Victor Rozek's award-winning and thought-provoking "Out of the Blue" column was consistently one of the best things to read in any IT publication on the market. We are pleased to add his voice and thoughts about the computer industry and the world at large in this column, which runs once a month in The Four Hundred. That's Victor above with his other half, Kassy Daggett.
November 9, 2020 Victor Rozek
I started working at the age of 15 for a ship chandler on the San Francisco docks. Like many entry-level blue-collar positions, there wasn’t any talk of job descriptions or performance expectations. Basically, some burly guy told me what to do, and I did it.
Over the ensuing decades, however, I’ve had a goodly number of white-collar jobs replete with detailed job descriptions, project goals, and deadlines, all anchored by the assurance of regular performance evaluations. None of it materialized exactly as advertised. In a dynamic, rapidly changing environment, what you end up doing is often not precisely what you …Read more
October 19, 2020 Victor Rozek
In 1729, responding to English indifference to chronic poverty in Ireland, Jonathan Swift wrote an essay called A Modest Proposal in which he suggests the Irish could sell their babies to the English gentry as food, thus addressing both the problem of Irish poverty and, presumably, the lack of meat variety in England. (I shouldn’t have to say this, but given the bizarre QAnon belief that elites actually drink children’s blood, it should be noted that Swift’s proposal was, you know, satire.)
Well, with the country starting to resemble 1729 England updated for inflation, it’s time for another …Read more
September 28, 2020 Victor Rozek
Most mornings I wake up with a now-familiar feeling of nagging dread. It sticks like gum to my shoe and sullies the rest of my day. Accordingly, I enter the world worried, impatient, and easily irritated.
The unrelenting stress of dodging the pandemic has slowly taken its toll. Activities that not long ago were prosaic – like grocery shopping, going camping, dining out, or attending a wedding – are now cloaked in a patina of anxiety. A convenience store clerk recently asked me how I was doing? I shrugged. “Another day of avoiding people,” I said. She nodded knowingly and …Read more
August 10, 2020 Victor Rozek
Back when it first became clear that COVID-19 was the real deal, my wife had scheduled a tentative appointment at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. It was only for an initial interview and some lab work. The problem was, Rochester is located 1,700 miles from where we live, and flying in a giant aluminum cigar tube with who knows how many other people, some of whom were possibly infected, didn’t seem like such a swell idea.
The solution seemed both simple and readily available: Computer technology. Conduct the interview over the internet, and have the tests done locally. It …Read more
June 22, 2020 Victor Rozek
All clouds, it is said, have their silver linings. Hurricanes are the winds of profit for the building trades; obesity sustains a huge (no pun intended) diet industry; bad relationships sell boatloads of self-help books; and sheltering in place has been a godsend for delivery companies, not to mention cardboard manufacturers, and the sex toy industry.
Even IT, one of the more bombproof sectors of the economy, is not wholly immune from the laws of cause and effect. Silicon Valley, arguably the most prestigious assembly of high-tech prowess on the planet, was not spared the consequences of COVID-19.
MIT Technology …Read more
May 11, 2020 Victor Rozek
If you are retired, or currently not working, but happen to have outdated IT skills and want to Make America Great Again by going back to work and risking your life for the economy, your government has a deal for you.
Apparently, one of the inadvertent side effects of the current pandemic was to expose just how awful and antiquated the government’s computer systems are. In a country otherwise blessed with leading-edge innovation and unparalleled high-tech capability, COBOL is still being used – to a lesser or greater degree – to run the unemployment insurance programs in all but 16 …Read more
May 4, 2020 Victor Rozek
I got tested today. Four ordinary words infused with extraordinary dread. They’ve now become part of a new language of fear, along with “cough,” “fever,” and “difficulty breathing.” A persistent sore throat and a slight fever that flared briefly a few days later, was enough to concern my doctor. She told me to come in the same day I called to complain about my throat and did a drive-by swabbing. When I arrived, she was waiting by the curb, helmeted, gloved, and gowned, like something out of Andromeda Strain. Another masked doctor stood behind her at a safe distance counting …Read more
March 9, 2020 Victor Rozek
Twenty years ago, I developed an addiction. Not to one of the usual recreational substances, but to Aaron Sorkin’s writing. The West Wing was like no other show I had ever seen. It had gravitas. It explored issues of significance. The dialogue was crisp and quick. The characters had range, from funny and wise, to playful and profound. For the first time since I began watching television, I didn’t want to miss a single word.
It aired at a difficult time for the country. The Bush administration was in the process of orchestrating two major wars, the housing bubble, and …Read more
February 24, 2020 Victor Rozek
A friend of mine was dating a woman he met on social media who became frustrated because their relationship wasn’t “deep” enough. It eventually floundered which was unfortunate because outside of his primal fear of commitment, he is basically a nice guy with extensive interests and bountiful skills. I suggested, in his defense, he explain to her that although he may not be deep, given his wide-ranging pursuits he could be thought of as shallow but wide. This apparently didn’t assuage her concerns since they are no longer together, but it is indicative of two things: The disposable nature of …Read more
January 13, 2020 Victor Rozek
The Constitution and the Bill of Rights contain many fine words but “privacy” is not among them. At best the right to privacy is implied in the 4th Amendment, which protects against unreasonable search and seizure, and the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment that protects against the arbitrary denial of life, liberty, or property.
One would think that the systematic and deliberate tracking of our movements would constitute an unreasonable search and seizure or, at the very least, an infringement on our liberty. But the founding fathers could not have conceived of a technology that digitized human beings …Read more