Posted by: R. Emmett O'Ryan | March 8, 2012

Silicon Valley – in the Political Limelight

Now that Super Tuesday is over, it looks like we’ll be seeing more politicos traipsing through the Golden State and specifically here in Silicon Valley where California’s 172 GOP delegates mean a great deal in a GOP race that is far from decided.  In a recent article in the SJ Mercury, they point out how “California Suddenly Matters…”  The California primary is June 5 and coincides with primary elections in four other states.

So, is all this attention a good thing for us in the Valley?  I’m not quite sure.  If it is a short term “drive-by” where the politicos are in and out with new cash in their pockets from the nouveau riche and off to spend it elsewhere… well, I for one am keeping my hand on my wallet as the Great Recession is NOT over.

Now for those politico operatives who may happen to read this post, here’s a clue on the issues guys:  it’s all about JOBS, JOBS, JOBS and keeping Congress from getting in the way of the innovative and economic juggernaut that the Silicon Valley is known for.

One other item of important note is the redistricting of Congressional, State Assembly, and State Senate districts in California.   After all the gerrymandering or redistricting is complete – which many believe it is unless there are more law suits – California will still have 53 Congressional Districts but there will be some very subtle but important changes that will impact future California Congressional Delegations.

Congressman Mike Honda will represent the newly constituted California 17th Congressional District spanning the heart of the Silicon Valley up to and including parts of Fremont.  News of this by-product of Redistricting has many in the Fremont area dancing with joy as they will no longer hang their heads in shame and have to tolerant the abusive Congressman “Pete” Stark.  So for those in the northern part of Fremont, they will still have to endure Stark – at least for now.

So what is the stark truth on Congressman “Pete” Stark?  According to Esquire magazine, in 2008 “Pete” Stark made the dubious dishonor of making Esquire’s list of the 10 worst lawmakers on Capitol Hill. “Stark gives bumbling, dyspeptic old fools who say stupid things a bad name,” Esquire explained.

“Pete” Stark, currently the Congressman from the California 13th District, and long time resident of the state of Maryland will be getting serious opposition in the Primary election as he will now be asked to “represent” the redistricted area now known as the newly constituted California 15th Congressional District.  As the California 15th District extends from northern Fremont-Union City-Hayward into the Pleasanton-Dublin-Livermore area, there is a larger electorate that does not tolerate absentee representatives  – especially those who take in over $200K a year from the insurance, pharmaceutical, and medical industries (according to the non-profit, non-partisan public resource Open Congress) – yet craft the Healthcare laws for the country.

But then who can blame the top Democrat on the Health Subcommittee of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee from making a little extra on the side.  As he has stated previously in public, the Congressional retirement benefits aren’t that great and he is having to put two kids through college.  After all, how often do you see this absentee Congressman and resident of the great state of Maryland in the Fremont area or really listening to its residents (check out the videos on YouTube of Pete Stark… way too funny)?

What, you did not know?  Why yes Virginia, as a matter of public record Stark and his wife, in an attempt to take advantage of the state of Maryland’s Homestead Tax Credit claimed/declared their fashionable Harwood, Maryland home (in Anne Arundel County) as their Primary residence.   So yes, Stark has no interest in the 13th District (soon to be 15th District) other than the votes that he can influence from the extra money he gets from his “other” employers.

This election for the new California 15th Congressional District should also be very interesting with the rumored involvement of the new Super PAC called the Campaign for Primary Accountability.   According to a recent NY Times article on the Campaign for Primary Accountability this new political action committee “is taking aim at incumbents in districts where one party has the definitive advantage.”  Bottom line, I expect that Stark’s money from his “other” employers may not go as far especially with this Super PAC willing to help even the playing field.

Posted by: R. Emmett O'Ryan | August 8, 2011

And you thought the browser wars were over…

Update: Apparently the report from AptiQuant indicating “Internet Explorer users have a lower than average IQ” was bogus.

Here is our original BLOG Posting:

Just when you thought the browser wars were over came a report of a new study from the Consulting firm AptiQuant.  As reported in the BBC Technology section on August 1, “Internet Explorer users have a lower than average IQ.”  As you can imagine, this has gotten a number of users rather miffed and has become a heated topic of discussion around the coffee stations and baristas in the Silicon Valley.

According to the BBC article, “Researchers gave over 100,000 web surfers a free online IQ test. Scores were stored in a database along with each person’s web browser data. The results suggested that Internet Explorer surfers had an average IQ in the low eighties. Chrome, Firefox and Safari rated over 100, while minority browsers Opera and Camino had an ‘exceptionally higher’ score of over 120.”

The article went on to say, “AptiQuant stressed that using IE doesn’t mean you have low intelligence. ‘What it really says is that if you have a low IQ then there are high chances that you use Internet Explorer,’ said AptiQuant CEO Leonard Howard.”

This article has created quite a stir in the workplace with the story’s link being emailed to and from tech colleagues within my own organization and outside of it.

I even found that I could not get away from this controversy at the local coffee barista.  While waiting in line for favourite afternoon beverage – a decaf, non-fat, Venti size Caffé Latte – I interrupted a rather heated and animated discussion between two engineers.  One engineer, a supporter of Chrome, complained that his company would not allow him to use anything but IE while the other engineer argued that IE was the way to go and the gold standard, and there was nothing better.

To help quell the rather loud discussion, I suggested that there was certainly room for multiple browsers in an enterprise and recommended to the first engineer that he request his local IT department to allow a choice of browsers.  His reply was that IE was a company standard and engineers were not permitted to install any other browsers (like Firefox, Chrome, etc).   I then suggested that he file a complaint with the HR department that the IT department was making Engineering look deficient because they were not allowed to use a browser that made them look smart.  Shaking his head, he smiled and off he went…

As for the second engineer, nothing but “daggers came out of his eyes”… I guess you can’t please everyone.

Update: On the morning of August 3, there was a further report from the BBC’s Technology section indicating that the report was bogus: Internet Explorer story was bogus.  The BBC article went on to say that a number of high profile news organizations had been duped by this report including the BBC, CNN, and others.  The buzz on several other blogs sites has a number of IE users threatening legal action – against who is unknown.

Posted by: R. Emmett O'Ryan | July 13, 2011

A Taste of the Silicon Valley

The Silicon Valley has changed quite a bit over the last 30 years but in some respects has stayed the same. I was reminded of this today while at lunch: I went to my favorite sandwich shop, Steven’s Philly Cheesesteak in Sunnyvale. Steve Gauthier, the owner, took my order and we reminisced about when he first opened his sandwich shop in 1989.

I remember when Steven’s first opened. I was actually there enjoying a “Steven’s Favorite” Philly Cheesesteak sandwich the very first week he opened for business. For those of us on the West Coast, this was a novelty. Philly Cheese Steak sandwiches were unheard of! But for those of us who have roots or attended school on the East Coast, this takes us back to fond memories.

Steve and I chuckled when he said that his place had changed a lot since then. Today he has tables and chairs in his sandwich shop and even a little outdoor patio in the back where you could sit and enjoy your cheesesteak sandwich, garlic fries, and soda in the fine summer weather. Back when Steven’s first opened, I remember I enjoyed my cheesteak sandwich sitting on the curb in front of his shop. Yes, things have changed.

Steve told me that back in the late 80’s and early 90’s, 70% of his business was from Lockheed employees. This changed with the layoffs from Lockheed in the early 90’s. In the late 90’s and early 2000’s, there was the rise and fall of Internet companies. That also has changed with a more diverse set of customers from Yahoo, Google, Cisco, NetApp, Ericcson, Juniper, and many, many others. I expect that Steve will see even more changes due to the coming layoffs at Cisco next month and the rise of Mobile App software companies.

Things do change here in the Silicon Valley but really good things stay the same – like “Steven’s Favourite” Philly Cheesesteak sandwich. It was excellent in 1989 sitting on a curb in front of Steve’s sandwich shop. It is still excellent in 2011, sitting in the patio area behind the same shop. The quality and taste has stayed the same and it still reminds me of my college days on the East Coast.

Posted by: R. Emmett O'Ryan | July 9, 2011

The Shuttle Program – End of an Era

This evening, I saw a replay of what will most likely be the last launch of a NASA Space Shuttle (or as we called them “Orbiters”).  The Shuttle Program has had a very significant impact on those of us in the Silicon Valley for well over 30 years.

Given NASA Ames Research Lab’s location in the Valley, many new technologies that created our high technology industries were either innovations to support the Shuttle Program or were spin off technologies from the Shuttle Program.  So as I watch the Shuttle take off, I started to wonder about the state of technology and new innovation for the future – not only for Silicon Valley but the rest of the US.

It was because of the Shuttle Program that we HAD to innovate to create new technology that probably would not have ever been created.  It HAD to be done and it followed in the footsteps of the previous NASA program – the Apollo Program.

Scientists and Engineers HAD to do the impossible – that which had never been done before.  Was it expensive? Yes.  Was there a great deal of long term benefit? Absolutely!  And this new technology help launch so many new industries, and helped drive a revolutionary economic engine rarely seen.