Wednesday, November 30, 2005

I can't take it any more

If your religion holds that the sky is orange, don't scream about division of church and state when school children are informed that it is, in fact, on a cloudless clear day, blue.

Call me crazy, but when I learned evolutionary biology, the story of the moths that changed color seemed to cement the case for natural selection.

It's mathematically obvious that natural selection happens. If organisms with one kind of genetic makeup are more likely to survive and reproduce than those with another makeup, each successive generation will be made up of an increased proportion of individuals with the favored makeup.

The snakes spit out the bitter frogs, and swallow the Kermit-flavored variety. Leads to fewer Kermits and more bitters. If you keep taking the red marbles out of the bag, soon there are no red marbles left. Duh.

If religious nuts want to plunge us into the dark ages, that's fine. Next time they're sick, we'll bleed them with leeches to restore their balance of yellow and black bile.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Let the record show

That if I exaggerate, I do so only slightly.

Meteorological accuracy doesn't make for snappy writing.

In the rain

The Pacific northwest-style weather that marks winters out here has begun. Gentle mist ranging to big and steady rain drops. Since it doesn't rain between April and October, it takes a few days of being surprised without an umbrella to begin to care about the weather forecast.

Luckily for me, I've spent enough time outdoors in less than perfect weather to be unphased by being rained upon. Last night I walked out of work to a steady light rain. Lacking an umbrella, I just zipped up my fleece vest and made steady progress to the Muni stop. I'm going home, so what does it matter that I'm a little damp for a while?

This morning's row was more of the same. Steady light mist, which, if it has to rain, is the best kind of rain. Last night, anticipating rain, I packed my most imprtant piece of rain gear: Baseball hat. If it's not raining on your face, the rain is tolerable.

I stroked an 8+ this morning with a somewhat mixed crew. The first 3/4 of practice was mediocre at its best. It felt like people in the boat (particularly someone on Starboard) were making some lurching body movement after the finish but before hands were away. And whoever it was lacked the sensitivity to correct his bad habit. It was very frustrating. It felt very sloppy.

But at the end of practice, we were cruising out against our other 8+, rowing a very long and comfortable 27 strokes per minute while the other 8+ was at 32. Folks were hitting their catches and driving hard and then relaxing on the recovery and (unlike during the first part of practice) not disturbing the flow of the boat while approaching the next stroke. This felt good. Didn't really mind the rain.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Flight or flight?

I'm torn. I seem to have "snubbed" my family by not spending $550 to fly to exotic Kansas City MO and then drive 1.5 hours to Columbia MO to eat turkey only to drive back to KC and fly back to SF two days later. I'm glad I stayed. I needed a vacation, and had a great time. Even my readers can tell I'm happy.

But Christmas. I finish my MBA on Dec 10. Done. All done. And my job gives me the Christmas week off. Yay for time off. But I really don't want to go to Boston for a week. Things I'd rather do:

Ski in Tahoe
Row every day
Buy a road bike and use it
Road trip to NM to see old friends
Finish getting divorced
Hang out with classmates in a beach house some place beautiful

I'd really love to be in SF for New Year's Eve. It could be fun.

And I really don't care to see my mom. My brothers are fun, but even then they won't all be together in Boston, so it's kind of pointless, in my view. I want all, or none. Mom's not going to be satisfied unless she can corner me and make me talk about the divorce until I cry. Then she'll feel like we had a "meaningful conversation", and I'll feel violated.

Even if I do go, I find myself scheming to spend as little time with her as possible. I've got many friends in Boston to see.

That said, being alone on Christmas will be depressing as hell. I'll have to find all my Jewish friends, I suppose. Jewish Christmas: Chinese food and a movie.

Am I avoiding having a major holiday alone? Probably. Am I avoiding my family? Some of them. But as I talked about with my counselor, I'm avoiding things that won't let me be who I am right now. I've dropped one of my 12 step meetings because I think their codes are too stringent and judgemental, and I need the freedom to figure out what I think is right for me in my life. I feel like I'll need to defend my current life to my family. I'd at least not be able to be open about it.

I can hear my mom, now. Any mention of any activity with a new female "friend":

me: So I went to a party my friend K threw...

mom: Who's K?

me: A friend

mom: How'd you meet her?

me: A party (Lie. Truth: Online. Deeper truth: I'm not ready to write about that yet.)

mom: How long have you known her?

And then I mention another friend later, and another, etc. Mom doesn't want to hear that I've got a lot of interests right now, and none of them "serious" or even describable in traditional relationship language. I have some classmates I like and care for. I think the interest is mutual. I'm interested in exploring everything.

And when you're telling someone something and they don't approve, even if they're diplomatic and don't go after you, you can tell they don't approve. And I don't want to lie and I don't want to deal with the disapproval.

I want to go on a week long ski trip with my brothers. I don't want to spend Christmas in Methuen, MA.

I know what I want. I know what mom wants. If I don't go, they'll all freak out.

Fuck 'em. If they want to see me, they can come to CA.

My least expensive option is a red eye through LA for $400 and I'd have to spend the whole week in MA. If I come back early, it's $450. If I come back through Chicago and see my missing brother it's $560, and the times are crappy. If I fly direct its $630. That's a lot of lift tickets. That's a half a road bike.

It's pretty clear what I want. Do I have the guts to do it?

It comes to this

My wife asked me to send her a CD of all the photos I took during our marriage. This was easily done, as I had always archived them by date. My camera's resolution sucks, so there were less than 700MB of pictures.

I burned the disk over the weekend (Had one burn go badly. Anyone need a coaster?). I dropped it in the mailbox across from work just now.

Just sad, in some ways. An entire marriage, reduced to a single CD. Sent via US mail to her parents' house. With no note. It's sad because we don't even talk any more. I just get terse e-mails (like the one requesting the pictures) or letters from her lawyer. It's ironic. So many people are stunned. Seems we had the world convinced that we were perfectly happy. And I think that, for a while, we were.

And now the digital archive of most of our time together is in the mail. There's a t-shirt to be made saying "6 years of marriage, and all I get is a lousy photo CD?"

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Little progress

Hit the boat house tonight to do a 10K. 37:32. Ave HR 170, Max 184. 655Kcal. I set out to break the record on the electronic card that holds my workouts. That was 37:35. The first 5K I was a bit too aggressive and could only manage to hang on for the second 5K. But I made my goal. Still about 1 full minute off my personal best. I'd like to see that record fall this winter.

Making burritos tonight, going to work on school projects. I wish I didn't have to work tomorrow. But I do.

Saturday, November 26, 2005


Not that I could spell it without help, but it's a German word that means something like "That cozy happy feeling of company and fires and food and cheer." It's a good language that has a word for that feeling.

I was first introduced to the word by the profoundly literate mother of L.

Last night I got to hang out with L and her parents. Mom had made a hearty turkey stock soup with hunks of bacon and chicken thighs and veggies and giant dumplings. There was a fire. It was a "just come and hang out" evening, so I brought my laptop to get some work finished. Highlight of my night was holding L for a long while while she settled down to get ready to sleep. She's so damn adorable. I typed, L snuggled, we were happy.

I got to hear for the first time L working on talking. Definitely very prolific pre-verbal behavior. Long, half-sung streams of "da da da da da." Very cute little voice.

I drove home thinking, "Fatherhood would be quite nice." Of course, my experience was totally made possible by all the caretaking done by L's mom. I get all the snuggles and none of the diapers. And I don't have to find baby sitters. Nor did I have to cook. Though I did share my tiramisu cake, which got good reviews.

Up this morning for a sparsely attended rowing practice. To make the numbers work, I took out a single and did about 10 miles. I'd have liked a long row in the 8+, but the single is fine. It was low 40's. I wore the new hat L's mom knitted for me. I like it, since it keeps me warm, but still breathes so I don't cook. The single moved well. I did a little square blade work, to keep the skills sharp, but mostly cruised around the creek, chasing larger boats (4x's, 4-'s). I got to use some new oars, and they were cool. Vortex edge blades, light weight, narrower handles and rigged a little heavy, which I prefer.

Inspired by thanksgiving discussion, and feeling cold from the row, upon arriving home at 9 I made oatmeal with nutmeg, brown sugar, cinnamon and banana. I vacuumed the apartment while it cooked. The oatmeal was outstanding. Took me back to my college days when I made it in my room in the mornings during the arctic New Hampshire mountain winters. My friend Frode would come up for breakfast from time to time. He was really cool. I hadn't had oatmeal for a long time.

I've showered, have on one of my wool sweaters from Ireland, my fleece socks, and a load of laundry running downstairs.

The last 24 hours give me much Gemuetlichkeit.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Seeing with our fingers

My dear friend has a 3 year old daughter who was born blind. The first time I met the little one, her mom had just picked her up from a nap, and in one move said, "Here, meet L" and handed me her little girl.

L showed none of the fear of strangers typical of children her age. Not only was she not fearful, she clung to me and snuggled in like no other child I'd ever held. Mom explained that she's kind of like a little lemur. She just clings on.

L's openness to the world, uninhibited affection, unabashed willingness to take comfort in being held really touched me. There's a purity of emotion with her that's refreshing in a world of ulterior motives and deception.

Mom also volunteered that L seems to like men. She did orient herself when I held her that first time. You could feel her little hands figuring out "oh, yes, this is a man". Little flirt.

Mom brought L to see me at one of my races a few weeks ago. I had hoped L would enjoy the sound of the commotion of the race. Mom is great about giving L a broad range of experiences. After the race I caught up with them, and mom promptly got L out of her stroller to get me my dose of lemur love. I was still in my racing uni.

As I held L, she began to check me out with her hands, as she does with everything in her world. It's fun to see her little wheels turn. She was totally intrigued by two features of my body:
  1. My collar bone. She quickly figured out that it was like a handle for her. You could see her mind whirring, "People don't have handles like this...". She was fascinated. She could tell it was connected to a neck and a head and a face and a mouth and a shoulder, but she couldn't get over how pronounced it was. I had never noticed it myself. She did.
  2. My tricep. My right arm was around her, and she reached behind it with her left hand and found my arm. She kept squeezing and feeling the sqaureness of my tricep muscle and the indentation between muscle striations. I could tell she was intrigued both by the shapes and the solidity of the muscle. It was hard, and bumpy, yet it moved, and was clearly my arm.

I have a picture of L on my fridge now. She's the most pure spirit I know. She's very "in the moment". While I'm sure her mom would like her to be a little more Zen, remain centered, and not lose her marbles when she's hungry or tired, L is so caught up in the moment of the world around her and so open to being happy.

I had a date this week who was, like L, intrigued by the shape and structure of my body. She touched me very much in the same exploratory fashion that L does. More with finger tips than with whole hands. Being an adult woman and sighted, she was able to communicate about her intrigue. I think it was similar, on some levels. Curiosity not about what I look like, but what I feel like.

My favorite English prof in college used to bring fresh flowers to class. She encouraged us not just to look at them and to smell them but to touch them.

Why look with just our eyes? We may miss discovering that collar bones make good hand holds.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Candor inhibitor

For better or worse, I've let some folks with whom there are less than platonic relationships know about my blog.

It's perhaps, in the long run, collosally dumb, but it always seems a good idea at the time.

In the short run, it's easy intimacy for me: Read up on Ken. There'll be a quiz later.

But in the longer run, it's caused me to be less than candid here about that arena of my life. I thought it wouldn't matter, but it has. Since I can't write on that topic honestly, I just don't write on it at all.

And I'd like to write about it. But I don't want to launch a separate blog. I'm done with the bifurcation of self.

This wouldn't be a problem if I didn't volunteer that I blog. But in many cases, it comes up. I suppose I could try not to mention it. But so often my "thought of the day" is something I want to talk about, or I read something interesting elsewhere and want to talk about it, and it comes out that I blog.

Actually, that's a cop out. I could keep it secret if I wanted too. I'm just being lazy and short-sighted.

I think I should probably:
  1. Decide what matters more to me: Freedom or openness
  2. Stop telling still more people about the blog and compounding the problem
  3. Get up the guts to just write it, and let the chips fall where they may. People have the freedom to choose not to read. It's not up to me to protect them from it.

That said, I shouldn't be chicken and let people learn the hard way that I'm going to get more honest about my life here. I have no secrets, but people don't have the details.

What do we think?

Tuesday, November 22, 2005


It's been a while since I've felt so non-pressed in the evening that I could hit the rowing machine after work. And since my downstairs neighbors have moved out, I don't fear disturbing anyone (well, I fear disturbing my next door neighbor, but I think I'm allowed my loud tunes and whoosh of the erg at 7 PM). The nice thing about erging at home is I can throw dinner in the oven and it's ready when I'm done.

I did 3 x 15' with 3' off. I got 40 36m on the first, 4037m on the second and 4039m on the third. So my pacing was consistent. Doing 3 x 15' at 1:51.5/ 500m pace is a very good sign for me. I think if I do the Concept2 holiday challenge this year (200,000m between Thanksgiving and Christmas) I'll be in shape to go after my record in the 10k, and possibly crack my record in the 6k as well. I'd love to go sub 6:30 for 2K at the Peninsula Indoor regatta in February. But that will be painful.

It's just nice to start in on the serious erg training with a good level of fitness.

Exercise time: 53:01
Max HR: 187
Ave HR: 163 (including rest!)
KCal: 829

The funny thing: When I came home the temp was like 60. When I finished it was around 72. I don't think that was just because the oven was on. Those 829 Calories have to go somewhere.

How to be an ideological border collie

Reading an excerpt from "The Wisdom of Crowds" for class. A couple passages struck me:

Why does polarization occur? One reason is because of people's reliance on "social comparison".... It means that people are constantly comparing themselves to everyone else with an eye towards maintaining their relative position within the group. In other words, if you start out in the middle of the group and you believe the group has moved, as it were, to the right, you're inclined to shift your position to the right as well, so that relative to everyone else you're standing still... By moving to the right you're moving the group to the right, making social comparison something of a self-fulfilling prophecy. What's assumed to be real eventually becomes real.

And later....

...In small groups ideas do not succeed simply on their own merits... when advocates are chosen, as it were, on the basis of status or talkativeness, rather than perceptiveness or keenness of insight, then the group's chance of making a smart decision shrinks. Talkativeness may seem like a curious thing to worry about, but in fact talkativeness has a major impact on the kinds of decisions small groups reach. If you talk a lot in a group, people will tend to think of you as influential almost by default..."

In combination, it makes me re-evaluate what's going on in the US culture wars. The forces approving the war, shouting that it's all fine, or those raising a ruckus to root religion into schools, courts and science text books are applying these two principles. Volume of response is interpreted by the masses as proportion of agreement, and the masses, wanting to maintain their centrist stance, migrate to the right. When those with dissenting views allow themselves to be shouted down by those who substitute volume of response for quality of response, the best ideas lose.

This is the flaw of equal time: "We just heard 2 minutes from someone who thinks all races should be equal under the law, and now, to maintain a balanced view, we'll give 2 minutes to the Grand Wizard of the Tupelo, MS chapter of the KKK." The sheep aren't clever enough to realize that just because the KKK guy gets half the time, he doesn't represent the ideas of half the people.

The author is very clear that these insights apply to small groups, but I'd argue they seem to apply to discourse taking place at a national level.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Sunday's race

The results are posted here. Our event started at 9:10 am.

The course was curvy, and we got penalized for missing a buoy, but I never saw one. I thought our cox did a great job on a course that's largely a slalom with a boat that's designed to just go straight.

There are some cool pictures from the race:

This is us motoring away.

The "next image" and "previous image" buttons will let you see other shots. We're images 420 through 433, though there's a random women's double picture mixed in the series. I tried to link in directly to some, but no dice.

Like I said, I got bumped from the first 8+ by some insanely fast folk, and I like stroking. If it weren't for the buoy penalties, we'd have (as a club) won the race. My boat would have taken third, regardless, but I like the margins on the other crews: It really says there's us, as a club, then there's everyone else.

Why I think

Shanghai looks like an early 20thC comic book's vision of an early 21st C city:

Sunday, November 20, 2005

My apartment smells good

Today I:

Mulled apple cider with spices
Baked a lemon cake
Made my squash soup
Roasted chicken with garlic

I shall bask in the coziness I hath wrought

Friday, November 18, 2005

I think my life just got better

My "Advanced Entrepreneurship" course is being taught by a guy who founded a reasonably large and successful company in Silicon Valley. The guy is not only loaded, but extraordinarily well connected.

Yesterday, I was less than engaged in class, but he called on me to kind of call me out for being less than engaged. He asked a straight up question, and I essentially answered by telling him why I think a cornerstone of silicon valley conventional wisdom is crap. My classmates sat in stunned amazement as I went off on how adoption of new technology really happens, and why I think there is no such thing as "The Chasm" but merely a segment targeting problem.

After class I approached him to tell him that I'd be happy to send him some of the work I'd done in one of my previous jobs that applied the framework I was talking about to forecasting real adoption. Charts are better than words.

At this point, he pulled me out or earshot of the other students, and said:

Prof S: What are you doing after graduation?

Me: Looking for a change

Prof S: You're the smartest guy in the class, your comments are always spot on and incisive, and we need to find a place for you. I'm gonna take you to lunch.

The guy sits on boards of a ton of companies. He knows VCs all up and down the valley. I seem to have made a new friend. By publicly and vehemently, though civilly disagreeing with him. Go figure.

Irony is, he does a lot of enterprise software, and I think the industry could not be more boring.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Holy Fuck am I Stressed

And yet, oddly, I'm not.

Things that went down/ will go down in a 48 hour window:
  • Received notice from wife (who made as much or more than I did during our marriage)that she's going to file for a temporary support decree form the judge
  • Notified by wife that she wants to go to mediation over our divorce settlement
  • Spend 4.5 hours in traffic driving to and from client site for consulting project
  • Notified by independent consulting client that she found out I have a full time job now
  • Composed e-mail to client to diffuse situation
  • Spoke with client to diffuse situation
  • Situation largely diffused, but relationship is bruised
  • Notified by my lawyer that I may want to take the settlement deal being offered to me
  • Required to type up 7 hours of interview notes in 4 hours
  • Must create a presentation and two short papers which are due for class on Thursday
  • Must read 4 cases for class
  • Handled varying degress of relationship complexity
  • Hounded by lawyer's secretary to set up appointment. Discussion scheduled for 30 min block between classes Friday afternoon.
  • Meeting/ speaking with new independent consulting prospect on Thursday afternoon between classes.

The odd thing is, I'm largely pretty calm. The image in my mind is of a brown hooded and cloaked figure (looks like Obi Wan) walking slowly and steadily towards me while swirling winds whip up a frenzy of yellow sand around him. Serenity and focus amidst chaos. And I have a lot of that.

At least I'm stroking my 8+ on Sunday. I got bumped from the top 8+, since we cannibalized our elite 4+ to stack the boat. It's now got 4 national team level folk, or ex national caliber folk on Port side. I don't mind getting bumped by the immortals. My "B" 8+ is actually an insanely fast crew. I'm gonna take all the stress, and leave it on the race course on Sunday. I pity the crews in front of us, whom I shall humiliate. I'm gonna throw down some Bataan Death March pacing, and folks can keep up or die.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Lest people think I'm a Democrat

I offer you two deals:
  1. You make an investment, and if you lose more than 20%, we'll cover the difference, but you keep all the upside
  2. You make an investment, and if you gain more than 20%, we'll keep the difference, but you keep all the downside

Which would you take?

What would happen if people got to take the first option? With no downside risk, they'd take on as much risk as possible to chase the upside.

What would happen if people took the second option? No one would take any chances, since there's no chance to win big.

The proposal to impose a windfall profits tax on the oil industry imposes upon that industry option #2. It's a terrible precedent to set in a capitalist economy. No enterprise, no risk, no innovation, no progress. It also naively assumes that oil companies maneuver to take advantage of oil price fluctuations. They don't.

Oil companies make money by taking a raw material (crude oil) and refining it into other products. They do not speculate in commodities markets. The volatility in the price of their raw material is a risk. They mitigate this risk by pricing their products at rates in proportion to the prevailing market price of crude. Both their costs and their revenues are now subject to the same volatility. This strategy has the consequence of, in the long run, removing the input price volatility risk from the company's financials. But in the short run, a rapid oil price decline could lead to the firm charging less for the products than the raw materials cost, while a rapid price rise would lead to the firm charging much more than the raw materials cost.

If we're gonna take away the oil companies' upside by imposing a windfall profits tax, we should also take away their downside, and cover their losses when they occur. Otherwise, let it go, and let free markets reign. Unless you'd like an unexpected serendipity tax imposed on yourself, don't do it to a company. They're not gouging, they're riding out the wave.

I still want a hybrid.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Consequences of overanalyzing bumper stickers

Peace secured by violence is not peace. It is subjugation.

And as I see it, most peace is secured by violence on some level (mutually assured destruction, cops with guns & night sticks, electric chairs, razor wire along borders). Is there real peace anywhere?

Dog is love. I suppose the reason relations between people are kind and civil without the threat of violence is because of mutual affection. We're nice to the people we like. So unless the peace arises out of love, it's not peace.

Whirled Peas. Funny how some people say "world peace" and mean "world love" and some people say "bring peace and security" and mean "bring subjugation and control".

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Immortalized in Bling

Today we raced the Head of the Lagoon down in San Mateo.

Not a massive race, and not one in which we expected major competition in our events. None the less, we aimed to go down and do well.

There was a last minute substitution: The guy who had been rowing 5 (big, strong, but not so smooth and a little fidgety) hurt his back, so the guy who's arguably the best starboard oar on the team filled in. I knew it was gonna be a good day.

I love head races with windy courses in 8+'s. Anything can happen. And you get called on to help the cox execute turns. We on the port side, and I and the guy in 2 seat, in particular, were asked to "crank it" on numerous occasions. Our cox had to yell at a few crews to yield to us. That's always fun. Cuz when he essentially tells another crew to get the fuck out of your way, you need to bring it and row through them like cheese through a goose. Ya gotta back up the little man in the stern. He's the consciousness of your crew.

There was a collegiate novice 8's race right in front of us, so we tried to give them a lot of room, knowing we'd catch boats and not wanting to catch them at times inconvenient for ourselves.

Our stroke had hoped to pace at 29 strokes per minute. But the boat settled to about 31 1/2. And it was comfortable. We were sharp, we were standing on our catches and we were moving. We rowed down three collegiate novice boats in the race ahead of us before we finished.

We finished confident we had won our event, and feeling like we had put in the best piece we could have, as a crew. We were told by our coach that we looked low (like we were pacing to slowly) as we came by. He was shocked to hear we were at a 31-32. When you're making it look easy, you're going fast.

When I got to the boat house at 4 PM to unload the trailer, I got some good news. Our 8's had come in 1,2,3 in our event. So our third fastest 8 was faster than the competition's best boats. And then I got some great news. My 8 had turned in the fastest time on the course that day. Faster than the novice 8's and the collegiate 8's and the open 8's. We won, essentially, the regatta and we got to take back to our club this massive old skool cup trophy.

It'll stay in the club's trophy case till next year, when we have to put it on the line for that race. But it's really nice to walk into your club and be able to point to some of the hardware in the trophy case and know that you brought that back. It won't have my name on it, but the club's name will be on it as this year's winner for as long as the cup is around.

Workout stats for the race piece:

Time 17:40 (includes pre-start build and maybe 30-40 seconds post finish line)
Average HR: 175 bpm
Max HR: 182 bpm
Kcal: 309

Friday, November 11, 2005

Kind of ironic

My line yesterday about fearing Pagans from SF.

Seems Bill got all riled up over SF's outcomes. Not that I vote in the SF district, but I'm pleased he's pissed.

I suppose I'll put it this way: Bill, I call your bluff. Let's have it your way. Let the mighty US military stop protecting us San Franciscans from the evil terrorists, and we'll just suffer the consequences. They can put away the tanks and stop the air cover they're flying. Oh, right, there are no tanks. There is no air cover. Well at least the guys at the security checkpoints who keep a terrorist from blowing up a U-haul full of fertilizer on the golden gate bridge during rush hour can go home. Oh, wait, there are no check points. There is no active protection of this city in any specific way.

Hmmm.... Gives me an idea.

For the next thirty seconds I shall use my amazing super powers to protect you, my dear reader, from terrorist attack. And to prove my powers are far greater than those of the US military machine, as an extra special bonus, I shall also protect you from comets, space junk, and fire ants. Let the 30 seconds begin...

Don't you feel safer now? Will you vote for me?

I think the US military (Abu Ghraib) may be making it a bit more dangerous for Americans at home and abroad by giving folk more motive (perhaps with debatably less capacity) to attack. I'd argue that we left coasters have done a lot to protect ourselves by rejecting this administration's jingoistic foreign policy vocally and consistently, even when most of the nation was hungry for post 9-11 vengeance. I think folks clever enough to plan co-ordinated attacks know how, when and where to strike. And I bet they get that the folks in SF are the people least behind the oppressive Saudi regime, least in favor of Apartheid in Israel, and most likely to work for global social justice, which is the best anti-terrorism cure I know.

So, Bill my boy, you can keep your hand guns and sabre rattling, and we'll keep our tolerance and understanding, and we'll see who gets blow'd up first by the "terrorists".

Crushing Productivity One Call at a Time

God, do I hate dealing with big companies, especially when I need them to do something out of the ordinary.

After my China trip, my cell phone stopped responding to the charger. Having the charger slide in the charger port elicited no response whatsoever. My phone got frigid.

And it wasn't the charger. The wall charger, the phone charger, neither did anything for my phone. Classmates said it was probably the battery.

So I slid the brains of my new phone back into my old phone's body, charged it up and carried on. I tried to go to the T-mobile store where I got the now defunct new phone, but the store in my vicinity is conveniently open from 10 am to 6 pm. Given that I board a ferry at 7:50 am and disembark around 6:30 pm, that wasn't going to work.

Eventually, during work hours, I popped into a store. I hoped they'd fix it or at least give me a new battery or phone or something. Nope. Call T-mobile and they'll send you a new one. Here's the number.

I call the number as I board the ferry this morning. I figure: How long can it take for them to understand the situation and send me a new one?

Are you sure it's the battery?


It could be the phone.

It's not.

Open up the back and tell me if the connections look ok.

They'e fine.

Did you take it to a store?


Did they try to charge it?


Did it work?

Would I be calling if it did?

Ok, the phone is under waranty but because it's a betery that's the manufacturer's problem so I'm going to transfer you to Motorola.


Are you sure it's the battery?


Did you put in a new battery to see if it works with a new battery?

If I had a second battery, I'd not have a problem....

It took me a total of 40 minutes to get Motorola to agree to send a new battery to me so I can send the old one back to them. I was on the phone before, during and after my entire trip.


Wednesday, November 09, 2005

A ditch 1200 miles long + H2O...

...and I can build a moat around Kansas, which is the only appropriate way to deal with a state that votes down evolution, or at least approves school curricula encouraging the exploration of "alternative explanations" for life on earth. Yeah. How progressive, to be open to more than "natural explanations" for phenomena in the world around us. Maybe it's physics that makes my car go. Or maybe it's elves!

A nice deep moat. With warning signs like around the wicked witch's castle in The Wizard of Oz, only specific to keep the Kansans safely in Kansas, their own personal Christian fundamentalist happy land. Signs like:

"This moat is the only thing between your family and pagans from San Francisco"


"Danger! Beyond this body of water are people who use 'science' to build 'lasers'"


"Warning! Crossing this moat may lead to contact with gays"

Speaking of:

Hey, Texas! Way to go, all y'all! Y'all have succeeded in totally reversing any unfair stereotypes we may have been harboring about y'all as intolerant, unenlightened, backwards, cowboy hat wearing, big-buckle-and-boots hayseeds! Voting in a ban against gay marriage almost makes us forget you fought on the pro slavery side in the civil war, use the death penalty more than any other state, or enjoy lynching the odd Mexican or stray Negro from time to time. Rocketed y'all right up the sophistication chart, there. Totally debunked all my ideas. Good job!

P.S. Nice touch keeping the "White Settlement" name. Tradition, ya know. Celebrate the Texas heritage!

Sometimes, a democratic system is bad. But at least we know where the idiots are.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Better than Affirmative: Random

As I walked back to work from grabbing a sandwich for lunch, I contemplated how I'd hire a research assistant. I realized that, while I had a precise idea of the qualifications I'd seek, the fact is that there are probably a ton of people who'd be great hires, but who wouldn't have those qualifications, and I'd never see them in an interview. And I'd like to give them a shot. I aim to be just.

The thing that's most reinforced the "It's who you know, not what you know" notion in the last 10 years has been the automation of resume submittal and screening. Now that HR folks need not actually read resumes, but just search for keywords in a database in order to find candidates to interview, no one prepares their resume for a genuine human. Especially if what you do is something the average junior HR staffer doesn't understand. The trick is to load your resume with the keywords from the original job post. When everyone plays this strategy, the system is useless: Hundreds of resumes, regurgitating the same req back to you. Nowadays, if you want an interview, one has to work around, not through HR. One must know somebody.

So I plan, as I go through life and hire people, to seek not only people who I think are qualified, but to give a genuine crack at the job to someone who thinks him or herself sufficiently qualified to have applied, but who didn't make the screen. After I've selected my candidates for interviews, I'm also going to select at random one candidate who didn't pass the screen but did apply for the job. It'll give them hope, along with a genuine chance, and it will give me a chance to have a cool conversation and to perhaps find some unconventional hires. Ideally, it'll be double blind, and I can get the HR folks to mix in the random dude with the screened folks. That way I'm unbiased.

I think people just want a chance. And I think letting chance, to a reasonable extent, grant some opportunity, may be a good thing. If colleges filled 5% of their seats with applicants admitted by random lottery, they'd have a lot more genuine diversity of perspective than the current social engineering yields.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Leaking Angst

I'm rather stressed out. I have my thesis due tomorrow, my branding project team breathing down my neck to do our next assignement, work revving up, a race this sunday, and a legally important letter from my wife's lawyer asking me to make a choice in 10 days or they'll start filing motions, no clean socks, no food in my fridge, and a stack of mail (including bills) I've not tended to for a week.

And I'm leaking my angst everywhere. Two folks at work have pulled me aside to find out what my deal is. Direct quote: "Your body language said you do not want to be here". I have no enthusiasm for my job right now, and it's the bottom of my priority list. I think I'd rather have clean socks than a paycheck at this moment, which tells me I'm being a bit irrational. But I wear my feelings on my sleeve. It's me. And it's bad for those around me when I'm under pressure.

It's hard for me to not try to escape from my life when it's like this. But I'm doing okay. I've got friends who have been good to me, and understand that at times like this, I may do things I'd rather not, but just can't really avoid well. Once the stress goes, I'll be back on the wagon.

I'm hard to kill.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Hour of Power

In the spirit of a friend who's blogging her marathon training, I'll post my evening workout stats...

Did the hour of power. 60 minutes on the erg, 1068 calories, average heart rate 175, max 190. 15, 466m.

Ah... endorphins...

I'm a Boring Old Man

A business school classmate offered to introduce me to someone. While I'm certainly not "looking", I define myself as "open to whatever happens". A friend reminds me that I am, technically and legally, still married. And I'm sure as hell not looking for something marriage-track to happen, anyway. But I wanted to put myself out there, see what happens, and encourage people's kindnesses.

My classmate proposed a casual set-up, in which we could all get together for drinks or something, and most of us would know each other. Sounded OK. I sure as hell don't want to go on any blind dates. I think a real "date" requires that I have some kind of clarity about my goals, and I'm far from clear. I think the best I can articulate my current state is "Girls are pretty. I like girls. I like sex. I'm lonely, a little. I don't have any idea what kinds of people are out there." Hardly suggestive of what I should be doing, but all of those would be aspects of my swirling bag of motivations.

I expected it'd be a drinks after work thing, no biggie. Meet for an hour, talk, leave.

Background: During a typical week, on Monday through Thursday, I get up at 5 am to row. Those nights I go to bed around 9 or 9:30. I'm a boring old man. Fridays I may sleep in till 6. Saturdays I'm up at 6 for 6:30 practice. In Boston, the girlfriend of a teammate of mine on the Saturday night after the first day of the Head of the Charles, at around 8 PM, said "I like rower parties cuz no one smokes. But they suck because all of you are ready for bed at 9:30." It was true. We were all nodding off in our beer at about 8:45.

So when I got the email Friday morning at about 6am, which had been sent the previous evening long after I'd been in bed, that the earliest we could meet was 11:30 PM Friday night, I about choked. That's 2 hours past my bed time.

Not wanting to dis the work my classmate had done to make the evening happen, I decided to go for it. I hoped to nap before going out. At 7pm, I wasn't tired. But at 9:30, I was. All I wanted to do was undress and crawl in bed. I didn't care to drive into SF. I didn't want a drink. I wanted to sleep. So I slept.

The problem was that we were supposed to meet up about 10:30, which meant leaving at 10, which meant hitting the shower at 9:30. By napping, I was choosing to show up late. I napped. Hard. I awoke at 11, yelled, "Oh, shit", and made an executive decision not to shower, just to shave, to yank on clothes that seemed approporiate, and head out. I called my friend to tell her I'd be late.

I got to the wine bar at about 11:45. The good news was that none of the "set-up guests" had yet arrived. The bad news was that the bar closed at midnight, and had locked the front door. As I waited for my friends to exit, an attractive brunette arrived. I figured this was Kimberley. My friends exited, it was in fact the set-up girl, and the evening was on.

After determining that none of the places that were still open were ideal: Too loud & crowded, we went back to my classmate's place for a glass of wine. By then, the set-up guy for my other classmate, Suzann, had arrived, so 6 of us are there. And then my subconscious made a fantastically illustrative move:

Three couches, arranged in a U. Suzann (also being set-up) sits on one side of couch 2. Kimberly sits on one side of couch 1. No one else has entered the room. I sit... With my classmate Suzann on couch 2. Antonia (setter-upper) and her husband join us on couch 3, and Grant takes his place with Kimberley on couch 1. I didn't think much of it at the time. Part of it was that Kimberley's couch was more "love seat" than couch, and plunking down next to her with only 3 people in the room would have been too conspicuously "Hi, I'm Ken, and I'm your set-up for the evening. Let's talk and see if we can casually find reason to exchange phone numbers and go on a date some time". Bleh. Not me. I think deep down, I'm just not feeling like chasing anything. If it happens, it happens. But I'm not putting on the moves. I'm not looking for any "dates".

Sadly, this may have meant Suzann didn't get to have the 1 on 1 conversation with Grant (her set-up guy), but I apologized yesterday and told her next time I do something like that, just elbow me in the ribs.

Anyway, that was my night. Keep me up past my bed time, and I get grumpy. Sometimes I'd rather sleep than chase girls. This is good to know.

Friday, November 04, 2005

From a friend

I continue to wonder why women think men are so confusing...

How to Make a Woman Happy

It's not difficult to make a woman happy. A man only needs to be:

1. a friend
2. a companion
3. a lover
4. a brother
5. a father
6. a master
7. a chef
8. an electrician
9. a carpenter
10. a plumber
11. a mechanic
12. a decorator
13. a stylist
14. a sexologist
15. a gynecologist
16. a psychologist
17. a pest exterminator
18. a psychiatrist
19. a healer
20. a good listener
21. an organizer
22. a good father
23. very clean
24. sympathetic
25. athletic
26. warm
27. attentive
28. gallant
29. intelligent
30. funny
31. creative
32. tender
33. strong
34. understanding
35. tolerant
36. prudent
37. ambitious
38. capable
39. courageous
40. determined
41. true
42. dependable
43. passionate
44. compassionate

45. give her compliments regularly
46. love shopping
47. be honest
48. be very rich
49. not stress her out
50. not look at other girls

51. give her lots of attention, but expect little yourself
52. give her lots of time, especially time for herself
53. give her lots of space, never worrying about where she goes


54. birthdays
55. anniversaries
56. arrangements she makes


1. Show up naked
2. Bring food

Ladies: I keed, I keed. But the stuff on men is totally accurate.

Very good article

Why economics is very cool, and makes the world make sense.

Article explaining real source of trouble for unskilled labor in US economy.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

OMFG this is funny

Found the link here (Thanks ESC).

This is what's so damn funny.

It's really odd what we humans eat.

Pure Morning

I'd order a lifetime of mornings like the one I had today.

I was out in the new 8+ this morning, which is to rowing shells what a Ferrari is to cars: Lost on those who don't know how to get the most out of it, pure joy for those who know how to handle it. It's a super stiff and responsive shell. If you're off, you go slow. If you're sharp, you fly.

All week I've been in it with crews that didn't quite have the technical gifts to make it move.

This morning, we had a former Ukrainian national team guy in stroke, a guy just off the US national sculling team in 2, A guy two years out of Cal in 4, the guy with the best power/ weight ration on the team who just happens to have just won the Head of the American in the single (so he's got some skills, too) in 7. I was in 6, which is, size wise, not really where I belong (I'm not 6'4", 220#), but it was a fun seat. So there was enough skill to move the boat well. And move well, we did. Keeping the boat balanced and level wasn't an issue at all. We had a perfectly stable platform off of which to connect and unload with each stroke. There was no tension. Just like a piston firing, then recoiling, there was perfect division between violent force on the drive and serene grace on the recovery.

The water was glass. One of those rare mornings with perfectly still air and consequentially no waves. Hot boat, strong crew, smooth water.

We didn't really mind the light shower that came down half way though our workout. We particularly didn't mind when we saw that the sun rising in the east through the rain drops descending from the west was creating a perfect full rainbow framing the mountain behind us.

It was a great morning.

Oh, and the analysis for my thesis project seems to be working. All systems go.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Brand Erosion Lesson for W

In my current branding course, my prof made a comment about how, in some cases, the extent to which a brand is "American" may not be restrictive in international markets, but in fact be helpful, insofar as "American" is an aspirational element.

Given that I've spent a lot of time professionally measuring odd things like brand perceptions and meanings, I had to wonder: How much have W's foreign policy and actions diminished the globe's affinity for things "American", and as a consequence, how many brands with an "American" component have been hurt, and to what extent has that brand erosion cost firms sales?

Not that this is a major argument against the war, but it demonstrates how war can have far flung economic consequences, how interconnected we all are, and how economic ties can be a force for peace. We don't want war with China because we like cheap stuff at Wal-Mart, and because the Chinese like selling us stuff. Pakistan doesn't want war with India because it'd be bad for business. When a people has an economic interest in the well being of and good relations with another people, it's hard to start a war. Not exactly an idea the anti-globalization folk seem to have grasped.