Archive for November, 2004

The headline at reads “Deadly November”. Something about 135 soldiers being killed in Iraq this month….the most since the beginning of the war.

I am sure that is true. However, about 6,500 (not 135) died on D-Day (not month) on the beaches of Normandy in 1945. I couldn’t find a count for the entire month.

If you think that is bad, in about 3 days 51,000 (not 6,500) Americans died at the Battle of Gettysburg …although that isn’t a totally fair comparison since we were on both sides of that battle.

I’m not trivializing death….I’m just saying look on the bright side.

I also looked at, just to see I could find ONE positive story. There are about 40 headlines with links on their frontpage and I found just one with a fairly positive message: “Wal-Mart slashing prices

Actually, I just read the article. The full headline is “Wal-Mart to cut prices after poor sales”. So that isn’t really so positive either.

How about this imaginary press release from a fictional Wal-Mart spokesperson: “Wal-Mart is going to cut prices just because we’re feeling nice… reason in particular. We’re currently the 12th most profitable company on the planet with about 9 billion dollars in profit in 2003. I mean, come one, 9 billion dollars?? We’re like fucking Richy Rich!! I wipe my ass with hundred dollar bills.”

That’ll be the day….

On a side note, I am not really Wal-Mart bashing. Wal-Mart isn’t the most profitable company in the world, but it does have most revenue: 263 billion dollars. To put that in perspective, that’d make Wal-Mart just about on par with Belgium…..the 25th largest economy (not company) in the world.

What I am bashing is MCI. Remember they declared bancruptcy in an accounting scandal arguably as large as Enron’s a few years ago. Last year THEY were the most profitable company on the planet according to Fortune magazine with 22 billion dollars in profits on 27 billion dollars of revenue. Even drugs don’t have a profit margin like that. Maybe I should declare bancruptcy?? I’d certainly be willing to engage in an accounting scandal….if only I had some money to account for.

I looked on too. I couldn’t even find one seemingly positive headline there.

And you wonder why people like to talk about sports and the weather. Life is stressful. Why bother?

But look on the bright side, no matter how many people die in Iraq, no matter how bad the economy is, or how poorly the average man is faring, no matter how many people pull out in front of you on the way home….no matter how much your wife bitches: at least we don’t die in droves of the Bubonic Plague from lack of basic sanitation, living in our own squalor, like we did in the Middle Ages.

The Plague killed about 137 million people in its illustrious history. During one 5 year period in the 14th century, it killed one third of Europe’s population: 25 million people.

So that certainly takes the cake for devastation per capita, far beyond any wars….especially Iraq, but that isn’t the largest death toll in a year: That prize goes to the lowly Flu virus.

WWI killed 9 million men (and women) in 4 years, ending in 1918. In 1919 the plain old flu, albeit a particular virulent strain, killed 25 million people in one year. Phwhoo. In 1919 I bet people were longing for the good ol’ days…..when they were at war!!

Think that’s bad?? We haven’t even scratched the surface!!!

Humans appeared about 50 to 60,000 years ago. Since then about 112 billion people have been born. Of those, about 6 billion stragglers (us) are alive on this planet today (some of those of questionable usefulness). That means that approximately 94% of everyone that has ever lived IS DEAD.

And I’ll be completely honest with you: Our odds don’t look so good either. In about a hundred years….we’ll all be dead too, all six billion of us….wars, epidemics and global warming aside.

I think what I’m really saying here is: The Sky is Definitely Falling. Count your blessings….before they are killed in Iraq, die of the flu, are stolen away from you in an accounting scandal, or are underpriced by Wal-Mart.

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Let’s face it. I become easily consumed with doing stuff of no practical purpose that I pursue for no other reason than to become good at it….at which point I no longer do it and pick up something else.

I have repeated this cycle bunches of times. I do it with literary genres, with sports, even people occasionally. I’ve had every hobby from ping pong, to financial markets, from playing music, to illegal substances, from trying to understand theoretical physics, to photography….even to petty thievery in my younger days….thankfully the last one was a short lived hobby, otherwise I’d be in jail.

Lately I suppose my hobby has been work. I treat it like all the rest of the junk in many respects. I liked it all the more because they said I was bad at it when I started. I find that funny.

One of my favorite and most enduring hobbies is singing. My dad can’t carry a tune and my mom thinks she can sing…but really she can’t (which reminds me of someone else I know —> ME). So I kept doing it…for years really, all the while knowing I have no inborn talent. I find it comforting to know I am bad at something and have become barely proficient only through years of practice. Singing is one of the things I’m proudest of….even though certainly not one of the things I’m best at.

I also think it is strange that I call them all hobbies….even work. I don’t really DO anything it seems. Although, at any given time, I am always DOING something…..I guess sort of implying that the hobbies are part time gigs in support of the real purpose…..but if they are all hobbies then I’m not really doing them in support of anything.

I’m a full time hobbyist.

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I’ve talked to a few people on the phone this week and it seems I’m repeating the same story, so I’ll make an update here on the website in case anyone else wants to know what is up.

Job wise: I got a great performance review. It seems I’m really good at my job now. It was glowing. I think part of that was because I had come so far from when I was hired…..when they were quick to tell me I sucked alot.

Looking back I sucked a little…I admit it, but the main difference is that I used to work 40 to 45 hours a week….now I work 50 to 55. 10 hours more a week doesn’t necessarily mean I am better at my job…it just means I do it more.

Additionally, now if I don’t meet a deadline or am not as prepared as I should be…I am excused because they know I’m working hard otherwise. I used to just get grilled…which wasn’t pleasant.

Ok…I have done better…which I accept. But if I went back to 40 to 45 hours a week I’d be right back in the same situation I was in before….which tells me that it is really about works hours…not job proficiency.

I told them before: I would do a better job if I had less to do. If you tell a juggler to juggle, he does it….if you give him 3 balls, he pulls tricks and entertains the crowd and kisses babies in between balls; if you give him 7 balls the crowd is amazed by his ability to keep it all going….but if you give him 30….it doesn’t matter if the guy can juggle with his ass…there is a limit to how many balls even the most expert juggler can handle.

There is a always a point past which you will fail. That’s what I felt like in the past…and likely will in the future. At least now I know it.

Life wise: I still think I am a little to busy. I am trying to “schedule” more free time…but that is almost an oxymoron. I’ve already mentioned what my week is like…its still much the same.

I would like to do more outside of work and I dream up a scheme-a-day to get out it….I’m bound to hit sooner or later right?

On other fronts: I bowled really well tonight; I hope I’ll get up the energy to go to the USC/Clemson game this weekend, but I bet I’ll be working; my dog is now having occasional strokes, but at 19 years old the Vet says she is in pretty good health so I can’t really complain; I’ve talked to and seen a good number of old friends lately….all of whom are doing relatively well…which is nice; and lastly, I really like these three shows on TV: Smallville, Andromeda, and The Daily Show.

I’m off to bed.

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I used to joke about seceding from the Union and forming my own country. I’ve know about Sealand for a few years, but I was doing some reading tonight and was reminded again.

This is Sealand, a sovereign nation:

It has its own passports, stamps, currency and a flag. Its just like a real country….only a little smaller.

It consists of a rusty steel deck sitting on two hollow, chubby concrete cylinders that rise 60 feet above the churn of the North Sea. Up top there’s a drab building and a jury-rigged helicopter landing pad.

During World War II, the United Kingdom decided to establish a number of military bases, the purpose of which was to defend England against German air raids. These sea forts housed enough troops to man and maintain artillery designed to shoot down German aircraft and missiles. They were situated along the east coast of England on the edge of the English territorial waters.

Some of them, actually one of them, was built outside British jurisdiction in international waters. After the war the bases were no longer needed so the British Navy dismantled them, except for one.

On 2 September 1967, former English major Paddy Roy Bates formally occupied the “island” and settled there with his family. After intensive discussions with skillful English lawyers, Roy Bates proclaimed the island his own state. Of course, he proclaimed himself King.

I keep asking myself….what the fuck did they do all day?? I understand wanting to “get away from it all”….but this takes the cake.

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The ILO is the best. They need to make their research cheaper though.

New ILO book explores “Decent Working Time Deficit” in the industrialized countries

Twenty per cent or more of the workforce in the United States, Australia, New Zealand and Japan work at least 50 hours a week, compared with fewer than 10 per cent in most European countries, according to a new publication authored by the International Labour Office (ILO).

“Working Time and Workers’ Preferences in Industrialized Countries: Finding the Balance”, produced by the ILO Conditions of Work and Employment Programme, argues that there are substantial gaps between the hours that people are actually working and the number of hours that workers need or would prefer to work.

During the late 1990s, people working in excess of 50 hours per week in the US and Australia increased from 15 per cent to 20 per cent of the workforce. Among those countries included in the study, only Japan (28.1 per cent) and New Zealand (21.3 per cent) had a higher proportion working more than 50 hours per week.

By contrast, in most EU countries (prior to the 2004 expansion) the number of people working 50 hours or more per work remains well under 10 per cent, with figures ranging from 1.4 per cent in the Netherlands to 6.2 in Greece and Ireland. The only exception is the United Kingdom, where some 15.5 per cent of the workforce spends 50 hours or more at work.

The overall pattern underlying these variations is that countries with relatively limited regulation of working time, such as the US, the UK and Australia, tend to have a much higher incidence of excessive hours than other countries, according to the book.

So….this is really more of an academic study than a book. It costs 132 bucks….not exactly a Barnes and Noble special. I can’t afford it anyway.

The ILO is a branch of the UN that promotes labor rights, social justice, and human rights. It was founded in 1919 and is the only surviving major creation of the Treaty of Versailles which brought the League of Nations into being and it became the first specialized agency of the UN in 1946.

Of course with a spelling like “Labour” and the promotion of labor rights, it is not a creation of the US. It is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland.

Does anyone know anyone that works at the ILO or the UN?

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Sorry for the lack of posts lately, but I’m drowning in work again. They’re not scoring any points with me. I have a performance review this week, and I’m guessing it’ll go really well for me. How ironic.

In the meantime, I just reminded myself that right after my work hours ballooned the first time I bought a new domain name:

Maybe I’ll start using it.

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Factual update on my life:

Marty’s birthday party: He’s the same as ever. He has a little girl, a wife, and a brother killed in the line of duty as a cop…..and that son of a bitch ain’t a bit different. On that note, he told me to tell Josh Salley that he is a piece of shit for not calling, or coming to his party, or inviting him to his wedding.

I told Marty that none of Josh’s friends from High School were at the wedding. Then I pointed out that Josh didn’t really have any friends from High School, except the two of us. Marty’s comment: “Well, half his friends were there then…I guess that’s not so bad.” Marty has still got a sense of humor. I’ll say that for him.

Work: I am pretty darn good at what I do. Every complaint they’ve ever had about me I’ve gotten past. I’m 6 months ahead of the learning curve. I keep telling myself the same thing though: I’ll only every be really good at this.

I don’t have a history of being really good. I don’t know how to do it. I’ll save everyone the self-aggrandizement and tell a silly story from college that explains my position:

In 1994 I lived in Wannamaker Hall surrounded by video game addicts. There was a game we all played called NHL Hockey 94. I found it particularly fun and interesting so I learned to play it.

A few years later, lounging on the coast of the Red Sea on the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt, someone asked me: Have you ever been the best at anything??

I was in a festive mood so I told them the story about NHL Hockey 94 because it is funny.

“I was the best,” I said, “no one could beat me. I let other people pick my team and my players…the worst in the league…it didn’t matter. I knew what they were going to do before they did it. I did an entire presentation in Public Speaking on how to score goals in NHL 94. I recorded myself playing on a VCR and critiqued my performance for the speech. I used to watch the SEGA play entire games against itself so I would be able to predict where the computer players would be when I played.”

They said: “So you never lost?”
I said: “No, I lost. It was a real game. There were elements of both skill and chance.”
They said: “So you weren’t the best.”
I said: “Being the best doesn’t mean never losing. I was not only the best of the people that I played at my university….I am saying I was the best…..of anyone….period.”
They said: “So you were the best in the world?”
I said: “Yes. At that time, there was no one on the planet that could consistently beat me. I know that and believe it.”
They said: “What a pompous ass!!”
I said: “You asked the question, not me. For a period of time, I was the best at something….bar none.” And then I went snorkeling in December with fish like National Geographic.

So the point, and there is one, is that I could count a half a dozen times or more in my life when I’ve been the best. If I’m not that good at something….well then I should quit and do something else. If you’re not able to give your best and be the person you know you can be….then everyone gets a disservice….both you and the people you love.

That is why I like my job….but will never love it.

I’ll continue this post over the weekend with “Why isn’t the good stuff so good?”, “Why the Jon Stewart Show is so pleasing to me”, “Soma”, and other interesting topics.

Till next time…

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