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.
February 22, 2021 Victor Rozek
There is an intense debate within the print and electronic media about the future of the 1st Amendment. At core is the question: At what point does free speech become antithetical to a free society? And what, if anything, should be done about it?
The answers to these questions call for great nuance and even greater caution. Is it even possible to fine-tune one of the foundational principles of our Democracy, while simultaneously preserving it? When does enthusiasm become incitement? What’s true and what’s false? What constitutes ignorance versus willful manipulation? What’s the dividing line between news and propaganda? And …Read more
January 25, 2021 Victor Rozek
It was Paul Newman who said: “If you find passion in one area of your life, it will bleed into all the others.” Apparently the same can be said of incompetence.
Two years ago Michael Lewis wrote a book called The Fifth Risk. Its premise was singular and prophetic: “What are the consequences if the people given control over our government have no idea how it works?” That, as he meticulously documents, was the case four years ago when the incoming administration—which did not expect to win — was unprepared to govern. It failed to fill many key federal posts …Read more
December 7, 2020 Victor Rozek
This time of the year, I generally write a predictive piece about IT trends and outside influences likely to impact the profession in the coming year. Three years ago I wrote an article titled As I See It: Disruption. In it, I posited that IT would have to contend with three main sources of disruption: major weather events, the impending demise of net neutrality, and widespread security breaches from what has become an international hacking industry.
I was right on two of three counts. Net neutrality is still limping along. But perhaps I was more prescient than I thought: …Read more
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