Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Oh ohh...

The reason people blame things on the previous generations is that there's only one other choice. -Doug Larson

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Useful ambiguities (updated for 2010!)

Ever get a call from someone checking references on an employee who you secretly wish would move on? Can't tell a lie? Want to avoid going to court? Here's what to say:
  • We can't say enough good things about him
  • Her performance is at the next level
  • His contribution in meetings is critical
  • You can't criticize what she does
  • When he's in charge, things seem to fall together
  • You'd be very fortunate to get him to work for you
  • You should waste no time interviewing her
  • We found his salary expectations more than fair
  • You can't underestimate his performance
  • When it's left up to him he stops at nothing
  • She fills a gap for us
  • He has certainly earned his reputation
  • You can't question his results or his methods
  • We think he holds up his entire department
  • Her credentials are very qualified
Curtis and Scotfree added these gems:
  • You can't believe the praise he gets
  • We can't imagine replacing her
Then Doogie said...
  • Everybody in our organization uses him as an example of our expectations in a work ethic.

Brendan said

  • Former clients are clamoring for him
The Ripper said
  • He never ceases to stamp out inferior work
Annie said
  • His quality astounds us
Victor adds
  • Whenever there's trouble, she's right there
PKD adds
  • He has had a massive impact on our project
JR adds
  • No one would be better in his job than him

Got a few of your own? Post them as a comment.

Thought for the day

Real happiness is cheap enough, yet how dearly we pay for its counterfeit. -- Hosea Ballou

Saturday, January 23, 2010

See anything worrisome with these trends?

US Government, on its way to bankruptcy

Daily Planet Climate Change Silliness

When Discovery Channel makes the video available I will post it, but I have to comment on what I saw last night.

In a segment (starting at 4:50 of the clip after the ad) we learn how a southern variety of flying squirrel is extending its territory northward towards where a northern variety lives, an earnest researcher explains how "climate change" has led to warmer winters that enable this expansion. Then we see the research team trapping the southerners to implant a tracking chip. Finally we hear that the colony of flying squirrels has to huddle together in their nest because if even one leaves, the rest could freeze to death.

So global warming puts flying squirrels who are leaving their regular territory at greater risk of freezing to death. Makes sense to somebody, I am sure.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Blackberry Texas Hold'em Poker Tips

The world does not need more solitaire games for our computers and handhelds. Nonetheless, they exist. If you liked this blog's tips for Spider or Brickbreaker, you might like my tips for Blackberry Texas Hold'em Poker.

First, I am not a poker player, but somehow I have managed to accumulate over $8 million on my Blackberry, playing Hold'em, in the past three months. That qualifies me to teach you nothing reliable about playing real poker, but perhaps something useful about playing on your 'Berry.

I win about 40% of the time that I buy in to a game, and since the payout is about 10-15 times the buyin, the money adds up.

If you play poker for real, you will probably laugh at these tips. Hey, it's a computer game...real people would learn from your habits, but the opponents in the game do not. So you can figure out what beats them, and keep doing it.

Here are some tips, in fairly random order, some dazzlingly obvious.
  1. Call most hands, if no one before you has raised. Think of it as an ante.
  2. Be nimble and ready to fold if the betting gets crazy and you have a weak hand.
  3. Play any hand with a face card in it and a small pot.
  4. Play any pair with a small or medium pot.
  5. Play any suited connecting cards with a small pot.
  6. Most opponents with small pairs bet them aggressively.
  7. When you are head to head with the last opponent, raise every hand and they will usually fold. If they re-raise, be prepared to fold because they hardly ever bluff.
  8. When you are the big stack, bet aggressively and others will fold.
  9. If you do #8 and find yourself to no longer be the big stack, do not panic. You can be cautious and get back into the lead.
  10. Opponents seem blind to the risk of losing to a flush draw. If you have a flush, build your bets through the flop, turn, and river, sizing your large bet on the river to wipe out at least one competitor.
  11. Pay attention to everyone's cards when the hand is over, and look at what people are calling with and betting with.
  12. Always expect face cards in your opponents' hands.
  13. Have fun, have a life.
  14. To enter a large bet, press the T key on your keyboard and the number pad will spring to life. Enter the dollar amount, then press the little pearl twice.
  15. Learn something about your own temperament by thinking about what makes you lose at this game, if indeed you lose at this game. Stubborn? Impetuous? Not smart when drinking? Games can be rehearsals for real life...

Bad 2010 start for banks in the US

The US Federal Deposit Insurance Company publishes the names of banks which are closing, because the FDIC insures the deposits in those banks.

Every Friday it updates a
list of closed banks, dating back to 2000. From June 2004 to Feb 2007 not one bank failed. Three failed in 2007, 26 failed in 2008, and 140 failed in 2009. Over 550 banks are now on the FDIC "problem list", meaning they are at risk.

It is a small sample size, just two weeks of information, but already this year four failed banks have made it onto the FDIC list. That is twice the rate of 2009. The US taxpayer is on the hook for FDIC's so-called insurance.

And because of a governance attitude that can best be described as "pretend and extend", troubled banks are in
far worse shape (more liabilities, fewer good loans) than they would be if swift action had been taken. In other words, more taxpayer money will be required to fill the crater left by the bank failure.

The US economy is not, repeat NOT, sprouting green shoots.

Update Jan 24: 5 more.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Why spend a little when you can spend a lot?

There is a lot of justifiable hand-wringing over labor productivity and international competitiveness. Economists, who rarely agree on anything, accept the wisdom in producing things where the overall cost is lowest, so that society's scarce resources can be best stewarded.

But wait! Everything that gets made, grown or dug out of the ground requires energy. Can an economy be competitive when others pay less for energy?

And within a jurisdiction, when consumers pay an increased percentage of their incomes for energy, then they have less money left over to consume other things.

Here is a fact: 70% of the US economy depends on consumers. More and more consumers in the US continue to lose their jobs (85,000 more in December alone). Consumers who are employed are working fewer hours. The US consumer is less able to support the economy than she was a year ago. And US industries are closing due to increasing power costs, putting more consumers out of work. This is a death spiral for an economy.

So check out the graphic above, courtesy of the Wall Street Journal, and judge the quality of the leadership that pushes an economy to spend a lot on energy, when the US could spend very little.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

If you don't know where you're going...

...you could end up someplace else. (Yogi Berra)

This time each year I try to set some time aside to recalibrate my sense of purpose and the goals that I imagine will get me there. I've been doing this for a quarter century or so, since before "Seven Habits of Highly Effective People".

I think that too much introspection is as bad as living a completely unexamined life, but with that said there are a few questions that benefit each of us to be able to answer. If I take time to consider them each year, the accumulated responses are pretty useful. If I were to do this every day instead of every year, well, someone ought to slap me upside the head lest I disappear up my own fundamental orifice.

So here are the magic Halfwise questions:
  • What am I good at?
  • What do I like to do?
  • What do others value?
  • What am I on the road to becoming?
The first three are where I think a person should build his or her vocation. If you like to do it, it won't feel like work. If others value it, they will reward you for doing it. And if you are good at it, your reward will be higher than if you were not.

The fourth is where a person should consider the trajectory of his or her life. It troubles people to be reminded that they are on a road to becoming someone, whether they consider it or not. My habits (good and bad); the people I associate with (likewise), the media and messages that I soak in every day, these all shape and pave the road that leads us to that "someplace else" in the opening quote.

If you are an e-mailing type of person, ask yourself and answer the four questions in an e-mail to yourself. Save that e-mail, reflect on it from time to time, do more of what it indicates you need more of, and then repeat the process next year by editing the e-mail based on what you have learned.

Because there are some really bad destinations on the road of life...