Tuesday, March 31, 2009

When Did "Blowing It" Become Such A Bad Phrase?

I have noticed that the concept of "blowing it" evokes a hostile response today. In fact, I am in a Best Buy the other day and I hear this employee complaining to another employee saying, "Man, that is why I said that over your earpiece. I didn't want to "blow you up" in front of everybody." Screwing something up is this nasty reality apparently and to the degree that the embarrassment and judgment is insurmountable. Here is the state of the union with regard to this issue at the moment:

  1. You try to do something.

  2. You fail to do it (or you don't do it well.)

  3. People want to feedback but don't know how to do it without offending one's tender sensitivities.

  4. So now "blowing it" is OUTLAWed, not as in "you can't fail" but rather "we refuse to accept the concept because it feels so critical"

  5. As a result helpful simple terms like "wrong" or "incorrect" or "fail" are out the window and deemed to be "negative reinforcement."

I don't know what to think about all of this. There are plenty of topics and issues in life that don't fit into analytically black-and-white categories, but to imagine that people don't want to hear that the proposed answer is "wrong" or "incorrect" simply keeps us from finding helpful answers or kills the search for solutions that actually help. I think we are getting a little too sensitive.

If you think I am wrong, consult with a new friend who had to retool some training for the U.S. Army because when the soldier selected the incorrect answer in an e-learning course, they were now being told that they couldn't tell the soldier that they selected the wrong answer, but rather they would be encouraged to "try again." Ooops! Instead of appropriately locking your weapon you discharged that weapon into your friends head... please try again.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Asyncronous Object Oriented ActionScript 3

I have been hit up by so many people that are trying to learn AS3 but who have been hitting a brick wall with Object Oriented Programming (OOP) that I have decided to write a primer (whitepaper) on the topic in hopes that people can get over the basic hump of (1)what it is, (2)how OOP relates to classes and (3)how to write and work with custom classes.

This weekend I am partly launching this effort in hopes to start posting some stuff next week. I am hoping to wiki this and see if others will get involved and help document a super-minimalist entry-level approach to the topic such that people who have been tinkering with the topic can now gain a little personal traction in this space and start doing some stuff.

We will see how it goes.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Sweet Shirt Man!

There is a new shirt in town. Actually, I think I am giving this to all of my friends kids!

Cute stuff!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Saturday Morning Movie: Adventures In Exploring

This last Saturday was the first weekend in DC that wasn't packed with either apartment / moving activities or work or just a slew of events. I naturally woke up around 9:30-ish (which is sleeping in, for me, for the record) and making a break for the movies ran through my head. Actually, messing with my auto insurance ran through my head first, which I quickly took care of but THEN... I thought about how chill it would be to go find a nice place to quietly watch a movie all by myself somewhere in the city.

So after a little bit of checking I read about the "E Street" theater in downtown DC. And they were playing an interesting movie where John Malcovich plays a Johny Carson-esk Karnack-style "Mentalist" who is trying to make a career comeback. It looked like silly fun so I decided to head downtown. After getting all ready for the day, I grabbed up my ipod and flipped through the playlists. My soundtrack for the morning was "The Chieftans: The Long Black Vail" and I headed across the street through the underground mall that takes me to the Metro.

Along the way I exchanged a few text messages with my friend Jerod in Kansas where he educated me on the various communicable diseases that I could catch in DC if I were not careful (so rumored some nurse with which he was associated) as well as advice on other movies I should go see, namely the new film "I love you man" (which I also did go see this weekend. Very funny with a few laugh-out-loud moments.)

The underground mall was abandoned post-apocalyptic-style (spooky empty) and it made for a quick walk to the trains.

The trains into Crystal city headed out of town were quick and plentiful. About every six minutes one would go roaring bye. However, the trains into the city were about as lazy as I was at that moment. After about 15 minutes of waiting it arrived with a yawn and I headed toward Metro Center.

Now, riding trains always results in options and if you aren't paying attention, taking the wrong option makes your day longer. For example, I debated if I should head toward 12th street or toward eleventh when getting off the train. I headed toward eleventh which seemed like the right thing to do since the theater was on eleventh. That would have been a great plan, but I still turned the wrong way and emerged on 12th. It all works out because I found myself near the ESPNZone store -slash- restaurant. I had walked past here the first week I arrived in DC having moved, but wasn't quite sure where this was until this happy mistake. Now I have those bearings all worked out and will find my way back here again. In the mean time, it is now about 10:10am-ish and I have a movie to catch.

Up the block, past a nice little Barnes & Noble (also went past this particular B-n-N in that first week and it is nice to know how to get back here) I found my theater. It looked a bit artsy, and small, but put together and nice. Worthy of note, I have yet to speak a word all morning. Not an excuse me or a phone call or a hello. Some days it is nice to just chill and absorb the world around you without contributing verbally.

Once I was in the theater I realized it was a very nice place. In fact, from the lighting to the bathrooms it was amazingly nice. I didn't realize this but they even sold bear at the food stand which was unexpected. Had it not been 10:20am-ish, I would have endulged with a nice Saboro (Japanese) tall can (I know - can of beer? Isn't that, well, goofy.) Goofy is having a beer in the theater. Goofy is having a beer in the MORNING!? I wasn't feeling goofy (and they don't serve beer until at least eleven and while I desperately wanted to use the line "It is eleven-o'clock somewhere!", I wasn't really in the mood anyway.) Again worthy of note, I have to talk to the ticket man upstairs a moment ago and now this is my second conversation of the day: beer in the theater.

The movie was good. Very funny and it had an interesting feel to it. All of the acting was mostly good except the female love-interest role... that was some crapy acting in my humble-but-deadly-acurate opinion. I still managed to enjoy the experience. There was lady behind me laughing it up the entire time. It was a bit infectious (note to Jerod: the infectiousness laugher didn't seem to have anything to do with the diseases you mentioned in the text messaging, though I did catch what she had a little bit, so there might be something to that nurses communicable infectious in DC conversation.)

After the movie I headed to the B-n-N for a capucinno, the latest issue of "PRINT" magazine and walked over by the "National Theater" to do some people watching and drawing (I will scan those later.)

After that I wondered over to the Whitehouse for tea with the President.

OK, that part isn't true, but I did jump the fense and get this great shot on the south lawn. OK, that isn't true either, but it is an OK shot. I did a little praying for the government and wisedom and headed back for the Metro.

By this time I was listening to the "Garden State" soundtrack (nice songs there) and riding, and reading, and drawing and thinking about... "I love you man"... the movie. There are some day tha just call for a double-header and this was one of them, I suppose. So I rode right past my place and on down to the mega theater (the huge AMC) in Alexandria. This movie called for an audience where everyone could get a good laugh in together.

Quite a cool little day.

Dem. Chris Dodd + Whitehouse = A.I.G. Bonuses

It's now formal. The man who is debated to be the largest political donation recipient from AIG and the chair of the Senate Banking Comittee, Chris Dodd is now changing his story from "when that language left the Senate, that I wrote, that language was not included" to "we wrote the language" and claiming that he is proud to have written that late addition into the bail-out bill enabling and empowering AIG to pay out over $100 million in bonuses, giving them the thumbs-up to go for it. For the record, if you are looking for the man-behind-the-man, Chris Dodd says that man was the Whitehouse Administration (i.e. the President) who told him to write that provisional language.

I think Edward Liddy needs an apology, odd as that may sound. Edward Liddy is the guy who came in to help AIG recover, is getting paid $1 per year to simply give them new direction, and the bill from the senate said he should uphold those executive bonus contracts. Now, mind you, he didn't have to do it. But he also didn't need to sit under the chastisement of our Congress as they told him -in writing- to uphold those bonus contracts and then crusify him publicly after he did it!

I guess the mystery is over. This also explains why the Whitehouse is hotly attempting to tell the country to focus on the next stuff coming rather than the past (even if the past is less than a month old and we're still in the middle of it ... sorry, Mr. President, you can't convince us to stop paying attention to current events.)

Update: Three cheers for continuing to pay attention to current events!! I''ve finally watched the President Obama interview on Jay Leno and I have a few take-aways from that which are well worthy of a blog or two, but instead I will update this entry with one:

President Obama said that the answer to this situation with AIG has everything to do with mitigating risk through better government oversight. In theory, I understand what he is talking about. The trouble is the breathing example we have of this RIGHT NOW in Senator Chris Dodd (Democrat.) This man CHAIRS the committee that currently brings oversight and at the same time he is a HUGE RECIPIENT of election donations by AIG (and others.) It was his personal team that made the change in this bail-out bill SPECIFICALLY to allow the contractual bonuses. And rather than debate or explain or justify... HE LIED ABOUT IT! So... this is oversight.

What is more devistating is that Obama hints at knowing more than he is willing to let on in the interview. He says at one point that the legal decision to change the bill to allow the bonuses was actually a good decision because if they had said that AIG has to abandon the contractual bonuses that those executives could sue for 3-times the contractual amounts and likely win. Obama called that a good legal decision implying that the decisions being made now are either (1) not good or (2) some other form of good or (3) good but from a non-legal standpoint. In other words, yeah, he knew all about this and like a good democrat he was ramming this stuff through Congress mis-managing the effect and outcomes of everything and now that people don't like those outcomes (i.e. a good emotional response and not a good legal one) he is now pretending to be morally outraged.

If Obama is outraged, then he is outraged because the people on the receiving end of the contracts (the AIG execs) wanted AIG to honor those contracts. If you work at AIG, then you are in a loosing situation no matter what happens, because the Senate gave you the right to your contractual "bonus" (which, if it is a contract, then it is not performance based as much as it is a form of payment outside of your annual salary) but then ate you for lunch if you actually exercised that right. I don't feel too bad for people getting millions as a bonus, but I think this proves that government oversight under the current leadership sucks rocks if this is the best they could do to manage this situation.

There is no way in this context that you don't feel that the president's "outrage" is an act IF he actually knew that the bonuses were allowed into the bill based on it's legal justification. That is like offer someone your friendship and acting all offended and outraged when they accept it. I recall being a kid in middle school and I was in a class and my teacher told all of us to stay in our seats. I needed to throw something away and my friend acted like they were going to watch the teacher so I could hop out of my seat to toss something in the trash. When I got the sign to go for it, I hopped up and went for the trash can. And as SOON AS I WAS ON MY FEET... my friend spoke out loudly to the classroom and teacher, "STEVE IS OUT OF HIS SEAT!!!!!!!" Sounds familiar to me!?

It seems clear to me that this situation didn't slip through like some would make it seem. President Obama along with his administration and the banking subcommittee knowingly took the action they did and rather than defend their "choice" are busy broadcasting lies and conflicting stories and opinions. This doesn't feel too much like leadership or honesty or even an effort to be honest. This is pandering and positioning and politics at its "best."

Friday, March 20, 2009

Pretty Little Budget Book

Due to new rules in the government about adhering to a "more true" representation of reality the new administrations budget headed for Congressional approval had to be reprinted. Luckily enough I happen to get a glance at the current cover, and I have to say I like the design. The objection has far less to do with the design than it does with the word choice on the cover.

I have to say that I really like the font choice as well as some of the appointments and color selection. It says "classic" or "classy" but the font is definitely "fresh" and "contemporary.

On an even cooler note, I was able to grab a look at the new cover for comparison (consulting with the government has it's perks!) Notice that the presentation is fundamentally the same, while the copy has been "updated" to parallel a more realistic representation of the budget as well as current events. Have a look. I think they did an O.K. job!

(All applicable copy rights reserved: This post is for political purposes only. Any offensive element of this work of fiction is intended for the purpose of ribbing my friends who love Obama in hopes to provoke fun political banter because sometimes I really enjoy getting people going. If you have no response to this presentation whatsoever then you might want to look into changing your medication.)

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The U.S. Economy MUST BE BETTER!

Holy Crap! At first I thought it was just a ridiculous meandering Presidential priority goof-up.

I figured that the stress of the Presidency had broken him and as a result he wanted to go back to being a talking show media-spot figure-head.

But it ends up that while I assumed there was plenty of serious stuff to be tackling right now on the domestic and international level, that our national -slash- international woes MUST be over as the President seems to have time to make guest-stops on late night talkshows. Fhew!

I mean the U.S. economy must be better, otherwise why in the world would our President waste his time and our time "marketing" his budget to Americans when he can't get a Congress full of Democrats to agree to it or feel good about it?

Does he think that somewhere between skits of "jaywalking" and songs by Garth Brooks we are going to suddenly abandon the fact that his crazy spendthrift plans are failing before our eyes? Is he going to toss us a few jokes and tell us NOW that the "economy is (suddenly) sound" even though just a few months ago he lambasted John McCain for saying the same exact thing (or is that just the speach he gives the Chinese when he is trying get a loan against our national debt )?

I think I trust Jay Leno's Comedy Stimulus Plan better than President Obama's fiscal plans so far.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Congress should be FIRED!

I am sick of it...

Congress and the President are "angry" about how all of this bailout money is getting spent. THEY are angry. THAT IS OUR MONEY!

And the President wants us to "channel" our anger "productively" by giving them even MORE POWER to fail at their jobs and reach further into our lives. PLEASE! Here is the truth. Congress had all of the power they needed to avoid this and they completely failed. So now they want more so they can do more? They can't handle the power they have and they want more power. They can't manage the mess they are creating! The bottom line is that they are handing out the cash, the cash that is supposed to stimulate our country and this is the result. FAIL!

So the mantra of this current presidential regime has become... SPEND, TAX, BORROW, FAIL, (REPEAT).

If you haven't bothered to pay attention, in the first 50 days of this new White House Obamistration Congress has voted for $1.2 trillion in new government spending. As Senator Mitch McConnell has said, "To put that in perspective, that's about $4 billion a day" and most of it is borrowed.

So where the heck is all this money coming from while average Americans are struggling as is our economy? According to RNC Chairman Michael Steele, the new budget includes a massive $1.4 trillion tax increase along with more than a half billion dollars raised in new energy taxes that will be passed along to consumers. The rest will come from borrowing. And who do we borrow from? Countries like China.

Do the math!

We are selling our debt to the highest bidding foreign nation so that Congress can mismanage the largest Federal spending-spree in American history.

What does this do for America? It immediately lowers the trust of nations toward America because we are quickly becoming that over-leveraged friend that looks more and more like a bad investment. The BBC the other day exclaimed that America, at a time when it should be putting out its economic fires, is spending money remodeling the firehouse.

Now be honest with yourself! I lent my debit card to a relative one day so that they could run to the store and pick up an item for a little get-together. I figured they were doing all of us a favor and I decided to entrust that person with my bank account. An hour later the person came back with bags of stuff that weren't remotely on the menu. Somewhere between not feeling the pressure of all of that money coming out of their own personal pocket and them knowing that there was no chance they would get an oppotunity like this again any time soon, that person went hog WILD with my checking account. At the minimum when I questioned that relative, that individual didn't waste my time telling me how it was the fault of the grocery store. They owned up as having failed to do the intended task. NO BLAME-GAME!

As I type this it ends up that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are also paying out huge bonuses like AIG, all of these groups being recipients of bailout money. But that didn't keep stupid Congress railing against Mr. Liddy at AIG (a man that never had anything to do with failing AIG, was brought in under the Bush Administration and paid $1 per year to help bring that company to recovery and assure that it doesn't fully implode and bring down the economy even more.) So again, AIG is trying and failing to do the right thing, Congress is failing and playing the blame-game, but at the same time PROVING that they are GRAND-STANDING by not publicly going after their precious Freddie and Fannie. Hypocracy!

How do we take our government back!?!?
I don't see how we can survive four years of this crap!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

moveon.org ... recent history presents a clearer story

I have forever been confused about the purpose of moveon.org since Bush is no longer president. In fact, while the people closest to Al Gore claim he was the first to get over having flat out lost the presidential election of his life, his perspectives on moveon.org were quite telling with regard to the erroneous nature of such a claim. But that is neither here nor there. The inevitable nature of cyclical presidential elections coupled with term limits requires that the nation "move on" regardless of all of the ego-stoking and back-patting that went on with that group once Obama became president. They seemed to forget the fact that the country had to move on. In a similar vein I was thinking about demanding a new election in four years and claiming a victory when it inevitably happens. Anyway, I digress... but into the topic of this email:

The new history of the so far short lived regime of President Barack Obama has proved out that some of the very accusations leveraged against John McCain have become policies under the new president.

Let's quickly go through a couple examples:

McCain will escalate Iraq. "We think it's time to hold John McCain accountable for his support of escalation," says Moveon. Remarkably, they are fine with war mongering and escalation under President Obama.

McCain wants six more months to focus on Iraq to bring it toward closure. MoveOn said this was six months more than we should be there. Interestingly enough, Pres. Obama has decided to bring an end to the conflict in Iraq... in 18 months... AND THEN... leave around 50,000 troops there for at least 12 more months, but rebranding that period of the war, calling it "anti-terrorism."

So what is MoveOn up to now, you ask? Well, they are promoting public opinion that President Obama's budget is helpful in a number of ways and they are focusing their "MoveOn" power to ...make people feel good about spending all that money. That's right... "Hey everybody... we need to MOVE ON to feeling good about spending federal money. It is critical you pass the word in this major issue of social injustice! Quick! We need this campaign to be a success and we will measure that success when... the government spends that money?"

I think MoveOn is basically proving that they are not about defending Americans against injustice inside the borders, or providing a ballanced perspective, but that they are simply fanboys for a particular political agenda. And that agenda is the worst kind of agenda. An agenda that criminalizes certain behavior in one demonized person only to forgive it and accept it in another is simply unreasonable.

I have to believe that folks who read my blog would agree. If we should feel bad about McCain's association with certain decisions and behavior and as a result TAKE ACTION, then why are we not being told to TAKE ACTION against Pres. Obama for associating himself with those same decisions and behavior. Get ready to be sick:

If you thought that you were following after a higher ideal only to be bate-and-switched, then understand that you were just a sucker for marketing that rebranded the win-at-all-costs mentality.

Seriously... do the math:

The strictly Democrat plans that are being set into motion in the country under Pres. Obama are (1) incredibly costly, (2) putting more power into the hands of the federal government, (3) putting American healthcare into the hands of the people who nearly destroyed Social Security and these are considered Democrat party successes? The other stuff: National Security, war in Iraq, war in Afghanistan, handling Iran are all under a lot of public scrutinty simply because the new administration is adopting staff and perspectives that they campaigned against!

Here is my four your prediction:

  • We will be in Iraq doing "war" for at least 30 months (that's 18 months of war + 12 months of war re-branded),

  • Guantanemo Bay will be closed (and most of those being held in Guantanemo will be moved to other prisons in an effort to "re-brand" the effort... seeing a common thread),

  • National security will grow ( working with government in DC affords me the ability to see the increase in military spending from the inside...what Bush set into motion was a good thing and the investment continues)

  • Increased power to the Federal Government through Federal Programming will be nearly impossible to reverse and so will set us on a schedule and pattern of increased national endebtedness (rather than encouraging Americans to "live within their means," the Federal Government will throw in the towel and make it impossible to do so as a country)

  • People will grow weary of the new administrations policy of more open information disclosure as they realize it is inpenitrably mixed with political agenda and propoganda.

Monday, March 16, 2009

A Case of Stolen Identity

Not to be confused with "stolen identity" in the more literal identity theft use of hte phrase, but rather the stolen identity that is my job description. Allow me to tell you the quick little story:

I was hired by my current DC employer to continue to do e-learning along with some drupal work. I couldn't have been more excited.

Once I arrived, it appeared that there was nothing to work on. Most of the projects went on hold.

A couple of days later my boss sat me down to cast his vision where I would not be writing much code but rather I would be working on networking and setting up servers for project management and showing them how to use that equipment (snore... but maybe this is just to fill in the down time.)

Then the VP in this part of the company dropped by my office and asked if I did any "Classic ASP" to which I replied, "Sure. But nobody has done serious ASP development in... what... 5 years, 10 years?" Ends up there are elements of the government that still have Classic ASP (not .NET) sites running and those projects need to get updated.

Jump to week 2 with 107 hours under my belt (do the math... in a reasonable world that number should be under 80 for less than 2 weeks) and realize that I am still on this project and working with no end in site in Classic ASP.

Now, today, I am back in the original (new) office entering all of my time. My new boss greets me like it is my first day ("Hi! Welcome to our company!" ... this is supposed to be humor as if to say "Who are you again? You are never here." ... but that isn't my choice either.) He sits down with me and starts to chat about stuff he wants me to work on soon (more server stuff, no Flash stuff, more LMS stuff.) In walks the VP that put me over to that Classic ASP project in the other location. This turns into a discussion / argument where my boss is wanted to get me back in the office to focus on building new servers while the VP wants me working on the Classic ASP stuff so that the contract client wants to hire us for more work going forward. Yikes!

My boss says, "Well, I would like to get him back here and working on the stuff that we hired him to do."

Enter: the issue of identity theft. He wants to get me back there to work on stuff "that we hired him to do" yet, none of the stuff he wants me to do has anything to do with the stuff that was discussed with me when I was interviewed. My professional identity has been completely hijacked!

What are the lessons for me, from this:
  1. Don't leave skills in your resume that you don't want to do.
  2. If you are being hired to do a certain job, ask the obvious questions, like...
    "So, I can expect to actually do 'multimedia development' right?"
  3. If your new employer completely switches your job title on you, then do market research and be sure they are paying you appropriately for the new responsibilities.
These are my lessons.

webgeekery: highspeed coding for front end behavior

Recently I have been doing quite a bit of work with Drupal. Nothing serious. Just fiddling and getting my head wrapped around CCK and Views and being able to quite create cool complicated HTML website stuff. Tons 'o fun. Anyway. As I am working I keep bumping into a lot of cool presentation end code that acts like a desktop application (well, to be fair, it acts like the coolest of the desktops apps that I have worked with. The way it gets and presents data is typically far cooler than desktop applications... I digress.)

The technology behind all of this front-end eyecandy-like-magic is a javascript library called "jQuery." jQuery has been around for a while now, and I have watched it run with a number of projects, but I have never taken the time to really look into it. Well, I haven't looked into it... until now and now that I have I can say... it is pretty darned cool.

So now I am learning how to write that code myself and I am hoping to start building some cooler stuff using this great library.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Speakers who aren't (good at speaking)

Listening to a technical person ramble on during a presentation that
lasts more than an hour is like being stuck in traffic!!!

If you ever need to give a public presentation, it is better to
overprepare the presentation part than to simply depend on your
understanding of the subject. You understanding your topic does not
equal your ability to transfer that knowledge in a way that makes sense.

- Steve
(Sent from my iPhone)

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Photos From Home

Here is a look at my apartment. If you ever visited my place in New Jersey, it was pretty well crammed into a split level loft space with plenty of cubbyholes to hide stuff. This place is a bit different and it taking me longer to fit everything. But I like the view (I am on the fourth floor of a 15 floor building) quite a bit and it is easy access to the metro and work.

One interesting side effect of moving, I notched my belt today before heading to work. It appears that all of the walking (I think it is about 1.5 to 2 miles per day just to get to the metro and back) is having an effect. Previously, in New Jersey, I would simply walk to my car and then from my car and plant my butt in my office chair. Even during the day I walk more because I am currently working for two branches of the company which are seperated by about a block or two, so there is some walking there as well. anyway... ON TO THE PHOTOS!

The slideshow plays below, but you can also click here to view the full screen flickr slide show. If you move your mouse over the slideshow and click the little black box with arrows in the lower right corner, then you can get a fullscreen view right here and see the captions for the photos. I recommend doing that and starting the show over when you do by clicking the first photo in the set.


Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Writerly Writing

For those of you who are feeling creative in a short story kind of way, the website onthepremises.com has a short story contest going at the moment with a pleasant little prize for those who are interested... $140!

So here are the rules for the short fiction contest they are running.

They even offer a short section on how to win the short fiction contest. Reading that page is very helpful. Remember, you have until May to get the story in, so you have no excuses.

So, if you ever needed a little motivation for writing a short story, well, now you have it.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Alexandria - Sunday Afternoon in "Old Town"

I had some fun this weekend. I drove the full 10 minutes down to Alexandria (ironically, where I worked all weekend to wrap up a project) to explorer "old town" with my friend Isabel.

We checked out a seafood spot, then walked through the art studios at "The Torpedo Factory" and then hit the waterfront boardwalk and a park. It was a fun time.

I can tell you that I haven't done so much walking in my life since I've moved to the D.C. area. I walk atleast a mile every day for work and then miles more on the weekends and this is all just where it all starts, but it's good. I'm loving it.

So below are a few quick video clips I grabbed with my cheap digital camera (you should be able to see this in higher quality on youtube itself) and below that is a slide show of photos I took. Enjoy!

And here are the photos. If you would like to see a full screen slideshow of Old Town Alexandria and the Torpedo Factory click here.

For those of you who are still reading, I will get photos up very soon of my place and neighborhood, but I only just got my place mostly put together, so I am nearly ready for that photo-shoot.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Budget Spending & Earmarks

I think earmarks are worthy of a fight. By that I mean I think year-to-year we throw too much money away on earmark spending. I would like to imagine that I don't send so much extra money to the Federal Government each year in taxes that politicians can fund their little local projects that have nothing to do with the scope of national programs that are made more obvious to the public.

Having said that, I think that John McCain is making a big deal about the current earmark spending. You here this message all of the time now. "Come on John, earmarks and less than 1% of the total budget being proposed." That still amounts to a lot of money. Enough money, in fact, to bail out a good number of families on the eastern seaboard. I digress.

I still think earmarks are worthy of a fight. Here is why: Obama said he would fight earmark spending. He even got specific about how: Now-President Obama then candidate Obama said he would go through the budget line-by-line and deal with earmarks. Having said that Congress handed him the equivalent of 7 sub-budgets all wrapped up in one in hopes to bury him in paperwork the same way that he did to them with the bailout budget. And it looks like earmark spending as a battle topic will be all but ignored. This is offensive.

I hear people say that we don't have time to be petty. I disagree. Economies move slowly. This is the time to put everything under the looking glass and ensure that we are not going down the wrong road. Tell me, honestly: if you are under financial pressure, do you spend more faster, or slow down and weigh how you intend to spend each and every dollar? Hello, Congress? Wake up!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Favorite Quote of the Day

"...and this is case-and-point that the Federal Government needs to get their heads out of their..."
- Government Consultant

I think there needs to be an OverheardInDC.com website like overheardinnewyork.com where people can add such quotes.

This was the tail end of a conversation about how the government is currently creating opportunities that allow certain bailout beneficiaries the ability to double-dip into deep Federal pockets (and by Federal pockets I really mean the pockets lined with money that is defered debt that will live like a weight on the backs of soon-to-be-employed generations like my young niece and nephew.)

Only in America do we entrust trillions of dollars to the same leadership that not only caused the problem but as well didn't see it coming. At a time when our government should be focused on putting out the fires across our enblazoned economy, they are spending money on making the fire department prettier.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Partisan Pandering

I hear a lot of debate over the Stimulus Bill and the first Federal Budge under the new Obama Presidency. Here is the consensus opinion (from conservatives and liberals)talking points that I am hearing:
  • The government should be doing something.

  • I am uneasy about the amount of money congress is talking about spending.
It seems that only the biggest "fanboys" on either side of the congressional carpet are completely and blindly agreeing with a hard-party-line perspective. For example, ultra-conservatives would rather the government simply slim down and spend less, while some would see room for a more Ronald Reagan type of approach. Equally as true, there are folks like Obama who believe that the only way to pass a stimulus bill is to pass a high-priced spending bill, while some Democrat senators are making public announcements about the risk of saddling future generations with insurmountable Federal debt.

In a related note, recently I had a conversation with some company leaders about "career development." A number of ideas came out with regard to (1) career pathing, (2) expanding the scope of employee empowerment, (3) personal continued education, etc. After a bit of talking some of those leaders shared the fact that they had not previously imagined "career development" equaling anything other than climbing a corporate ladder (i.e. giving title changes and matching raises.) While most people probably aren't loosing any sleep over the title of their job, they likely wouldn't be opposed to receiving a raise. At the same time, money is clearly not the only motivator. I think that the facts bare out the idea people want purpose, personal growth and measurable movement that feels like progress. Assuming that you can survive on your current salary, are you more likely switch jobs for a moderate raise or title change? Or could your current company retain your interest and commitment if they focused on mutually beneficial opportunities that help you grow professionally and help you see how you work has purpose and results in measurable success and progress? All things being equal, I think the later could well be described as "career development."

Likewise, right now President Obama is showing the limitation of his understanding of what a Federal Stimulus Bill could be:

I find the fanboy "right!" remark at the end entertaining. To be fair, I have no idea what she said next, but it is that kind of lack of deeper introspection that plagues the President and the Democrat-liberal congress right now. Rather than truly examine what is being said by either side in an open and free discussion, the alternatives are being blown off by simple name-calling them "old" or "tired." Let's look at another example:

By simply listening to this video it almost sounds like a cross-section of America is chiming in to support these seemingly profound statements about how this bold move by the President is new or fresh, while any alternative yet-to-be-debated-or-even-discussed is blown off as tired or worn out. But are all those whoops and hollers coming from a cross-section of American people, or is this video-op really just a planned event with a hand-picked crowd? The Democrats in Congress would have you believe that this President is the most honest we have seen in years (how often are you hearing that right now?) But I recall President Bush and his press secretaries allowing themselves to make announcements across the room from people who were willing to debate them on the spot. Let's hear another perspective about this speech you just heard:

So, how is this really newly bi-partisan or more honest? It seems to me that President Clinton and President Reagan were more bi-partisan. To me, the point is that it seems that President Obama is more interested in motivating people to action through social pressure, scare tactics and name-calling than he is through real political discourse. I've said it before and I will say it again. This is a sound-byte president. He buys Op-Ed space in news papers and gets TV time to spin significantly non-substantive statements that simply render a "yeah!" response rather than encouraging people to engage in the topic at hand.

In conclusion, I will offer a piece of advice to challenge the logic of the rhetoric coming from the current Presidency: If the statement can be applied to both parties, then it is not substantive but rhetoric. Take the idea that President Obama is explaining Republican talking points as "tired" or "worn out." He clearly described these perspectives as such to encourage the American people to reject those ideas simply because they are old long-held ideals of the Republican mindset. So here comes the test. Is what President Obama proposing with regard to spending a new Democrat approach? Or is he proposing the same old long-held ideals of the Democrat party? Likewise, could we not then call President Obama's approach "tired" and "worn out"? Should we then also just reject them, out of hand?

Or should we stop the rhetoric and demand that politicians begin to engage in a real discourse with each other and their constituency about how to expand the limited narrow-minded understanding of what a Stimulus Bill could be?