What are those scary creatures coming
Knocking at my door?
Will they ask for tricks or treats,
Or will they want some more?

Will they talk of "Yes on 9!"
And speak of Measure 8?
Or will, instead, they tell me of
Their favorite candidate?

Halloween can always be a
Scary time of year.
But coupled with election time
I live in mortal fear.

Afraid to answer doors as well as
Rings upon the phone.
Afraid of people waving signs
Who won't leave me alone.

Afraid of watching TV's endless
Clips of peoples' speeches.
Afraid of watching candidates who
Act like smiling leeches.

This year when kids yell "Trick or Treat!"
At every residence
They'll take some candy, then debate
The choice of presidents.


Little Election Jokes

Q: What do you call a talk by a pro-logging candidate?
A: A stump speech

Q: What kind of talk does a confused candidate give?
A: A stumped speech

Q: When did the candidate decide to run for office?
A: When he was being chased

Q: Why was the bag of dried fruit so loud?
A: Because the candydates would never shut up

Q: Why did the candidate stand for reelection?
A: Hemorrhoids


When I am King: Money Bites

When I am King...

Our economy will be based on simpler fundamentals that we can all get our teeth into.

Credit Default Swaps. Hedge Funds. Subprime mortgages. Housing bubble. Liquidity.

What the heck do all of these things mean? And how do they relate to the stock prices and an economy that many experts now call "Sucky"? Does anyone really understand this stuf?

There are so many things that are fuzzy about the financial crisis, such as how much money we're all losing in the markets every day, or whether we'll be eating our shoes to get by this winter. But one thing is abundantly clear: the world financial markets are so complicated that nobody really seems to understand them. And since nobody understands them, we don't really know how we got into this mess, how to get out of it, or how to avoid it in the future.

It's like when your kid messes up their room. You send them into a spotless room and a half hour later it looks like a rhinoceros had a seizure in there. It's not physically possible for that small child to have done that amount of damage to a room, yet there is the evidence. How did it happen? And where did the rhino poo come from, anyway?

The politicians are focused on how we can fix the banks, and the monetary system, and the mortgages, and all of this other stuff that we still don't actually understand. That's like trying to put together a complicated model without instructions; you're just left with a mess of plastic parts and too much glue-sniffing.

It seems much better to just give up and start over.

When I am King, we will return to an economy that we can all understand. Paper money, bank statements, and stock prices are all too abstract. We will, instead, go to a system of trading something more real and substantial: teeth.

No longer will the Tooth Fairy spirit away teeth and leave behind cash; this is a remnant of a failed monetary policy. Instead, the teeth will stay there for the children to save up for college. Adults can choose to keep their teeth, or to sacrifice them for things they truly need, like food. Or false teeth.

As we slowly spend our teeth, we will then spend less time on brushing and flossing them, making us more productive and happy (though our smiles may not be quite so bright).

Meanwhile, the Tooth Fairy will be sought by the authorities as an outlaw and a primary contributor to the financial crisis. We have to have someone to blame.


Little Jokes for Friday

If you met your clone, would you be beside yourself?

Should a writing program for prisoners be called 'Prose and Cons'?


Corporate Survival Guide: Keeping the Job

In an earlier diatribe, I covered getting the job. So now you're here: you passed the interview process, you got yourself an office, and you're busy scrabbling up the corporate ladder with every tooth, nail, and sharpened shoe heel available.

But hard times come to all companies, whether it's due to the state of the economy or just because the company doesn't have a clue how to avoid getting flattened like a frog on an interstate.

At times like these, when the company is asking everyone to pull together, you need to be looking out for yourself. When they tighten the corporate belt, you want to be on the inside of those company pants.

In fact, dire times might be the perfect time for you to climb further up that management chain. Sure, the company may be sinking, but the very top of it will be the last to slip under the waves.

So how do you persevere, much less triumph, when your company is hurting like hot sauce on a paper cut?

Here is what I call my Several Step Plan for when Companies are going Down the Toilet (SSPCDT).

Convenient Absence
Layoffs will come. They will be awful and horrible. And they will supposedly be a secret. Your Human Resources department thinks that it's clever and that nobody will know when the big day is coming, but everyone will. For one thing, they will book all of the conference rooms in advance and populate them with boxes of tissues and Tazers, just in case.
Make plans to be away that day. Move your office. Change your company phone extension. Switch nameplates with co-workers. You don't know that you're on the list, but make sure that if you are, they can't find you.

Some of your co-workers have now left the company, either willfully, involuntarily, or on a stretcher. There is now a depressing abundance of office space around you where there used to be people, or, as you should have thought of them, competitors for advancement.
Now is the time to consolidate your holdings. Life is a land grab, and it starts at work. Knock down your cube walls and expand into the neighboring cubes. Shift your growing cube slowly over to the window or closer to the boss's office. Try to occupy the entire area eventually. If you meet resistance in the form of people still occupying their offices, tell them that HR was looking for them and roll right through their cube in their absence.
When you're all done, there's no way that the boss can fail to notice you anymore, since you know occupy the whole area between his office and the elevator.

Friendly Conversation
With so many people missing from your department, your boss will be that much more available. They'll probably be lonely, as well. Make a point to stop by their office and chat, several times a day. Become a friend, or at least someone who acts like a friend.
This may take some effort, as you may not know anything about your boss yet. For one thing, you probably want to start every conversation with your name, since they may have ignored it so far. Also, you may need to stalk them at home to discover more about what they do and who they are so that you can casually bring it up in conversation when you walk into their office: "Hey! How's the morning treating you? How are the kids, ages 3, 5, and 8? See the game last night?" Note that mentioning last night's TV entertainment is perfect, because you know exactly what they watched and what happened in that show because you were watching it on the same set from outside their window.

At the same time as you're getting more familiar with your boss, you might want to casually and frequently 'bump into' their boss. Elevators are reasonable places for this, although it's difficult to have a private conversation without pushing the other people out onto floors they didn't want to go to.
The best place for a private casual conversation is neighboring urinals in the restroom. This only works if both of you are men; otherwise, you'll have to improvise on that theme.
The point of these meetings is two-fold: you'll want to get to know the boss, or at least for them to know your name. But more importantly, you'll want to sow some seeds of doubt about your boss, leaving the impression that they'd be better off with you in charge. Here are some examples of these subtle exchanges:
"Hi, I don't know if you remember me. I'm Bob Kreenst, from Payroll. It's too bad about the situation there. My boss is doing a great job, just great. Given his limitations. We'd probably do much better with someone else leading the charge there. Like me."
"Hi, did you hear about Ken, the manager in Payroll? I think the pressure is really getting to him. He's holding it together pretty well, given what he's been through. But I've seen a crazy look in his eyes. All I want is the best for him. But if you want to replace him, I'm your guy."
The most important part of the entire exchange is to shake hands with them; it seals the deal and creates a personal bond. But wait until you're both finished at the urinal and have washed your hands.

The company didn't get itself into this state by actually knowing what it was doing. Now all of the execs are busy running from meeting to meeting trying to figure out what happened and how to change it before the entire thing implodes.
They're looking for new ideas.
This is your time. Just like the real battlefield, promotions on the Corporate Battlefield happen through attrition. All you need is to impress management with your visions.
The important thing is that your ideas don't have to work, or even to make sense. The company has already tried sensible plans that they understood, and they didn't pan out at all. At this point, they'll be desperate enough to latch onto anything. They'd trust a monkey, if he was dressed in a suit. This is where you come in.
Come up with a plan. You may want to get liquored up first, so that you can achieve the right combination of novelty, inspiration, and insanity that it will take.
Now the important part: Create a presentation. Anything makes sense if they see it in slide form.
Now, send in a teaser of the plan to management and ask for a meeting.
When the big day comes, get yourself amped up on a quadruple espresso and go knock them dead with your presentation. Or at least create small wounds.


Little Military Jokes

I wonder:

Do naval communications have subtext?

Does the army have good leadership in General?

Does a ground war require specialized terraining?

Are air force pilots just plane good at their job?


Politicks me off

I'm not a political person, but I have to admit that the election season this year really has me going. In fact, I'd like to get involved in the process this year and do what I can to help the candidates market themselves to the public.

But frankly, everyone is tired of being bombarded with all of these "issues," "Town Hall meetings," and "debates." I think that what our society needs instead is more catchy slogans.

Here is some sample material that I'm trying to push. I haven't yet gotten a return call from the party headquarters, but it's probably just because they're busy right now. I expect to hear from them very soon.

In the spirit of fairness, I'm only taking on one party at a time. In fact, I'll limit it to one person at a time, just to make sure I get it right.

"Sarah Palin: Showing America that you no longer have to be a man to be incompetent in the White House."

"McCain and unAble, '08"

"Sarah for VP: The successes of the last 8 years will Palin comparison"


Administration Unveils "Raw Deal"

President Unveils New "Raw Deal" Solution to Financial Crisis

In a surprising move, the American President today revealed that the global financial crisis is all part of his administration's overall plan for the economy.

"My fellow Americans," he said, speaking to a group of foreign journalists. "In the 1930's or maybe the 1800's, a former President established what he called the 'New Deal' to get this country out of a financial whatsit. But that deal's not so new anymore, seeing as how it's so old, so it was time we got our own plan going to fix things around here.

"My administration is implementating a totally different plan to fix the problem. The bankruptures and credit problems are just a part of my overall strategization. You can look forward to even more fixes in the coming weeks, such as a return to the Fool's Gold standard, and an economy based on chicken dumplings. Why, everbody loves dumplings!
"Our solution is new and fresh, so we're calling this here thing the 'Raw Deal.'"

The President declined to take questions, but he did pose for a photo op while shaking hands with a nearby shrub.

The President, caught posing for a quick caricature op


Little Jokes for Wednesday

When your foot's asleep, it is comatoes?

The Michelin Man has been at it a long time: isn't he all tired out?


Geek Nation

I dreamed, last night,
Of a country of nerds.
We formed a new nation
On programs, not words.

But I wondered, as I slept,
What choices we'd seek,
In this nation of nerddom,
This country of geek.

Would glasses adorn
Every one of our faces?
Would our childrens' bad teeth
Get new curly braces?

Would typing be urged,
And handwriting subversive?
Would our kids at least learn how
To write in recursive?

Would repetitive tasks be
'do-while's, or just 'for's?
Would our natural resources
Be exclusive ores?

Would we ever play sports,
Since we'd all get picked last, see?
Or would we learn, finally,
To kick some geek ascii?

Would the music of choice be
Algorithm and blues?
Would sneakers be the only
Acceptable shoes?

Would society be open
Like a great big library,
Accepting of all, be they
Straight, gay, or binary?

Would pest control work
Be nicknamed debugging?
Would identity theft be
The sole form of mugging?

Would we get with the program?
Or be left out in the code?
Would our army be run
In some kernel mode?

Would taxis and limos
Be referred to as 'hacks'?
Would religions guilt us all
About original syntax?

Would future generations
Learn more of our nation
By sifting through code dumps
Or by hexcavation?

Would our spirit stand out
Like a malformed tag,
Would we proudly display
Our Boolean flag?

The dream finally ended;
I awoke from my sleep
And I lay there till morning,
Counting binary sheep.


Corporate Survival Guide: Getting the Job

Before we can become great warriors for the corporation, we must gird ourselves for battle. This means getting the right job with the right company. And to do that will take interviewing skills so powerful that the company not only wants to hire you; they would be afraid not to.

First impressions are the most important ones, the ones that make or break the deal. So you have to make sure that your first impression for the company leaves them quaking with respect, fear, and wonder. It's like a first date, but without making out. Unless you must to seal the deal.

Following are some important techniques that you can use the nail the job.


One of the most difficult problems we all face in today's Corporate Battlefield is how to dress for an interview. Dressing too casually gives the impression that you don't care about the job. Dressing too nice gives the impression that you don't have a clue about this particular corporate environment. So what should the Warrior do?

The best solution to this and, in fact, most problems you will face during your career is to do exactly what the people around you do. In this case, that means dressing like the people in the company. But it's not good enough to dress generically like random other people in the company: you should dress exactly like the people interviewing you.

Typically, you will get a list of people that you will be talking to for your interviews. If you don't get this beforehand, insist on it, claiming some allergy to certain names or whatever excuse you can come up with. Once you have these names, you must stalk the people on the list; watch them coming in and out of the building, taking note of what they are wearing.

Once you've compiled a list of the various outfits being worn by your interviewers, go buy those exact clothes. On the day of the interview, dress in layers, wearing all of the clothes in the proper order, so that between each interview, you merely need to peel off the outer layer to present yourself in an outfit that is tuned to the next person on the schedule.

Some important nuances to note:
- Sometimes the interview schedule will switch around at the last minute. If this happens to you, first see if you can get the original schedule back. If this is not possible, perhaps because one of your scheduled interviewers has malaria or is dead, then you'll have to improvise. Bring a lab coat to wear during the interview with the unknown person. This neutral approach will avoid all clothing issues and preserve the rest of your outfits for the people that they were tailored to impress.
- Some of your interviewers may be of a different sex. For example, you may not be used to wearing a dress like you saw your third interviewer wearing. This is not a problem - they will be all the more impressed that you happen to have their fashion taste even at the risk of societal awkwardness.

Start negotiations early

Typical salary negotiations start when the company finally admits that they want you. But this is far too late; you've already lost the upper hand at this point, and the negotiations will reflect this.

The true Corporate Warrior begins negotiations first thing, as soon as you walk into the company. Demand a pay package commensurate with what you know you are worth to them. Agree on terms before proceeding any further in the interview. After all, if they can't match your expectations, then the whole process is a waste of time.

Sometimes it's difficult to know what the right salary is. After all, you haven't had this exact job before, and you don't know how much the people at the company make. So it's usually safe to start with "Double your salary," to whomever you're meeting with first. This puts the numbers within an acceptable range, making it relative to the pay package of other company employees.

This brazen approach will convince them not only of your value, but also of your confidence and your ability to seal a deal.

Answering Interview Questions

One of the typical problems that arises in interviews is that you have to answer questions that you don't know the answer to.

Psychologists have been doing this for years, ever since Freud first said, "I don't know, what do you want to talk about?" This technique is now practiced by politicians everywhere. No matter what question is asked, they stick to their policy message: "Senator, do you know the time?" "The time is now, and always has been, and always will be, for my healthcare solution for all Americans."

In fact, the last time a politician answered a direct query was when President Taft answered the question, "Do you want another slice of pie?"

Inevitably, you will get questions in your interviews that you really haven't a clue how to answer. The trick is threefold, and is what I like to call the RTR method:
- Redirect
- Talk about something you know more about
- Remind them about some other question they asked that you actually did answer.

I'll give you an example:

interviewer: It says here on your resume that you're an expert in the Kroonglebaum Process. Can you tell me about the Three Tenets of that Methodology?

candidate: Kroonglebaum is an excellent process, and certainly one that I favor in the groups that I lead.
For example, I managed a team of over 90 people spread throughout over 100 Geo's to implement a solution for corporate goaling, and I was recognized by the executives at the company not only as having excellent leadership skills, but also dressing well under pressure.
By the way, I'd like to return to your earlier question about coffee as an example of my decisiveness; I trust that you were satisfied by my quick and confident assertion that I would like a cup of coffee. It's just another example of the type of action-oriented contributor that you'd be getting when you hire me.

Did you notice how cleverly we avoided the entire issue of the question, while at the same time giving interesting and crucial information about other aspects of our skills that we know far more about?

The important thing to note here is that it is far easier to develop skills of avoiding a straight answer than it is to actually learn any subject in particular. If you develop the first skill, you'll never need the second. As long as you can avoid talking about anything in particular, then you can also avoid having to know anything in particular.

Your Resume is a Pack of Lies

Another thing to notice about the previous item is that the reusme point about Kroonglebaum was obviously fabricated; our candidate hadn't a clue about it. But given the cleverness with which he deflected any questions about it, he didn't need to know anything. This is a skill to capitalize on: stuff your resume with all kinds of fiction: bullet points on skills you've never heard of, buzz words you made up, and accomplishments you couldn't possibly have achieved without another 75 years on the job.

This approach has multiple benefits, such as:
- Easy credit: None of us has anywhere near the experience that hiring companies expect of us, but that's no reason to stop us from making them think that we do. By listing it on the resume, you've staked a claim that you do know about it. Most of them won't know all of the stuff that you list either, so it's unlikely that you'll have to talk about most of it. When you do get a question, just make sure to skirt the issue appropriately and you're home free.
- Conversation: The goal of your interview is to stretch the conversation out and cover the time allotted. The worst thing you can ever do is to let the conversation die. So if you give them more talking points, then you are automatically building more conversation into the process. Don't make them work to figure out who you are; lay it out in black and white who you want them to think you are.

Ending the Interview

It's important to let the hiring company know who they are dealing with. In particular, you must keep the upper hand in the relationship. Interviews typically put the candidate at a disadvantage; the very concept that they get to make the decision about you is already a bad start.

But you can easily counter that and claim the home court advantage.

When the interviews are nearly over, check you watch pointedly and then exclaim that you're late for an important appointment and you must leave. Get up, shake their hand once, tell them that you will think about what they have said and get back to them, and let yourself out of the room.

If you do this quickly enough, you will so completely throw off the last interviewer that they will still be in the room, trying to figure out what just happened. Meanwhile, you can wander around the building, searching out a good place for your new office and stopping by the break room to pocket some free sugar and creamer packets. You may not need these, but it's an important psychological point that you have not been interviewing for free, but have now been compensated for your time.

If, by this time, they still haven't found you and escorted you out, consider finding an empty office and starting work. Roll those sleeves up, get some charts out of your bag, and look busy. The only difference between you now and you as an employee is the paycheck, and that will surely follow.