Pearl's Paradise

"Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled teams yearning to breath free…"

December 1, 2017
by Steve Pearl

The GOP Tax Plan Will Fail Because it Ignores the Impact of Automation

To everyone who wants to believe the overly-optimistic economic growth assumptions the GOP is using to promote their “1% Welfare” tax plan, consider this tidbit from this morning’s news…

General Motors plans to deploy a fleet of fully autonomous taxis by 2019.

This isn’t sci-fi anymore, friends.  It’s real. Within a decade, as a seismic technological shift hits the transportation industry, tens of thousands of taxi, Uber, and Lyft drivers will lose their jobs. Full-stop. Soon after that, the same shift will hit the trucking and logistics industries and the ripple effect upon low-skill American workers will be even more catastrophic.

Within our lifetimes, human obsolescence will become the norm, not an aberration.

Transportation and logistics are not the only industries where automation will have a profound, job-killing impact.  Robotics are reaching into every aspect of our daily lives.  Soon, naively simplistic campaign platitudes like, “We’ll bring back coal jobs!”, (about 75,000 workers in total in an industry that was already decimated by cheap natural gas), will be utterly meaningless when millions of under-skilled Americans are forced to hit the bricks in search of meaningful employment.

At a time when this country should thoughtfully and wisely prepare for the imminent arrival of such a robotics-heavy future, aggressively mustering visionary social will to invest in education, innovation, and job retraining ahead of the catastrophe, the Republican tax scheme would only make higher education that much less affordable and out of reach for those who need assistance to adapt and innovate.

What do you think large corporations will do with the piles of cash the Republicans will hand them when this tax cut goes through?  Will they suddenly become uncharacteristically magnanimous and hire more employees?  Will they generously hand out big raises to the employees they already have?

Or will major manufacturers and corporations automate further, relentlessly driving down production and supply chain costs by replacing expensive human labor, thereby putting hundreds of thousands of taxpayers out of jobs as they drive up share value, taxpaying Americans upon whose unemployable backs the weight of government funding will fall, all because the GOP tax plan would let corporations off the hook for their historical part of fueling government revenues?

The answer, my friends, is that big companies will not add human labor unless it makes them a profit. The future is clear. The way to increase profit will will not include expanding human labor when every indicator is that self-driving, fully automated everything is the way to slash costs.

Make no mistake, growing the economy and increasing corporate profit will be driven by adoption of automation, not by a significant growth in worker productivity, as the GOP tax plan presupposes.  Many economists believe we have already reached the tipping point at which human productivity cannot increase appreciably beyond its current levels.  Such a bleak scenario, in which human labor becomes fundamentally “obsolete,” does not substantiate the mythic wage growth claims that the GOP is counting on to sell this scheme to middle-class Americans, people who are desperate for high paying jobs.  It is in the GOP’s near-sighted interest, therefore, to ignore this risk altogether and cram through a legislative “win” at all costs before the end of the year.  The GOP’s short-sighted legislative “win” could very well bankrupt our country under crushing national deficits and debt, only to drive us further into the equivalent of economic indentured servitude to debt-holding countries such as China and Saudi Arabia.

November 9, 2016
by Steve Pearl

Making Peace Amidst the Chaos

Christians shoulder an enormous responsibility in the aftermath of this election. Some Christians celebrate this as a victory. Others lament it as a loss. Either way, God calls all who believe in Jesus Christ to be peacemakers and mediators in times of great crisis.
Here are a few thoughts about how Christians can become peacemakers and mediators in this time of deep division within our country.
  1. Don’t gloat. If your candidate won, your candidate won. Do not forget that by some estimates 60% of the people who voted for the winner did so more out of hatred for the loser, not because they thought the winner was a great candidate. Both candidates had historically high unfavorable ratings.  There was no “winner” in this election, only a “victor.”  History has shown us that those who do not respect and embrace the voice of the losing minority – especially when it represents nearly half the country – risk losing the power they fought so hard to attain by the very next election.
  2. Don’t whine. If your candidate lost, your candidate lost. Like it or not, your neighbor just sent you (and the rest of the country) a soul-piercing message with their vote. You may not like that message, but you would do well not to ignore it. Now it is time to move on, to engage in constructive dialogue with your neighbor, and do the hard labor of pursuing your passions for your causes without whining or complaining.  The job of winning converts to your cause just became monumentally more difficult due to the viciousness of this campaign.
  3. In every meeting and in every conversation, be gracious in speech and deed. No matter how difficult it may seem at the time, hold your tongue (and your keyboard) when provoked. Elevate your rhetoric above the rancorous partisan divide and do everything in your power to seek common ground before battleground. Ask questions and seek understanding before demagoguery. Leave demagoguery for the politicians and instead reach out to people you don’t understand or to whom you do not relate so you can understand them better.
  4. Live your life according to the guidance of Scripture, not our perverse, repugnant, Reality TV culture. Re-read Romans 12, Micah 6:8, Galations, James, 1 Corinthians, Matthew 5-7.  Take your pick. The Bible is full of guidance for how we can live our lives as salt and light to a dark, craven world. Do not put false hope in those who, by the evidence of their life’s work and their words, do not share your faith. Do not let your steadfast commitment to the hard work of a life in Christ become watered down as the powerful and mighty tickle your ears with words that may sound appealing, but ultimately lead to destruction.
  5. Seek the wise counsel of other Christ-followers, diligently pursuing fellowship with those who would hold God up for the world to see and who embrace their own brokenness at the foot of the cross. Seek out and bond with earnest believers, whether you understand their political bent or not. Build fellowship up within the church, becoming of one mind in Christ even if we are not of one mind in politics.
  6. Look in the mirror and be ready to take accountability when you use rhetoric that you know is intended to inflame, not defuse.  If you are a Christian, the Holy Spirit is your guide, pricking your conscience when you are about to open your mouth and launch a crushing salvo.  Yes, there is a time for inflammatory rhetoric. There is also a time for words that bring peace. The Bible makes it clear that all who call on the name of Jesus Christ will face attacks and abuse for our commitment to God and holy living. Let’s be certain we are not attacked and abused simply because we brought it on ourselves out of arrogance, fear-driven hatred, or selfish ambition. Save your inflammatory rhetoric for the times when it is need most; for when the marginalized are further marginalized by a society steeped in fear and suspicion, for when the poor are made poorer by those who could not care less, for when the weak are discarded because they cannot contribute as much as the strong, for when the powerful are falsely lauded to curry their favor, and for when the humble are ignored because they choose to seek God’s power over the power of man.
  7. PRAY! PRAY without ceasing, seeking a heart molded and crafted by Christ, lifting up the name and person of Jesus Christ so high that you become a mere speck in the background and all that remains is His heart and His presence.
We are imperfect creatures, sinners saved by grace alone. All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Now it’s up to us to show the world the joy that comes through a life sold out to Christ.

July 2, 2013
by Steve Pearl

Faint Praise for Win8.1 Preview Highlights Microsoft Arrogance

Microsoft_DownloadI know I’m starting to sound like a Microsoft hater.  That’s not true at all, but with the amount of time I’ve spent lately bashing MSoft for Windows 8, you could get that impression.  I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again…  There are many elements of Windows 8 that I actually like.

But it’s hard to deny.  The recent release of the Windows 8.1  Preview underscores just how intransigent and arrogant Microsoft has become.

In Windows 8, Microsoft decided to re-write everything everybody ever knew about Windows.

They left us access to the “Desktop” but without any of the “desktop functionality.”  They yanked out the one item that has been kicking around in every incarnation of Windows since 1994.


Listen up, Microsoft…  To paraphrase that immortal debate performance between Lloyd Bentsen and Dan Quayle…

“Mr. Ballmer, I knew the Start Menu.  I was personal friends with the Start Menu.  What you’ve given us, sir, is NOT a Start Menu.”

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January 19, 2013
by Steve Pearl

Lenovo Yoga 13: Major League Hardware, Whiffle Ball OS.

A little over three months ago I picked up a Lenovo Yoga 13 to replace my small-ish Acer 11.6″ TimelineX.  My college-aged son needed a new laptop on which to do game design studies, so I gave him my 15″ Macbook Pro and decided it was time to head in a new direction.

I know.  I’m weird.

Who in their right mind would give up a perfectly fine, super-fast, super-durable, 15″, non-Retina, unibody Macbook Pro for anything but another Macbook Pro or say a Macbook Air?

I thought about the Air, really I did.  I even considered the super cool, ultralight, 11.6″ Macbook Air.  I even bought one as a super duper open-box buy at BestBuy.  I liked it.  A lot.  Very snappy.  Very sleek.   Instant on.  I mean, hey, it’s a Mac!  Duh!

And then I tried to lay the display back a little bit further than Apple decided a display should move.  No joy.

And then, because I’m spoiled by my iPad and my Android tablets, I tried to touch the screen to move around some document elements with my fingers.  No joy.

So I decided to think out of the box.  WAY out of the box.  I stumbled upon the Lenovo Yoga 13 at BestBuy and immediately fell in love.  You remember that old song?  I think it was Fred Astaire who sang, “Heaven…  I’m in Heaven…”

At first, it was a joyous engagement.

Then…  Well…

Great hardware can only do so much to mask so-so software.

Read on for the details.

Click to continue reading “Lenovo Yoga 13: Major League Hardware, Whiffle Ball OS.”

December 19, 2012
by Steve Pearl

Haunted by an Image of Innocence Lost

(WARNING:  After the break this posting contains descriptions that may be too visceral and too fresh for readers who have lost loved ones due to gun violence.  I urge you to read the remainder of this post with that caution in mind.)

There is one picture from the Sandy Hook massacre I just can’t shake.  I see it when I put my head on the pillow at night.  I see it when I wake up in the morning.  I saw it dance before my eyes as I drove to the office the other day.

It’s not a picture of one of the dead children, those beautiful, smiling kids whose lives were snuffed in the blink of an eye.  I can’t forget those images, either, but they don’t haunt me in quite the same way.  If God is truly as merciful as He promises, then I must believe they are with Him in paradise.

No, the image seared in my memory is the picture of a chain of children being led from the Sandy Hook Elementary school.  I think the third girl in the chain is the one whose face I can’t shake.  It’s the face of innocence lost, of adult horrors bestowed on too young a child.  Her mouth is gaping, her eyes clamped shut.  She is clearly sobbing.  The trajectory of her life has been altered permanently by actions of unspeakable evil.

Click to continue reading “Haunted by an Image of Innocence Lost”

January 2, 2012
by Steve Pearl

Detours, Delays, and the Reality of Life

Nothing bugs me more than dropping the ball on a promise.

A couple of months ago I "promised" I would return to my two recent series ("Making Meetings Matter" and "Crisis Communications") in late November / early December.  The "Crisis Communications" series resonated with leaders who find themselves confronting unexpected crises, lacking the skills to communicate effectively with their clients or communities.  Likewise, the "Making Meetings Matter" series seemed to register a positive note with people who really hate it when high level meetings suck wind.

Well, life threw me some curve balls in early November.

Owing to the crummy state of the economy and an lack of paying clientele to keep my consulting firm alive, I found myself forced to head back into the full-time workforce.  Part of me was relieved.  After all, I thrive on the dynamic of team leadership.  As a consultant in a small, start-up firm you just don't find many people willing to work for free, so being back in the salaried world with a real team to lead is comfortable territory.

Don't get me wrong.  I didn't give up on consulting because I couldn't find clients.

I gave up on consulting because the kind of clients I like to work with – non-profits – are sucking wind right now.  They're struggling.  Donations are down and they just don't have the kind of money it takes for me to keep my family of five fed, clothed, and college educated.

Nothing gives me greater joy than helping non-profits adopt best-of-breed leadership principles and communications methods.  They just can't pay for that kind of expertise.

In November I walked into a firm that a friend told me needed some help and and gave them a little pro-bono consulting on improving their web image.  We talked brand identity and positioning for a couple of hours.  It was like throwing a drowning man a life preserver.  At first they flailed wildly in the water.  Pretty soon they got a good grip on the life preserver and managed to throw a leg over the transome.

I still have a dream that some day some eager benefactor will step up to the plate and say something like this…

"Hey, Steve, I like what you guys are trying to accomplish.  I'm going to give you that $250k of seed money you need to crank up a leadership consulting firm dedicated to pro-bono service to the community.  I'm going to help you take that gig on the road to every hurting non-profit all over the country.  I'll help you get the RV gassed up and keep your family fed so you and your partners can go out there at low or no-cost and help build the team leadership skills it takes to achieve organizational success as a non-profit in today's world."

Ahhh…  Someday.

Click to continue reading “Detours, Delays, and the Reality of Life”

December 9, 2011
by Steve Pearl

Still Crying for the “Unknowns”

My wife learned a long time ago that I cry at the drop of a hat.  It used to be embarrassing.  Now it's just a family joke.

Yes, I am a sap, a wimp, and a mushy-wushy softy over the silliest things.  

You remember the movie, "It's a Wonderful Life"?  Well I actually cried when Jimmy Stewart went running around the town yelling, "Merry Christmas!" at the top of his lungs. 

How about the Emma Thompson, Hugh Grant period piece, "Sense and Sensibility"?  I remember sitting behind my wife in the movie theater in the Chicago suburbs, crying when Emma Thompson exploded in tears of joy upon learning that Hugh Grant wasn't married.

"Die Hard"?  

Just kidding.

Which is why I also learned how to compartmentalize really, really important stuff worth crying over versus sappy, wimpy, mushy-wushy stuff worth crying over.  I never lose sight of what's really important in life.  Those cries are worth having.

Tonight I had one of those moments when real life collided with fantasy and I went right over the edge to tears.

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November 14, 2011
by Steve Pearl

“There’s No Whining in Dancing!”

What does it say about me that I love watching "Dancing With the Stars?"  

I can't dance like these people.  (Heck, I can't dance at all.)  I can't stand occasionally smarmy, sexual commentary by the judges.  I don't like the skimpy costumes, the racey song selection, and the forced staging of overly-long "results shows."

I am, however, drawn to this show.  I can't completely explain why.

So I sit at home, watching, appreciating, and critiquing the stars.  These people pour heart and soul into the competition, exceeding their own "two-left-feet" limitations by virtue of hard work, determination, and passion and we dare to couch-critique their performances.

Some stars hang on far too long, kept on the show purely by virtue of their popularity, not their skill.  Some press onward, struggling against their lack of natural talent, growing stronger, slowly but surely, week after week.  Some survive.  Somehow, they make it to the finals and their shot at the coveted mirror ball trophy.

Every season there are graceful competitors who fight the uphill fight, only to fall short.  They exit gracefully, they never whine, and they just keep fighting on until their ride ends.  David Arquette comes to mind.  Arquette had a little potential, but not nearly enough.  He knew it.  He worked his butt off but it was always just a little short of the mark.  When judges criticized him, he took it to heart and worked harder.  Arquette was as graceful in ejection as he was in success.

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November 10, 2011
by Steve Pearl

Analysis: Paterno Pooch Kicks Resignation Statement

Few things in this world are more heinous than sexual abuse of a child by an adult.  It is the ultimate violation of human dignity, a shamelessly evil derailing of human potential before that potential has fully formed.  It pours acid on the heart and soul of the young victim, scarring them deeply for life.  It can often lead the victim into a life of substance abuse, inability to form long-lasting, meaningful relationships, and even suicide.

Which is why Joe Paterno's retirement announcement Wednesday was all the more puzzling.  From the moment the fingers of the writer left the keyboard and clicked "send" it was destined to be Paterno's undoing.

Among words of what appear to be genuine grief and apology, we found this tone-deaf, poorly-worded, note of arrogance:

"That's why I have decided to announce my retirement effective at the end of this season. At this moment the Board of Trustees should not spend a single minute discussing my status. They have far more important matters to address. I want to make this as easy for them as I possibly can."  (Emphasis added.)

Even if we give Paterno the benefit of the doubt – that he was attempting to sound reassuring, not arrogant – whoever edited the final document should have sensed the nuclear potential of such a statement.

Whoever advised Paterno – assuming it was not Paterno himself – misjudged both the furor of the community and the venom of alumni.  In that one, pivotal moment, Paterno believed in his own mythology; that the man who poured millions into the university over the span of decades, could define his own conclusion to a career-ending scandle.

They were sadly mistaken.  As I read those words, I shook my head.  "How could such smart people get it so wrong?"

Click to continue reading “Analysis: Paterno Pooch Kicks Resignation Statement”

July 17, 2011
by Steve Pearl

CBS Hits a Home Run with Scott Pelley as Anchor

I must be getting old.  The fact that the AARP managed to track me down at our new home in Delaware and send me a packet of membership materials must signify some kind of passage to the downhill side of a life-long journey into the twilight.

(Side note to the AARP…  I haven't hit 55 yet.  I'm getting there, but cut me some stinkin' slack, okay?)

I actually feel as young today as I did 20 years ago, probably younger.  I'm still hitting the treadmill every other night, I still sprint across the parking lot from time to time like an over-aged nerd, and I still love a good, brisk, bike ride on occasion.

So I'm not sure what it says about me when I draw the following comparison between CBS' new anchor of its nightly news broadcast and a genuine legend of the craft who left the chair nearly 27 years ago.

Click to continue reading “CBS Hits a Home Run with Scott Pelley as Anchor”

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