Providence: The Incompetence of Small Numbers

Rhode Island has well under a million adults. Providence, the capital, is by far the largest city and the Greater Providence Area probably has about 400,000 people. But the state has almost 20 geopolitical jurisdictions, so it needs 20 chiefs of police, fire chiefs, head librarians, superintendents of schools, mayors/city managers, and so on. Almost every week it seems as if a member of the state legislature or Providence city council is charged, indicted, and/or convicted of crimes, from not …


Why AI Isn’t Taking Over

There is a man in these parts who has $30 million in the bank. He takes no salary, but finances his life on disbursements and interest. When he tried to buy a house for his kids, he was told that his lack of income was a problem given the cost of the house! The bank’s computer programs—its algorithms—wouldn’t allow the purchase. Finally, some humans who worked in the bank put their heads together and determined the guy was a decent …


You’re Being Judgmental!

The most vapid epithet I know is: “You’re being too judgmental!” We make judgments every day, about how to work with others, if we’ve been treated correctly, how to raise our children, what to do in crises. We praise people with “good judgment” and malign those with “poor judgment.” If you don’t agree with me, fine, it doesn’t affect my self-worth, but charging someone with being judgmental is like charging them with thinking. The point of being sentient creatures is …


Things I Hate (All Right, Really Dislike)

“Not a problem.” Phone calls in public restrooms. Megyn Kelly. (Much ado about nothing.) The smugness of the comics (Jon Stuart, Bill Maher) who attack people who are not present to defend themselves. The fiction that Hillary Clinton lost the election because she’s a woman. (The Democrats were arrogant and she’s highly unlikeable.) The fiction that Elon Musk is a genius when Tesla is hemorrhaging money. (It will be purchased, which I suspect was always his Plan B.) Servers who …


Yes, But We Want More

I’m looking around my garage. Among the features on the various cars are: • Vibrating steering wheel when you cross a highway line without signaling first. • Self-correction and braking when you drive onto the shoulder without signaling. • Self-contained wifi. • Self-closing doors. • Remote opening trunks. • GPS. • Online contacts for navigation, emergencies, local dining suggestions, etc. • Alarm systems that disconnect the ignition. • Onboard diagnostics with monthly computer reports. • Indicators of service due. • …


The Personal Trainer University Course Curriculum

Course number and subject matter: 101: Counting to 15 by one. 103: Counting to 15 backwards by one. 201: Counting to 15 just using every third number. 205: Counting to 15 silently and just announcing the final three counts. 304: Behaving as if you’re spotting the exercise while actually wondering about the hottie you met at the bar last night. 308: Saying “Nice job” enthusiastically even though you don’t mean it. 406: Helping with the weights instead of saying, “Lose …


Overdone Smug Conceited Arrogant Revolting: OSCAR

I’ve been watching the Academy Awards since I was a kid on black and white television, with Bob Hope hosting. I was always in awe of the glamour and good humor. After we were married, my wife and I made it an annual ritual and I tried not to travel on that Sunday. Last night’s Oscar ceremony was a self-congratulatory excess of self-importance. It starts with the absurd Red Carpet and lasts for about seven hours. Women in loaned dresses …


Hello? Anyone Home? Sounds Like A Recording

Polarized thinking means that you can’t see both sides of an issue. (Don’t forget that F. Scott Fitzgerald observed that the mark of true intellect is holding two opposing ideas in your mind at the same time.) It means that the individual will not listen to or evaluate other positions. For example, a great many people who believe we’re contributing to climate change, when faced with legitimate opposition, will simply call the other people “deniers” and disregard them. There is …


Royalty and Ancient Ritual

Watching the marvelously-acted “The Crown” on TV, I’m stunned at the protocols of the British royals and I understand why Americans want to watch and savor royalty at a distance, but not at home. I think the same holds true for many organizations. They adhere to almost ancient protocols that have no place in modern times and are merely subsidized without return on investment. Most companies are too “top heavy” with senior management; they funnel customers into a maze of …


The Sky Is Falling. I Think. Maybe Tomorrow.

Look, I understand political outrage. I grok unhappiness when your candidate loses an election everyone merely assumed she’d win (which is exactly why she lost). I think Trump’s behavior, most of the time, is appalling. But I’d like to see people put as much time, energy, and investment into volunteerism, good deeds, business improvement, and family relationships as they do into their daily apoplexy over Trump. The election is over, there are no impeachable offenses (and petitions can’t impeach, only …