Monday, November 23, 2009

120: Heist, pt. 1

His watch beeped and he reflexively looked at it.  "Bad habit," he thought to himself with a grunt.  Turning the key, he replied "No harm."  As the Land Cruiser roared to life he retorted "Could be."

He swore (in French) at himself for the internal monologue and then laughed softly as he allowed himself one last "Get a grip."  The large SUV shuddered slightly as the engine settled into its cadence.  He eased off the curb and into the street.  The traffic was light, but then that wasn't a surprise, this had all been carefully planned.  What had not been planned was Mick getting reassigned to an earlier shift.  "Such a stereotypical cop's name," he thought, shaking his head.  Now was no time for mind games.  He needed to be focused.  Mick was now a problem.  If he had still been on shift, he wouldn't have been able for the security detail.  They'd thought about that.  Mick was stuck.  If he turned down the work, they'd know he was involved; Mick wasn't the type to take a sick day. 

Dell reached to the passenger seat, bringing over first the envelope, then the gun, placing both in his lap.  He didn't like the new plan.  Mick was practically family.  He knew what he was getting into, but Mick had brought the idea to them in the first place.  Worse yet, the new plan was of his own making, no one else knew of his little improvisation.  The envelope wasn't part of the plan, but Dell thought it might be the way to save Mick's life.

The vehicle glinted under each passing street light.  He wished it weren't such a vibrant blue, but what did it matter?  It would appear only gray on the surveillance cameras and would be torched before morning.  Besides, they'd be looking for -- Dell checked the wallet in the envelope -- James Harrison, the guy who'd rented the Land Cruiser, not him.  That, too, wasn't the way they liked to do things, involving civilians, but this was one case where their handiwork would be noticed quickly.  In their typical job it would be months before the theft made the news, more often than not the company involved would pay big money to make sure the investigation stayed quiet.  That was, if they'd even report it in the first place.

But Dell was a nice guy, he'd called the credit card company and reported the card stolen a few hours after renting the SUV.  That would confuse them even more, but he sure hoped Harrison was here on vacation with family, family who had other credit cards or traveler's checks. 

Right on cue, he spotted a series of police cars in his rearview mirror and quickly pulled to the curb.  They raced by and before he could pull out again, another set of car raced by.  He always marveled at how small the police cars were in these European countries, compared to those in America.  By birth, Dell was American, but by passport, his nationality, even his identity, changed as it suited him.  Which was quite frequently in his line of work.

A cop on a motorcycle racing along the avenue quickly cut in behind him.  This was not according to plan.

to be continued... (not a typiclal 120 as I'm spending more than 2 minutes on each segment)

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Uppity Target

Ha!  I knew I wasn't alone.   Modbird, like me, can't help but see the new Target brand (up & up) and automatically see it upside-down in her head - dn & dn.  (Granted, the & is upside-down, but still...)  I don't know if it's too much Tetris or what, but there it is, the wrong way.

I'd really like to know how much someone got paid for this.  It's not that good.  Sure, the arrow fits the sensibility of the Target style - simple and straightforwarded.  Clean, but not sophisticated.  Boring.  Upside-down, it could be other things as well.

But I have to ask... why "up & up"?  Was there some concern in the past that maybe their products weren't on the up and up?  Or that other generics are shoddy?   Or in the other sense, what's going up?  Quality?  Price?  Both?

Perpetual Motion

I thought I had a perpetual motion idea, but then decided to read up on the subject and realized that I don't.  But, still, I have an interesting idea.  If we can put lights in our lawn that gather energy from the sun during the day, what if you put a lot of them in a room full of mirrors and shined a flashlight at them for a few hours?  After that, couldn't the resulting light keep the solar panels charged, thereby permanently illuminating the room?  I was never good at all this science stuff, so there could be issues of heat and the efficiency of the panels or the lights -- not to mention the practicality or utility, but I wondered if it had practical benefits. 

I mean, take the modern hybrid cars.  Friction caused by braking creates the power used by the electric motor that assists the gasoline engine.  Would have to think at some point the efficiency of solar panels will be to the point that putting them around giant light sources (like stadium lighting or casino signs) could result in recouping some of the electricity required to power them.  (Or if really efficient panels in good quantity mixed with really energy efficient lighting, maybe all of the power required?)

First Sighting

Friday, November 20, 2009

Laptops, cell phones fueling rape and war in the Congo?

Press Release from World Vision:

Laptops, cell phones fueling rape and war in the Congo?

Conflict Minerals Trade Act key first step to ensuring armed groups don’t benefit from Americans’ high-tech purchases, says aid group

·    Eastern DRC has one of world’s highest rates of gender-based violence, child soldier use
·    Legislation would help companies certify products as “conflict free,” World Vision says

Washington, DC, November 19, 2009—Aid group World Vision today endorsed the Conflict Minerals Trade Act, a House bill introduced by Representative Jim McDermott of Washington State to stop the trade in conflict minerals such as coltan, tin ore, gold and wolframite which are fueling a humanitarian crisis in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

The bill, if passed, would be a critical first step in helping U.S. consumers feel confident that their high-tech purchases are not funding violence against women and children in eastern Congo (DRC), where some 1.5 million people are currently displaced by a decade-old conflict being financed by the mining and sale of these minerals.

“This bill would begin addressing the trade in conflict minerals which has been funding a war marked by widespread rape, child soldiering, and one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises,” said Rory Anderson, World Vision’s deputy director for advocacy and government relations.

“Americans deserve to know whether the electronics they buy are fueling bloodshed in Africa. This legislation would help give consumers that knowledge—and the power to make a difference every time they go to the electronics store.”

World Vision also emphasized that the proposed legislation would benefit the electronics and software industries by providing a certified mechanism to label their products as "conflict free." To qualify for the label, companies would be required to purchase their coltan from audited, conflict-free processing facilities.

“We saw from the success of our ‘conflict diamond’ campaign a few years ago that American companies want to do the right thing,” Anderson added. “They also understand that their customers demand products that can be certified as conflict free. But without a uniform process, such as the one proposed in this legislation, it’s very difficult for companies to tackle the supply chain challenge on their own.”

The Christian relief agency’s response in eastern DRC has reached some 150,000 people since October 2008 with medical supplies, emergency food and non-food items, and training and activities to promote the protection of women and children, including Child-Friendly Spaces within displacement camps.


To interview a World Vision expert or to learn more about the agency’s work in the Congo, contact Geraldine Ryerson-Cruz at 202.615.2608 or

World Vision is a Christian humanitarian organization dedicated to working with children, families and their communities worldwide to reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice. World Vision serves all people, regardless of religion, race, ethnicity or gender.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Notecarding Experiences

My boss' boss' boss led devos this morning and said that someone once told him to carry a 3x5 notecard with him and a pen at all times, and to simply every so often write down a single word when there was an experience you wanted to remember.  Said that especially in high stress or high experience times, this prevents you from having sensory overload later when you wanted to remember something.  Very interesting.

Also, he spoke of a church in Rwanda that's now inside a memorial park.  Around the church are many mounds which are mass graves from the genocide, and the church itself has been sealed up, but inside remain the skeletons of people of all ages who believed that they would be safe inside the church but ultimately weren't, and you can even see bullet holes and machete marks throughout the place, even on the altar.  It's pretty amazing what humans are capable of doing to each other.  I can retype these words but I'm sure I actually have absolutely no idea what that's really like to experience that.  

Friday, November 13, 2009

Quirk of Heaven

Ok, ever since I was a little kid, I always hoped that one thing I'd get to do when I got to heaven was to see a path on a map of everywhere on earth that I'd been. I know that's a little weird, but I was curious. Especially as it related to years on the school bus. Would I ever do a commute more than the five years to and from the same elementary school? (I think I came close with my last job and all signs point to it being a pretty good likelihood with my current job.)

I know, that's extremely weird, or the product of a young mind who didn't quite understand the point of heaven, or whatever you want to call it.

Well, Google (of course) this week released "Latitude History," an extension of a the Latitude feature. (An opt-in service that lets you plot your current location on a map and share that with someone else.) For instance, when I was in Arizona last February, I was chatting with Lori on my Blackberry from the shuttle and she was watching my location on a map on her iGoogle (still a dumb name!) page. Anyhow, a few days ago, they added a new feature that lets you track, over time, where you were. (Only capturing stuff since you turn it on, so Arizona's not on my map.)

Soon enough I imagine it will be used as an alibi to exonerate falsely accused of a crime, and not too long after that, to exonerate someone who had their friend carry their phone for them for the night as a way to create a false alibi.

Anyhow, yeah, with poor precision (it makes guesses based on which cell tower the Blackberry is connecting to), it records every ping. So mostly there's this giant loop between home and work. Makes me anxious to go somewhere else just to add some variety to the map.

That part about poor precision? Apparently all night while I sleep someone steals my Blackberry and travels back and forth about 15 blocks, sometimes in a matter of seconds. It makes the playback a little nauseating as the map keeps bouncing back and forth.

Read more on Mashable

Thursday, November 12, 2009

120: Behind The Musings

Ok, here's the rules. I'll pick a recent status update on Facebook from a friend. I'll paste it below, and then I'll set the timer for 120 seconds and expand on it.
[She] cleaned the apartment, did 3 loads of laundry, went to the post office, the grocery store, and now is thinking about her nice, soft bed!
It had been such a nice bed. It was such a surprise when early that morning, someone broke into the apartment, rushed into her bedroom, unceremoniously dumped her onto the floor and stole her bed. She knew it wasn't that great a neighborhood, but still. Sadly, the missing bed had not been at the post office, at the grocery store, or even at the laundromat. But, at least she had snagged three loads of laundry out of the deal. Mostly they were men's clothes, and not in her size, and not even the type that she could get away with wearing in that way that she could wear men's clothes and people would think she was being cute and playful. But, she wondered as she stared at the pile of laundry. Maybe, just maybe. Yes, that was it. If she spread it out, it would provide the warm place for her to sleep after that rotten day.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

This song is just six words long

What a difference a day makes. Sorry, yesterday was probably a slight exaggeration wrapped in an overly dramatic lyric choice for a headline. It's a nice song, even if the subject matter is dark. But the quote becomes quite stark when you add it with some bouncing off the guardrails of a trainwreck. (Last night I mixed my context, today I mix my metaphors. Deal.)

So I'm not king of the world today, but nor am I gonna paint the windows black and start screaming "Final Countdown" like some of the scary people in this video (which won't show up in Facebook, you'll have to actually visit my site - but have to say this video isn't good):

Now this video, much better (Lori loves how he cuts his words to get back to the kazoo):

And even more videos on this, thanks to Lori:

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The world's on fire and it's more than I can handle

Based on Lori's definition, I am depressed. And I cannot figure out a way out. It could clear on its own shortly. A good song on the radio, a decent commute. Or it could linger and persist and cast a pall over my entire evening. Maybe even the rest of the week. Unsure.

But it's so difficult not to throw a pity party when I feel like this. I start to count the ways that I could pull myself out, and then discount each way. And then my mind wanders to the parts of the world we work in and how I have nothing to complain about. And that simply upsets me further because it's kind of not fair. I guess I'm confusing absolutism and relativism and chronologicism. Compared to many, I have absolutely nothing to be upset about. Compared to the circles within which I operate, I have a little more to legitimately put up on the board. And then to compare against myself even just a few weeks ago, finally I find my justification.

I believe I know the way free of this morass, but if it's the way out, it's not within my control. And it feels like it can only get worse before it gets better. The optimist in me says it must, but I'm struggling with the patience required. And of all times of year, this is when it's least welcome, because there's so much about this particular time of year that I'd rather be taking all in. And I certainly don't like presenting this side of myself to my family, friends and colleagues. But I'm failing to keep up the act.

I was never promised happiness, satisfaction or joy, but I seek it nonetheless. I was promised hardship and suffering, but this doesn't qualify. This is something else.

Monday, November 09, 2009

My Name is My Credit Card

Wow, what an absolutely rocking day. Spent two hours in training on a new product. It should mostly leave the old product in the dust. There are some weird things we're going to have to figure out, but in the short- and long-runs, I think it's going to save the team a lot of time.

I also got my own performance appraisal done for the year and one out of the six I need to do for my team and I feel good. I don't know why I dread these. Maybe it's because they take time to do well and maybe it's because if you're being honest, there's always things to consider improving for the next year. Of course, for me, that continues to be the thing I need to improve. Getting over my fear of the negativity that can be associated with that.

I also seriously plowed through email today. Feel good about how the day went, even if I got caught in a rainstorm on my walk and had to cut it short.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

When will I learn there are no guarantees

Some thoughts on some songs I heard this morning before work...

- "All Right" by Amy Grant is still a great song. Think I found some new meaning in it even today. "When will I learn there are no guarantees / what strengthens hope my eyes have never seen."

- What the world needs now is a new Frank Sinatra. And not in a Cracker way (the person most likely to understand this reference probably wouldn't be caught dead listening to Cracker, so there you go.) And if you say "What about John Mayer?" Then you need a kick in that teeth. That overhyped commercialized pretty boy is nothing but a corporate tool and "Waiting for the World to Change" is a piece of falsely optimistic tripe that appeals to people who are way too self-absorbed, prideful and egotistical (sadly, a topic I'm all too qualified to speak on). You can keep waiting for the world to change, but you will change first. Trust me. The sooner you get real about this fact and look at what you can change at the same time, the more effective you'll be. Don't wait for the world to change around you. Seize the carp and whatnot.

- And finally... I can't think of any, but I'll put it out to my readers... can anyone put into words the coolness that is the opening strains of "You Shook Me" by AC/DC? Bow-bzow-bow-bow, wah wah wah just doesn't seem to do it justice.

...a shortened work day. I didn't get much done at work, and then left at noon because Lori and I both had dentist appointments in the afternoon. Amazingly enough, I was sent home at the end with nothing more than the standard dentist gift-bag. No follow-up appointment for drill and fill. Unexpected and great.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Multimedia message

If you know me, you know this patch of new concrete leaves me conflicted. Is it (a) the man stepping up and fixing a design flaw or (b) acquiescence to rule-breakers who would otherwise just continue to trample the grass which was obviously not part of the path? I think the former is probably the right answer, but barely.

My Memory Has Just Been Sold

7:40 am - Ha! Despite a late start -- alarm seems to have been mysteriously turned off while I was a sleep, thankfully Lori's woke me -- no yoga and an email that I wanted to finish continued to keep me late, but I pushed on and got out of the house on time and got to work early enough to snag the parking spot that's been mine ever since I took it from the white minivan. Lately the minivan's been beating me to the office and taking the spot. The nerve! I rocked out to "Centerfold" in the car. Poor Rachel, every time that song starts at home, she quickly blurts "I like this song, don't change it!" Stayed old school (so old they were still spelling it correctly) with "Free Your Mind." Of course, we do, so she's never heard more than that really fun festive opening, but she really wants to.

8:00 am - While it's served me well in the past, I think there's one unintentional trick that I shouldn't be regularly doing. And it is this: Really pissing someone off in email, and then getting them into a conference room and wowing them. There are a few people at work for whom I believe this has led to a really strong relationship that I wouldn't have otherwise had with them and my name is a lot more firmly etched in their mind, and I can tell by the way they smile and greet me that the positive has had a lot more lasting impact than the negative. However, there's one here that I've only been able to do part one (this is all unintentionally, mind you) but not the second part so they've been simmering for months. I'd change that if I could. I'll be patient and try not to turn the heat up anymore.

8:20 am - Coffee and oatmeal. I'm tempted to run out later and get a Starbucks, but my family's coming for lunch today, so I won't be able to walk at lunch, so probably wiser for me not to. Sam brought me lemonade packets for my water - and he didn't even know I had run out of flavor packets. Sam rocks.

11:20 am - Updating my signature block. I think that my title is too long.
Technology Manager, Rest of World Vision US
Development and Delivery
Internet Business Unit
Products and Donor Recruitment
Donor Engagement, Advocacy and Communications
World Vision US

1:40 pm - Hey... an unofficial "dislike" button for Facebook - available only to Firefox users.

5:00 pm - Time to go. It's been a day. I think a productive day. My one meeting got canceled and I was 3/10 on completed goals today. I'm hoping for a repeat tomorrow. Tonight I'm solo with the kids while Lori's at choir practice. I'm thinking baths and early bedtimes all around. And I really ought to start updating my fan page. I'm up to 8 fans. Cool.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

The Road I Must Travel

8:00 am - Drove to work with sunroof open, despite 39 degree weather. Played "Road I Must Travel" by The Nightwatchman several times. Any chance heaven is an Irish pub?

8:15 am - Oatmeal and coffee. Turns out I did complete 2 items on my to do list for yesterday. 9 for today, most are from yesterday. Four meetings today plus chapel.

8:35 am - First meeting down. 7 minutes including travel time. Nice.

3:40 pm - No coffee on third or second floors. Wow.

5:00 pm - Two thoughts... (1) already? and (2) finally. Can confirm that that I did not complete even 1 of the 9 items on my list. With only two meetings tomorrow, I have got to get some forward momentum. Wow, my day seems boring. Eh. But the drive in really rocked.

Multimedia message

Nice parking job. Grumble.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Stream of... hey, look, what's that?

8:00 am - Dilbert's at the end of his day, thinking "It's another day of useless work and no accomplishment." That will not be my day.

8:15 am - Over-the-shoulder technical support. Was asked for help and went over to look at someone's screen. Didn't do anything except watch them move the mouse around and talk through the point they were confused about. In the end, they seemed happy and satisfied that things were now working as they should. If you do that and then send them a bill, that's called consulting.

8:45 am - Devos, paraphrasing - "Whether your faith is a narrow ledge, a tightrope or a four-lane overpass, grace is the safety net that will catch you and lift you back up."

9:15 am - Spam subject lines: "Never let dude gun fail!" and "A decent watch will sure give you a decent look." Decent? Decent is when I don't put product in my hair and instead wear a hat. Pass.

11:16 am - Overheard, paraphrasing - "We're going to let him come up with his own ways of holidizing that part of the website." Yes, the key point of this is that they verbed holiday.

11:35 am - This day is feeling less productive than I'd intended. 10 items on my to-do list, 10 items still incomplete. Candy corn as an energy booster.

1:30 pm - Some thoughts while at lunch...
-- I like how many Asian people treat business cards (and sometimes credit cards) with reverence - accepting them and handing them to you by taking them gently by two corners with two hands, barely touching the card. I heard recently this is a sign of respect. It's kinda cool.
-- If I wanted a table at a certain time and I couldn't get a reservation because I only had a party of two -- what if I put in a reservation for eight and then when I got to the restaurant, I called from the car and canceled it?
-- Watched an excellent TED Talk on Motivation: (19 minutes)

5:20 pm - Day got away from me. Not sure I got any of the 10 things on my list done today. However, it was still a good, encouraging and productive day.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Before there was Twitter

I've done this a few times in the past, before I discovered Twitter. Because of the request that I not Tweet or use Facebook during business hours, I just kept a notepad open on my desktop to quickly dash off thoughts. I find it quite a good stress reliever to be able to get these thoughts out of my head.

8:00 am - Coffee and oatmeal, began drinking my big bottle of water
8:52 am - Philip brought an entire box of doughnuts to devos, including a glazed old fashioned. I resisted. There will be more doughnuts in the future.
Noon - One Oreo cookie and a handful of candy corn.
1 pm - Good lunch. Beef stroganoff and broccoli in cheddar sauce. Long walk.
2 pm - Just read an email about all the new features ExactTarget is rolling out. It's times like these that make me wish I were still an Email Producer so I could check out all the new coolness. Of course, we're not yet even sending with them, but it's very close.
2:15 pm - Done with my big bottle of water, thinking about another cup of coffee
4:30 pm - Never did get that cup of coffee, until now. Also, another handful of candy corn.
5:40 pm - Would like to have been done 40 minutes ago. I had stuff I wanted to do before signing off. Grrr.