Archive for February, 2005

Good News, Bad News
28 February, 2005

Good News: Kirstie Alley uses a Mac.

Bad News: In a fit of rage she threw hers on the floor and destroyed it.

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And the Winner Is…
27 February, 2005

According to Chris Rock's taxonomy, I must be gay because I watch the Academy Awards every year. In fact, we have an Oscars party but invite no one over. Just us.

That being said, on this night of formalized criticism of the industry, let me lend my critical eye:

Cheers to Chris Rock for taking the piss out of the actors. Heaven knows their egos are already inflated enough. A little deflation will not hurt.

Jeers to Chris rock for taking shots at Bush. The election has been over for months and we expect more out of the best comics.

Cheers to Alan Alda for being sincerely pleased for all the winners. Either he is the best actor ever or he is a nice guy that enjoys seeing others do well.

Jeers to the "The Oscar goes to…", Ollie North-style dialog. There are winners. Not everyone goes home with a gold statue. Just call them winners and get on with it. You are not fooling anyone.

Cheers to Pepsi for the Spartacus commercial. Very funny and perfect for the Oscars.

Jeers to the producers for making the not-so-powerful nominees stand on stage together like pageant contestants.

Cheers to Chris Rock for ridiculing them for it.

Jeers to the producers for not letting Minnie Driver sing her song.

Cheers to the Academy for not giving an Oscar to Natalie Portman for disrobing.

Jeers to the producers for letting Antonio Banderas sing.

Cheers to Chris Rock for not doing the "Oprah, Umma" bit.

Jeers to the producers for picking Yo-Yo Ma over Apocalyptica to play during the retrospective for dead people. Yo-Yo is talented but for a memorial you can not beat "Nothing Else Matters" followed by "Fade to Black".

Cheers to the Academy for giving the Oscar to Hilary Swank. Not only is she talented, but she is also from the PNW.

Cheers to the Academy for giving the Oscar to Jamie Foxx.

Kids Say the Darndest Things
27 February, 2005

We have one of the Brother label makers. My eldest likes playing with it.

He just presented me with a label that says: "You are cool!"

Something You might not Know about Me
26 February, 2005

…is that I am strangely drawn to Sandra Boynton's work.

When did They Watch the Grail?
26 February, 2005

At dinner tonight my youngest was counting the three candles on the table.

“One…two…five!”

Once I stopped laughing, I could not resist: “Three, sir!”

That One Meme
23 February, 2005

the scar you're most proud of that from my vasectomy
your favourite condiment ketchup
if you have freckles some
your preferred method of cooking over an open flame
what shoes you're wearing grey cross-trainers
how many children you have the two best
the first person you french kissed Kristi Garofalo
your preferred breed of dog Rhodesian Ridgeback
where you were born Fifth Plane of Hell
what colour underwear you're wearing grey
where your keys are right now in my man-purse
if you have split ends no ends to be split
when you last got laid before I got this year's sinus infection
your opinion on airline food blecch
what cosmetic surgery you would consider none
best kiddie playground equipment to have sex on the bouncy horses on top of big coil springs
your worst malady worry
if your mum loves your dad I presume she did
if you can sing well passably well
what your olympic event would be sumo
someone you admire my grandmother
which country would be hardest for you to locate on a map Burkina Faso
the last time you cried yesterday evening
your most interesting sexual congress location on the other side of an open window from my best friend
part of the Sunday papers you read first don't
the languages you speak English, Spanish, and a smattering of Scots Gaelic
the religion you were raised in Baptist
if you can draw well stick figures
your favourite photograph the latest one of my kids
what you should be doing instead of this finding a new job
CREATE YOUR OWN! – or – GET PAID TO TAKE SURVEYS!

Like Rats Leaving a Sinking Ship
22 February, 2005

One of the core members of our team resigned today at work.

Sigh.

My workload just doubled.

Double sigh.

Straight from the Gut? Maybe the Southern End
21 February, 2005

One of my very best friends gave me books for Christmas, an act I hold in very high esteem indeed. One of his gifts was Straight from the Gut, an autobiography of Jack Welch, former CEO of GE. While I have little doubt that the book was actually ghost-written, I have just as little doubt that the sentiments and philosophies therein are wholly Welch's.

I finally gave up. I suppose I'm just anal-retentive, but I like to finish any book I start reading. Plus this book was a gift and not finishing it feels a bit like being ungrateful for the gift. But I just could no longer take it: the self-aggrandizement, the rationalizations, the hypocrisy.

I do not doubt that GE's market cap increased over Welch's tenure. Nor do I doubt that, as CEO, Welch was a factor in that increase. What I doubt is that GE gained value mostly because of Welch. Rather I suspect that GE gained value mostly in spite of Welch.

Welch espouses a philosophy that (unfortunately) my current employer shares: that a company should not compete in which a market it is neither first or second. Under that logic, no market would ever have more than two vendors. That seems an obviously dubious proposition. Once the exceptions start rolling in, aphorisms like "First, second, or not all" lose any value.

Welch also advocates reducing cost through all means including reduction in staff as soon as possible for all companies. He appears to have taken Andrew Carnegie's "reduce costs and profits will follow" and exaggerated it to caricature. He states that he has "never" (his word) seen a company that failed because it cut costs too much. He must not have looked very hard since I have worked for a company that did.

The Welch philosophy that finally broke the camel's back, though, was the mandatory termination of 10% of the work force each year. Welch, with no evidence given whatsoever, divined that any group of employees can be grouped into the top 20% ("A" players), the middle 70% ("B" players), and the bottom 10% ("C" players). He implies that the scholastic bell curve supports his theory but offers no explanation for his departure from the standard 10-20-40-20-10 distribution.

Each year, he proudly relates, he insists that his managers fire that bottom 10%. He describes the "excuses" (his word) the managers will give for why their group contains no one worthy of termination. He says that the first year it is easy to identify those needing release but by the second and third years the managers fight it.

But Welch is too impressed with himself, too much a member of his own cult, to contemplate the possibility that perhaps a given group really does not contain any dead wood. Even the slightest bit of real-world experience would disprove the 10% philosophy. I have worked on several teams with more than 10% in need of a new team and a lot more with less than 10%. The unbending, almost religious clinging to a number is not the sign of a savvy manager; it is the sign of a manager completely disconnected from the performance of the team.

Unfortunately, more companies than just my current employer raise Welch to god-like status. Intel has for years enforced a mandatory percentage of termination for the entire company. I have heard that Synopsys is laying off staff to adjust for decreased revenue.

Yet, during the massive winnowing of the staff during the first two years of Welch's tenure, he spent $75 million on refurbishing the training center including building a hotel. He claimed that such spending increased GE's ability to produce. But such spending on productivity apparently did not include those who actually do the work: the employees. I have not doubt that the executives of Intel, Synopsys, and all the others in Welch's cult of personality have a similar justification for their own similar priorities.

Luckily I am not the only one who is critical of Welch. I can only hope that there are more people out there with the willingness to test every management theory fad against reality.

That Meme that You Do
18 February, 2005

Memed from :

10 Things I've Done That You Probably Haven't
1. Grew up in Tim Robbins' birthplace
2. Worked for In-N-Out
3. Cleaned weapons and made chocolate truffles in the same evening
4. Invited Robin Williams to your wedding
5. Won a literal head-butting contest
6. Surprised a magician during a live show at the Magic Castle
7. Brawled with a shrubbery
8. Actually seen the end of a rainbow
9. Survived mortal combat
10. Appeared on Love Connection

Why I Love OS X
17 February, 2005

I wanted to make some new smart playlists in iTunes based on the radio stations of my youth. I wanted a list of all of the artists in my iTunes library. While the main library view of iTunes lets me sort by artist, it still listed each track individually. So how could get such a list? Was I in an inferior operating system, I would have to open a text editor and click through iTunes, typing each artist.

But, oh-ho-ho. Not so fast.

With iTunes you can use File: Export Library to create an XML file describing your library. Then, because OS X is built on a real operating system, I dipped into terminal and ripped a little shell command:

grep '<key>Artist</key>' Library.xml | sed -e 's?.*<string>\(.*\)</string>?\1?' | sort -u | tee Artists.txt

Voila! Instant list of artists.

I love OS X.