Please Pack Me, I’m Busy

No more tiresome packing chores.  All you need is a friendly app on your favorite device, and off you go.  Let’s just call it an online concierge service and, oh yes, you will need to pay.  This payment will cover the costs of having your traveling wardrobe stored somewhere where you can just send a short text to let your packers know that you are ready to travel.  Costs will vary across different service providers, but one example are the rates charged by one company, DUFL.  It costs $99 per round trip, plus $9.95 a month for storage.

Instead of packing your own suitcase, travelers can rely on companies such as DUFL which started in 2015 and now has warehouses in three cities and 30 employees who clean, press and pack their customers’ clothes and toiletries for them.  When a trip is approaching, customers use DUFL’s website or app to select items from their personal closet in DUFL’s cavernous warehouse. (Photographs of every piece of clothing are uploaded.).   DUFL then launders or dry cleans the clothes and packs them in a  way that reminds customers of a shopping spree.  And not to worry, FedEx will deliver the bags to your home.

What a convenience and time saver for the busy business traveler!   All it takes is the right wardrobe and a little expendable income.

Ray Myers


The Strong Silent Type – Even When Texting or Not?

Okay men, maybe it’s time to break some of those old male stereotypes in the digital age of the twenty first century.  Some women, you know who you are, may say it is a hopeless cause.  All men really want is someone to listen to them and go easy on the advice.  It seems like the most preferred female response is a simple, “Mm hmmm.”  But now that we are in the digital age, men may finally find that they can open up more freely through texting and other social media, expressing their most innermost thoughts.  Well, as they say, “good luck with that.”  Even in the case of the youngest social media users, sex may be be the key determinant in how they choose to express themselves (or not) online.

I am not sure that this online behavior has been scientifically documented, but there seems to be plenty of anecdotal data to suggest some behavioral differences in this regard.  Here is one writer’s experience:  “A few months ago . . . my nephew, now seven years old, got his first cellphone.  There was his number on our family group text, a long message chain that my sisters and I use as a place to deposit our complaints about the day and his puns.  So far, his contributions have been a string of plane and car emojis.  Excited though, to have this new way to talk to him, I sent him a message.  I saw the flickering bubbles that showed he was typing back.  Then nothing.  For the next twelve hours, his side of the conversation was blank.  Finally, a day later, a single response:  ‘Hey.'”

In defense of our seven year old “brother,” it may just be overwhelming to keep up with older aunts whether they are conversing online or in person.  Be strong, young man!  Maybe not so silent.

Ray Myers

Trump’s Twitter Shutdown

Sometimes it’s just good to say (or tweet) nothing, and I think yesterday was a good time for the so-called President to do just that.  But I have a feeling he will be back.  How can he not?  Let’s just call it an “obsession” to be polite.  Don’t we all want to know what he thinks about everything?  Or whom he wants to attack or harangue at any given time?  Oh, for those of you who may have been otherwise preoccupied yesterday, Jim Comey, the former FBI DIrector fired by Trump, testified to the Senate Intelligence Committee about alleged lies (obstruction of justice) that Trump has made publicly and in private.  They cover a wide variety of topics, but the majority seem focused on inquiries over contacts with Russian officials.

All day Thursday, Trump had nothing to say – on his preferred medium of Twitter or anywhere else.  He let others do his talking.  A president who earlier in the week had been spoiling for a fight with Comey – and who sees his Twitter feed as both megaphone and weapon – was convinced by others to lie low according to about a dozen White House officials and other Republicans close to him.  As Representative Peter King advised: ” . . . avoid any temptation to respond to what the Democrats are saying . . . there was no reason to say anything, to get bogged down in the swamp.  Be presidential, go out and do the job, and don’t take the bait.”  Good advice from a seasoned politician wouldn’t you say?

But who knows what Trump will do?  It might sound too much like hard work.  When would he have time to golf, fly down to Mar-a-Lago?

Ray Myers

An American Idea – Trump’s New Business Venture!

I  would have thought that being President (so-called) of the United States was a full-time job, but I have certainly underestimated the current resident of the White House.  Maybe he will rename this residence if he stays around long enough, but he is not really there that often.   And most of the “conflicts of interest” concerns that I worry about don’t seem to bother government ethics watchdogs in Washington or, if they do, I am not hearing that much about it.  Let’s face  it, he has enough children and a large business organization so that he can hide safely in the shadows, and never be seen as a business benefactor.  It’s all in the branding and getting the shrewdest legal expertise.  Land of the free and the brave!

So what does all this have to do with technology?  Let’s just say that they have free wi-if in all the rooms.  Now that we have gotten that out of the way, we can explore what this new business venture is really all about.  Don’t worry, you probably won’t see the Donald’s name displayed in any prominent way, so let’s just wink and go our merry way.   The Trump Organization calls this new budget-friendly hotel line, the American Idea.  This new hotel chain is making its debut in Mississippi, where Republicanism reigns.  What a concept!  Here is some of the promotional jargon:  “a new three-star hotel chain with a patriotic flair, echoing (his) campaign slogan about putting America first and reflecting the organization’s promise to enter into new deals only in the United States.”   America Idea will feature artifacts of American culture in the hotels, such as an old Coca-Cola machine in the lobby or American-made sundries in the rooms.  Make America Great Again.

The South will Rise Again!

Ray Myers


Where Everybody Knows Your Name – Maybe Online, But Not in Real Time

Before there was Facebook and Twitter (I do remember), people would actually talk to each other face-to-face.  They were not as concerned about the number of retweets or likes they received on social media (there was none).  Maybe they just wanted to have a few close friends or family members that they could always count on to be around whenever they needed them, or just wanted to enjoy each other’s company.  In our virtual world of today when can choose to be connected to our friends and family whenever, and in whatever ways we choose.  But living in the virtual world full time may actually deprive us of having a longer life.  Feeling isolated and disconnected from the real world can actually make us sick.

Recent  research suggests that being unpopular (in the real world) can be hazardous to our health.  In fact, it might even kill us.  Yet most don’t realize that there’s more than one type of popularity and social media may not supply the one that makes us feel good.  This same research also reveals that there is more than one type of popularity, and most of us may be investing in the wrong kind.  We can be popular by simply being likeable.  Likeability reflects kindness, benevolent leadership and selfless, prosocial behavior.  This same research suggests that this form of popularity offers lifelong advantages, and leads to relationships that confer the greatest health benefits.  We may be built by evolution to care deeply about popularity, but it’s up to us to chose the nature of the relationships we want with our peers.  It may also mean that we step away from Twitter once in a while.

May we all live long and prosper in real time.  🖖

Ray Myers

Messages of Love and Hate – Can Twitter Save Us?

Just two days ago, I wrote about how Twitter was being used as a online messenger of love, particularly when you can Direct Message your beloved.  Unfortunately, it seems that it also can be used as a messenger of hate, as recently witnessed in Europe. Twitter has been cited as failing to meet European standards for removing hate speech online.  The battle betweeen European policy makers and tech companies over what should be permitted online has pitted freedom of speech campaigners against those who say hate speech – in whatever form – has no place on the Internet.

Twitter has said that it had invested in new reporting procedures to allow individuals to flag problems with hate speech, and it was striving to balance people’s right to freedom of expression with the need to police material on its network.  The European Union members are particularly concerned over the increases in terrorist attacks on their soil.  After the recent attacks in Manchester, England, Theresa May, the country’s Prime Minister, called on tech companies to strengthen their monitoring of extremist speech online.  And in Germany, lawmakers are planning new legislation that could lead to fines of up to $50 million of companies do not act quickly in policing harmful material on their digital services.

Maybe we shouldn’t worry so much about Europe anymore.  So-called President Donald Trump certainly doesn’t seem to care, particularly when they talk about climate change and NATO defenses.  We have friends in Russia.

Ray Myers

My Heart’s aTwitter with Your Tweets

More than any other social media, Twitter is rapidly becoming the preferred “love” media.  From finding a date to proposing marriage, this is like sailing on the digital “Love Boat,” if you are old enough to remember that TV series.  So many new technologies, to use, so little time.  Somehow Twitter has become the preferred love connection.  Don’t forget the Direct Message (DM) feature when things start to become more intimate.  Twitter doesn’t maintain statistics on how many of its users met through the site, but it does actively crowdsource and feature stories from people who have used the app to “kindle” a romance.”

Here is an unsolicited testimonial from one happy lady, now wife and mother.  “She admits to having met previous dates on MySpace and Craigslist but insists that Twitter is an ideal platform to connect with potential mates – as long as users switch from public replies to direct messaging fairly quickly.  Ultimately, asking someone out on Twitter, there is still that fear of rejection that exists.  But it’s super possible.  It all goes down in the DMs.”

Okay, all you lonely hearts out there.  Brush up on your DM skills to give Cupid a hand!

Ray Myers

Ke vs. Lee or, China and South Korea Vie to Beat AlphaGo

So it’s only a game as they say, but the geopolitical implications seem obvious.  This board game is called Go and I have seen it played in parks around Hanoi, but please don’t ask me to explain it.  But I will quote from a article by a Hong Kong reporter that might help shed some light.  “Go, in which two players vie for control of a board using black and white pieces called stones, is considered complex because of the sheer number of possible moves.  Even supercomputers cannot simply calculate all the possible moves, presenting a big challenge for AlphaGo creators.”  But AlphaGo developers did accept the challenge and created the software that makes this game available online.

So far, AlphaGo seems to be the undisputed “artificial intelligence” champion, only being beaten once by South Korea”s Mr. Lee.  China’s Mr. Ke seems more resigned to only playing against human opponents.  He noted that he would focus more on playing with people saying that the gap between humans was becoming too great.  He would treat the software as more of a teacher, he said, to get inspiration and new ideas about moves.  Or maybe he should say that he has finally met his match, but when his “match” is basically artficial intelligence, it just may be too hard to admit defeat by a software program?  Somehow this all sounds vaguely familiar, like Dr. Frankenstein being outsmarted by his own “monstrous” creation.

AlphaGo is also demonstrating an ability to learn from its gaming experiences.  It is not just calculating moves, but learning from its own experiences.  That is something that we can all benefit from, so that we can remain smarter than our machines, I hope.

Ray Myers 

P.S.  Happy Memorial Day weekend.  Be back on the 31st.

When Alexa Met Ikea, the Lights Turned On!

What would we do without Alexa?  She is so handy to have around the house, and doesn’t demand too much.  Just a little electricity to keep her “turned on.”  Now she can do even more.  She may not be the only little device that can do all these tricks using voice commands to control light switches, thermostats and other smart home appliances, but she seems to be the most popular.  And no new app is required in the case of turning the lights on and off, if you already have Alexa in your home.

Alexa and Ikea are now a couple and to work together all they really need are some voice-enabled light bulbs (you buy them).  It’s almost like having a live-in pair who can answer questions for you, play music, and now, turn the lights on and off.  The “marriage” of  Alexa and Ikea is also a marketing boon for the smart home business.  Amazon has said there have been “tens of millions of Alexa devices” sold, including various devices in Amazon’s Echo family of products and those from independent device makers as well.  Smart home usage of various devices is growing rapidly.

Smart homes for smart people?  It still might be fun to do these things ourselves.  Maybe we will start having device-free days just to reminisce about the way life used to be.

Ray Myers

Don’t Google It, Strawman – Use Your Brain

Outsourcing knowledge to Google keeps you away from learning things the right way.  Don’t take my word for it.  Psychological researchers have been studying the effects on internet dependence on the human learning process.  Take your ability to remember, or learn things the right way so that you can recall them at will.  And on a personal note, this seems to get harder as you get older.  So if you want to stay younger mentally, using Google may be a handy tool, but still keep using your own mental faculties if you want to have people think you really know what you are talking about.  How old is Donald Trump?  Seventy?  He seems to like Twitter better than Google, but he still might like to use it if he wants to fact-check something.  I just don’t think he worries about those bothersome facts that much.  He does use the TV to watch FOX news, right?

“Using knowledge in the head is also self-sustaining, whereas using knowledge from the internet is not.  Every time you retrieve information from memory, it becomes a bit easier to find it the next time.  That’s why students studying for a test actually remember more if they quiz themselves than if they study as they typically do, by rereading their textbook or notes.  That parades the right ideas before the mind, but it doesn’t make them stick in the same way, you won’t learn your way around a city if you always use your GPS, but you will if you work to remember the route you took last time (NY Times, 5/21/17).

“But why do I worry about all this?  And why does Donald Trump come creeping back into my mind.  Maybe it is the fact that he is not the “fake President.”

Ray Myers






Faked Out by Fake News

Oh, those automated algorithms!  One day they are riding high as our anointed saviors from being duped by fake news and exposed to gory live streaming, and the next day we are not quite so sure (see my post on May 3).  So what is Mark Zuckerberg and others to do?  I guess they will have to hire more humans or, as they are called in the business, “screeners.”  So how many for how long?  And why are we so gullible, and so intrigued by gory spectacles we can watch on demand.  Sounds like the old days of the Roman Empire when they threw the Christians to the lions.  Only now you can watch it at any time and any place thanks to technology.  Not to mention reading the fake news to fill in your spare time.  Can Mark Zuckerberg or anybody really solve this problem

Despite Zuckerberg’s pledge to do a better job in screening content, many Facebook users did not seem to believe that much would change.  Hundreds of commenters on his post related personal experiences of reporting inappropriate content to Facebook that the company declined to remove.  So who are these reviewers and what standards do they apply?  Most of them are low-paid contractors overseas who spend an average of just a few seconds on each post.  A National Public Radio investigation last year found that they inconsistently apply Facebook’s standards, echoing previous  research by other outlets.  Hmmmm, I wonder if some of these same people work in those famous “call centers” that American companies have established abroad?

Sounds to me that we may be “faked out” for a long time to come.

Ray Myers

P.S.  I will not be posting on Friday.  Busy weekend ahead.  Enjoy yours.  Back on Monday.



Let Your Fingers Do the Walking – Shop/Search Online

Remember the Yellow Pages?  I know I am walking down memory lane a lot lately, but things are changing so quickly.  I often like to think about life before tech because it has certainly changed the way we do just about everything.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that!  What would we do now without Amazon or Google?  As long as you are near a computer screen in whatever form you prefer, you can probably survive living alone on an island provided there is connectivity and free home delivery.

Here is what one NY Times reporter noted recently: “When the kids were born, it (Amazon) become my household Costco – supplier of diapers and other baby gear.  Then it began a services designed to remove any decision-making from shopping:  My toilet paper, paper towels and other consumables now come to my house on schedule, no thinking required.  Then Amazon moves into media, and I was more hooked:  It had me for packaged goods, so why not movies and TV shows too?”  And now there is even more.  Amazon gave us Echo, the company’s talking computer which speaks through a persona known as Alexa, and which has now infected American families like a happy virus.

But if it’s not Amazon for you, it’ll be one of other tech giants:  Alphabet (Google), Apple, Facebook, or Microsoft.  It’s too late to escape.

Ray Myers


How About a Coffee Break – Skip the Wi-Fi, Skip Trump

Now why would you want to make your coffeee shop wi-fi free?  It may seem a bit nostalgic, but some cafe owners would like to bring back the art of the conversation in their shops.  What a concept!  You can actually sit at a table and converse with friends, colleagues, or perhaps even strangers, as you sip your coffee and discuss all the latest news and/or gossip.  Just think, you can actually create your own Trump-free spaces where you can choose NOT to hear or see all the breaking news about his latest tweets and antics.  I know that keeping up with him can be addictive, and unfortunately, he loves to keep you hooked.

Back to the coffee shop.  Without wi-fi, these shops may soon become our oasis in the desert of social networking and instant communication on any topic at any time.  Some shop owners do not see the wi-fi restriction as revolutionary but as a response to society’s deep immersion into all things digital that leads people to seldom communicate face to face.  To promote conviviality, some shops have adopted a no wi-fi policy and gone a step further: doing away with some comfy furniture and narrowing counters to make them less accommodating for laptops.

So maybe we could all use a little more face time (not FaceTime) to actually talk about what is happening in this age of Trump.  He may be addicted to always being in the news, but we should not be addicted to him.   He is Not Making America Great Again.

Ray Myers

“It Ain’t Over Till It’s Over” – Twitter President Fires FBI Director Comey

Thank you , Yogi Berra.  I find these words very comforting in the age of Trump.  It’s only been a little over a hundred days of his tenure in the White House, but who’s counting (I am!)?  So-called President Trump fired FBI Director James Comey yesterday, based on the recommendations of his so-called Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General.  It seems like he is still fuming about how he actually lost the popular vote in last year’s election, tweeting last week that “FBI Director Comey was the best thing that ever happened to Hillary Clinton in that he gave her a free pass for many bad deeds!”  

Trump sent Comey a very short, self-serving letter which could also be interpreted as a awkward attempt to pardon himself from any transgressions that he may have committed.  Here it is: “While I greatly appreciate you informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation, I nevertheless concur with with the judgement of the Department of Justice that you are not able to effectively lead the Bureau.”  Oh yes, Trump did add that he wished him the best in his future endeavors. 

So, what’s next?  Maybe we will have a return to days of Watergate-like scandals and true investigative reporting by “real news” journalists.  

Ray Myers

Microsoft and Google Heighten Competition in the Classroom

Microsoft and Google appear to be preparing to do battle in theeducational marketplace.  I believe Microsoft has  always seen schools and teachers as their primary clientele, and Google has more recently developed more tools that are attracting new users to their services.  Microsoft spent the last year in efforts to refocus and renew their classroom efforts.  Microsoft spent the last year talking to thousands of teachers and designing high-tech experiments that require mostly low-cost parts.  It will give the designs to schools for free so teachers can use them in their lesson plans.

Google has gained ground in public schools by offering a tightly connected system of free classroom apps, lower cost laptops called Chromebooks and a web-based console that allows schools to remotely manage thousands of student devices.  Industry analysts said Microsoft’s initiative was the company’s first credible response to Google’s recent encroachment into education.  Microsoft executives are looking forward to seizing  the chance to make an updated impression on future consumers.

So the classroom has become a new battleground for these giant tech companies to clash for future customers.  Let’s just hope that America’s students and teachers come out the winners.

Ray Myers

P.S.  I will not be posting a blog on Monday, May 8, but will return on Wednesday, May 10.  Enjoy your weekend.


Tech Tackles Fake News

What’s all this about fake news? (remember Rosenne Rosanadana, TV’s Saturday Night Live).  I just read the other day that computer experts are using sophisticated algorithms and online data to spot misinformation.  So now it seems that we have “machine learning” tools that use artificial intelligence to combat fake news.  A growing number of technology experts worldwide are now harnessing their skills to tackle misinformation online.  Calls for combating fake news have focused on some of the biggest online players, including American giants like Facebook and Google.  Why did we have to wait for this call until after a U.S. Presidential election?  Does fake news really have more readers than real news?

I am not really a conspiracy theorist, and maybe the technology and needed algorithms were not fully developed in time for last year’s election, but perhaps it’s just another example of “timing being everything.”  Technology still seems to hold a revered place as our best hope for discerning fact from fiction.  But many Europeans are not so optimistic.  With fake news already swirling around their forthcoming elections, analysts also worry that technology on its on may not be enough to combat the threat.  

Remember the old adage, “All I know is what I read in the newspapers.”  I guess it’s time to rethink that old saw, or maybe we should literally start reading (and listening) again with a more critical perspective.  We must never think that technology can do all this for us.

Ray Myers

I Tweet, Therefore I Am

With acknowledgement to Rene Descartes, a seventeenth century French philosopher, I am borrowing this title phrasing from one of his original works entitled The Principles of Philosophy.  In Latin you may say, “cogito ergo sum,” but not many people speak Latin any more.  In English, it means “I think, therefore I am.”  But strangely enough, we now have a “so-called President” in the United States who likes to “Tweet” (not “think”) both day and night, sharing his pithy thoughts with anyone whom may be interested, or just plain curious?  So it appears that he is not really thinking too much about how accurate his tweets may be, but more about how frequently, and most recently, how angry they can be.  

“It must be partly a matter of bad timing.  Mr. Trump came along just as the mainstream media, especially newspapers, were trying to come to terms with the Internet.  Hoary concepts like “objectivity” and “balance” were giving way.  This was a good thing, believe it or not.  Reporters no longer had to pretend that after spending weeks or months on a story, they had emerged with no opinion about it.   The word ‘I’ could now be used to refer to oneself, rather than ‘a reporter.’   Mr. Trump, already dislikable, became the first test case of the new mindset (Kingsley, NY Times, 4/30).”

“With his use of Twitter as a sort of brain dump, exposing his thinking to the world at all hours of the day and night, he has made social media almost a part of our constitutional system (Kingsley).”

Ray Myers

P.S.  Thanks for all the birthday wishes over the weekend.

It’s Not Magic, It’s Science  

Last Saturday in Washington, D.C. (and in more than 600 cities worldwide) Bill. Nye, the Science Guy, was one of the Leaders of  the nationally-organized March for Science (technology a strong enabler).  He addressed the crowds this way: “Greetings, fellow citizens.  We are marching today to remind people everywhere, our lawmakers especially, of the significance of science for our health and prosperity.”  Meanwhile in the White House, a few hundred yards away, “so-called President” Trump was putting the finishing touches on a one-page news bulletin detailing the tax benefits and major reductions for the wealthiest Americans in his new plan.  I don’t think he was as concerned about insuring continued scientific progress that would advance Americans’ “health and prosperity.”  To the contrary, he was still working on how to repeal and replace Obamacare.

Trump would have us all believe that our planet is NOT environmentally endangered.  Unfortunately, he is also being supported by a rise of anti-scientific notions – the anti-vaccination movement and climate-change denial in particular.  Nye argues that “When you become scientifically literate, I claim, you become an environmentalist.  Somewhere along the way, there has developed this idea that if you believe something hard enough, it’s as true as things discovered through the process of science. And I will say that’s objectively wrong.”

Thank you, Bill Nye.  May we all “Live long and prosper!”  🖖

Ray Myers 

No Wall Needed – Indians Stay Home

India and the United States are separated by thousand of miles of land and ocean unlike our Mexican neighbors whom the “so-called” President fears will flood into our country across our southern border.  Let’s build a wall.  You are not welcome in Trumpland!  Whether perceived or real, many potential Indian emigres to the United States also now see a different America where they had hoped to work in the Information Technology sector.  Many of their countrymen are already here by virtue of the H-1B visa program.  More than 85,000 such visas are granted yearly, the majority to Indians. 

“Generations of Indians have admired the United States for almost everything.  But many are infuriated and unnerved by  what they see as a wave of racist violence under . . . Trump, souring American allure.  The reaction is not just anger and anxiety.  Now young Indians who have aspired to study, live and work in the United States are looking elsewhere (NY Times, 4/24).”  In their eyes, they soon saw that the anti-immigrant rage in America did not discriminate.  In what was once seen as the promised land, “they now might just think that we’re terrorists.”  Is this really how we will Make  America Great Again?  I think we will be going in the other direction, making America a bastion of prejudice and nativism that will make us a lesser, NOT greater nation.

As expressed by one Indian businessman: “The U.S. has been such a good country with such good policies, and this guy comes to power, and you don’t know what he might actually do.”

Ray Myers



Corralling the Social Media Market

Do you ever think of social media as a business that has to be regulated in order to ensure fair competition in this marketing space.  In the period of ten years we have gone from a time when the American marketplace was dominated by  companies such as Exxon Mobil, General Electric, Microsoft, Citigroup and Bank of America to a new era of technology companies replacing them in the size of their market caps.  Microsoft remains in the middle of this group at #3, but is now joined by its largest tech competitors: Apple (1), Alphabet (2, Google parent company), Amazon (4), and Facebook (5).    We may eventually have to regulate these tech giants if they are determined to truly be monopolies that limit competition by smaller tech businesses in this space.

“We are going to have to decide fairly soon whether Google, Facebook and Amazon are the kinds of natural monopolies that need to be regulated, or whether we allow the status quo to continue, pretending that unfettered monoliths don’t inflict damage on our privacy and democracy.  It is impossible to deny that Facebook, Google and Amazon have stymied innovation on a broad scale. To begin with, the platforms of Google and Facebook are the point of access to all media for the majority of Americans.  While profits at Google, Facebook and Amazon have soared, revenues in media businesses like newspaper publishing or the music business have, since 2001, fallen by 70 percent.”   So most Americans can now “proudly” say that they only know what they see on their computer screens (of varying sizes).  Maybe this is really how all those fake news stories began?

Fewer newspaper readers, but more “screen” readers.  Let’s face it, our social media markets are like the Wild West of the Digital Age.  Maybe we do need a few Marshall Dillons to protect all of us law-abiding citizens (anyone remember Gunsmoke?).

Ray Myers