Mar 19 2015
Archive for the 'WTF?' Category
Nov 06 2014
Yesterday colleague Bryan House (@bryanhouse) ended Acquia’s first customer conference, Engage, with a beer tasting demonstration. Everybody was served a flight of beers, a snack tray of two kinds of malt, some fresh hops and a few coffee beans. As a failed home brewer (my product made excellent slug bait around the zinnias and tomatoes), hearing a professional brewmaster talk about the factors that go into a great beer was a great education and excuse to quaff an Octoberfest, a local beer (Narragansett Autocrat Coffee Milk Ale) and a Dogfish 90-minute Imperial IPA.
But when Bryan showed this beer, from BrewDog, the strongest beer in the world at 55% alcohol, I could only think: “Dogs would go insane for that shit.”
May 06 2014
Today the Globe published a jaw dropping story out of Mashpee. Read it. I am almost too pissed off to type. I am so pissed off I shouldn’t type but when I heard about it on a Boston public radio talk show during a drive to Boston today I did something I’ve never done before and I actually called and vented (my venting begins around 1:09) like that old guy at town meeting who rants about how the fluoride in the water is causing him to have erectile dysfunction and who smells a little bit like pee in his dirty cardigan and who writes long letters to the editor.
Here’s the sordid tale of midnight legislation snuck in the back door on behalf of the rich and mighty. It’s the latest in a saga I’ve been blogging about for a while now.
So there’s been an ongoing stink for the past couple of years in Mashpee as a bunch of waterfront-owning McMansion-squatting greedheads have filed lawsuit after lawsuit to block a commercial oyster grower named Richard Cook from turning a two-acre stretch of Popponesset Bay into an oyster farm. The town, the state, the courts — all have given the guy the go ahead, but in a classic piece of scumbaggery by a hack State Rep from Newburyport (easily 100 miles away from Mashpee) an amendment was tacked onto the state budget last week that would declare a “marine sanctuary” not in Mashpee specifically, not even on Cape Cod to read the amendment, but at some undisclosed location defined by frigging GPS coordinates. The coward didn’t have the spine to actually name the town — he thought he could cloak it with some frigging latitude and longitude numbers. I’m sure it was an honest mistake. Here’s the offending amendment.
And the crowning indignant play by the esteemed Representative Michael Costello is that he further lacked the balls and courtesy to tell the Cape Cod delegation who were actually elected to represent Mashpee — State Senator Dan Wolf and State Rep David Vieira — that he was dropping the little turd of an amendment affecting their districts onto the budget. Thank god the Globe got curious and punched the numbers into Google Maps. (Thanks to reader Aaron Welles for checking the numbers in Google Earth and sending this screen shot below)
Costello was recruited to do the deed by ML Strategies, the lobbying arm of the Boston law firm of Mintz Levin, the pettifoggers who represent the abutters who live along the shore where Cook’s submerged farm would go.
Costello claims he did it for the environment. Who he did it for was a bunch of pricks who include the owner of the New England Patriots. Who wants to bet Costello gets spotted quaffing a frosty Sam Adams in the owner’s box with Gisele at Foxboro Stadium this fall? What Costello really did when he committed his ethical breach was try to preserve a million-dollar waterfront view, a great view indeed — across the bay at Cotuit’s pristine Ryefield Point courtesy of the Barnstable Land Trust.
Stand in Cotuit and look back at them and what you see looks like a row of tacky beached ocean liners, lit up to beat the band, their chemical lawns, big piers and cesspools poisoning the very bay this guy’s oysters might actually help clean up.
These people have no souls. None. They remind me of the time as a Cape Cod Times reporter covering the waterfront when I watched in amazement as a Lily Pulitzer-wearing ehisshewle of a grand dame (btw: great job missing this story Cape Cod Times, yet again the Globe has kicked your butt in your own back yard) tell a Barnstable shellfish committee in 1980 that commercial quahoggers in Osterville’s Eel River were a blight on her view and worked close enough to her house that she could “hit them with a nine-iron shot.” She wasn’t the last of the Littoral Leeches. Then the Ostervillians of Imposterville went after the aquaculture guys in West Bay for daring to float bags of seed oysters in front of their houses. “A menace to navigation!” They lost that fight too.
If I only possessed a Mashpee clamming license I would do my level best to invite all my clammer friends to join me in sitting on these jerks’ beach on Popponesset Bay every afternoon around cocktail hour in front of their guests (in a pink Speedo of course) and dig their goddamn clams. I would fish nowhere else. I would fowl nowhere else. I would do everything in my power to get that now sad but familiar sight of some poor policeman trudging down the sand in his brogans, towards me, telling me, “Please buddy. I know what the law says, but can you just do this someplace else? Please?”
I used to say “yes, sure, don’t want to cause a problem.” But never again. Take back the beaches and give Mashpee back to the original wampum tycoons, the Wampanoags. They at least took decent care of the place and appreciated a fine oyster.
Cook said it all to the Globe:
“All the way along through the process, I’ve done what the agencies and regulators have asked me to do in filing for permits and et cetera,” said Cook. “And I don’t understand how at this point someone can come in the back door from off-Cape and without any knowledge of local authority and residents, try and create something like this in order to stop my proposal from moving forward.”
Jan 18 2013
I listen to a lot of ambient music during the day while I work — I’ve always listened to something in the background while writing — generally instrumental stuff streamed through Last.fm which I can tune out but which gets rid of the bleak silence of my office hereon the Cape or in Manhattan. I’ve noticed over the last six months a lot of music incorporates people speaking — not singing — fragments of everyday conversations over the music. This is not singing. This is talking. Thank god Last.fm has a “ban” button so I can banish this stuff forever. But I swear there’s more of it and it keeps coming.
I give you “Little Fluffy Clouds” by The Orb.
And finally, “Close Your Eyes and Daydream” by Obfusc. This one was the last straw and forced this rant out of me.
Nov 09 2012
The current use of the word “Really?” as a verbal raised-eyebrow said in an ascending, ironic, mock way to express indignation. This is obnoxiously Valley Girlish and will go the way of the ironic “Not” as so well lampooned by Borat. Hearing Soledad O’Brien chirp a “Really?” on MSNBC the other morning on her reaction that ex-Congressman Anthony Weiner was returning to Twitter was the last straw. I am not alone.
“Coozies:” Those closed cell foam sleeves used to keep canned beverages cold. The utility of these devices is fine. I like a cold beer as much as the next drinker, but the slogans generally printed on them are usually groin oriented “How About a Nice Cup of Shut The F^#K Up” or that classic “Smile If You Aren’t Wearing Panties.” What kills me is my inability to utter their name in polite company — “Coozie” — which doubtlessly is an attempt to employ the word “cozy” emanating from the British tea drinkers use of a padded cloth cover to slip over a tea pot to keep it warm, the “tea cozy” which one imagines to be an important part of the Monty Python wardrobe of silly hats. “Coozie”, to my mind, is derived from “cooze,” an archaic reference to female genitalia. Hence I now vow to refer to all closed-cell foam beverage coolant sleeves as “canginas.” I will submit that word to the Urban Dictionary now.
Ukelele music in television commercials to denote carefree blithe days. This awful trend was savaged a couple years ago when a couple Madison Avenue creative directors launched a now defunct web site to implore their fellow advertising industry colleagues to stop using the Train song “Hey Soul Sister” in television ads. That site, “Stop Advertising from Pulling a Train” got the point across and was dead on, but it failed to purge the ukelele from other ads, where it tinkles away like some goddamn wind up jack-in-the-box tune. I own a ukelele (won it at a ukelele recital on Kauai years ago) and I can’t play it. I know George Harrison loved the little guitar. It can be a beautiful thing in the right hands. But keep it out of advertising, it gives me cavities.
““Everyone is sticking the tinkling sound of ukulele under their commercial,” said Jim Beloff, who wrote “The Ukulele: A Visual History.” “It’s shorthand for lightness of tone. It says, ‘We’re good guys at heart.’ ””
“Lean Forward“: I don’t watch the usual bullshit television news and so I watchthe PBS Newshour if I must get edification from the boob tube. The storm and election season exposed me to MSNBC (see above, re: “Really?”) and my mind was blown. Putting aside the presence of the newly-skinny Rev. Al Sharpton as a quasimodo anchor man (two words: Tawana Brawley) let me focus on the new MSNBC tagline, “Lean Forward.” This meme du jour first hit my radar during the Hurricane Sandy aftermath when it was reported that President Obama told his staff to “lean forward” and give all Federal support to the devastated communities in the northeast. Then it seemed to me MSNBC immediately seized it and made it their tag line — I guess as an implied pro-Obama election exhortation — and I found myself puzzling over what the hell “Lean Forward” means.
- If you’ve ever stood on a beach during a hurricane and tried to stay on your feet during a gust, you lean forward. When the gust stops you stumble and fall down. This isn’t what is meant, but given the appearance during the super storm …..
- The term has been applied to digital media to denote content that you have to lean forward and stick your face into to read. Like this blog. You don’t read stuff like this slumped on the couch wiping orange Cheeto dust off your fingers on the shag rug. This isn’t what is meant either.
- An alternative direction to partisan tendencies to lean to the liberal left or lean to the conservative right, and an implied exhortation in these days of deadlocked politics to put aside our difference and lean in an upright, neutral moderate position in the direction of the future, not the past. I think this is what was meant.
- Vote for Obama because MSNBC is not a news channel but a counterbalance to Fox and therefore the news source for people predisposed to want their news to actually lean left as opposed to the Murdochian right lean of Fox. This is what was meant.
Whatever it means, it pissed me off that the airheads who have inherited the broadcast airwaves from Murrow, Cronkite, et al are wasting my brain cycles trying to puzzle out their latest memetic slogans. And I have wasted 15 minutes of my time and yours ranting about these irritations to no effect and could keep going with more things that get under my skin like Kobe Beef sliders, pumpkin-flavored anything, and Apple products but I have work to do.
Oct 27 2012
The wife and daughter have conspired to further anthropomorphically torment the poor dog by dressing it for the Halloween holiday. She cowers, she winces, she endures. This makes my fillings ache. So much for being a manly man with a manly dog.
Jul 25 2012
Courtesy of my daughter. I cringe.
Apr 26 2012
I’ve been mulling a side-project for a while. A separate blog that would profile 365 extraordinary people. I’m talking the lunatic fringe that lifts cars off of people with superhuman bursts of desperate adrenalin, survive grizzly bear attacks by biting the bear’s jugular vein, and hit Omaha Beach brandishing a Scottish broad sword.
The inspiration came to me from the once-awesome history blog — Axis of Evel Knievel — where every day saw a post relating some extraordinary catastrophe, natural disaster, or act of human mayhem that occurred on that date. Any blog with the tagline: “Another Day, Another Pointless Atrocity” and this banner image is okay with me.
Anyway — I thought I’d jump the gun and share four anecdotes of manliness. I’ll probably never pull the trigger. I’m keeping a list and only have 100 names (men and women, suggestions and nominations welcome)
The first is from Zach Galifinakis in the trailer to Morgan Spurlock’s upcoming film on modern manliness: “Mansome.” Thirty seconds into the video, Mister Galifinakis basically ends any tenuous connection I may have had with my Klout score when he destroys Twitter with the quick zinger: “Real men don’t tweet.”
Just as Norman Mailer’s title Tough Guys Don’t Dance kept me off of any and all dance floors, Galifinakis just took the magic out of Tweeting.
Here’s to that.
Now, for a preview of the kind of manly men I would hope to bring to your attention if I were to stop procrastinating.
1. Mad Jack Churchill. British commando in World War II who went into battle with a broadsword. He had the only confirmed bow-and-arrow kill of the war when he shot a Nazi in the neck and was captured while defiantly playing the bag pipes. He is on the far right in the photo below. That is a sword in his hand.
2. Sandy Irvine: he died on the flanks of Mount Everest while climbing it with George “Because It’s There” Mallory. In the last year of his life, Irvine managed to: win the Oxford-Cambridge Boat Race, explore the arctic island of Spitzbergen, bang his roommate’s step-mother, and get invited to pull on a sweater and go for the summit with Mallory. A friend wrote: ” “One cannot imagine Sandy content to float placidly in some quiet back-water, he was the sort that must struggle against the current and, if need be, go down foaming in full body over the precipice[ital.mine].” I think am going to adopt that last phrase as my motto.
3. C. Dale Petersen: killed a grizzly bear with his bare hands by sticking his arm down its throat and biting its jugular vein. Need more be said? The pic tells the tale:
Dec 29 2011
Happy Festivus people. Imagine if some crazed Griswold on the cul de sac in your gated community one-upped the Christmas lighting arms race with this?
(tip of the hat to my daughter)
Nov 30 2011
This is for Marta, who I imagine is skiing across all the late fall bald spots somewhere in Jackson, New Hampshire.
Sep 29 2011
Tip of the hat to Peter Kafka @pkafka:
Sep 22 2011
I generally avoid editorializing about business. Too many years writing “objectively” about the technology industries has me gun shy about taking an un-reported stand. But since I covered Hewlett Packard closely when I was a tech reporter in the 80s and the company was nearing the pinnacle of its reputation as one of the keystone companies in technology, the news this morning that its board didn’t have the gumption to even interview its latest, and apparently lameduck CEO, Leo Apotheker, feels like the last straw in a decline of Sheenesque proportions and I have to say something.
HP’s former dominance in printers, PCs, workstations, minicomputers, medical diagnostics, even financial calculators was the culmination of a noble heritage that literally started in a modest residential garage when the founders hand built an oscilloscope they sold to Disney for post-production sound work on Snow White. HP was never the hippest company — it wasn’t a place I associate with the bearded sandal wearing characters that made Sun and Silicon Graphics and Apple and Next so colorful — but it was the most solid and mythic, a place that capitalized on smarts and research and innovation and was able, against the laws of Silicon Valley physics, to maintain its edge even as it absorbed companies like Compaq and DEC. While I believe “corporate culture” is an oxymoronic construct, “The HP Way” seems to indeed have been a good thing, one that held the massive organization together for a remarkable record of growth and innovation over five decades.
As the founders retired and faded into the philanthropic background, things became unhinged. Lew Platt missed the Internet. Carly Fiorina over-acquired. Wire-tapping reporters and board members seemed, at the time, like an aberration (now it doesn’t). Hurd couldn’t keep it in his pants and mortgaged the company’s future by slashing R&D … and now after one remarkably weird year characterized by throwing in the towel over and over, Leo Apotheker — the CEO no one had ever heard of before — is the next to walk the plank. The question is why was he ever even on the boat? I didn’t even know how to properly pronounce his name until yesterday at lunch when my partner corrected me and put an emphasis on the “e” with an accent (It’s “Lay-O” not “Lee-O”).
So what went well in the last year? Not much. The Palm acquisition yielded an operating system that was a lame darkhorse out of the gate. The company had a great success in tablets — once it discontinued them and slashed the price and alienated the first customers silly enough to pay full price when it launched. And the greatest bumble of all — telling the world that it is considering getting out of the vicious PC business before it had a buyer for that business — effectively killing, in a single utterance, all corporate/enterprise demand for fleets of its PCs and future demand by whatever greater fool buys the business off of them.
The headhunters and the board that was too divisive and busy to interview its last round of CEO candidates is drawing up yet another short list of possible leaders. Whoever gets tapped, they have a major mess to muck out. The situation as I see it without looking at the balance sheet:
- The PC is dead. It has another decade in the corporate world, but game over in PCs. Apple won and tablets are the new form factor. HP made its bid and failed there.
- The Wintel standard is irrelevant. Microsoft and Intel no longer call the tune. Operating systems are irrelevant in the cloud. WebOS was nice looking, but too late in the Apple, Android, Windows race.
- HP dictates few standards, has no APIs, has no developer community.
- Printers. Printers are the last mechanical appendage. Think about it. Once hard disks stopped spinning and went solid state, the last thing with a motor is the printer. Printers are a means to an end, not a future.
- Crisis communications. Beginning with the CNET wiretapping, the Hurd scandal and this summer’s string of can’t-shoot-straight missteps, the once golden credibility of the company is very tarnished and tattered.
- Marketing. Once Lenovo snagged David Roman — the marketing rock star that gave HP its awesome “The PC is Personal Again” campaign — the air went out of HP’s creative consumer balloon.
- China and emerging markets: no where near as nimble or familiar as Lenovo and Acer.
- Revive R&D – the game is about smarts and vision and innovation, not balance sheets. Hurd made the Street happy slashing costs. Any brown-suited execution drone from finance and ops can cut costs. People who invent the future are in tight supply and rather be hanging their hats at Google, Facebook, Apple and Amazon.
- Get a better board. It sounds like a shit fight in the monkey cage at the zoo inside of HPs board. The CEO needs to stack the deck with allies and advisors, not glory seekers who pull down each other’s pants.
- Become the builder and integrator for customers — not a supplier of boxes and cables. It’s a cliche to say services are the future. IBM under Gerstner retreated to services and implementation, divesting themselves of the PC business and other commodity hardware plays like printers. But the demand for a big bad ass builder with a vision, who can quickly and elegantly bring a non-tech global customer into this very weird, very tipping-point-world of clouds and tablets and HTML5 and content anywhere driven by NetGen Millenials is huge. The kernel is there with EDS, but not the panache and glory.
HP needs a larger-than-life personality leading it, someone extroverted and blunt but who is jazzed about the future and loves chaos and the thrill of the new. Things are serious, so a serious shakeup and re-think is called for to get re-hinged. Think Gerstner making the Elephant dance at IBM. Applying a balance sheet mechanic is a mistake. The next leader needs some technology credentials as well as operational ones. If Apotheker’s replacement is a grey-faced MBA in his or her 50s then the company is going to molder and lose even more relevancy. If the next CEO is too young they could easily be overwhelmed by the enormity of the organization. I don’t envy the people running this search — HP is a seriously dented can and apparently, according to the excellent piece by James Stewart in this morning’s New York Times — had a hard time getting candidates to take a look after Hurd’s ignoble departure. I literally can’t think of a single name that would get the job done.
Aug 06 2011
A buddy at a cocktail party told me he wanted to buy an “International Moth” but thought he wasn’t up to the physical challenge. “What’s a Moth?” asked I? I fired up the smartphone and searched this out on YouTube. Now I want one.
We got on the subject of weird hydrofoils because another friend raffled off a ride on his Rave Windrider. This I need to try.
Leave it to the French to build the fastest sailboat in the world, the Hydroptere
Jul 07 2011
The single nicest thing about moving on from Lenovo is a life free from Powerpoint. The company, like most modern organizations, ran on Powerpoint. The CEO even had a style guide that limited presentations presented to him to 15 pages with no line breaks. As a writer I like my words in sentences, not bullets. I like to look the audience in the eye and tell them a story, not read them … bullets. Powerpoint simply sucks.
Esteban Panzeri alerts me to the existence of a political party in Switzerland dedicated to banning the evil presentation software that is destroying humanity’s ability to string together words in a coherent string, with a beginning, middle and end. Sign me up.
Here is my current favorite presentation:
May 09 2011
Son spent his April school break with his grandparents in San Francisco. A trip to Chinatown and a hit on his savings account yielded a five-foot genuine Chinese stainless steel replica of Aragon’s sword, Anduril. Lord of the Rings geeks will know that Anduril came about when “…Elven-smiths reforged the shards of Narsil into a sword, setting into the design of the blade seven stars (for Elendil) and a crescent moon (for Isildur), as well as many runes. This sword Aragorn took up and renamed Andúril (meaning “flame of the west” in the Sindarin language), and it was said to have shone with the light of the Sun and the Moon.”
Junior decided his new instrument of mayhem needed an edge to repel pain-killer addicted home invaders. So out came the electric KitchenAid knife sharpener and the result was a sound to curdle your fillings.
Apr 08 2011
Found on the Beastieboys.com this morning. I recommend viewing this full-screen, sitting up close. Look for the dog.
Dec 01 2010
Sorry, but $6 Billion for a service that sends a daily email containing a coupon to a local restaurant or nail salon? Has Google lost its mind? Is its $33 billion in cash burning that big a stupid-hole in its pockets that it feels compelled to pull the 2010 equivalent of Time Warner buying AOL? This may be the deal that signifies the shark jumping of the social networking craze. Especially given that Groupon shows absolutely no social tendencies that I can determine other than a call to action to share the spam with a friend.
I signed up for Groupon — the Chicago local online social coupon whatever service — last month, and every morning get an utterly useless email containing a spammy offer to get a plate of cheap BBQ or a pedicure for half-off the list price somewhere in Greater Boston. Sorry, call me dense, but I just don’t get the secret sauce that makes this deal worth $6 billion.
In other words: Sign up to receive a daily deal. Receive the deal. Maybe share the deal. Then redeem the deal. What am I missing here? The NYT goes for the jugular when it questions the payoff for the merchants.
“Not all small businesses are sold on the golden promise of Groupon. Ina Pinkney, the chef and owner of a cafe called Ina’s, in Chicago, said she was curious about Groupon when she first heard about it a couple of years ago. She ultimately decided against using it.
“We did the math up front when they first started coming around to us and I said, ‘No, it really doesn’t make much sense,’ ” she said. “If we were to offer a $25 coupon for $50 worth of food, it doesn’t work.”
Groupon’s cut is half the dollar amount of the coupon, so the average amount of money Ina’s would collect for each Groupon customer was around $12.50, she said.
“I would never produce that much food for such a small amount,” she said.”
As this deal is questioned by analysts and investors, the most plausible explanation appears to be the most insane: Google bought Groupon to keep Facebook from buying it.
This could go down as one of the dumbest deals since Yahoo paid a billion for Mark Cuban’s Broadcast.com.
Jun 03 2010
I love this line, an indictment of PR consultants and social media gurus who “know” how to handle the mob.
“I’ve read a bunch of articles and blogs about this whole situation by publicists and marketing folk wondering what BP should do to save their brand from @BPGlobalPR. First of all, who cares? Second of all, what kind of business are you in? I’m trashing a company that is literally trashing the ocean, and these idiots are trying to figure out how to protect that company? One pickledick actually suggested that BP approach me and try to incorporate me into their actual PR outreach. That has got to be the dumbest, most head-up-the-ass solution anyone could possibly offer”
May 28 2010
The mime was working the crowd next to the loggia and the entrance to the Uffizi Gallery. White-faced and in an orange jumpsuit with the helpful word “Jailbird” stenciled on the back. He wore a single green glove – a sanitation worker down on his luck – furtively hamming around behind the backs of unsuspecting tourist girls, whose hand he would grab and as they turned to see who hadaccosted them he would shout, “HA!” and give them a terrible fright.
“Stay away from him, he’s a f#$%^r,” said my daughter, wise to the ways of the Florentine alleys after a term across the Arno. I was tired – having just surmounted the 450 plus steps (and my severe acrophobia) to climb to the top of Bruneschelli’s dome of the Duomo – and I was in no mood for any mime bullshit. Too late. Five people between me and the crazed white faced garbage man and he locks eyes on me – as Quint said in Jaws, he had a doll’s eyes, dilated crazed Siberian husky eyes. There was nothing I could do but shrug and endure.
First we embraced like long lost brothers and I understood what did me in – I was wearing an ancient orange Orvis polo shirt which made me look like a large tangerine. He in his orange jumpsuit … it all made sense but then it made no sense. Lesson learned, wear orange at one’s own peril.
Then we danced a little and the mob of people sitting on the stairs along the loggia started to laugh. The laughter was like mime fuel. He smelled poorly.
We stopped. He dropped to one knee and put his ear to my stomach. He held up one finger to the crowd. They laughed. He held up two fingers to the crowd. Twins. They laughed louder. I thought of Alec Baldwin playing Junior in Miami Blues and how he casually snapped and broke the finger of a Hari Krishna in an orange robe who had bothered him at the airport, the surprise causing the Krishna to die of a heart attack on the spot. There were too many witnesses for me to maim the mime, so I continued to smile while inwardly counting down the moments until the mime assault would end.
Finished with establishing that my paunch meant that I was pregnant – go ahead, laugh at the fat man – the final indignity involved lifting my shirt, baring said paunch to the mob (and the astonished, apoleptic, laughter-oxygen-deprived faces of my wife and daughter) and then planting his face on my abdomen and doing the mime equivalent of the 14th century letterpress – aka The Motorboat – leaving behind a bas relief of his white makeup with two eyeholes, my navel as a nose and below, two horizontal black lines from his lipstick.
The crowd went insane. Truly insane. I turned, showed them the greasepaint on my chiseled six-pack, saluted and walked on. A beaten man.
Thx to Mark Hopkins for the post title.