Monthly Archives: October 2011

Mason Baveux and Libya

Since I’m up to my eyelids in work, I gave our esteemed pinch-hitter Mason Baveux the password.  He’s full of thoughts on the Arab Spring, Moammar Gadhafi and what democracy means. 

Thanks for the keys to the bloggery again lad.  Hope you had a good summer, as I found out that the price of Laker is now at the lowest she’s ever been, which is stretchin the disability dollar quite nicely thanks. How was August anyways, as I don’t remember? 

Dave wants me to be writin on the Arab Spring in the Fall, which makes no sense to me.  Fall is the same everywhere, what with the leaves and the rain.  Springtime is when you smell the dogshit thawin out on the path and the Leafs are on the golf course. 

So’s I looked her up on the Goggles.  What he’s meanin is all the revoltin goin about in the Arab countries.  Like Egypt, what tossed Hosme Moobarack onto the shitcan of history.  But like they say in the infomercials, “Wait there’s more!”  They got all revoltin in Tunisia, put in a new President of Tuna, took over Libya and to quote up that Wikitikitavi-pedia, had some civil uprisings in Syria, Yemen, Bahrain, Jordan, Morocco and Onan as well.  Although I think the Onan uprisings were just spillin’ the seeds of revolution, instead of bein in right up to the bristles of revoltin.

Yer gotta ask yerself, what are they revolutin for?  Freedom for one, and a chance to not starve to death for the other, while the dictator and his arse buddies swan about in a limousine, eatin grapes from the creamy thighs of one of the 70 virgins they keep on staff as tables.  Folks what have full bellies tend not to get all revolutionary minded up on their back legs with flags and guns.  Hungry folks can only be held down by a big ass army whose armed to the tits.  Ask Uncle Joe Stalin about that one when the Russki wheat crop took a crap, in a bad way afore the sequel to World War I.  But as Uncle Joe found out, big armies cost big money.   

Now, as for freedom, well, the Arab Springers sort of got it partially right.  Being as I’m Canadian and rightly proud of it, I get to do damn near anything I want, as long as I got the money, the time and the inclination.  If all I want to do is collect plates and show’em off at a fall fair, then I can give’r as long as I want, or until some jackoff with a ball-peen hammer takes a disliking to me. 

I can take my empties back to the Beer Store, as free as you choose, without worrying some cop is going to hijack me, steal my empties, or rob me on the way there, or back.  I can have waffles for dinner if I choose and don’t have to use margarine on them.  I could use butter and lots of it. 

The Arab Springs want some of that.  Maybe not the waffles, but the high concept of bein’ safe in their persons and possessions.  They want the right to be able to choose stuff, good or bad.  If they do want waffles, I can probably email off the recipe, if someone were to tell me where to send’er.  They’ll have to get their own maple syrup though.  I don’t think they’s got maple trees in Arabia, but I bet waffles with date juice would be tasty.   

(Davey said I have to use the CP spelling here.  What the railroad has to do with spelling, I don’t know) Let’s talk about Moammar Gadhafi.  He’s deader than the Leafs chances at the playoffs and it’s only the first week of the season.  Ol’ Moe ran Libya for 42 years like the usual crazy as a shithouse rat despot, with the usual killin’, torture and terrorism.  He wound up on the YouToobes gettin slung across the hood of a half-ton, alive, then moments later, his heart stopped beating when some lad put a couple of rounds through his head.  So’s technically, he died of a heart attack.  Good friggin’ riddance.  The World Court in the Hague wanted to try Moammar’s ass for terrorism, thievery, crimes against Humans and general douchery, but the revolutionaries sort of beat the World Court to the punch.  Just as well, as they saved a couple of million dollars in lawyers fees, trial judges and hotels. 

The question what I get stuck on is like this:  This whole Arab Springin’ is like a dog whats chasing a car.  They want that freedom and democracy and are willin to stand up to get it.  Now, what happens when you get it? 

If that dog does catch the car, he can’t drive it, he can’t reach the pedals, he can’t see out the mirror and he probably can’t even figure out where to put the gas in.  So’s the dog has got exactly what?  He’s better off because he’s got a place that smells like a stale, sweaty arse and is out of the rain?  Not much of a big payday there. 

Which is where my alnalogy leads me:  What’s the Arab Springers goin’ to get out the other side?  Jeeze, it makes the plate in my head throb just tryin to ponder the possibilities.  You could have a couple of countries decided to go all theocratic and reset the calendar to 1345 AD, makin the internweb illegal and not drawing to the house in the final end, punishable by stoning?  That’s not right.  Nor does puttin another dicktater on the chair.  Lookit Africa for how well that works out what with the tribal wars, starvation and mass murder passin for a country or five on the Dark Continent.  

Maybe, I’m sayin, they need a bit of time.  South Africa had a good idea with their Truth and Reconcilliation Commissions goin about tellin the whole story and makin sure everybody was on the same page.  Yes, they made a few mistakes and sometimes it just resulted in the Comission sayin  “Sorry. She’s fooked and we’ll fix er up, but not today.”

That’s about as close as we’ll get’er this year, even though it’s Fall and the Arab Spring is still goin’.  So’s, as I say every year at this time:  Go Leafs!

Work–Life Balance: Inside RoadDave

It’s funny looking back over several years of RoadDave, in that we see where we’ve been really busy with other stuff, the usual Life intruding.  Some months there is one mere post, other months, seventeen thoughtful screeds of depth and logic.  The backstory is interesting, at least for me and hopefully for you.

Back in the 20th century, there was no such thing as blogging.  But there were personal websites that you could update as frequently as you wanted.  That was the original genesis of RoadDave.  I worked for a company out of the US that saw me on the road for weeks at a time, doing IT training for a very large company out of Redmond, WA that was owned by that Bill guy. 

We used to travel with 50 laptops in touring cases, as excess baggage in the pre-9-11 days.  We’d fly into a city, set up the night before, do two intense 10 hour days of hands-on training, then pack up, fly out to another city and do it all again.  My personal record was 14 weeks on the road, living out of a suitcase, on Room Service and hotel laundries who never understood “No Starch In Underwear – Starch Shirts Only”  Recreation consisted of falling asleep with the television on, while re-writing lab notes, or improving the demos as part of the training.

Being away that much meant I couldn’t keep up with what friends and family were up to.  Birthdays, anniversaries, deaths, births and the rest of the minutiae of life were missing, as I was in Joplin, King of Prussia, or Phoenix, heading to Charlotte, then St. Louis and on to Salt Lake City after a stop in Downer’s Grove.  So, I created the original RoadDave to post photos and musings for my friends to read and observe.  At its simplest, the original RoadDave was a frequently updated personal website.  After a few years, RoadDave was eventually moved to WordPress, as Microsoft got out of the personal web space business and gave us legit blogging tools.  I stopped the insane travelling in 2009 when I moved back to Ottawa and home. 

I’ve been asked by some readers “How do you come up with that shit all the time?”.  I’ll answer in a roundabout way.  I started writing professionally back in the late 70’s in broadcast radio as on-air talent, in news reporting and commercials.  Both forms of writing are as punishingly strict as writing haiku.  Reporting consists of saying “Lord Jones Dead” to those who never knew Lord Jones was alive.  A radio commercial has to fit 30 seconds, not 29 and not 31 seconds as spoken words, music, sound effects and feelings regarding the product.     

You find out if you persuaded someone to buy or try whatever the advertiser was flogging within a day or two.  When the client calls you up and says that commercial you slaved over every word, comma and pause  “didn’t sell shit, you asshole.  What the hell are you messing around with.  I gotta sell some slacks!  Do it right, fakakta Mister Writer, you putz!” you learn very quickly how to write effective copy.  You also get any delusions of ego or grandeur regarding your prose beaten out of you with a length of rubber hose across the soles of your feet in the elbows-up world of retail radio. 

Compared to writing commercials, reporting was easier, as long as you didn’t stray from Who, What, When, Where, Why and How and committed the Canadian Press Style Guide to memory.  Elements Of Style by Strunk and White was a constant companion.  So was The Law and the Press in Canada by Wilf Kesterton.  With that kind of training in radio, then television, then marketing, then speechwriting, tossing words around became very easy in a recreational setting like a blog. 

As to where I get ideas from?  I read the newspaper, watch the news and generally keep up to date on current events.  The amount of utter madness that comes out of that interweb thingy is remarkable and eminently usable to twist to my needs. 

This implies I have an agenda, which I do and will now share:  Common Sense and the application of same, while laughing at just how silly us humans really are.

If you notice, most of RoadDave can be read out loud by the human voice:  That’s how I write, by ear.  No, not with my ears, as I never learned to touch type with my ears, but by ear, as in spoken out loud and heard.  Ear typing means too many typos and too much editing after the fact, as well as that annoying waxy build-up on the keyboard.  Fingers really do work better than ears for typing as there are at least six more fingers than ears on most humans, unless they have had trouble with power tools and hand-eye coordination issues followed by a hospital visit.

As for anguishing over every last word, comma and carriage return, slaving away in a dusty garret, agonizing over every nuance of my timeless utterances?  Oh hell no, we don’t roll that way. 

Most of it is first-draft, edit-on-the-fly then proofread if something gets underlined in red, or the piece isn’t working.  Also, I tend to bury my lede, (Go look up what a lede is, if you don’t know) so after I write a ‘graph or three I go back.  That means a typical RoadDave might take all of an hour to write.  Some just jump off the fingertips, done and dusted in ten minutes, while others take longer.  This one took about average, forty minutes or so.

And the real reason for removing the cloak from RoadDave, violating the first rule of Theatre:  Never Let Them See The Machinery?

According to WordPress, this is the 601st posting to RoadDave.  I figured some kind of small milestone like that is worthy of recognition in the usual backhand way by explaining some of the backstory and showing you the mechanism that goes into it.

Thank you for listening.  We now return to our regularly scheduled programming.

Occupy For A New Idea

(Ed. Note:  Sorry we haven’t written earlier, sometimes work intrudes on the spare time.  We’ll be better about that whole work-life balance thing.)

Around the world, various cities have seen the rising up of a new type of protest:  The Occupy Protest.  Generally peaceful, the Occupy movement is, as best we can tell, a loosely knit grouping of various groups with an aim of raising some ruckus regarding financial inequality globally.  Since these are loosely knit groups, there tends to be side protests regarding globalization, environmental issues, human rights, political restructuring, hockey violence, peanut allergies, democratization of Syria and the repeal of Daylight Savings Time.

This isn’t to say that the wider objectives are not sensible.  The rich are getting richer while the poor and middle-class are heading over the cliff to be dashed on the rocks below.  That is a given, in that we’re building a societal iceberg:  If you’re rich enough, economic woes don’t affect you much.  The rest of us can lose our incomes on the capricious whim of some investment arbitrageur in Belgium that decides our pensions are too expensive for the company, or that our national currency is overvalued. 

We’ve written before about the global economic system.  It’s pooched.  The whole investment industry is built on insider trading, which is technically illegal, but goes on every hour of the market day.  Simple proof?  What is a “whispered” number?  It is a stock analyst and/or corporate chieftain’s informal assessment of how well or how poorly a company will do this quarter, released before the actual legal reporting.  If a stock makes its whispered number (or street number or cred number), then the analyst looks like he or she has the inside track, or the CEO has already seen the books and wants to pump the stock price.

Research In Motion, the Blackberry folks, took a beating over the past week. Their email and messaging system took a Cleveland steamer because someone didn’t test a patch applied to their servers, which made the system puke, worldwide, for three days. What happened to their stock price? 

According to the capitalist theory, if a company does something dumb, their share price should go down to reflect their dumbness. In reality, what happens is that bottom feeder brokers see a company in trouble, (Their products suck today) they buy up a lot of shares in the hopes that when RIM fixes their little problem, the share price would jump a few bucks on good news and the ambulance chasers would make some money.

Simultaneously other folks look at RIM, see a network outage, figure the entire company is teetering on the verge of cratering and sell everything they’ve got in RIM to the ambulance chasers.

That causes “action” in the stock, while another subset of buyers come in to buy any busy stock, the thought being someone knows something, (why else would there be so much action?) and if they have a position in an active company, they might make some money either buying or selling. Then the folks who bet against any trend step in and sell off or buy up.  More action, more speculation on nothing more than graphs and a network outage.

To close the circle, RIM was trading around $22 a share before their network freckled the bowl. They’re now trading at $24 (and were at nearly $26 during the outage) give or take, meaning they were rewarded for being stupid. A complete abnegation of the theory, almost all attributable to stock churn for no good reason other than a perception that on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of last week, RIM sucked.

Essentially, the whole system is based on rumours, insider knowledge and speculation on speculation, with a fine mist of hedging sprayed on top.  The whole game isn’t set up to invest in businesses and countries:  It’s set up to churn stocks, trading as much as possible, as many times as possible, on the slightest tick of valuation change.  The only folks who make money on this kind of millisecond madness are the stock brokers.  They always get their commission, good news, bad news, rumours, fear-mongering, hemlines, or sun spots.  Funny that…

In the ancient days of a dozen years ago, one bought stocks because one wanted to invest in a company for the long term, knowing that over the expected ups and downs, the business you were investing in would improve, making you money.  Timelines were measured in months and years.  Buying HP, GM or GE meant that you had some reasonable assurance that over the long term you would make some reasonable coin and could retire in relative comfort.

Now, trading is almost fully algorithmically derived, automated and based on millisecond clock ticks.  This is not some pit man signalling he wants to buy 1000 futures on Frozen Concentrated Orange Juice (FCOJ) and another pit man taking the order.  Trading has become well-written sets of computerized trading rules that the Big Boys use to simultaneously buy, hedge and sell their holdings several times a second.      

We have a simple suggestion to reform a lot of the investment industry.  A 24-hour hold on any transaction:  You can’t buy or sell any instrument more than once in any given 24 hour span. 

This puts an instantaneous end to churning stocks by the millisecond, causing prices to wobble erratically.  A company can know, at least for 24 hours, what they’re worth in the opinion of ‘the stock market’ and plan accordingly. 

A second benefit of the 24-hour rule would be that stock brokers would have to actually have knowledge and business acumen making recommendations on tangible facts of a substantive nature.  They can’t churn their bouncing dead cats on whispers and rumours.

As for the Occupy folks?  Agreed, the system is rigged.  Now, put on your thinking toques and come up with an alternative to capitalism that works for the majority of humankind. 

Just remember that in Capitalism, Man exploits Man.  In Socialism, the Reverse is True.