Thursday, March 29, 2007

My race

For those who might want to see the race, it'll be webcast with audio and video live. It's at 1:30 PM on Sunday, April 1. We're race 86. We're MRA in lane 1. Looks like we'll be against the tide, which will mean a slower course, favoring more fit crews.

This is how it all went down last year. Note the 3 second advantage on out split in the 3rd 500m. And note the resulting 3 second advantage on the field coming out of the 3rd 500m. That's where we won last year: The psychologically most trying part of the race.

It's about time

Yesterday my employer became my former employer. Their choice.

Now many folks might have a bit of a melt down. "Oh my God, they got rid of me! I must suck!"

But I realize that this had very very little to do with performance. They actually mentioned that they loved the work that I did. It's just that they're now officially a software company, and I'm a consultant and solver of business problems. When the company did get the odd consulting project, I knocked it out of the park. But the company doesn't have many of those. Now, if one looks at how much money my now ex employer makes for my work versus how much they pay me, one can make a compelling case that keeping me around, even if I only work 6 months per year, is great for the firm. The margins on Ken are so high, that it's ok to leave his capacity idle. But they aren't running a services organization to maximize profit, but to maximize utilization.

Yeah, I know. I, too, wouldn't invest in a company that isn't trying to maximize profit.

So for a long time we've done this dance. When they have a project for me, I do great, they love me, realize I'm valuable. When they don't have one, they wonder why they hired me to begin with. So I was only surprised by the specific timing of the parting of ways, not that it happened.

I've been trying to figure out what I want to do next for some time, and now I'm going to get paid (for a little while at least) to figure that out. And this is exactly what I wanted. For, had I quit voluntarily, I'd not have had the extra cash coming in. I'd been waiting for them to do this, precisely because of the economic benefits of making them make that choice.

It's funny, because on Monday this week I sent myself a zip folder of my personal files from my work machine in an e-mail entitled "in case I get fired". This isn't a huge shock to me.

And I've been touched by my colleague's reactions. Not that I take pleasure in their emotional discomfort, but so many are sad to see me go. They really enjoyed my presence, thought I contributed a ton. They think the firm is crazy to let me go, they recognize that I was a unique perspective. I'll miss many of them, too. But I resolve to keep those relationships intact.

This weekend, I'm off to San Diego for the big race. It turns out the two boats we beat last year to win, the ones with a smattering of former (and many very recent) US national team folks in them, have merged to try to beat us. So we'll be racing a boat of almost 100% ex-national guys. This is like a local softball team taking on a bunch of former New York Yankees. And last year, the ex-Yankees lost.

The cool thing here is, we still have a decent shot at winning. This sport, perhaps more than all others, is about coming together as a team and a unit that is actually greater than the sum of its parts. We've spent the last 6 weeks rowing together as a crew to merge in that way, and I think we have. Our competition will row together for the first time on Friday. So we'll see. We may come in second. Maybe it won't even be close. Maybe last year was a fluke. Or maybe even a boat full of ringers can't take us down, and we deserve to be respected and feared.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Mohammed: "Yeah, I did that, too"

In a shocking string of testimony obtained perfectly legally while putting the subject under no duress or coercion whatsoever, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed confessed to doing everything bad that happened under the Bush presidency.

"9-11: Me. Shoe bomber: Me. Daniel Perl:Me. Hurricane Katrina: Also me. I can now control the weather, Allah be praised."

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed today also admitted to causing the sub-prime mortgage market to collapse and to firing the federal prosecutors.

"What else ya got?" said Mohammed. "Yeah, I did that, too."

When asked whether the conditions of his confinement or his dim prospects for ever seeing a fair trial or release had anything to do with his new revelations, Mohammed replied, "No, I love my new life here at hotel Guantanamo. I just wanted to get those things off my chest. I feel much better now. Phew."

"Oh, and I leaked Valerie Plame's identity as a CIA agent. And I'm letting Mexicans in. And outsourcing jobs to India. And I made the gas prices go up. Plus, I posted copyrighted materials on You Tube."

"Will you kill me now?" he concluded.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

It's so hard living in California

Especially when this is your weather forecast.

Training for San Diego continues to go well. We've been going through the usual spring rite of passage from lower stroke ratings to higher ones. It's re-learning to move quickly, yet relax. The last few practices have een not so good. We find ourselves asking, "Are we sure we raced at 36 last year? Can we make that 32 this year?" But we all know thathis is just a phase.

This morning doing 500 meter pieces, we found our race rhythm. After doing starts at 41 strokes per minute, settling to a 36 felt good. Then, later, we found ourselves building to 38 with just 5 strokes. holding the 36 for 2000 meters will hurt, but we can do it, and it will be fast.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Words fail me

And that's why there's video.

Saturday night was the half way to Burning Man party in SF.

Among the acts playing was this one, The Zoopy Show:

It's like Muppets meet sexually charged performance art meet rock concert.

Their music was great, the stage show was from another planet, and their Z girl Dee-Du, K and I agreed, was insanely hot. One didn't know whether to take it satirically, seriously, or both. Most excellent.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Stick to your guns, John

I was shocked and surprised when I read a headline this morning stating that Senator McCain had said that lives lost in Iraq have been "wasted".

Folks are always very careful never to say that. It's very hard to get the underclasses to go off and die for you if you don't tell them what they're doing is "heroic" and "noble". And it's hard to get them to do that without all the monuments, language, and cultural legend about the immortalization they'll receive for making "the ultimate sacrifice". Some get 1000 virgins in the afterlife, others get the Congressional medal of honor. Same function.

So I was surprised that someone actually called a spade a spade. Especially surprised that it was McCain, whom I like for his irreverence and candor. It turns out that he wasn't as direct as I'd hoped, and that he's now back pedaling.

I think one can make the case that American lives lost in the midst of an Iraqi civil war are lost without causing any clear compensating benefit. If a giant ethnic-cleansing conflict in Iraq is somehow prevented because of our presence, then perhaps it's not a total waste. One American death prevents many dozen Iraqi deaths. But I think, at this point, Iraq will inevitably turn into a hotbed of ethnic hatred fueled by religious division and extremism, and it won't stop until both sides moderate or one side is annihilated. And the former will not come about until the whole society realizes that paying any deference to leaders causing division and hatred only leads to misery and mayhem. But they're only going to learn that by experiencing the misery and mayhem which result from their allegiances. And with misery and mayhem inevitable, it seems a waste for anyone to die trying to futilely prevent it.

We want to console grieving families that their loved ones died for some noble purpose. But the fact is that most of the dying going on in Iraq is a tragic waste of human life. And it's about time someone had the guts to say that. I was hoping McCain was that guy. I guess not.