Friday, July 12, 2013

WE Energies

A little hokey, I realize. His name is "Reddy Kilowatt."
Once upon a time, there was a company called "Wisconsin Electric Company." Then, it changed its name to "WE Energies."

I really shouldn't be as upset about this as I am, but I am. Perhaps most people seeing the original name would think "Oh, how quaint! They consider their Wisconsin identity something important." Or perhaps some might say, "An Electric Company? Reminds me of Monopoly."

Well, it reminds me of Monopoly too, which was invented at a time when there were no buzz words, no corporate-babble, no couching what you did in fancy obscure sounding names in order for you to trick people into thinking you were the most advanced. Back then, you have names like "Dodge Manufacturing Company" and "Bryant Electric Company."

I guess it's kind of a huge deal to have a company not just named for a person (Such as Allen-Bradley or Allis-Chalmers) but for a whole state. Wisconsin Electric is OUR electric company. It shows that our industry, as a state, is thriving. Wisconsinites have something to be proud of alongside our dairy farms and sausages. (An aside: I love cheese.)

But then, some big-shot who probably grew up in the 70s, moved to India, experimented with pot, became addle-brained and then went on to get a degree in business decided to change the name to "Wisconsin Energy Corporation," which makes it sound like they care more about getting money to fly their corporate jet than giving you an electrical system that works. Then, because this sounded lame, they cam up with "WE Energies" which is nothing else but the initials of Wisconsin Electric/Energy with the broader, less pin-downable word "Energies," which is either redundant or close to redundant. They might have thought "Oh, WE are working together to make Energies more available to the world," or something. But HE forgets one thing: When it was "Wisconsin Electric," the people of Wisconsin could truly say, "this is OUR company," whereas now, the only people who can claim it as their company are the owners, since the "WE" loses its symbolic all-encompassing meaning.

If I want someone to manufacture my motors, or install my electrical system, I don't want companies with names like "Advanced Technological Solutions" or "WE Energies." I want a name that connects me to the people doing it and that makes it clear what they are doing.

Typewriters

Apparently the Russians are returning to typewriters to keep their documents safe from cyber-spying.

This is notable because it is a very clear "step backwards" in the technology circles, rejecting new-fangled equipment because it is less secure. A recent facebook conversation revolved around the fact that ipods, facebook, and even Blogger have not even been around for more than 15 years, and yet we are so used to them all. Try to imagine if you couldn't use Blogger, or Facebook, or Youtube, or iPods, or Smartphones, or anything of that nature. It would feel like you were back in the dark ages before Tesla invented the light bulb.

Well, it would certainly shut down this blog. I would have to go back to writing all my thoughts by hand or typing them up on a typewriter (or a computer and printing them out) and nailing them to church doors. How very Lutheran. Positively medieval.

But in a sense, this would be a vast improvement. I can pontificate from my computer through my internet, posting it for millions of people to see without having to face my readers for anything I say. I have no interaction with them, not in any full sense, at least.

If I typed out my blogposts (or hand-wrote them), I guarantee you my work would be better thought out, possibly my handwriting would improve and I would have to interact with the community in a much fuller sense. It would also help to not have to scare at a screen all day.

Of course I might get excommunicated for it, but I doubt it since that doesn't happen that often any more.

So I might just have to get myself a typewriter. Maybe a nice classic one. Any suggestions?

ROYAL BABY WATCH

As many of you know, I really like these people:

Except I'm not a huge fan of:
Ha.
So imagine my delight when I heard that the latest and greatest royal couple were expecting a baby back in November. Well, now is the month we've all been waiting for. Sources tell us that the baby is due in mid-July. This is the first of the direct royal line of Great Britain that will be born while I am alive. I have only ever known Elisabeth II as monarch of England (may she live long and prosper), and William will, I assume make a great king. (What's that, Charles? Who's that?) This child is the product of a marriage that has brought great joy to many people and as such is a popular baby in the old sense. I don't know how Prince William was welcomed when he was born, but I predict there will be more publicity and happiness for this birth than there has been since the birth of this boy:
Edward VI, son of that great Divider of a Nation and a Church
I will of course keep you all updated on the Birth.

May William and Catherine of Cambridge prosper for many long years.



Friday, June 28, 2013

Quality vs. Control

I recently purchased, with the monetary aid of a decidedly non-federal source (my brother), a 2006 Ford Focus.

Those who have known me for a long time know that I have a track record for liking Fords. I wanted a Ford Taurus since I was a wee lad (probably around 8 or 9) and have always wanted a classic Mustang. My love of the Taurus has waned in favor of the Focus, which I currently think is one of the best compact sedans out there (but don't take my word for it since I am the opposite of an expert on cars.) However, my love for the Mustang is an ongoing thing and I find it hard to break it off with her. She just gives me everything I need.

Ok, that's not quite accurate, but it sounded funny in my head.

Why do I love Fords? I find it hard to answer that. Perhaps I am enamoured of the history of the Ford, from the idea of a single man with the drive (pun unintended) to succeed in an ever-changing world to the invention of the assembly line. From the Model A to the Mustang to the Focus, a company which has lasted a century and more while many others fell by the wayside. Where is Studebaker? Where are all the other ones that I can't think of because I've never heard of them because they went out of business more than 50 years ago and who cares about what happened 50 years ago? (Besides the release of "With the Beatles") Perhaps I love Fords because they are an All-American company which worked. You know, the American Dream, baby. Maybe, though my reputation as either a red-neck, a hard-core Patriot or a conservative is slightly lacking. I'm generally thought of as a slightly hippie, liberal anglophile, which might be accurate.

Let's just chalk up my love of Fords to a fluke of my mental wiring which is decidedly male and as such has no emotional depth but just responds to Power and Noise and Action and Stuff that would make the Women Squeal. Or something.
Because I AM Vin Diesel.

Let's instead talk about a word I used about 3 paragraphs up. Classic.

I won't pretend not to love vintage things, and perhaps the worship of the god Vintage is no better than the worship of the god Dionysius. There is something that draws me to the classic and to the vintage and unfortunately it does have to do with a rejection of the current culture of manufacturing and style.

Looking at the dashboard of a classic Mustang is like looking at the work of someone who cared so much about what he was designing or crafting that he was willing to use the most durable materials in the most logical arrangement with an eye to balance of color and proportion.
As the poet say, "Gah."

In most cars before the 70s (and certainly before the 80s. Blech.) there was a certain sense that a car mattered not merely as something that would get you from point A to point B but also something that the maker could be proud of having designed and made. "This is my newest car I designed. Look at how well it runs, how long it lasts and how sleek the design." It was a time when Quality mattered.

Now cars are ultimately all basically the same, besides the internal workings of a hybrid or other such car which is apparently the Car of the Future. The value of Quality has been sacrificed at the altar of Cheapness (so as to produce as many as possible for as little as possible...a mentality which I am so vehemently against that I almost blame Henry Ford for inventing the Assembly Line), the altar of Safety (yes, I understand that Safety First, but for goodness sake, don't lull the dear kids who are just learning to drive into the sense that the car will keep them safe. It won't. It's dangerous.) and the altar of the Computer. Although it may not be true that only the dealer at which you bought a new car has the tools to fix the computer in your car (which a mechanic I recently was at complained about with a sign), it is decidedly true that whereas before, the car owner could tinker with his car, improve the engine, suspension, and everything else in between, now the owner is obliged to take it to someone with the necessary tools to go through a computer system as well as fix the mechanical parts.

I think the altar of Cheapness hardly needs an answer. Apparently making a car out of plastic makes a car more affordable to the Common Man, but let me tell you, it's not that easy for a common man to buy even a plastic car unless it's used and will probably fall apart in a year. It's not so much its affordability that I have an issue with, of course. It's the fact that in making it affordable, you are depriving the owner of something else: the knowledge that he/she has made a purchase that will Last. Cars are now built so that once the mileage has been reached, the car is useless. Before, the parts of the car could be retrofitted and replaced with much more ease. We are selling the Common Man short if we say that the only way to have a consistently quality vehicle is to be Really Rich and able to afford a new car every 3 years.

The altar of Safety is one altar about which I have mixed feelings. Of course I don't want to die in a car crash if it can be helped, but isn't there some way for a car to be both safe AND well built? It would seem that those would go hand in hand. I there has got to be a way for the interior and exterior of cars to be sturdy, look sturdy and be safe. Come on, Ford, don't let me down.

The altar of the Computer is only a symptom of a larger problem which is that the work required to maintain such an ordinary everyday piece of equipment requires Experts to be involved because it is too Complicated for the Common Man. As new technologies develop, there are more and more things that the Common man does not know about computers that could result in a complete blowout of the system if he makes one false move. Cars were, at one time, hardly more complicated than the parts out of which they were made. They were almost, in a way, just like Bicycles in their simplicity. Could you imagine if a bike manufacturer were to suddenly get the bright idea that all bikes would now require a complicated computer system to make sure it worked correctly? We would no longer be able to just put the chain back on the gears without taking it into a mechanic.

All this is just to make a greater point than just about cars. I know little to nothing about how cars work, but I do know that with the advent of mass production, the idea of well-crafted, meaningful, and long-lasting have been given second place in the race to profit and progress.

Which is a topic for another post.