Friday, December 23, 2005

Happy Holidays

There is no Demotivational Friday today, despite a bevy of mean spirited anti-holiday humor floating around in my head. Instead, I offer up a picture of my little brother, who is currently serving as a combat medic, attached to a Marine division fighting in central Iraq.


As you can tell from the very large and M40A3 sniper rifle slung over his shoulder, combat medics don't just save the lives of their buddies on the front line. They fight right alongside them.

My brother voted for Bush, and supported the war. He enlisted in the Navy, and volunteered for combat duty. He is 20 years old, and he has already fought in battle, killed the enemies of our country, and saved lives.

You might be wondering what I think about my brother's choices. After all, I am a pacifist. I worked against the current President twice (in 2000 it was full time, 7 days a week, for 5 months) and I strongly oppose the war in Iraq.

But my brother and I care about the exact same thing above all else - ensuring the safety and well being of others - even if it means sacrificing our own lives to do so. Both of us are very intelligent, rational men, who think very long and hard about the decisions we make. We come from the same family, with the same upbringing, and the same values. But we came to two very different conclusions about some very monumental life choices.

And while I still vigorously disagree with my brother's decisions, I love him and trust him to make the right choices for his life and for our country, as he trusts me. And I know that unlike so many others in positions of leadership right now, he takes personal responsibility for the consequences of his decisions.

So I support my brother. He is a hero, fighting for what he believes is right.

This year, amidst all of the bitter partisanship and acrimonious disagreements, take a moment to think about my brother, and all the other women and men serving overseas.

Think of their sacrifice. Think of their love for our country which they will not see for many months, or years, or at all, if they are unlucky. Think of their love for their friends and their families.

Their families who they will not see. Their children who they will not see Christmas morning.

They will not kiss their wives beneath the mistletoe. They will not hold their husband's hand as they pray. They will not laugh as you accidentally spill a drink on your sister.

And they will not smile as Grandpa talks about the war sixty years ago, for the sixtieth time. And they will not feel relieved when everyone makes it safely home from long journeys. And they will not be happy just to have the entire family sit down to dinner together. And they will not cry as the watch their newborn daughter open her first gift.

Though their will most certainly be tears.

Remember this. Remember their capacity for love and sacrifice that is the true spirit of this holiday season. Keep it in your thoughts, and carry within you for as long as you can in the New Year.

I'm going home to New York. My little brother will not be their this year. But he will be in all of our thoughts, and in all of our hearts.

I won't be back in Washington, or at my computer to blog, until January. Take care everyone. And have a happy holiday.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Republicans Pass Health and Human Services Budget

Hokey Smokes Bullwinkle! I finally have funding! That sounds good. No, wait. Its very very bad.

Via CNN:

Cheney casts deciding vote on deficit bill
Vice president breaks 50-50 tie on $40 billion of spending cuts

Wednesday, December 21, 2005; Posted: 10:50 a.m. EST (15:50 GMT)

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Republican-controlled Senate passed legislation to cut federal deficits by $39.7 billion on Wednesday by the narrowest of margins, 51-50, with Vice President Dick Cheney casting the deciding vote.

The measure, the product of a year's labors by the White House and the GOP in Congress, imposes the first restraints in nearly a decade in federal benefit programs such as Medicaid, Medicare and student loans.

Darth CheneyDarth Cheney in the Imperial Senate,
moments before his historic tie-breaking vote.

Well, that was unexpected. I thought that Senator Spector (R-PA) was going to oppose it, thus sinking the bill. But apparently, being a moderate means cutting $39.7 billion from health care, student loans, and welfare programs - weeks after supporting the passage of a $56 billion capital gains tax cut for the top one-fifth of one percent of the richest Americans.

Sadly, because this is part of the budget reconciliation process, it can't be filibustered.

So I'll be a lot busier in the New Year, helping even poorer people get fewer jobs with less money and support services.

What a great gift from Republicans for the students, the elderly, the sick, and the most needy! And just in time for the holidays! Merry F$cking Christmas. Ho, Ho, Ho.


Monday, December 19, 2005

Tis the season...

Some guy and I will often talk about more than just politics; in fact, he was the person who got me thinking and refining my views on religion. We both agree that the best way to "witness" to someone, regardless of which religion is being "witnessed", is to live a good and positive life, and have good answers when people ask questions. The aggressive way of proselytizing, be it about religion or even politics, is in my opinion counterproductive - It turns more people off than on. By being a good person and doing good deeds; the old adage of showing versus telling; and being ready to discuss how your faith or beliefs contribute to that goodness, convinces people more so than knocking on their door during dinnertime.

That said, L'Homme was away visiting family this weekend while I was visiting mine for the holidays (our families having arranged conflicting celebrations, requiring us to divide and conquer) and I had the house to myself. Those who know L'Homme and my back-story know that, despite my kick-butt super-kitty-sniper independence, I'm a big 'ole baby without L'Homme. I can't sleep well, I get lonely, WAH. So, without L'Homme to literally put me to bed, I fell asleep on the sofa in our den, watching "The Unsinkable Molly Brown." Shut up - I love that movie, okay? When Johnny tells her to take off the ring... I do have a heart, you know... I'm only human! Anyway... I woke up with Kitty-Kat (who missed his Daddy) cuddled up on my chest (definitely his father's kitty) and a televangelist on the tube.

I normally turn off that sort of thing; see above with the beliefs on proselytizing; but the television preacher was talking about Grace. Specifically, that only Christians know what Grace is. And the best way to get La Femme's blood up is to claim that only (x) knows (y). But as the preacher defined Grace, while I did not agree that not being Christian and not knowing about Grace was mutually exclusive, I did like his definition; that Grace is kindness without cause, mercy without deservedness. That's not to say that you should only be Gracious to those who don't deserve it, but rather to everyone, even those who don't appear to deserve it. Because that's the gift - to give without merit.

It does not, and should not, matter whether the person is deserving of kindness; first, to give that kindness is true generosity. We should not consider what we get out of it, or even what the recipient gets out of it. We should give kindness and mercy - we should be Gracious - without considering who is receiving it or why we are giving it. Kindness, generosity - Grace - makes us better for the giving when we don't stop to consider who or why. But secondly, how do you determine who is deserving of kindness, of mercy, of Grace? Oftentimes, those who appear to be least deserving are most in need of the Grace of others.

I got into a discussion today about Rawls' veil of ignorance, and how we should distribute resources fairly, with respect to need and where those resources would do the most good for the most people, despite the giving of those resources meaning less for "you" or "me." Because when resources are distributed in a way that maximizes good for the most people, "you" statistically stand a better chance of getting the better deal in the long run, which is the argument I made to the pragmatic people I was speaking with today. But also, when resources are distributed with the most good for the most people in mind, with as little regard to one's self as possible, it is Gracious.

And, in the end, isn't that the best way to proselytize? Because, if we truly want people to be better, to give more... shouldn't we be the example by which we lead?

On one of the Sunday Pundit shows, I heard that one of the Big Box stores was being boycotted due to labeling their Douglass Firs as "Holiday Trees" and not Christmas Trees; that they were taking Christ out of the holiday. But some things for the boycotters to consider - Christmas Trees? Last time I read my Bible, Jesus was born in the Middle East. And last time I checked my geography, the Middle East is not conducive to coniferous trees. It's a Germanic tradition. And, the decorating of the tree? Has history in the "decorating" of trees with slaves and animal sacrifices... But larger than that... Yes, the "reason for the season" for many people is to celebrate the birth of Jesus. To boycott over the use, or non-use, of a word, and over taking "Christ" out of an iconographic symbol of the holiday that is not even directly related to either the birth of Christ or anything surrounding His life or ministry... is that really putting the "reason for the season" first? All this angry talk about using the word "Christmas," as if the word itself is the meaning, as opposed to the word representing a meaning. It is not the spirit of Christmas - It is not Gracious.

Grace is beautiful. We are all capable of it; it is difficult to give because we must put others first and put our own prejudices and selfishness aside. Yet it is easy to give, because it truly costs us nothing to be kind to everyone we encounter, to forgive those who hurt us whether they meant to or not, or to show mercy on those less fortunate - to be Gracious. And, regardless of your faith, in my opinion, Grace is the reason for this, and every, season.

Happy Holidays!

Distraction: Pacifism and the Martial Arts

I'm in the process of having a very good argument with a close friend of mine about the martial arts that I’d like your opinion on…

My friend studies the martial arts, and he's a fourth degree black belt. In addition to a lot of other very good reasons to study the martial arts, he believes that it allows him to minimize violence. If conflict occurs, he is well equipped to defend himself and others. And studying the martial arts makes it unlikely that he will ever hurt someone, because he has a very high level of discipline and control over his body and his emotions. He would never attack someone if there is another viable way of resolving the situation, and if attacked, he could use the exact amount of force necessary to disable to person without killing them, thus minimizing violence.

I'm a pacifist. I haven't committed a violent act of any type in over ten years. Having studied pretty much every religion I know about, I could give you a long theological and philosophical discourse on why I'm a pacifist. But for the sake of this particular argument, I only want to focus on the practical aspects of pacifism, and why it’s better then the martial arts for protecting yourself and others.

My opinion is that violence begets violence. Once you allow violence into your decision making process, it becomes an option for resolving conflict. When people accept violence as an option for resolving conflict the possible results are pain, injury, death, and more violence. When people refuse to accept violence as an option, it rarely if ever occurs.

For example, once a stranger in a bar picked a fight with me, and I let him hit me several times and knock me to the floor. I told him that he won, and offered to buy him a drink. His ego seemed satisfied now that he had leveled someone half his size, so I bought him a beer and we ended up playing pool for a few hours.

It's my contention that if I had been a practitioner of the martial arts, that I would have fought the drunkard, and one or both of us would have been hurt a lot more then if I just took a couple of punches and bought him a beer. No doubt if I were trained to do so I could have appropriately and minimally hurt or restrained him, but that would have drawn in his friends, then my friends, and expanded the violence.

But even if he was at the bar alone and I kicked his butt out the door, it is likely that the experience would make him angry and resentful - more likely to be violent in the future, though he’d probably pick weaker targets. Perhaps he would have gone home to beat his wife and his kids. Or perhaps he'd go back to his car where he had a gun. Who knows? Letting him win and then talking afterwards humanized the situation and gave me an opportunity to reason with him, thus minimizing future violence.

I am never going to be attacked by ninjas, or targeted by a hit man. I'm not in the police, armed forces, or other government organization that is responsible for protection and safety. Random bar incidents and crime are exceedingly rare, and can be handled quite easily by someone with a level head who values life more then pride and money. Crime statistics consistently show that if someone attacks me, it is most likely someone I know - someone who will listen to me and probably have very little reason to attack me in the first place because of my pacifism.

Therefore in all cases in my life, and probably yours, the best way to resolve conflict is with words, and if that is not possible, to allow the assailant to win. The only thing that will be really hurt is ego, and I don't have any, so who cares.

The martial arts are great for physical health. They are a great way to build discipline. They can be an excellent starting point for studying eastern philosophies, which I have a great interest in and respect for. It's certainly fun to watch, and I've been told that its fun to do. Like other social activities (religion, politics, sports) it’s a great way to meet like minded people and spend time with them. And I can honestly see why it would be cool to think of yourself as the hero, the crime fighter, the untouchable Zen Master. So for all those reasons and probably more, I understand why people practice the martial arts.

Not SomeGuyInDCNot SomeGuyInDC

But I have yet to hear a satisfying answer as to why you should study the martial arts if your aim is to minimize violence and maximize your safety and the safety of your loved ones. I accept the fact that a martial arts master is far better equipped then the average person on the street. But isn’t pacifism better still?

Why should you spend your entire life studying different ways to be violent, if your goal is to be non-violent?

Of course, I know for a fact that there are at least six different highly skilled martial artists who read this blog, most notably Qui Gonn Jesse, Paleotheist, Nazgul, and my fourth degree black belt friend.

So, martial arts enthusiasts of the world, tell me why I'm wrong. The let intellectual beat down begin!


Friday, December 16, 2005

Demotivational Friday: Dysfunction

Dysfunction Bennifer
A big thanks to La Femme Nikita for this Friday's Demotivational picture idea.

Interestingly enough, while I was looking for an appropriate Dysfunction picture, I came across this old magazine cover:

Luke is a poser
Good to see that Mark had plans for outgrowing Luke Skywalker. Wonder how that worked out.


Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Distraction: Why Mommy is a Democrat

This children's book is hilarious, but true. I think I'm going to get one as a Christmas gift.

Why Mommy is a Democrat
Mommy also apparently has a powerful set of teeth
which she uses to crack nuts with.


Article: Funeral Directors Boost High School Recruiting Efforts

This link is sent to me by a good friend. Her commentary:

Another great headline from CNN. I know when they say 'recruiting' they mean for high schoolers to work there, but it still looks like they're trying to get teenagers to die more.

I agree. I love the CNN web desk.

ALBANY, New York (AP) -- Career day at Concord High School in Staten Island brought in firefighters, postal workers -- and a well-dressed man with a brochure titled "Searching for a career that's 6 feet above the rest?"

Matthew Funeral Home co-owner Matthew Scamardella talked to students about his job, showed a video about funeral directing and - he hopes - nudged some teens toward a different career path.


Scamardella's tactic was to just be himself -- a 57-year-old who likes to ride motorcycles, hit golf balls and serve his community. There's no evidence that any of the students are looking into mortuary science schools just yet, but Scamardella holds out hope.

"We planted a few seeds," he said.

Kitten Holdup

If you type search for the words dead teenagers on Google Image Search, this is the third result for some reason. I guess its because before a teenage commits suicide, they kill their kitten. But that's just a guess.

Coincidentally, I used this image for a Demotivational Friday: Management a while back. Small world.


Friday, December 09, 2005

Demotivational Friday: Persistence

So very very wrong Demotivational Poster Persistence
Just in time for the holidays, I'm going to Hell. And not the metaphorical, more theologically accurate separation from God for all eternity Hell. Literal, burning fire Hell.

About half of the people I know will think this is one of the funniest things they've ever seen, and the other half will give me a call to give me a talk about the appropriate ways in which to deal with the pain and frustration of Christmas.

I am so very, very sorry.


Thursday, December 08, 2005

Article: Google is evil, just like everyone else

Lately Google has been getting a lot of press for being innovative, nice, special, great to work for, etc. I have a friend who works for Google, and he says that he's making a boatload of money, and that it's "mildly better" then other companies he's worked for. Recently an article entitled "Google: Ten Golden Rules" came out in Newsweek, written by the CEO of Google. Of course, its self aggrandizing tripe.

Here are the ten rules, with commentary and snark, based on what my friend has told me and my own experiences. In reality, I'm writing this because I hate Blogger (why, why didn't I sign up with TypePad!? Why is it so hard to migrate all of my old posts?!) which is owned by Google. I imagine that its only a matter of time before is "accidentally" deleted and removed from the Google index...

#1 Hire by committee. Virtually every person who interviews at Google talks to at least half-a-dozen interviewers, drawn from both management and potential colleagues. Everyone's opinion counts, making the hiring process more fair and pushing standards higher. Yes, it takes longer, but we think it's worth it. If you hire great people and involve them intensively in the hiring process, you'll get more great people. We started building this positive feedback loop when the company was founded, and it has had a huge payoff.

This rule could also be called, Save Money By Forcing Your Engineers to do the H.R. work. Hiring by committee is one of the most painful processes you can ever endure. You have a small chance of getting the person you really like (unless everyone likes them) and have to waste a lot of time going to meetings that have nothing to do with what you were hired to do.

#2 Cater to their every need. As Drucker says, the goal is to "strip away everything that gets in their way." We provide a standard package of fringe benefits, but on top of that are first-class dining facilities, gyms, laundry rooms, massage rooms, haircuts, carwashes, dry cleaning, commuting buses—just about anything a hardworking engineer might want. Let's face it: programmers want to program, they don't want to do their laundry. So we make it easy for them to do both.

The point of this rule is to remove every possible excuse for going home and/or spending time outside of work. Eat at work. Exercise at work. Sleep at work. You should live at work. Oh, you're family is in town? The company car will pick them up, and they you can send them to the Google entertainment zone until you get off. At midnight.

Some of these are actually good ideas, such as free lunch at a decent cafeteria. If you work in an office park in suburbia, it saves a lot of work time to have good food for free on site. But I should I get paid $10,000 a year less just because some engineers are completely inept at running a household and doing the tedious tasks which everyone else on the planet has no trouble with? Screw being coddled, I can do my own laundry. Give me the money.

#3 Pack them in. Almost every project at Google is a team project, and teams have to communicate. The best way to make communication easy is to put team members within a few feet of each other. The result is that virtually everyone at Google shares an office. This way, when a programmer needs to confer with a colleague, there is immediate access: no telephone tag, no e-mail delay, no waiting for a reply. Of course, there are many conference rooms that people can use for detailed discussion so that they don't disturb their office mates. Even the CEO shared an office at Google for several months after he arrived. Sitting next to a knowledgeable employee was an incredibly effective educational experience.

This is the most blatantly misstated rule. It should say, "Make everyone share an office or sit in a cubical so that no one can close the door and play Doom all day." Having no privacy forces workers to work. And even then it only does so only mildly - in reality it just forces you to be more cagey about surfing the internet, or forces you to collude with your so-workers to avoid work.

A much better way, in my opinion, is to simply assign work with explicit timetables and let the workers do whatever the hell they want when they want, as long as they deliver quality work on deadline. But the worst nightmare of every manager is that someone, somewhere under their supervision, is jerking off and not working. They would rather remove everyone's privacy rather then trusting their workers. Sad.

#4 Make coordination easy. Because all members of a team are within a few feet of one another, it is relatively easy to coordinate projects. In addition to physical proximity, each Googler e-mails a snippet once a week to his work group describing what he has done in the last week. This gives everyone an easy way to track what everyone else is up to, making it much easier to monitor progress and synchronize work flow.

Managing by email is another way for managers to avoid doing their jobs. Rather then assigning work and tracking progress, simply force every worker to write down all of their activities every week and email it to their supervisor, and sometimes everyone in their workgroup. I had to do this for two years, except I had to do it EVERY DAY! and let me tell you that it was one of the most tedious and useless things I ever did. Every day I would simply copy and paste the email from the previous day, with the names of who I met with and what project I was working on changed occasionally. Annoying, tedious, useless.

# 5 Eat your own dog food. Google workers use the company's tools intensively. The most obvious tool is the Web, with an internal Web page for virtually every project and every task. They are all indexed and available to project participants on an as-needed basis. We also make extensive use of other information-management tools, some of which are eventually rolled out as products. For example, one of the reasons for Gmail's success is that it was beta tested within the company for many months. The use of e-mail is critical within the organization, so Gmail had to be tuned to satisfy the needs of some of our most demanding customers—our knowledge workers.

The stupidity of this rule is self evident? If you worked in a dog food factory, why would you force your workers to eat dog food? If your company makes indexing software, and you need to buy financial software, why not just buy the software you need? Why force an engineer working on a mapping to beta test an email program that will be filled with bugs? Here's an idea - pay professional alpha and beta testers to test your programs.

# 6 Encourage creativity. Google engineers can spend up to 20 percent of their time on a project of their choice. There is, of course, an approval process and some oversight, but basically we want to allow creative people to be creative. One of our not-so-secret weapons is our ideas mailing list: a companywide suggestion box where people can post ideas ranging from parking procedures to the next killer app. The software allows for everyone to comment on and rate ideas, permitting the best ideas to percolate to the top.

Google has its own internal list serve which they use to try and trick engineers into using so that they can't patent their own ideas. Junior engineer Bob comes up with the idea for Google Maps (which is a great application, btw). He posts the idea. Everyone loves it. Google makes billions of dollars selling the expanded version of the application and consulting with companies and government agencies that use it. Bob, who was dumb enough to sign a 50 page contract he didn't read, gets nothing (except maybe a free haircut).

# 7 Strive to reach consensus. Modern corporate mythology has the unique decision maker as hero. We adhere to the view that the "many are smarter than the few," and solicit a broad base of views before reaching any decision. At Google, the role of the manager is that of an aggregator of viewpoints, not the dictator of decisions. Building a consensus sometimes takes longer, but always produces a more committed team and better decisions.

This is horse manure. Basically, Google holds twice as many meetings before the CEO and executives tell their employees what to do. But the employees (sometimes) feel better about it, because at least they get to talk about it before they do what they are told.

Some marriages work via the some process.

# 8 Don't be evil. Much has been written about Google's slogan, but we really try to live by it, particularly in the ranks of management. As in every organization, people are passionate about their views. But nobody throws chairs at Google, unlike management practices used at some other well-known technology companies. We foster to create an atmosphere of tolerance and respect, not a company full of yes men.

Tech people hate Microsoft. Most people with Windows running on their computers hate Microsoft. Anyone who owns a Mac really hates Microsoft. Anything Google can do to act unlike Microsoft is good, because it gives them better PR. Microsoft is the "evil corporation" of our age - so Google made its motto, "Don't be evil."

FYI, Google is evil. The ultimate result of their efforts will be vastly less privacy for all people everywhere. It's only a matter of time before you type in someone's name or basic information into a multi-tabbed search page and retrieve a person's address, phone number, driver's license number, Social Security number, profile, Friendster profile, property tax records, picture, blog, and any other personal information available online. Because right now, a sophisticated 14 year old can do that now with one hour's work and your full name, if its spelled correctly. Useful, but evil.

# 9 Data drive decisions. At Google, almost every decision is based on quantitative analysis. We've built systems to manage information, not only on the Internet at large, but also internally. We have dozens of analysts who plow through the data, analyze performance metrics and plot trends to keep us as up to date as possible. We have a raft of online "dashboards" for every business we work in that provide up-to-the-minute snapshots of where we are.

If 80% of your employees are engineers and computer programmers, they are going to bitch to high hell every time an MBA makes a decision that "doesn't reflect the numbers." I'm actually guilty of doing this on a regular basis. Unlike the government though (which ignores data) Google is intelligent enough to create a process by which data is aggregated and reported on a regular basis so that it looks less capricious when the MBA makes a decision everyone disagrees with.

# 10 Communicate effectively. Every Friday we have an all-hands assembly with announcements, introductions and questions and answers. (Oh, yes, and some food and drink.) This allows management to stay in touch with what our knowledge workers are thinking and vice versa. Google has remarkably broad dissemination of information within the organization and remarkably few serious leaks. Contrary to what some might think, we believe it is the first fact that causes the second: a trusted work force is a loyal work force.

Not only should they encourage communicate effectively, they should encourage intelligence. And make money. And post pictures of puppies, because everyone loves puppies. I'm surprised that one of their rules isn't "State the obvious in an upbeat fashion." Really, this is just another excuse to hold more meetings. If they didn't trap their employees in their shared cubicles 24 hours a day, I doubt they would ever get any work done.

Having said all this, Google is a multibillion dollar company, and I haven't had a vacation in five years.

But Google made billions of dollars by inventing a profoundly useful technology. Not by innovative management techniques. Not by being warm and friendly to their engineers. Not by having special rules and processes and idea driven blah blah blah. Edison invented the light bulb, and G.E. is now one of the largest corporations on the planet. Google invented something everyone uses, and now they're making money. Good for them. But don't believe the hype.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Article: New Medicare Drug Law Sucks

I was just talking to a good friend of mine about how the new Medicare drug law is a horrible, confusing, costly boondoggle. Here's another example of why it sucks:

Iowa Seniors calling a phone number for answers about the new Medicare prescription drug program reached a phone sex line by mistake.
The Medicare program, criticized by some as confusing, will likely be more confusing to Iowans and others who received a letter from Humana Incorporated with an incorrect phone number.

The company is one of numerous insurance companies offering coverage for the new Medicare drug program that starts January 1st.

Humana spokesman Dick Brown says a few thousand letters were sent nationwide last month to people asking about Medicare's drug program under Humana. The phone number listed on the letter was one digit off from Humana's correct number, which is 1-800-992-2551.

A message at the wrong number directed callers to "Intimate Encounters," which offered service for two-dollars-99-cents or 99 cents per minute.

Since my job has forced me to read the law and be familiar with it, I've decided to keep a running commentary on why I hate it. If you see any news or government links supporting my bile, please send them to me.


Distraction: Serenity, as performed by hand puppets

I was going to write a post on women in the workforce related to some economic research I'm doing. But this link is more amusing. Don't read it unless you've already seen Serenity the movie, as it contains major spoilers. If you have seen it (and loved the movie, as I do) then you'll probably find it amusing. Enjoy.

Also, I loaned my Firefly dvd's out to someone weeks ago and have forgotten who. Since purchasing them shortly after leaning about Firefly's existance, they've been in my possesion for all of ten or eleven days. After that, they've been loaned out to pretty much everyone I know. Whenever I get them back, someone else asks to borrow them, and I, wanting to spread the Whedon-esqe goodness, loan them out again. If you have it, please give it back. I miss them.


Emergency naptime procedures implemented!


Extreme Kickass Mode Switch: OFF.


I always love watching "When Seemingly Innocent Girls Attack" on Fox.


Distraction: Prbomles Slpileng?

Stolen from the one of the comments section of the Dilbert Blog:
Icdnuolt blveiee taht I cluod aulaclty uesdnatnrd waht I was rdanieg The phaonmneal pweor of the hmuan mnid Aoccdrnig to rscheearch taem at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoatnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be in the rghit pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit a porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. Such a cdonition is arppoiately cllaed Typoglycemia :)- Amzanig huh? Yaeh and yuo awlyas thought slpeling was ipmorantt.
I'm not sure if this means that all people are inherently brilliant, or if its an excuse to be a lazy speller. Maybe both.

reading is fundamental ling lingI've been looking for an excuse to use this picture.
This sorta qualifies.


Friday, December 02, 2005

Distraction: Fifteen Richest Fictional Character

Forbes has released its list of the world's fifteen richest fictional characters. Read the descriptions, they're hilarious. Hat tip to Fark for the link.

AquamanDespite holding domain over 72% of the Earth's surface,
Aquaman failed to make this year's list.


Demotivational Friday: Leadership

Leadership Demotivational Poster Bush eats brains
The picture and joke are stolen from Wonkette, who grabbed the picture from AFP. I feel like I could have done better with the caption, but it's been a busy week, and let's face it, I'm not that funny.


Thursday, December 01, 2005

Government: National Strategy for Victory in Iraq

Following his big speech, the Bush Administration has put out its National Strategy for Victory in Iraq. I read it, and I was not impressed.

Virtually all of the document is written in bullet points and short, unconnected paragraphs. What is up with this administration and bullet points? I've blogged about this before as it pertains to PowerPoint. For some reason there is an intense desire to boil down complex information into simple platitudes, eliminating any nuance, art, or meaning in the process.

Sermon on the Mount PowerPoint Presentation
Before today, I assumed it was limited to my office (where they are overused to the point of absurdity) and to press releases (where they belong). But now I realize that it is administration wide.

My guess is that the President insists that everything be written in bullet point format, and that in an attempt to please/mimic him, it has trickled down to all of the other officials and political appointees, and then down to the individual offices and division heads.

I believe that the President does this because he sees everything through the lens of his business management education and experience, where substance is secondary and unimportant compared to the bottom line (winning and making money). The bottom line is that the President wanted to invade Iraq, he created a bullet point rational to get us there, used it to sell the American public, and now we're there. He was told we'd be "greeted with sweets and flowers" but we weren't, and now he has no clue what to do. He doesn't understand the actual substance of what is going on, and can't craft the complex strategy necessary to succeed.

He gets the big picture "vision thing" that his dad lacked (Freedom, War on Terror, Tax Cuts). He knows how to sell his vision in a format people can understand - PowerPoint, bullets, slogans, repetition of message. But I have yet to encounter a single piece of Bush administration policy that has a well thought out, evidenced-based rationale with a deliberate strategy for achieving substantive goals. In the entire National Strategy for Victory in Iraq, the word "evidence" appears in any iteration only once, in this set of bullet points:

  • Some of the most important metrics we track are:

  • - Political: The political benchmarks set forth in U.N. Security Council Resolution 1546 and the Transitional Administrative Law; the number of Iraqis from all areas willing to participate in the political process as evidenced by voter registration and turnout.

    - Security: The quantity and quality of Iraqi units; the number of actionable intelligence tips received from Iraqis; the percentage of operations conducted by Iraqis alone or with minor Coalition assistance; the number of car bombs intercepted and defused; offensive operations conducted by Iraqi and Coalition forces; and the number of contacts initiated by Coalition forces, as opposed to the enemy.

    - Economic: GDP; per capita GDP; inflation; electricity generated and delivered; barrels of oil produced and exported; and numbers of businesses opened.

  • Other indicators are also important to success, but less subject to precise measurement, such as the extent to which principles of transparency, trust in government institutions, and acceptance of the rule of law are taking hold amongst a population that has never known them.

  • We've been at war or planning for it for more then three years, and this is all the administration can come up with as metrics for success? Voter registration and occasional elections are just the mechanisms for representative democracy, not the preconditions, process, or results. The number of car bombs intercepted or defused does not measure American casualties or Iraqi safety. And GDP/inflation/infrastructure and other economic measures were better under Saddam then they are now. This is the best you can come up with? This is the plan to get my brother home safely from this endless war? Pathetic.

    I think that bullet points are the perfect metaphor for why so few Americans take this administration seriously anymore. We've seen the same high pressure "buy our time-share condos now" sales pitch again and again, and we know that's its a scam. Too bad Bush is President, and not a salesman we can walk away from after getting our free coupon.


    Article: Man Pleads Guilty in Horse-Sex Case

    This article pretty much speaks for itself:

    SEATTLE - A man has pleaded guilty to trespassing in connection with a fatal horse-sex case. James Michael Tait, 54, of Enumclaw, was accused of entering a barn without the owner's permission. Tait admitted to officers that he entered a neighboring barn last July with friend Kenneth Pinyan to have sex with a horse, charging papers said. Tait was videotaping the episode when Pinyan suffered internal injuries that led to his death.


    The prosecutor's office said no animal cruelty charges were filed because there was no evidence of injury to the horses.

    A man was literally banged to death. By a horse. While his friend videotaped it. The sad thing is, I remember reading about this a couple of months ago, but this article is dated November 30, 2005. Hopefully, this is just the criminal proceedings from that incident, and not the beginning of a national trend.

    Sorry about the light blogging lately, but I've been traveling, seeing family, and physically ill. I'm back in D.C. and feeling better though, and perhaps while catching up in my work and emails I'll find more interesting things to post.

    And a public thanks to my friends who continue to feed me good blogging material. Without you, the world might not know about this important news.