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I'm With Stupid: My Cloudy Understanding of the Technological Climate

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Do you remember how on Sesame Street they would occasionally play a little game called "One of These Things Is Not Like the Others," wherein they would show you four things, and you would have to guess which one didn't belong?

No? Don't worry -- you'll figure out the rules as we go, but we're going to play that game right now. Here are your choices:

A. The CEO of one of the world's largest computer companies.

B. A billionaire venture capitalist.

C. The governor of Colorado.

D. Me.

And now Big Bird will sing to give you some time to choose: "One of these things is not like the others. One of these things just doesn't belong. Can you guess which thing is not like the others by the time I finish my song?"

Ding! Time's up.

If you guessed C, then you are absolutely correct! Gov. John Hickenlooper is the only one of the four who works for the government. The other three are what we in the business we very technically refer to as "people who don't work for the government." Did you get that one right? Well done.

And now to this week's column:

I had the great fortune, as it were, to once again attend the Fortune Brainstorm Tech conference -- the event that brought our four samples together -- here in Aspen last week, and I have to say: If you're a CEO or billionaire or tech entrepreneur or alleged "journalist" from an obscure outlet who only gets invited because he's the local guy, I can't recommend this conference enough. The food is great. The service is top-notch. The parting gifts are amazing. Almost everyone wears nice clothes. It's quite pleasant, really.

Then, of course, there are the intellectually fascinating discussions most of the people there can understand. I, on the other hand, had a bit of a difficult time following things. You see, I consider myself an expert in the realm of technology. All the panelists this year apparently wanted to talk about meteorology.

Practically every other thing said on the main stage during the myriad discussions was some variation on the phrase "the cloud," and it left me a bit puzzled because we were under a tent and didn't really have to worry about rain. I didn't want to seem stupid, though, so I didn't say anything until late on the second day, when I finally swallowed my pride and asked the guy next to me if the cloud in question was cumulus or cirrus.

The poor guy must have been even more clueless than I was because he looked at me like he had no idea what I was talking about. Then he got up and moved a few chairs away, intimidated by my brainpower.

It was a telling measure of how out of my element I was discussing the weather that the conversation I understood best was when a physicist tried to explain what the Higgs Boson actually is. I didn't understand a word she was saying, but at least I understood why I didn't understand. It's because I know nothing about quantum physics. Before the conference, I thought I knew what clouds were all about, but apparently I was wrong.

I always thought that clouds were made of water vapor. Evidently, if all the CEOs and tech entrepreneurs are to be believed, clouds are made of things like computers and servers and platforms and hardware. I find that pretty amazing, as I would have thought all those things were heavier than air. I mean, I suppose you could put all the other things on the platform to hold them up, but then you'd still have to somehow get the platform to float up into the sky, which is usually hard to do.

That's the thing about those tech people, though -- one way or another, they will figure out a solution for everything if you give them enough time and money. That's how they end up wealthy and successful and get themselves invited to high-profile, exclusive business conferences in the first place. It should come as no surprise that people wielding such intellectual firepower found a way to make a platform levitate.

Anyway, given that development, in the interest of safety, I'll leave you with this little warning: If you plan to fly an airplane in the future, make sure it's a sunny day or, if it's not, make sure the patches of blue sky are at least big enough that you can avoid all the crap in the clouds.

When Todd Hartley goes outside on cloudy days, he wears a helmet. You should, too. To read more or leave a comment, visit zerobudget.net.