13 weeks of vacation per year.
AN ITALIAN CORPORATION:
You have two cows but you don't know where they are. While ambling around, you see a beautiful woman. You break for lunch. Life is good.
A RUSSIAN CORPORATION:
You have two cows. You count them and learn you have five cows. You have some more vodka. You count them again and learn you have 42 cows. You count them again and learn you have 12 cows. You stop counting cows and open another bottle of vodka. You produce your 10th, 5-year plan in the last 3 months. The Mafia shows up and takes over however many cows you really have.
A SWISS CORPORATION:
You have 5000 cows, none of which belong to you. You charge for storing them for others. If they give milk, you tell no one.
A TALIBAN CORPORATION:
You have all the cows in Afghanistan, which is two. You don't milk them because you cannot touch any creature's private parts. At night when no one is looking, you milk both of them. Then you kill them and claim a US bomb blew them up while they were in the hospital.
A POLISH CORPORATION:
You have two bulls. Several people are killed while attempting to milk them.
A FLORIDA CORPORATION:
You have a black cow and a brown cow. Everyone votes for the best looking one. Some of the people who like the brown one best vote for the black one. Some people vote for both. Some people vote for neither. Some people can't figure out how to vote at all. Finally, a bunch of guys from out-of-state tell you which is the best looking one.
ENRON VENTURE CAPITALISM:
You have two cows. You sell three of them to your publicly listed company, using letters of credit opened by your brother-in-law at the bank, then execute a debt/equity swap with an associated general offer so that you get all four cows back, with a tax exemption for five cows. The milk rights of the six cows are transferred via an intermediary to a Cayman Island company secretly owned by the majority shareholder who sells the rights to all seven cows back to your listed company. The annual report says the company owns eight cows, with an option on one more.
Friday, October 18, 2002
I finally had another chance to get out of Chennai, driving with a friend/ex-co-worker (Tejpal) some 360km west to the city of Bangalore. Interestingly enough, this is in the state of Karnataka, site of the disputed waters of the Cauvery River. We started at 6:30AM, taking 2 hours to traverse the rutted streets of Chennai's west side. Once onto National Highway 7, we slalomed our way past cows, bull carts, and other vehicles that one would see on back country roads, passing thru occasional villages with their unmarked speed breakers. We stopped for breakfast at a roadside dhaba (joint) where I had a delicious pongal that I've been missing for 6 months. Imagine Creme of Rice with black peppercorns & herb. Sticks to your ribs! And for our Men-in-Blue, the vada (fried doughnuts) would have graced any American diner. As we continued up to 1000m in elevation, I saw my first roadside monkeys. I'd roll down the window for a pic & Tejpal would shout urgently to roll the window back up. He gave me a biscuit to feed them, but again was fervid about the window, downright vehement! Moving on, we soon stopped for a roadside family selling custard apples, kind of pulpy with large, black seeds rivaling the spitters of any watermelon. Arriving in Bangalore, I noticed the weather was cooler at elevation, in fact, I immediately turned off the a/c in my room at the Central Park hotel. After a short rest (Tejpal drove over 8 nerve-racking hours), we grabbed an auto rickshaw to the intersection of Mahatma Gandhi & Brigade Roads. This is an area of Bangalore uniquely Westernized. There were pubs such as Nasa (space station decor with a laser show) where men AND women sat down to enjoy a beer. Women wore slacks & blouses with a shape other than saree. There were NetCafes with good coffee & a Wimpie's burger joint (no beef, it's still India). There was a mall where I bought a new Indian shirt (hey, can't call it Hawaiian). We met two young ladies that Tejpal knew from previous employment and they were delightful. I had to smile, suspecting their fashion & friendliness would draw a Chennai label of "scandalous". Still, for a Saturday night, they had one cocktail & were home safe by 9PM. Our night ended shortly thereafter & I was back up at 7AM hiding Bangalore's First NaviCache. By 8AM, I was on a 7 hour train back to Chennai. For Rs.362 (US$7), the 1st Class, A/C, Chair car was comfortable enough to sleep, tho aisle vendors passed every 3 minutes hawking everything from water to biryani. I dared not try anything, not knowing its source. I may be acclimated to known Chennai hotels, but when was the last time any wise readers bought unknown food from strangers wearing loongis (skirts)...especially when I had been warned that passengers are occasionally drugged & robbed.
Friday, October 11, 2002
Nothing spoils a Bandh (or the Wicked Witch) like a little moisture: rain, thunder & lightning kept the rowdies off the streets. Public transportation didn't run, but the private (not swank) vans that we provide for our Call Center Agents met no resistance, no stoning, no Mogudishu-type barricades. Future crowd control could be as simple as cloud control, e.g. hygroscopic seeding.
Gentle readers (even the Pasha of Pavillion) were mostly aghast at my comments on SUVs & toy trucks. My own brother was the straw breaking the camel's back when he labeled me a "liberal". Please understand that my target was not Jed Clampett's vintage Ford necessary for hauling everything including the sucre of life, Elly Mae. Rather, I was taking a nudge at the likes of Cadillac Escalade, Lincoln Navigator & now, the Porsche Cayenne. Gluttons considering these vehicles need to take half their bank loan down to the sporty Miata dealership. You'll accomplish your ego while not using as much fuel in a day as the average village in Tibet does in a year AND you'll look much better in the driver's seat ... trust the YardBoy.
Tuesday, October 08, 2002
Bandh (General Strike) called in state of Tamil Nadu, dusk to dawn, Wednesday, 09 OCT.
In a show of solidarity for the Tamil farmer's water shortage, a Tamil all-party meeting yesterday decided to protest the refusal of the Karnataka state gubbermint to release water from the Cauvery River as directed by the Supreme Court & the Cauvery River Authority. Tamil Chief Minister Jayalalithaa, aka Amma (Mother), accuses India's Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee of abdicating the Centre's (majority) responsibility. She further indicates a second contempt filing against Karnataka in Supreme Court and should Karnataka fail to comply, that state gubbermint should be dismissed as its defiance of Constitutional authority leads to anarchy.
I've been in other Fourth World countries where this event translates as a holiday. For our India Call Center serving U.S. callers, it begs the question: how the hell do we get people to/from work? If shifts work an extra 12 hours thru the Bandh, how do we feed them? And do U.S. clients really accept this excuse just because India labor is a bargin?! This roving reporter will be out with his camera.
Sunday, October 06, 2002
We are Homo Sapien, technological uprights of planet Earth with the ability to reason. We are would-be survivors, yet, a weak link in evolution. Do you want to help solve our dependence on oil and reduce our exposure to pollution, rising global temperatures, increased radiation thru ozone depletion, OPEC & similar extortionists? If so, consider the following:
Stop buying SUVs & toy trucks. How many of these dinosaurs pass by each day with only one occupant inside, drivers esconced within their travelling cube of air-conditioned comfort, oblivious to the fact that they're driving a pariah (from the Tamil paraiyar)? If you feel that you need to purchase one, ask yourself the following:
- In what sport am I utilizing this vehicle? Money burning? Ending life as we know it?
- When did I last go off road? Or require 4-wheel-drive?
- What am I towing today?
- Do I enjoy eroding 3 foot rubber tires on the concrete jungle?
- Have I become so anthropomorphic that this vehicle is an extension of my sex organ?
If you can't answer any of these on any given day of owning one of these combusting monsters, then you, a troglodyte, have made a bad purchasing decision. Rethink, and get something that will actually fit into your garage or common parking spaces. Most of all, turn off those silly fog lights that sit at eye level for those trying to save this shithole you keep crapping into.
Have you ever heard of mopeds & motorcycles? Scope out Europe or Asia: two-wheelers are standard modes of transportation that give great gas mileage, easier parking, & lower insurance costs (wouldn't you like to beat their actuarial asses?). Why do you relegate bikes to quirky Bohemian artist-types & outlaws? And if you're going to whine about rainy days, please consider hybrid electric cars, ride sharing or mass transportation. Be part of the solution, not the problem.
Saturday, October 05, 2002
Well, it was a busy week with our client Account Manager visiting from Houston, TX and his boss'-boss'-boss making a pass-thru inspection on Thursday after assessing several other Indian Call Centers. Their presence meant flying in our big guns from Rochester, NY (and they never bring White Hots). I usually work 3PM-2AM for production purposes, but this VIP activity starts early. It wouldn't be bad if I had someone to take care of those few hours I spend outside of work: someone to shop, cook, & clean up; someone to change the bed linen; someone to wash & iron; some driver that would be on time. Today, we had an internal recap that lasted from 11AM-5PM & identified lots for yours truly to do by yesterday. At the end, the big dogs went shopping for souveniers & I treated myself to a recommended non-veg hotel, Ponnuswamy. The squeemish should stop reading here...I finally got to try lamb brain, sauteed with a little spicy masala (roux). As common, it was served on a banana leaf with paratha (my favorite flat bread). I've been working my way thru various organs over the years (marrow, gizzards, tongue, liver, heart, tripe, Rocky Mountain Oysters, sweetbreads) & now know I can eat any offal. BTW, Lipitor can keep your cholesterol in check after enjoying these delights (18 million users can't be wrong).