Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Inuit Goes Hawaii (and Geek Wednesday)

So Rummy went to Iraq one last time to meet with the troops. What did he say—"thanks for dying for me, and if you somehow survive, don't forget to check out my book tour"? Rummy also bravely faced the free press. You got it—Hannity. NewsHounds has the story and the capsule summary of the moment: "The state of American journalism may have reached a new low last night with Sean Hannity's softball interviews with Donald Rumsfeld recorded during their junket to Iraq."

Now over to the so-called left-wing media. I've weighed in with some opinion about gossip, here; and today in the Times, Richard Conniff gives a different opinion: gossip is natural and adaptive. Now you know why the mass media seems to be always striving for new lows of anti-journalism—why, it's natural and adaptive.

So maybe the guy's definition of gossip is different from mine; he appears to classify two people talking about a mutual friend's illness as gossip. I don't. But he's in the New York Times, and I'm in a dank corner of the blogosphere; case closed.

You youngs ones, are you looking for a great getaway destination for when you retire? Try Santa's place (for those of you without Times Select, it's also in the Nat-Geo for free): scientists predict it'll be all beaches and sea by 2040. According to the Times, this change is "partly" the result of global warming from greeenhouse gas emissions. Partly: let it not be said that the paper of record doesn't sweat the details. I wonder if Mr. Conniff would classify that as gossip.

Geek Wednesday

C-Net, still reeling from the tragic death of senior editor James Kim, has come out with a comprehensive review of the 109th Congress's tech legislation record, and it's not a fawning report by any stretch. Even in mourning, the geek press beats the MSM like a rented mule. What a bunch of pros these people at C-Net are. If you've never read it, check it out.

I've completed my first batch of reviews for the Webby Awards (in case you're wondering, this blog is not entered, because it costs $125 to throw one's hat into this ring). The best site I've seen so far is the United Nations Population Fund site, which features an excellent research tool on population trends and issues. This is worth noting, because population is or will be one of the two greatest issues and challenges to our survival as a species over the next century. Another good site I encountered in the Webby pile is Workplace Fairness's The Good, the Bad, the Wal-Mart, a truly balanced study of big box retail's underbelly.

Another great site I discovered today is the Digital Mozart Edition of the complete works. I also noted with some satisfaction that the site's host was groaning under the weight of the traffic raining down on it. 250 years old, and he still gets people excited...

For those of you who follow Geek Wednesday, you may know I've been having some serious trouble with Blogger Beta. Well, the geeks at Google appear to have been working on it; I've had no problems since the weekend. Give the boys from Stanford time, and they get it right. As for Microsoft, they had six friggin' years to upgrade their browser and I've been noticing that the popup blocker in IE 7 has been failing miserably. Yep, I checked the settings and everything—it's just failing, that's all. They can't even get a popup blocker on a browser to work, and they're asking me to put their new OS on my hard drive? Fugggedabbutit.

Meanwhile, for those of you who need some good bargain gear for the holidays, check out Powermax. You can get a refurb Intel MacBook for under $900. The Powermax refurbs come with the same warranty as Apple offers for new products, and with AppleCare (extended warranty) available as an upgrade. If you want a second Mac to haul around and don't care about having an Intel processor in it, you'll be able to get an iBook for less than $400 from these guys. Not bad.

I've also been looking at bargain notebook PCs lately, and haven't been able to pull the trigger. Here's what happened: my new company is so locked up in a bureaucratic paralysis of ineptitude when it comes to wiring new hires, that I've gone nearly two weeks without 9 to 5 connectivity (geeks, you have to empathize with this). That's right, no PC yet, and no access to a public or loaner machine either: it's hurry up and wait. So I figured I'd snap up a cheap Wintel laptop and at least have some appearance of computing normalcy on the job, even if I can't connect to their LAN. It's kind of difficult to work productively in IT without gear, you know.

So I looked at a sleek Gateway machine that was only $800 for an AMD Turion processor with 512MB of RAM. But then I checked my bank balance and asked myself why I'd buy a machine just to look like I belonged at a place that wasn't ready for me.

Well, then, you can imagine what happened: I turned the entire thing into an exercise in mindfulness. George Weinberg, the outstanding psychotherapist-writer, referred to this process as "the hunger ilusion." Even a temporary interruption of a longstanding habit can inspire growth, even transformation. So I had to begin by resisting the compulsion to hoist up my hard-earned for a second-string laptop: to do that, I finally realized, would be like the alcoholic who swears off Wild Turkey and then goes into the bathroom to drink the mouthwash. It was time to find out where the hunger illusion was leading me.

So I started off by spending some time in listening to others around me as they worked. After all, it's not as if I have any work to do there yet. The tapping of the keyboard—sometimes steady and smooth, sometimes disrupted by a silent pause or a sigh, followed by a frenetic clicking, crunching blur of activity—it was like listening to a mouth chewing something moist but hard. Close your eyes at your desk sometime, and just listen for a minute, and see what you make of it.

It reminded me that in the corporate setting, productivity is very much a solipsistic endeavor. It is as much impulse as it is awareness; consumption as it is delivery.

I also listened to how they spoke, these productive people in the office around me. Most of these folks are young, assertive, confident, and rapid in speech and manner. Many of them, to judge by their position, language, and demeanor, are most likely MBA's, or the equivalent. I heard the word "value" a lot, in terms like "value proposition" and "value exchange." I wondered whether these folks had really thought about value—what it is, or that there may be more to value than goods, services, or profit derived therefrom.

But corporations cannot learn this, for in spite of what the law may say, they are not people. But the real, individual people who work for the corporations and use their products and services, we can learn it and in turn teach it to the corporate person. We can show them what a person truly is, and what it is that a person values.

No comments: