Archive for November, 2005

We Shall Underwhelm

Wednesday, November 30th, 2005

George Bush steps to the podium at the U.S. Naval Academy with a PLAN FOR VICTORY:

Bush at a podium, with posters

Victory where? Well, just check out this original-size crop of the plan’s cover (see also full version, PDF original):
'National Strategy For' in small, small letters; 'Victory in Iraq' in huge letters

I’m not sure what those small letters say, but the big ones are talking about Iraq! You know, where we accomplished our mission:
Bush with 'mission accomplished' banner in background

Wait, though. That photo is from May 1, 2003. This document comes 30 months later. So we accomplished the mission before we had a strategy? Amazing! This government has real accomplishments. Except…

The most remarkable thing about the document President George W. Bush released today, titled National Strategy for Victory in Iraq, is that it was released today (and written not much earlier—it’s authored by the National Security Council and dated November 2005).

It is symptomatic of everything that’s gone wrong with this war that, after two and a half years of fighting it (and four years after starting to plan it), the White House is just now getting around to articulating a strategy for winning it.

To put this in perspective: From December 1941 to August 1945, the U.S. government mobilized an entire nation; manufactured a mighty arsenal; played a huge role in defeating the armies, air forces, and navies of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan; and emerged from battle poised to shape the destiny of half the globe. By comparison, from September 2001 to December 2005, the U.S. government has advanced to the point of describing a path to victory in a country the size of California. [from The Good News—Bush Finally Has a Plan]

And is it any great surprise that this new speech/booklet effort, which works very, very hard to burn the word “VICTORY” into our consciousness, actually avoids defining it at all?

In the speech, Bush says (as he has said many times before), “We will stay as long as necessary to complete the mission.” But what is the mission? At one point he says, “When our mission of training the Iraqi security forces is complete, our troops will return home to a proud nation.” However, a bit later, he says the mission will be complete “when the terrorists and Saddamists can no longer threaten Iraq’s democracy,” and he adds, “I will settle for nothing less than complete victory.”

So, which is it: Our job is done when the Iraqis can fight the bad guys on their own—or when the bad guys are defeated? Those are two very different standards, involving very different benchmarks of progress. [Ibid.]

No, I thought not.

P.S. Since I’m referencing the subject, I’d also like to mention my 1 May 03 post, “Bush League“, and also one of my personal favorites “SARS Attack!,” with the “suckling” line that still makes me chuckle…

The Term is “Terrifying”

Tuesday, November 29th, 2005

Like a growing number of Americans, I take comfort in the fact that each day, the end of G. W. Bush’s reign inches ever closer.

So you can imagine how I feel about this ad I encountered today:
Ad reading 'Want Unlimited Terms?' with Bush's picture

(From this article in “Venture Capital Journal.”)

I’m not even sure what the ad sells, but I do know that guy and the words “unlimited terms” don’t belong in the same universe.

Always the Last to Know

Monday, November 28th, 2005

Why do Congressional websites exist? They just seem to serve as a final resting place for old press releases and cheesy, toothy photos. On the issues I really want to hear a Rep’s opinion on, they’re strangely silent.

For example, Congressman Randy “Duke” Cunningham, Republican from California’s 50th, today admitted taking bribes for attempting to influence DoD, plead guilty, and resigned from the House. Quite a day, but on his Web site it’s still blissflully 18 Nov., where there are podiums to stand behind and deals to be announced.

Coincidentally, on that very day in November, the House’s newest member, Jean Schmidt (Republican, OH-2), made a legendary ass of herself, then retracted her remarks, then apologized, and was subsequently lampooned on SNL. Schmidt’s site blithely ignores all this and pretends it’s still the 17th.

Of course there was the Thanksgiving holiday in there, but it’s Monday, and everybody should be back to work — including the investigators at the Justice Department who are investigating the ever-widening Abramoff scandal. The investigation has touched several lawmakers, and may get many more, but for the moment Rep. Bob Ney (Republican — surprise, surprise — from OH-18) is the most visible, identified as “Representative #1” in recent court plea documents.

Naturally, Ney’s site makes no mention of the Congressman’s growing legal troubles, preferring to focus instead (as of this writing) upon “Relief for [the] Domestic Pipe Industry.”

On November 18th, of course.

Hats Off to the Polish Press

Sunday, November 27th, 2005

Gazeta front page, with black marks obscuring some stories

What you see above is the front page of the “Gazeta Wyborcza,” one of Poland’s largest papers, precisely as it ran last Wednesday. The look is intentional: “Gazeta,” along with Poland’s “Rzeczpospolita,” participated in an Amnesty International campaign to highlight repression in Belarus. Both papers ran an obscured version of their front page with an Amnesty tagline at bottom: “This is what freedom of speech looks like in Belarus.”

I love this concept. It’s refreshing to see the press take such a clear, stark stand against oppression. Though I am certainly sympathetic to commenters on (from which I learned of the story, and borrowed the above image) about the importance of objectivity and perceived neutrality, in this case I think the editors made a brilliant choice.

My Ass!

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2005

Tim Andrews, a Canon employee from London, said: “We always fit lots of new glass to copiers after New Year due to ‘rear-end copying.'”

In fact, Canon claims a shocking 46 percent of service calls are in response to non-work-related breakages.
Partly in response to this trend–or perhaps because of the “supersizing” of the western physique–Canon has now increased the thickness of its glass by an extra millimeter.
Confessions of a photocopier repairman

If that’s true — and I doubt it — I’d love to see the internal documentation:

-- M E M O --
FR: Engineering
TO: Manufacturing
RE: Thicker glass

Due to the increasing prevelance of ass-copying, and the fact the ass of the average Westerner is getting ever-larger, we have decided to increase the glass thickness across the imageRUNNER line. Glass specs will be altered to reflect a 1mm increase. As usual, the Quality Assurance team will be expected to thoroughly test these ass-breakage preventative measures.

Changes will commence with the 2006 model line, and sales staff should be informed of this new feature, which will be promoted as "Christmas Party Coating"TM.

Coolest Currency Concept… Ever

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2005

So I’m on one of my Googling sorties, as you do. And I come across some committee documentation from a 1998 meeting of the House of Representatives Committee on Banking and Financial Services (Subcommittee on Domestic and International Monetary Policy.)

I know, I know: could there be something more boring? Well, yes, and your first hint this isn’t your run-of-the-mill meeting is the topic: “Will Jumbo Euro Notes Threaten the Greenback?” And then, barely two paragraphs into his opening statement, Chair Michael Castle throws out this nugget:

Regarding the United States $500 and $1,000 bills already in existence, current estimates of outstanding $500 bills in circulation are about 286,000 notes, or $143,889,500 worth. For $1,000 bills, there are 167,101 notes, or obviously $167,101,000. It is well known that these high value notes were mostly issued to Brett Maverick in the 1880’s for his high stakes poker games.

Obviously, thousand-dollar bills — rare thousand-dollar bills — are cool to begin with, but can you imagine a time when the U.S. Treasury issued notes specifically for one man? For gambling?

Damn, I hope it’s true.

AT&T Globe v3

Monday, November 21st, 2005

The Death Star is dead. Long live the Death Star.

That’s the message I’m getting from the new post-merger SBC/AT&T logo, unveiled today. Here it is, with its forebears:

three AT&T bell logos

(From left, the 1983 Saul Bass original, the 1999 “refined” version, and the new globe.)

Now, brand consultants usually have some high-falutin’ language about what the brand means and what it evokes and all that. (Example: “[CEO Ed Whitacre] says marketing people finally convinced him that the new look was more evocative of the Internet generation: ‘They tell me it’s more trendy and modern.'”)

I don’t know know about the “Internet generation”, but for me it says:

  1. Look, we turned the globe inside-out. Sort of like how former AT&T-spinoff SBC gobbled up its parent. The student has become the teacher, see?
  2. We liked Citigroup‘s font. And hey, lowercase seems to be working for them…
  3. Sure, it’s ugly as hell — but aren’t you glad we didn’t make some unholy combination of the SBC logo and the globe? Imagine the Death Star with tentacles!
  4. Hey, at least it’s not Verizon.


Saturday, November 19th, 2005

I’m worried about Eric J. Sinrod.

Sinrod, a San Francisco lawyer, just posted a Perspectives piece entitled “iPod porn pains parents, employers.” Seriously. The guy is worried about iPod porn.

With a 5G iPod, Sinrod argues, children could escape the watchful eyes of their parents — and the limitations of the too-public family-room PC:

However, the ability of parents to monitor is seriously undermined if their children quickly can download adult content onto their iPods and then take it away from the home for easy viewing elsewhere.

Very true — though of course the same could be said for PSPs, DVDs/videotapes (your children don’t have a TV in their room, do they?!), and of course the choice of adolescents since time immemorial: good ol’-fashioned magazines. So what’s new?

Not much. But Sinrod has a scare for the workers of the world lined up:

Yet, iPods are becoming so ubiquitous and are so small, they are an easy vehicle for bringing pornography into the workplace. Employees discreetly could [sic] try to view pornography away from the watch of others. By engaging in such behavior, they often could be distracted from their true work functions, and problematically, they might contribute to an inappropriate and potentially hostile work environment to the extent the iPod porn is seen by others.

Here Sinrod tries to have it both ways, arguing both for hidden porn and that seen by co—wait, why I am engaging this argument? I should be asking: where does this guy work? Do his co-workers tend to disappear for long stretches, unable to spend 4 hours (assuming they get lunch) without a porn fix? Where does he expect them to escape “the watch of others”? The bathroom? The supplies closet?

Perhaps at Duane Morris, Sinrod’s law firm, no-one suffers the indignity of toiling away at an open cubicle, so they can partake right in their offices. By… holding an iPod under their desks? Whilst wearing the trademark white headphones? Yes that sounds quite subtle — and certainly something that was impossible before, especially in an age of PDAs, laptops, and yes, even mobile phones.

Truth is, kids who want to see porn don’t need a $300 iPod to get the job done, and adults who want to sneak it into the workplace could just use a thumb-sized USB drive (and not have to transcode their stash.) Sinrod and other nimrods want to pretend this is a new “problem”, one that can be solved with yet more policies and restrictions. He’s wrong.

Really, if we could just find a way to avoid hiring — or siring — podpeople like Sinrod, we could all enjoy our iPods in peace.


Thursday, November 17th, 2005

It’s 5°F out right now. With snow on the ground and even a little ice.

I’m so not ready for 5 months of this crap.

Sure, Have Him Call Me at 555-1234

Monday, November 14th, 2005

I just visited a car inspection website, only to be greeted with this box:

Clever, eh? Fuck-off message and a fake number: I don’t know why they didn’t just go for “We don’t want your business. Go away.”

In a similar brain-dead vein, I came across two other things today that left me shaking my head. One’s in Canada:

Mark Duncan, chief operating officer for the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority, the agency tasked with providing security at Canadian airports, says the system is sound.

“Our last public opinion survey showed that 90 per cent of the people were satisfied with the security process. So we think we’ve delivered on the mandate we were given,” Duncan said.
Investigation highlights security concerns at Canadian airports

The security guys that I read tend to get pretty pessimistic, because they’re so creative they’re able to find flaws in just about anything. Not Mark Duncan. He’s apparently from the “Family Feud” school of penetration testing: “Survey says: ‘we’re secure!'”

And finally, let us also bestow a “Whaaa?” award to the folks in Redmond:

“As Web advertising grows and consumer revenues shrink, we need to consider creating ad-supported versions of our software,” two Microsoft researchers and an MSN employee wrote in a paper presented to company executives earlier this year.
Microsoft eyes making desktop apps free

Because the only thing that could make Microsoft Office even better was if the little paperclip thing said “It looks like you’re trying to write a letter. Would you like to save money on your car insurance?”

A Big Load, Indeed

Thursday, November 10th, 2005

When did truck commercials become spam?

Maybe it’s just because I don’t watch much TV, but I was really struck by how stupid some of the claims are getting. There’s the Jeep spot where a family drives underwater, the “peeing” — what is it, Mazda?, as well as the Ford commercial that implies you will become impervious to rattlesnakes if you drive a “Ford tough” truck. (Though I must say I would rather watch animatronic snakes die than hear that quasi-country guy who sings “I’m a Ford truck man.”)

These are just the latest exaggeration of an old trend. In the past, pickups have been shown towing icebreakers and fully-loaded tractor-trailers, all of course with the disclaimer that the activity shown was completely fabricated. I know commercials lie, that’s no big surprise, but usually it’s a more subtle, implied lie: drink this beer and chicks will love you. Microwaved cake is tasty. Cartoon bears use toiler paper. And so on.

But, seriously, where will it end? Now that cartoonish truck commercials are the norm, I look foward to the commercials that bend space and time, perhaps showing how the S-10 played an important part in splitting Pangaea, and each F-150 will be able to tow asteroids (chains not included.)

I Have the Same Problem

Wednesday, November 9th, 2005

I rarely read IMDb’s celebrity news, but today a tease on the main page about a Hunter S Thompson documentary drew me in.

I’m glad it did, because further down was one of the most amusing headlines I’ve seen in awhile:

Alba Fears Whore Typecast
Movie beauty Jessica Alba fears she is being typecast, because she only gets offered role [sic] as whores and sexy maids. The Sin City actress is grateful for the opportunities she has been given in Hollywood – but would kill for the parts offered to rival actress Natalie Portman. She tells gossip site, “The scripts I get are always for the whore, or the motorcycle chick in leather, or the horny maid. I get all those screenplays that start, ‘Tawnya is in the shower. The water streams down her naked, perky breasts.’ Somehow, I don’t think this is happening to Natalie Portman.”

I love the succinct way that headline boils it down to four simple yet shocking words. In Alba’s defense, though, I’d like to mention that of the few films I’ve seen with her (one of which was against my will — thanks, United!) I’ve never once thought she was acting as a whore. On the other hand — and here’s what distinguishes Jessica from Natalie Portman — I’ve always thought she was horrible at acting…

Off to a Good Start

Tuesday, November 8th, 2005

Election day today, and of course I went to the polls. I cast my ballot for mayor and council members feeling confident in my choices, but I must confess that in one contest I didn’t have a feel for either candidate. Now, normally I would advise anyone who doesn’t feel informed to just skip that race altogether. In this case, however, I used a non-scientific approach.

See, there’s this house just up the street that had “Bush/Cheney” signs plastered all over its fences last year. This year, the spots were taken up with the name of one of the candidates. So I voted for his opponent.

Yes, thinking “anyone who Bush fans like is bad” is more than a little simplistic, but I’m not alone there. I guess Virginians weren’t impressed by Bush’s “Virginia Victory Rally” speech, which included such highlights as “I like a guy who loves his wife.”

Try “Sunrise,” Loser

Monday, November 7th, 2005

[Bush, t]he sunny optimist who loved to think big is now facing polls in which for the first time a majority of Americans say they do not trust him. “It’s like it’s twilight in America,” says one frustrated conservative.
–“A White House Without Rove?

The Apprentices Have Much to Learn

Thursday, November 3rd, 2005

Tonight’s episode of “The Apprentice” featured some of the most uncomfortable television I’ve seen in awhile. First “The Donald” asked one of the contestants (age 22) if he’d ever had sex, and if that wasn’t awkward enough, told another that homosexuality was like ordering spaghetti instead of steak — it’s all “a menu.” Creepy.

Neither player got the boot, however, as The Hair opted to cut loose Markus, who had a Kerry-esque talent of using 30 words when 5 would do. He recently put this skill to use on, in which he attempted to rebut his portrayal on the show, episode-by-episode. Somebody prevailed upon him to stop, however, and those pages were pulled. Now his site contains 7 categories, of which 5 are “Coming Soon!”

Markus is not alone here — I found a list of contestant websites, clicked around, and soon found several “coming soon” pages, a whole bunch of Flash, and just generally empty and generic sites. I find that odd. (Well, not the generic part.) The show was filmed months and months ago, so these people had plenty of time to put together Web sites if they wanted to attempt to capitalize on their fleeting fame. Do they seriously expect that anyone will check back in the future for an updated page?

And before anyone claims that as an Internet nerd, I place a higher premium on this than the general public, let me point you to one of Martha’s hopefuls: David Karandish. This guy lists “Search Engine Optimization” and “IT Consulting” as his skills. He actually told Martha that he could greatly improve

So this guy at least must have some clue how to use the Internet, right? Err… not so much. He gets a few points for attempting a blog, but the stock photos? The faith section? The laughably incomplete business section?

I know it’s just a dumb TV show, but seriously: is this the best they could find?