Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Party at Jim's Place

This is a picture of me, under the influence of alcohol. Now in the case of my children or my mom accidentally happening upon my blog, this was at MY BIRTHDAY PARTY at my house. It is a rare thing indeed for me to be under the influence of alcohol. Really. There were many more flattering pictures taken of me at this party, but my friend "S. S. Brown", who is a fine photographer indeed, decided to publish this one. When asked why he chose this one, he cited some blather that insinuated he had "artistic reasons". Now, S. S. is a great photographer (and great at post-production) as evidenced here in a picture taken at the same party: Pretty awesome, eh? These limes bathed in the very Gin & tonics that ushered me into the lack of decorum you see in the picture above. S. S. knows what he is doing. His real motive is clear: he wants to show the world the boob that I am. The woman next to me is not my girlfriend, but she is rather fetching, so why not decrease the impact of my boobishness by guiding most eyes away from me, and onto her? This party was spectacular fun. I plan to make it an annual event. If you're in Los Angeles Next January, let me know and you too can discover your inner boob.

Monday, March 29, 2004

Last Chance to Submit Your Own Curse!

Originally, this post was a "call for letters" for those of you with a good curse I could put on the people I work with who were (and still are) making my life miserable. Now I'm going to add a request for curses against the asshole SUV driver who followed me with his frigging blinding halogen high beams on but was too stupid to realize it and too fatuous to care. All curses previously submitted are still in the running. The winner still gets a free guest post!

Last Chance to Submit Your Own Curse!

Originally, this post was a "call for letters" for those of you with a good curse I could put on the people I work with who were (and still are) making my life miserable. Now I'm going to add a request for curses against the asshole SUV driver who followed me with his frigging blinding halogen high beams on but was too stupid to realize it and too fatuous to care. All curses previously submitted are still in the running. The winner still gets a free guest post!

Friday, March 26, 2004

That's right, you heard it right here folks, the latest news--in the world!. This story starts--as with all of my stories--with my mother. She is a very sweet woman, and well-meaning, but if she has one fault it is probably that she is gullible. She got an e-mail with an attachment that showed a very convincing slide show about some spiffy new technology that was most certainly the fullfilment of the prophecy in Revelation. Here are the signs of an urban legend: 1. Urgent news about a hidden danger, (like using your cell phone at the gas station will cause an explosion) or 2. "Insider" knowledge that reveals some secret about some powerful organization, (Microsoft is giving away $1,000 if you just forward this e-mail) or 3. A fantastic story about an idiot who dies doing something stupid (rocket engine, strap, car, etc.), or 4. Some such drivel that is a juicy bit of gossip. And they *always* say ... 4. Tell everyone, quickly! So I get this e-mail from my mom and I instantly think "lies". I forwarded the slide show to the good people at www.snopes.com, and they did all my legwork for me. The results (somewhat arcane, but still fun) are here. I have had some fun with urban legends. Let me just say, it's more fun to write them and watch them circulate than it is to be a rube and circulate them. When you forward an e-mail, just think of this: someone else is having fun at your expense! A tip of the hat to Snopes!

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

State of the Computer Industry

True the the rigid theme of "The Meat of the Matter" ... that being no theme at all ... I am now going to change the topic to something near and dear to my heart: The state of the computer industry. Truth be told, this is a snippet for a book in progress. Don't tell anyone, but I'm a technical support consultant. So without any further adieu ... here it is, somewhat abridged.

1: Technology Companies manipulate the pace of change in order to maximize profits.

Planned obsolescence by both hardware and software manufacturers keep corporations feeling like they are either “behind the times” or “in the chaos of change.” Anyone who either works in a corporation ro works with one knows that corporations almost never have stable, well-run IT systems that are not undergoing some form of upgrade or change. Working in such an environment is kind of like tuning up your car while you're stuck in rush hour traffic.

2: Software manufacturers who design software that is optimized for the “next” operating system complement the pace of this technology advancement.

The above pace would not succeed if there were not business drivers that cause corporations to upgrade to the latest application or operating system. Work with me here, I'm actually going to make a point. The primary drivers are key business tools (software) that are developed to work better with the next generation of operating system. This is the only reason people aren't using DOS anymore. Cha-ching!. Also, since DOS required 56k of memory, and Windows XP requires ... like 56 gajillion k of memory, these OS upgrades won't work on your old 8088 anymore. You have to upgrade your hardware. Cha-ching!.

3: (And now I'm finally getting to my point) Rather than driving the pace of their own changes, corporations have become driven by these market changes, which are out of their control.

In order to stay competitive, corporations are forced to use software that is compatible with other touch points in their industry. Now before you start listing a litany of reasons for why these touchpoints have actually improved business, remember one thing: I'm the blogger here, and I'm naked. Don't argue with me. OK, yes there are some ways in which computers have improved manufacturing, accounting, and, well, pretty much every industry. But remember that what I'm talking about here is the vast majority of computers that sit in so many de-humanizing cubicles where schlubs like you and I work. If you work in a lab or a plant, mileage may vary. Now STFU. Installation of these newer versions of software often requires a newer operating system. Cha-ching!. New operating systems often require new hardware. Cha-ching!. New hardware accommodates the installation and use of new, bigger software packages. More cha-ching!.

4: The gains achieved in speed or efficiency have NOT offset the costs of these upgrades.

In recent years, improvements to the speed of computing have changed very little for the average computer user. The average computer user uses word processing, spreadsheets, and sometimes database programs. Like I said earlier, major strides have been made for specialized needs like scientific computations and graphic computations, but these comprise the teeny-weeny minority of users. Most of us use e-mail, word processing, spreadsheets, and data entry. None of these things are faster or notably better than they were 10 years ago. When I go to open a freaking EXCEL SPREADSHEET on my computer (can you hear me yelling?) my FREAKING COMPUTER that has the latest and greatest in what Microsoft and Dell have to offer, groans and whines like it's a fricking circa 1845 STEAM SHOVEL digging a FRICKING DITCH. A few minutes later ... viola'! Excel. Granted, my new version of excel can do pivot tables, and can probably handle a bit more data than my old computer, but the speed of this tool is pretty much the SAME as the speed of my old DOS machine. Why is this? Because Microsoft doesn't make quality products. They make bloatware which, I think, chokes my machine on purpose so that I will want a faster machine that can coincidentally hold their next bigger and more bloated operating system. Sheesh. Do I sound like a conspiracy theorist? People have problems with this point, but the key is to see a computer holistically, not as a series of components. In 1985, you could buy an 8088 computer using DOS and a dual-floppy arrangement. You could buy a word processor, and do most of your basic computing all for about $800 - $1000. If you are an entry-level computer buyer today you can hop onto the train for the same amount of money, except you'll be buying a P3, color monitor, 80 gig hard drive. From a corporation's standpoint--for the majority of users--they have had to do this SIX TIMES since 1985 (once every three years) just to maintain the same level of computing. If you look at a computer in light of a particular component, the picture becomes deceptively better. For example, if I were to plop a P4 into my laptop right now. It would SCREAM in comparison to my current 500 mhz chip.

5: The speed of this change has put most computer users into a state of technological fibrillation.

Most of us in today’s workforce have received computer training of some kind. We’ve most likely been trained on their primary specialized tool(s), and some other “standard” training, such as basic training in their operating system. Once trained initially, we felt empowered and had impetus to continue learning the finer points of our tool. I remember thinking "Wahoo! I am a master of Excel 4.0 on Windows for Workgroups 3.11! I ... AM ... A ... GOD!" Then, a few months to a year later, our tool was very likely upgraded or changed altogether, and our training was rendered obsolete. (I remember thinking "What the ... ???") After a few cycles of this, most of us end users of technology “give up” trying to master our tool, because it’s obvious that the goal of mastering the use of our computer has become a moving target. And if we didn't, we didn't get trained anymore anyway. You know why? Because organizations figured out that training was just plain silly, and for the most part stopped spending money on it. Now, we focus our job development on other aspects of our job--the ones that don’t change. If problems with the computer arrive … fuck 'em. We can always call the help desk.

6: The speed of this change has also placed a higher and higher premium on technical support personnel who are trained in the latest operating system and software.

The problem here, of course, is that the glut of technical support analysts who are flooding the market have expertise, but they don’t have understanding. It matters little, however, as these technicians find themselves employed very easily. As the disconnection between our workforce and their primary tool grows, the need for technical support analysts will stay high, and so will costs. Even Saturday Night Live saw this problem and had a skit for awhile that made fun of tech support geeks. Ha ha SNL. Very funny. Ha. Ha.

Conclusion #1: Corporations are no longer free to choose the primary tools of their workforce.

If any single corporation (with perhaps a few high-profile market leaders with a huge market share) were to put their foot down and say “we are not going to upgrade any software for the next five years” would likely find themselves trailing the pack after that 5 years was over. Over the course of those five years, most corporations that play ball with Mr. Gates and his la familiawill have dished out from $25,000 per user in hardware, software, and tech support costs. HUGE ASS Cha-CHING!. Five years ago, in 1999, Windows '98 or Windows NT 4.0 were the primary, cutting edge operating systems. Any organization still using Windows '98 today is either about to go bankrupt, or is a non-profit or a school. Furthermore, Microsoft just deigned to change their mind about even supporting Windows NT after last February, and it likely won't outlast the year. When Microsoft doesn't support your operating system anymore, you are at the mercy of whatever exploit a two-bit hacker might create. And you can't fix it yourself because you don't have the source code. There isn't a word for how unfair that is. I'll probably think of it later in a fit of "Treppenwitz". (Heh ... cool. I used that word in a sentence.)

Conclusion #2: Our workforce is unable to efficiently use the primary tools of their job.

That point is painfully obvious. Have I missed anything? Oh yeah, the solution. If I had a crystal ball and a magic wand, I would say that the future will look like this: 1. Local machines will take a step back toward dumb terminals, but still have a local processor like a P3. 2. Web interface to all applications run from servers. Please God, not I.E. 3. Wireless networks. Hopefully they don't cause cancer or genital warts. 4. Grid computing that run batches at night a' la "SETI @ Home". No more mainframes. 5. Open source Operating Systems. (I'll give you a hint. It starts with L and ends with "inux".) However, this is with a magic wand. With no magic wand but still a crystal ball, I would say the future looks like a grim reminder of the present. There was a glimmer of hope when the feds were trying to break up Microsoft, but then 9/11 happened. Then Microsoft gave the government a back door into everyone's operating system with Windows XP. Then the feds dropped all charges. Cha-ching!. And now the grand summation, which is somewhat of an afterthought. All this flurry is indeed the result of all the above, but it's also the result of two things: Moore's Law and Spinoza's Law. Moore's Law states that the number of transistors per square inch on integrated circuits will doubled every year. He's been right so far. This creates a vacuum--a vacuum for space and computational power. Spinoza's law states that nature abhors a vacuum. So ... mix in a little corporate greed and you get the complete madness we have today. However, most experts agree that Moore's Law is not an eternal law. (Like say, you shouldn't sleep with your wife's sister.) Once we peak on our ability to squeeze transistors onto a square inch of circuits, software developers might be hard pressed to add a 90-megabyte super-keen-o ring-a-ling spiffy feature into their software. When that happens, Microsoft might actually have to work at the art of writing code, rather than simply the business. But until then ... Cha-ching!.

Friday, March 19, 2004

My Parking Ticket Dollars At Work

Last Summer I got the chance to hang out with one of my old buddies (Mike) in good ol' Huntington Beach, California. I drove my super-cool convertible through the quaint streets, feeling like I was in a scene in a movie. Mike and I were pleased to find a parking spot, but I was somewhat chagrined to find that the parking meter did not work. Luckily, the previous occupant of the space had left a note for the parking enforcer (undoubtedly named "Lovely Rita"). I saw the note, and flippantly decided that I was safe from all alarm. Mike and I had a grand day. I especially enjoyed the attention I got from women when Mike was within 10 feet of me. At the end of the day, we returned to my car only to find that the note had blown off the meter, and that a parking ticket had somehow blown itself under my windshield wiper. Crap! No problem, I though. I can just send them a nice letter. Of course I procrastinated, and when I read the back of the ticket, I learned that I had a narrow window of time during which to "appeal", but that it had passed. I appealed anyway, and I must confess that my letter had an ever-so-slightly sarcastic tone to it. I think I said "I'll make you a deal, if you let me just pay the initial amount, and fix the parking meter, we'll call it even." It's not the first letter I've written to a court. [cough cough]. Motion denied. Apparently, after a certain date you are guilty no matter what. I paid the original $49 for the parking infraction, plus another $100 for being LATE--even though I wasn't fucking guilty in the first place! Then today I went to pay my DMV renewal and there in the breakdown of costs, like a chip in my martini glass, I saw: PARKING/TOLL VIOLATIONS MANHATTAN BCH 0090129521323 $61 Am I going to pay this? I spent 30 minutes on hold with the DMV, who explained that I need to show a cancelled check in order to not pay. However, one check is for $49, and the other is for $100. Here are a few ideas on how I think Manhattan Beach should spend the $149 (or maybe $209) of my money: 1. Buy 20 copies of "How to Win Friends and Influence People" and distribute it among a few key people. 2. Erect a statue to Draco. Maybe one depicting the brutish ruler attending a hanging of a poor peasant who stole a loaf of bread. 3. Use the money to take a taxi to LAX. Hijack a plane to the middle east and join the Taliban. 4. Take the mayor of Manhattan Beach (and whoever he is schtupping) out to lunch--tell him it's on me!

Thursday, March 18, 2004

A scene from the Jedi Council? No! It's Haiti's new interim President! Kidding aside, here is probably my last post about Haiti. The end result is no surprise. We have sent an unspoken signal that Aristide had fallen out of our good graces. We let the coup against him happen, then stepped in and plugged our new team. And now the support from the land of Milk and Honey shall flow southward to Haiti. The one thing that is a pleasant surprise is that all of this seems to have subsided without more violence than we actually saw. Hooray! The new leader is falling under criticism, but frankly a "consensus" government was probably a true impossibility given the chaotic state Haiti had fallen into. So it's quite possible that the end result (pending the new government's performance) is one of the better possible outcomes of this fiasco. The mystery of all of this is ... what had Aristide done that cause America to stop playing ball with him? This has never been stated as far as I know. Bush Sr. didn't like Aristide and Clinton did like Aristide. I would hate to think that partisan politics could go to that level. I am not an expert on this, so I would love to hear what other people think about why Aristide never received support from the U.S. or NATO. -Jim

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

A pox on thee!

This is an open letter to all the assholes I work with who make it impossible to work at my job without wanting to slather myself with pitch and light myself on fire. Dear assholes, I hope an extremely large carbuncle grows between your ass cheeks! Sincerely, You-Know-Who

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

The Lardification of America

A government study just posed the possibility that obesity will eclipse smoking as the leading cause of death. “Eclipse” is the operative word here, as more and more Americans are hauling their planet-sized bulks from restaurant to restaurant. In some cities I’ve traveled, they are so common that Carl Sagan’s voice comes to mind … “Millions and millions”. They’ve formed their own gravitational pull in some cases. And now it’s killing us more than cigarettes. And yet there are people whining about how obese people are not accepted, treated poorly, and don’t get as many dates. I’ve been known to make statements about obesity that have drawn hate mail. “How long have you hated fat people?” one person asked, in an e-mail that included that and only that question. My answer is that I don’t hate fat people at all. I just hate that you’re all so damned fat. Why do I hate it? Because it will kill you, that’s why! So you see? I actually CARE about fat people! I’m not talking about people who are ten or twenty pounds overweight. I’m talking about people who have become their own corpulent cosmos. But now let me calm down and look at this rationally. Wide-spread obesity is a relatively new entry on the list of bad things. Our attitudes about obesity haven’t matured as much as our attitudes toward, say, smoking. I think obesity has largely been looked at as an individual’s problem. As the problem becomes pandemic, people are focusing attention on society, and how social changes have contributed to the lardification of Americans. On the surface, the primary contributors to obesity are: 1. How much we eat 2. Whatwe eat 3. Lack of exercise Beneath the surface, the primary contributors to obesity are (in roughly chronological order): 1. We became the wealthiest nation in the history of humanity. 2. We automated most of the physically demanding tasks that are required to keep our society going. 3. We changed the focus of our behaviors from mere survival to the avoidance of boredom. 4. To avoid boredom, most people chose behaviors that are sedentary. 5. This resulted in Americans spending most of their time in a sedentary, amused state. (Amused, when you deconstruct the word, means “not thinking”.) 6. Our sedentary, amused state became something similar to an addiction. 7. This addiction enabled our denial that we might be fat now but that our sedentary, amused state is only temporary and that we will be active and fit in at some time in the future. We’re rich. We’re lazy. We’re spoiled. We’re fat. Hey, being rich is a good thing, so at least we got that part right. Our next hurdle is to realize that our bodies are still the result of millions of years of natural selection wherein a great deal of physical activity was going on. On top of that, we ate mostly nuts, berries, and the occasional wildebeest shank. We need to realize that history has painted us into a very crowded corner populated by a lot of fat people. In a way, the lardification is the result of this historical trend. But obesity kills, just like cigarettes. “Real women” might indeed have curves but it is no more right to “normalize” obesity than it is to make cigarette smoking a badge of righteousness. ________________________________


My buddy Dread has submitted his own testimonial, which is below. Submit yours today! The Holy Spirit is calling you! ________________________________ Amen, my brother. I must commend you on your choice of words. I also have a real-life experience to share. First, the contributors. BINGO. Almost three years ago I was at the heaviest I've ever been - 235 lbs. In the span of three months, I lost 30 of that, but wait, my story gets better. At this time I had been working day shift, which leaves much time for sin. After work, I'd go to the bar to amuse myself by playing Golden Tee Golf and consuming copious amounts of alcohol. Bourbon, beer, whatever. Upon switching to night shift, I of course had to stop drinking on work days (which incidentally spilled over into my regular life, where I eventually drank only about once a week). At 3:00 a.m., the guys I worked with would make a run to the local 24-hour Taco Bar. These guys were not in any kind of shape except for "out of it." My lunch consisted routinely of one or two cans of tuna, mixed with salsa or tabasco (no reason, I just like hot stuff), a gallon of water throughout my 8 hour shift, and an ocasional piece of fruit of vegetable. When I got home, I wasn't that hungry. No more bacon, toast or other breakfst goodies. Lunch was a sandwich and some chips and dinner was a protein shake with a raw egg, bananas, OJ and cottage cheese. An hour after that, I worked out - EVERY night. My point? It doesn't take much structure, but it takes some, to keep fit. I was essentially on a modified Atkins diet, but unintentionally. I also EXCERCISED. Holy crap, I went overboard, but it only takes 10 or 15 minutes a day! We as Americans are so lazy we think we can morph into Adonis by eating less bread! Second, we, as Americans, are LAZY. So true. I work in a Sports Bar & Grille a couple nights a week, and some of what I see makes me ill. 10:30 at night - you walk in, not only after having a few pops, but you already weigh 300 lbs, why not top the night off with a plate of Chili Cheese Fries and a side of sour cream? I almost want to go out and ask the person if I should "dial 9-1-1 now, or wait until they teeter over in their chair?" All night long orders come in, 85% of which are 'subs.' Substitutions are my bane as a cook. My favorite is a Big Daddy Burger with three cheeses (one pound of meat), but no fries. No, no. Give me a side of DEEP FRIED ZUCCHINI. Yeah, that'll help. Or even Onion Rings, because "they're a vegetable." We are lazy because we think that with all of our freedoms we're entitled to, that we can just trot the globe 'having it our way,' as they say at Burger King. I have news for you: No wonder foreigners know an American from a mile away. It's because we ARE arrogant, and we ARE spoiled, and we ARE this way because of what you said above, Jim. I can't think of a better way to say it. Yahtzee. Now, finally, sedentarianism. I, uh...I grew up loving baseball. I had no problem scaring up a game whether I lived in Glen Ellyn, IL or Mount Hermon, CA. Whether I was 5 years old or 17 years old. I talk to my friends, most of whom are older than I am, and none of us can remember learning the rules. We were born knowing them. If we didn't have a baseball, we wrapped up a bunch of electrical tape and played with that. If we didn't have bats, we used broomsticks. We were active. These days, kids are glued to their TV's, either watching Sponge Bob or playing video games. Everyone needs downtime, and that's the reason I had read every Bobbsey Twins book and every Hardy Boys mystery by the SECOND GRADE. I wasn't exceptionally gifted, I just read ...and played baseball... My kids played video games as they grew up (and are growing up), but they do not play shooting games, they do their homework first, and they don't spend more than half an hour at a time in front of the box. Simple rules to live by. There is much more to write. This topic is close to home as my sister is significantly overweight. For years I badgered her, I bugged her, I got mad at her because she kept gaining and never tried to lose the weight. She wondered why getting a job was so difficult, even though she could not legally be discriminated against for her size. Employers will find a way. Last year she decided to join Weight Watchers, and I am proud to say that she has lost going on 70 pounds. She has a long way to go, but she sees the results, and the results motivate her. I'll be honest, when deciding if girl is pretty to me, weight is right up there with "does she have all of her teeth," and "does she use racial slurs." There's more to a woman than her looks, but there is also a line to be drawn if said woman does not take care of herself, socially, emnotionally, physically... The results motivated me when I didn't even have a goal to lose weight, it just happened. But once I saw the results, I wanted to be Adonis...playing shortstop.

Thursday, March 04, 2004

Argumentum ad populum

A documentary aired on CBC last night. I didn't see it, but apparently it focused on the "human" side of Osama Bin Laden. Poor Osama has problems with his kids and his four wives. He has financial challenges. But he likes volleyball and poetry. In pirate terms, it brings tears to me eyes. Hitler may have collected stamps. Does this have anything to do with his pogrom? Hey Osama, here's a poem for you. I hope you don't mind that it's free-verse. It doesn't matter that you think America is evil. It doesn't matter that you like volleyball. It doesn't matter that you struggle with problems with your four wives (although ... nice job on that!) You killed a bunch of innocent people. Oops. The last sound you hear will be your head Hitting the ground.

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