Stavros Lambrinidis Talks Tariffs, Trade and Relationships

European Union Ambassador to the US Stavros Lambrinidis [1], extolled the virtues of cross Atlantic relations and mutual interests in a 17 February 2020 Madison appearance at the Pyle Center.

I found his reference to “culture within our containers” – that is labor, social and product practices – to be interesting. The Ambassador’s talk touched on Europe’s birthrate problem, cultural differences in the agriculture space and aircraft subsidies.

Finally, Mr. Lambrinidis presence in Wisconsin illustrates current efforts to influence policy at the state level.

Listen via this usable, but not great mp3 file.

[1] Stavros Lambrinidis

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Tesla teardown finds electronics 6 years ahead of Toyota and VW

Hideyoshi Kume:

This kind of electronic platform, with a powerful computer at its core, holds the key to handling heavy data loads in tomorrow’s smarter, more autonomous cars. Industry insiders expect such technology to take hold around 2025 at the earliest.

That means Tesla beat its rivals by six years.

The implications for the broader auto industry are huge and — for some — frightening.

Tesla built this digital nerve center through a series of upgrades to the original Autopilot system it introduced in 2014. What was also called Hardware 1 was a driver-assistance system that allowed the car to follow others, mostly on highways, and automatically steer in a lane. Every two or three years, the company pushed the envelope further, culminating in the full self-driving computer.

There should be nothing stopping Toyota or VW from doing the same much earlier than 2025, considering their immense financial resources and vast talent pools. But technological hurdles are not the reason for the delay, according to the Japanese engineer who said “we cannot do it.”

Big Data Won’t Save You From Coronavirus

David Fickling:

That’s not a comforting thought. We live in an era where everything seems quantifiable, from our daily movements to our internet search habits and even our heartbeats. At a time when people are scared and seeking certainty, it’s alarming that the knowledge we have on this most important issue is at best an approximate guide to what’s happening.

“It’s so easy these days to capture data on anything, but to make meaning of it is not easy at all,” said John Carlin, a professor at the University of Melbourne specializing in medical statistics and epidemiology. “There’s genuinely a lot of uncertainty, but that’s not what people want to know. They want to know it’s under control.”

That’s most visible in the contradictory information we’re seeing around how many people have been infected, and what share of them have died. While those figures are essential for getting a handle on the situation, as we’ve argued, they’re subject to errors in sampling and measurement that are compounded in high-pressure, strained circumstances. The physical capacity to do timely testing and diagnosis can’t be taken for granted either, as my colleague Max Nisen has written.

Early case fatality rates for Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome were often 40% or higher before settling down to figures in the region of 15% or less. The age of patients, whether they get sick in the community or in a hospital, and doctors’ capacity and experience in offering treatment can all affect those numbers dramatically.

Even the way that coronavirus cases are defined and counted has changed several times, said Professor Raina MacIntyre, head of the University of New South Wales’s Biosecurity Research Program: From “pneumonia of unknown cause” in the early days, through laboratory-confirmed cases once a virus was identified, to the current standard that includes lung scans. That’s a common phenomenon during outbreaks, she said. 

Related: the hype cycle.

Accenture’s 2020 Vision warns of a ‘tech-clash’ in a post-digital society

Tom Formski:

Accenture’s CEO Julie Sweet and Paul Daugherty, chief technology and innovation officer, begin the report — called We, the post-digital people: Can your enterprise survive the tech-clash? — with a warning:

“Enterprises that ignore this message will face an existential tech-clash, in which today’s models are incongruous with people’s needs and expectations. To avoid this impending crisis, companies must reexamine their fundamental business and technology models in a responsible way — to create a new basis for competition and growth. Trust and accountability are the new litmus tests for businesses in a world where digital is everywhere.”

This is the 20th report in the Vision series. Each year, Accenture identifies five tech trends that will impact its client companies over the next three to five years.

Here are the five Visions for 2020 as described by Accenture:

An app is an app is an app, except when it is not

Samuel Githae:

Cutting the cost:

If you are looking at reducing the cost, hybrid, and cross-platform app development will not only decrease the price, they will also lower the time needed to complete the app development. The other side of the coin is that the performance can be slow, and the UX may be suboptimal. Also, there can be some functionality issues so it’s important to know if the features you need in your app, can be achieved in hybrid and cross-platform app development.

Candidates in Madison School Board race up for primary weigh in on top issues

Logan Wroge:

Three candidates for an open Madison School Board seat aligned on several issues facing the school district while offering their own solutions to other topics during a forum Tuesday.

The trio seeking the board’s Seat 6 — Karen Ball, Christina Gomez Schmidt and Maia Pearson — spoke of rebuilding trust between the community and the Madison School District, identified areas they would cut in a funding shortage, and made their pitches before the Feb. 18 primary.

Ball, director of academic success at Edgewood College, said she wants to ensure an effective transition for the new superintendent and prepare the community for two potential referendums this fall.

Gomez Schmidt, director of enrichment for Galin Education, a college preparation and admissions assistance company, said her focuses include increasing transparency and ensuring schools are safe for students and teachers.

Pearson, a revenue agent for the state Department of Revenue, said some of her priorities would be finding ways to expand 4-year-old kindergarten to full-day and strengthening partnerships with businesses.

The top two vote-getters in the February primary will compete in the April 7 election for Seat 6, which is being vacated by incumbent Kate Toews. The term is three years.

Candidates were asked what they would do to fix a lack of transparency from the district some people perceive and how they would go about rebuilding the community’s trust.

Gomez Schmidt talked about making sure the board has enough time and information to analyze important decisions so it is not rushed. She also said information about new proposals should be given to the public in a more timely manner.

Pearson cited the recent community forums with the superintendent finalists as good examples of the board being transparent.

She also said groups like the district’s Black Excellence Coalition, which is largely made up of community members, are good outlets for people to share their thoughts.

Madison’s taxpayer supported K-12 school district, despite spending far more than most, has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

In addition, Madison recently expanded its least diverse schools.

Meanwhile, Madison’s taxpayer supported K-12 district continues to plan for a substantial tax & spending increase referendum this fall.

What’s SAP? And why is it worth $163B?


Every year companies spend $41B on enterprise resource planning software, commonly known as ERP. Today, almost every large business has some sort of ERP system implemented. But most smaller businesses generally don’t purchase any ERP system off the shelf, and most engineers probably haven’t seen them in the wild. So for those of us who haven’t used an ERP system ourselves… what’s the big deal? How does a company like SAP sell $25B worth of ERP software every year? And how does 77% of the world’s transaction revenue, and 78% of the world’s food all flow through SAP?

ERP is where companies store their core operational data. We’re talking about sales projections, purchase orders, and inventory, as well as the processes that act upon that data (e.g. paying out vendors when a purchase order is issued). In a sense, ERP is the “brain” of a company — it stores all important pieces of data and all of the actions possible in data-driven workflows.

But before taking over the modern business world, how did ERP software get started? The story of ERP begins with major automation efforts of the 1960s: while the 1940s and 50s were focused on mechanical automation of blue collar work — think General Motors establishing their automation department in 1947 — the automation of white collar work (often via the computer!) began in the 1960s.

Midcentury automation: Computers enter industry

Payroll and billing were among the first business processes that computers automated. Employers needed armies of white-collar labor to manually tally employee hours in ledgers, manually multiple hours with hourly rates, and manually subtract taxes and benefit deductions… all just to run a single month of payroll! This time-consuming, repetitive process was error-prone for humans, and was a natural fit for computerized automation.

By the 1960s, many companies used IBM computers to automate payroll and billing tasks. Data processing – an outdated term whose lasting legacy is

Automatic Data Processing, Inc’s name – is what we’d call IT today. Software engineering wasn’t yet a discipline, so these departments often took employees from analytical backgrounds taught them to program on the job. Purdue had just formed the first Computer Science department in the U.S. in 1962, and the first CS grads started appearing a few years later.

The news is just like cereal.

David Perell:

Even though cereal is now viewed as over-processed and sugary, it was once viewed as a health food. Americans heard about the health benefits of cereal and ramped up their consumption. From the beginning, companies made heavy investments in advertising cereal because most people eat the same breakfast every day. 

Thus, just as readers are loyal to news sources, consumers are loyal to their favorite breakfast cereals. And like news, consumers inhale cereal during the frantic rush before work. Even if they aren’t the healthiest options, they’re cheap and easy to consume. 

Marketers promoted the benefits of cereal with slogans like “breakfast is the most important meal of the day.” Similarly, news organizations position themselves as an irreplaceable daily habit and with slogans like “Democracy Dies in Darkness.” While the Romans believed it was healthiest to eat only one meal per day and our ancestors only heard about major events, but we have been trained to be constant consumers, so we eat too much food and read too much news.

IBM’s Lost Decade

Charles Fitzgerald:

I wasn’t going to do this post until I learned IBM PR is out browbeating reporters (one of the rare activities where the company is still world class) for being “too harsh” by including actual performance metrics in stories about IBM’s CEO transition. So I shall rally to the defense of the fourth estate (who tippytoed around the performance issue if anything) and help frame the outgoing CEO’s legacy (TL:DR missed the cloud transition).

Ginny Rometty was CEO of IBM for less than a decade, but kudos to the company for an uncharacteristic bout of out-performance by packing more than a decade’s worth of decline into just eight years. The “lost decade” of this post’s title is perhaps charitable as it implies they merely went sideways, when in fact the questions surrounding the company are now existential. I suggested IBM was not going to make the cloud computing transition in early 2013, and they have gone on to make that warning look very prescient.

Lets review Rometty’s reign:

The Joys of a Road Trip – North

A recent headline [1]:

Nearly half of Americans didn’t go outside to recreate in 2018. That has the outdoor industry worried.

Sobering statistics in the Outdoor Participation Report show even kids are staying inside. “We should really be concerned as a nation that we are becoming an indoor nation,” Outdoor Foundation boss Lise Aangeenbrug says

Indeed. It is easier than ever to simply sit there and tap away.

Unfortunately, one misses out on so much, not to mention friendly chats, everywhere.

And, so it was that we drove north for a few days. What treasures did we find?

Fresh and smoked trout.

The Wisconsin DOT seeking feedback at a clean rest stop.

Art, at a Culvers no less.

Albert Schmiege.

And, perhaps the biggest surprise, a wall dedicated to surfer Tom Blake [2] at the impressive Washburn, WI historical museum.

Take a deeper dive: “The Dog Days of Winter” and explore the Bayfield area and more in the amuz app.

iPhone/iPad | Android

[1] Jason Blevins

[2] Tom Blake notes and links.

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