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Al Gore’s Twelve Days of Christmas

December 20, 2009

The ever blovalicious Al Gore has apparently included this nugget of poetic gold in his latest book:

"One thin September soon
A floating continent disappears
In midnight sun

Vapors rise as
Fever settles on an acid sea
Neptune’s bones dissolve

Snow glides from the mountain
Ice fathers floods for a season
A hard rain comes quickly

Then dirt is parched
Kindling is placed in the forest
For the lightning’s celebration

Unknown creatures
Take their leave, unmourned
Horsemen ready their stirrups

Passion seeks heroes and friends
The bell of the city
On the hill is rung

The shepherd cries
The hour of choosing has arrived
Here are your tools"

In response to which, after a deep and thoughtful reading, and in the spirit of the season, hole in the sky proudly presents:

Al Gore’s Twelve Days of Christmas

On the first day of Christmas,
my true tools gave to me
A bogus Harvard degree.

On the second day of Christmas,
my true tools gave to me
Two turtles, steamed,
And a big ol’ SUV.

On the third day of Christmas,
my true tools gave to me,
Three French fries,
Two turtles, steamed,
And a stint as US VP.

On the fourth day of Christmas,
my true tools gave to me
Four hockey sticks,
Three French fries,
Two turtles, steamed,
And an Oscar all for me.

On the fifth day of Christmas,
my true tools gave to me
A big sweet G-5.
Four hockey sticks,
Three French fries,
Two turtles, steamed,
And a Nobel under my tree.

On the sixth day of Christmas,
my true tools gave to me
Six carbon credits,
A big sweet G-5.
Four hockey sticks,
Three French fries,
Two turtles, steamed,
And a nice little speaking fee.

On the seventh day of Christmas,
my true tools gave to me
Seven bears a-swimming,
Six carbon credits,
A big sweet G-5.
Four hockey sticks,
Three French fries,
Two turtles, steamed,
And a feverish acid sea.

On the eighth day of Christmas,
my true tools gave to me
Eight maids in Nashville,
Seven bears a-swimming,
Six carbon credits,
A big sweet G-5.
Four hockey sticks,
Three French fries,
Two turtles, steamed,
And the hugest house in the galaxy.

On the ninth day of Christmas,
my true tools gave to me
Nine glaciers gliding,
Eight maids in Nashville,
Seven bears a-swimming,
Six carbon credits,
A big sweet G-5.
Four hockey sticks,
Three French fries,
Two turtles, steamed,
And a free pass on TV.

On the tenth day of Christmas,
my true tools gave to me
Lord Monckton laughing,
Nine glaciers gliding,
Eight maids in Nashville,
Seven bears a-swimming,
Six carbon credits,
A big sweet G-5.
Four hockey sticks,
Three French fries,
Two turtles, steamed,
And a whole herd of fawning sheep.

On the eleventh day of Christmas,
my true tools gave to me
Eleven rain-parched dirt plains,
Lord Monckton laughing,
Nine glaciers gliding,
Eight maids in Nashville,
Seven bears a-swimming,
Six carbon credits,
A big sweet G-5.
Four hockey sticks,
Three French fries,
Two turtles, steamed,

On the twelfth day of Christmas,
my true tools gave to me
Twelve dumb algorithms,
Eleven rain-parched dirt plains,
Lord Monckton laughing,
Nine glaciers gliding,
Eight maids in Nashville,
Seven bears a-swimming,
Six carbon credits,
A big sweet G-5.
Four hockey sticks,
Three French fries,
Two turtles, steamed,
And a quite convenient fallacy.

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My take on the Gates business

July 28, 2009

I once made the mistake of honking (just a quick peep, really) and making one of those palms-up, quizzical-faced, silent ‘what the..’ gestures at a cop who was blocking already horrendous Boston rush hour traffic by attempting to make a left turn on a multi-lane stretch of road where left turns were, at least for the rest of us, sensibly prohibited. If he’d had his lights on and his siren blaring, that would have been one thing, but he was, far as I could tell, just leaving his station house on regular non-emergency business. Worse, he was compounding an already annoying situation by being in virtual bumper lock with another cop who was doing the same thing ahead of him. After he finally got through and I went on my way, he (lights on this time, siren blaring) made a u-turn, caught up with me, and cited me for –get this — ‘unnecessary noise’.

I challenged it.

The hearing was a couple months later. The clerk-magistrate looked all of about 27. There was an older cop there, whose job seemed to be to stand in for other cops, banter with the CM, and get coffee. Things didn’t look good, but, hey, I had moral righteousness on my side.
Then they read the complaint. It included an affidavit from another cop (remember, this happened next to a station house) indicating that I had caused enough racket, horn and voice-wise, to have attracted his attention from inside the building. My language, he averred, had been loud and abusive. I don’t think I had ever seen red before. Turns out it’s not just a metaphor. I was doomed. Somewhere in the ensuing haze there were details about payment options and procedures. I remember leaving the room utterly defeated, muttering something about donuts.
Now, I suppose that if I were not a white guy in a Honda Civic with my pretty wife in the passenger seat and our cute six month old daughter in the back seat, they may have come down harder on me. Who knows, if I were black maybe the guy would have just shot me on the spot. If I were a woman, maybe he’d have just let it go. Or vice-versa. But the fact is I just don’t know, and no sociological study can ever prove that things would have gone differently on that day, in that place were I, or the cop, other than who we were. Things may have gone differently, sure. Maybe there’s a reasonable abstract case to be made that things would have gone differently. But, the bottom line is that, for any given incident, all we have to go on are the facts of that incident. In this case, the fact is that the cop in the car was annoyed by my own expression of annoyance. He was, in fact, annoyed enough to go to the trouble of getting a fellow cop to tell an out-and-out lie. The police clearly abused their power, if in a manifestly penny-ante way. Why? Testosterone? Some perceived class differential? Napoleon complex? Personal arrogance? Institutional arrogance?

Who knows?. Certainly not me.

And why was I annoyed enough to tempt fate in the first place? Testosterone? Some perceived class differential? Napoleon complex? Moral indignation? A sense of duty, standing up for the line of beleagured drivers behind me? A penny-ante revolt against authority, maybe?

Being a proudly self-unaware American male, I sure don’t know. Though I would like to rule out the Napoleon thing..

The fact is, the incident happened. I rolled the way I rolled. The cops rolled the way they rolled. We all rolled off the road and into the ditch. This all happened many years ago, but I’d guess the present Gates kerfuffle represents, at least in part, a variation on the same theme.

Should we expect better from the police? Sure. I’m not a cop hater, seeing evil, profiling, racism, abuse -– you name it — in everything they do. Like most people, I truly appreciate what they do and realize that their job often puts them in no-win situations, occasionally in real danger. On the other hand, I don’t have much use for those who mawkishly cite the bravery and sacrifice of police to defend their every individual and institutional action, no matter the situation. We as citizens should show respect and appreciation for the difficult job they have and should have the common sense to allow them the space they need to do their job. From the police, we  have a right to expect better than small-time lies and pettiness in small-time situations (or what can we expect will happen in big-time situations?) We should also expect — and welcome –- some level of common sense from the police. And we should all be grown up enough to acknowledge that common sense  cuts both ways — whether it means letting some minor human-to-human slight go or whether it means occasionally making a reasonable but possibly un-PC observation in a situation where it really might matter.

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The Unsaid

May 12, 2009

One trait of many IT people — actually, in my experience, a trait of all IT people at one time or another — is that they don’t like to admit to any level of ADD (Acronym Deficit Disorder). You’re in a meeting, and someone starts talking about, say, IMP (Integrated Management Programming SBPP ). You know nothing about IMP. There are two standard strategies for dealing with this:
1. Say something that implies you know all about IMP and hope no one presses you on it. If you do get pressed, forge ahead anyway. This is the tack favored by those with middle management ambitions.
2. Keep quiet and thank whatever god you’re gambling on that there’s always a number 1 in the crowd. If you’ve got your laptop fired up and you can do a discreet Google, go for it. Whatever, you figure you can nod ambiguously for now and bone up later. Hey, you’re sharp, maybe you can even become an expert before you get found out, or at least before the next meeting.

I once worked in a company where the drumbeat was ‘leave nothing in the unsaid’. Good advice. The right thing to do given the the IMP situation really is to say something like ‘I have no idea what IMP is or does, so what you’re saying is lost on me. Anyone else?’

There are times when the unsaid is your friend, though. Unfortunately, you never know about those times until you’ve already said whatever it is you shouldn’t have said. And have subsequently made things worse by saying even more stuff that you’d have been better off not saying. Small-time example: The other day I was talking to a recruiter on the phone. His daily commute brought him near my home, so we decided to meet at — it being New England, where else? — Dunkin Donuts. He said, “Here’s how you can recognize me. I’ll be the balding guy. Some gray, a few extra pounds around the middle.” To which I responded, “Oh, then it’ll be easy for you to find me, too. Just look for your doppelgänger.”
The ensuing silence got awkward pretty quick. Awkward enough that I felt the need to inject some inert but at least breathable babble-gas into it. “Yeah, got the old bald spot, too, heh, heh. Little gray mixed in there. Kinda fat in the tummy..”
It all came out ok. In this case, I’m sure the guy knew the word doppelgänger. It’s not all that unusual, after all. He just didn’t expect to be hearing it a discussion with some guy he didn’t know regarding a proposed rendezvous at Dunkin Donuts. It just didn’t register. But it did remind me that you throw words out there at some risk, and of how something as simple as a single mis-chosen, misconstrued or even misheard word can flag the start of a life misadventure. Throw in the political correctitude of the word in question and you might have a flat-out calamity.

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My Prescient Appliances

April 28, 2009

This makes twice in my career that I’ve been laid off. Circumstances pretty much the same each time – big project all tied up and handed off, no others on the horizon, two major household appliances gone bad..

First time, eight years ago, it was the fridge and the stove. Everything went pretty much all at once, and pretty much out of the blue. Fridge, stove, job — bim,bam,boom. Now it’s the fridge and the dishwasher. And, of course, the job. But this time the progression has been anything but quick. The VP told us layoffs were coming (but not who would get whacked) about 5 weeks before they happened. About then is when the dishwasher went south. As layoff day neared, the fridge started gurgling in a funny way. Remembering the way things transpired last time round, I started to get the hint. Layoff day came. Got the news. Fridge soon morphed from gurgle to rattle to buzz. Past few days, it’s sounded like there were a couple of little lumberjacks in there, chain-sawing their way through the eatables.

Today, a couple of weeks in, the fridge buzz spluttered back down to a rattle. A death rattle this time, as the thing finally called it quits. As for me, I’m just starting the funny gurgle part. Expect to be worked up to (or, maybe, not-worked up to) a full, agitated, buzz by August, when my ‘notice period’ runs out. Notice period? Well, as I mentioned, this is a slow-motion cycle. Most of us who were laid off are actually still on the payroll for varying amounts of time, depending on time of service. We’re — more or less theoretically — working from home, on variously challenging ‘special projects’. It is nice to have a cushion, and I do appreciate it. On the other hand, it would be nice to be able to acknowledge the inevitable and make a clean break of it. In short, hey, Mr. Director, uh… what’s my motivation for this scene?

Hmm. Must be entering the ‘angry and bitter’ stage of the ‘grieving’ process the HR folks told us about. Best we get back to the appliances. They do seem to have a knack for prognosticating my job prospects, at least on the down side. Maybe next time they’ll be sufficiently evolved that they can cut the cute stuff and just give me the news straight up..

..”and, by the way — you’re out of a job. But remember, by not driving to work everyday, you’re doing your part to reduce your carbon footprint and stop global warming. Together, we can save the planet. You’re low on half and half. Have a nice day.”

Which brings me to another troubling household implement. Being home all day, you realize how much the phone rings. It’s always ‘UNKNOWN’, and UNKNOWN is always, it seems, looking for money. For some reason, you answer, then there’s that predictable yet always annoying standoff. You did call me, right? So why don’t you, like, say something within, the first, oh, twenty seconds?? Finally, some voice, sounding either indifferently weary or stridently perky, does say something. It’s, of course, down hill from there. Anyway, the exception to this — and this is one of those things you just can’t make up — is Big Brother. So far, I’ve tried to give it the the benefit of the doubt, assuming it’s the charity, trolling, like UNKNOWN, for the odd donation. Just the same, when the phone rings and the caller ID lights up ‘BIG BROTHER’, it is a tad alarming. I give the ‘end’ button a quick finger slam. And stuff the phone under the nearest pillow.