Thursday, July 27, 2017

The unit got over it

You’ll probably be aware that yesterday morning, the 69th anniversary of Harry S Truman integrating the armed forces, the Kleptocrat’s latest attempts to distract the nation from the deepening pit of his campaign’s Russian ties opening up around him involved tweets proclaiming that (contrary to a tweet from only last year—ever so long ago in Klepto-years) he’s gazed into his…well, wherever a navel would be on any ordinary human being…and discovered that he chooses to ban transgender people from his military.

(Remember—in his little brain, it is indeed his military.)

It seems the five-time dodger of the Vietnam-era draft has decided that “Our military [“our” in the imperial sense] must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail.”

He even ended his series of tweets with “Thank you”, which is kind of bizarre.

Bizarre to the contrary notwithstanding, let me address his points.


No, seriously—a guy who wanders off in the ten feet between Air Force One’s stairs and his waiting limo is talking about focusing?

And the guy who lost the popular vote is banging on about decisive and overwhelming victory?

Oh, please.

As for the medical costs—concern for those would exclude all women of childbearing age from serving in any capacity. And, for that matter, all men with families.

And as for the rest of it, for the unit disruption, lemme give you Admiral Percy Fitzwallace from The West Wing.

Beat that with a stick.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Where the devil is

Last week I had a conversation with a colleague who’d submitted an idea for possible implementation as a new product. The guy has an MBA (albeit in marketing) from Drexel University, but apparently things like revenue potential and feasibility aren’t part of the curriculum. Not even actual market need, it seems, because none of these concepts were in evidence.

It was a careful conversation, because he was genuinely confused that this idea wouldn’t be snapped up for immediate development. And he’d come up with it during our first run of the new business ideas course. So…why wouldn’t we jump at the chance?

Money, dude. It’s always money. This idea wouldn’t drive enough revenue to pay for the requirements document, much less build out, market and maintain the system. So, no.

Further, do MBA courses not require that students cough up some kind of detail to back their claims? Even in marketing? Because my intern had to extrapolate all over the place to try to research similar products already on the market (which are definitely not monetized); there was no there there.

So this is why this cartoon resonates with me.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Plague of coconuts

Oh, dearie me. The Kleptocrat’s alternative seat warmer apparently likes to tweet the occasional Deep Thought to remind people that she, too, has a mobile device. But, jeez-Louise—can she possibly be this much of a dim bulb?

Because here’s her effort for Sunday:

Look, her followers probably eat that stuff up with a manure shovel, but thank God there were people out with some critical faculties and connectivity. Viz. this cluster:

And these tweets:

But then, hokey Smokes, Bullwinkle—some poor social media monitor for Verizon apparently has the awareness of a member of the Klepto-klan, and did his/her best to help out.

God bless the Twitters-dot-com.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Gratitude Monday: The rains came

All last week we here in the District They Call Columbia had temperatures approaching triple digits, with the heat index well over that mark. So when we got rain—chucking it down in sheets and blankets rain—on Saturday, I was so happy.

(We got more yesterday, including a couple of spates of deluges so powerful, I actually got up to check that the windows weren't leaking. But, hey—windows held and the power stayed on, so it's all good.)

Happy in general, but also because with that kind of rain I didn’t have to don anti-mosquito gear to go out to water my garden.

Hard luck on the mosquitos—they’ll have to find another aedes buffet. But I’ve certainly enjoyed sitting in my livingroom watching it pour.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Ram raid

Let’s take a break from the sad events at the DC office building, where workers were shocked and saddened to discover Steve, their K5 security robot, had drowned his sorrows (and himself) in the building water feature.

Let’s instead go to Colorado, where another office building was the scene of activities that were first assumed to be criminal—vandalism, if not theft. But then security camera footage revealed that the smashed-in glass door was the work of what NPR refers to as a “rogue goat”.

Well, really—I don’t know how “rogue” a goat is for ramming…well, pretty much anything, tbh. I mean, that’s entirely within male goat behavior patterns.

It’s interesting that Billy (if the robot is Steve, surely this goat can be Billy, no?) seemed surprised at the first shattering, but then went back to finish off the second door. And yet…having smashed both of them, he just kind of drifted away.

Can this behavior be mere coincidence in a state that’s legalized marijuana? Hmm.

However, this occurred to me: is there something unique to male goats’ head-structure (and possibly rams as well) that enables them to engage in this sort of activity all the time without them suffering TBI? (Although, maybe their brains are liquefied jelly, and no one notices; I suppose that’s possible.)

But if there is something that protects their crania, can some lessons be applied to the prevention and treatment of TBI in humans? Man—I’d sure like to see our soldiers protected from this kind of thing out in the field, and it would be great if both soldiers and civilians could be given post-trauma medical treatment that reduced brain swelling and other aftereffects.

I for one ain't too proud to learn from goats, rogue or no.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Requiem for a robot

Following up on Tuesday’s post about Steve, the suicidal security robot that turned treads up in a DC office building, the response on- and offline has been heartening in a world swirling around the existential political drain.

Because—rather like the citizens of Toronto, who marked the death of one of the city’s four-pawed residents with candles, flowers, cards and other respectful sentiments a few years ago—the denizens of DC erected a memorial to the K5 unit that slept with the fishes on Monday. Complete with AA batteries.

Beyond the physical manifestation, however it was the outpouring around the Twitterverse that brought us all together. I look forward to the ability to superimpose an image of Steve on my Twitter avatar. Maybe there'll be tee-shirts. 

Naturally, this being DC in 2017, it would not be a Twitter thread without conspiracy theories.

I must say that I find it strange that so far I'm the only person to lament the fact that everyone's saying what a great guy Steve that he's in some gigantic bag of rice. Seriously—if more people had given him attaboys while he was beeping and booping around the atrium, he might not have felt his only out was down those weeping steps.

Well, if there’s a vigil (no candles, just smartphone flash apps, please), I shall of course keep you apprised.

Good night, sweet robot, and flights of drones sling thee to thy rest.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Life lessons

Loss. Man—it hangs out in the strangest, most unexpected corners to jump out at you with a shiv.

This was brought home to me yesterday, in the class we’ve been running at work; you know—the one meant to spark new business ideas. We’re at the point where it’s time to distil all the crack-brained concepts down to one that you feel will not disgrace you dreadfully if you pitch it to the greater world next month.

Over the next couple of weeks, the instructor told us, we should try various methods of running our ideas through reality checks. And one of them was to present a matrix of them to “two or three of your closest friends” and ask them which of these do they definitely see me doing or not doing.

The thing is—the person I’d automatically run something like this (or everything in general, tbh) past, in a laughter-infused conversation, is dead. She’ll never sort through my wild-assed ideas and tell me which would suit me and which I should douse with petrol and light up in the back yard. I’ll never get to have a conversation of any type with her, and that realization struck me yesterday like an icy fist to the chest, 21 months after she died. I nearly left the classroom, before I got my shit back together.

And because it’s so unexpected—because you were muddling along with your life without any massive tsunami of grief—it’s like being mugged in the lobby of a five-star hotel. It just comes at you wherever it finds you, and you simply have to let it wash over and ride it home.

So that’s all I got today.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Security alert

After a seriously craptastic day yesterday, when I pulled out my mobile to check Twitter on the last third of my ride home, here’s what caught my attention:

Because—even with the March of Progress, whose first harbinger was Roomba—this is not something we see every day.

Naturally one’s first thought upon seeing a robot in the shallow end of the cement pond, with two uniformed guys in Wellies gazing upon the lifeless corpse, is that this is some kind of stunt. But it turns out that this is truly a security robot—made by a company called Knightscope, whose business model is RaaS: Robots-as-a-Service—lying amidst the pennies and nickels of some fine local atrium’s water feature.

Not six months ago, when that story was written, Knightscope was ticking over, touting its product on the job at Microsoft, the Kings Arena, and a Santa Clara Mall. I’ve been to the latter, and there’s no water feature, so the robots apparently weren’t tested under a range of situations.


Well, the Twitter thread that followed the original post is certainly worth a read. At time of writing, Knightscope had not chimed in. But there was this:

Listen—after three hours of Cigna (including someone from their social media team wanting me to give him/her my DoB, SSN and account number so s/he could access my account to give me a list of providers that are actually really in-network for purposes of having costs reimbursed, and not in-network in name only; which—if their damned website didn’t throw nothing but error messages, I could have found on my own. Not that I trust anything coming from that outfit at this point), I was ready to join the little guy in the drink.

Actually—a drink sounds pretty good right now.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Gratitude Monday: Weathering summer

All last week the Metro D.C. area was engulfed in your typical summer weather: temps in the 90s (with no discernable cooling off after sundown), humidity almost the same, and a consequent heat index hovering in the low three digits.

Each morning, when my colleague in the next office, who also came here directly from California, arrived at my doorway, we’d moan about how hot and miserable it is. Because—even when it’s hot in California, there’s almost never the humidity you find here, and you can count on the temperature dropping by 20 degrees at night.

“Eighty-three degrees at 0520 today,” I said on Friday.

“That’s brutal.”

“And 91 degrees last night at 2130.”

“Brutal, man.”

By 1130 on Friday, the heat index had hit 105, and I was already worried about making it home on the 50-minute Metro ride, without anything to drink.

(Yeah, I know—“eating, drinking and smoking are prohibited on any Metro train or property.” But since Metro staff turn a blind eye to it, you see it all the time, especially in the summer. Maybe it’s just the tourons doing it, but I doubt it. Metro staff might step in if families started hauling out their KFC-and-two-litre-bottles-of-Pepsi and handing round the cole slaw to each other, but I doubt it. That train has left the station, as it were.)

(As an aside: Metro would have a better case to make for prohibiting beverages—and even food—on their trains if they could convince passengers that they had a reasonable expectation of getting to their destination in a timely manner, and therefore they wouldn’t feel obliged to provide sustenance for a five-hour journey from Foggy Bottom to West Falls Church.)

Then there was a later forecast for possibly very strong storms moving into the area late in the afternoon, with the hope that at least they’d break the heat spell. Man, it’s always something, eh?

Okay, as I walked the block from work to Metro Center, there were clouds, but no sign of imminent rain. I got on my Silver Line train and started working on some spreadsheets until we emerged from underground past Ballston. At that point, you could see the almost-black clouds blanketing the north and west, and I thought, well—hope it’s not too bad on my quarter-mile walk from my station to my car.

Then I cranked up my mobile phone to check what fresh hell the administration was causing, via Twitter. And when I looked up around Tysons, the rain had started. Back to Twitter and a couple of miles past Spring Hill I noticed that the train had slowed a whole lot, until about a mile before Hunter Mill when it just…stopped.

And the rain was pouring down around the car’s windows in sheets. It was like going through a car wash—absolute sheets. I watched cars on the toll road driving through it with their emergency blinkers going, and recalled rain like this when I drove once from Houston to Lafayette, La. That was so bad that you could barely see the front of your own car, much less anyone in front, behind or on either side.

Must be Metro protocol to stop when faced with this kind of downpour, even though we were on raised tracks, so not really any danger of flooding. After some minutes, the train started up again, and we eased onward toward the final station.

Funnily enough, there wasn’t really any rain falling at the platform (I was in the first car, so no overhead structure), but when I emerged from the station, it was raining fairly steadily. And we were in downpoursville by the time I got home. And it indeed was somewhat cooler than it had been when I left work in D.C.

So here’s what I’m grateful for today: that nature here offers such a variety of weather—sometimes in the span of a few hours. That rain can make you pause and just watch it—even in a Metro train. And that this particular deluge meant I didn’t have to go out and water my plants, so I was spared the swarms of mosquitos that lie in wait for me.

None of this would you find in California.

Saturday, July 15, 2017


Okay, I’m on such a roll down memory lane, here’s an extra bonus track.

Because—remember—it wasn’t just the Summer of Love; it was also the peak of the Vietnam War, our most recent implementation of a conscripted military.

So it seems appropriate to close out the week with the quintessential anti-draft protest song, Arlo Guthrie’s “Alice’s Restaurant Massacree”. If you do not know it, you really owe it to yourself to listen, all the way through. Yes, it’s long. But Guthrie is a storyteller, an easy-going, folksy storyteller, who builds context on his way to the punchline.

(As an aside, I saw the film Alice's Restaurant at a cinema in Tokyo, with Japanese side titles. I really wondered how some of the dialogue was translated, and what the locals thought of it.)

A while ago I used the expression “extra primo good” in an email to a friend in the UK. He replied saying that he knew it from Trading Places, and asking if it was something in general use or if I’d got it from the film. Well, I’ve been using it for so long I’d forgotten whence it came, but indeed, it was from TP.

So it is for phrases from “Alice’s Restaurant” that I use when the occasion warrants. Viz.”

“Wait for it to come around again on the guitar.”

“Eight by ten color glossy pictures with circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one explaining what each one is.”

“The judge walked in with a seeing-eye dog.” (I actually experienced something like this during an arbitration session. I was convinced that the arbitrator—a retired judge of severe superannuation—would be too senile to follow the evidence. But I hadn’t even got back to my seat from having given testimony before he told the plaintiff that he was dismissing the case.)

“Five-part harmony.”

“Kid, have you rehabilitated yourself?”

“I’m not proud.”