The Leader Guy

by hulk

You’ve probably heard about the rampant inflation in Zimbabwe. Inflation is at some ridiculously percentage. Let’s say it’s 2,000%. Does it really matter if this figure is accurate? Anyway, there is about $250k being spent on President Mugabe’s 84th birthday party.

1. Ridiculous inflation
2. President has giant birthday party

You probably see what’s wrong with this picture. People are struggling, really struggling, to buy simple food staples in that country. Hell if it happened here, there would be investigations. On that note, something is finally happening on executive compensation, a few CEO’s and compensation committee heads from some bank companies are being called to testify before congress. Maybe it’ll be like the Clemens hearings, and we’ll have it turn into a partisan issue.


Why do humans continually tolerate this type of behavior? Why do we form groups in which the leader is granted perks above the rest of the group? Why is it that these perks are often disproportionately extravagant compared to the perks the rest of the group enjoys? A few examples:

Our President can fuck up royally, making poor decisions. The only consequence is losing the re-election. In the second term, there are no consequences. While some presidents have received intense scrutiny for more personal activities (Watergate, Lewinsky, Andrew Johnson for being southern) no president has been subject to oversight or post-presidential criminal charges. Of course this brings up the separate issue of: What are the penalties for a poor decision made in good faith? Further, is it even possible for a leader to continually make good decisions? Is it possible that you could take a monkey, lay the reasonable options on a table, and have the monkey pick one, and you either do or do not get quick FEMA aid to New Orleans?

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Cell Phones are Evil, or: I don’t like my digital leash

by hulk

I wanted to write this about other people and how they use their cellphones. How it’s evil, and wrong, to have instant communication at our fingertips. We don’t need instant communication, etc. I wanted to rant and rave about those I’ve seen and friends of mine who use their cellphones and… then I remembered walking into a room the other day to return a loaner laptop, and I call someone on my cellphone – right before walking into the room. I ask the person on the phone to hold on, transact my business of returning the laptop and signing, and start my conversation with the person on the phone.

Why did I do this? Why didn’t either party stop me and say “You’re being rude”? Why is it that when a cellphone rings and I’m out somewhere with someone, I pick it up and say, “I’m at the mall with so and so. Lemme call you back later?”. Why do I have this ringing buzzing constant-communication device which causes me to be rude to others, to sit in a car ignoring a passenger while carrying on a conversation on a cell phone? To make it more perplexing, I would argue that a cellphone is more likely to be answered than a home phone. If you’re entertaining a guest, wouldn’t you just let the machine get it? Yet a cellphone has voicemail and we answer it anyway. Hi, I can’t talk right now, I’ll call you back. Or, oh hey, yeah I’ve got just a minute (minute being defined as however long we feel comfortable ignoring the other person).

What is it that we so urgently discuss on cellphones?

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The world is going to Hell, or: Intellectual Dishonesty

by hulk

Through me pass into the Painful City,

Through me pass into Eternal Grief,

Through me pass along the Lost People.

-Commedia, Inferno, Canto III

I’ve probably lost some of you. Translation:

Tonight! At 11! Could YOU be the victim of a Terrorist attack! Also, is air travel safe enough for you and your family? Stay tuned!

The abundance of news has brought a terrible ill unto the world: Information. It’s entirely possible that ignorance is not only bliss, it is wise. I think of the interview Barbara Walters did with the Dalai Llama and asked him how in the world he can be happy with “all that’s going on”. I could say that we exist in a state of information paralysis, but that would be forcing a metaphor. I think more accurately I take umbrage at the intellectual dishonesty that is making an analysis of complex issues. You take umbrage at me using the word umbrage, I’m sure because I’m using it incorrectly.

I’m sure you’ve heard “The world is going to Hell” or one of its cousins, such as “I don’t know what the world is coming to” or, “Things are getting worse”. You may have heard these words coming out of your own mouth. I happen to believe that you’re right, its just your reasoning thats wrong.

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Whiny Canuckistanis, or: You only know that because someone told you

by hulk

Let me start by clearing the air. I reject the following things as false:

1. Canada is its own country

2. Canadians deserve to eat big hamburgers like us Americans

3. Those drawings of embryos we saw in biology class were true and proof of evolution

4. That scientists were able to recreate early earth conditions in a laboratory and create precursors to life

5. That the fossil record supports evolution

6. Punctuated equilibrium, or: Circular logic (Since the fossil record doesn’t show intermediaries, they must appear quickly and then disappear. That proves evolution. Therefore these intermediaries show up quickly and then disappear and that’s why they’re not in the fossil record)

7. Survivial of the fittest (The eugenists had it right-if you eliminate the inferior genes from the human population, you will create a genetically superior race. A theory finding new support today as people tie abortion + early detection of genetic abnormalities in the womb. The status quo is that uneducated people reproduce more. I can’t wait for the flames.)

8. If you don’t support evolution you must believe in God, and that makes you a weirdo.

All of these things are false. How do I know? I was told. By Ann Coulter. BTW Ann, my offer’s still open. I will brush your cat any day.

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Scientific Inaccuracy, Or: This is not another anti-global warming rant.

by hulk

I swear. I’ll shut up about global warming. That rant has been made, more than once by me if memory serves, you can find the rant and comment there. Here’s what’s pissing me off today: the phrase “long overdue”. Can you use a colon and then quote something? Is that appropriate from a literary perspective? Can I deviate from the topic like this? I need an independent editor, not like redshift who feels the need to make up rules about parantheses. I honestly think he’s just lying. Why can’t (I) d(o) this()()((((()((()(()()))())()()))))?()

Anyway. The phrase “long overdue”. Here’s my problem. While radiological dating is pretty reliable, it’s not exceedingly accurate. I also believe, and please feel free to correct me if I’m wrong, that the error increases as you go out. Such that the predictions that something happened 400,000,000,000 years ago, and the prediction that something happened 30,000 years ago, do not have the same error. I’m guessing that 400 googly years ago number has a error of oh, say, 30 brews of coffee (a widely accepted unit of time), whereas the 30,000 year number has an error of maybe 0.5 batches of chocolate chip cookies. I’m sorry, I’m using two different units, and you canadian readers (assuming I didn’t piss all of you off with my asian rant) are confused what with your metric thing. 0.5 batches of chocolate chip cookies = 3 brews of coffee = 8 minutes. That should clear things up.

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You are what the media says you are, Or: An interesting psychology experiment

by hulk

Who else has been waiting for the day? It’s finally here, my friends. Congressman Nick Ranhall, Senator Jay Rockefeller, and West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin are all calling for greater mine safety. Holy crap! Mines are dangerous! Everyone! I promise that as your elected leader I will make mines safer!

Sigh. I typed into google “ranking of dangerous occupations” and came across an article that listed mining as the fifth most dangerous occupation in the US. First is logging, second is fishermen, third is airline pilots, and fourth is structural metal workers. I’m assuming the whole thing is based on number of deaths per person in that occupation. Not even cops and firemen made the top five… and cops and firemen are heroes… who wants to place bets that miners will be labeled heroes by at least one TV commentator or politician in the upcoming elections this year? Maybe someone can say something fun like, “if we don’t take care of our brave miners, the terrorists win.”

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Dear Credit Card Companies, Or: More Debt, Please

by hulk

Dear Credit Card Companies,

Thank you all for your generous offers this Christmas season. From one of you, I received a card informing me of all the savings I could have – if only I spent more with my credit card. From another of you, I received an offer for this miraculous checking account tied to my credit card where I get free money that is actually credit I will be *charged interest on*. Of the three of you I hear from most, the remaining member of your group sends me offers monthly for a card. I’ve also been offered travel insurance and even a sort of life-event insurance – if something bad happens to me, I get lots of money. All I have to do is pay now.

I must respectfully decline your offers of imaginary money. I must point to three things. First, the number of us in the country declaring bankruptcy has risen signficantly. Second, the laws for declaring bankruptcy have been changed to make it more likely that someone will have to pay their debts. Third, generalizations lead me to believe that there is simply too much stuff to buy today, and in order to sustain a lifestyle we neither can afford nor should try to, more of us are going into debt. For many of us, all it would take is the loss of our job, even for a short period of time, to drive us into four-to-five-figure debt with interest rates in the double digits. Finally, this is precisely where you want us to be.

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Finest Hour, Or: The Matrix is a system of control

by hulk

You know if we ever were to open Halffull up to the flames of the internet we’d be subject to constant criticisms about little things we say, such as me using a matrix phrase. There’d be a 60-comment long thread beneath this post just based on the title and the thread would become complex enough to have intelligence and would take over my computer, launch all of the nukes in the continental US and then say, “I’m sorry Dave”. Thank goodness we make people register to post comments.

Moving on to my rant. While speaking recently Dan Rather remarked that Hurricane Katrina was one of news’s finest hours, comparable to the news coverage of Watergate and the investigative journalism that went on there.

Let me at least try to understand his viewpoint. Yes, there were plenty of journalists. Yes, they were climbing over each other to see who could get in harm’s way the most. Yes, some stayed in miserable conditions. But the finest coverage ever? Maybe including field journalists in with anchors isn’t fair. The anchor coverage has been terrible. It’s been terrible for a while. We have to turn to the specialty shows to get anything approaching coverage, such as Greta Van Susteren, or that woman with the short hair on CNN. Even Bill O’Reilly or Hannity and Colmes or Hardball are piss-poor coverage of events. Why do I say this? You’re right, I should be more specific.

I want them to earn their salaries. Read the rest of this entry »

Accomodating Ambition, Or: Six Sigma

by hulk

I now understand the frustration of people who say “Six Sigma is nothing but another fad”. It has become one, at my company. I hear people talk about older systems they used and they reminisce. The ones who actually understand Six Sigma reminisce. I also understand those who say Six Sigma is not a fad. It is a robust methodology full of useful tools. It is not magic. You are not permitted to turn off your brain and blindly follow the methodology. You should certainly not set up an entire department of bureacrats who compete with each other to set standards and rules for how one can be given a Six Sigma belt and which projects are considered Six Sigma and how people should be taught Six Sigma and just how they’re allowed to use Six Sigma.

Six Sigma is a toolbox. It comes with a helpful booklet in your toolbox that says, for building a proper project, use your pencil followed by your ruler followed by your screwdriver followed by your pencil followed by some spackel. It doesn’t always apply, but it usually applies. However, it was never meant to come with the following restrictions: You cannot move through a tollgate until you identify these six meaningless roles for your project and you fill out this type of tool and you then get approval to move to the next phase where you can only take a month – no more, no less, and you must fill out this tool followed by that tool followed by another tool, and when you’re all done, spend your time totaling up the savings to the company so I can tout it as my accomplishment when I talk to my boss. That’s right, I’m the one in charge, so your accomplishments count as mine. By the way, I’ll change all the rules next week.

Allow me to give some real life examples. I’m currently working on a belt. The rules for certification have changed three times in the past month; all major changes. All changes involve more paperwork. I’ve also been told to fill out useless tools after the fact (meaning the tool would only have potential use earlier in the project). At least twice I’ve been asked to fill out tools well past the point where they would have been useful. Why? The first time for a presentation, the second for certification. I should also mention that the program is being run by people who don’t even have full knowledge or grasp of the tools. The most important things to know with a Six Sigma tool are that these tools were around long before Six Sigma, and they require a lot of thought before being used.

Allow me to transfer back to the metaphor of the toolbox. Would it help if, while building a house, you ran around smacking the hammer into every piece of wood you saw? Then maybe you whacked some windows with the hammer for good measure? Obviously the example is ridiculous. Yet straight-faced people who earn much, much more than me have taught me that tools should simply be used without thought to their application or even questioning the reason for using it. I’ve taken training in Six Sigma and Design for Six Sigma and ironically at the end of both training sessions I was told only to use the appropriate tool when needed. Then why do you turn around and demand that these tools be used? Wouldn’t it make sense to leave it up to the discretion of the project team as to whether or not they use a tool? Granted, they need significant training in Six Sigma to understand that some of these tools can be very, very useful. However you should not demand that I perform a designed experiment as a part of my project!

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Employee Appreciation, Or: Happy Peasantry Day!

by hulk

So I got appreciated today. I wish it never happened. We were all sat down in the conference room to listen to a six minute taped message from my boss’s boss’s boss’s boss’s boss. The main points of his message?

1. We need to save money
2. We need to get new customers
3. You all need to appreciate each other more
4. We can only accomplish our goals if you all work together
5. This company is really about you

I would’ve burst out laughing if my boss weren’t right there. Ironically, earlier in the day I had mentioned the movie “In Good Company” to some co-workers because of the scene where Dennis Quaid questions the CEO on the nonsensical phrases and buzzwords and meaningless entreaties in his speech. Something about synergy, I don’t remember the CEO’s speech exactly. My boss sidled right up to my side and I didn’t want to be obvious so I finished what I was saying about the movie. Then I get a pretty similar speech from the boss’s boss’s boss’s boss’s boss. Now you might be thinking, “Yes, but you’re just a cynical employee. You’d never be happy.”

You may be right. I could name a few things that would make me happy. Perhaps a speech with this message:

1. Here are my major priorities
2. Here is how I will find solutions to these priorities
3. Here is where you fit in to that (followed by some division-wide examples)
4. No meaningless slogans!

W. Edwards Deming devotes quite a bit of attention in his book “Out of the Crisis” to meaningless slogans. If you’re a manager, take heed, because Deming was part of the team that taught Japan all it knew. Deming was a genius of industry who could solve all sorts of industrial problems on a high level. He knew that meaningless slogans simply made the worker more frustrated. They would feel that they should attain the goal referred to by the slogan but would find it impossible to do so from their level and would thus feel frustrated. Examples? “You make a safe workplace” or “We drive customer quality” or “Aspire to improve revenue” or “Only you can prevent forest fires”.

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