David, Me, & PHP

Yesterday was a milestone event in my PHP programming career; I wrote my first PHP robot script.  It was a nerd triumph of sorts.  My friend David, who got me started on PHP about 3 years ago, once again helped me get to the next level.  He’s not really a PHP programmer per se, but he works data magic on spreadsheets and knows the PHP syntax well enough to pop data variables into PHP scripts brute force style.  We collaborated to create a straight up PHP brass tacks script that did some real work.  Which as it turns out, was a real epiphany for me.

Let me begin this story with an analogy about drywall and demolition.  When I had first set out to remodel our kitchen in our first house, I had never done drywall or demolition.  My father was an engineer, and most things we worked on together as father and son were precision in nature: rulers, pencils, straight lines, diagrams, graph paper, &c.  So I really didn’t know what I was getting into when it was time to demolish my old kitchen.  Luckily, I had my father-in-law coming over and this was his type of work, and I was about to learn from one of the best.

I woke up one spring morning and made myself breakfast in my kitchen for the last time.  My father-in-law shows up after breakfast with a couple of sledge hammers and some other tools.  He hands me one of the sledge hammers, takes a swing at a wall in my kitchen with the other and knocks the fuck out of it.  A little explosion of dust and debris came from the contact of that hammer against the wall.  That visual coupled with the loud THUD! noise made my goes wide.  I was thinking ‘what the fuck!?!? we’re just going to knock this motherfucker the fuck down!?!?’.   It was very liberating to swing that sledge hammer; it was intoxicating.  I got into a zone smashing walls, cabinets, old nasty range-tops, counter-tops, soffets, &c.  It all happened so fast.  The kitchen that I had just eaten breakfast in was gone before lunch time.  My kitchen was naked down to the studs and what used to be my kitchen was a scatter of debris in my backyard.  It was awesome.

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Loss Gravitas

The Hamburg plant is closing June 8, 2010 and 126 people (white & blue collar) will be let go.  They will be released into the Michigan unemployment ranks in one of the toughest job markets our state has seen for a long time.  This is another bellwether event for our state and our union:  a plant, after existing for 40+ years of prosperity, has lost its way.   Design engineers, manufacturing engineers, quality engineers, managers, administrative clerics, CNC operators, supervisors, human resource personnel, maintenance managers & technicians, mothers, fathers, daughters, sons, et al, will be unemployed.  There were over 240 people that worked at this plant as little as 2 years ago and that is a more accurate number of people unemployed as a result of this closing.

The employees of this plant are productive members of society.  These people exemplify what hard work in our American factories and markets mean to the health of our society as a whole.  There was never a time when there wasn’t a struggle at the Hamburg plant, but as I have said about markets and life before, there is always a struggle.  But, this time it’s different.  This time, the struggle will end for this plant that has seen 20% margins for decades.

Why did the plant die?  What are the internal and external factors that rang the death knell for this plant?  Our markets today are subjected to a confluence of events that make it impossible to name one cause to any one event.   We have to look at the prevailing head winds facing our manufacturing industry in America and our economy in general to understand the basic root causes.  That is to say, things like the export of labor to “low cost” nations.  And, the global purchasing strategies of our global business models that leverage the lowest possible price for any and all components in any given bill of materials.

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The Communist Manifesto

I’ve spent a good part of my life talking about how great it is to live in America and how Communism is bad.  I studied sociology and knew that there were different political systems and different economic systems, but I never really ventured to study them in depth.  I never contemplated a bigger meaning of it all or how it all fits together.   One day, while talking smack about Communism and the Communist Manifesto I was asked “have you ever even read it?”  Ah, such a simple question.  It was hard to make an argument about something I hadn’t even read.  The answer was obviously no;  I had not read the Communist Manifesto.  Now that I have read it, I’d like to give my take on it.

There is a fundamental flaw in the Communist Manifesto in that it is not a stand alone idea.  It is not an idea conjured from a blank sheet of paper.  It is born as an “Anti-Capitalist” philosophy.  In order to succeed, a philosophy should fundamentally parallel a natural process in some manner and be able to stand alone.  This is no different than the evolutionary principles of natural selection in the wild:  those which are not best adapted to succeed eventually die off.  A sociopolitical philosophy based entirely on unnatural principles while intoxicated with a hatred of Capitalism is one that is destined for failure.   It’s not entirely difficult, however,  to see the seductiveness of a “new” concept when the discord of the “old” concepts are described so accurately and succinctly.  But, the Communist Manifesto does not do much more than describe the struggles of previous ruling class / working class dichotomies.  I find weakness in this document in its utopian sales pitch even as I cannot find much argument in the cycle of proletarian uprisings and revolutions that are evidenced within it.  My belief is that the struggles and revolutions of all the societies that have gone before us are perhaps better viewed as part of our natural evolution as human beings.  An analogy comes to mind to describe what I think I would say to Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels if they were alive today:  don’t throw the baby out with the bath water.

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Netflix, Blockbuster, and Gandhi

GandhiYou can learn a lot from reading famous quotes.  A quote is usually inspirational in and of itself, but it will often times also lead you to learn about the person who said it.  And, learning about great people in history leads to even more inspiration and knowledge.  A lot of great quotes are analogies or metaphors for things you can relate to.  Some of the best resonate because of that fact.  The best analogies and metaphors relate to things that are observable in nature; this makes them universal because anyone can relate that has observed a natural phenomenon.

Gandhi once said “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, and then you win”.  This phenomenon can be observed again and again.  It is a standard natural process that happens all the time.  It happens in sports.  You can see it in business.  You can see it everywhere.  One thing about this quote and process is how you can see it unfold over time.  Spot it in the early stage and you can make predictions that might not come true for some length of time.  Then when they do, the affirmation serves to reinforce your beliefs and remind you to stay true to your convictions.

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