Adventures in Bureaucracy
Wednesday, November 26, 2003
This never happened to me when I was in Hong Kong or Thailand.
Friday, November 21, 2003
"You know what? Michael Moore is right. There are many Americans who are ignorant of the world around them. And they’re all TV news producers."

And it just gets better from there.
Wednesday, November 19, 2003
The "Poochie" episode from "The Simpsons" is being brought to life by the folks at Disney. Is "market research" the exact opposite of "creativity"? This may well be the worst idea the Disney people have had in a long time... and that's saying something, as they continuously put out crap to wring every last cent out of whatever lingering brand loyalty that might be left.

Let's look at how Disney has used its beloved mouse. He's apparently been in several straight-to-video releases, most recently Mickey's House of Villains, which looks like a bunch of clips from the days when Disney still put out decent movies animated by people instead of computers. He's also into music. I hope that the new "improved" Mickey doesn't look like the one of the cover of Mickey Unrapped, where the Disney icon wears sunglasses and oversized jeans and flashes gang signs. There's La Vida Mickey and Vida Mickey 2 , from back when Ricky Martin was the celeb du jour, but if you don't like those, Amazon carries dance and bluegrass music the Mickey way as well.

Note to market research: you'd probably have better luck if, instead of trying to attach him to every passing fad, you actually used the character in something more memorable than the commercials for Disney World. (Via Daimnation)
Good article on the commercialization of Tolkien (via Open Book).
I couldn't let the "On Government Workers" piece at Cornfield Commentary pass without comment. Obviously there is a stereotype of government workers, and it's something we periodically discuss on our frequent breaks at the office, when we're not busy being rude to people on the phone.

David Hogberg makes some good points about the structure of the bureaucracy promoting inefficiency, since there may be rules mandating how government must operate that don't necessarily apply to the private sector. After all, IBM and Boeing don't have to publish every change in administrative procedures in the Federal Register for public commentary before they make changes in their policies. Procurement is the perennial example. In the government, when you need new office supplies, you don't just go out to Office Max. You have to check the procurement schedule and see whether there's a mandated supplier for any particular item first. This was an issue in my office with business cards, as we needed to get rid of the old ones and use the new DHS logo. But apparently that can't be done at just any old print shop - there's a single supplier, and that's the one we have to use. I will give Al Gore credit for his "Reinventing Government" initiative, but I don't know how effective it was, as I haven't been around long enough to compare before and after.

But that doesn't really address the issue of government workers. My experience is that any given government office is run three or four motivated, talented people who see what needs to be done, and then they do it. Entire sections develop reputations based on the work of one or two people, but then that tends to pull other good people in as well, so the good offices usually stay good by attracting good people.

But then there are the bad ones. They tend to get shuffled around a lot, as it is hard to fire a government worker (I'm assured it can be done, but it takes a LOT of patience, perserverance and - it is government, after all - paperwork). Other people remember the bad ones. That was one of the problems with being an immigration inspector. Most of my co-workers were good people who treated the travelling public and the illegal aliens decently, but the obnoxious ones gave the rest of us a bad name.

Most jobs in the government that require lots of public interaction are lower on the GS scale, so the talented, the motivated and the ambitious tend to move up the ladder and into the back office. Guess who that leaves as the face of the government.

Many of the problems are not unique to government - I read "Dilbert" - but government operates by a different standard from other organizations. Businesses have the bottom line to judge how they're doing. Government workers have Congress and the GAO.
Saturday, November 15, 2003
Today's pearl of wisdom: when one brand of soy milk is on sale for substantially less than another brand, there's probably a good reason for it.
Thursday, November 13, 2003
How would people like this deal with people like this? I'm pretty sure I know how the "vice versa" would work out.
Wednesday, November 12, 2003
I heard a radio ad for Pilsner Urquell on the drive home from work this evening, and that was a first. The stuff seems to be more widely available in the United States, but I'd never heard a commercial for it. Rather a clever ad, though. It started by saying there's nothing like an original, with the sound of a cold beer foaming in the glass, then observed that the further you go from the original, the worse the quality. This was accompanied by a sound suspiciously like someone filling a specimen jar.

Yes, I'll admit that it's good stuff, but the export variety - to the United States at least - just doesn't compare to the domestic variety. Lord knows I had enough of it back in my day in the CSFR. I seem to recall sampling the Gemer often enough as well. Na Slovensku, po slovensky and all that.
Thursday, November 06, 2003
On a lighter note, I'd like to thank "Nazory" for finding the Acronym Finder site. I'd always wondered what "IMHO" meant, and at long last I can sleep contentedly now that the answer has been revealed. Diky!
Steve at Pragueblog points out another hard-hitting BBC story: western democracy - will it work in other parts of the world, or is it cultural imperialism? The discussion on this topic in the BBC site's "Have Your Say" is downright depressing. The arguments I read seem to come down mostly against democracy because (a) the wogs aren't ready for it, (b) other systems are just as valid, or (c) the United States isn't a real democracy (not really a response to the topic, but hey, who am I to impose my ideas of logic in the debate?).

It always amazes me to see how so many people in Western countries take their liberties and rights for granted and seem to be consumed with a near-hatred of their own societies and cultures. Most of the BBC free-for-alls have a strong dose of anti-Americanism, with people rushing to the defense of the poor oppressed of the Third World. Funny then that so many of them choose to move to the heart of darkness of their own volition. Probably all the Hollywood brainwashing.
Wednesday, November 05, 2003
Oh no. Barbra Streisand is angry that her husband's miniseries has been cancelled by CBS. Sure, they may have portrayed the Reagans in an unflattering light by making up things that never happened and all, but it's a movie, not a documentary. They should be allowed to take some artistic license.

You know, she's got a point there. When "STREISAND! The Movie" comes out, I'm sure she wouldn't mind if a few things were exaggerated or made up out of whole cloth to illustrate a larger point. For instance, there could be a scene with a young Barbra Streisand (Mayim Bialik) pushes another singer in front of a bus before going to audition for a role in a musical. Sure, that may never have happened LITERALLY, but it could demonstrate that Babs was driven and ambitious even at a young age. Another scene could show an older Barbra Streisand (Sarah Jessica Parker) beating and kicking her then-husband Elliott Gould (David Schwimmer). Sure it may never have actually happened, but the two did get divorced, so that could show that there were stresses in the marriage.

I'm sure she wouldn't have any problems with that at all. Why should movies about real people stick to the facts?
Tuesday, November 04, 2003
Aha! Another Czech connection from the list o' links to the right. I knew there was a thematically-unifying reason he was there!
Personal comments, opinions and observations from someone stuck inside the Capital Beltway.

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