The Email Zombie Apocalypse

The Lego Movie
Voices: Frankly, everyone

Fun, smart, silly movie.

A CGI-animated film that is designed to look like a film created by stop-action Lego blocks. Really.

Nice story within the story, as well.

And nods to all sorts of literature and movies: 1984, The Matrix, Ghostbusters, Star Wars…I really had no desire to see this, but I’m certainly glad I did. I’ll have to see it again sometime, just to try to catch some of the things going on at the edges. There seemed to be a lot of that, like in Tim Burton’s “Nightmare Before Christmas.”

Watch the credits, and yes, well done. (Actually IS stop-action animation of Legos – took almost a year to make.)

Believe me: “Everything is Awesome.”

All movies

It seems as though no matter where/when you wander on the web, there are stories about how email is dead, should be dead, will soon be dead and so on (too many to link to; try this Google Search for “Email is dead” – hundreds of thousands of results going back years).

Lot of email hate out there, and I can’t disagree too much: Email is something the average worker has to commit waaay too much time to on an ongoing basis (Let’s leave personal use out of this discussion; similar discussion, but less of an issue.). There HAS to be a better way!

Yet for all the email killers offered – IM, Skype, Slack, cloud offerings, social networks and so on…well, email has not died.

Maybe email use has somewhat declined in some respects (younger internet users), but it is still the informational currency of business. Companies are still heavily invested in in-house email (usually Microsoft Exchange Server/Outlook) solutions and email attachments.

Quite honestly, at the end of 2014, that’s how businesses operate. Even if companies have extensive cloud accounts, FTP servers and so on. For the average cubicle-dweller, Outlook with Excel/Word/PDF attachments is your life.

Pretty much as it was back in 1996 or so…

How did this happen?

A look back

In the computer world, there are “killer apps” that made all that became before (in that space) somewhat obsolete. The command-line world of Unix/DOS gave way to GUI systems. No going back for the non-geek.

The closed-walled garden of AOL, Prodigy and so on gave way to the open-garden World Wide Web. Totally changed everything. Once launched, Photoshop dominated photo-processing (hell, it became a verb).

Over time, as computers became more common, the killer app could change but in more modest/incremental ways: VisiCalc was the first spreadsheet program – a killer app that made getting a computer a requirement. VisiCalc gave way to Lotus 1-2-3, which gave way to Excel. In the latter two cases, you already had a computer, you just switched to the newest flavor of the killer app – but you HAD to have it to read files others would email you…

Yes, WordStar & Xywrite (DOS) were replaced with WP5.1 (DOS), which was then replaced with (GUI) MS Word and, today, Google Docs and so on. Just a simple progression of word processors.

But for the average user – despite the window dressing – there are only two internet apps: email and browser. (Something they never had before.)

These are, to the non-geek user, the only way one’s computer interacts with the internet. Even those savvy enough to use FTP usually (again, this is business customers) use IE as their “FTP client.”

To them, FTP is not part of the internet, it’s a browser-supported function.

And while the tools may have changed a bit (IE=>Firefox or Safari or Chrome; Outlook=> browser-based email with varying levels of functionality).

One has a slew of desktop applications: Word, Excel, Photoshop, Quicken…

The internet is still: browser application and email application.

Two different worlds (yes, not….).

Where we are today

Well, credit Microsoft for bulking its Outlook program so well that it basically absorbed (for better or for worse – not today’s topic) the vast functionality it has today: email, threading, calendar, attachments. To most users, Outlook (or some equivalent) and a browser is all one needs for the internet, and MS Office for “offline” use.

And to be honest: For MOST users, that’s true, and that’s what they think.

So WHY would anyone dump email?

It’s a hard call, because no matter how far apps have advanced, there IS NO email killer.

Try to kill it with IM/Skype and so on, and email will continue. Sorry.

It’s The Email Zombie Apocalypse.

Update 12/30/2014: According to a new Pew Survey, what I’ve been blathering about is true. For the average, sit-at-a-desk office worker, email is the one can’t-live-without tool that workers value.

End of the Colbert era…

Colbert EndOn Thursday, Dec. 18, 2014, Comedy Central broadcast the last show of Stephen Colbert’s “The Colbert Report.”

Good, solid show, but the ending was the over-the-top, OMG/WTF ending that was just perfect for this nine-year-old show. (NOTE: There was a brief, prerecorded segment after the musical number to close out the show, but the musical number was the highlight.)

Hard to fully detail, but the ending was Colbert, joined by Jon Stewart and Randy Newman, singing “We’ll Meet Again.” Fitting.

But slowly, the stage was filled with, well, everyone:

  • Singers – Country, rock & roll, classical (Yo Yo Ma)
  • Academics – Historians, economists, scientists
  • Politicians – Right wing (Mike Huckabee, Henry Kissinger [honest!]); left wing (NYC mayor Bill de Blasio, Andrew Young, Cory Booker)
  • News anchors, news and sports (Tom Brokow, Bob Costas, Katie Couric…)
  • Journalists of all stripes – newspaper/magazine/blog … and both left and right
  • Intellectuals/trend setters: Gloria Steinem, Robert Pinsky, Dean Kamen
  • Athletes/celebrities: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, James Franco, George Lucas, Sir Patrick Stewart, Alan Alda
  • Big Bird, Cookie Monster…

I could – and should – go on about the ending, but watch it yourself. Joyous.

Probably the best end to a show I’ve ever seen. It was like the end of a Saturday Night Live (SNL) show, but to the max.

The Colbert Report

Stick a fork in the Cold War – Cuba’s back

via Google Maps

I was unborn when the Cuba stuff happened (Batista good, Castro bad).

Yep, 50+ years ago.

Today, President Obama has tried – as much as he can – to make the Cuba just another country we do business with.

As a non-Cuban, I applaud. (I only mention this because, if I were a Cuban/Cuban-American, my views may differ.)

While Cuba does have a spotty human-rights record, so do a lot of other countries we consider allies: China, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and so on. And the thaw for former adversaries is not without precedent for President Obama: Then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited Myanmar (formerly Burma) in November 2011 in an effort to get that country – also known for its spotty human-rights record – back onto the world stage. There, the spotlight might make the country a little less oppressive.

With Cuba, the issue is mainly political, but if you put that aside, our shunning of Cuba makes no sense (note – Obama did not lift the embargo – only Congress can do that, which he encouraged them to do). It’s a island 90 miles off Key West, FL, and all our posturing has done has helped oppressive Cuban leaders stay in power by playing off the anti-American animus. Now that that’s gone, and more American business and people go there, the more the average Cuban will learn about America. NOTE: Again, this will be slow progress, as the embargo severely limits what Obama – and American business/people – can do with regard to the island nation.

Critics of Obama’s Cuban actions are already painting the President’s moves as rewarding our enemies. But how is this a reward? When the US put these punitive measures in place, Castro’s government was in power. It still is today. Oh, 55 years later, we’re saying we support the overthrow? Please….

Why not open trade and relations with Cuba? The past is past; let’s be realistic about the present.

Why Kevin Drum Is Thankful

The Fault In Our Stars
Starring: Shailene Woodley, Ansel Elgort, Laura Dern, Willem Dafoe

Rom-sob – Teen(s) sick, gunna die…

But well done – and yes, there is a twist.


I liked – and would recommend – but will I revisit? Nah. Will tweens (esp. women) re-watch? Yeppers. Hot guy, empowered woman.

Overall, good watch. Some fun wordplay in the dialog – it’s mainly a movie about relationships, so not big on special effects. Words – and Woodley’s & Elgort’s performances – make this movie.

One complaint – I found Willem Dafoe oddly miscast. He has a small – but pivotal – part, as a washed-up writer important to Woodley’s character. It’s so small, he never really gets you buy into his character, you just watch him and think “Hey, that’s Willem Dafoe!”.

All movies

On Thanksgiving Day 2014, Kevin Drum posted the following blog post: I’m Pretty Thankful This Year. Here’s Why.

As usual, it was a well-written entry, but the reason he’s thankful is set out very elegantly and is hard to dispute. Drum, who was diagnosed with cancer this year, had this to say about how his cancer was discovered and how all the gears (insurance, first responders, hospitals, work) meshed around his new reality (emphasis added):

So sure: cancer sucks. But how many people who go through it have all this? Not many. Some have money problems. Some have work problems. Some are on their own. Some have lousy or nonexistent health insurance. Some get inadequate treatment. I have none of those problems. I am lucky almost beyond belief.

And one more thing: health care is suddenly a lot more real to me than ever before. Sure, I’ve always favored universal health care as a policy position. But now? It’s all I can do to wonder why anyone, no matter how principled their beliefs, would want to deny the kind of care I’ve gotten to even a single person. Not grudging, bare-bones care that’s an endless nightmare of stress and bill collectors. Decent, generous care that the richest country in the richest era in human history can easily afford.

Why wouldn’t you want that for everyone? It beggars the imagination.

When Joni Ernst ran (and won) for the Iowa Senate seat in 2014, one of the things she ran on was weakening the safety net. Obamacare bad; we should get back to the days where local food pantries and church rummage sales helped feed and clothe the less fortunate. It’s a valid argument, but it really doesn’t stand up in today’s world. (Note: Not singling out Ernst; just an example painted with broad strokes.)

Today, many don’t know their neighbors – especially if one doesn’t have kids. That nostalgic look back at how community once was is just that – nostalgia. Not reality. To be sure, it still happens (see below), but not to a degree that could even begin to replace something like Food Stamps or other wide-ranging government programs.

Community/friends helping out does still happen – I have someone close to me who has been in the hospital for a couple of months with some serious issues. Yes, months.

And his neighbors and friends are helping out. Doing the “winterization” chores that are needed but he can’t do and so on.

But without health insurance, he’d be in a bad place. I don’t know the deductible and so on details, but with insurance, they’ll be able to hold onto their house. Savings might get depleted, but still have the house.

Now imagine them – or anyone else – with an expensive health issue, like Drum’s. And they’ve lost their job and health insurance. And since – because of actions like Sen. Ernst endorses (remember, this is “now imagine…”) – Obamacare has been repealed, they can’t get insurance due to cost/pre-exisiting condition or what have you. Are they going to get the specialists, the expensive medicine that will prolong their lives?


Will some people game the system to live off the Safety Net (food stamps, welfare, unemployment insurance….)? Of course – that’s human nature. I don’t defend nor condone these abuses, but it’s a reality.

But we’re talking about life and death, and – to a certain extent – the moral imperative. It’s a Christian imperative to help others, but this seems lost in the political chatter. Don’t like Obamacare? Create a better solution. Don’t like food stamps? Find a way to help starving children (at the least) eat. Why would one – especially the Christian Right (which seems most upset over these “handouts”) – object to doing “what Christ taught”?

Yes, it beggars the imagination.