Posts

Showing posts from 2004

Happy Birthday to Me!!!

I changed my mind. I didn't get my SoundDock for Christmas, but I did get to choose what I wanted for my birthday. Now that we were being serious, I decided to read some reviews and figure out what would be best for me. Thanks to the iPodlounge GearGuide, I found a better alternative: the JBL OnStage. According to the reviews, it has clear, balanced sound and it will accept a normal line in, so you aren't tethered to the iPod as your only source of music. I don't see myself necessarily using it any other way, but it's nice to have the option.

The best part about it is that it costs about $190 less than the SoundDock. Since I apparently don't have a group of people waiting to pool their money and get me something extravagant, this price tag seems much more palatable.

Not to mention, with the horror happening across the world right now, extravagance seems a bit harder to justify. I gave the difference in price, and then some, to the Red Cross for the tsunami…

You'll be sorry you asked

OK, as requested, here's another "how's the novel coming?" status update. Read it at your own risk, since I can't promise that it will be anywhere near as entertaining or thought-provoking as previous updates. Fair warning: I may have repeated some of this previously, but since I'm the only one reading it, I don't really care. The history helps to put things in perspective.

After several years of saying, "I really should write a book about this," I finally bit the proverbial bullet this year and started writing in January. In fits and starts, I have kept going all year, and just finished chapter 8 this week. Word count-wise, I'm at about 40K, so if my estimates are correct and I really am somewhere between one-third and halfway done, then this will be about a 100K-word book. Right in the sweet spot for satirical fiction: not so long as to excite comparisons with Twain, but not so short that it's filed with the Bathroom Reader serie…

Trackbacks now added!

I just added Haloscan commenting and trackback to this blog. Now I can get into long arguments with people I have never met and -- if I'm lucky -- probably never will meet. Technology is a wonderful thing.

I think I'll go find someone and pick a fight.

Marion Fights Back

Marion Jones Sues Accuser Over Steroid Allegations

Now Marion Jones is suing Conte over his claims that he witnessed her using steroids. This is shaping up into the greatest "He said, she said" battle since Monica and Bill squared off. Well, at least as far as the sports world is concerned, though I expect it will have about as much impact on the rest of the world as the Lewinsky story had on sports.

Now that this is going to a civil trial though, my question is: how does Marion make her case? If you can't prove a negative, how does she prove that Conte was lying? I guess they can try to force him to give specifics about the incident and then prove she was elsewhere, but that's a dangerous game. They did meet in person, and all he has to do is use some of those meetings as the basis for his story, assuming he's lying. If he's telling the truth, then Marion doesn't want this to get anywhere near a trial.

Filing the lawsuit is a good move, but going th…

Oy, that's early!

I had to be at work by 4 AM today (don't ask why, it's a long story). It's a surreal experience driving to work at 3:00 in the morning, just you and a couple of semi trucks. Heck, even the truckers were mostly sleeping at that time. The convenience of having the road to myself was tempered by the fact that I had to slow down or risk outdriving my headlights. And did you know that the rest area McDonalds only offers a limited menu in the wee hours? It's somewhere between late-night burgers and breakfast.

It's also really hard to get gas at 3:00 AM. Only the rest area station was open.

I was ready for lunch by 9:00 and now that everyone else is getting lunch I'm ready to go back to bed. Call it the swing-and-a-half shift.

All I want for Christmas

Now, this is what I want for Christmas: the new Bose SoundDock. I can't think of a better way to fill the room with those holiday favorites. Family, are you listening?

Just Write

"Good," "great," and "stinky" writing are all relative, and are primarily a function of practice. Just being capable of putting words together in an order that other English-speaking people are able to understand, with relatively few typos or misspellings would put someone ahead of many people with whom I work on a daily basis, even if they didn't consider it a God-given skill. This ability can be honed, just like any other ability, only through practice.

I threw javelin in high school and college. God graced me with a strong arm, so for the first year or so I got by on muscles alone. I ran down the runway, did a few cross steps, and then basically stopped and heaved as hard as I could on that little spear. I topped out, though, at about 150 feet, which was as far as my raw strength could take me. To go any further than that, I had to find a way to convert the momentum of the run into the kinetic energy that would propel the javelin further than my ar…

Late Model CARS

Disney, Pixar delay release of last joint movie

Pixar announced yesterday that it will delay the launch of its next movie, Cars from November 2005 to June 2006 in order to maximize potential box office and DVD revenues. While analysts had several theories as to the real reason for the delay -- including production problems and stalling to give more time to find a new distribution partner -- Steve Jobs was quick to squelch any rumors.

"The truth is, that aliens have abducted Lee Unkrich, who's in charge of our first non-Disney film," stated Jobs, "and we need time to negotiate a prisoner transfer that will get Lee back and return Michael Eisner to his home planet."

Go Canadian, eh?

T-Shirt Co. Offers 'Go Canadian Package'

A New Mexico T-shirt company is offering a "Go Canadian" package, which will allow Americans traveling abroad to avoid political discussions by posing as Canadians. The kit includes a Canadian flag T-shirt, a Canadian flag lapel pin, and a Canadian patch for luggage or a backpack. There's also a quick reference guide — "How to Speak Canadian, Eh?" — on answering questions about Canada.

The product has been met with enthusiasm, leading the company to consider several other kits, including:
The his-and-hers "Go Taliban" kit: a fake beard and AK-47 for him and an all-enclosing burka and chastity belt for her.
The "Go Yankees" kit: a steroid syringe, a vacuum with an attachment that fits directly over your wallet, and a one-size-fits-all choke collar
The "Go Democrat" kit: same as the "Go Yankees" kit, only the syringe is replaced by a large "I'm sorry, world" sign
Th…

Look into the Future

Deep thought for the day: If you want to know what your girlfriend will look like in twenty years, look at her mother. If you want to know what you will look like in five years, look at your boss.

Sweet Pain

You know you've had a good workout when you have to open the locker room door with your head.

Marion Jones Juiced?

ESPN.com - OLY - BALCO chief says he gave drugs to sprinter Jones

Victor Conte is cutting loose and doing his best to take everyone else down with him. I find his self-righteous tone more than a bit laughable, given that he has been dealing in illegal drugs for the past several years. He says, "Do [I] feel ashamed about what [I've] done? The answer is, no. Because I got to a point where I realized that elite sport is about doing what you have to do to win. I've seen athletes being forced to decide whether to use or not use, and it's much more painful for them to entertain the idea of giving up their dream than using anabolic steroids. So those are the real rules. That's what's really going on. Those are the real choices that athletes face when they get to the very top of their sport."

That's like hearing a drug pusher say, "Hey, I just provide the smack. They kill themselves with it." Or maybe Philip Morris (I mean, "Altria") s…

Speaking of things you can't say...

... my only hope for polite society is that most of this goofiness is restricted to California: Yahoo! News - 'Master/slave' Most Politically Incorrect Phrase.

Then again, this is no crazier than some of the freakishly over-sensitive debates that people entered into around the time that I was in college. Don't even get me started on the Water Buffalo Affair....

You Don't Say!

Further reading on Paul Graham’s site has given me a new favorite essayist. Well, let’s be honest: I didn’t really have a "favorite essayist" before, so he’s "new" in the sense that I hadn’t ever read anything he’d written before, not because he replaced someone in my great pantheon of essaydom. Although, now that I think of it, Mark Twain and C.S. Lewis both wrote some rather famous essays, so I guess I did have some other favorites. OK, Paul is now in my Top Three of favorite essayists.

Why do I call him an essayist? Because he calls himself one, right here. After reading that piece, I realized that I, too, have been writing essays ever since I started this infernal blog. So I guess Paul’s really in my Top Four.

One of Paul’s works, What You Can't Say, really challenged me (go ahead, read it. I’ll wait). At heart, I agree with what I think is his common theme: "Question everything," or as he puts it, ABQ -- Always Be Questioning. We can’t improve wh…

Just Design It

This great essay from Paul Graham attempts to describe why Americans do some things well and other things badly. I think he's hit the nail on its well-designed head.

TMF: NaNo-NoMo: Stick a fork in me...

... I'm done.

OK, I might not be completely done, since I may actually write some more before midnight. I can safely say that I have been mathematically eliminated from "winning" by crossing the 50K threshold. This has been extraordinarily helpful to me, though, in building the habit of writing (almost) every day. I am going to keep at it, and still hope to have a final first draft of my novel by the end of the year. Maybe I'll participate in NaNoEdMo in March.

Final Word Count (as of 11/29/04): 16,375
Estimated Crap:Quality Ratio: 4:1

Honk if you're shallow

If your philosophy of life, religion, or politics can be summarized on a bumper sticker, perhaps it's not worth sharing.

Why thank y-- Hey!

The other day, a friend said that he thinks I look just like Mr. Incredible. I was flattered until I realized that he didn't clarify whether that was with or without the extra 50-100 pounds of tummy.

The secret

The secret to good satire is that no one is as smart as they think they are, but some people are smarter than they appear.

OK, you could probably argue that this is the secret to a good story in general, or even that it's not really a secret. Maybe everyone knows this already. But in satire, or any humorous writing, a lot of the comedy comes from people trying to operate at a level that is higher than their capabilities, and getting into trouble as a result. So I maintain that, while not exclusively the province of satire, this truth is nonetheless a central building block of good satire.

And now that I think of it, I can attest from firsthand experience that not everyone is aware of this fact in life. I know a lot of people who think they're smarter than they really are, and even more who think they're smarter than everyone else. Maybe that's why this works so well in a story: we see it in the people around us every day, but not in ourselves. That's why every…

The career ladder, as seen from each rung:

Entry level:
"I have no idea what I'm doing, and I'm going to fail miserably at any moment."

Management:
"I think I'm getting the hang of this, but I miss doing real work."

Senior Management:
"I'm too good for this job."

Executive Management:
"I have no idea what I'm doing, and I'm going to fail miserably at any moment."

Gnome Love

Naked Gnomes Stolen from Peep Show

BERLIN (Reuters) - Thieves have stolen scantily clad, anatomically correct garden gnomes from a gnome peepshow in an eastern German amusement park, park manager Frank Ullrich said on Thursday. The adults-only attraction at Dwarf-Park Trusetal, where visitors peep through keyholes to see the saucy German miniatures in compromising poses, was smashed open early on Thursday morning.

While police realistically hold out little hope that they will find the naked gnomes, they have nonetheless requested warrants to search the homes of both Michael Jackson and Verne Troyer.

Barely managing

I think it's about time we got rid of the term "manager." The word is so full of passivity that it can barely stand upright on its own. It implies a lack of ownership, a sense of "just keeping an eye on things," of making sure nothing goes wrong while not really doing anything right, either. I mean, look at this:

"He managed to get through the day without breaking anything."

"How are you today?"
"I’m managing. You?"

"The morphine will help us to manage the pain as you go through the treatment, Mrs. Clark."

Inspired yet?

By definition, managing is just keeping things from spinning out of control:

Manage:

To direct or control the use of; handle: manage a complex machine tool.
To exert control over: "Managing the news... is the oldest game in town" (James Reston). "A major crisis to be managed loomed on the horizon" (Time).
To make submissive to one's authority, discipline, or persuasion.
To direct the af…

Now THAT'S comedy!

A funny story is best told with a wry quirk of the lips, and nothing more. In my experience, a story laughingly told is as often met with puzzled silence as with answering laughter, and followed by, "You had to be there."

Negotiating 101

A former colleague of mine has a new job offer (congratulations!), and asked for advice on how to negotiate the terms of his employment. Here's what I suggested to him:

Negotiating is all about showing your worth to your prospective employer, and no one knows your worth better than you do. Show them how highly you value yourself by demanding double their original offer in both salary and vacation time, with extra dental benefits. And remember to insist upon those little perks that say, "I'm the best you're going to get," like free soda, extra bathroom breaks, ergonomic chair attachments, and a duck. Never forget the duck.

At the same time, negotiating is about showing how excited you are about this new prospect, so ask lots of questions to show that you're engaged. Here are some suggestions:
How many vacation days do you have per year, and what's your policy on pseudo-religious holidays?
Does the company medical policy cover self-inflicted wounds? What if …

What's that high-pitched whining noise?

Is it me, or are the post-election histrionics reaching a higher level this year than in other election years? It seems like people have just picked up where they left off on November and carrying their complaining right on into the new year. Maybe this is just a new version of people believing their own hype. It definitely seems to be a situation where, if you repeat anything enough times you'll believe it to be truth.

Unsurprisingly, the hysteria has reached its highest pitch in San Francisco, which is threatening to secede from the union and join Canada. Let's be honest here: do they really think Canada needs more complainers? They already have Quebec wanting out.

I know! Let's trade! We'll take Quebec and Canada can have San Francisco! The net effect on fashion will probably be a wash, and there are probably just as many people in each region who wish they could move to France. I doubt even that would work, though. I give the Franciscans a year before the…

Almost 10% of the way there

Meet me at NaNo

4345 words down, 45,655 to go. The writing gathers speed, and each night I write more than the last. I have yet to hit my target of 2000 words per day, though, so I'm starting to wonder if I can actually churn out 50,000 in a month. I'm not giving up hope yet, though, and I'm thrilled to be making progress on my book again.

I find that it's hard for me to just stick with the plot and keep moving forward in a straight line. I want to jump ahead to the good parts, when everyone's already been introduced and the crazy stuff is happening. That's where the fun is, and where the funny really happens. Still, a good farce is built on a solid setting, the launching pad from which the lunacy takes off. I have to build the foundation, and I trust that will make the comedy that much more, well, comedic. It's pretty funny in my head already, but if I build in the details, flesh out the characters, I have much richer material to use when they all l…

Out of the gate

OK, so I'm off to the races. I wrote just over 1,000 words last night before I had to give it a rest. It took me about 90 minutes from when I sat down and turned on the laptop, but just over an hour from the time I stopped surfing, entering my picks for this week's football games, and checking on election results. By the time I stopped, my hands were sore from typing. I may need to stop using the laptop keyboard if I'm going to reach a reasonable level of profligacy.

Things I have already learned about myself as I attempt to go into high-volume mode:

I care too much about accuracy. Is anyone really going to check to see if "regular" means coffee with cream and sugar in Boston, as opposed to black in LA?
I edit myself constantly. I tried really hard not to go back and change words once they were typed, but I often went back before the sentence was even complete to change it. That's not necessarily a bad thing, since I think every change was for the bette…

Time to write

Now I've done it. I just signed up for NaNoWriMo -- National Novel Writing Month -- and committed to attempt to write a 50,000-word novel in the month of November. I'd heard about this through a couple of people and was very impressed by the craziness and the humor of the organizers. So I thought: well, I'm supposed to be pursuing this dream of writing a book (or two), so why not do it in the company of a bunch of other crazy people?

Now I have a goal of 2,000 words per day for the next month, since I'm sure that I'll miss some days. That should be doable. I hope.

We shall see.

Curse, Shmurse: they did it!

Sox win! Sox win! Sox win!

After 86 years, a World Series championship returns to Boston!

Can I sleep now? Please?

Kerry's -- no, wait -- Bush's name left off the ballot!!!

Kerry Left Off Some Absentee Ballots

It's an epidemic!

Absentee ballots leave off GOP presidential ticket

I suspect a secret Green plot to get David Cobb elected by confusing voters so badly that neither the Democrats nor the Republicans can gain a majority. I mean, think about it: there have to be a lot of Green supporters running the copiers that print these ballots. Or it could be simple vengeance from Naderheads angry that Kerry's supporters want him thrown off the ballot in Pennsylvania and Ohio.

Here's the quote that scares me the most in the Cincinatti article:

"I knew enough to see something was wrong," said the voter [who received the misprinted ballot], who asked not to be identified. "But you wonder whether others maybe didn't notice it before they sent their ballots back."

If the person casting the ballot doesn't even know who the major party candidates are, should they be voting? Are there well-informed US citizens out there in th…

Two down, two to go...

Here's a great column that perfectly captures the feeling in New England these days.

ESPN.com: Page 2 - Hey, why not us?

And since you asked, here's how I'm feeling:

My fantasy football team lost this week, thanks to a typically weird weekend. 56 points from one team, all on the ground? Come on....

Am I upset? Nah, not really, because there's this strange energy surging around the entire New England region. People are smiling as they shuffle through the drifts of brown leaves. Drivers wave happily at each other, using all five of their fingers. AM radio is suddenly much more popular than FM, and Fox has almost 100% viewership in prime time. Why? Because the Sox are in the Series. Not only that, they're up 2-0.

Now, I didn't grow up here, but frankly, last year would be enough for me to understand that you don't count your playoff wins before they're hatched. As a matter of fact, even if the Sox win four games, I expect most fans will still check the …

Can you hear me now?

My new neighbor in the cubicle farm is a loud talker. Or, rather, a LOUD TALKER. If he were a keyboard, he would be stuck in all caps with the Caps Lock key forcibly removed. His mutters are speeches, his normal speech a shout, and I shudder to think what he does when he wants his voice to carry. I know more about his project than I do mine, mainly because his booming nasal voice has driven all independent thought from my head. Except the sweet, sweet whisper of the darkness. That's always there.

Have you ever spent a considerable amount of time next to someone like this? It's like being trapped on a transcontinental flight next to an obsessive-compulsive sharer. In short order, every detail of this person's life is imposed upon you, and you feel your own self slipping away under the deluge, your grip on reality failing as you are pulled under by the torrent of words.

And there are plenty of words. My new friend has an opinion on everything, and is certain to his very marr…

Denmark finds the brighter side of global warming

Denmark to Claim North Pole, Hopes to Strike Oil

Finally, someone counteracts all the doom and gloom predictions from those whiny scientists! The best part of Denmark's plan is that, if they do find oil under the ice, we will be able to keep driving our massive, gas-guzzling vehicles for many more years, thus increasing global warming and making even more of the Arctic circle accessible for exploration! It's rumored that their long-term plans are to open the southern coast of Greenland as a tropical resort in 2055.

BEA Battles the 'Vision Thing'

BEA Battles the 'Vision Thing'

Here's an interesting article on BEA's current struggle with defining its future direction. A lot of the comments sound eerily similar to what people were saying about ATG, another Internet software vendor, two or three years ago. Of course, BEA has $1.8 Billion in cash, so no one is predicting their imminent demise, like they were with ATG back then. ATG is still around, by the way, albeit in a much humbler form.

In 2000, ATG predicted the impending commoditization of the Web application server space. They decided to concede the battle for the app server space and concentrate on commercial applications that were built on top of the app server. It's interesting to see in this article that they were right about the pricing and competitive pressures that application server vendors would face. They were just five years too early in their predictions of when it would happen.

Here are some things I have learned from my ongoing study o…

Win-lose situations

After not being able to string together two workdays with decent weather here in Boston for the last couple of months, I finally got back into doing my 25-mile commute by bike last night and this evening. You see a lot of interesting things on the road at six in the morning (most of them dead), but not enough of them to keep the ride interesting. My mind tends to wander on these rides, and today I started thinking about win-lose situations, those times when, even though you win, you still lose. Here are the ones I thought of, one of which happened on my ride today. I'll let you guess which one:
Finally going on that long ride you've been dying to do, the one with all the scenery. In a thunderstorm.Drafting behind a garbage truck.Racing a car down a hill, leaving it behind when it stops for the yellow light, and giving a triumphant glance behind as you go by, only to see your wife/mother/boss behind the wheel.Remembering your helmet, but forgetting your shoes.

Bringing new meaning to "getting air"

Yahoo! News - Prison Guards Find Basketball Full of Pot: "Prison Guards Find Basketball Full of Pot "

McALESTER, Okla. - Oklahoma State Penitentiary officials cut into an exercise-yard basketball and found nearly two pounds of what is believed to be marijuana stuffed inside.

Acting on a tip from McAlester police, prison officials searched the yard and found the basketball, which held 30 one-ounce packets of the leafy substance.

Prison officials did not seem overly concerned at the discovery. "We just assume that this ball was accidentally left behind when the USA Olympic basketball team came here last month for an exhibition game," they said.

Dog Bites Off N.M. Man's Genitals

News - Dog Bites Off N.M. Man's Genitals

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - A man whose genitals were bitten off by a pit bull remained in serious condition Tuesday, and the dog remained on the loose.

The man, who has not been identified, was attacked Monday while walking the dog.

When asked for comment, the dog replied, "Now we're even."

Irony is alive and well, even if this chap isn't

Man on Quest for Knife-Proof Body Bleeds to Death

And you thought your HMO was bad.

The Inverse Law of Intelligence Volume

ARTG: Message Board for ART TECH GROUP - Yahoo! Finance

Here's what I discovered today:

The intelligence of a conversation on the Yahoo boards is inversely proportional to the number of messages relating to that conversation.

The Two Things

The Two Things

"For every subject, there are only two things you really need to know. Everything else is the application of those two things, or just not important.”

I have an addition:

The two things about religion, politics, and child-rearing:
1. I'm right.
2. You're wrong.

Would you like "fresh vegetables" with that?

Batter-Coated Fries OK'd As Vegetable

WASHINGTON - Batter-coated french fries are a fresh vegetable, according to the Agriculture Department, which has a federal judge's ruling to back it up.

The ruling last week by federal District Judge Richard Schell in Beaumont, Texas, allowed batter-coated french fries to be considered fresh vegetables under the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act.

Encouraged by this ruling, Democrats announced today that they are renewing their efforts to have President Bush labeled a vegetable before the November elections.

Re: IT Infrastructure plan?

A former colleague recently asked for some advice:

I'm advising a very early stage startup. They want to put together a computing infrastructure for their office. This includes purchasing the usual desktop computers, say about ten, but also networking equipment, servers for the usual services such as email, ldap, internal web services and a file server (NFS, SMB and perhaps even AppleTalk). They want to plan things out so they can hit the ground running.

This exercise happens all the time. Does anyone have a project plan or checklist that enumerates the steps to get a functioning office and software develop group up and running as quickly as possible?

Thanks in advance,
Joe

This was my reply. Maybe it can help you, too:

I haven't put this into MS Project yet, but here's the basic plan, based upon my experience:

WEEK 1, Day 1: Kickoff. Tell the developers that they will be getting the best computers money can buy, tell the business people they will be getting the lightes…

Does Google's search engine have a sense of humor?

This page was in the top 30 results of a search for "laconic." The word is nowhere to be found on the page or in the source HTML.

I'm sure there's a logarithmic neuro-net explanation for why this showed up, but I prefer to think that Google is approaching sentience.

Nigerian police use acapella to disperse crowd

'We were singing to disperse crowd of strikers': Nigerian police

LAGOS (AFP) - Nigeria's police force, notorious for its strong-arm tactics in dealing with street protests, unveiled one of the more melodious weapons in its armoury -- an impromptu male acapella choir. On Wednesday, a squad of officers was caught on camera by the international news network CNN apparently singing along with a crowd of workers and a well known pop star in a Lagos market on the first day of a general strike. After the impromptu concert ended, the crowd dispersed peacefully.

Seeing the effectiveness of this tactic, Boston Mayor Tom Menino is reportedly considering asking the Village People to come out of retirement to help him end the police union strike outside the Fleet Center, site of this summer's DNC convention.

Not Much Ado About the Holy Grail

Not Much Ado About the Holy Grail

I do love a good parody, especially if it has a bit of the literary to it. Then I can feel sufficiently intelligent while still laughing at people being utterly silly.

"Drop the Chalupa"

Man Charged With Chalupa Assault

DES MOINES, Iowa - A man who claimed he didn't get the taco he paid for has been charged with assault for allegedly pelting a Taco Bell clerk in the face with a chalupa. In an effort to protect drive-through servers at their other chains, Yum! Brands International, the parent company of Taco Bell and KFC, has announced that it will no longer include flatware packets in its to-go bags.

Said one company official who declined to be named, "The last thing we need is another rash of drive-by sporkings."

Punctured punctuation

If an ASCII character could feel fatigue, then I know of two that would be near death from overuse. If they were animals, PETA would be breaking into my office to set them free, and setting fire to several people's computers to ensure the abuse never happens again.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you: the hyphen and the apostrophe!

The Humble Hyphen
It has come to this: I now immediately assume that any hyphen I see is misapplied and I ignore any hyphenated word. When did we decide that you were hip if you strung a bunch of irrelevant words together with hyphens? Witness these poor victims of hyphen abuse that I stumbled across this week:
Back-out plan
Back-up
Roll-out
Time-sensitive decision
Go/no-go meeting
High-quality
best-of-breed
Follow-up
Maybe this wouldn't be so bad if people didn't then go and leave hyphens out where they were actually needed. Here's a tip: if you must stick the noun in front of the adjective that describes it, you generally need a hyphen to let yo…

Talk about taking your ride seriously...

Woman banned from park for spreading dog feces

(Excerpted below)

PORTLAND, Maine — A Portland woman accused of spreading dog feces at Deering Oaks Park as part of a vendetta against its weekly farmer´s market has been banned from the park and charged with criminal mischief.

Lora Leland, 53, was caught early Saturday emptying 16 bags of dog feces in the road that winds through the center of the park, police said. She explained that she was angry at the Saturday morning farmer´s market because it interfered with her ability to ride her bicycle through the park, police said.

***

Ironically, she ended up being banned from the park for a year, so now she has to find a new place to ride anyway.

The moral of the story: Doo unto others as you would have them doo unto you.

Sorry, I couldn't resist.

Wait, that was about DRUGS?!?

27 years after it was written, Paul McCartney finally admitted that "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds" was, in fact, about LSD.

In related news, Bob Dylan still stubbornly maintains that his song "Everybody Must Get Stoned" is about capital punishment.

Chicken Soup for the Tortured Soul

Here are some Chicken Soup titles I'd like to see:

Chicken Soup for the Cynical Soul, with foreword by Dennis Miller

Chicken Soup for the Annoying Soul, featuring the essay, "Why does everyone hate me, buuuuuuuddy?" by Pauly Shore

Chicken Soup for the Boring Soul: now with more lists!

Chicken Soup for the Obsessive Soul: guaranteed to have at least one spelling or grammatical error in every chapter. Sometimes more, but we won't tell you in which ones.

Chicken Soup for the Jewish Soul: so your mother's soup isn't good enough for you, nu? Maybe when she's dead you'll appreciate it more!

Chicken Soup for the Lazy Soul: just three pages long, and two of them are title pages

Chicken Soup for the Scientologist Soul: you get the first ten pages now, and we send you the rest after we get your bank account number.

Chicken Soup for the Vacant Soul: just blank pages

Chicken Soup for the Materialistic Soul: actually, it's just a Sharper Image catalog with a…

Paddling my life away

I took my family canoeing for Memorial Day and had a great time. It's wonderful to float along on a placid river, enjoying the scenery and gawking at the huge houses overlooking your watery path. The peaceful gurgling of the water under your hull is a gentle counterpoint to your 4- and 5-year-olds' attempts to paddle. Everyone is calm and relaxed, as life slows to pace the meandering amble of the river.

That's the first fifteen minutes.

Soon, your pre-launch lecture on the importance of everyone staying still and hanging on to their paddles has worn off, and the you find yourself alternating between urgent commands as you continuously shift your seat to try to keep the boat afloat:

"Honey, please stop hitting my paddle with yours. I know it makes a great sound, but we're going to hit the bridge if I can't paddle."

"Sit down, please, unless you want to go swimming."

If you're going to hang over the side and drag your arms in the water, co…

Went to sleep in Chicago, woke up in Boston

I went for an overnight trip to Chicago yesterday, which was a strange experience. I've made quick business trips before, but I have never stayed overnight somewhere yet still spent fewer than 16 hours in the city. Nor have I gone to work, then flown somewhere, and been back at work before lunch the next day. It doesn't feel right. If I'm going to get on a plane it should feel like a trip, not a commute. And I shouldn't have to get up at 5:00 in the bloody morning, ever.

This was a sales trip, something else that I don't get to do very often. You see, I'm usually the guy trying to explain to the client that the sales guy was clearly high on a controlled substance when he issued that quote, and that they should be sure that he will be dealt with severely. I've always wondered how they got to the point where they were willing to mortgage the souls of an entire project team in order to get a stranger to give them a PO number. Now I know.

But I'm ge…

Never mind

My wife has a cold, so I had to go home from work early today to take care of her and the kids.

Remember that thing I said about face time vs. quality time? Never mind.

I won't grow up

I have to say, I am so grateful for the grownups in the business world. They have taught me so much and helped me to mend my foolish, childish ways. You see, I used to actually think that people were supposed to enjoy their work: imagine that! What did I think this was, college? As it turns out, to be a successful, mature company, you must put such silly notions out of your head and realize what business is really all about: obligations, responsibility, and the burden of respectability.

Young companies and entrepreneurs are allowed to play for a while, but the grownups demand their due in the end. After a while, the press and the other experienced business leaders start saying the things that all grownups say to young adults: "You can't keep playing around like this forever, you know. Eventually, you'll have to start recognizing your responsibilities. You have a duty to the board, to your shareholders, and to the market that must be shouldered. There are bills to p…

Quality time

Over the past decade or so, we've heard so much blather about "quality time" at home that the phrase has become a parody of itself. No one can say it without irony, or at least air quotes. Personally, I think that the concept of quality time was invented by people who felt guilty about how little time they were spending with their children, so they decided, "It's not the quantity of time I spend at home; it's the quality." Right.

The funny thing about kids, though, is that you have to have quantity time in order to get the quality time. You see, they determine when quality time arrives, but you have to be there for it to happen. You can't just sit Junior down and say, "Son, we're going to have some quality time now, and make memories that will last a lifetime. Want to know the meaning of life?" I've seen some friends try -- God help them -- and the next sentence is usually something like, "Son, please don't wipe you…

Why would anyone want to sound like an accountant?

Two more additions to the "words you will never hear me utter, except in air quotes" list:
Net-net
Net-new
What the heck: unless you're talking about injuries received during a summer fishing expedition or an NCAA basketball victory ceremony, I will baldly state that using "net" as a prefix makes you sound like a dork. Using it as both prefix and suffix makes you sound like you have a stutter, and it adds nothing to your conversation. Just say, "That's all we have," or "This stuff is new."

As far as I can tell, this new phrase is an outgrowth of accounting teminology, that eternal pantheon of hipness. While it's OK to say that an invoice is due "Net 30," I think we would be best served to leave that terminology there. Think carefully about this: do you really want people to associate you and your conversations with taxes and bald, nearsighted men in rumpled suits? I didn't think so.


(Note: all references to accountan…

More Vocational Vocabulary

More words and phrases I will never use, either in writing or in conversation, even if I choke on my own tongue trying to find alternatives:
Go-forward plan
Actionable plan of attack
Transition (as verb)
Accountabilities
Resource, as verb. By extension, resourcing
Bucket, as verb. Ditto for the past tense, "... has been bucketed."
Actualize
Impact, as verb. And "impacted," if you have ever watched ER, has a wholly different connotation than I think people are seeking when they use it in emails.
Transparent, when used in place of "invisible"

And some that simply need to be used sparingly, if only because everyone else finds a way to insert them into every other sentence:
Leverage
Facilitate
Sign off
Best practice (that one hurts, because I used to be the "Best Practices Manager" for a former employer)
Resources, as opposed to "people"

Got any more?

Chair games

It's spring in Boston, and there's a certain smell in the air. No, it's not pollen, though my car has turned a lovely shade of yellowish brown again. And the apple blossoms smell lovely, but that's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about the sharp, salty tang of reorganization!

Yes, it's time for the corporate answer to spring cleaning: the reorg. I've been through far too many of these in the past few years, so I recognize the signs: everyone looks extremely busy, but even less seems to be getting done than usual. Directors and managers find excuses to go visit their VPs three or four times a day, just to let them know how well everything is going on their projects. Unless, of course, they go to tell them how that guy in the other department -- you know, the one that does the exact same thing we do, only not as well -- keeps dropping the ball and delaying everything. Or at least, that's what they would say, except their VPs are nowhere…

Say "stress!"

I was loitering near a coworker's desk the other day, waiting for the people in the meeting before mine to evacuate my conference room, and I started looking at his pictures. At first, I didn't recognize anyone in the pictures, but then a strange feeling of happiness mixed with surprise came over me as I kept looking. After a few moments, I realized why I didn't recognize the man in the pictures: he was smiling.

A great HTML guide

Idocs Guide to HTML

This is how I stay out of trouble no matter how adventurous I become.

Email tag

The thing I love about large companies -- and when I say, "love," I mean, "am so irritated by that I want to beat someone senseless" -- is the sense of distributed ownership. Nothing is any one person's responsibility, except, of course, when it will delay things. In fact, from my experience, you are lucky if you can identify the group that is responsible for doing something, especially if it involves changing anything.

Trying to get anything changed in a large company is like a giant game of tag, where every person's sole purpose is to make sure that he's not "it" when the time comes to do some actual work. You start with a question: "I seem to be missing some data in this environment. Who can help me get it in there?" Then the email tag begins.

Fred: "That sounds like Data Operations. I have copied six people on this message who might know someone in that group. Guys?"

Gina: "Data Ops usually handles these ki…