Wednesday, May 31, 2006

How Do Workplaces Get So Bad?

I woke in a cold sweat around 2am last night. I'd been having a nightmare that I was stuck back in my old job - the worst workplace I'd ever been subjected to. In the nightmare it was slightly worse than the reality, I was actually stuck. My chair was made from some sort of goo that was swallowing me and like a tar baby, the more I struggled, the more it sucked me in. My cow-orkers were laughing at me. I wasn't sure if it was because I was being swallowed by my chair or because I had the audacity to think I could do better.

When I woke up I couldn't remember the nightmare at first, then pieces of it started coming back to me. There was an almost overwhelming sense of dread that went with the remembering because what was coming back to me was that the reality of this place was hardly any better than the nightmare. It was almost every stereotype of a bad workplace rolled into one: below average pay, boring work, no future, managers who enjoyed ruling through fear rather than leading, a focus on blaming rather than problem solving, staff with low/no aspirations, people who focused on having a job rather than a career that might lead somewhere, and supposed peers who were more likely to attack you than stand together against bad management and broadly speaking, everyone there had a fucked-up attitude.

Including me.

I was angry all the time there. And not in a good way like on this blog. It was deadening, soul-destroying, spirit-crushing tedium, day in and day out that made me hate the fucking world and hate myself for being there. I always felt like I was in a better place than the other people, I had the saving grace of a more positive outlook than the deadwood around me so things were OK. The trouble with shitty workplaces like this is that you lose perspective. You think "I'm better than these fuck-knuckles so I must be OK." Then you finally (Inshallah) escape and you realise fuck-knuckle+1 is not a very good place to be. In my case, I think it took about a year of working in more "normal" environments to get my proper attitude back.

Two examples to show how low on the aspiration/attitude front these cow-orkers were. One: upon hearing the sort of contract rates it was possible to get and I would be getting once I escaped (about double the rate you got as a permanent in this shit hole) one of these fucktards said "How can you justify getting that amount?"

How can I justify it??? The stars come into alignment allowing me to make a bit of cash for a change and I have to justify it? How about I'll take as much as I can whenever I can because when these bastards have a chance to screw me down, they'll do it without blinking. You're clearly getting what you're worth - what you can "justify". While there are executives out there making (stealing) hundreds of millions I can justify plenty for myself. Stay in your tiny little world and don't waste your fucking breath passing judgement on me. I'm not interested.

A second example: cafes around here often have these free promotional postcards that occasionally have nice images on them. Usually they are advertising some product or event but occasionally they are "art for art's sake." One that caught my eye was the following piece by Sydney artist Nick Bleasel

I stuck in on my monitor as a bit of a lark, you know "lighten up people, have a bit of fun." Most people there actually got it (which surprised me) but one particularly dreary cow-orker took it down when I wasn't there. When I asked what happened she said she took it down because she didn't want people whistling because it would distract her. That was pretty much the only time I totally lost my shit in that workplace and vented at her for quite some time along the lines of "Don't ever touch things on my desk NOT EVER! Not under any circumstances! I don't care how miserable your life is, stay over in your corner! This is my desk and you have no right to touch anything on it ever!"

And she truly didn't see what was so fucked up with her attitude towards "cheerful whistling". I've been out of there for about three years now and every day that passes life seems better. I am still in contact with a former team member who escaped about a year after me and if either of us is ever feeling down about a given situation, the other always says: "Is it as bad as working in the shit hole?" To which the answer is always "No." So it served some purpose.

Nothing else ever seems as bad. I have contracted in a few places since then, each had their problems but none nearly as bad as this place. Upon leaving one place, a friend provided me with the following wisdom that explains quite well how workplaces get so bad in the first place:


Start with a cage containing five monkeys. In the cage, hang a banana on a string and put a set of stairs under it. Before long, a monkey will go to the stairs and start to climb towards the banana. As soon as he touches the stairs, spray all of the monkeys with cold water. After a while, another monkey makes an attempt with the same result - all the monkeys are sprayed with cold water.

Pretty soon, when another monkey tries to climb the stairs, the other monkeys will try to prevent it. Now, turn off the cold water. Remove one monkey from the cage and replace it with a new one. The new monkey sees the banana and wants to climb the stairs. To his horror, all of the other monkeys attack him. After another attempt and attack, he knows that if he tries to climb the stairs, he will be assaulted.

Next, remove another of the original five monkeys and replace it with a new one. The newcomer goes to the stairs and is attacked. The previous newcomer takes part in the punishment with enthusiasm.

Again, replace a third original monkey with a new one. The new one makes it to the stairs and is attacked as well. Two of the four monkeys that beat him have no idea why they were not permitted to climb the stairs, or why they are participating in the beating of the newest monkey.
After replacing the fourth and fifth original monkeys, all the monkeys which have been sprayed with cold water have been replaced. Nevertheless, no monkey ever again approaches the stairs. Why not?

"Because that's the way it's always been around here."

And that is how organisational policy begins.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

It's a Fine Time to be Paranoid

People sometimes make the mistake of asking me what I'm thinking. This is usually a mistake because I'll actually tell them. Very few people appreciate getting an insight into my mind - more often than not it scares them. I have been able to think of two aspects of my mind that cause this way of thinking that I have been repeatedly told is weird.

One is that my brain stores a huge amount of trivia and minutiae and I am quite good at reproducing this "knowledge" in quite some detail with very little encouragement. I have come to think of this as having velcro lining the inside of my skull. This mental velcro grabs stray bits of information and holds onto them for later. You never know when it will come in handy.

The second part is my thinking process tends to involve rapid word/image/concept association so when I think of one thing I make quick mental leaps from a to b to c to end up in outer Mongolia in a fashion that normal people find quite disturbing. So don't ask me what I'm thinking. I'll probably tell you.

What brought this to mind today was a magazine article being passed around at work. It had the heading "Spring clean your life". Many of the people I work with currently are into the whole "self improvement" thing; they don't stray too far into hippie territory (a good idea around me - read some of my back catalogue if you want to know why) but they're always open to ideas. While I approached this article with some trepidation, it was actually pretty good.

It essentially revolved around the teachings of the Greek philosopher Epicurus (I won't bore you with details, look him up on Google or Wikipedia if you're interested). The central idea was that if you simplify your life your mental health will improve and you'll be happier. Then I started thinking of mental health and how often then terms paranoia, schizophrenia, bipolar and split personality are used wrongly. Then I thought "don't we live in a perfect time to be paranoid" - as in suffering a mental disorder that makes you think you can hear voices and everybody is out to get you. Which is a complete misuse of the term paranoia.

I'm sure we've all heard the joke that the American Society of Psychiatrists have issued a press release saying that thinking the government is always watching you and listening to your phone calls is no longer a sign of paranoia. That gets truer every day. And who are the real beneficiaries of hands-free mobile phones? The crazy people who walk down the street having conversations and/or arguments with people nobody else can see or hear. They must feel better now that everybody is doing it.

Speaking of which, where have all the really crazy people gone? (Note how I'm avoiding saying they've all joined the Bush administration - except when I said it just then.) I've seen some fascinating ones in the past - guys walking down the street shaking their fist at the sky having full-on argument with God. Now all I see are people with no manners and no common sense using their mobiles to have conversations on really personal matters in really public places. Although it's still funny when they devolve into screaming at the person on the other end, apparently unaware of how many people are watching them.

And while I'm on the topic, don't listen to funny things on your iPod when out in public. You look like some sort of sick freak sitting there with a twisted smile or, worse, giggling insanely. And don't play racing games on your PSP while using public transport. Nobody can resist swinging their arms about when trying to make hard turns (even though it has no effect on the steering in the game) and you'll end up hitting someone. Plus, I don't like it when people are having more fun than me.

But to get back to my previous point, paranoia seems the perfect response to the world today. The US government has made it clear you have no rights and they are monitoring you. All the time. And they'll imprison you for no reason other than suspicion. And keep you locked away for years without charging you with anything let alone bringing you to trial (or, god forbid, actually convicting you of something). And if you live in a western democracy you can spend all your time being paranoid that some insane jihadist is going to strike out of the blue and kill you. If you live in an Islamic country you can be paranoid that the US is going to start bombing the shit out of you.

And if none of that worries you, there's always the next earthquake / tsunami / hurricane / volcano / act of god to be paranoid about. It truly is a fine time to be paranoid.

But I'm not paranoid, I'm angry. But Epicurus tells me I shouldn't be angry, I should be happy. But where would that leave my faithful readers? Stuck with hearing about how happy I am 365 days a year? How much would that suck? So I have to sacrifice my happiness for the sake of my readers. I'm willing to do that.

As it turns out, I can stay angry and still be fulfilled according to Epicurus. Seriously. Epicurus offers five fundamental routes to pleasure and I get all five from this blog:

1. Adventurous Pleasures: explore the unknown, try something new, meet new people. I feel like I'm getting all of these.

2. Mission-Oriented Pleasures: hone a skill, aim for a goal. Well, I'm honing my writing and aiming to post every day of the year.

3. Imaginary Pleasures: awaken the artist within. This blog is the best self-expression I've had in years.

4. Communicative Pleasures: write and create and share. I think this one speaks for itself.

5. Speculative Pleasures: ask yourself "what if?" I'm not sure where this blog is going yet but I sure am enjoying the journey.

So it's all good. I'm angry and fulfilled.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Apropos of Nothing in Particular

My desk calendar notes that today is "Spring Bank Holiday" in the UK. I first read that as Sperm Bank Holiday. Now that would be a special holiday. I think I need to go have a lie down.

Angry at Shallowness

Going through the regular workday morning ritual of ironing my business shirt for the day (sometimes I get it together enough to iron all my shirts at once - but not often) I had a bit of a domino effect happen with my angriness. First I was angry at having to iron a shirt - it's a sucky job. Then I was angry at having to wear a shirt an tie to work. Then I flashed back to how the crappy washing machine had put oil stains on some of my clothes, including a few business shirts. These were the only ones that really pissed me off. With the casual clothes, unusual stains could be written off as "character" but I can't go to work with a stained shirt. Then I realised what I was really pissed off about.

Shallowness.

Specifically, I was thinking about the belief that how you look in the workplace is of vital importance to your work. Admittedly, I don't want to go into a bank and be served by someone wearing stained sweatpants and a torn t-shirt. To be frank, I'd rather not go into banks at all but that's a different issue. When you have a "customer facing" role that's one thing. But when you work in an office where nobody else sees you, what the fuck is the point of wearing a business suit? I've had it put to me before that business dress promotes as professional environment and casual clothes promote a casual (or lazy) environment. Uptight bosses don't want slack staff so they enforce a strict dress code.

Let me offer you this wisdom in return: bollocks! Quality work is the product of a complex range of factors: the quality of workers, the quality of management, the extent to which people want to do their work (as opposed to simply picking up a paycheck), the level of support and security workers feel, the quality of tools available and the clarity of communication regarding what is/should be going on. Nice clothes won't get you anywhere if you don't address the core issues. So why is the dress code so often the focus of a company's management?

My opinion? Doing things right is hard. Telling someone what to wear is easy. Challenging pre-conceived ideas is hard. Supporting the status quo is easy. So much of what it takes to be successful is open to interpretation and/or needs to be adjusted to suit individual situations and people. A business suit is the same in any environment. Measuring the quality of someone's work accurately requires engagement and focus from management, they have to care about what's happening. Telling someone what to wear simply involves looking and pointing.

This shallow obsession with appearance obviously goes far beyond what you wear to work. But like most other manifestations of shallowness, this one revolves around being lazy and passing judgement rather than actually seeing a person as an individual. And it's the one I have to deal with four days a week (casual Friday, woohoo!) so today it's what's making me angry.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

In Defense of Being Angry

One recurring theme I noticed in my recent forays into the right wing blogosphere was a questioning of why the left are so angry. The nature of the blogs posing this question led me to put them into two broad camps: those who genuinely didn't understand the anger and couldn't relate to it and those who were simply being supercilious twats who considered they had the high morals ground. To the second group, the obnoxious pricks who couldn't challenge a diseased weasel for moral or intellectual superiority: fuck you in the neck with a butter knife (this copyright term used with kind permission of Sandra). But because some people genuinely don't seem to understand what engenders this sort of anger, I thought I'd try to explain.

The simplest explanation I can think of is that those in power really ought to understand that if those outside the power group feel (rightly or wrongly) they are being deprived of something important to them, they will get angry. You don't have to agree with the disenfranchised masses about what they deserve but if you can't even see what's driving them you don't score very highly on the perception scale. Not to mention the empathy scale. The scale of anger is often (though not always) in proportion with the perceived offence but the level of anger tends to rise with the passage of time if the causes are not addressed and/or new reasons to be angry are added.

That's a little abstract and I could tie it to concrete issues but what's the point? They are political issues and people on the left and right both have a tendency to toe the political line rather than look at things objectively. The fact that: stealing an election; launching an unjust invasion based on lies; continuing to lie; being apparently unable to face reality; trampling on the right of your own citizens when you get bored with trampling on the rights of other countries; repeatedly breaking the law; applying abhorrent double standards to almost everything imaginable; promoting indiscriminate abduction, torture and murder; wasting the lives of your own soldiers and billions of dollars; not even come close to caring about killing tens of thousands of foreigners; are all seen as forgivable because they're done "your guy"... well, I can't think of any sensible or moral response apart from anger.

You know one thing that really bugs me, apart from all the big things? The denial of past behaviour. The consistently pretending "hey, we were completely supportive when Clinton was president." Clinton got heaps of shit for saying gays should be allowed in the army. Bush gets thousands of soldiers killed simply because of mismanagement and conservatives say ex-generals shouldn't speak out. Clinton gets heaps of shit for admitting he smoked dope. Bush gets a free pass for not admitting that he's a coke head and a drink driver even though everyone knows it's true.

There are times when polite disagreement doesn't cut it.

And I'd like to spend a moment defending anger itself. Anger doesn't have to be bad. Anger doesn't have to mean violence. Properly applied, anger is an effective way to reduce stress. If you can lead a life without stress, bravo! Just don't gloat about it to me or I'll punch you in the face. Wait... I think that's bad anger. I'll punch a punching bag. If you happen to be like 98% of the population and have to deal with stressful situations a daily basis, living in denial will make your stress worse, not better.

It'll build up until you die from a stroke. And isn't venting occasionally more fun than a blood vessel exploding in your brain?

Saturday, May 27, 2006

All Hail The Foreskin King!

Well, I won't bore you at too much length with how I've been obsessing over my site state this week but the big news as far as I'm concerned is that if you enter "foreskin blog" in Google I appear in the top five results. I always wondered what I would be famous for and now I know. I'm thinking of getting a t-shirt printed up: "I appear in the top 5 Google results for 'foreskin blog'" Mum would be so proud.

Using sexual terms in blog posts continues to be a good way to be a good way to appear in search engine results and the ever popular "nude sex" remains my calling card. But this week, to my eternal delight, "fully clothed sex" appeared twice in the search results. The disturbing thing is some of these search terms give you too much of an insight into how fucked up people can be. I'm not going to pollute your minds with the worst ones but trust me, they're bad.

I'm probably happiest when people use search terms that I have actually covered in posts, like this week there was "toilet etiquette" (several times) "hanging toilet paper", "drug abuse", "brake lights stay on" and "hippies and crystals". And lots of Stephen Colbert and Daily Show searches. And I do hope the people searching for "what makes people angry", "example of an angry man" and "I am fucking angry all the time" found what they were looking for.

And yesterday I found out what happens when someone puts a link to your blog on reddit and it doesn't really take off. You get about 200 extra site visits. Woo! Apparently if you hit their front page you end up with thousands or even tens of thousands of extra visits. Still, I hit a new high of over 300 visits in a day so I'm happy.

I hope at least some new readers find a reason to stick around.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Anger Management for Four Year Olds

One of my favourite humour sites is McSweeney's Internet Tendency. Some truly weird approaches to humour on this site, almost dada-ist in nature. Today they hit the mark for me with the story of a four year old entering an anger management class It maintains my angry meme nicely.

Also, in line with my recent political rantings, check out the explanation of why there aren't many right wing observational comedians.

I'm Still Angry at Hippies

Q1: What's worse that hippies prattling on about "spiritual healing"?

A1: People who form cults built around hippie spiritual healing concepts.

Q2: What's worse than silly new age cults?

A2: Silly new age cults that charge money for "energy conversion sessions"

Q3: What's worse than religious/hippie cults ripping people off via bogus new age crap?

A3: Cult leaders who sexually assault little girls.

http://www.theage.com.au/news/national/girls-molested-during-sessions/2006/05/25/1148524807764.html

Guess what happens to child molesters in jail dickhead? Get ready for some "enlightenment" you really aren't going to like.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

You Always Hurt The One You Love

Christian love or S&M fetish? You be the judge. Salon.com is one of my regular reads and they have a feature article on an apparently growing trend among some Christians known as "training up" or more commonly known as corporal punishment. You have to watch an ad to read full articles on the site but I think it's worth it.

Read it here.

Sometimes it's the Little Things

While I've spent a bit of time recently getting angry about political issues on the world scale but it's important not to lose touch with the little things that make me angry. Partly because these are the things I have to deal with on a daily basis and partly because the scale of the big world-wide bullshit oftentimes scares the crap out of me. So a lot of the time I'd prefer not to think about the big things.

I feel compelled to tell you today about how pissed off I usually end up after a trip to the supermarket. The angryfying incidents usually start as soon as I get there and don't stop until I leave. The first challenge is, of course, getting a parking space. Apparently everyone in my suburb gets the urge to go shopping at the same time because I have a bastard of a time finding a parking space whenever I go there. That's bad enough but have you ever noticed how the quest for a parking space tends to turn people into psychos?

Honestly, I'm not that aggressive towards other people in real life, despite appearances on this blog. The parking confrontation is bad enough when it's ambiguous who "found" the space first so it's not clear who should back off. But it really drives me crazy when you have been waiting for a car to come out of a space for a while then some nutjob swoops in and wants to fight you for it. And in many cases I mean literally fight. So you're put in a situation where you have to choose between engaging in an aggressive conflict or giving up a space that is rightfully yours by any standards of public decency. It's a fucking car space, not your ancestral homeland - get over it.

I think the car park thing is universal but the next part may be peculiar to me. I may have mentioned before my addiction to a particular caffeine laden fizzy beverage. Of all the variety of colas available there is only one I will drink out of preference. When there is an occasional special at the supermarket on my poison of choice I will attempt to stock up - get a couple of weeks' supply to save money. But the flavour I like is always the first to disappear from the shelves. This is not my imagination or some weird persecution complex. Maybe some of the other things I say are, but this is the simple truth.

My favourite is always, always the first one gone. And no word of exaggeration, at least 2/3 of the time when I go looking for an advertised special THEY DON'T HAVE ANY IN STOCK! The other four variations of the brand will be there in abundance but not mine. This is some bullshit conspiracy and when I track down the people behind it they are in trouble.

It goes beyond fizzy caffeine delivery systems too. There is a particular bread I like. It's thick cut and by some magical process (probably some evil chemical process) when you toast it, it goes crunchy on the outside and stays soft on the inside. It's totally awesome, fully living up to its advertising hype. And it's never in stock when I look for it. The same breadmaker has five other variations and they're always there. It never fails that my favourite is the only one out of stock. And so the whole trip to the supermarket is a waste of time. Yes, the only things I live on are bread and cola.

And then there's the checkouts. I have some insane, bizarre psychic power that enables me to pick the worst of all possible checkout queues to get in. If there are six lines, I'll pick the slowest. If I notice another line moving much faster and move over to it, after I get there it will slow right down and the line I used to be in will start moving faster. So I stay in one line knowing that changing lines is useless but then I see if I had changed to another line I would already be through.

So I've decided those cameras they have everywhere aren't to stop shoplifters. They use them to see me coming so they can get ready to fuck me over.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Gutless Wankers

You know what? I've decided I'm sick of making efforts to be even handed. It's hardly going to make the nutcases see reason so I might as well continue to have fun by ripping on people who piss me off. Although I might lay off the politics for a while. At least for a day or two - until I read something else that pisses me off. Maybe that's the answer, I should stop reading.

The specific gutless wankers I refer to in the title of this post are the ones I referred to in a previous post. They made a post on their blog insulting all Muslims calling them apes because of the existence of extremists and murderers. I posted a calm, reasoned comment to see if they could give an intelligent response. Apparently the answer is no. I'm not linking to them because they're not worth it (although I can give the link if anyone's really interested.) When they received a pretty stupid rebuff they ripped into the commenter (as I would) but there's been silence in response to me. At least they didn't delete my comment but they certainly seem to be pretending it isn't there. Here's my comment:

"Hmmmm, so what is your point? What is the resolution you see? The elimination of Islam? No, you didn't say that, you didn't even suggest it I'’m just asking what the end point is for you. My personal view: the vast majority of what you posted is objectively true. The bits I don'’t agree with (for what it's worth):

That it's unreasonable to point out barbarity done in the name of Christianity, Judaism and/or Western values. The fact that in the modern age bad things done in the name of Jesus happen less often and less severely (broadly) than bad things done in the name of Allah doesn't mean they don't happen at all.

That it isn'’t possible for a devout muslim to oppose extremisim done in the name of Islam. I just think is straight out wrong - I don'’t know that it's possible to argue this point objectively. It seems no matter how many muslims I might put forward to state this view you would say they are lying.

Your assessment of the situation in Iraq. Again, I don'’t believe this is possible to resolve objectively - you are stating a point of view as an irrefutable truth. For starters I think your assertions of the views of '“the vast majority'” of Iraqis are at best simplistic.

You rightly point out that a recurring flaw of the left is to support causes simply because they are opposed by the right. But don't you think you have erred a little far in the opposite direction by asserting there can't possibly be anything good about Islam or even individual muslims? That's how your view came across to me, correct me if I'’m wrong."

Should I assume because they didn't respond that's an acknowledgement that I'm right? That's how I choose to take it anyway :)

I'm going to close with a few quotes from Scott Adams' Dilbert Blog. He seems to dedicate most of his posts to saying fairly inflammatory or at least leading things then watching the fun as people respond with comments. I suspect Scott spent a lot of time as a boy poking ant's nests with a stick. I am sometimes tempted to comment on his blog but the signal-to-noise ratio is so poor (hundreds of comments to every post - most of them complete crap) that it hardly seems worth it.

Recently, Scott posed the ultimate taboo question: Why does the US give so much aid to Israel? He asked it as a "please explain the cost/benefit payoff" question rather than a political or moral question but of course all the justifications given were political and/or moral (which doesn't make them wrong by definition - at least in my opinion). He's had a couple of follow ups but yesterday I thought he was showing signs of starting to get pissed off with people. Most of his posts consist of having little digs at humanity in general, like this one:

"I reiterate my belief that all humans can be persuaded to do just about any damned thing. The existence of suicide bombers is good evidence of that, not to mention the plethora of religions that can't all be true at the same time. Most of the world is brainwashed most of the time."

But then he said the following:

"By definition, you'’re a racist if you believe that ordinary Muslims are incapable of acting rationally, unless you believe exactly the same thing about yourself and everyone else. In that case you just have a low opinion of people in general, and that's socially acceptable."

A typical joke at the end but I really got the feeling he wants the racists to shut the fuck up or at least admit they're racist. I will be interested to see if he cracks again or goes back to taunting people until he provokes a response. Nice call on the racism though.

Lies, Damn Lies and Right Wing Idiots With Blogs

Gahhhhhh! I was already angry about nutcase right wing bloggers (and news outlets) and then this verdampt Blogger interface locks up on me and I lose the post when I was 3/4 through. Well I've got a serious head of angry steam going now so stand back! I wouldn't want to spray any on your nice clothes.

So the latest story they're on about, along similar lines to my other post, is these "secret" Saudi textbooks that have supposedly been smuggled out of Saudi Arabia to show us the "truth" about these so-called allies. I think I'll always use "truth" in quotation marks when referring to right wingers because you clearly can't believe a fucking word they say. They won't even concede when you objectively prove them wrong. Case in point: one of the bloggers at the centre of the bullshit storm over the Iranian authorities supposedly planning to make non-muslims wear coloured identification badges on their clothes said this after the story was proved false:

"It doesn't really matter whether or not the Iranian Mullahs have actually passed the law" (note the implication that the law was proposed but didn't pass - this is another lie, the law never existed! How the fuck can you pass a law that doesn't exist"?) "What matters is that they are... perfectly capable of passing such a law".

What the fuck?!?!?!?! It no longer matters if you're telling the truth? It only matters what you think is possible? Fine, I think Bush is perfectly capable of cracking open the skulls of newborn babies to feast on the goo within. It doesn't matter whether or not he's actually done it, it matters that I think he's perfectly capable of doing it. So can we send the fucker to the chair already? That'd be some fine Texas-style justice.

Anyway, that was yesterday, this is today. The Washington Post is feeding the nutjob fires today with its "expose" on the evil Saudi school system. Let me start by saying I don't like or trust the Saudi regime. I think the house of Saud would screw over anyone to protect their own interests. I believe they are capable of fostering violence against non-Muslims to appease Wahhabi zealots and killing and torturing these same zealots to appease the west. At the same time.

In other words, they're politicians.

And of course Saudi Arabia is the home of Wahhabi fundamentalism. For anyone who's not paying attention these are the dangerous ones. Not even other Muslims are safe from Wahhabi hardliners.

The main things that piss me off about this story are: one, it's a hatchet job. They are taking individual lines from entire curriculums, quoting them out of context and saying that proves a point. Second, so far as hatchet jobs go, it's pathetic. Seriously, you could have taken any individual line to make them look bad and this is the best you could come up with? I don't think they're trying very hard. Give me any speech of Bush's and I can make him look way worse by quoting him out of context (and often by quoting him in context). Still, let's look at a couple of lines that they undoubtedly think are the worst. From the year one curriculum:

"Fill in the blanks with the appropriate words (Islam, hellfire): Every religion other than ______________ is false. Whoever dies outside of Islam enters ____________."

Pretty appalling stuff and not something I'd want taught to my kids. But it's exactly what I was taught in Catholic school (with Islam replaced by Catholicism of course). If you can't be honest enough to admit that other major religions preach that unbelievers are going to hell then I have no time for you. And just like the Wahhabi attitude to other Muslims, Catholic doctrine says other Christians are going to hell too. Here's a line from the year four curriculum:

"True belief means . . . that you hate the polytheists and infidels but do not treat them unjustly."

Does that sound at all like a right wing Christian talking about gays? No, of course it doesn't. When was the last time you heard the religious right saying we should avoid treating gays unjustly? The real doozy comes from year twelve:

"Jihad in the path of God -- which consists of battling against unbelief, oppression, injustice, and those who perpetrate it -- is the summit of Islam."

Oh my god! Getting them just as they leave school and turning them into suicide bombers! Well, apart from the fact that the central tenet of jihad means internal spiritual struggle; physical jihad (holy war) is regarded as lesser jihad. Now you don't have to convince me that the way the above quote is phrased qualifies as weasel words. Obviously it can be twisted to mean holy war when talking to students while claiming to non-believers that it innocently means spiritual jihad. I said before I don't trust the Saudi regime - I think they're dangerous. I'm sure glad the Bush administration has never given soldiers tacit encouragement to torture and murder people in the name of advancing "western values" but said it in such a weasel way that they can deny having said it later.

Oh... wait a minute.

Dammit

Great. I just lost a draft I'd been working on for 40 minutes. Fuck you Blogger. I'll try again tonight.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

I Have a New Mentor

Yes, I have a new mentor and his name is Guy Kawasaki. He doesn't know he's my mentor yet but I'm sure he won't mind - he seems like a nice chap. For those who don't know anything about him; Guy used to be "Chief Evangelist" for Apple (I think that was his official job title), he's written a bunch of books on startups, marketing and business wisdom, and these days he seems to be a VC. The "Filmloop" technology featured on his blog today looks quite interesting - I'm guessing he's involved with that company somehow.

But none of these are the reasons he's my mentor - I want to emulate his absolutely shameless climbing of the Technorati blog popularity ladder. He's been in the top 100 blogs for a while (he's about number 39 now I think) and he makes no secret of his desire to hit the top 10. I've seen people try and insult him for being shallow in his comments but you can't insult him! He freely admits it's a shallow goal and I love that he embraces that.

Now, a lot of what I write leans heavily to the sarcastic/cynical/ironic end of the spectrum and you'd be forgiven for reading this post in that light. But it's the honest truth - I respect that he's so open about this goal and as anyone who reads my posts about visitor stats will know, I'm also shamelessly obsessed with making my blog popular. My current goal is to reach Technorati's top 100,00. Not a very lofty goal compared to Guy's but he's someone and I'm nobody. I don't mean that in a woe-is-me way or even in a self-effacing way, it's a simple truth. Guy Kawasaki is famous (in his own way) and I'm not. So I'm taking small steps at first.

Beyond the shallow popularity goal, Guy has a pretty good blog, particularly if you're into business/technology/marketing issues at all. It may surprise some readers to discover I have an interest in this area but I work in IT and a lot of what Guy writes has direct application to my day-to-day life. Even if he's a tiny bit more upbeat than me. His "lies" category is particularly good.

So I think I have a holy trinity of role models now (that's my Catholic upbringing coming out). Stephen Colbert remains unchallenged as god, I've decided Ian McKellen can be the holy spirit and Guy Kawasaki can be little baby Jesus.

Clearly I'm going to hell.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Is there intelligence in the right wing blogosphere?

My brain is overloading tonight so one more post. Zenstar also seems to be in OCD mode tonight so we'll see if he's still up as well :)

So, time to stir some shit. A cursory reading of my archives will show a strong disposition to left-wing politics. Despite my strongly worded opinions I frequently scout around other blogs to see if I can find someone with divergent views with whom I can nevertheless have some discourse. I don't expect to find a right wing blogger who will sway me to their point of view and I don't expect to change them but I want some intelligent debate goddammit!

Some qualifiers: I'm not talking simply about people who are to the right of me (that's probably nearly everyone who reads this blog) and I'm not talking about neo-nazis. I'm talking about people who fit into the mainstream but on the extreme right of the spectrum and have blogs that are mostly dedicated to politics and/or social issues. There's a hell of a lot of blogs that fit this criteria but fuck-all intelligent commentary that I've been able to find. Seriously, if anyone knows of an intelligent right-wing blog I'd really like to read it. Maybe I'll just follow some links from Instapundit (number one right-wing blog on Technorati). Surely they can provide someone whose intelligence I can respect, even if I heartily disagree with them.

Here's on thing that's been setting me off lately: the right-wingers' tendency to say all Muslims are insane Jihadists. They often go beyond saying "they're all the same" to the point where they assert that it's impossible for a Muslim to be opposed to violent extremism carried out in the name of Islam. And they spout isolated incidents, half-truths and outright lies to "prove" their point that Islam is inherently evil. Their latest bullshit is promoting a story that they Iranian regime is promoting a law that will force non-muslims to wear identifying "badges" on their clothes a-la the Nazis in WWII.

I am no fan of the Iranian hardliners and there's no way you'd catch me living in an Islamic theocracy that promoted Sharia law (nor a Christian or Jewish theocracy for that matter) but this story is completely false. One blog that was expounding the "truth" of this bullshit cited about a dozen blogs carrying the story to prove their point. Blogs! For fuck's sake, I can find a dozen blogs that are sure that flu vaccinations are really injecting us with alien zygotes! What the fuck does quoting partisan blogs prove? Try some actual new sources! I found the following:

A copy of the draft law obtained by The Associated Press made no mention of religious minorities or any requirement of special attire for them...

and

Iran's only Jewish MP strongly denied reports that Tehran may force non-Muslims to wear colored badges in public so as they can be identified.

"This report is a complete fabrication and is totally false," Maurice Motammed told Agence France-Presse (AFP) in Tehran on Friday, May19 .

"It is a lie, and the people who invented it wanted to make political gain by doing so."

That's 5 seconds on Google, people. It isn't hard to come by the truth if you have any real interest in finding it. Get a fucking clue.

Oh, and on the off chance any right winger is reading this blog for the first time (I left a mildly inflammatory comment on a blog) and wants to attack me for my intelligence or lack thereof, do yourself a favour and look up dramatis personae first. And then come to terms with the concept of humour.

And then wrap your head around the fact I don't give a fuck what you think.

The DaVinci Code - "Fiction" Furore Defused

Let me start by saying I don't give a shit about the DaVinci Code. I haven't read the book and I have no interest in doing so. I'd doubt I'm going to go see the movie either. Not out of any pathological objection to the subject matter - I just don't care enough about it. There are about 1,000 books I'll read before I bother.

The ridiculous concept that the movie should include some disclaimer that it's "fiction" is an insult to any rational person's intelligence. Of course it's fiction, it's a fucking movie. The "source material" has been comprehensively proven to be false. End of story. Dan Brown is a bullshitter. Big woop.

And yet some insecure christians insist on giving the movie and book free publicity. Unless it's some sort of elaborate publicity stunt and there are no real christians stupid enough to get worked up about it. I realise that the vast majority of christians aren't stupid enough to fall for this shit but it troubles me that anyone might be. Anyway, Gandalf has saved the day.

Sir Ian McKellan, who played Gandalf in the Lord of the Rings movies, is in the DaVinci Code movie. When being interviewed about the "fiction" idea he responded with "the bible should have a disclaimer in front saying this is fiction." Way to defuse the situation Sir Ian.

No more controversy.

Kicked Puppy Syndrome

I think I have kicked puppy syndrome. I'm going to explain the term so you know what I mean (and copyright it in case nobody's used it before - that way I can charge a fortune to address seminars on the topic).

You know how if you kick a puppy repeatedly it will end up cowering every time you come near it, regardless of whether or not you intend to kick it? You do? You sick bastard, stop kicking those puppies! OK, I'm sure none of us actually does that to puppies so I'll rephrase: We're all reasonable people who wouldn't hurt puppies but I'm sure we're all intelligent enough to conceive of the scenario where, if some bad person did kick a puppy repeatedly it would end up cowering whenever they approach.

I feel like this way too often in the workplace. I have had to endure some really shitty workplaces and I've documented several aspects of my worst workplaces in this blog. These are all true stories - or at least "inspired by a true story" to borrow a Hollywood term. The worst thing for me is being blamed for something that's beyond my control. Someone asks "when will that be finished", I answer: "I don't know - it's beyond my control, Croc has to authorise it and Croc hasn't given any clear guidelines on what I have to do to get it authorised." The response is then "Bullshit, you're not working hard enough."

It's amazing how common this dysfunctional attitude is in workplaces. As a result, when things are going well (like my current role) I spend an inordinate amount of time waiting for them to go wrong. We are working hard right now on a major milestone and the resolution has been dragging on for about two weeks. The reason we didn't finish two weeks ago is everybody is determined to do it right and not be bound by an artificial deadline. We'll finish when we're done, not when an arbitrary date clicks by. Every now and then I even get complimented on how hard I am working and the quality of my work.

Because of kicked puppy syndrome I'm always a little flinchy, always expecting to be kicked again. The truth is, I feel like a bit of a fraud. I get paid quite a bit as a contractor - I'm no millionaire but I'm getting far more than I could have conceived of even 10 years ago. I lucked into working in an industry (IT) where you can get decent bucks if you play your cards right. People who do important work (health services springs to mind) get paid far less. But then again there are plenty of people who get way more and deserve it way less. I come from a large working class family (cue the violins now) so getting lots of money feels a little weird sometimes. And a spend a bit of time worrying that my fraud is about to be exposed. "Aha!" they will shout, "He's nothing but a big cockroach!" Wait... that's a Far Side cartoon.

I'm good at my job. Things that I find easy are very hard for some people. The central aspect of my job is communication, writing clearly and helping people understand new and/or difficult concepts. The way the job market values my skills, I deserve what I'm getting. In fact, looking at the job market, I can probably go for about 20% more on my next contract. And this is what makes me so angry about bad bosses. They crush people's spirit. They want people to be scared of losing their jobs rather than have them be inspired by their jobs.

It's funny when you read it in a Dilbert cartoon but it's really fucked going through it in real life.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Angry at Communal Facilities

I'm having one of those "events conspiring against me" weekends. My original plan was a party on Saturday night and not much else (leaving me plenty of time to obsess over my blog) but there were a lot of last minute add-ons. I ended up having my kids to look after unexpectedly but that's something I always say yes to, then a friend came to town for the weekend so I arranged to pick him up from the airport on Saturday and drop him off on Sunday. But the thing that's really pissing me off is I have to share a laundry in my apartment building.

I'm all for sharing, I'm virtually a communist. So long as everybody gets the fuck out of my way when I want to do something. In this apartment building I have to share a laundry even though I have my own washing machine because there's no damn washing machine taps in my flat. Which wasn't that bad because I figured out something out to my advantage. In my suburb generally and my building specifically there are a lot of orthodox Jews so they wont use the machine on Saturday because of the Sabbath. Ha ha! Organised religion works in my favour for once!

So I never used to have trouble getting machines when I wanted them and life was good. Then some fucker (probably a mechanic) washes clothes soaked in oil so all my clothes get ruined by fucking oil stains when I wash them in the same machine later. I don't have a problem with mechanics but what sort of fuckwit washes oily clothes in a machine that other people have to use? I'll tell you what sort: the sort I'm going to hunt down and kill. OK, well not kill but something terrible is going to happen to them. I haven't decided what exactly but it won't be nice.

With all the busyness this weekend it gets to sunday afternoon and I haven't done my washing and someone else is using the machine so I have to wait and now my stuff is in the dryer which is going to take hours so I'm blogging in the meantime but I have to take my kid's back to their mum's place soon and if I wait for my clothes to dry first I won't be back home from the drive until fucking midnight or something but if I leave my stuff unattended in the dryer some freak might get at them and steal my spandex g-string I mean my stuff so I'm really stressed at the moment in fact I think I'm getting a fucking migraine.

In the meantime, I'm open to suggestions on what to with the oily bastard who keeps ruining my clothes.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Weekly Blog Activity Review

I think it's time I gave you an update on my obsession with what's happening on this blog - I'm absolutely obsessed with blogging now and feel like inflicting some of my obsession on you dear readers. How's that for an insight into my psyche? I'm more than an excessively angry person - I'm also shallow, vain and desperate to boost my blog readership. Also, looking at how weird some of the search terms used that end up here still cracks me up.

Well, the big milestones were the Blogger counter finally going over 1000 visits and a day later the Wordpress counter went past 2000. For those who don't know I'm mirroring this blog content on those two blogging tools while I decide which one I prefer. If anyone's interested I might post a comparison of their features and relative strengths/weaknesses later. They were at an equal count at about 400 but since then the Wordpress readership has grown at about double the rate. I'm not sure what first made the Wordpress blog get more readers but since then I've been promoting it more (via comment whoring) than the Blogger one so I'm not surprised it's going further ahead.

But the real fun is always looking at the referrals and particularly the search terms to see what sort of weirdo freak is finding my blog. On the referrals front, I give out big thanks to "Afte4hou4s". I don't know who this is, if it's a regular commenter with a different persona or someone who has read my blog without commenting but they got me heaps of traffic by mentioning me on an REM discussion board. It was cute to have my blog referred to as containing "a few 4 letter words". Fuckin' A.

The search engine referrals continue the mix of relevant, weird and downright perverted. But I do know who to thank for quite a few. If happychick hadn't introduced me to Sandra I would never have used the term "fuck you in the neck" or had discussions on "will become alcoholic" statistics, "drugs fuck you up" or "I don't drink alcohol" - all search terms used to find me this week. The "365 days a year" thing continues to score hits (I had no idea it would work that way) and there was an odd flurry of Stephen Colbert based searches in the middle of the week. The cool thing is how often people searching for proper spelling of names and word usage end up here. Angry, ranting propaganda only works if people read it!

I often wonder if the pervy searchers stick around to read. There were plenty of searches for "nude sex" (as opposed to fully clothed sex I guess) and creepily enough, two days in a row the search string "teen teen teen sex" appeared. What's with all the repetition? Do they think they'll find more teenagers that way?

My favourites for the week that would have pointed to relevant content were:

"your mother doesn't work here"

"inventor kellogg cornflakes"

"hanging toilet paper the correct way"

And possibly the best one: "I am fucking angry all the time" Hope they had fun.

And my favourite WTF? moments were "him a blowjob" and "fuck 365". Neither of those makes sense. So I'm apparently attracting pervs who can't even put a sentence together. And then there was "aussie men nude". Not yet my friend. Who knows, maybe if I get enough requests...

Friday, May 19, 2006

Mr Angry's Sure-Fire Internet Dating Tips

Following the success of my recent relationship advice column I've decided expound on something I have probably had longer involvement with than most: internet dating. As an aside, the positive response to my relationship advice was slightly disturbing to me. How bad have inter-gender relations gotten if what I say makes sense?

Internet dating, on the other hand is something I feel I can actually claim expertise on. My first success in this area was unintentional and actually predates internet dating as such. Back in the mid-90s I did meet a lovely lady without the benefit of any organised dating sites, through the magic of text-only Internet Relay Chat (IRC). I have a suspicion this relationship happened (and worked for a while) mainly because neither of us were in the chatroom with the intention of picking anyone up.

I was such a ground-breaker that my first-born was featured in a British net magazine back in '97 because the writer was pretty sure this was the first internet baby she had heard of. Definition of internet baby: a baby that wouldn't have happened if the internet hadn't existed, i.e. the parents wouldn't have met without the net. Since the end of that relationship I have had a few less than spectacularly successful relationships launched via online contacts but, more recently, have found the love of my life through an organised dating site.

So I know of what I speak. Listen up chilluns:

Rule number one for males: Don't be an arsehole. When I tell some guys this, they think I mean they have to be smooth and charming, maybe go so far as to write love poetry. Those things will help but I mean that advice literally: don't be an arsehole. If all you do is raise your behaviour above the level of a gutter-dwelling fuckwit then you are ahead of about 97% of your competition. I have no idea what sort of a sad loser you have to be to behave the way the majority of males do in online forums (maybe it's just the most visible ones, not an actual majority) and I don't want to know.

True story number 1: I found out after spending several weeks in a particular chat room that a number of females had assumed I was female despite the fact a male icon appeared next to my nickname. Their reason for assuming this was that I had never tried to hit on them. When they found out I was actually male they got real interested in me. TIP: guys, if you can go at least three sentences without saying "how big are your boobs" it will work in your favour.

Rule number one for females: This rule can also be applicable to men but women are at the most risk. Don't say anything to someone online that you wouldn't say in a bar to a drunk, fat, ugly, hairy, smelly degenerate who was clearly an axe murderer. Most of the stories are online predators are grossly exaggerated but it doesn't pay to take risks. It's really straightforward, never give out identifying information, never say where you live and if/when you plan to meet do it somewhere public and make sure somebody else knows what you are doing. Oh, and make sure the person you are meeting knows you are taking these precautions too. It isn't being rude - it's being smart.

Rule number two for males: Be clear on what you want. If you can't handle smokers, say so. If you don't want someone with radically different political views, say so. And keep it simple - don't bother with Playboy pick-up lines. Believe it or not fellahs, every woman is an individual. What one thinks is a smooth line, another thinks makes you look like a dork. If you stay true to yourself at least you will be attracting the right sort of woman - one who might actually be interested in you. And be honest about your intentions: if you are still playing the field don't spin some shit about "looking for your soul mate".

Rule number two for females: remember that men will do anything for sex. Don't be a cocktease but don't put out as a matter of course. I think it's possible for a good relationship to come out of a first date that ends with sex but I don't think it's the most likely outcome. If it's what you truly want, go for it. But don't have sex just because you think the man won't stick around if you don't. Trust me, the guys who say that are exactly the ones who won't stick around after you have sex with them.

God, I sound like my mother.

Unisex rule number one: Don't lie. If you are overweight, say so. Use your real age. Use a recent photo. And those studio/makeover pictures scare the hell out of me. Half the time they make you look horrible and plastic and if they look good, well, you know the person doesn't really look like that. I know lots of people think if they "fudge the truth a little" they'll get noticed by someone who will ultimately look past their flaws. Bullshit. No successful relationship can be based on a lie.

Unisex rule number two: If you're not interested say so. Politely is nice, but clearly is important. Don't make up bullshit and don't simply stop responding. Do someone the courtesy of letting them know and don't leave them in doubt. "I don't think it would work out" or something similar is sufficient - you don't need to get as specific as "that hair growing out of your nose freaked me out." Saying you are being honest when you are actually being cruel means you are cruel, hypocritical and delusional. And if someone says they aren't interested in you, accept it and move on. Don't get needy/whiny/stalkery. The sooner you let that person go the sooner you can find someone who is interested.

True story number two: To round off, something that should have gone in the previous relationship rules post but I forgot. Although I think this is more a female tendency than a male one (I've certainly had it done to me and I haven't actually seen a man do it) I'm making this a unisex rule. Don't tell you partner what they do and don't like. How it happened to me was I ordered a particular meal at a restaurant and my (then) girlfriend (now ex) said "You don't like that."

I know what I fucking like OK?

It's perfectly OK to say "I didn't think you liked that" or "I thought you told me you didn't like that" or even "Do you know what's in that?" (I had to save a friend from ordering Steak Tartar at a French restaurant once - he had no idea it was raw mince). But if you say "You don't like that" you are clearly saying "You are a moron. What the hell are you thinking? Clearly I need to control every aspect of your life and never let you make another decision again."

That my dear readers is a one-way ticket to dumpsville - population: you. (Thank you Homer Simpson)

Thursday, May 18, 2006

News of the Stupid

I thought I might provide you with some news items about stupid people in the news recently in Australia. Stupid people always makes angry, usually because of the impact they have on other people but also because, well, they're just so fucking stupid.

There is a cavalcade of stupidity coming from the government and public servants over Australia's first military fatality in Iraq. Last month Private Jake Kovco died in Baghdad - he wasn't a combat casualty; he was shot in the head with his own pistol while two other soldiers were present. The first stupidity was from the Defence Minister passing comment on the cause of death before he actually knew what happened. It went from "he was cleaning it and it went off" to "we don't know exactly what happened" include some strange statement about how it appeared the gun wasn't in his hand when it went off.

The media were their usual charming selves; they hounded the family of the soldier and engaged in considerable speculation about what happened including, obviously, the possibility of suicide. Like the family didn't already have enough to be upset at. Mind you, some statements made by the soldier's mother in the days immediately after his didn't help limit speculation. She made very strong statements to the effect that he definitely wouldn't have committed suicide and dropping the gun and getting accidentally shot in the head sounded like bullshit. My reading of what she was saying was that she thought one of the other soldiers was responsible.

The second bit of stupidity was when they shipped back the wrong body. Nice one, dickheads. And now, this week, the report on his death was "lost" and ended up in the hands of a particularly obnoxious radio shock jock. It seems the investigator, Brigadier Elizabeth Cosson (I'm not an expert on Australian military ranks but Brigadier is right up there - she's not a cadet), left a CD containing the draft report in a computer at the airport lounge. This guy was obviously cursed.

A different bit of government stupidity follows on from the story I blogged about earlier this week on violence in remote aboriginal communities. It has become, predictably enough, a political football with the responsible minister making strange claims like there was an organised paedophile ring involved that the police "knew" about but wouldn't act on. The police, also predictably enough, called bullshit on the minister and said he didn't know what he was talking about. Anyway, at least it looks like it can't be swept under the carpet any more. You never know though, stories move out of the spotlight and get forgotten quickly. And aborigines really are treated like shit in this country.

Another story with a bit of phrasing that I found stupid involved an explosion at a munitions factory. This was a rather big explosion that unfortunately killed three workers and reports so far tend to include this gem of wisdom: "the cause of the explosion is not known." Call me crazy but I think it might have something to do with all the fucking explosives.

And in a case of "if he was dead he'd win a Darwin award," last night a young motorcyclist was lucky to survive a crash. He wins a major stupid award for his effort: police saw him riding at night without a helmet so moved to pull him over. He sped off and police say they didn't pursue him for safety reasons. They did, however, find him soon as he had crashed through a barrier, injuring his leg and sustaining minor head injuries. It turns out he's a 19 year-old learner and he'd been riding a 600cc motorcycle when the law limits him to a 250cc.

So... we have a 19 year-old learner on an overpowered motorcycle. Not wearing a helmet. At night. Who speeds off when the cops spot him. He obviously is incapable of riding the bike because he crashes. And the lucky bastard comes out with relatively minor injuries. If you ask me, he had the fucking head injuries before he got on the bike.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

The Copyright Police

The Australian Government proposed some new copyright laws this week and at first I was quite excited because they seemed to be making some commonsense decision. The two standout decision were to make it officially legal to transfer music you own legally between devices (e.g. CD to MP3 player) and to "time-shift" TV programs, i.e. record them and watch them later.

It makes sense to officially legalise behaviour that almost everybody does (do you know anyone who's never recorded a TV show to watch later?) But then comes the stupidity: the law is going to include a proviso that you can only watch the recorded show once. What the fuck is that about? Who could possibly think that's a legitimate restriction? Well, the production companies for a start. I continue to be amazed by how both film and music studios seem to think the best way to maximise their profits is to fuck around their customers. But this seems stupid on more than one level - how could the "one viewing rule" possibly be enforced? Here's where the paranoia begins...

A proposal that's been defeated in the US (although the studios and the corrupt politicians they have bought keep making attempts to revive it) is known as the "broadcast flag". What this essentially means is the studios want every broadcast on TV to include an electronic "flag" that controls what you can do with that show. This can only work if every device that can receive a signal (TV, recorders, PC with TV receiver card) can read the flag AND BE LOCKED INTO OBEYING THE DICTATES OF THE FLAG. And that was the purpose of the proposed Broadcast Flag law - make every device compliant with this control and make any non-compliant device illegal. Australia seems to be staring down the barrel of an even worse truckload of restrictions now courtesy of a bunch of wankers called DVB.

So what this law seems to be opening the door to is a future of electronic devices that you buy but have no control over. Your TV, your recorder, you PC - none of these things will be under your control. And your old devices simply won't work. The goal is to make you pay again and again and again for content and to severely limit how you can choose to enjoy content you have paid for.

The constant justification for this is "the internet is full of people stealing our content!" And that's true. The internet is full of people who, by any reasonable legal definition, are stealing content. This is often presented as the end of an argument but really it's only the beginning. There are two key points that entertainment industry hacks seem to constant gloss over, twist or flat out lie about.

One: A significant portion of these people are getting content online that they can't get legally . The "owners" of the content aren't making it available in any convenient, realistically priced way so a lot of people don't believe they have a viable alternative - they go online and download it free. You want a parallel? In the early days of video, because of paranoia over piracy movies were for rental only - not sale. If you could buy one it cost about $100 so nobody much was interested. Then someone finally bit the bullet and started selling videos for $20. Lo and behold, a totally new multi-billion dollar revenue stream appears.

Two: Making up a figure for the amount of music and movies that are being traded online then attaching a dollar amount to that (usually somewhere in the billions) and saying that is what the studios are losing is a flat out fucking lie. Lies, damn lies and statistics. What that figure (however accurate it may or may not be) represents is the commercial value of the property if all the downloaders had paid for it. The studios did not lose that money because they never had it. The vast majority of that content (my unscientific conservative guess would be over 80%) is stuff that the downloaders were never going to pay for. If they have to pay, they'll do without.

I've gone on record before stating I don't want people to steal content. But I get really angry at these greedy, incompetent, clueless companies claiming the high moral ground and saying they have the right to tell us what we can and can't do with products we acquire legally. If they have their way, they'll totally kill innovation in the name of protecting their bottom line. The irony of it all is they're holding a gun to their own head and they appear to be too fucking stupid to realise it. These are the same people who fought tooth and nail to ban the VCR because it scared them. Luckily for them they lost because it created a whole new revenue stream that gave them billions of dollars they otherwise would never have received.

So here's my simple, fair proposal. Make content available to consumers how they want it and whenever they want it. And once we pay for it IT'S OURS! Don't tell us you can dictate when we watch it. Don't dictate where we can watch it. Don't dictate how often we can watch it. And don't tell us we can't watch it on different platforms. If I've paid for it I should be able to watch it on whatever new player comes along. Go after people who are ripping off your content for commercial gain and leave us alone in our own homes.

These greedy fucks don't seem to have any concept of fair play. But why the hell can't they see how much money they would make if they did it right? They have example after example from history of how new technology creates new revenue for them - what's so fucking hard to understand? All their effort at the moment seems to be focused on fucking over people who would willingly pay for their product if they were given a fair deal. Turn honest customers into criminals - real fucking smart.

They are dinosaurs and they will go the way of the dinosaurs.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Politically Correct

I have some real problems with the concept of political correctness. The most ardent advocates for it on the left and the most ardent opponents of it on the right both make me angry. What makes me really angry is that at its simplest, what is described/derided as political correctness is being nice to people, trying to make everyone feel valued and included.

This straightforward and worthwhile concept ends up being railroaded by people who have their own agenda to pursue. It seems anything can start of good and be twisted into something sick and wrong. It's fair to say there are examples of language mangling done in support of political correctness that descend into madness. In some extreme cases it seems the desire to not say anything offensive devolves into not saying anything at all.

Having a point of view isn't wrong by definition. It's when you insist on the primacy of everything you think to the absolute exclusion of contradictory views that you end up in trouble. Except me. Everything I say is right. It doesn't take a genius to realise that if the left-wing political correctness conspiracy expounded by the right existed in any serious way, they'd really hate me.

And that's where I think the most common version of the political correctness bogeyman falls down. Try searching the net for politically correct and you aren't going to find a lot of sites pushing you to conform to PC edicts issues by our left-wing overlords. You're going to find a bunch of right wingers foaming at the mouth about how they're being oppressed. The fact that they are mostly white and mostly male should not, of course, colour your opinion of how hard their lives might be. There are also many non-white and female opponents (and non-white females, helloooo Michelle Malkin) but the driving force behind this is politically aggressive right-wing white males.

You could be forgiven for thinking the notion of political correctness was invented out of whole cloth by these rabid knuckle-draggers. I find it amusing how quickly these braying fools bury themselves without seeming to realise it. One proclaimed the horror of not being able to offend people, he was being crushed by the necessity to "avoid using words or behaviour that may upset homosexuals, women, non-whites, the crippled, the mentally impaired, the fat or the ugly." Yeah, that's a fucked-up goal right there. If I can't abuse every passing faggot, nigger, chink, dyke, retard or cripple, life isn't worth living.

Speaking as a card-carrying member of the loony left, I will admit that I take some trouble to not be gratuitously offensive to people based on race, gender or sexual preference. Oh shut up, I do so. Sometimes I probably go too far and spend too much time walking on eggshells. But I know the value of a good joke (I differentiate between a good joke and a joke intended solely to humiliate someone). And I know the value of stating uncomfortable truths when appropriate. You want to see a right winger oppress your right to speak freely? Try any of the following:

  • Question the integrity or intelligence of George Bush
  • Question the moral and/or strategic value of the Iraq invasion
  • Question the strategic/political/monetary/moral value of unquestioning support of Israel
  • Question any aspect of christian-centric worldview
Hypocrisy always pisses me off and that fact that PC is pushed as the ultimate evil by people who basically control the world... well, that crosses over from irony to fuckwittery.

The reason I bring this up is that I think that the majority of real PC behaviour on the left (as opposed to insane imaginings of PC dictatorships) comes from being worried that any acknowledgment of the failings of a particular minority will be blown up by the right to condemn all minorities. "Yes, many aborigines have substance abuse/addiction problems and don't have jobs" becomes "All abos are lazy, dole-bludging alcoholics". "Yes, that Mexican was an illegal immigrant who murdered someone so we would have been better off if we had stopped him from getting into the country" becomes "All Mexicans are murdering illegal immigrants and we should throw them all out and build a wall."

Last night ABC's "Lateline" (that's Australia's ABC) program ran an interview with a Crown Prosecutor (that's district attorney in US speak) from central Australia. She was speaking out against the culture of violence and sexual abuse that is prevalent in many aboriginal communities. The stories she told were truly horrible (don't read the transcript linked to above if you are easily upset), the worst imaginable tales of sexual abuse, assault and murder. The cultural norms she has observed seem to protect the offenders at the expense of the victims and she sees little effort, or even will, to change the situation.

It must have been hard for her to come forward, not only because they were horrible stories to have to tell. What I think came across as the most difficult part of her decision to raise these issues was the fact that this will almost certainly be taken up by tabloid muckrakers and racists as evidence that "it's all the abos' fault." There is a world of difference between saying that aboriginal people have to take responsibility for making changes in their community and saying white people have no responsibility in the matter.

But we all know how opposed right-wingers are to the stifling of public debate. Any evidence you have that they try to crush anyone who opposes their view is all in your imagination.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Working With Animals

No, I'm not a vet. I work in an office. Theoretically with grown-ups. Suits, ties, the whole shebang. So why is it that people at this supposedly refined end of the workforce are such filthy fucking animals?

If I was working with, say, inmates in an asylum for the criminally insane rather than white collars "professionals" I'd have lower expectations. But for fuck's sake, what the hell is wrong with these people? Why do people think it's reasonable to leave a trail of filth and destruction in a space they are sharing with other humans? Is there a part of their brain that is missing? Do they have some sort of mental blinkers in place that let them go:

"When I walk away I can no longer see this filth I created. Therefore it no longer exists and I don't have to worry about it."

Or are they simply stupid? Is it a goldfish memory problem - forgetting things 5 seconds after they happen? By the way, I know the concept of goldfish having a 3-5 second memory span has been thoroughly debunked, but how did someone even come up with that concept? This is what I picture: they told a goldfish "Your name is Ralph" then waited five seconds and shouted "Hey Ralph, come over here!" When Ralph didn't respond they assumed it was because he had forgotten his name. Science triumphs again!

Forgetting about goldfish (get it?), let me catalogue the sort of behaviour that makes me so angry:

The kitchen sink: Every workplace has some sort of kitchen area, even if it's only a place to make tea or coffee. And every workplace has people who dump their crap in the sink instead of cleaning it and putting it away. Knowing full well that the following statement is totally sexist: YOUR MOTHER DOESN'T WORK HERE! And of the off chance you mother does work here she has given up on cleaning up after you. Do it yourself goddammit!

And if you happen to be lucky enough to have a dishwashing machine in your workplace, that doesn't solve the problem either. The filth-beasts do one of two obnoxious things in this scenario: they still throw their stuff in the sink instead of the dishwasher or they literally throw their stuff in the dishwasher instead of stacking it properly WHICH MIGHT ALLOW EVERYBODY ELSE TO PUT THEIR FUCKING DISHES IN AS WELL YOU IGNORANT BASTARDS!

And that isn't even the really troublesome end of the spectrum. Feel free to skip the next couple of paragraphs if you are easily disgusted. Now we get into how filthy people can get in a workplace toilet. We are beyond simple issues of etiquette here. I've listed various toilet rules you should respect to be civil, the following are things you have to obey simply to be human.

Toilets are stinky gross places where horrible pooty things happen. There's no getting around that. But what the fuck is up with supposed human adults leaving shit-stains on the seat? Skid marks on the bowl are bad enough but nobody seems to clean those off. But the seat? What sort of animal leaves shit stains on the seat for the next person to find?

And worse still, THE WALLS?!?!?!?!?!?! This has happened in multiple workplaces I have occupied. Every now and then, somebody smears shit on the walls. What the fuck is going through someone's mind when they smear shit on walls? The seat has a sort of logistical/accidental element that may excuse it but the walls is a deliberate act! Despite the fact smearing shit (or snot - that happens more often) on walls is unforgivably disgusting - it doesn't make sense! So you got shit on your hands, so what? What do you think the fucking paper is for?

I have to admit one of those "loss of innocence" moment in my life was when a female cow-orker complained of this happening in the female toilets. Men are almost universally of the opinion that women are wonderful clean creatures while men are smelly and disgusting. Girls don't fart or poop. That's our illusion and we're happy with it. To hear that this basest level of behaviour is exhibited by women as well as men... it was almost too much to bear.

Right, I'm going to have my lunch now.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Relationship Advice From Mr Angry

I have been asked previously why I've never had angry rants about any of my exes or women in general. Obviously things have happened in previous relationship that have made me angry (that's where the "ex" part comes in) but it isn't something I wanted to focus on in this blog, for a number of reasons.

First, I don't want to sound all whiny and embittered, a common pitfall for either gender when railing against insane exes (and I'm sure we all agree: all our exes are insane, otherwise they would still be worshipping us). Second, although I do this blog anonymously it isn't impossible that one of my exes would find out and recognise themselves. This would be bad for two reasons: one, I have no wish to restart old fights, two, some of my exes are dangerous psychotics and I don't want to re-motivate them to hunt me down.

A brief note to any exes who read this and work out who I am: you are clearly not the psychotic one, she's not smart enough to track me down on the net, no matter how much she tries.

So rather than saying what makes me angry about relationships, I offer the following pieces of advice, divided along gender lines where appropriate:

Rule #1 for males: It probably is your fault, so just accept it. Jokes aside, the range of male behaviour that would not even be noticed by the majority of other males can actually be quite affronting. Remember: just because you don't think it's offensive doesn't mean it really isn't offensive.

Rule #2 for males: It is almost impossible to over-communicate. Throughout history, the vast majority of relationship issues have spiraled out of control because a male didn't say something he assumed was understood.

Rule #1 for females: Internalising emotions doesn't mean you have no emotions. Men have a tendency to internalise, it rarely helps a man in life if he's overly expressive. Just because he doesn't talk about his feelings doesn't mean he doesn't have feelings.

Rule #2 for females: Decide what you like/want in a man and go for that type of man. Don't for the love of the baby Jeebus pick a man and then try to change him. Rough, tough macho men are unlikely to develop a sensitive, emotional side. Quiet, introspective men are unlikely to change into rugged outdoorsmen. Make everyone's life easier and DON'T TRY TO CHANGE MEN! Pick the right type in the first place.

One thing women should never say to men: in the rare circumstance where a man perceives that you are upset about something and he asks "what's the matter?" Don't say "Nothing's the matter." Don't do it. Never. No matter how angry you are. Say "I'm too angry at you to talk to you now" or "I'm too upset right now" or a simple "I don't feel like talking right now, we can talk later." But don't say "nothing". This is pointless and counterproductive for two reasons:

One: the man knows you are upset and gets pissed off when you brush him off like that. He thinks to himself: "Last damn time I ask her how she's feeling." And you'll wonder why you don't "connect" any more.

Two: the man thinks you're telling the truth and wanders off thinking everything is A-OK. Men are notoriously lacking in emotional sensitivity. If you luck into a scenario where he senses that you are upset, grab the opportunity with both hands. If he's the type who believes you when you say "nothing" he'll never notice your feelings again. If he does sense anything he'll assume he's wrong because you told him he was wrong last time. And it isn't really fair to be upset at him when his only flaw was to believe what you told him.

One thing men should never say to women: "When is the baby due?" Seriously. Never say this. No matter how sure you are she's pregnant. Because once you say this to a woman who turns out not to be pregnant, there's no recovering. You are forever condemned to the "ignorant male" category.

I realise I'm only talking about heterosexual relationships here. This isn't because I'm making any judgement on the value of gay relationships - I'm merely sticking to my areas of expertise. What the hell do I know about being gay?

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Attracting Sick Deviant Sex Pervert Bestiality Enthusiasts

I know I blogged just the other day about the weird/funny search terms that are directing people to my blog but a few that have popped up since then that have been... well, judge for yourself:

"what to do when your (sic) fucking angry" - welcome friend, take a seat. Sit and learn.

"get angry every night drink" - well, get angry every night blog is my recipe for mental well being. Lay off the drinking, son.

"proper use of the word irony Mr. Angry" - someone actually looking for me! That's nice.

There were several more variations on 365 days a year so it seems as if my rather arbitrary blog name is good for driving some unintended traffic. People looking for hot blog topics (like Stephen Colbert) seem to be directed through technorati, the general search engine stuff seems to be very... general. That information may or may not be useful to anyone.

And now we get to the search string that made my day: "right way to hang toilet paper". YES! Yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes! Somebody what seeking enlightenment AND THEY FOUND IT! It makes all my blogging worthwhile to know I've guided one questing soul on the right way to hang toilet paper.

Oh and then there was "STRANGLE ME WHEN YOU FUCK ME" Yes, the search was all in caps. Makes the perv seem even more freaky. I don't know what these "hot wet sex with nubile teen perky blonde lesbians who are doubtless barely legal" seeking individuals think when they land on my blog but I'm hoping I provide them with some brief diversion in their one-handed web surfing.

And I hope they tell their friends.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Playing Politics

I posted recently on how one of my biggest problems with the drug policy of most governments is that they are based on lies. I think this is the same problem with politics. Everybody knows politicians are lying. Everybody knows politicians don't believe most of their own public pronouncements. All they're doing is saying what they think will appeal to people so they can go ahead with whatever it is they want to do. They're playing politics.

And then there are the "gotcha" moments. You catch Bush out in a lie. Another Kennedy goes drunk driving. Cheney shoots someone in the face. In short, your opponent does something that, according to the rules of the political game, you can get them on. It doesn't matter that the "gotcha" may not actually be important. It may have nothing to do with the political process, it may not reflect on your opponent's performance or their ability to do the job.

But it's an opening dammit! Who cares if it's trivial? Let's make them look bad so that we, by comparison, look good. It's far easier than doing something that's actually good. A recent example in Australia was the revelation that the Australian Wheat Board (AWB) paid around $300 million in bribes to Saddam Hussein's regime in order to be able to sell wheat in Iraq. This was, of course, before the invasion and such bribes were a breach of UN sanctions. Oh, and they were bribes. Paid to a psychotic to whom we were publicly opposed. I think Uday owned the trucking company that scored most of the swag.

And it's a total non-story. Every company and government involved in any transaction was paying bribes. Halliburton seems to be funneling away billions to who knows where. And this $300 million was Australian money, which means it's worth about $7.50 in American money. Or a handful of shiny beads.

But the opposition party (Labor - our equivalent to the US Democrats) went on and on about how outraged they were that this happened and spent ages trying pin down whether any government ministers could be proved to have explicit knowledge of what was going on. Everybody knows Labor didn't really give a shit - exactly the same would have happened if they were in power. All in all it was a good thing - those bribes allowed billions of dollars worth of wheat to be sold to Iraq. God forbid people should end up with food.

It's simple: of course the Prime Minister knew and of course the Foreign Minister knew. $300 million isn't a line item that can be made to vanish in Australian accounting. It might not even be noticed in a real economy but even a cursory glance at the books here would reveal it. But you're never going to prove it.

So what's the end result of all this sound and fury? Nothing. It never caught on in the public mind. Then we had a miracle rescue of some trapped miners and everybody has well and truly forgotten about the AWB. The political process is cheapened again and everybody gets a little more cynical.

I didn't know how I was going to end this post at first, then I read this article on Salon.com. There are some people who aren't ignoring what's going on in the political process. There are some people who are fervently intent on bending it to their way of thinking and damn what anybody else wants. And those of us who stay cynically detatched from the meaningless political games might wake up one day to a nasty surprise.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Why Warner Brothers May End Up Killing BitTorrent

A nerdly angry post today. One thing that never fails to make me angry (I've posted about it before) is when big companies screw over ordinary consumers in the name of "copyright". I love writing and I would love to earn a bajillion dollars through some creative endeavour. Obviously I need some level of protection for work I create or the only money I'd ever make from this sort of work would be from donations. At the simplest level, the idea of copyright and patents are good things in a capitalist society.

Essentially, this sort of proposition (at its best) is a type of bargain. You, the inventor, are given a certain set of protections for your creation so you can make money out of it which will encourage you to create new things which may in turn inspire others to create so they can similarly profit. Eventually your invention will be put into the "public domain" which means anybody can copy it and/or modify it then re-sell it without giving you any money. The wheels of commerce turn. Where this all goes wrong (and this is going to make me sound like a commie) is when big companies (or greedy individuals) get in on the act. They see massive commercial potential in saying I own that and controlling your access to whatever "that" may be.

Over the years these big companies (through politicians they have bought and paid for) have extended copyright and patent terms with the simple goal of trying to prevent things from ever returning to the public domain. It's a simplification, but essentially a true statement, to say that the driving force behind the continual extensions of copyright terms in the USA is Mickey Mouse. By any historical standard, Mickey Mouse should have been public domain years ago. We could all be making our own Mickey cartoons and, if we were good enough at it, making pots of money.

On the face of it, many people think that sounds fair enough. Disney should be able to protect Mickey Mouse - I don't want my kids getting confused by the existence of a Mickey porn film. The arguments against copyright are complex and I won't go into them here; but here's a simple reason why it's wrong. The entire Disney empire (Mickey included) is based on other people's work. All their big movies are public domain stories, by their own standards they make their millions by "stealing". To be polite, their arguments for copyright are disingenuous and hypocritical. To be a little more direct, they're a bunch of two-faced lying fucking thieves.

So, I'm about 500 words in and I haven't mentioned Warner Brothers or BitTorrent. Who are they and what do they have to do with each other? Okay, Warner Brothers = big publishing company, ditto for them everything I said about Disney. BitTorrent = very clever software for distributing and downloading large file over the internet. I won't bore you with the technical details (geek out with a Google search on BitTorrent if you want to know) but essentially BitTorrent solves the problem of large files (e.g. full-length movies) taking a long time to download, even over broadband.

Warner Brother have just announced a deal where they will be using BitTorrent to distribute movies online. This is in contrast who uses BitTorrent to download pirated copies of everything under the sun via Peer-to-Peer (P2P) networks. This legitimisation of BitTorrent has been coming for a while, BitTorrent's founder, Bram Cohen, has been working towards cutting this sort of deal with a big studio for more than a year. On the surface, this is a good thing. A big studio is finally facing the reality of the net being a distribution platform. BitTorrent is getting some deserved recognition as a valuable tool with legitimate uses.

So why do I think this could kill BitTorrent?

It all depends how it plays out. Warner Brothers have not released a lot of details yet. How much will they charge? What digital rights management (DRM) will be applied to downloads? In short, how are they going to screw us, the consumers? Rumours so far (and, being rumours, these could turn out to be completely wrong) are that downloaded movies will cost the same as a DVD and have a lot of restrictions placed on them. Restrictions like you can't burn them to DVD, you're only allowed to watch them on your PC. And you can't move them to other devices; not your 2nd PC or laptop, not your iPod and not your PSP. While throwing in the "rumour" disclaimer again, based on the historical behaviour of the big studios, this double-barrel blast of cost and restrictions is likely to be the way things turn out.

In business terms, this is doomed to fail.

Who is going to pay the price of a DVD with no physical media and a bunch of asinine restrictions on what you can do with a movie you purchased legally? The idiocy of this approach is mind boggling but the record of movie and record studios in recent times is a combination of stupidity, lies and greed. So I don't hold out high hopes for this deal. Making the download cheap but with a bunch of restrictions might work. Making a download a similar price to a DVD but including a bunch of restrictions might work. But there is no way offering a consumer a shit product at a shit price is going to work.

So what happens when it doesn't work? Well, maybe they'll get smarter and offer a better option. I'm not holding my breath. More likely they'll say it failed because the net isn't a viable legal delivery system, there's no point in trying to make it legal, let's keep suing our biggest fans instead of giving them what they want.

It seems obvious to me that there is someone in Warner Brothers who is forward-thinking enough to see how many billions they could make if they do this right. But I'm just enough of a conspiracy theorist to believe that there are stupid, greedy people who see this as an opportunity to kill BitTorrent by "proving" it can't work. And I think the greedy fuckwits outnumber the smart people.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Funny Search Results

One of the things I do while obsessively trying to broaden my blog readership, spread the angry meme and take over the world is check to see what search terms land people on my blog. Predictable enough, many of the searches include some variant of "angry" but some of criteria that result in search engines pointing people here are more intriguing, if not downright funny.

No surprises that writing about Stephen Colbert in the last week has been good for attracting readers although this has more been the case with blog aggregators like Technorati than search engines like Google. I hope I haven't been too cynical on this front - the longer pieces I've written have been heartfelt and I've kept the jokey littering of Stephen Colbert keywords and tags to a minimum. Except then. That double reference to Stephen Colbert was a little gratuitous. So was that. Anyway, join the Church of Colbert.

Some other search terms that have given me a smile (or puzzled me) are:

"Words to use when angry" - I hope they meant angry words to use for venting, they're in the right place for that. If they were looking for calming words, they're shit out of luck.

"How to calm angry teenagers" - ummm, sorry, you fucked up there. I'm no help to you on that front.

"Why does a year have 365 days?" - this one threw me for a while. Then I worked out it was from the blog title. There were four variations on this so I suspected this may have been some sort of school project somewhere. If that was the case, those kids were probably all suspended for visiting an obscene site.

"guys fucking parents" - oooookay. I really don't think I want to meet that person.

Search engines are weird.