Dennis Kennedy

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Archive for November, 2003

Remembering Angels on Veteran’s Day

Tuesday, November 11th, 2003

Because it’s Veteran’s Day and the Jessica Lynch story is front and center today, I’ve been thinking about my great aunt, Eleanor Garen, who retired as an Army major after being a POW in the Philippines during World War II. As an army nurse, her experiences included work on both Bataan and Corregidor under extreme conditions before the surrender of Corregidor and her capture. She spent several years as a POW in the Santo Tomas prison camp Manila with a group of army nurses who were known as the “Angels of Bataan.”
After Aunt Eleanor’s death, I ended up with her papers and materials, including items and documents from the prison camp, which are now displayed at Northwestern Hospital and the Michigan’s Finest military museum in Frankenmuth, Michigan. Some of those papers and a series of interviews with my great aunt were instrumental in the writing of Beth Norman’s highly-praised book, “We Band of Angels, which tells their compelling and little known story.
When I grew up, we really only knew that she had been a POW in World War II and not much else, other than that she didn’t have the highest opinion of McArthur, who was evacuated from the Philippines before the end stage. I did know that she had a fabulous sense of humor and a commitment to education. Her gift of $1,000 on my high school graduation, an immense amount to me at the time, came out of her belief in the value of education and because she wanted to recognize me for being the first in the family to go to college. Ironically, I later learned that she graduated from Northwestern Hosptial’s nursing school in the 1930s and attended a variety of college classes most of the rest of her life. I now think that I am the second person in my family to go to college.
I know that my Aunt Eleanor never really told anyone much about her story because, as she said, she didn’t see herself as having done anything special and she didn’t think people really wanted to hear about her experiences.
This book tells her story and it’s been gratifying to know how many people do care about her story. There are very few of the “Angels” still alive today, which is sad because they do have a special place in our history.
When I looked through the boxes I had after Aunt Eleanor’s death, I really wanted to make sure that her story didn’t stay locked in those in boxes in a basement. With the help of Susan Sacharski at Northwestern and others, we got some that material and more to Beth Norman. Beth Norman worked very hard and succeeded in telling the great story of these women. This book is compelling and will definitely touch you. I definitely recommend that you add it to your reading list.

Cool Blawg Presentation via Blog

Friday, November 7th, 2003

What Blogs Can Do for Solo and Small Firm Lawyers is a cool new approach to doing presentations via blogs by Carolyn Elefant and Jerry Lawson. It has great content and is a highly inventive use of the blog form.
I think the “blog presentation” approach makes great sense as a way to repurpose a presentation on the web. My opinion, however, is that this approach is too “texty” for a live presentation and PowerPoint, used well, is a better tool.

The Dirty Little Secret of Spam Filtering

Thursday, November 6th, 2003

I don’t answer my phone anymore because of the pervasiveness of telemarketers. Leave me a message and I’ll call you back. The other day I was home and the phone rang 14 times during the day, without a single voicemail message. I assume that they were all telemarketing calls.
The fact is that telemarketers have ruined the phone system. We no longer call people in the evening because we know that they won’t pick up the phone.
So, we switched to e-mail for personal communication. Now it has become another marketing vector and people are now lamenting the future death of e-mail because of spam.
Enter spam filtering. It’s now US$600 million business.
But, is the cure for spam worse than the problem? I shudder when I even think of laws designed to prevent spam. Talk about the probability of unintended consequences. I’m not sure if I can even e-mail someone I don’t know who happens to live in California.
Spam filtering software and systems have now caused their own unintended consequence, and it is a serious one.
Buzz Bruggeman got me thinking about this issue with his recent post on spam filtering. Buzz noted that a number of people had told him that he hadn’t responded to their e-mails and he didn’t know that they had sent him anything. He also noticed when he checked his spam holding file that there were 2,500 blocked messages that never got to his inbox.
This is important.
I’ve had people contact me about not getting e-mails about some fairly important matters, only to find that their spam filters had treated my messages as spam through content filtering, in certain cases because they interpreted my innocuous use of a word as an “adult” use of the word (think “bare,” for example). It used to be that I knew that if someone didn’t reply to my e-mail, it was because they didn’t want to reply. Now, I increasingly wonder whether the message even got to their inbox for them to decide. As IT departments move to thermonuclear level spam filters, it’s hard to know what will get through.
So, here’s the dirty little secret of spam filters. They have fundamentally broken the trust and confidence that was at the root of the whole e-mail system. Fundamentally broken the whole system.
If I can’t know for certain that I am getting the e-mail being sent to me that I want to see and that I can’t know whether my recipients get my e-mails because I don’t know what kind of hyperaggessive spam filter they might be using (or, in some case, might be employed at a server level without their knowledge), then where am I? Do I have to resort to calling to be sure that you get my e-mail? Am I back to hand delivery?
The all to clear answer is that I have to look to other options. That’s sad. I love e-mail. I used to love it when the phone rang.
The death of e-mail is probably exaggerated. The relegation of e-mail to a secondary form of communication, however, has become all but inevitable.
Spam itself might have broken the e-mail system, I’ll admit, but in other ways. Unfortunately, spam filtering may have broken it at the root level of trust.
I’d like to be wrong on this, but I don’t think that I am.

The Subtext of the Reagan Movie Controversy

Thursday, November 6th, 2003

As it turns out, I was reading over the last few days the new collection of Ronald Reagan’s letters, Reagan: A Life in Letters, which I highly recommend. If you want to understand what people who lament the lost art of letter writing mean, this collection will show you. Reagan, who apparently wrote over 10,000 letters, is a master of the craft of letter writing. Whether the simple gracious thank you, words of advice, stories or plotical arguments, these letters offer great examples of excellent letter writing.
Now, that may be a surprise to some. I was surprised that I was staying up late, and not blogging, as I read.
I realize that there is a political component to all of this and that people’s opinions on Reagan are pretty well set, as the recent TV movie controversy demonstrates. One thing about Reagan is that you always knew where he stood politically – you see great consistency throughout these letters. I’ve seen people who oppose Reagan politically say things about him personally that shock me. I was living in the DC area when Reagan was shot and I sometimes feel that people who didn’t live there were not as affected by the event of those who were there. I also enjoyed the fact that when we watched the Redskins games on Sundays, we always knew that our president was watching, too.
I’ve always seen a great separation between Reagan the individual and Reagan the political figure. That, to me, is a lot of what is at play in the recent controversy over the Reagan TV movie.
Here’s what I think the subtext is that matters. Reagan is very close to dying. There have been a number of signals to that effect recently.
The root issue, no matter how much people want to dress it up and wave the censorship and right wing control flags, is that the concern at this time is not for Reagan the political figure. The concern, instead, is for Reagan the individual and his family as he moves toward what he referred to as “the sunset of my life” in his letter to the world about his diagnosis with Alzheimer’s (worth a second look for how to handle such an event with grace and dignity), so that his sunset can happen with dignity and respect for him, his family and the people who revere him.
The political gloves can be put aside until later. It is a matter of public politeness at a time when public politeness seems all but non-existent. If you read these letters, you will want to give him and his family quiet and dignity at this time where the end seems to be very near and, who knows, you might even see him in a new light.

Ten Ways to Address Security Concerns in IT Contracts

Tuesday, November 4th, 2003

I’ve posted the November issue of Dennis Kennedy’s Practical Technology Contract Review News on my web site.
The feature article this month is called “Ten Ways to Address Security Concerns in IT Contracts,” a fairly self-explanatory title. In addition to pointers to some useful resources, I also provide a tip on protecting customer data in contracts and discuss a few details about survivability clauses.