Archive for September, 2007

Select a Candidate

With the 2008 elections just over a year away, the hype machines will ‘go to 11’ in the coming months. Political ads will sear our retinas, make our ears bleed, and completely numb our senses. Not to sound greedy and ungrateful but, I have to ask, what else do we get out of that? Are we any clearer on who we want to vote for after surviving a political A/V onslaught?

Although we each likely have at least a vague idea about who we’ll vote for, have you ever asked yourself why? Are you sure about your candidate’s positions on key topics, or more importantly, topics that are key to you? Perhaps you are sure… but perhaps there’s another candidate out there that is in even better alignment with your beliefs!

If only you could find out for sure…

Now you can thanks to Minnesota Public Radio’s Select a Candidate tool. Enter your position on 11 issues and their level of importance to you and this will return a list of all Presidential candidates in the order in which they match your views!

As MPR notes, this survey is not designed to tell you what candidate you should vote for. It is intended only to help you think about your positions and then introduce you to the candidates.

Oil Companies Enduring Hardships to the tune of $10B

The Minerals Management Service within the Interior Department is supposed to charge oil companies for oil drilling on federal lands.  But according to an article in the New York Times this morning, the MMS didn’t know how to use an Excel spreadsheet to calculate the royalties.  In fact,  

“senior officials decided that it would impose a “hardship” on oil companies to demand that they calculate the back interest they owed after having been caught underpaying.” 

When asked about this matter by investigators, the agency’s associate director, Lucy Querques Denett, responded, “How do you define hardship, just because they have a lot of money?”  

What’s more, the auditors that discovered this had to take the unusual step of filing their own lawsuits against the oil companies under the False Claims Act, a law that allows private citizens to sue companies that have cheated the government, because senior officials had blocked them from recovering money from more than two dozen companies that underpaid royalties. 

As the fiscal year draws to a close and Congress and the President wrangle over appropriations for next year (including healthcare for children which Bush promises to veto), it’s interesting to see that our government doesn’t want to impose undue hardships on oil companies drilling on our land.

What would your Last Lecture be?

From today’s WSJ, a great article on a CMU professor’s Last Lecture.

Randy Pausch, a Carnegie Mellon University computer-science professor, was about to give a lecture Tuesday afternoon, but before he said a word, he received a standing ovation from 400 students and colleagues.  He motioned to them to sit down. “Make me earn it,” he said.

Professor Pausch has been diagnosed with 3 months to live and was given the opportunity to address the CMU students with his final thoughts.  What words would you depart with?

http://link.brightcove.com/services/link/bcpid452319854/bctid1199157902

“No one has ever thrown down here”

There’s another group of beer drinkers and book readers out there.  According to this morning’s Strib, Books and Bars (or B&B as they refer to themselves) meets at Bryant Lake Bowl on a monthly basis to discuss books.  But, unlike Fight Club, they never throw down – pussies.  Besides what kind of sissy book club calls themselves B&B? 

However, they do have several things going for them:

  • An MC, Jeff Kamin, a former stand up comedian who “works the room.” 
  • They have a “John Hughes slow clap” when anyone utters something tedious such as “As an English major. … ” or “the second time I read this book.”  I suggest we employ said slow clap when Matt H. refers to his other Fight Club.
  • Sponsorship from a bar, Magers & Quinn bookstore and the Onion

Readers come to see a fight

Weekly Fight Club page views

Do I see a trend?  Is a crowd forming around our humble Broken Spines?  Damn right, there’s a fight going on and everyone loves a good fight.  Epithets like “heavy contemplator” and “simple one” are being thrown about like upper cuts and jabs.  No semantic nuance is too small for these guys – they’ve been itching for a fight. 

 

Forget watching Human Weapon – I’m going to read Broken Spines.

Success without failure?

Is it possible to succeed without failing?

Over a couple of beers, a mound of fried calamari, and a plate of pesto-soaked ravioli, three Fight Club pugilists debated this topic the other night. It stemmed from a preview of our latest bout topic- The Wisdom of Crowds- the idea that the collective intelligence of a group is often more accurate than most or all of its individual members.

In an effort to help his company innovate and better themselves, one pugilist started a Failure Forum in which members could share their failures. The idea being that we all learn from our mistakes and if they all could learn from each others’ mistakes, they would collectively be that much better prepared to move the company forward.

So, in order to be more successful, they would learn from their failures. But, does one necessarily need to fail in order to be successful? This is where the conversation turned…

As we left the restaurant and made our way to the theater to see 3:10 to Yuma (I’d give it 2.5/4, btw) , we debated this. We dizzyingly volleyed theories, claims, and spin, back and forth through the hallways until the darkness and decorum of the theater dictated our silence. However, as the previews wound down, my adversary felt the need to summarize his views (and get in the last word while he could) with a succinct statement:

Success without failure is luck.

I gave this a few minutes thought as the opening credits rolled. Soon, however, Crowe and Bale had swept me back in time and away from my reality. When I came around two hours later, I had completely forgotten about our discussion and went about the next couple days blissfully.

Then, last night, a cryptic email:

What do you think…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=45mMioJ5szc

http://books.google.com/books?id=284xdq3x4ugC

What do I think?

Didn’t we come to realize that it doesn’t really matter what I think? Isn’t it more telling to know what we think? After all, that was the impetus for our conversation- the wisdom of crowds.

As such, I created a poll over at SeasonedGamers to find out a group’s view on whether or not failure was necessary for success . I kept the question as unbiased as I could, not giving any indication of my opinion- “Can you have success without failure?”. However, I needed to vote and I didn’t want my vote to show my preference, so I gave my adversary a head-start by submitting a ‘No’ vote.

As of this posting, and even despite my ‘No’ vote, “Yes- Success Exists Without Failure” is enjoying nearly a 2 to 1 advantage. Several respondents have also posted their views on why they chose what they did, and there are some wonderful insights mentioned there- be sure to review them, too.

So, while I could lay out my reasoning here as to why I think success can exist without failure, it is perhaps more telling, authentic and an incredible ironic twist that I can let the masses speak for me…

I feel obligated to clarify that my belief on this matter transcends the inherent relativity that exists between success and failure. Conceptually and definitively (as in, definition) the two require each other, like love and hate. I have to assume our promoted perspectives had accepted this as a certainty, and it’s my understanding that our discussion lies beyond this plane.

Surprise, surpise: “Objectives largely met.” – Gen. Petraeus

I do hate to be cynical, but General Pollyanna Petraeus says we’re making progress in Iraq and early withdrawal would have “devastating consequences.”  Did anyone really expect a different message?  No, even the most reluctant cynics expect him to toe the line. 

Despite overwhelming evidence that our investment of time, money and lives lacks any substantial return – we continue misappropriate our investments, in fact our sacred honor, in Iraq.  While Bin Laden continues to make home movies, we pursue a proxy war with Iran.  I guess we’ll just have to wait for a new administration for a change of course.


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