Quotulatiousness

May 17, 2016

Charles Stross updates a classic WW2 field guide – a dot-com sabotage manual

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Business, Humour — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Many people have noted that the sabotage techniques listed in a Second World War espionage manual seem to have somehow migrated into a lot of management texts in the last few decades. Here he imagines what an updated version of the manual might look like:

In 1944, the Office of Strategic Services — the predecessor of the post-war CIA — was concerned with sabotage directed against enemies of the US military. Among their ephemera, declassified and published today by the CIA, is a fascinating document called the Simple Sabotage Field Manual (PDF). It’s not just about blowing things up; a lot of its tips are concerned with how sympathizers with the allied cause can impair enemy material production and morale […]

So it occurred to me a week or two ago to ask (on twitter) the question, “what would a modern-day version of this manual look like if it was intended to sabotage a rival dot-com or high tech startup company”? And the obvious answer is “send your best bad managers over to join in admin roles and run their hapless enemy into the ground”. But what actual policies should they impose for best effect?

  1. Obviously, engineers and software developers (who require deep focus time) need to be kept in touch with the beating heart of the enterprise. So open-plan offices are mandatory for all.
  2. Teams are better than individuals and everyone has to be aware of the valuable contributions of employees in other roles. So let’s team every programmer with a sales person — preferably working the phones at the same desk — and stack-rank them on the basis of each pair’s combined quarterly contribution to the corporate bottom line.
  3. It is the job of Human Resources to ensure that nobody rocks the boat. Anyone attempting to blow whistles or complain of harassment is a boat-rocker. You know what needs to be done.
  4. Senior managers should all be “A” Players (per Jack Welch’s vitality model — see “stack ranking” above) so we should promote managers who are energetic, inspirational, and charismatic risk-takers.
  5. The company must have a strong sense of intense focus. So we must have a clean desk policy — any personal possessions left on the desk or cubicle walls at the end of the day go in the trash. In fact, we can go a step further and institute hot desking — we will establish an average developer’s workstation requirements and provide it for everyone at every desk.

This would explain some of the management policies at a few places I’ve worked at over the years…including the software company where I first met Charlie.

May 15, 2016

Confirmed: Brexit would mean human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together… mass hysteria!

Filed under: Britain, Europe, Humour — Tags: — Nicholas @ 03:00

Published on 11 May 2016

Midlands News lays out the unbiased facts on Brexit, including its devastating effect on Americans, polar bears and old people who can’t swim. For more details visit www.doreen.tv, or better still just vote the way you’re told.

May 10, 2016

The US Army makes provision for modern-day recruits

Filed under: Humour, Military, USA — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 02:00

If you want to know what’s happening in the American military, you need to check in with Duffelblog for the straight dope:

The US Army’s ongoing efforts to be more open and accepting has expanded this week to include another historically marginalized group: Furries. According to sources close to acting Army Secretary John McHugh, the Army will soon announce a set of uniform accommodations for these soldiers, who fetishize animal costumes.

“We are committed to allowing these people to follow their religion or their hearts or the voices in their fillings, or whatever the hell it is that drives them to dress and act this way,” said the source, who requested anonymity on the grounds that he didn’t want his name to show up in Google searches for Furries. “I mean, where the hell does it end?”

[…]

Sgt. Maj. of the Army Dan Dailey says changes won’t stop with Furries.

“We are considering rules to allow female soldiers who are dominatrixes in their off hours to carry riding crops on duty,” Dailey said. “Shoe fetishists could actually get a new MOS, polishing shoes for other soldiers, as well as super high heeled, platform combat boots.”

“And we’ve already decided uniform tunics for MILFs will now come without top buttons.”

Dailey denied however that Bronies will soon be able to serve openly.

“You have to draw a line somewhere,” he said.

May 8, 2016

J. R. R. Tolkien vs George R. R. Martin. Epic Rap Battles of History. Season 5

Filed under: Books, Humour, Media — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 02:00

May 1, 2016

QotD: The wonders of shellac

Filed under: Humour, Quotations — Tags: — Nicholas @ 01:00

The finish had been subject to extremes of sunlight and temperature and humidity. Not left outdoors, but I figured an attic or something. My neighbor later told me that it was left on an enclosed porch for many years. Bingo. The finish was missing here and there, but what there was looked like suede when you ran your finger across it. It was completely crisscrossed with fingermarks going every which way. I pawed at it a bit, running through the rusty filing cabinet of my mind to figure out what I was looking at. It came to me in a vision — all at once.

I knew it was shellac. Of all the dumb luck. No one had “fixed” this piece of furniture in 75 years. It didn’t have any new, improved finish that wouldn’t last but couldn’t be fixed. It wasn’t “eco,” another word for wasteful useless disposable plastic crap. The finish was made from the nasty ooze that comes out of a lac bug and dries on a tree branch. Your favorite Hindoo used to gather the stuff by putting tarps on the ground under trees where the lac bugs congregate, and then beating the limbs with sticks to make the amber flakes rain down. When you mix lac leavings with alcohol, you get shellac. It’s wonderful stuff.

Shellac sticks to anything. Anything sticks to shellac. Shellac can be diluted till there’s barely a whisper of lac left in it, but it still makes a coherent film. It seals knots. Shellac can be polished to mirror shine if you want to. A technique called French polishing is the finish you saw on Baron Percy Devonshire Smythe XXIVth’s harewood and mahogany gaming table back when King George was still gibbering on his throne. You can make shellac look like anything you want. Our dresser had pigment mixed in with it to make a kind of varnish stain that could be sprayed on in one coat as an all-purpose stain/finish.

Shellac is so safe for humans to handle that you can eat it, and you might have. They used to make the capsules that drugs and vitamins come in out of shellac. And the greatest thing about shellac, at least for me, is that no matter how old it is, it immediately dissolves and gets loose in the presence of alcohol, just like everyone at your office Christmas party.

Sippican Cottage, “Happy Birthday, Mrs. King”, Sippican Cottage, 2016-04-20.

April 28, 2016

QotD: That’s why they call it “Sex Education”

Filed under: Health, Humour, Quotations — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

I’m on the road in Thailand, speaking at a U.N. conference on sustainable A development in the Third World. Earlier today I listened to a presentation on the effects of sex education for women. The presentation mentioned some cultural value conflicts about sex education, but it occurred to me that it didn’t touch the biggest one. To wit: worldwide, the teachers want the kids to learn abstinence, but what the kids [want] to learn is technique.

Eric S. Raymond, “That’s Why They Call It ‘Sex Education'”, Armed and Dangerous, 2002-05-20.

April 25, 2016

QotD: Epitaph

Filed under: Humour, Quotations — Tags: — Nicholas @ 01:00

If, after I depart this vale, you ever remember me and have thought to please my ghost, forgive some sinner and wink your eye at some homely girl.

H.L. Mencken, “Epitaph”, Smart Set, 1921-12.

April 16, 2016

Indeed, none of them would be missed…

Filed under: Britain, Humour, Media — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 02:00

H/T to American Digest for the link.

April 12, 2016

QotD: “World-Famous in Canada”

Filed under: Cancon, Humour, Quotations — Tags: — Nicholas @ 01:00

… one of those dim, dumpy “world-famous in Canada” sorts who are especially unimpressive whenever they happen to be, as in her case, “Kay-BECK-erz.” This human chafing dish for received liberal wisdom has received so many “honors” and “awards” that one friend I’d brought along said he half expected that, mid-debate, someone would walk out on stage and hand her a new one.

Kathy Shaidle, “An Evening With the ‘Rape Me First, Kill Me Last’ Crowd”, Taki’s Magazine, 2016-04-05.

April 10, 2016

QotD: Big business

Filed under: Business, Humour, Quotations, Religion, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

If you still believe big business is, as novelist and philosopher Ayn Rand famously described it, “America’s Persecuted Minority,” then you must be on the same amphetamines she was taking.

Conservatives have a nasty habit of being sympathetic to corporations, viewing them as a bulwark against government overreach. The reality is far different. If you’re a religious traditionalist in 21st-century America, big business hates your guts.

James E. Miller, “The Business End of Freedom”, Taki’s Magazine, 2016-03-31.

April 9, 2016

QotD: Living with an adult picky eater

Filed under: Humour, Quotations — Tags: — Nicholas @ 01:00

For a while, I tried just cooking things I knew he’d like. These things were, to my palate, heavy and boring for everyday eating. I gained 35 pounds, a fact I blamed on my approaching 40th birthday. Then things got busy and we stopped eating dinner together so often, and like magic, the weight fell off.

I tell you all this by way of introducing a conversation we had a year or two back. I made a roast chicken and served it with a chickpea-and-raisin tagine on the side. “I like it, but you don’t have to eat it,” I told him. He looked at me, and took a tiny spoonful, featuring one carrot, three chickpeas and a raisin. A few moments later, he looked up at me and said “You should make this as a main course sometime.”

Those of you who have never lived with a picky eater probably do not appreciate the drama of the statement. Those of you who have will understand the thunderous shock I experienced. I stared. I dropped my fork. I said: “Who are you, and what have you done with my husband?”

Over the following months I kept asking the same question, with increasing concern, as he asked for sautéed mushrooms, sausage ragu, poached-egg-and-arugula salad. Was my husband being well taken care of on the alien spaceship? Did he have access to books, movies, his Xbox? Were they feeding him lots of meat? Because this guy who had replaced him was not a picky eater. To be honest, he’s now less picky than I am, since the taste of cooked fish still triggers my gag reflex.

With columnist drama, I have presented his transformation as a single cinematic moment. In fact, it was the culmination of a long process, one that I wasn’t ever sure was going to work out. And since I know that there are probably other people out there trapped in the tragedy of a foodie-picky relationship, it seems worth sharing how it happened. Some of what we did was fortuitous, but quite a lot of it was deliberate choices that we both made.

Megan McArdle, “When Your Spouse Is a Picky Eater”, Bloomberg View, 2016-03-18.

April 8, 2016

QotD: Midwest white trash spotting guide for coastal elites

Filed under: Humour, Quotations, USA — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Further north into the Midwest, you run into the Polacks. This is technically a derogatory term for people of Polish descent, though I’ve also heard it applied to people whose Eastern European ancestors came from less well-known countries. In Europe, particularly France and Russia, Polish people are stereotyped as thieves or under-the-table laborers. In the US, you’re more likely to run into the stereotype of “Polish people are unintelligent,” although both continents tend to associate being Polish with being a plumber. Polacks are also the target of a uniquely American type of joke, the Polack joke, which has developed regional variations. In Texas, they’re Aggie jokes instead.

Further north still, in Minnesota and the Dakotas, you get the Scandahoovians. Tall, blonde, chubby, kind of dim and easy to put one over on, but friendly: there’s your stereotypical Scandahoovian. Jokes about Scandahoovians are kinder, on average, than jokes about Polacks; the Scandahoovian is still the butt of the joke, but about half the time, he outwits the Yankee. Scandahoovians will also never stop feeding you, but instead of sausages, it’s casserole and they call it “hot dish.” They’re quiet folks; I’m told this is a survival trait, acquired as a result of having to spend the entirety of winter either at home with your family or ice fishing. (Get into a spat with someone, and you’ll be doing a lot more ice fishing. So they keep things to themselves.)

Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the Italians. Italians compete with Czech-Germans for keeping you fat and happy, but they’re much more talkative. They also compete with the Scots-Irish for fighting you. I don’t know much about Italian white trash culture; I married into Pennsylvania Scots-Irish, and that branch of family sure loved Italian food and was happy to work with their neighboring Italians, but tended to keep to their own culturally. “Jersey Shore” is where most folks get their stereotypes of Italians these days, and I’m sure it only shows the shittiest, most laughable parts of Italian white trash culture. I’ve made a few Italian white trash friends, and they’re some of the most loyal people I’ve ever had the pleasure to meet.

Meredith L. Patterson, “A Field Guide to White Trash”, Status 451, 2016-03-18.

April 6, 2016

The differences between the Boomers, Gen-Xers and Millennials

Filed under: Humour — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Differences between the generations

Seen at http://ratak-monodosico.tumblr.com/post/142242804250

April 5, 2016

QotD: The art of buying a house with real problems

Filed under: Humour, Quotations — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

My house cost less than $25,000 when I bought it. I wasn’t expecting a rose garden. As it turned out, I got a lupin garden, but that’s a story for another day. There was a lot wrong with my house, and I knew it. I even knew that the sewer wasn’t likely to be first rate. There was a patch on the concrete floor around the sewer pipe. There’s always a reason why the floor has been patched around a sewer line. All the reasons are bad reasons.

I needed a house six years ago or so after catching the poverty. It was my own fault. I foolishly went to the early-bird special at the Honest Work Buffet, but Wall Street had gotten there before me and sneezed on the warming tray with the regular economy in it. Lyme Disease didn’t help any, either, although I still find ticks less loathsome than politicians.

I believe that a house is the chassis of a competent family. We were broke but it was important to keep us together in a house where we would have some control over our affairs. I looked for a house that was as cheap as the chrome on a Kia, but didn’t have anything wrong with it that I couldn’t understand or fix myself. Our house fit the bill. It had been abandoned, and the bank wanted to get rid of it, badly.

The house was owned by a local bank that held the note from the prior owners, a real rarity back when the real estate leverage world was desolating the landscape. People kept predicting that housing would fall an additional X percent, and then they’d buy. They didn’t realize that the big banks holding the leveraged debt had no interest in the real real estate. The financial institutions were being made whole by logrolling the government. The houses were abstractions to them, and only the paper was real. The local banker had his tit in the wringer over our house. I could reason with him. Either I could live in it, or he could. No one in their right mind would want to live in my house.

I didn’t want an abstract house. I wanted one with real problems. Mission Accomplished. I tried in vain to make real estate agents understand that I wanted to buy a house nobody else wanted. They kept trying to show me houses that looked like Home Depot had exploded inside them. The current owners wanted me to pay for the privilege of ripping out all the silly stuff they had inexpertly selected and installed. What I really wanted was a neglected house. Neglect is easier to handle than active malice. That applies to real estate and elections, now that I think of it.

Our house had been neglected, that’s for sure. There was a hole in the back roof that I could stick my head through. The wiring was still partly knob and tube. It takes a long time to foreclose on a house, even if it’s abandoned, so all the pipes had frozen and burst while the bank went through all the legal steps to foreclose on an empty house. When we bought our home, it was essentially a poorly constructed shell of a house, not a dwelling.

Sippican Cottage, “Interestingly, ‘Unified Field Theory of Neglect’ Is the Name of My Left Banke Tribute Band. But I Digress”, Sippican Cottage, 2016-03-21.

April 1, 2016

April Fool!

Filed under: Gaming, Humour — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 10:59

Published on 1 Apr 2016

April 1st used to be the time of year when games devs would try to prank their players, but lately it’s mostly just been an excuse to throw cool new game modes into their latest titles. Not that I’m complaining of course, I’d rather be able to PLAY a TOG II Warship than be teased by a screenshot of one. Here’s a selection of what’s on offer this year.

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