This story is why contractors tend to stink. Why couldn't the government have done this quicker and cheaper? The irony is that the purpose of the contract in question was to hire private people to become government baggage screeners. Idiotic.
It's one of those mornings that I realize, driving to work on the parkway with blue skies and cool temps, that I have lost count of the things I do not deserve. I raced a guy in a jag...we were poking along until the right moment came in the song I was listening to and I downshifted to fifth gear, hit the accelerator and the two of us weaved through traffic until the beltway and backroads entered the picture. Taking Jenna to work was a breeze earlier, as the traffic in georgetown was non-existent. Everything seemed clearer. Everything seemed brighter.
Fortunately, the multitude of work awaiting me here snapped me out of my reverie. Of course, all it takes to get back into it is to turn around and look out my enormous windows to see the lake, geese and the prospect of an enjoyable lunch break.
So about two months ago, I signed up for a research panel designed around consumer purchasing habits. I thought it'd entail the regular amount of survey filling, etc., but to my surprise, they shipped me a fully functional bar-code scanner/modem that would allow me to scan every item I purchased. Excited, I broke the box down and began to play with it.
The scanner looked like an ice pick, with a small red led point that emerged from one end or the other. In addition to scanning UPC codes, you could also enter stored you purchased items from, and even enter in items without codes, using a special codebook. So far, so good. After scanning in the items, you'd hold the speaker in the scannerpick up to a modem, Wargames-style, and it'd call back to HQ to report in. Testing that out was fun too.
Eager to start, I instructed Jenna not to unpack any of the groceries I had just purchased from the store. I got ready to scan, cracked open the instruction book, and read that before I scanned any items, I needed to update the store list. Sounds simple, right? Inside a huge booklet was a list of every DC store imaginable from which I could purchase goods. The instructions said to scan each one into the scanner (well, each one I could ever conceivably shop at) so I began the arduous task of scanning in every code from Dean and Deluca to the CVS at Thomas Circle. Why do I say arduous?
Well, the icepick scanner had one major deficiency: instead of using a powerful laser to scan UPCs, it used a lower power one or an led that emerged from a single point. Thus, instead of holding the entire code under the laser as most scanners at stores do, the pick had to be dragged across the code. At. A. Constant. Speed.
The instruction manual said to "do it briskly" as one would "light a match". I tried brisk. I tried quick. I tried slow. I tried medium-speed. Occasionally a store would register, sometimes even on the first try. Others I'd spend ten minutes simply running the scannerpick on top of, over and over again. After I registered about 10 stores over the course of an house, I realized that if it took me this long to scan 10 stores, how long would it take me to scan 10 items from said stores? Disgusted, I put the scannerpick away.
Late last week, I received a notice from homescan saying they wanted their scanner back. I dutifully packed it back up and shipped it off. What was especially frustrating was that I, of all people, wholly support the idea of tracking my consumer habits. But if AmEx can give me a yearly statement that shows me how much I spent on dining, on tips and on purchases at the gas station, why should anyone have to go through the hassle of scanning particular items a second time, after someone else has already done so at the store itself?
In the end, I flipped through the homescan catalog of "rewards" for customers. You'd get a dvd player if you scanned each week, every week, all year. That's over 52 transmissions. Given the amount of purchases I made, I could spend two weeks just scanning stuff to transmit. Just so I get a lousy $200 dvd player. I mean, come on. I did market research for Network Solutions once and got $200 in half an hour of looking at a website and clicking on some hyperlinks. That beats two weeks any day.
So maybe the technology is not there yet. But I'm sure that there are others like me who'd gladly give up the farce people call privacy these days in order to be market indicators. Just tie our habits to our credit cards, okay? Or put some RFID chips in our products and have the scanner check them wirelessly, okay? That way you'd know not only what was purchased, but how long it lasted before it broke. And that could be the end of planned obsolescence.
This is nauseating.
Andrew H. Card Jr. had some candid advice for 2,000 Washington interns who gathered at the Ronald Reagan Building on Monday evening to hear him speak at an event intended to recruit talented people into the federal civil service. Some of you should go corporate, the White House chief of staff told them.
"There are many programs for young people to have employment opportunities, but the greatest employment opportunities in our society come through the private sector," said Card, a former vice president of General Motors Corp. and ex-president of the American Automobile Manufacturers Association. "And so I don't think that everyone who is looking for a job should expect or even want a job with the federal government or one of our agencies. In fact, our economy would not do very well if people just worked for the government."
Occasionally a Republican slips up and says the truth, rather than their talking points. They really do, honestly, hate the government. The force that has liberated nations, helped the less fortunate and put a man on the moon is, in their mind, something to loathe. That sentiment disgusts me. What could be a nobler calling than to serve one's country? Card should at least offer some explanation.
A fun new public search site.
Actually, it's been up since February, but still, it's cool. Some people apparently don't think so. In my mind, if this is all public information, the silliest quote comes here in the piece:
"It's a fundamental invasion of privacy because they've put all these records together and give them away for nothing instead of keeping them separate and making people pay to get them."
Um, so if zaba charged money for their service, would it be any less an invasion of privacy? I don't think so. It'd just mean that rich people could snoop on others exclusively. I've never understood why so many people seem to think that public information must be protected. It's self-defeating. Just like the weather companies complaining that the national weather service is, gasp, letting people check the weather for free, if the government has this information and is making it public, isn't that good? I long for the day the IRS allows completely free digital submissions of tax returns for all Americans. Over the web. It'll happen eventually, trust me.
But to get back to the point, go check out zava and find out about the people you want to!
- Recovering from illness? Check.
- Record high temperatures? Check.
- Loss of power over the entire house? Check.
- Another great Tuesday Salon? You bet.
Sometimes minor inconveniences seem to add up, but last night, chilling with friends outside the darkened 'werkz, I realized that with a fully stocked ice pit, almost any obstacle can be overcome. Sure enough, after a lengthy time, the power came back on, the party faithful returned inside, and all was again right with the world.
Well, it's time for another salon. I'll be working hard this time to keep the inside of the house super-cool, so be sure to come on by.
Last night, I caught my first screen-on-the-green this year, "Treasure of the Sierra Madre". A good film all around, and it was fun to see it with Kristen and friends. That cooler is pretty heavy, though...
werkz advice: skip it.
So I finally caught Scorsese's "The Aviator". Not really that good, actually. It wasn't due to bad acting, or an uninteresting topic. It just never took off. Instead, the movie seemed long and dull. Still, better than Gangs, I suppose.
werkz advice: skip it.
So I finally caught Wes Anderson's latest flick "The Life Aquatic". Let me save you the trouble of renting it. Don't. It's not as good as either of Anderson's earlier works. Why? Because it's just not that funny. It's all somewhat campy, in a bad way.
So I upgrade to the latest firefox, 1.0.6 and gmail starts to act funny. This morning, it doesn't even come up at all. After a little hacking, I get it to display the following message:
Our system has detected abnormal usage of your Gmail account. As a result, we have temporarily disabled access to this account.
It will take between one minute and 24 hours for you to regain access, depending on the behavior our system detected.
Nice. So I decide to download the bleeding version of Firefox, Deer Park Alpha 2 and what'dya know? gmail is now working again.
Say what you will about Russ Potts, the Republican-turned-Independent from my hometown, but he's dead right on policy issues. It's kind of sad to think that he couldn't win the GOP primary...although if he had, this race would be worse, because both candidates would agree about the important issues and disagree about less important issues, like gay adoption. Instead, Kaine and Potts can continue to bash Kilgore's idiotic fiscal ideas, and focus on Virginia's true needs: a stable tax base and a plan to solve our transportation woes.
The most idiotic thing, in my mind, of the entire Brazilian Terrorist Fiasco, is that the British policy is simply, "if there's a possible terrorist, we shoot to kill". Why? Because they think, oddly, that if they attempt to incapacitate, that the terrorist will be able to still set off the bomb.
So, in other words, they assume terrorists are sophisticated enough to setup a handheld button that would trigger the bomb, but not sophisticated enough to fashion a dead man's switch in case they were shot. I am constantly amazed that we continue to think of the terrorists as tech-savvy, but in this instance, we not only think that they're smart enough to be able to set off a bomb while their legs have been blown away, but that they're not smart enough to create a simple device for exactly this situation. I mean, come on, it involves a spring. Not much more. It's certainly not rocket science.
Besides the obvious idiocy, there's the secondary one as well: why shoot a terrorist subject in the head if you're trying to roll up cells? How are you going to interrogate a prisoner if he has five bullets in his head? All citizens, of all nationalities, need to think about what these bombings are turning our police squads into...
After a fourteen-inning loss to the Astros, I was feeling tired and in need of a pick-me-up. Fortunately, a few hours later, I was in Murasaki, enjoying some tasty sushi with Brad, Fincher and friends. The topic somehow came up about one's preference for Asian food. Hence, here's my list:
Of course, if "Mongolian Barbeque" counts as Mongolian cuisine, it'd easily dethrone Japan to become the Khan of all Asian food. Since I've never had authentic Mongolian food, however, I'll demur. And this list is very spontaneous. For instance, I'm sure, on the whole, that there are many more dishes from India that I enjoy than dishes from Thailand. But my favorite Thai dishes easily trump my favorite Indian dishes, so they get a higher ranking. If a place isn't listed, it's because I've never had their food. (Take that, Korea!) Or it's because the country in question is too far West to be included, like Afghanistan.
And, let it be said, I probably prefer the "Americanized" versions of all of the food above. I've never understood why people place such a value on the "authentic" when it comes to cuisine. This is not to demean the cultural differences between cuisines (Mexican versus Tex-Mex, for instance) but to merely say that if some guy traveled thousands of miles to setup a restaurant in my neighborhood that serves food from his home country, (Like these guys ) I'm less concerned with whether the food tastes "authentic" and more concerned with whether it tastes "good". Around the world, dishes are being prepared in family kitchens that taste great and don't cost a fortune. I like finding places that serve the best taste experience for your dollar. And if that means mixing up the recipe a bit for American palates, so be it.
An interesting article. One of the key graphs:
Andrew Laurence, an advocate for the Ethiopian arts, makes a point of highlighting the shared history of American blacks and Ethiopians when he makes appeals for the designation. He also likes to say that many African Americans have moved from the District in recent decades. "They ran out to Prince George's County; they left it for 30 years," he said. "Now other people are coming in, and they want to reclaim it."
Deairich "Dee" Hunter, chairman of the Advisory Neighborhood Commission that encompasses Shaw, responded that many African Americans remain in the neighborhood, even as newcomers transform its character. "It's being revitalized and gentrified, and the people in the forefront are not the Ethiopian community," he said. "The reality is that it's predominantly whites and gays, but you don't hear these populations asking to change the name."
I'm often tired of friends from other cities coming to visit and wishing to eat Ethiopian food. It's nice (if you order the right dishes) but DC has so many Ethiopian food places that it quickly loses its novelty. As for renaming 9th Street, I think that the lousiest argument for such a change would be that African-Americans have left the district. Um? Really? Last time I checked DC was still a majority Black city.
And although I think revitalization of 9th Street is good, I don't think renaming it "Little Ethiopia" would be any more constructive than naming 14th Street "Little Yuppieville". Much like 14th, the neighborhoods surrounding 9th are not composed of the same mixture of people who frequent the stores around said area. If 9th Street neighborhoods, like those near the 'werkz, were full of Ethiopian families, it would makes sense. Otherwise, it just seems like a silly marketing campaign. And for what? So that tourists can figure out where to go for Ethiopian food? As I said earlier, that's not a problem in D.C. Putting "Little Ethiopia" in a street that's one block from Howard and right next to U Street seems like a solution to a problem that doesn't exist.
This looks bad.
See, it's one of those things that at the time, if Gonzalez was innocent, I could see him messing up. (Why the hell would he call Andy Card if he was innocent, though?) But in the current context, it's inexcusable. Giving people time to destroy evidence is criminal. Especially if your the White House Counsel.
Does this image want to make you buy a jeep? Certainly not, right? It looks like some guy's giant head is going to eat Jason Alexander...
I'm sure I'm missing some amusing commercial that explains it, but an advertisement in a newspaper should perhaps stand on its own. This one doesn't. And besides, doesn't giving regular people the "employee discount" just another way of saying "we're screwing our employees"? Way to go, GM.
With that said, I've been sick the past two days, and it has not been fun. Hence the light posting.
Today, let me just point out one quick editorial from The New Republic. Every time I start to despair that TNR is slipping into Andrew Sullivan/Marty Peretz/crazytalk, they come out with something that brilliantly summarizes the progressive point of view on something. This editorial is just that piece.
Even the words are nuanced. Instead of saying, as the WaPo did, that Wilson's post trip activities were somehow misguided (as Wilson himself pointed out, why would he go to work for the Bush campaign, considering that they had outed his wife?), the NR merely suggests he made himself an easier target. That's the correct terminology, because in the end, Wilson has been pretty consistently proved right in each detail.
At the end of the day, Americans need to ask themselves: if the administration lied to get us to go to war, should they be trusted to govern? The answer is, of course, no.