Posts Tagged ‘YMCA’

Are My Kids Are Going To Jail?

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2008

I hope nobody at ASCAP is reading this. Because, if they are, they might be sending my kids to jail. First, some background.


If you don’t know who ASCAP is, they are the the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers. That sounds all fine and good … after all, I support the Arts. In fact, though, they are the ones who go door-to-door to coffee shops around the country shaking down small business owners to pay royalties on recorded music they play in their stores.  All to protect the artist, so he can get his 7% (the average) and the publisher can get his 93%.

Last Friday, we had our parent-teacher conference with our daughter’s 2nd grade teacher. During the conference, we inquired whatever became of the “music share day” that had been planned earlier this year. You see, my daughter, as well as other children in her class, were looking forward to bringing in their favorite music to share with their fellow students during an art class.

To my surprise, it seems that this idea was way out of line.  You see, evidently, ASCAP had previously stepped up to enforce the rights of its client artists (remember, the ones getting 7% of the licensing fees). They felt that a school was no place for children to learn about music unless they pay the licensing fees. So they sued the school board in order to protect their clients rights and stamp out any unauthorized and illicit learning that might be occurring without a valid license agreement. Bless their souls. And now the school board had adopted a clear guideline regarding copyrighted material … just say no.

Bottom line … no music in the art class.

Now, I don’t deny that the original composer deserves some royalty (again, the 7%), and I’m not advocating copyright infringement. But …  isn’t this a clear example where the music industry would be better off allowing schools to use copyrighted music. Not only is the use of this music in a classroom setting harmless to the industry, what better way to spread the music than allow elementary school students to bring in their favorite music. Look at what’s happened with Hannah Montana and High School Musical.

The EDA industry has long supported university education by providing courseware and tools for classroom instruction.  Sure, they want to support learning, but they also understand that students will be more likely to use the tools they learned in college when they get to industry. It just makes good business sense.

(As a side note, I would like to challenge the EDA industry, especially the big vendors, to extend the university offerings to those designers who have been recently affected by layoffs. Many of these professionals are in need of retraining and the ability to access these course materials and tools will help them find their next jobs. I think it makes good business sense, because these designers will learn the company’s tools and I am sure will be forever grateful for the helping hand. If you are employed by an EDA company and are reading this, please bring this up with your management.)


That same evening, the YMCA had a Christmas Party where the kids got to perform some Christmas songs. Kiara participated in an Alvin and the Chipmunks Christmas song and Nate was the 12th day of Christmas. As I watched them, my thoughts went back to the copyright issue and I wondered to myself whether the YMCA had secured the public performance rights to these songs. I asked one of the YMCA leaders about it and sure enough, they did. Phew! In fact, she told me that the kids are so “with it” these days, they even know to ask the leaders “is it on the approved list?”

Thankfully, someone was careful to make sure they had done things by the book.  Otherwise, they’d have to bring out the paddy wagon to cart all these kids off to jail.

harry the ASIC guy

Roles and Irresponsibilities

Wednesday, November 12th, 2008

Coffee Shop

This past Saturday I went to grab a cup of coffee at the local mom-n-pop coffee shop that I really like. There were no stirrers so I told the server that they were out.

“Yeah, we’ve been out for a few days. You can use a straw”.

“Why don’t you just go to the Smart and Final or the Von’s 30 feet away and grab a box”, I asked.

“I’m just the server, that’s not my job”.


On Sunday I was talking to Chuck, one of the other parents at the YMCA Adventure guides induction ceremony and boat regatta. Chuck works as an installer for AT&T and also does electrical jobs when he gets a chance.  He’s a hard worker, putting in six 12-14 hour days each week.

As we talked, I suggested that he could set out on his own, make more money and work less hours. Like Joe the Plumber.

“I don’t need the headaches. If something goes wrong on a job today, it’s not my problem. It’s my bosses problem. If I own a business, then it’s all my problem.  I’d rather someone just give me the job and I do what I’m told.”

My Client’s Large Company

I was trying to install Office Communicator the other day and there was something wrong with my account on the server. I called IT and the woman on the line tried to help me but could not figure out what was wrong.  So she closed my ticket, the one with her name on it, and opened a new one for a specialist in Office Communicator to look into it.

About a week later, someone else in IT called me up to help me with my issue.  He was able to figure out what was wrong, but lacked the permissions to make the fix.  So he closed out my ticket, the one with his name on it, and opened a new one for the person with permissions to fix the problem.

A few days later, I rebooted my laptop and Office Communicator was now working.  Later that day I got 3 emails from IT requesting me to fill out a short survey regarding the resolution of my issue.

A Person I Work With

The other day I urgently needed help to run an analysis on a chip I’m working on. So I asked one of the people on the team who knows how to do it quickly.

“That’s  not one of the things I’m responsible for.”


Am I the only person not afflicted by the “not my job” disease? Has this really become such an ingrained part of American and corporate life?

I’m sorry, I just don’t think that way. If I see a problem, then it’s my problem.  Maybe I’m anal or a perfectionist or neurotic and maybe I need to let go.  But I’m just not wired that way. And I don’t understand people who are.

harry the ASIC guy

Email Penalty #4 - False Start

Tuesday, August 5th, 2008

Kiara Orange BeltLast Saturday, my daughter earned her orange belt in Karate. So we decided to treat her to some ice cream at Baskin Robbins.

You would think that an ice cream shop just down the street from the YMCA on a Saturday afternoon in August would be packed with happy chocolate coated faces.  Yet, we were the only customers.  Strange….

As we ate our ice cream and I walked around I started to realize that something was odd.  See if you can guess from these pictures I took with my cell phone…

No Restrooms

No Tipping




I’m sure the owner had a good reason for each of these signs. But taken together, the impression I got was that she didn’t trust her employees and she didn’t trust her customers. In short, she didn’t consider how her customers’ might interpret or misinterpret the message that these signs were supposed to convey.

Emails can be the same.

When you write an email, you know exactly what you mean to say. But emails are just words and words are open to misinterpretation. If you write something in haste or just the wrong way, you can give a false impression, even if you don’t mean to. As a simple example, here is an email that I received recently from a former co-worker to whom I had not spoken in over 10 years:

My son’s high school robotics team has a competition at Northridge this week, so we’re going to be in town.  Here is our rough itinerary (below).  Would love to meet you and Joyce and any others at some point on the itinerary.   Please make suggestions for an activity (spice it up a bit — think like a high school kid).

I’m sure that Dave just wanted to catch up on old times.  But I felt like I was being commissioned to plan an activity that was going to keep his high school age son, whom I had never met, from being bored. Not exactly what I had expected.

To be fair, I’ve done this too. What makes email so powerful, is that it is quick, easy, and immediate. And that is also the danger when it comes to misinterpretation.  Back in the “old days”, when we had to hand write and mail letters, we had plenty of time to choose our words carefully and read and rewrite what we had written. With email, you can just hit “send” and off it goes.

So, how can you and I keep from making this mistake?

A good rule of thumb, before sending an email, is to read it and ask “how might this email be misinterpreted”? Read it like you’re reading it for the first time. Put yourself in the shoes of the recipients. Try to anticipate what they might misinterpret and fix it. Especially if the email is important or sensitive. Especially if you are delivering bad news.

Better yet, if there is any doubt, pick up the phone or get off your butt and walk over to have a face-to-face conversation. And if it’s a real sensitive topic, discuss it over an ice cream.

harry the ASIC guy

Snipe Hunt

Wednesday, April 30th, 2008

Last weekend I got to do something I had not done for a long time.

Go to camp!

The local YMCA Adventure Guides organized a weekend camping trip up to a place called Camp Whittle outside of Big Bear Lake, CA. So Joyce and I packed up the kids (actually, Joyce did most of the packing), dropped Mookie off at the kennel, and drove the 3 hours to the camp site on Friday afternoon. I expected a very rustic non-heated cabin with outdoor “facilities”, but it turns out they had remodeled and the cabins were more like small cottages with central heat and indoor plumbing. Things were looking good already :-)

At 5:30 AM on Saturday morning I was awakened by the voices of several 6-8 year olds.

“I saw my dad’s private parts”.

“I saw my mom’s”.

“I saw my sister’s”.

OK…time to get up. We had split into boys and girls groups, so I got to spend time with our 4-year old son Nate while Joyce got Kiara, our 6-year old first grader. There were planned activities, but campers were also free to do anything they wanted. Here’s just a little bit of what we did all in one day…

petting zoo … breakfast … archery … arts and crafts … foosball … ping-pong … basketball … lunch … built a dam on a muddy stream out of branches … hay ride … climbing wall … baseballfootball … dinner … skits … pudding

Phew!!! By this time it was 8:30 and we were all very tired, so we started heading back to our cabins to collapse.

Snipe Hunt!!!”

About 30 screaming kids and their exhausted parents gathered in the open area between the cabins while one of the Adventure Guide leaders described the lore and rules of the snipe hunt.

“You gotta be real quiet … the snipe like to hide in the bushes … when you see one, yell out and everyone shine your light on him … look for a small yellow and purple furry animal about the size of a small dog … there are two types, the long-tailed snipe and the short-tailed snipe … we almost caught one last year, but it got away”.

Armed with flashlights, we trekked out into the woods in search of the elusive snipe. “There’s one”, shouted one of the parents, pointing furiously towards a bush. The kids swarmed to the bush like bees on a hive, shining their flashlights as they tripped along. “Darn, he got away”.

“I got one here”, yelled a father. Again, the kids swarmed over to catch the snipe, but he got away again.

This frenzy continued for about half an hour (and we didn’t even lose a single child in the pitch black). Several of the campers saw the snipe and even touched it as it ran by, including Kiara and her new friend CJ. We came teasingly close, but we never did catch the snipe. “I’ve been doing this for 28 years, and this is the closest we’ve come”, said Chad, the veteran leader of the snipe hunt. “You guys are the best snipe hunters I’ve had the pleasure of snipe hunting with”.

Sunday morning nobody got up until about 7:30.

“Ethan farted”.

“No I didn’t”.

After breakfast we gathered together as a group and they had the parents go around and tell what they thought of the weekend. When it came to me, I recalled how much this reminded me of when I was a small kid at camp growing up. All the simple innocent games and how much fun it was just to be in the fresh air and make new friends and have all this unstructured time.

These days, our kids’ time is totally structured. A friend in Silicon Valley, Carolann, who is a 3rd grade teacher, told me that kids in her class go to Kumon tutoring right after school. They take classes all summer. She told me of one instance where a little girl came to her crying because another boy told her, “you’re grammar is bad so you’re not going to get into a good college”. Whatever happened to childhood?

At least for one weekend … we got a little of that childhood back.

Please tell me about your camp memories……..

harry the ASIC guy