Archive for October, 2015

Focus

One of our jobs as parents is to expose our kids to a wide variety of experiences so that hopefully they find something that floats their boat and can run with it later on in life.  My parents did a good job in this area.  Maybe too good.  With the notion of having a well-rounded child, I was exposed to football, basketball, baseball, golf, music, cross-country, ping-pong, woodworking, writing, computing, ham radio, and of course, being a Ducks fan.

I enjoyed them all immensely — which can be a problem.

What happens when you enjoy too many things?  You can find yourself in the situation where you desperately want to become expert level at something and then realize you’re not and probably never will be.

I’m mediocre at best at a lot of things.  Simply not enough hours in the day. I find that even truer in my 6th decade as I try to keep up with technology.  The list of languages and technologies I need to keep up with is long.  I would love to an expert at all of the scripting languages like Python, Ruby, PHP, and Perl6 now that it’s been released, but I basically have to work 2 jobs to get there.  My day job affords very little time to study and play without interruptions.  Oh, and I need to learn Java, Javascript, Groovy, HTML5, Ansible, Docker, and Gradle.  Some of these I need in my tool-bag as of last week.  I left off Objective C, Scala, and becoming more seasoned at vimscript because I just don’t see how there’s any way I’ll ever get to these things, much as I’d like to.

One of the a-ha moments came as I looked over my bookshelf and realized I have about 40 books where I haven’t read past the first chapter.  It’s nice to have the reference, but sadly, just owning the book doesn’t mean you know the subject.  Similar story with music that I’ve purchased.  Tons of books where I’ve had good intentions of expanding my playing in either guitar or piano,  but it’s all been a mirage that there’s free time available to do these things.

Looking back, there have been a few times when I’ve really — I mean really focused in on a goal and done myself proud.  I can think of a few things I’ve built that turned out pretty good.  The summer of 1990 I had a singular goal in mind — run the Portland Marathon and I stuck to it and finished in 3:44.  Not bad for a guy who has never been mentioned in the same sentence with the word fast.  It took some pretty good focus to get some songs written and produced.

I think the thing is, if you have my personality type, then you have to really want it or else you’re easily distracted from your goals.   I recall a humorous bit of satire from my childhood – ( I used to be regular reader of M.A.D. magazine ) where they were having fun with the evolution of New Years resolutions.

  • 1973: I’m going to read 10 good books this year
  • 1974: I’m going to read 5 good books this year
  • 1975: I’m going to finish ‘Airport’

Which brings me to thinking about a bucket list.  Great concept this bucket list.  Write down some things you’d like to do before the one’s expiration date comes into play.

Do I have time to write and record an album, invent a music practice app for the iPhone, become a runner again, save enough money for retirement, write a book and travel all the places I want to go?  Seems unlikely.

But hopefully I’ll develop some mojo to attack a few of these items in earnest so that my legacy won’t be that I sat around and watched a bunch of Duck games.

The current thinking is to just go with whatever moves me in the moment and don’t over think it.  Just go with it.  But do SOMETHING!  Okay, I’m over-thinking it now…

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Uncovering the Pillars of the Fox Strategy

This may surprise some people, but I actually DVR the O’Reilly Factor and watch as much as I can stomach.  I am fascinated to see the overall strategy of Roger Ailes play out in the segments of Fox’s #1 ‘News’ program.   It’s no secret that Fox has a conservative agenda that serves as an arm of the Republican party, but you have to watch a considerable number of shows to figure out the exact strategy; to fully understand what the Sr. Execs must be talking about behind closed doors.

The most obvious piece of the strategy is to smear Hillary and marginalize Sanders. Hence the steady diet of Benghazi and private e-mail server segments as well as making sure they mischaracterize democratic socialism by associating it with failed socialist governments in history.  They intentionally make this false association, knowing 90% of their viewers are either extremely gullable or too lazy to look it up.  I’d say about 50% of the show is devoted to smearing the Democratic party.  If it’s election season, they target specific candidates.  It’s clear they especially hate Hillary.  When the general election comes around, expect massive amounts of air time to be devoted to Hillary and ‘trust’. 

The second pillar of the strategy is to employ fear tactics.  We see a fair number of segments making the case that all the chaos in the world is President Obama’s fault and that this is Jimmy Carter all over again.  When Democrats hold the White House, we are weak on defense.  We require a strong leader or else more chaos will ensue.  Recall from the 1980 election, fear mongering played a big part in Reagan’s victory.  The Iranians were bossing us around making us look bad with those hostages and that just wasn’t acceptable to old Ronnie-boy.  So a key piece of his platform was a stronger defense.  No SDI program was too far fetched or too expensive for these guys and on the credit card it went. Never mind the facts or how we got here, a bunch of scary stuff has happened on Obama’s watch, so it must be his fault.  Reagan would have never let this happen.

Recently O’Reilly allocated a few segments to analyze the Democratic debates held in Las Vegas.  His chief complaint has been about the lack of questions about ISIS by Anderson Cooper.  In order for the Republicans to have a shot at the White House in 2016, Ailes and Fox understand that Americans must fear that ISIS is only minutes from our doorstep.  They must paint Clinton and/or Sanders as pacifists, unwilling to send troops to confront this threat directly.   This plus the idea that Democrats are muslim sympathizers, plotting to take away your guns represents the basic tenants of the fear package they have worked up. To their credit it works pretty well in certain parts of the country.

In order to be somewhat objective here, I will say that the private e-mail scandal rises to an unprecedented level of stupidity for a Secretary of State.  Anyone who has ever applied for a security clearance or worked in a secure area can tell you that Federal agencies have zero sense of humor about the slightest violation of classified information and the threat of jail time is always hanging over your head.  It’s a rather uneasy feeling actually because of the consequences that could play out over an honest mistake,  And that’s just for your average Joe Blow worker with a ‘secret’ clearance.  Serious investigations are routine for any worker who accidentally leaves a thumb drive in the wrong place.   They don’t just treat it like an oops.  This isn’t grade school, it’s about National Security.

So now we have the former Secretary of State thinking that a private e-mail server is an acceptable idea in the first place?   Really?  I’m going to multi-task a little using a server installed by the boys down at Geek Squad? 

These leaders are supposed to be setting the standard and leading by example with classified information.  It can’t work to have Sr. Execs thumbing their noses at the rules and expecting average Joe to risk going to jail if they make an honest mistake.  I’m afraid this was a pretty big boner on Hillary’s part and that she may well pay a big price for it if the investigation shows she was playing fast and loose with the highest classified information in the country.  Not okay in this writer’s opinion.   Sorry Hillary but that could cost you the nomination.  Dumb.

With that said, one of the reasons Fox has to go into attack mode is that the Republicans don’t have an issues candidate that has anything new to offer.  Nobody is selling anything except the same old retread ideas from Reagan’s trickle down theory that brought on at least 1/2 of the 19 trillion in debt they like to complain about.  So there’s no ‘there’ there to talk about.  Vote for me because I will cut your taxes and am tougher on defense.  I will kick ass on any country that messes with the idea of American exceptionalism.

I’ve often argued that if the Republicans could offer up a moderate with a pulse, they would have all three branches of government.  The party has veered so far right however, this seems unlikely.  The inmates have taken over the asylum and are dominating the airwaves.  Trump, Carson and Fiorina lead the polls.  More moderate choices like Kasich can barely muster 10 minutes of debate time to get his message across while they let Trump offend women and minorities with the limited time available.  Yet Kasich is exactly the type of candidate who might appeal to more moderate, undecided Democrats and certainly Independents.  If he were to win the nomination, it would be a real race against Hillary or Bernie.  But you can put money on the fact that the Tea Party will likely snatch defeat from the jaws of victory once again by being obtuse.

As far as I can tell, the strategy is time sliced this way:

  • 50% Pick on Hillary.  These usually include a selected conservative babe of the week.  They rotate through a few of them but whoever it is is usually debating Kirstin Powers.  Kirstin represents the left about as effectively as Allan Combs did on Hannity and Combs.
  • 30% Fear mongering if a Democrat is elected, ISIS will take over your city tomorrow! ( usually Charles Krauthammer weighs in on these matters, but it also is Karl Rove ).
  • 10% Poor attempts at humor Dennis Miller is the most unfunny comedian on the planet.  Gutfeld and McGirk and slightly better but that’s not saying much.
  • 10% O’Reilly patting himself on the back, bragging about his books, his show rating, and offering us a Tip of the Day

There you have it.  I’ve reverse engineered the formula for the time-slicing of The O’Reilly factor.

I’ll leave you with a bit of humor from this evening’s show.  Ed Henry, the White House correspondent for Fox, tried to use the logic that Democrats are offering a weak field versus the Republicans because “we have all these choices.”

That’s the same logic that might conclude that the buffet line at The Golden Corral is better than dinner at The Heathman Hotel.

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