Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Architect Gone Wild

CORONADO, Calif. (AP) -- The Navy will spend as much as $600,000 to modify a 40-year-old barracks complex that resembles a swastika from the air, a gaffe that went largely unnoticed before satellite images became easily accessible on the Internet.
- Associated Press - September 26, 2007

John Mock, the architect who designed the complex in the 1960s, claims the buildings in question are not actually connected and therefore do not form a swastika. However, Mr. Mock’s personal diary from that era recently surfaced, the following excerpts from which cast doubt on his claim:

July 6. 1968
Great fun today. That Navy complex I designed officially opened last month and the clowns still haven’t figured out what it looks like from above. Sent them a note yesterday from "A. Hitler, Asuncion, Paraguay" saying: "Thanks for the unexpected honor. Long live the Third Reich." Two admirals and a Navy undersecretary have already called me today in a flap asking if I knew what this was all about. Feigned surprise, ignorance and shock. Checked local commercial flight paths and was disappointed to find no airline flies over that complex. Oh well, hopefully I’ll have better luck on my next project.

March 14, 1969
Designed mansion for well-known, pompous Hollywood director and construction almost completed. Can’t believe he hasn’t spotted my latest trick. Rectangular house has straight driveway leading from front door that intersects outer, semi-circular roadway with a brief right-angled cul-de-sac at its lower terminus. From the air, it clearly looks like a Soviet hammer and sickle but no one has cottoned on to this yet. Final payment check should clear tomorrow at which time I’ll slip the aerial photos I took last week under his office door. Wish I could see the look on his face. Good luck getting work in Hollywood after that, Mr. Bigshot Director!

September 14, 1970
Concrete footings poured today for right-wing industrialist’s new home in Malibu. Noted anti-Semite has no clue that his new digs look like a Star of David from the air. He was getting suspicious the other day until I told him that I based the design of the house on the Pentagon since I knew he was such an American patriot. Seemed to mollify him although I won’t take any chances until he’s moved in. Although once he sees an aerial photo, he may never move in!

April 20, 1971
For Chris sakes, it’s a cross! Any idiot can see that. Or at least so I thought when they asked me to design a new mosque just outside San Diego. I was sure they’d figure this one out before we broke ground on the construction site. But everyone was so enamoured of my design that no one spotted the obvious. If construction goes as planned, I hope to send them a Happy Easter card next April with an aerial photo inside. An anonymous card, needless to say!

October 1, 1972
Some big insurance company hired me to design their new headquarters. Never been a big fan of insurance companies. Maybe I’m being too bold on this one but I couldn’t help myself. Rather than stick with a funny aerial design, I figured I’d try having some fun with the ground level view. It’s a contiguous, four-tower complex with the second tower twice the height of the first and third towers and the fourth tower slightly shorter. Imagine; a 62-storey middle finger. Take that you insurance weasels!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

American Illegals

Well, fellow Canadians, it’s finally happened. Our dollar is now worth more than the American greenback and it’s continuing to go up. But beware; there’s a cloud covering this silver lining.

Because the U. S. buck has tanked, we can expect an influx of illegal immigrants from our southern neighbor. With a currency soon to be worthless and an economy in hock to the Chinese, it’s no surprise that Americans are going to head north seeking any employment they can get.

Listen, I’ve got nothing against these folks. Some of my best friends are Americans. But if they’re going to come into this country illegally to take away jobs that some Canadians might eventually want to consider filling some day, something has to be done.

We have to secure our southern boundary now. For years, Americans have very cleverly been referring to it as the world’s longest undefended border. But they were just lulling us into a false sense of security, all the time knowing that the day would come when that unprotected border would be their ticket to a better life in Canada.

Maybe some of you think that this is not yet a serious problem. Well, take a look around you. Can you tell if your neighbor is an American? How about that taxi driver? Do you know where he’s from?

If we don’t act now, we will be inundated with illegal Americans. And you know where that will lead. Before long, we’ll have no more maple syrup or Canadian bacon. The next thing you know, they’ll be using our schools and our healthcare. And then they’ll bastardize our cherished Canadian football by having four downs instead of three and using a puny, 100-yard field.

Although our customs and immigration officials will do their best to stem the tide of "Yanks" at the border, Americans are notoriously clever and some will almost certainly make it in. All citizens are therefore asked to be on special alert for illegal aliens and to do their part to stop this army of invaders.

But be careful; Americans often look and sound very much like Canadians. And many are clever enough to adopt Canadianisms like "eh?", "zed" and pronouncing schedule as "shed-yule."

The following additional guidelines may be helpful in identifying the American illegals in our midst:

If it’s summer, be suspicious of anyone still wearing a parka. If in doubt, ask them to spell "tuque."
Light up a joint in front of the suspect. If he says "Hey, that’s illegal" and goes for his handgun, you’ve likely nabbed an American. Don’t forget to duck.
You can try asking if he knows the name of the current Prime Minister. However, this question is somewhat unreliable as approximately 30% of legitimate Canadians do not know the correct answer (hint: this month, it’s Stephen Harper).
If you say "How about a coffee and a doughnut?" and they say "Sure, let’s go to Krispy Kreme", you’re probably talking to an American. If they’re clever enough to choose Tim Hortons, ask which NHL teams he played for.
Steer the topic of conversation to prescription pharmaceuticals and ask how much the person pays for Viagra or Zoloft or Paxil. If it’s 30% more than you pay, you’re likely dealing with an American.
Mention that you’ll be attending the upcoming wedding of your cousin Fred and his fiancĂ© Bob. If the suspect looks surprised, he may be an American. Be careful, though, since some Massachusetts and Vermont residents may appear nonplussed by such talk.

If we all do our part, we can secure our border and stop this dreaded invasion. We did it in 1775 and 1812 and we can do it again. Because if we don’t, the next thing they’ll want is amnesty or maybe even a driver’s license.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Rapid Job Turnover Commission

"Retiring baby boomers have sparked an unprecedented churn of workers within the federal government, starting at the top where nearly 60 per cent of executives spend less than a year in their jobs....[P]ay records showed that 40 per cent of Canada’s public servants started and ended the year in different jobs. That jumped to more than 75 per cent for some occupations."
- The Ottawa Citizen - November 19, 2007

The federal government has identified rapid job turnover as a serious problem and has taken steps to rectify the matter. A temporary Treasury Board spokesperson today announced that John Servant, formerly Assistant Deputy Minister of the Department of Communication and Obfuscation, has been seconded by the Board to head up the new Rapid Job Turnover Initiative.

Asked to comment on his new mandate, Mr. Servant indicated that he had only been in the job for two days and was therefore not yet able to fully describe his new functions.

"I can definitely say that I am pleased to be heading up this new initiative," said Mr. Servant. "And I look forward to working with the fine group of talented people assembled for this task."

Joining Mr. Servant for this new project will be Mary Worker who will be Acting Head of the Rapid Job Turnover Commission. Mary joins the RJTC after serving for nearly five months as the Temporary Chair of the Soaring Loonie Recalibration Board. Prior to working for the SLRB, Ms. Worker held numerous positions in various departments for different limited terms.

"Frankly, I think this new initiative will help reorder and restructure government for the coming challenges of the 21st century," said Ms. Worker. "Or at the very least it will help me get that ADM appointment I’ve always wanted."

Ms. Worker’s first action as Temporary Chair was to appoint Tom Bureau as Temporary Vice Chair of the RJTC. Since January, Mr. Bureau has been Canada’s Obfuscator General after serving in various positions that are listed on the third, fourth and fifth pages of his c.v.

"This is a great opportunity for me," said Mr. Bureau. "Particularly since I will be retiring in six months and thus will be able to bring a unique perspective to the task."

None of the new appointees was able to give many details about their new jobs or, for that matter, about their previous positions. When asked to provide further information about the new initiative, the temporary Treasury Board spokesperson indicated that he had just been given a lateral transfer to the Department of Communications and Obfuscation and was no longer able to comment on the RJT program.

"I am no longer with Treasury Board," said the former spokesperson. "But I’m sure that my replacement will be able to provide all the information you need very shortly."

The former temporary spokesperson’s part-time replacement was not immediately available to comment since she was being interviewed for the position of John Servant’s administrative assistant. Her voicemail, however, did include the following message:

"Hello-Bonjour. You’ve reached the office of the Treasury Board’s temporary part-time spokesperson for the Rapid Job Turnover Initiative. I’m either on the phone or busy applying for another job. Please leave your name and number and hope for the best."

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Shooting of Stephen Harper

"The Shooting of Stephen Harper"
(with apologies to Robert Service)

A bunch of the Tories were whooping it up in the Parliamentary saloon;
The polls were looking real pretty with an election expected quite soon;
Back of the bar, in a solo game, sat Stephen the head of the crew,
Discussing his luck with his new-found friend, the ex-PM known as Mulroo.

When in from the night, and out of the cold, and into the din and glare,
There stumbled a prison-bound German, all outraged and loaded for bear.
He looked like a man with a hidden agenda, his integrity visibly weak,
An affidavit he tossed on the bar, and demanded a moment to speak.
There was none who trusted the German’s face, his aura all gloomy and black;
But we gave him a listen, and the last to hear was Stephen the head of the pack.

There’s men that somehow just grip your eyes, and hold them hard like a spell;
And such was he, and he looked to me like a man who had lived in hell;
With a face far from fair, and the icy stare of a dog whose day had come,
He lifted his document and started to read the charges out one by one.
Then I got to figgering who he was, and wondering about all the signs,
And I turned my head and he slowly said "My name, boys, is Schreiber, Karlheinz."

His eyes went floating round the room, and he seemed in a kind of a daze,
Till at last he saw his old friend Mulroo in the path of his wandering gaze.
He sidled up to his longtime pal and held out his hand for to shake,
Mulroo turned away and quickly did say "I’ve never been on the take."
But the German insisted and still persisted and claimed that he’d given a lot,
"Three hundred thousand I gave him," said Karl, "And he still claims he never got caught."

And then Mr. Schreiber addressed Stephen Harper and asked him point blank and outright,
"Did you get the short letter I sent you last spring? How come it ain’t seen the light?"
And Harper he shook, and a glance at Mulroo took before he started to whine,
"I don’t know what you’re talking about and this guy’s no friend of mine."

Were you ever out in the wilderness, with not enough seats to go round,
And no matter what you offered, a majority just couldn’t be found,
And although you might try, to be less right and avoid looking grim-faced and dour,
You can’t seem to win even without sin, clean mad for political power.

It was winter, you see, and Harper, well he was hoping to win in the spring,
But this Schreiber guy even if he did lie, was clearly on to something;
The folks in the bar from away and far had heard all this stuff before,
They trusted Mulroo no more than you do and less than any old whore.
So Stephen he knew that if victory was due, he had to cut loose from his friend,
For if the voters got wind of his nexus to sin, his chances were then at an end.

Then I ducked my head and the lights went out, and the pols all fought wildly like cats;
A nation yawned and the lights went up, but we were left with the same old rats.
Stood on his head, and left for half-dead, was Stephen who now did lament,
His longed for correction and springtime election were gone in that one crazy moment.

There are the simple facts of the case, and I guess I ought to know.
They say that Harper was crazed with desire and I’m not denying it’s so.
I’m not so wise as the political guys, but I swear by all holy signs,
The guy that screwed him and stole his election was the German named Schreiber, Karlheinz.

Monday, November 19, 2007

The History of Writers' Strikes

The Writers Guild of America’s current work stoppage is not the first writers’ strike. Back in 1988, the WGA went out for five months and there were strikes back in 1960 and 1973 as well. But the history of such labor disputes doesn’t end there. Writers have been striking for centuries as evidenced by these past walkouts:

London 1868
The world’s premier literary capital was in turmoil thanks to a strike by British playwrights and novelists. London theaters had no new productions and newspapers had to cease their latest serializations of popular novels. The writing community was looking to achieve at least some of the profits being realized from the translation of their works to such emerging technologies as stereoscopes and "moving pictures." With the likes of Charles Dickens, George Eliot, Lewis Carroll and Edward George Bulwer-Lytton walking the picket line, well-to-do Londoners had to make do with observing everyday life for their daily entertainment, what soon came to be known as "reality shows." Attempts to bring in outside strikebreakers like Henry James and Mark Twain failed when it was discovered that they did not employ the Queen’s English.

Germany 1426
A little known labor dispute hit much of Europe almost 600 years ago. Tired of inadequate pay for repeatedly transcribing copies of the Bible, hundreds of monks participated in a three-day sit-down and work stoppage. The main point of contention was the scribes’ demand for residuals on sales of illuminated Bibles. The dispute came to a quick and unsuccessful end with the invention of movable type by noted German scab Johannes Gutenberg.

Athens 427 B.C.
The wordsmiths of ancient Athens almost brought the city state to its knees back in 427 B.C. when most toga-clad writers walked off the job for over a week. Outdoor theaters immediately went dark and early evening comedy clubs had to close with such noted authors as Aristonphanes, Sophocles and Euripides walking the line. The writers were seeking compensation for the reproduction of their works on new media such as scrolls and parchment. The strike abruptly ended when theater owners quickly realized there were not yet any copyright laws to prevent them from using existing works over and over again without compensation.

Mesopotamia 1725 B.C.
From the Code of Hammurabi to the latest standup routine at Babylon’s Catch a Rising Star comedy club, Mesopotamians relied on the stylus-formed scribblings of local writers. Much of the business and cultural life of the area briefly came to a halt in early 1725 B.C. when the scribes went on strike for more pay and a higher share of the royalties on reissued cuneiform tablets. Sadly, no progress was made as the strike ended on the second day when Hammurabi had half the writers beheaded.

The Olduvai Gorge 1,000,000 B.C.
A primitive writers’ strike seemed doomed from the start when the two local cave painters quickly realized that no one could read. Attempts to gain fair compensation for all "out-of-cave" production largely fell on deaf ears since no one knew what the "funny guys with colored sticks" were talking about. The work stoppage ceased precipitously when union local president Grok the Elder was trampled by a stampeding mastodon.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Translating Bureaucratese

People tend to read documents and messages from their own individual perspectives. Oftentimes, one person’s translation will differ significantly from another’s depending on their experience, knowledge and self-interest. Take, for example, the following edited version of an e-mail I recently received at work and the various ways different people might translate it:

"You may recall our CEO speaking of our department’s Enterprise Business Renewal (EBR) at our last AGM as being a critical component to our future and to implementing our Strategic Plan. This initiative is now well underway across the organization.
The initial work has been ongoing in our branch to map our processes. This work has been completed and we are now moving into the process modernization assessment phase where areas and elements for process improvement need to be identified.
I am writing to seek your participation during this assessment phase to provide input on process improvement opportunities that exist in our area of work. If required, you may also be approached by our representative on the EBR Project Management Team (PMT), or myself, to attend a meeting/workshop in order to gather your input. These meetings/workshops will be facilitated by CGI consultants who are working with the EBR PMT.
The next step will be to gather results of these meetings and hold a horizontal workshop with all product line branches to confirm the identified process improvements. You can also stay informed on progress by taking a look at the EBR Steering Committee records of discussion on our internal web site."

Non-government worker
This makes no sense to me. The only thing I can tell for sure is that more of my tax money is going down the drain.

Plain English speaker
The big boss wants to make things more efficient. If you’ve got any ideas, let me know and I’ll pass them up the line. I’ll keep you informed if anything happens.

Long term employee
Senior management is engaged in another pointless exercise. Since participation is optional, the e-mail can be ignored and deleted.

Überbureaucrat in junior position
Looking to get ahead? Hoping to climb the government career ladder? Then get onboard with Enterprise Business Renewal. Volunteer for any and all meetings. Come prepared with lots of ideas that sound like they will enhance efficiency even if they don’t. Contact our EBR Project Management Team rep as soon as possible to volunteer for workshops, meetings, bake sales or whatever it takes to get you noticed. Have an EBR t-shirt made and wear it at all meetings. This could be your ticket to a corner office.

Senior bureaucrat
Boy am I glad I don’t have to do this nonsense anymore. Luckily, I’m high enough up the chain that all I have to do is pass the results on to be shelved with all the other efficiency reports gathering dust.

As you know, our CEO initiated EBR at the AGM. This initiative is WUW (well underway) across the organization. The initial work has included MOP (mapping our processes) and BRI (branch responsibility initiatives). We are now entering the PMAP where the MOP and BRI will be fused by the EBR PMT into a LTIP (long term implementation plan). CGI consultants and IHEs (in-house experts) will coordinate the final product through HWS (horizontal workshops) with the PLBs (product line branches).

I assume AGM means "annual general meeting" but what the heck is a horizontal workshop?

Thank God for new government initiatives!

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Halloween in Iowa

Halloween has passed and most of us have recovered from the wave of pint-sized trick or treaters. Except, of course, for adults in Iowa who had to deal with these scary creatures at their doors:

Rudy the RINO
Rudy is a RINO, a Republican in name only. He claims to be a Republican but he often talks like a Democrat. Except when it comes to fighting crime. Then it’s a never ending litany of "9/11! 9/11! 9/11!" If you weren’t scared before, by the time Rudy the RINO is finished with you, you’ll be begging for a handgun.

The She Clinton
Some Iowans will still remember Halloween visits from a friendly guy named Bill Clinton. So when another Clinton comes calling, they may be in for a big surprise. The She Clinton is no warm and fuzzy "feel your pain" costumed character. A full dose of her scary robotic laugh will send most Iowa voters screaming for the cornfields.

Mitt the Mormon
Here’s a creature few Iowans have ever seen. Mitt the Mormon looks like a Christian but his Jesus actually visited America. If that’s not scary enough for Hawkeye voters, Mitt’s frantic flip-flopping on everything from abortion to gay rights to gun control will have them begging for mercy.

Not Osama
His skin is dark and his name seems Middle Eastern but he sounds so very, very reasonable. He’s African; he’s American. But some say he’s not African-American. How can that be? Is he a terrorist or just a really nice guy from Illinois? Probably the latter but can Iowans take the chance?

Dead Fred
Wow! It’s that guy from that TV show "Law and Order." "Boy, we really like him," say Corn Staters. "But now he’s talking about the issues and he’s really, really boring. We’re starting to lose consciousness. Dead Fred, you’re scaring us!"

Edwards Legalhands
He’s back and he’s as frightening as ever. But he’s just that cute guy with the great looking hair who was here four years ago, you say. He’s so adorable that you just want to let him into your house and give him a big hug. But don’t do it. It turns out that he’s really a trial lawyer in disguise. How scary is that?