Commuting Responsibly

Whoever uses the Internet is by default involved in information systems and technology. You may not realize it, but it is automatic—part of the process so to speak. Most of us would shrivel up and die if our brains weren’t stimulated by what we find on the Web. We would also fall behind others in the self-education department. Let me use myself as an example. I feel woefully ignorant of the issues surrounding global warming and yet it is a number one problem in the world.  I depend on articles written by the press and experts to keep me informed. Like many people, I am concerned and fear the consequences in my lifetime. According to what I read, the scenario won’t be pretty. We must take action now to stave off the impending peril.

One thing we can all do is to buy an electric car and stop gas-propelled vehicle pollution. If half of us took this advice, it would make an enormous difference. The statistics could change overnight giving us all some much-needed relief. There is one huge drawback, which is of course the price. These green cars aren’t cheap. If you are used to a Mercedes then maybe you can easily switch. But if you are the proud owner of an economy car, you cannot. Here is what I must do. I will start riding my bike to work at least a few times a week. As a responsible commuter, I will do my part in the preservation of the precious ozone.

Good commuter bikes are easy to find at all price points from On Road and Mountain. You can get a used one or share it with a friend. Where there is a will, there is a way. Take the Vilano Hybrid City Bike at $400 on sale for $175. Now here’s a bargain. You get speedy 700c wheels with 700c x 35c tires. Handling is easy and comfortable, making this an ideal choice for the price. You can find your own bike since we all have different preferences but I personally like the sturdy steel frame with water bottle mounts. I also appreciate the spring-loaded rear rack and matching fenders laden with practical splash guards. Commuters and weekend adventurers will be thrilled. People like me commute as do students and professors. It is so cool. There you are upright on your machine with classic-looking hybrid/cruiser handlebars. I relish the matching suspension saddle and stylish grips. I carry stuff with me to work so I must have the rear rack for my “cargo.”

If you want specs, you have them on the Vilano website. They enumerate the special features for you loud and clear including the hi-ten steel frame, linear pull brakes, twist grip shifter (with seven speeds), the free platform pedals, locking kickstand, and of course what I mentioned about the wheels and tires. I like to know exactly what I am getting for my money. The Internet never fails to supply every detail.

My Own Personal Sun

The one thing I can’t stand about working around computers all the time is how cold my office space seems to be. That’s all well and good for the computers, but I am always waiting for penguins to come walking out of the server room! Wearing a coat and gloves is not a practical way to dress for my job, not to mention a violation of office dress code policy. Now that it is warmer out, I think they’ve made it even colder, and I’ve finally had enough. I decided to talk to management. They were very supportive and listened to my complaints. They agreed to let me have a space heater for my workstation as long as I kept it low enough that it didn’t bother any other employees and put it on a programmable timer so that it was only on during work hours. Also, I had to purchase it myself and it would be inspected regularly by the maintenance department.

Well, that’s just fine, because I can make sure that I get something that works well—unlike the bargain basement quality stuff they usually buy for us here. This part, the part where I can go home and look online to find information on products and features reminds me why the internet is worth using. After a long day at work sometimes it can be hard to remember. Because let me tell you, there is a lot of information out there, some of it is completely useless. I automatically eliminated any fuel burning heaters, as I’m sure my coworkers would appreciate me not asphyxiating us all in my quest to remain at above sub-zero temperatures. You would think this would make my decision easier, but there are all kinds of electric heaters, too. I finally decided on an infrared heater because it basically works the same way as the sun: instead of simply warming the air, it radiates heat that the objects in its path absorb. Once the object absorbs the heat, it warms up. It doesn’t dry out the air around it and it seemed like it would be an energy efficient choice. I settled on a model after researching some must-have features and reviews. The whole process, from idea to research to purchase, took me about two hours. Order placed, I turned in for the night.

The heater showed up a week later and I brought it in to work. Whenever anyone asked what it was, I told them it was my own personal sun, which usually led to a conversation about infrared heating. My coworkers may or may not have been bored by the explanation, but oh well. It turned out that it warmed not just my desk, but the desks of several coworkers too. It seems that everyone else was cold as well, but that nobody was sure what to do about it. We decided to relocate the heater to a more central location where it would do the most good and have adopted it as the office mascot.

Science Makes For Better Beach Towels

Technological innovation happens so fast that we can hardly keep up with new inventions and devices. Research and development departments are busy hubs indeed. We look forward to the new and hope progress will make our world a better place. It doesn’t matter if it has to do with electronics, clothing, food, or shelter. Everything is game to be changed in some fashion. Nothing is so perfect as avoid meriting alteration. It is an exciting world for the consumer always on the lookout for something new. It seems that people will buy anything to be the first such as the newest tablet, watch, or iPhone. Most things don’t change our lives dramatically, but a few have an impact in surprising ways. I am not talking about the big stuff like new models of cell phones laden with mind-bending apps that change the way we use cellular devices completely. You have to work hard to keep up. I am referring to all the small things that come up day to day that alter the way we employ products.

One minor example is the new fabrication of today’s best beach towels –just a utilitarian product that the average person uses to dry themselves off after a dousing in the ocean. Who would imagine it any other way than the striped expanse of cloth of which it is made. Now they are made of synthetic fabrics that absorb water faster and then dry out quick as a flash, kind of like the gym clothes you now find in athletic stores that let you sweat and keep cool. You can be drenched from a workout and still be comfortable. Some genius actually spent his day devising a new towel for the sun-loving public. After all, doesn’t everyone own at least a few. Of course, it can also be used at any swimming pool. What makes it special as a beach towel is that it can repel sand. Imagine that. Those tiny little grains will not infest the loops that normally form a terry cloth towel. They will not become trapped until you get home at which time they fall out at the most inopportune time. They might not even make it that far and tumble all over your car. Sand is gritty and annoying and making a towel that keeps it at bay is a great idea indeed.

Anyone who makes regular trips to the beach knows the value of repelling sand. They also know the value of drying off fast after you have finished your refreshing dip in the sea. These towels are not readily available just anywhere and you have to do a bit of hunting to find them. Even if you are swimming in a lake where there is no sand, you can still enjoy the soft luxurious fabric that has replaced the stiff ones of yore. They stay soft even after multiple washings and the sea salt does them no harm.

Not Your Daddy’s Wine Opener

I was looking for a really useful, well-designed, no-fault wine bottle opener for my next party. I hate the little coil of metal with a tiny plastic top. They cost less than a dollar and are worth far less. You inevitably break the cork, which then descends to the bottom of the hapless bottle. I don’t think the upscale all chrome versions are that great, either. While they are sturdy and do the job, you have to exert a lot of pressure, also risking destroying the cork (which gets enmeshed in the metal coil never to return again to earth). God forbid your hand should slip and an accident of any import happen.

So what is a guy to do? Whether I am going to use this thing or a hired bartender, I want it to work fast and efficiently. I don’t want the embarrassment of downtime with guests patiently pacing in front of the bar like bulls pawing at the ground waiting for the matador to arrive.

As most enterprising Internet-savvy people do, I went online in search of the latest, greatest wine bottle opening gadget. I found one, and it is not your daddy’s wine opener, as described above. It is, in essence, an electric machine fashioned for the modern host. It is made by Waring, of kitchen appliance fame, so it has to be good. At under $40, it is affordable if it comes through. It looks high tech enough and will be pleasant to view on the kitchen or bar countertop. It is sleep, made of chrome, and easy to handle.

These electric openers come cheaper, but reliability is my middle name. This baby can open fifty bottles at a crack on one full battery charge. That’s right, no cord to get in anyone’s way. The operation is almost mindless. You turn a switch and voila! I love the brushed metal finish and believe the reviewer who says that it is easy to clean. I’m sure there are similar models with a shinier finish. Not one to be too matchy-matchy, this one is a winner and my pick.

It comes with a charging base of course, which is a good place to house it when it is not in use. But at a busy party, I imagine it will be playing hooky far from home. As an aside, it gets a full five-star rating from more than twenty customers. I give a lot of credence to what the public says as they have neither an axe to grind nor a promotional duty. So, my wine opener is a one-touch marvel that does its job in mere seconds. No broken cork sliding into the hell of the bottle sediment.

I suppose the expense would be unjustifiable if I didn‘t have guests for parties. When opening one bottle, you can make do. But when the going gets tough, there is a solution. It doesn’t take up much space and stores efficiently. Put it next to your wine rack or cool as the case may be. I also can’t think of a better gift for a wedding, birthday, or special holiday. It is practical enough to almost be a household requirement.

Office Supplies I’m Not Going to Miss

Some things get antiquated pretty fast like the horse and buggy or the cathode ray tube TV. Others stick around for a long while before their use wanes. I am thinking of the ubiquitous, and once practical, humble Bostitch stapler for one invention as I sit staring at its loneliness presence. It has not gotten much attention of late. But frankly it is not an office item I am going to miss. It takes up too much room on my desk and is forever running out of its innards.

There are better ways to store documents than binding pages and pages of them together and stashing them in some hard-to-find files. (We don’t even have file cabinets anymore!) Rest in peace, you metal wonder, the stapler, long live the PDF. It is so much more modern to keep documents in your computer or on a cloud. Retrieval is faster and more efficient. Okay, you can delete them by mistake, but you can rescue them at will from the trash. Literal bundles of stapled paper can get dog-eared pretty fast. Pages can fall out if the binding was not done proficiently. All in all, you have to move along with the times and discard old habits.

Storage aside, we do not distribute documents in person anymore. No one wants paper. We email them or send a link. This way recipients can download them at will and read them at a more convenient time. They don’t get lost at the bottom of someone’s inbox underneath a myriad of memos and snail mail.

There are office supplies that I am going to miss by contrast. I love the three-hole punch. You feel manly exerting enough pressure to make them work. Believe me, it took some effort. But three-ring binders have gone to the wayside along with staplers. I am going to miss going to the copy machine directly where I can run into friends for a quick conversation. Now we send our documents electronically for reproduction, or we just don’t copy them at all. What is a copy machine sorter tray you ask?

I am going to miss magic markers on white boards for office presentations. We have much more advanced ways of doing this with PowerPoint. I am also going to miss the phone receptionist routing calls and the mailroom clerk, whose job has been steadily dwindling, what with the high cost of postage and all.

I am going to miss erasers, paper clips, butterfly clips, and highlighter pens. I am sad to see memo pads and Post-its go. Let’s say goodbye and farewell to manila folders and hanging Pendaflex files. A shout out is merited by perforation machines, Dictaphones, and tape decks. Remember when everyone had a dual TV/cassette player machine? I see, you don’t know what this is.

The office is a sparser place. You can see what you are doing without all the unnecessary supplies. You don’t have to feel guilty about taking the last staples from the communal electric device because you are too lazy to fill it. Plus, you always seem to jam them up. It is a time to cheer electronic advancement and the absence of clutter.

New Information (to me at least)

News flash. There is important information about sleep patterns that we didn’t all know. For one thing, there are people who are sleep deprived showing certain symptoms. They walk around confused and befuddled during the day and blame insomnia. They can’t remain alert and at attention. Their memory seems to be slipping Sleep disorders are more common than you think. They can range from the simple inability to fall asleep and the inability to go back to sleep to waking up frequently during the night.

It is unpleasant to feel tired and irritable for no cause of your own. The body is rebelling. It could be that stiff worn-out mattress or a bad pillow, as simple as that. It could also be negative thoughts that populate your mind during the late night hours causing tension and anxiety. Without the distractions of one’s day, they seem to dominate when they come to the fore.

Other causes of sleep disturbance are teeth grinding (curable at the dentist), allergies and colds, apnea (a type of breathing interruption), snoring, bladder problems (called nocturia), and nightmares. Once you find out what’s bothering you, it can be addressed with one or more solution.

I myself found out some degree of insomnia came from the wrong pillow. Thus it was a condition and not a disease to be feared. I sleep on my stomach, which is not the most prevalent position. Pillows are made for people who sleep on their backs for the most part, but some enterprising person has thought about the alternative. There are now memory foam models that can accommodate the face without smothering the sleeper.

First find out what type you are: side, back, or stomach sleeper. Then look at the myriad of choices for each. I chose the Sealy Posturepedic Stomach Sleeper pillow (they call the PostureFit) in the standard size. One was enough. It was a bargain at about $30 on Amazon. It was shipped right to my door. I love the 300 thread count cotton sateen—super smooth and sleek. Plus the thing is filled with hypoallergenic polyester (they call EnviroLoft). I selected soft density for my sleep style, but there are others available. Read the testimonials and you can learn what is best.

I find that as soon as my head hits this cushy number, I am asleep in minutes. That is a godsend for a former insomniac who got bored counting sheep. There is nothing so frustrating that letting your mind race through the night as you beg for sleep. All the problems of the day seem to appear instantaneously, as well as those from yesterday, and maybe tomorrow. Insomniacs are worriers to be sure and they use all possible fuel for their mental fire.

If this pillow isn’t to your liking, I do have another alternative with a hole in the center. It is the PillowMed customizable orthopedic sleeping pillow created by medical professionals for maximum comfort and health. At twice the price, I suppose it has twice the value. It is said to help alignment of the body while you sleep and to reduce neck pain, sore muscles, headaches, snoring, and more. Stomach sleepers can revel in its efficacy. Just open the four chambers using the zippers supplied and fill with the amount of stuffing desired. A side benefit to ladies, sleeping this way reduces wrinkles!

The Development of Information Systems

All of the new companies and businesses that were forming during the post-war period required complex information systems. Many of the early computers from IBM were little more than very large and very accurate adding machines. The ‘B’ in ‘IBM’ is for ‘business.’ These machines were created to help businesses run more smoothly and accurately. The people who worked to sell business machines during their early days were benefiting from the new surplus of talented salesmen.

The machines that were produced during this time period were enormous and only had so many applications. Few people from this time period could have predicted personal computers or anything of the kind. Still though, they set the stage for the personal computers that would arrive on the scene during the 1980s, and which would come to dominate the culture of the world by the 1990s.

Information systems themselves weren’t commonly used in businesses until around the middle of the 1960s. They were becoming more popular throughout the 1950s, but the 1950s was really where everything got started. It was more of a launching point for the success that would follow. Once the 1960s was well underway, the businesses that weren’t using information systems were starting to get left behind. Many businesses could not yet afford them, however. Even though business owners saw the advantages of getting complex information systems, they were prohibitively expensive through the 1950s and the early and mid-1960s.

The TELEX machine made all the difference in terms of the development of modern information systems. Business-people operating at different points within a given organization were capable of communicating much more efficiently and effectively than ever before, which helps them save money each and every time and made all the difference in terms of their long-term development. Machines like TELEX also helped set a new standard throughout the industry.

Accountants and their departments made use of information systems first, at least within businesses. Information systems were largely their domain. The role of information systems began to expand significantly as the technology-involved came down in price. A good portion of the history of technological development has proceeded along similar trajectories at some point or another.

The prototypes of most technological systems are very expensive. They are often so expensive that only the wealthiest organizations can ever hope to own them. These organizations will become successful as a result of these new technologies. Research and development into that technology continues, since the success of the prototypes has generated interest, and it may have directly increased the funding involved. The researchers make several important discoveries, and they are able to improve upon the original concepts involved. They release new lines of products, which are available for a comparatively low amount of money. Now, smaller businesses and wealthy individuals are able to afford them.

Research and development continues at that point. The technologies that are under development soon become part of mainstream culture in a direct or an indirect fashion. The general public has more interest in those technologies. Before long, they fall into the hands of the general public. Decades of research and development have made that possible. As more and more people become interested in the products, they are able to come down in price as a result of the economies of scale. Once more members of the general public become interested in them, the technologies come down in price even further and they more or less become part of the social fabric.

The trajectory of technological development produces plenty of interesting ironies that often only reveal themselves retrospectively. For one thing, the prototype of a piece of cutting edge technology is often the most unimpressive item in the entire lineage, and yet it is often the most expensive item of all. It certainly didn’t look unimpressive when it was made, or it would not have inspired an entire technological lineage, of sorts. It’s also ironic that the rich are the early adopters who more or less end up paying more for items that are going to look unimpressive by the time everyone’s even aware of them. If they had waited a decade or so, they’d be paying less for better items. However, wealthy early adopters are often part of the process, and the irony only serves to add a layer of intrigue to the situation.

The Dawn of Information Systems

Information systems have transformed the world in a way that was very difficult to imagine previously. Information really is everything, and information systems have been better at organizing, compiling, and transferring information than anything that humanity had previously.

Information systems the way we know them today are a product of World War Two directly or indirectly. The world’s economy, in so much as there was a world economy at the time, was at a standstill during the Great Depression, and the technological development of the 1930s was nothing compared to the technological development that would follow throughout the duration of the twentieth century and into the twenty-first century.

Throughout the early and mid-1940s, the desperation to win the war at all costs led to tremendous technological developments, which automatically led to more advanced information systems compared to what came before for many nations. Collectively, the individuals that focused on the more technical aspects of warfare formed the field of Operations Research. Operations Research was instrumental in the victories behind World War Two, and it was also directly and indirectly responsible for some of the other victories after the war was completed.

The people who worked in Operations Research certainly got some of the most intense training that anyone could have, given the circumstances. They were almost some of the most technically skilled people available at the time. Of course, when the war mercifully came to a close, these individuals needed somewhere to go when their government work was finished. While some people were directionless when World War Two ended, the people that worked in Operations Research were extremely talented, brilliant people who were contributing genuinely new skills to the workforce.

The former members of Operations Research entered the burgeoning business and industrial sectors of the post-war society. While many of them managed to find new niches for themselves, they also helped create new niches for others. The United States and other nations were transitioning to service economies at that point. Many people were working in sales and advertising in the post-war world. The ability to produce products on a level that had never been experienced previously was also partly a side effect of the war. The Industrial Revolution began long before this point, but the effects of World War Two brought it to a new stage.

Information Systems That People Use Every Day

There was a time when only a select group of people ever used the Internet. Before then, many people were not even aware of the Internet. The complicated information systems that are at play in modern society were once the stuff of science fiction fantasy. Today, these sorts of highly technical information systems are treated as mundane facts of life. Many people take them for granted to such an extent that the temporary loss of Internet access is treated as a problem that a city must address at once. Information systems dominate modern life, whether we’re fully aware of them or not.

Businesses will use a wide variety of information systems that are specific to their own operations. All businesses will have transaction processing systems of some variety or another. When customers select an order from a business, those are inputs into a broader transaction processing system. Some businesses use better software than others in order to accomplish these sorts of operations, but the definition of a transaction processing system is broad.

However, countless people all over the globe use the massive information processing systems known as social media networks. Many different operations are going on all the time in a massive social media network. As people log in, the number of people that are logged into the system changes in a way that can be demonstrated technically. As people create new accounts, that affects the number of accounts that are registered. Naturally, the large number of connections that people build throughout their personal social media landscapes is also going to change the landscape of the entire network. Social media networks are vast, and they will only become broader with time.

Information Systems Defined

The exact definition of information systems is going to vary depending upon the speaker or the writer. A science historian will probably give a different definition than a computer programmer or a systems analyst. However, both parties are going to recognize the tremendous impact that information systems have had on the world.

Information systems could be generally defined as an operation’s data and communication technology. However, the Internet itself is an information system, and it’s an information system that spans the entire world. Our increasingly global society could be regarded as an operation in its own right, especially since an increasing number of people are participating in the industrial aspects of modern society. The Internet is an information system that seems to also bring other information systems together, as if it were a massive, overarching information system operating on a meta level.

Information systems will have inputs, processing, and outputs. The inputs and outputs could be almost anything, and the processing could be multifaceted. However, even the simplest information systems will have these components at least. While many of the information systems that people think of today are extremely complicated, plenty of them can actually be relatively straightforward. Customer relationship management systems are information systems, and they’re largely about keeping records of the relevant activities of specific customers.

Businesses will have information systems like customer relationship management systems, as well as a whole host of other information systems. Some people might regard these types of information systems as simple facets of much larger information systems, but the categorization sometimes becomes a matter of semantics. Still though, it should be noted that even the most simple businesses will use several information systems in order to manage all of their organizational and managerial matters.

People aren’t going to be surprised that software companies are little more than series of interlocking information systems, at least at one level. However, even restaurants and clothing stores are going to run on information and information systems. The Information Age isn’t just defined by the fact that so many people use the Internet today and mass communication networks. The fact that the world runs through information systems helps to truly define our age.