February 26, 2001
The Problem with Professionals: What does being a professional add besides the right to carry a clipboard?
Philosophy without Permission: <rant> Academics who think they can control the conversation are in for a rude awakening.</rant>
Ginger-vitis: Tired of Ginger yet?
Politics and JOHO: Why we talk about Bush.
Something Nice about Bush: Our Treasury Secretary redesigned the Alcoa building real good.
Beating the Bushes: Your Email: Most of you don't like Shrubya for Brains much either.
Walking the Walk: A small but neat idea from eRoom.
Cool Tool : A place to get utilities.
Internetcetera: Sexism in the workplace! No!
Links to Love: A carpal-tunnel of links from you.
Email, Rumors, Quiet Times in Dark Private Places: The usual fabulous email.
Bogus contest: 2x2 hell.
In case you missed the previous email, I've changed mailing list hosts. JOHO's mailings are now handled by Topica. No multiple issues delivered every 6 minutes! But this means the way you subscribe, change your address and unsubscribe is different. You can get the details at www.hyperorg.com/forms/form.html. And you can set some preferences at www.topica.com/lists/joho/prefs.
Also, I have a stack of mail that I didn't have room for in this issue. Yikes.
Don't forget that you can read my book-in-progress at
A seminal conference was held and you missed it! So did I, drat the luck. O'Reilly put on its first Peer-to-Peer conference (in San Francisco) and by and it was, by all accounts, a smash. Big names, hot ideas, revolutionary fervor. P2P has the potential to skirt around some of the Net's disappointments as well as enabling new types of sharing. This is where some of our dreams are migrating. I've posted Graeme Thickens' excellent, long, passionate report at: http://www.hyperorg.com/misc/p2p-thickens.html
1. The Problem with Professionals
Becoming a professional is a class aspiration. Being treated in a professional manner is almost always a good thing. Professionalism is a virtue. Professionals qua professionals do positive things such as live up to their obligations and support a code of ethics. Professionals are reliable, trustworthy and treat other professionals with respect, as well as possibly giving them a serious discount. Professionals know not to eat a hard roll while at lunch with a client. Professionals don't smell. But professionalism is only helpful up to a point. After that, it becomes an obstacle to collaboration, productivity and Building a Better Tomorrow.
The problem with professionalism is that it becomes a class if not actually a cult. Professionals frequently develop a language of their own not only to abbreviate their discussions but also to impress their clients and to exclude others. More subtly, there are rules of behavior and even of dress intended to draw a line between Us and Them Others. The conformity of professionalism is a consequence not of anything important or good about professionalism but of the desire of professionals to appear part of a privileged class. Professionalism can also be an excuse for narrow thinking that makes success more achievable by dumbing down the requirements.
There is another tradition that captures what's good about professionalism without its unnecessary and sometimes insulting characteristics. Craftspeople take as much care about their work as professionals but without the Mont Blanc in their shirt pockets. Craftspeople, by definition, are focused on their work. By "work" I don't mean their careers or their jobs but the work of their hands, the thing they are shaping. Their integrity comes from their commitment to that which is in their hands. Because of this focus, the outer trappings of their "job" become much less important.
Every work of the human hand is unique. The craftsperson understands this.The professional looks for an efficient methodology to apply. There's nothing wrong with a methodology so long as it remains alert to differences as it looks for similarities.
So, imagine that we took all the professionals and reconceived them simply as craftspeople. (This is an exercise in transforming a myth, or, if you prefer, an exercise in poetry). Whatever difference it would make is a clue to what we don't need in professionalism.
2. Philosophy without Permission
Note: The unpleasant tang of anger and bad faith in the following is evidence of my ambivalence about leaving academics 15 years ago. The criticism I'm replying to hurt because it confirmed my own fears. And so, dear reader, with those psychodynamics in mind, you may proceed...
Jean-Paul Sartre once said that we choose our advisors. For example, if you're wondering about premarital sex and you go to your priest for advice, you've pretty well chosen the answer you're going to get. So, even when asking someone else to decide there's just no escaping the awful burden of responsibility for ourselves, or, as my tribe prefers to think of it, guilt.
Thus, I know my own hands are dirty when I tell you that I went to Chris Locke (http://www.rageboy.com/index2.html) for consolation after getting slammed in a way that was particularly hurtful to me. When you call up RageBoy because someone's done you wrong, you're unlikely to come away in a spirit of loving forgiveness. It was RageBoy, after all, who advised Bishop Tutu that the "truth and reconciliation" trials were ok so long as they could hang the bastards afterwards.
Here's what brought me to RageBoy:
A few issues ago, I pointed readers to a long-ish article I'd written called "The New Metaphysics of the Web." The article — an attempt to work out some issues that are important to a book I'm writing — draws a contrast between our traditional metaphysics that understands things in terms of their self-contained limits and the hyperlinked metaphysics of the Web that sees things more in terms their relationships. I use that basic idea to suggest that the Web ultimately is spiritual or transcendent.
I was well aware when writing it that there have been 2,500 years of philosophical thought about metaphysics, and that the container view has been trashed for many decades. And I included a footnote at the beginning that tries to head off some criticism by acknowledging that philosophers have said many of the things I say in this article.
This drew a posting from someone logged in as "grimmelm" on my discussion board. It's long, learned and correct. He produces antecedents for most of the major ideas in my article. For example:
... The criticism of "container metaphysics" is cogent. And it was cogent when Hegel made it two centuries ago...
Martin Buber built up an entire theology by deleting the self and replacing it with relation...Adam Smith, whose entire _Theory of Moral Sentiments_ grounds all moral judgements in our ability to empathize with others. The importance of conversation and sociability to basic humanity? Goes back to Aristotle, at least. The illusion of the "present" which must be understood in connection to the past and the future? Augustine...
Not only do I agree with this, I actually knew most of it already. (The Adam Smith work was news to me.) But what am I supposed to do with this information? What does grimmelm want from me?
This was the question I posed to RageBoy. And I think his answer is basically right:
"He wants you to shut the fuck up."
In other words, only academic philosophers have the right to have this conversation.
I find myself torn. On the one hand, when I taught college philosophy for six years, I argued vigorously for teaching the history of philosophy so that students would understand that their ideas have histories. I still believe that.
On the other hand, I haven't read history of philosophy — or any academic philosophy, actually — since leaving teaching. Oh, I manage to fit an occasional intellectual work in between InformationWeek, The Simpsons and The Girls of KM,, but I really don't know what's going on in the field. So, does that mean I have to shut up?
Absolutely, if I were writing about new advances in academic philosophy. But I'm not. I'm trying to think as best I can about what's remarkable about the Web. And that has to be a possibility even for people off-campus. Otherwise, only academic philosophers will have the right to talk about anything interesting.
This is, in fact, the game academic philosophers play. Whatever the topic, the philosopher's role is to find the unquestioned assumption and raise it, sometimes because the assumption is blocking genuine thought, but usually because it makes the philosopher the smartest person in the room. So, if at some gathering two architects are talking about designing a newel post, an ontologist will subvert the conversation by asking, "But how can you really talk about newel posts without talking about the nature of tools, the way in which we dwell on the earth, not to mention the is-ness of posts and the as-ness of newels? You know, Hegel had some insight here when he talked about..." And now not only is the philosopher in charge of the conversation, but he's the only one entitled to have it. As a lapsed philosopher you can trust me on this.
Grimmelm didn't even do me the service of advancing the conversation by showing how Hegel's thought leads us to new insights about the Web. He didn't suggest ways in which Buber's I-Thou can be fruitfully applied to Web relationships. No, he's just marking his territory by pissing over my writing.
But here's the bad news for grimmelm: our trans-cultural culture now is bursting with amateurs with ideas of every sort, most of whom only know that Hegel rhymes with bagel. These ideas, good and bad, are tossed into the wind without asking anyone's permission. Most are blown to desert regions, but some cause our noses to twitch and we pay attention. And a thousand more voices jump in and say amen, or extend the idea, or get it wrong, or do all of the above and then take it as their own. The ideas take root and bear fruit. Are they right? We'll argue about that forever. The real question is: are these ideas clarifying? edifying? beautiful? funny? terrifying? transforming? (And, yes, I know that this idea itself has a long history.)
I remain a true believer in the importance of understanding that our ideas have histories. Everyone should understand this. Some of us should engage in the full-time pursuit of these histories. Others should study the ways we think and help us to be rational where rationality is called for. We'll lump these folks together and call them "philosophers." And they'll have many interesting conversations amongst themselves. And they may even venture into the public fray of ideas — which has exploded out of the studies and quads — where their contributions will be most welcome insofar as they illuminate and extend and have the bite of passion in them.
But when they instead seek to shut down conversations for being unauthorized, ungrounded or contrary to the tenets of schoolhouse debates, they'll be ignored. Philosophy really doesn't have to be the deliberate pursuit of irrelevance.
[I've gotten so far behind in publishing JOHO that this article that once was au courant is now as moldy as the surprise ending of The Crying Game. Nevertheless, here it is.]
You've heard about Ginger, of course — the secret project of Dean Kamen, inventor extraordinaire, that seems to have something to do with transportation and that some serious, astute folks (Bob Metcalfe, Jeff Bezos) who've seen it think will change the way we live. I'm as clueless about it as the rest of us, although my personal guess is that Ginger stands for Gravity Inversion Generator. I base this on the scientific fact that reversing gravity would be way cool. But whatever Ginger turns out to be — civilization-changing invention or new kitchen appliance — the fact that news about Ginger spread so rapidly tells us, I think, two things.
First, it confirms that the Internet has wrested control of a certain type of information away from the broadcast media. Like broadcast, the Internet reaches millions of people at incredible speeds — not at the speed of light, like TV, but fast enough for stories like Ginger, especially since one reason the Net's particularly suited to this type of story is precisely that it moves at the speed of typing. It's a global network of strings and tin cans that not only gets the word out but lets each of us add our own comment and joke about it. So, if you heard about Ginger through the Internet, it was probably in an email from a friend that not only contained a link to an article elsewhere, but that also had your friend's commentary on it — a guess, a witticism, a sneer. You got a "broadcast" message in the human voice of your friend.
The second thing the Ginger phenomenon teaches us is that we're desperate for a magic bullet. As our technology has gotten deeper, going from figuring out how to use the wind to blow us where we want to decoding the blueprints that make a baby, a little twist of technology can do incredible things — a "tipping" point the way spark on a fuse of a stick of dynamite is a tipping point. For an entire generation, the dominant magic bullet of technology, the single invention that could profoundly change our lives, was the nuclear bomb. Now we increasingly hope and even expect that we'll open the newspaper — or get an email — and read that an inventor has come up with a simple way to solve some deep problem — the hole in the ozone layer, AIDS, the energy crisis. Some guy in a small office in New Hampshire maybe will make our cities livable and get the lame to walk. And the thing is, it could happen. Science is working at such a fundamental level that tomorrow could be substantially unlike today.
Of course, wishing for the magical intervention of science to clean up the messes we've been making can turn us into passive children who feel free to pollute and ravage nature. There's just no guarantee that the magic will happen or that it will happen in time. And so we need to live as if it won't happen. It's irresponsible, it's childish, to live counting on magic. And that's why the brouhaha about Ginger is so telling. The extent to which we yearn for Ginger to be real and to be important is the extent to which we despair about our world.
* * *
For a late-breaking story sweeping portions of the Web at the speed of Ginger, you might want to take a look at the "All your base are belong to us" phenomenon. This phrase is from a ludicrously badly-translated scene from a video game. Some gameheads decided it was hysterically funny and have been posting the phrase everywhere they can, with a good dose of funniness. Although I hesitate to plug Chris Locke again, the most recent issue of his 'zine has a good set of links about this: http://www.topica.com/lists/egr/read/message.html?mid=2001091665
Man, some of you hate the anti-Bush stuff! Some of you hate it so much that you've unsubscribed, including people I've known for a while. For those of you still reading:
Part 1. I Feel Your Pain
Sure, I know that not everyone tends toward the same political direction as I. I know how annoying it would be to read a zine about the Web that I liked enough to subscribe to it only to find it filled with juvenile sniping at political positions and people I support. That's why I confined 98% of the anti-Bush stuff to its own section, put it in the online version only, and provided a link so you could skip over it entirely.
Part 2. The Battle against Objectivity
There's a reason JOHO gets embarrassingly personal at times. There's a reason I talk about sex. There's a reason I try to be good about admitting embarrassing mistakes. There's a reason I remind you I'm a Jew. There's a reason I don't hide my political slant. It's all one reason: objectivity is worse than a myth and worse than a delusion. It's an attempt to control thought by putting it in the hands of the Authorities. Worse still, in pretending that a human can write from a superhuman perspective, it drops out as "inessential" most of what makes life interesting. So, I want to bring to the fore that I am just another asshole, that I see life through my culture and history, that like everyone else there isn't a book I wouldn't snap shut in order to get laid (only my wife need apply). And, I am left-leaning politically. A bleeding-heart liberal. I can't escape any of these things. I'd rather set it out on your plate than pretend it's not flavoring the dish.
Part 3. Screw You.
Hey, it's my frigging zine. I'll write about what I want. Subscriptions are voluntary (unlike the compulsory teaching of The Ten Commandments that Shrub-for-Brains has endorsed).
Well, not exactly about Bush. It's about one of his appointees: Paul O'Neill, Secretary of the Treasury. And it's about his personal politics, not his policy-making politics. (This information comes from an article by Martin Powell in @Issue, vol. 5, no. 2, a publication of the Corporate Design Institute.)
Before O'Neill was CEO of Alcoa, his previous job furnished him with an office so swank that a the Fox movie studio paid $500,000 to use it as a backdrop for "The Secret of My Success." When he got to Alcoa, he got to design his space exactly the way he wanted. So he asked for a 9x9 foot cubicle identical to all the others in the Pittsburgh headquarters. In fact, he gave the former 31-story headquarters to local counties and built a new 6-story building designed to encourage collaboration. He says, "In the old building I would drive into the garage, get on the elevator ... and go upstairs. I'd run into three people on the elevator and that's how many people I saw each day — except for those I had scheduled appointments with." Now, the new building's escalators are faster — by design — than the elevators in order to encourage social interactions. The building has many open spaces, kitchens and cafeterias, and few hallways. Workspaces can be reconfigured in a day. Conference rooms have glass walls. No workstation is more than 45 feet away from 11.5' high windows, perhaps in response to O'Neill's hobby as a watercolorist.
Going forward into the next century, we'll see more employee interdependence. We want an environment that fosters seamless communications across functional and professional specialities. We're moving to a different stage beyond the industrial revolution — and maybe even beyond the information revolution — to one where the blending of people, information, knowledge and skills require more free-form grouping and association than what most architecture provides for.
Pretty damn cool.
But before we get agog with admiration, here's Slate's roundup of the newspapers on Feb. 15:
The NYT goes long inside about the conditions for workers at Alcoa factories in Acuna, Mexico. The reader learns of such details as wages of $6 a day, workers being overcome by gas leaks and limits of three sheets of toilet paper per worker in the company bathrooms. When one of the workers came up to a stockholders meeting in Pittsburgh to relate all this, he was told by the company CEO, "Our plants in Mexico are so clean they can eat off the floor." The CEO? The current treasury secretary Paul O'Neill. The story says that O'Neill later discovered that worker complaints were valid and began to improve conditions at his plants. But even today, says the paper, Alcoa and other companies in Acuna pay such miserable wages and such minimal taxes that half of the town's 150,000 residents use backyard latrines. The Times says the company's Mexico operations are "quite profitable." And that in 1999, O'Neill exercised $33 million in stock options on top of his $3 million salary.
No, I couldn't just leave well enough alone.
You wrote me a lot of mail about the Bush-pounding section of the previous issue. Once again, I'm providing you with a link to skip right over this section if you just don't want to read it. Click here to skip.
People who hate this section
GW is the only governor in the history of Texas to win re-election. Maybe just maybe he actually knows how to lead. While you make small with trite comments regarding "what to call him," many of us look forward to his leadership.
Get over yourself. The reason that half the people voted for him is because they can't stand the insular smugness of the extremist left.
Don't bother replying to Eric. He unsubscribed.
David, David, David, All this caterwauling about Bush is not only unbecoming, it's silly. Your contention is that Bush is illegitimate. We had an interchange a while back on the use of the word legitimate, which stems from the Latin root "to make lawful." I guess you are going to argue about Marbury vs. Madison, huh? And, yes, as the system is constructed, 7 of 9 sitting justices were appointed by Republican Presidents because, over the years, there were Republican Presidents who were in a position to appoint them. So, in a weird, institutional way, the legal system did reflect the longer-term choices of the people.
Electoral college. Well, it's what the rules were when they started the contest. I guess if a football game is lost by one point, you'd want to argue that a field goal "should really count for four points." The reasons we have the electoral college are many and varied. Some of those reasons are related to the same reason that Sacramento is the capital of California, Albany is the capital of New York, and Springfield the capital of Illinois. This is, after all, a union of states. You might not like that, being more interested in a powerful central government than I am, but it remains a fact.
Recounts shmeecounts. The Florida results were hopelessly deadlocked. It was a tie. Examining ballots for dimpled, hanging and pregnant chad with no pre-establish standards is stupid and unfair. And, no, I don't think the Democrat election boards were non-political in how they made decisions about standards. They are party hacks, just like the Republican board members.
Look, neither candidate floated my boat. The only reason I preferred Bush is that Gore's personality offended me slightly more than Bush's...
As for policies. Policies shmolicies. I have such low expectations that the President will do anything about anything that really makes a difference to me except for being a broadcast image with sound bites who generally annoys me for one reason or another.
I don't have contentions (as per the second sentence). All I have is an aggravated nerve. So, I don't disagree with T. about legitimacy in the sense in which he uses it, which is a real sense but not the only one. (If etymology were the only guide to meaning, we'd still be testifying by putting our hands on our testicles.) I have nothing to say about why I consider Bush's presidency illegitimate (but legal) that you don't already know and expect me to say, so I'll skip it. (Really, I'm doing us all a favor.)
[Why I'm actually taking the time to communicate with you] Please get over the election soon. It's just degraded into whining. You are sounding more like a high school chap who didn't get his way, instead of the intelligent thinking and thought provoking adult that you are.
[Example, Only one of many] "Pardon me, Mr. Bush, but they didn't count the ballots and you lost. Aaarrrggghhh." Did you think about that before you wrote it? That's like saying "I'm not sure of the final score, but I *know* my team won." They either counted and someone won, or they didn't count and we DON'T KNOW who won. I'm comfortable if you think the later. Actually I'm comfortable regardless, but I wanted to point out how juvenile it's become.
That's why I segregated the section. Which I will continue to do. Feel free to skip it.
As for my thoughtless comment about Bush having lost, here's a hint about what I had in mind: 500,000 votes.
Juvenile? Absolutely! Whining? Proud of it. Get over it? Sure, in four years, at which point Election 2000 will cause merely a rueful grimace to pass o'er my visage. Until then, I take not getting over it (e.g., not agreeing to a phony bipartisanship) to be a political responsibility.
...don't forget to set your clock back 45 years!
(At this point, seeking _any_ reason to smile :-)
Michael O'Connor Clarke points us to an article in the Globe & Mail about Marvin Olasky, a Christian author profoundly influential on George W. and the coiner of the phrase "compassionate conservatism." The article to which Michael points us is not link-able. So here are some other links:
In your listing of Bush links, I was surprised to not see www.bushneverwonflorida.com. Completely based on documented news articles. And don't forget to check the links to the "advanced practitioner" pages.
Maura "Chip" Yost writes to us about Shrubya's fear of email:
Craig sends us to the ever-popular page with matched pictures of W and a chimp: http://www.bushorchimp.com/. The truth is that this strikes even me as juvenile.
Eric Norlin writes:
can't stop laughing....thought you'd like: http://www.pigdog.org/auto/Ethologist/shortcolumn/1942.html
I like it indeed. For some reason, I found "Jesus, Jesus, Jesus and more Jesus every damn day of the week" particularly risible.
Here are some irresponsible links from me to you:
List of scandals (insider trading, backers tied to fraud):
Bush family ties to drug cartel:
Resources for investigators:
Even-handed article in the Washington Post about whether W's a moron:
(Even the need for such an article makes the point.)
Michael O'Connor Clarke writes about the inaugural address:
...I thought the inaugural speech was vapid, insincere bollocks – but very, very scary bollocks: precisely because it all sounded so impressive and faux-stirring, without actually conveying a single solid piece of useful information beyond “we will cut taxes” (well, bugger me, what a fucking surprise that was)...
But I’ve wandered. My point: what the writers had him say was fluff. What he comes up with when he’s not scripted – there’s the really terrifying material.
Viz: while there’s been a lot of discussion across the ’Net about the speech, I’m amazed there’s been so little commentary on the Barb Walters interview the night before. If you didn’t see the piece, there’s now a transcript and some outtakes posted here:
Please - go read it now before Cheney finds out and has his PR Spooks tear it down... [NOTE: You now have to pay for it -- Ed.]
Here’s a representative quote:
BARBARA WALTERS: Can you tell us briefly your vision for America?
GEORGE W BUSH: My vision for America is that, it says our countries and hope shines brightly for everybody. I’m going speak about it at my inaugural address tomorrow. I’m going to talk about the fact that our nation has got such a wonderful ideal, and yet some — some say it doesn’t belong. This experience doesn’t belong to me. And so the vision is a goal and a—and a clear
Verbatim. Word for fucking brainless word. Almost half of you voted for this. My 3½ year old son speaks more coherently, even when he’s asleep.
... To recreate the effect, you need to imagine that all of Dubya’s parts were written by Pinter. For example, this section:
BARBARA WALTERS Do you consider Russia a friend or a threat? GEORGE W BUSH I don’t know yet. I hope—I hope Russia is a friend.
…actually ran like this:
BARBARA WALTERS Do you consider Russia a friend or a threat? GEORGE W BUSH (pause)…ummmm…(pause. Bites lip, looks away)…I…(pause. Frown.)…I don’t know yet. I hope—I hope Russia is a friend (sheepish grin).
I shit you not...
Long ago, when I lived alone in the UK, I woke up in the dead of night to discover drunken amateur burglars had broken into my house and were stumbling around the living room — pissing on my books, smashing family photos and ripping my stereo out of the wall. Pretty fucking scary moment.
We live in Canada now. Same thing’s happening all over again. On a macro scale. There’s these alcoholic thieves crashing about in the big rooms downstairs, about to make off with all the things I hold precious. Only this time I don’t have a pool cue to hand...
1 week in office, and already Dubya has started making 3 of my 4 worst nightmares come true:
1. Granting embryos conceived in 3rd world countries the right to a full term pregnancy to be followed immediately by a slow, agonizing death from starvation.
2. Trashing the booming economy, since he wisely understands that in an era of small government and state's rights, California's energy problems are California's problem, not ours.
3. Trashing the environment by lifting EPA protection in California after Mr. Greenspan was kind enough to point out that California's energy problems could end the longest running economic expansion in the history of whatever. (Oops. Ok, uh. Just burn coal...yeah, that'll fixit!) This last I believe is also a sign of his true humility in that it demonstrates his willingness to hand over the honor of his home state's having the worst environment in the country to a state that chose his rival. I haven't yet seen any stirrings of life in my 4th worst nightmare; my guess is that he's holding off on accidentally starting world war 2 so that he'll have something to do next week. Sigh. It's going to be a long 4 years. Unless, of course, he gets #4 going.
Unfortunately, I think you're undercounting the nightmares. Permit me to add:
Yearly testing to ensure that our students learn nothing except the state capitals and other memorization feats
English as the official language, along with placing a large burlap sack over the head of the Statue of Liberty
Well-intentioned establishment of the US as a Christian country
Pass me the hemlock when you're done with it.
Grant Green responds to our request for demeaning names for Shrub:
I'm sure you've heard this one, but for the sake of completeness let me be the first to offer:
GB Sr. = "Bush Classic" = "Bush Lite"
Ruven Schwartz writes:
Heard a good one today: his Cabinet members are known as the Yellow Hats, because they're the guys behind Curious George.
Naming the thing is tough and philosophically important to do. During his term of "service" we should concentrate on the one incontrovertible fact about Dubya's new place in our national life - his address, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. He should be "*Resident George W. Bush" which is definitive, really true, and keeps a nice consistency with the silent "P" in coup.
I liked the 'silver spoon in his nose' crack, but Molly Ivins really is right, that aspect of his past shouldn't matter. Wish we were all as nice as Molly.
As for his (alleged) cocaine abuse, yes, it wouldn't matter if he didn't lie about it and if he weren't hang-'em-high when it comes to the drug offenses of others. It also bears on the fact that he lost decades of possible social development to drug abuse; he's a stunted 54-yr-old man-child, as evidenced also by his unresolved issues with Poppy. (No, of course I have no right to get all psychoanalytical on his ass.)
.... maybe I'm reading JOHO too fast, but I don't think anyone mentioned my favorite W moniker (Moniker Lewinsky?), and the one I'll use till a better one comes along: Shrubya
Reading JOHO too fast? There's no such thing.
Bonnie suggests An "Illegitimable" President.
I'm leaning towards "Shrub-for-Brains," as used earlier in this endless issue.
Miscellaneous linguistic analyses
...a friend kindly told me that if you put "dumb motherfucker" as a search term in Google, you get the following: "The George W. Bush for President On-Line Store for Campaign ... Welcome ... 8755. All materials have been sanctioned by Bush for President, Inc." The site itself seems unreasonably pissed off...
Also, from 'Passnote' in Asian Age, an Indian newspaper accompanied by a useful picture dictionary for use by the Prez: "This is India. Very conveniently located. Pakistan to the left and China just above. This is our prime minister. He is the head of government. The boss. His name is Atal Behari Vajpayee. This is ganja. You don't remember smoking it."
But it seems fairest to give the man enough rope to hang himself: "I mean, there needs to be a wholesale effort against racial profiling, which is illiterate children." (Second presidential debate, Oct 11, 2000)
"If it's a palindrome, it must be true: DUBYA WON? NO WAY, BUD!"
Is Gore a charismatic candidate? "RE:
Gore. Not one. Roger."
What did Bush say when he called Dad to tell him that he'd just bombed Baghdad but nothing had changed? "Pop, mad dastard! Drat Saddam, Pop!"
Mini-Bogus Contest: You know I love palindromes. Feed my habit.
Nick Usborne, master marketer, responds to our request for embarrassingly dumb domain names we took in order to support embarrassingly dumb business ideas:
I own FuzzyPorn.com.
I was inspired to buy it when one of my teenage sons admitted that he sometimes sat up at night, watching the unscrambled soft porn channel on cable TV. He told me that if you wait long enough, the fuzziness will sometimes part, allowing you a brief glimpse of some naughtiness. My guess is that several million Americans, of all ages, sexes and denominations have done the same at one time or another.
The FuzzyPorn.com homepage:
Left side: "Send a FuzzyPorn-O-Gram to someone you love (or love to shock)" This is the viral thing.
Center: a small screen with live (or almost live) feed from fuzzy porn channel. Sit and watch and wait for the naughty bits.
Right side: Affiliate links. "If you're sitting here watching fuzzy porn it's time you got a life and...read a book, purchased a vacation, bought some hiking boots.
Fuzzy porn for the hook. FuzzyPorn-O-Grams for publicity. The affiliate thing for revenue.
Great idea. Complete waste of time. All offers considered.
I'm with you all the way to the part where you say it's a great idea. I mean, if I want to watch fuzzy porn, all I have to do is squint.
Middle World ResourcesA Compendium of Resources
Walking the Walk
At eRoom, a company that makes software for "digital workplaces" (i.e., intranet sites with collaborative tools), new employees get $50 to spend. The two rules are that what they buy has to improve the common good, and it can't be illegal. So, they might buy a toaster oven for the office kitchenette or a picture of Britney Spears to hang in a meeting room, but they can't buy a BBQ grill for the patio (because of fire regulations) or a bong (because sharing a bong is unsanitary). Jeffrey Beir, the CEO, says that as the company's gotten bigger, this freebie has gotten less important because $50 just doesn't make as much of a difference any more. Still, it's a splendid idea.
Cool Tool For the Hyperlinked Organization
Surely everyone must know about www.tweakfiles.com by now. But just in case...
Here's a directory of shareware and freeware utilities that range from the useful to the essential. This site is very nicely organized and presents the essential information about each utility, including not only the size and requirements, but the number of times it's been downloaded and what its limitations are. There's also an associated discussion board if you have technical questions that are begging for some support from your future best friends.
Techies.com surveyed over 106,000 technology workers and discovered — sit down! — that women on average earn less than men! According to a report in PC Magazine (March 6), The difference in average pay is 12 cents on the dollar, compared with the national cross-industry average of 25 cents. So, now, as always, the question is how far back in the chain the sexism goes. Are women's jobs lower-paying because of educational inequalities? Are fewer tending towards education in the sciences and engineering because of parental expectations? Etc. This study gives us a hint since men and women earned the same in the survey for their first five years of employment. The gap opens up as they go up the experience tree. You mean it might actually be due to management sexism? Could it be??
By the way, in a separate study reported on the techies.com site:
The software development business topped the base salary list, according to the techies we surveyed; they reported an average base salary of about $64,800 in 2000. That was more than $18,000 higher than the tech workers in the lowest-paid industry surveyed, education/training.
Ah, education at the bottom of our societal priorities again. Excellent!
b!X (is it a name or is it a typo?) sends us to:
Not quite a -conversation-, per se, but a nifty example of tossing your message to people who are fairly resistant to wanting to hear you.
When the World Economic Forum met in Davos, Switzerland in January, a laser beamed messages onto a mountainside within eyeshot. You could submit any message you wanted, although they were screened for bad language, personal insults, and commercials. (Jeez, what's left?) Surprisingly, this was a project not of some lefty anti-globalization group but the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation.
Unfortunately, the discussion board that archives the messages has been spammed by "Frederick" who replies to every English-language message with a link to the World Economic Forum site, complete with a page on how to defuse the anti-globalization movement.
James Montgomery points out a short article about
... the power of people & storytelling in the workplace...
Cutting Edge: Wag Your Tale If the anecdotes you hear are better indicators of your success and ideals than the facts and figures, you have the makings of a storied business.
James also writes:
...the BBC wants to block domestic users from accessing its forthcoming international news site (and vice-versa: no international access to domestic content). Thoughts?
Thoughts? I hope they fail. Publicly. Loudly.
New subscriber Michael Brooks hits the ground running by suggesting a link on his freaking subscription form:
I think you might enjoy "The Register" (another site I enjoy) - www.theregister.co.uk, which takes a somewhat jaded and cynical look at all things technological.
Tons of articles and resources. Just what we need: more to read.
Greg "Linux Man" Cavanagh has a suggestion:
This site covers science and industrial news about linux growth. It also gives abstract-like overviews for quick reading: http://www.eltoday.com
Greg has found another site also: http://www.researchindex.com/, also known as the ultra-clever name "CiteSeer." It's an open-source-y directory of scientific articles, ordered by the number of citations. It lets you submit articles and even uses nothing but the power of a stern warning to prevent you from maliciously "correcting" the citation information about any article. (Hey, suddenly I'm a co-author of some works on plasma physics!) The software is freely available to other noncommercial sites.
Andrew Hinton, knowing my fondness for Quake, tells us of a peacetime use of the game:
some of the text: "The grisly blow-em-away computer game Quake II has been modified to allow architects' clients to "run around" virtual buildings - without the guns and monsters.
The idea was to let the people who were going to use the building see and comment on the arrangement of space within it, and learn how it would function."
It would have hurt to put bloodthirsty, armed monsters into the house? Wussies!
Dean Landsman has a weblog that I like: http://DeanLand.weblogs.com. In fact he has a second one but it's about baseball so we don't care: http://DeanOnBaseball.weblogs.com. (Doc Searls also has a great weblog — at http://doc.weblogs.com/ — but we already plugged his.)
Madanmohan Rao keeps us up to date with his prodigious output (we're referring to his writing, you dirty minded bastards and bastettes):
A warm hello again from Bangalore! ... An article I wrote based on the recent e-government summit in Madras appears in the Economic Times newspaper and Electronic Markets magazine this week: http://www.economictimes.com/today/28netw01.htm ... I also wrote up another recent piece on a survey of the Internet user base in India conducted by market research firm MBL India: http://www.brinjal.com/madan/survey.htm
The survey indicates that there are about 3.9 million Internet users in India, 85% concentrated in the eight largest cities. The survey company expects the number to grow to 5M by July, 2001. In addition, 90% of users now report they use the Internet for personal purposes, up from 65% last year. In addition, 25% report that last year they didn't count browsing for porn as a "personal purpose."
By the way, the site that published the second article mentioned is a zine about the startup industry in Asia: http://www.brinjal.com/
Chris Macrae points us to http://www.virtualtourist.com.
...Over 100,000 people talk there , and some of the ways it has of putting people in touch who share interests in similar parts of the world are brilliantly simple in my view
Reviews, tips, reviews of reviews and tips, tips about reviewing reviews of tips — this is a really helpful site for finding out what other travelers liked and didn't like about where they've been.
David Wolfe apparently thinks I still read books. With regard to a discussion of consciousness he recommends:
"The Feeling of What Happens" by Antonio Damasio provides clinical support for your view of the origins of consciousness and self-awareness, as I understand it. Damasio, head neurologist at U. of Iowa, says conscious is not self-started in the brain, but depends on external stimuli. Consciousness involves the construction in the brain of three maps — the map of one's self, the map of the external world (and a specific object of event), and a map of the relationship between self and the external world and the objects and events in it. This is, in my judgment, a brilliant follow on to Damasio's earlier "Descartes' Error" in which he presents a new body of theory about the interactive roles of emotion and reason on human perceiving, thinking and decision making. His work involves studies of Mr. Spock-like patients who have lost their emotional capacities. They posses unalloyed pure reason — and can't make decisions. Fascinating.
"Phantoms in the Brain" by V. S, Ramachandron provides an impressive array of brain patient histories in support of the ancient Eastern idea that all reality is illusion — not that that was the point of this remarkable book. But it does relate to the consciousness discussion in an intriguing way, specifically that we take to be real what registers in our consciousness when in fact it is only a sensation that may represent nothing real.
You don't have to head East to get to the idea that reality is an illusion. The empiricists have laid the groundwork for this by convincing us that we don't see the world, we see perceptions of the world. All it takes is a flick of the knife to cut the umbilical cord to reality. Thus, empiricism leads to idealism, as Hegel smirks in that insufferable way of his.
Merry Sue Willis, apparently also has failed to break the nasty habit of reading. Sue is author of a several highly-regarded novels as well as a bunch o' books about teaching writing. She's started an occasional newsletter recommending a book or two. You can sign up for it here: http://www.topica.com/lists/Readerbooks.
Ian Campbell thinks JOHO readers would enjoy his report on the year 2000 at www.nucleusresearch.com/research/a28.pdf. It's a bouncy, short thing that seems essentially right to me.
Even David Miller, book agent extraordinaire, doesn't know why he's sending us here:
"The Stinky Artists' Collective is dedicated to promulgating and supporting the work of artists and writers who are truly stinky." And it succeeds all too well.
In a similar vein, Chris Locke sends us to http://www.sweetfancymoses.com, self-described as "an online journal of wit" that "speaks loudly and longs for you to talk back." The fact that Chris has written for it may be taken as an endorsement or condemnation. Your choice.
Mike O'Dell, the mother of all infrastructure knowledge, squanders it on:
the mugs and t-shirts are ab fab
This is a lot like www.despair.com, the folks making marketing hay out of having trademarked the frownie emoticon: :-(
Jamie Popkin recommends a phone call:
National Discount Brokers 1. Dial 1-800-888-3999 (it's free) 2. LISTEN to all of the options 3. after hearing #7, hit 7
Spoiler ahead: They play the sound of a duck. For no good reason.
Chris Pirillo's Lockergnome zine has unearthed two genuinely odd sites. At http://artists.mp3s.com/artists/37/three_dead_trolls_in_a_bag.html you'll find an MP3 of the pop smash "Every OS Sucks." And at http://www.explodingdog.com/ the site owner draws pictures of phrases that readers send him. Random and not very talented, and all the more delightful for it. Lockergnome is a daily grabbag of tips and links, infused with Chris's personality: http://www.lockergnome.com.
Marina Streznewski has unearthed a disturbing site. The URL should have warned us: http://www.ouchytheclown.com/meet.htm. Warning: Ouchy seems to be for real and some of the photos on other pages on his site are, um, rather clinical.
Who Wants to Stay a Millionaire?
Jeremy Griggs responds to our request for organizations that will do better things with your money than spending it on stuff you don't need:
... you might want to check out Sleeping Children Around the World at http://www.scaw.org/home.htm.
This Christmas my wife and I started giving to charity in the names of our adult relatives rather than buying material gifts for them. My wife heard about this registered Canadian charity from a friend. We chose it as our Christmas charity because it targets children in need, operates worldwide and is 100% volunteer run (i.e., no admin costs). We also strongly agree with the founder's philosophy that "the comfort of a bed is a basic right of every child and that there is nothing more peaceful than a sleeping child".
And have we heard from you yet? I didn't think so.
Carol Anne Ogdin is unhappy with the previous issue that railed on Lotus for offering nothing new at Lotusphere, for pooh-poohing peer-to-peer and for being ignored in a new groupware-ish/KM-ish offering from IBM Global Services (http://www.hyperorg.com/backissues/joho-jan19-01.html#lotus):
I am not amused by your ignorant rantings about Lotus in this issue of JOHO.
David, I was AT Lotusphere...where were you? By fantasizing meanings into interviews, fabricating things you cannot know (like, "What did Al Zollar really mean?"), and quoting selectively from a single source, you exhibit the worst of Yellow Journalism. It incites people, makes them angry, and moves ink, but it doesn't inform. A lot more heat than light.
Lotus Notes is now productively and actively used by 70 Million users. The IBM portal offering you cite does nothing for those customers. Your comparison of IGS' offering to Lotus' is like telling people that a company is selling an ox-drawn wagon that will eliminate automobiles. Didn't happen then, won't happen now.
Is Lotus flawless? No. Is Al Zollar a managerial "suit?" You bet, and his language is always guarded. Does that make your synthetic fabrications evidence-based? Hell, No!
You're capable of better than that. If you'd like to talk about what Lotus is doing, and where it's going (and some of what their REAL problems are), you might want to give me a call. I've been working with them (and competitors) in this industry since 1993 ('tho my computer experience goes back to '57), Lotus is a client of mine, so I see a lot from the inside, and major Lotus customers like DuPont, Amoco, Kaiser, among others, are strategic clients of mine, so I see Lotus from the outside as well.
Maybe you'd like facts instead of innuendo. Then again, maybe not, eh?
I'm glad you appreciate that it's a tough choice. But I'm going to have to go with innuendo.
As for the "70M users," this is marketing bushwa. I am quite sure that IBM has granted 70M licenses for use of Lotus's email capabilities, but the idea that there are 70M people using Lotus Notes as groupware is patently absurd. Find me a single reliable, knowledgeable source (well, that leaves me out) who claims otherwise and I will feel bad for about 45 seconds.
Rebecca Wettemann responds to the Lotus article quite differently.
... I thought you might be interested in seeing the Nucleus piece on Lotusphere: http://www.nucleusresearch.com/research/a28.pdf
Nuclear Research is a consulting group founded by Ian Campbell (cited elsewhere in this issue). The report comes to basically the same conclusions as I did. So there.
Robert Harmon responds to a column of mine that hasn't run in JOHO about why email sucks as a medium for criticism.
...criticism is a type of communication and it assumes a relationship of some type. The problem with most criticism isn't in what it contains but that one or both people forget the relationship and focus on the negativity towards themselves. How the criticism affects the relationship is the all important objective and depends to a large extent on the maturity and self control of both parties with either party capable of being a weak link. ...
I will also include one of my biggest blunders for your consideration... One time I wrote a less than complimentary comment to someone and copied it to a third party. The copy was sent for informational purposes only, however; I think you can imagine the implications. Although my intentions were perfectly innocent they caused a lot of grief....
That's your most embarrassing email story? Jeez, I do worse than that in every third message.
Mini-Bogus Contest: Share your most embarrassing business email stories.
Kevin Johansen sends us the following:
From the Feb. '01 issue of Discover Magazine, pg. 20:
"...no one can control nanotubes with nearly the finesse required for complex circuits. One possible approach is to attach chemical tags at desired locations on the tubes, a process called selective functionalization. These tags would repel or attract and attach a menagerie of tiny electronic wires and semi conducting rods. Under the inexorable logic of chemistry, the parts would assemble into networks of diodes and transistors. Self assembly is crucial because it would be impractical to build multimillion molecule circuits by physically joining minute carbon tubes into precise architectures.
Metaphorically, at the 'carbon' level with the right 'chemical tags' in place, aren't markets self assembling?
Just something fun to play with...
Ah, is the explanation of any sufficiently advanced technology indistinguishable from poetry?
Ian Campbell, oft-mentioned in this issue, tells us belatedly about his experience waiting for the "real" millennium to start:
I spent the evening with a flashlight in hand waiting for the lights to go out (this year for sure!) but no luck. I actually have a friend here in Wellesley who purchased a generator for his house last year. He's retired and during this past year we gave him no end of grief about the money he spent on it. In all fairness at New Years I did point out to everyone that his generator (still in pristine condition) was worth more used than my Microsoft stock.
Especially in California. Did I ever tell you about the time I was working for Open Text which at the time was the search engine behind Yahoo? Our hardware was located in California which underwent a blackout for a couple of days. Our folks bought a generator and went back online. For two days we were metering queries-per-gallon.
Gaspar Torriero is upset that eBay is blocking access to some of its auctions simply because he is dialing in from Italy.
...when trying to view item 543238171, (manual for a 1933 italian floatplane), I got the following message instead:
Dear User: Unfortunately, access to this particular category or item has been blocked due to legal restrictions in your home country.... Regrettably, in some cases this policy may prevent users from accessing items that do not violate the law. At this time, we are working on less restrictive alternatives...
Legal restrictions in my home country? What is this? Ionesco? I could not believe my eyes...
Also, a proposal for a bogus contest: where this page can be seen, and where it cannot? your international readers may want to try...
In a second message, Gaspar elaborates:
... the only explanation I can think of is that the item falls under the "politically non correct" category, being a military manual of the Fascist epoch (of course, trading of such memorabilia is absolutely no criminal offense here in Italy).
To check this, this morning I searched ebay for "Mussolini" and sure enough, many items where blocked: but not consistently. An "early Benito Mussolini pamphlet" could be viewed, such as the VHS "Mussolini and I". ... Then searched for "Hitler" alone: most items could not be viewed, including a "Fred Allen Anti-Hitler Radio Script", while a book by Robert Harris "Selling Hitler" could be viewed. Then, for the fun of it, I searched also some other dictators, like Pol Pot and Stalin: checked only a few random hits but had no blocks.
Finally, went to Yahoo.auctions, searched for Hitler, had no problem at all.
What to think about all this? I can understand ebay refusing to list offensive items, but arbitrarily blocking by country? In Italy we say that "the mother of the morons is always pregnant".
Yes, we all know that keeping neo-fascists from their Hitler memorabilia has been proven to be the single most effective way to eliminate hatred in our world. Imagine if eBay failed to block these sales: "Now that I've secured Hitler's mustache comb I can begin my plan for world domination! Bwahahaha!"
BTW, the last line of Gaspar's message is LOL, in my book.
Michael "Philosopher of Cyberspace" Heim weighs in with a solution to a problem that I know so many of you face: How to read JOHO on your Palm Pilot.
The iSilo software (freeware version) does this nicely in a few steps. http://www.isilo.com/
You first save the HTML page to your desktop, then convert it using iSiloWeb, then hotsync and open page with the iSilo on the Palm.
Results in a highly readable JOHO!
I'm surprised at the speed with which we can solve technical problems using the Web. Then there are those other problems....
Next up: Michael tells us how to inscribe the Cluetrain Manifesto onto a grain of rice!
Dana Parker responds to our whining about boot times with her own tale of woe:
I installed Win2K almost a year ago, a gift, I mean an evaluation copy from a friend who formerly worked at MS. It was more stable, but it was r e a l l y s l o w on my 333 MHZ machine. I also lost the ability to view DVDs, since many add-in card manufacturers did not (and still do not) treat W2K as a valid operating system - hence, no drivers for my MPEG 2 decoder card. Thus, the DVD Diva was forced to admit she could not play DVDs (and not coincidentally got some good column fodder from it - see http://www.emedialive.com/EM2000/standard7.html and http://www.emedialive.com/EM1999/standard8.html).
A few months ago I bit the bullet and bought a new case, 750 MHZ processor, 128 megs of RAM, and a new video card, which brought my system up to the power I needed to do software MPEG decoding, and made it fast enough to run W2K pretty well.
I was showing off my new screamer of a system to someone, who asked what I used all that speed for, besides playing DVDs occasionally. I really had to think about this one. Best I could come with was that when W2K performance gets flaky and I have to do the inevitable restart (from twice a day to every other day) the system reboots really fast. Meanwhile, I unplug and replug my DSL cable, just for good measure.
What have we come to, when one must spend upwards of $2000 simply to acquire hardware that allows one to recover more quickly from a poorly designed, unreliable operating system (that costs over $300)? I got W2K so I could play DVDs, then I had to go out and buy HW in order to run W2K.
Meanwhile, the spousal unit installed W2K and it still wasn't good enough for him, so he went out and bought Windows ME. Backed up his stuff to the D drive and installed ME on C, and lost EVERYTHING. Completely hosed, he can't even boot, can't access D. So he went out and bought a brand new Sony VAIO with the flat-screen display.
Unless the Vaio is running Linux, didn't your spouse just do the equivalent of buying a new car because he got tired of getting lost while driving? (Ok, ok, so you said the D drive was totally hosed.)
Eric Norlin writes with the type of practical suggestion too few of you come up with:
the growing competition between you and RB [RageBoy] spurs me to think that maybe a celebrity deathmatch is in order. I'm volunteering to ref.....no steel cages or anything.....
Yeah, well, I wouldn't sully the ring with the likes of RB's splattered remains.
The Administrator at www.kone.com is a particularly inarticulate robot. I received the following:
************* eManager Notification **************
Your mail has been blocked as it contains sexually discrimatory [sic] language
******************* End of message *******************
Don't leave me guessing! I try hard to avoid sexual "discrimation," and I've been over and over that issue of JOHO but I'm not sure which words upset Administrator. Here are my best guesses:
Faggot serial killers
Killing my mum
Blow your coat
Or did I use the word "Bush" too often? Please, Administrator, give us a clue.
We all know that the secret to success is to produce a 2x2 matrix that positions your company in the upper right. Get that right and you're millionaires. Get it wrong and you might as well write your business plan by hand with little hearts dotting every "i".
Oh, it's easy enough to write the 2x2 if your company does something glamorous. But suppose your company is on the seamier side of life? What will your 2x2's look like then? Perhaps a bit like this:
Come up with your own. Amuse us all.
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