Hess Associates

“The winter solstice, also known as midwinter, is an astronomical phenomenon marking the day with the shortest period of daylight and the longest night of the year” (Wikipedia). “This is because the tilt of the Earth’s axis is least aligned with the sun, providing us with the least daylight of the year. After this, the nights will begin to get shorter as our planet rotates towards the sun” (The Sun UK, Dec.18). The solstice occurs this year on Dec. 21st at 4:28 GMT.

Many cultures have celebrated this dark period, or at least found ways to cope with the lack of light. “For people of nearly any religious background, the time of the winter solstice is a time when we gather with family and loved ones. For Pagans and Wiccans, it’s often celebrated as Yule, but there are literally dozens of ways you can enjoy the season (Info About Yule).

“Winter Solstice has been celebrated in cultures the world over for thousands of years. This start of the solar year is a celebration of Light and the rebirth of the Sun. In old Europe, it was known as Yule, from the Norse, Jul, meaning wheel” (Celebrating the Winter Solstice).
The closeness of religious holidays to the solstice, and to the many festivals of light, ancient and modern, and the relationship of these to another renewal, that of the New Year, have become intricately woven together and we have become attuned to celebrate at this time of year over the centuries, no matter what religion we do or do not follow.

So why should you close down your business or keep only an emergency skeleton staff over the holidays?

1. They are holidays – H O L I D A Y S. Simple.
2. To deny employees this holiday period flies in the face of eons of history. People are tired, have worked hard, are light deprived, often have children at home hence needing quality family time, and need to renew and refresh, parallel to the rebirth of the sun. We feel very far from nature now with computers, smart phones, cryptocurrencies, Teslas, modern medicine, but we are part of nature and of the rotating planet Earth and it is something we innately need to respond to.
3. You actually do realize that many of your competitors and customers are closed anyway and being a workaholic or feeling guilty and thus staying open is not often productive.
4. Your staff will come back rejuvenated, renewed, and ready to go in the new year, instead of being tired and dragging the day after New Years.
5. Your employees will really appreciate what you have done and will go the extra mile for you.
6. YOU will have a holiday, have time to reflect, and be enthused and excited about making a fresh start.

Why Give Your Employees Standing Desks?

A Standing Desk? What is it, anyway? Why would you, never mind your employees, want such a thing?
According to the source and compiler of all knowledge in the 21st century, Wikipedia, “A standing desk or stand-up desk is a desk conceived for writing or reading while standing up or while sitting on a high stool. During the 18th and 19th centuries, standing desks were popular in the homes and offices of the rich.”
Reports on the health benefits of standing vs. sitting at one’s desk for 8 hours daily vary tremendously.

Re the PROs of standing desks, take a look at:



where they even go so far as to invoke the health benefits for kids at school

On the other hand, there are the CONs:




Re a very BALANCED approach – there is the 20 minute sitting, 10 minute standing, 2 minute moving model – this is very sensible, but getting into the routine, and not having the routine become your sole goal and raison d’être for your work day, can take some doing:


The bottom line is to be aware of sitting too much – whether you indulge in a variable desk
which gives you the choice of sitting or standing (this sounds like a great compromise), or whether you get up every 30 minutes and walk around, you are headed in the right direction!
And so is your company!!!

Getting Over the Sluggish Blues

You wake up in the morning feeling sluggish. You drag yourself
to the gym with that lethargic feeling, thinking that a good workout
will get the neurons moving. But it’s still a struggle.

You get to work and you are better but not yet feeling that ‘out of my way folks, I have worlds to conquer.’ How do you get out of the doldrums and into that aura of feeling great? Here are a few ideas to help you do that:

1) Music – there is usually a tune or melody that you can hum or play that will arouse your mind to signal your body to “wake up.” Not just a radio station but something that’s unique to you. So have something ready to get you over the “sluggish blues.”
2) Goals – giving yourself a chance to visualize the results of your goals can give you that inspirational nudge gets you back into the fast lane. In fact, the night before, just a brief plan might get you bouncing out of bed in the morning.
3) Routine – just start on a routine task which by itself can get you doing something positive and just keep doing it and the next thing you know you are working up a nice head of steam.
4) Food – coffee can start your engine and caffeine spikes your adrenaline but keep it in moderation. Hopefully you are sticking to a “healthy” diet that keeps your electrolytes and fluid levels in balance, providing a necessary amount of protein, and avoiding the “bad” stuff. Just go easy on the fries and doughnuts.
5) Plus Thinking – even though the weather outside can be gloomy your state of mind needn’t match the weather. Hook your thoughts to a positive frame of mind and enjoy life. Avoid the negative self talk that can creep into your subconscious mind.

And if nothing works to get rid of that sluggish feeling, remember the constant in life is change – and it too will pass.

What is CRISPR-Cas9 and Gene Editing anyway?

The term CRISPR – Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats – refers to the unique organization of short (partially palindromic) repeated DNA sequences found in the genomes of bacteria and other microorganisms. These sequences form a crucial component of their immune systems .

Scientists found that interspersed between the short DNA repeats of bacterial CRISPRs are similarly short variable sequences called spacers, derived from the DNA of viruses that have previously attacked the host bacterium. Whenever a virus invades, the bacteria takes a piece of it and adds it to the existing spacers, so effectively puts its sequence in a growing memory bank.

Double-stranded CRISPR repeats and spacers in the bacterial DNA undergo transcription, the process of copying DNA into single-stranded RNA molecules, which then circulate in the cell.

If a virus invades, and it has invaded before, these RNA memory strands (guideRNA or gRNA) will bind to the virus and direct the cell to destroy the virus by having the cell cut it up with a special enzyme called Cas9. Cas9 will be attracted to, guided to, the cutting site by the guide RNA.
(see http://sitn.hms.harvard.edu/flash/2014/crispr-a-game-changing-genetic-engineering-technique/
for more detail and an excellent diagram).

CRISPR has applications in the food and dairy industries, preventing infection of crucial bacteria by viruses.

Scientists have adapted this technology to eukaryotic (plants and animal) cells, in order to carry out gene editing.
They use, therefore:
Cas9 : an enzyme that cuts double stranded DNA at a specific place in the genome
gDNA: a predesigned 20 base long RNA strand (thus copying the spacer idea)
which binds to its complementary sequence in the genome, attracting Cas9, which then cuts the double-stranded DNA. As the cell prepares to repair the damaged DNA, scientists harness this DNA repair machinery to introduce changes in the gene.
Essentially gene editing is a unique technology that enables geneticists and medical researchers to edit parts of the cellular DNA by removing, adding or altering sections of its sequence.

Going forward, the use of CRISPR technology and gene editing in medicine is only in its infancy.

Recently this technology has been the subject of a contentious law suit between the Broad Institute
(Harvard) and UC Berkeley (details (https://www.statnews.com/2017/02/15/crispr-patent-ruling/).

How do Deal with Annoying People at Work

So you finally have the great boss/job you were looking for.

But that guy/gal in the next cubicle or office or down the hall – it could be a loud voice, rude or off-colour remarks, warming up food with pungent odours, over-friendliness, being too close or “in your space, attention-seeking, a fake laugh, unctuousness, being unkempt or unwashed, the list could go on and on.
What are you able to do about it? Please note here that we are not talking about someone trying to get your job, undermine you, gaslight you, and so on. That is a totally different ball game.

Although there is no perfect answer, just as there was no perfect answer during school days, at camp,
within the extended family, amongst friends and acquaintances, there are some steps you can take
before you seek psychotherapy:

1. Recognize that their behavior is not your fault and that you have the right to feel annoyed.
Don’t feel guilty because you are human and reacting to something offensive to you.
2. Identify what is wrong, and try to speak with them, diplomatically bringing up the issue, as if it were very minor and something they never would have thought was a problem, and ask if they could alter this –
– e.g. “You must think this is silly, but you have a very strong voice, which is lucky for you,
as often people don’t hear what I myself say, and I have to repeat myself, but sometimes when I am on the phone, etc. I can’t hear the other person very well, as I hear you instead. I’m not sure why. Do you think you could help me out by speaking just a little more softly?”
3. Ask others if they feel the same way – maybe one of them can speak to this person. Perhaps they know them better/longer.
Or if you have consensus, and it is troublesome, enlist HR to intervene. Sometimes an issue can be intolerable – and has to be addressed.
4. Try to avoid them, so if it is noise, or if they are always interrupting, think about a head-set, which will muffle the noise in the first case, or deter them from doing so in the second.
5. Certainly if it is a smelly food issue, this will annoy many others and can be addressed collectively by a spokesperson.
6. If what they are doing impedes work progress, think seriously about discussing the matter with your boss.
7. If they are rude or make off-colour comments, you should really confront them and explain politely that you don’t appreciate or tolerate what they are saying – that maybe they don’t realize how much it bothers you, that perhaps you are over-sensitive. You should strive to do this non-offensively as you don’t want to change roles with them!
8. Try to put it into context and only address what you can’t live with – it is called work, as
going to work, and dealing with assignments and people is WORK – it is not recess at school
(where even then, kids themselves were annoying). Your workplace is a small sample of the world in general.
9. Although you are the greatest and most mannerly person, think about what you are doing that may annoy your co-workers. No one is perfect.
10. Try to befriend the person if possible – maybe you have common ground and they are not as bad as you think.
11. The 10+ rule – do not lose your sense of humour – if you don’t have one, you’d better get one!

Who or What is Generation Z?

According to Statistics Canada, people born between 1993 and 2011 fall into this group, which represents 22% of the Canadian and 25% of the US population respectively. Other groups, e.g. in Australia, assign a similar but slightly narrower range – those born between 1995 and 2009.
Interestingly, many of these are children (5 to 23 years old), compared to the Millenials, most of whom are now in their 20s or 30s, depending on the whether you favour Statscan’s range (1972 to 1993) or that preferred by market research companies (1980 to the mid-90s).

So what is special about this postmillennial young cohort?

1. They are totally at home with the internet, mobile devices, media channels, and apps, as they have been exposed to an unprecedented amount of technology in their upbringing.
Receiving a phone at the age of 11, 12, or 13 seems almost to be a rite of passage.
They text as well or better than they speak, using acronyms, abbreviations, non-sentences, and emoticons.

2. They do, of course, want things immediately, surf on several channels at once, are excellent about finding free downloads, and know or learn how to do everything, courtesy of YouTube.

3. They actually derive a lot a real learning from clever, content-rich video games, so many of these kids are unbelievably informed on, say, world history, unrelated to anything they have learned at school.

4. They have mastered finding free on-line courses for language, programming, math, etc.
with knowledge literally at their fingertips, and take its’ accessibility for granted. Similarly, their formal schooling now is heavily technology-oriented. It is also quite commonplace for teachers of even young children to post their assignments, homework, etc. on line.

5. Coming along after 9/11 and the recessions of 2000 and 2008, they are very realistic, eyes open, and a bit wary of the future. There is also an understanding that success lies in a college education, but they do feel that job availability will be positive. They tend to be naturally entrepreneurial, and are very brand aware, due to advertisers’ excellent, focused marketing campaigns. Many of them plan to start their own companies.

6. They are also much more aware of privacy issues, ranging from information on sites such as Facebook and Instagram to the use of drones. Even very young children actually worry about drones invading their personal space.

7. The majority take issues such as same-sex marriage and multi-ethnicity for granted, as they did not live through all the years when this was not the case.

They will be interesting to watch, and are lots of fun and inspiring to be with.

Marketers catching up with Generation Z, Globe and Mail Dec 13, 2015

Rearing the “All Digital Generation”?

Who makes up the all-digital generation? Lately I was in a restaurant – at the next table,
a mere child, no more than 2, was playing with a cell phone, thumbs flying, obviously entrenched in some
age-appropriate game or other. Or who knows, maybe writing code.

On the one hand, there are the Millenials (Generation Y, also known as Millenials (born late seventies or early 1980s to early 2000s), with some overlap, depending on the source.
http://www.livescience.com/38061-millennials-generation-y.html) – with such amazing examples as Mark Zuckerberg, and others of that ilk. Many of us are just getting used to that moniker.

But there is an even newer generation now – Generation Z, the All-Digital Generation, following the Millenials, mostly still in high school, or barely out of it, others barely into it, or still in primary school. (Approx birthdate range 1995-2012)
These ‘children’ have never lived in an age without cell phones, internet, amazing TVs, total connectivity, online games, video games, video game learning, and homework and class schedules on line.
Some younger Zers have never existed without iphones, phone cameras, selfies, flat screen TVs, targeted ads,
You Tube,Vimeo, and the like. One of the 11 year olds I know just built herself a computer. When I was 11, mainframes existed in huge corporations,’ Normal’people never saw one, and bank tellers did entries by hand!!!! We communicated by land line or snail mail. “Generation Z is the first generation to be raised in the era of smartphones. Many do not remember a time before social media” (Alex Williams, NY Times, Sept. 26-27, 2015). “They will ultimately number close to 80 million, according to the U.S. Census. Mintel puts their spending power at close to $200 billion annually when you factor in their influence on parental or household purchases.”

And yet here we are, bringing up, sometimes one generation removed, Generation Z. They differ slightly from the Millenials – and tend to display more caution with respect to what and where they post (e.g. Secret or Whisper or Snapchat, where images appear and disappear almost as fast) (Dan Gould, Sparks and Honey).

If you are part of Generation X (born 1965-1980, the generation born after the Western Post–World War II baby boom), raising Zers, don’t worry too much. According to a Sparks and Honey trend report, Generation Z is much more practical and safety conscious than the Millennials (Alex Williams, NY Times, Sept. 26-27, 2015).
Nevertheless, the older ones are wordly, smart, totally comfortable with the current communication technologies, and their omnipresent video games have taught them more about math, history, geography, strategy, winning and losing, finding friends, learning sports rules, reading, and technology than many of their predecessors learned by rote.
If you are a Baby Boomer, enjoying your Zer grandchildren, make sure you learn how to text them as soon as they are permitted a phone!!! They expect that form of communication – it’s just like walking or breathing.
If you are dealing with the close-to-coming-of-age Zers, these people are risk-averse, practical, and pragmatic, and determined to succeed, many in a more entrepreneurial fashion (http://www.fastcoexist.com/3045317/what-is-generation-z-and-what-does-it-want.)
For the younger Zers, they are still fun-loving kids, with the best toys the world has ever had to offer. They are great, they are the future, they are All Digital, but they are not The Matrix (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Matrix). They are real, and they still need you to love them and be there for them – a smart phone can’t do that.

No Future for Voicemail on Land Lines

Most of us have a pretty good idea of the history of the telephone but if you don’t, just Google it.

With rotary phones, when it rang you answered it and if no-one was there it kept ringing until it stopped. There was no message and you had no idea who called. Then in the 1970’s you could attach a tape device to a phone that would record messages. As the price of these answering machines decreased, the market swelled.
You could record an outgoing message and record all of the incoming ones.

But then the telephone companies added features such as call display so even if a message wasn’t left, you knew who called.
They also provided inexpensive, centralized voice mail which made the answering machines superfluous.

But then came the big game changer, the cell phone. This device
changed the landscape completely. You can now leave a message on a cell phone which then converts it to text as well as saving the original message with the text. Very impressive.

So is there a future for Voicemail on land lines? Was there a future for telephone answering machines? That depended on when you asked the question.

Recently, Coca Cola dropped Voicemail at its US head office. As did J.P. Morgan Chase. I want to see it disappear from my land line as soon as possible to end my frustration with all the prompts and keying in numbers and security codes to get my messages. Progress comes through change and we can’t change that, can we?

Herbert Hess

Online Programmatic Advertising

According to Wikipedia, “online advertising, also called online marketing or internet advertising, is a form of marketing and advertising which uses the Internet to deliver promotional marketing messages to consumers. It includes email marketing, search engine marketing (SEM), social media marketing, many types of display advertising (including web banner advertising), and mobile advertising.”
Certainly many readers have used web advertising for many years, finding one or several forms more effective, easier to use, financially favourable, and so on.
Of great interest is the recent rise of what is known as “programmatic advertising”. This term, a.k.a. programmatic media or programmatic marketing, “encompasses an array of technologies that automate the buying, placement, and optimization of media inventory, in turn replacing human-based methods.” (http://www.adclarity.com).
This actually works similarly to a stock market – where computerized systems sell online ad space to advertisers and their agencies, essentially trading space instead of shares (Online Advertising Picks up Speed, Globe and Mail, Saturday, June 27, 2015). In fact, 50% of global spending on digital display ads is automated now, one of the biggest exchanges being Google Adx. This process offers cost savings and better targeting. Automatic auctions take place, where purchasers bid on a certain type of audience and space on particular web sites. This is done in several ways, such as “real time bidding”, where advertisers register to advertise according to parameters such as price, target audience, etc., a computer on line auction takes place, and the ad of the winning bidder show up on a website, guaranteed prices via a digital exchange, or fully automated auctions.
Many advertisers still find the whole thing confusing: such as figuring how demand-side (buy-side) platforms
where buyers used to buy ads in the marketplace in a less automated manner are giving way to Ad Exchanges where buyers now meet sellers via supply-side automated platforms, automated on both sides.
A good chart indicating how all of this works can be found at the iabcanada site (http://iabcanada.com/guidelines/programmatic-landscape/), illustrating the Canadian Programmatic Landscape.
What you may also want to know is that programmatic advertising will account for close to ¼ of the $50 Billion USD advertising marketplace this year (http://adage.com/article/print-edition/10-things-programmatic-buying/298811/), encompassing TV, web, PC, mobile, social networks, and all manner of campaigns.
Take for example, Adobe, which we all know, talking about “Adobe Media Optimizer”,” a programmatic ad-buying solution that helps you forecast the best mix of search, display and social ads based on your budget. It also automates the execution of your media plan and helps you find the best way to deliver relevant content to your high-value audiences” (https://www.adobe.com/marketing-cloud/online-advertising-management.html).
Also through re-targeting, buyers can fine-tune / target their audiences extremely effectively, advertising to the few people seriously looking for their product. I am sure if you have done some comparative shopping on the web lately for anything, e.g. hotel, washing machine, etc., you will then notice pertinent, focused ads showing up whenever you are on line. And of course, with analytics, this is all becoming more and more sophisticated.
Soon Siri will find you what you want in milliseconds!

The Internet of Things


If you are confused about the constant references to “The Internet of Things”,
IoT, rest assured that you are not alone.


An excellent introduction is an article by Bonnie Cha (http://recode.net/2015/01/15/a-beginners-guide-to-understanding-the-internet-of-things/). Bonnie quotes colleague Walt Mossburg’s succinct definition: “The broad idea behind these buzzwords is that a whole constellation of inanimate objects is being designed with built-in wireless connectivity, so that they can be monitored, controlled and linked over the Internet via a mobile app.”
She describes household devices/ appliances all connected via WiFi, Bluetooth, RFID,
and other standards not yet really commonplace, companies working on IoT products,
consortiums trying to create open standards, convenience, and safety issues.


It is predicted that in a few years, 50 billion devices will be connected to the internet.

But this does raise a good question, as posed by Gordon Smith, the Deputy Chair of the Global Commission on Internet Governance (Globe and Mail, June 4, 2015). Where is your data going, and how is it protected? For example, if you use a Bluetooth toothbrush,
and data is stored somewhere about your brushing habits, will your dental insurance company censure you for less than recommended brushing? Will enabling things around us help us or be to our detriment? Indeed, how protected is the data you are putting in the cloud?


What about the Globe and Mail headline news on June 18, 2015 that “Cyberattack deals crippling blow to government websites”? Ottawa’s websites and email were down for 2 hours. How secure is that? Imagine – people had to go ahead and pick up the phone!


Shawn Dubravac, the chief economist at the Consumer Electronics Association, opened the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this January, 2015, predicting the Internet of Me (Toronto Star, Jan. 6, 2015, article by Raju Mudhar). He outlined some of the personal information that could flow from you or to you, like the Bluetooth toothbrush info referred to above, Netflix making recommendations based on your past habits, password managers, smarter cars, wearables – e.g. health tracking and iWatches.


It all seems inescapable – can we prevent it from being “Orwellian”? Or is it too late?
And how economical will it be? Do you have to buy a Bluetooth toothbrush if you don’t want one, or will your insurance premium be linked to it? By the IoT of course.


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