Ask Dr. Creepy

Dr. Creepy
Dear Doctor Creepy,
I’ve always enjoyed the privilege of being the creepy guy at work, which has meant fewer interruptions of a personal nature and less interaction with my annoying co-workers. However, the company has recently hired another fellow whose creepiness apparently is novel enough that I’m more normal by comparison. This means people are starting to stop by my desk to chat and are starting to invite me to lunches and happy hours. How can I regain my creepiness crown and enjoy merciful ostracization?

Not Creepiest

Dear Not Creepiest,
As you well know, creepiness can come in a potion form, so look around the new creepiest person’s desk to see if it’s in a phial on the desk or in the drawers. If not, check the person’s lunch in the refrigerator; if it has mayonnaise upon it, know that this often masks a creepiness potion, and you should lick the mayonnaise off of the target’s sandwich (reassembling it afterwards, of course, to cover your tracks). This will give you the benefit of the elixir and deprive the target of its power.

Additionally, to improve your creepiness, remember the power of the mystical chant; this focuses your energy and chree, the mystical power of discordance that manifests itself as creepiness. I cannot tell you what mystical phrase works for you, but I’d recommend some simple, rhyming chant, perhaps even a nursery rhyme. You should chant this phrase to yourself whenever you’re alone at your desk, in an elevator, or in the men’s room (this works especially well for women). Remember, you can generate some kinetic motion from your chakras by rocking slightly as you chant. Try it now!

Finally, remember eye contact is key in communications. That is, you should never make it. Or you should stare. Don’t do what the straights do, which is break eye contact every once in a while for comfort and then look into someone’s eyes. Overdo it or don’t do it, that’s my motto.

But if you’re going to chant a nursery rhyme, do make the eye contact.

Dr. Creepy

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Robin Carnahan: Ghostwriter

In 2006, Missouri Secretary of State Robin Carnahan’s office rejected two conservative-minded state ballot initiatives, but put four liberal-minded initiatives on the ballot.

In 2007, Missouri Secretary of State Robin Carnahan’s office might be rewriting a conservative-minded ballot initiative to hinder its passage.

Joseph Stalin allegedly said, “It’s not who votes that counts. It’s who counts the votes.” However, what counts more is who determines what is voted on, and Robin Carnahan is casting enough doubt on the process to merit her removal next election.

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More Taxes Never Enough

Missouri Department of Transportation, November 10, 2004, after a Missouri Constitutional amendment throws hundreds of millions of dollars into the Missouri Department of Transportation budget:

Funding from passage of Amendment 3 will provide thousands of miles of smooth roads on Missouri’s most heavily traveled highways, officials with the Missouri Department of Transportation announced today.

MoDOT unveiled the Smooth Roads Initiative, a plan to provide 2,200 miles of smoother pavement, brighter road markings and other safety improvements in three years. The initiative is the first part of a three-part plan to use Amendment 3 funds to improve the state’s highway system. A map specifying the selected roads was included in the announcement.

“Missourians spoke loud and clear when they voted for Amendment 3,” said MoDOT Director Pete Rahn. “By an almost four-to-one margin, they said they’re not happy with current road conditions, and they want them fixed. Starting today, that’s just what we’re going to do.”

Fast forward (or travel one day at a time like the rest of us) to August, 2007, not even three years later, and learn that despite the best efforts of the government, that new money ain’t enough:

Missouri’s top transportation official is canvassing the state talking about a “perfect storm” forming over his department.

Road construction costs are spiking, debt payments are ballooning, and at the same time, fuel taxes are generating slightly less cash and the federal highway trust fund is speeding toward a multibillion-dollar deficit.

Wow, who could have seen that coming?

The more you feed the government, the bigger it gets; the bigger it gets, the more it needs to eat. Ah, who cares about economics and an understanding of a bureaucratic nature. THE BEAST IS HUNGRY!

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When Buzzwords Collide, Study Firms and Consultants Thrive

Study: Companies apply ROI to Web 2.0, despite softer benefits:

Companies are aiming to apply traditional ROI and business benefit measures to Web 2.0 tools despite the difficulties in measuring the “softer” returns, such as the improved productivity and communication that wikis, blogs and RSS bring to a company, a new survey has found.

There are tangible business benefits, such as a drop in support center calls because of rich Internet applications or a database system replaced by a corporate wiki, according to the Forrester Research Inc. study released this week, but they remain elusive for most IT decision-makers. Instead, most companies point to softer benefits, such as business efficiency and competitive advantage as the true value from Web 2.0 technology, according to the report.

That is, it’s hard to use one buzzword metric to justify a buzzword technology/architecture/whatever-the-hell-Web-2.0-is. However, if you’re going to define the terms and the very principles of accounting, no wonder you’re going to come up with the solution you want (which is: Web 2.0 is worth spending money on, particularly if you’re going to spend it on us/the people who commissioned the study).

Hey, I won’t knock it; I am in a profession whose benefits are hidden but whose lack is obvious. But I have a hard time selling on benefit/analysis kinds of things MBAs like. I have to try to sell it on do it right, and the customers will come.

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Book Report: Sweet and Sour by Andrew A. Rooney (1992)

This book collects a number of Andy Rooney’s newspaper work from the late 1980s and early 1990s. As they’re not based on current events, they’re aging well, although a couple of his cast-off ideas have come to pass (a news scanner? Hello, RSS). As you know, I am a fan of the author (see also Years of Minutes and Word for Word).

So I like the author, I read his books, and I get, more and more as I age, where he’s coming from.

Unfortunately, the book finishes with a couple of eulogies that Rooney wrote for some long time friends and co-workers, which is a real downer of a way to end a book; coupled with the fact that Tangled Vines ended with eulogies, and suddenly old Brian is feeling a bit of end-of-life melancholy.

Books mentioned in this review:

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Book Report: Tangled Vines edited by Lyn Lifshin (1992)

This book is a collection of poems about the mother/daughter relationship. So I read it at my son.

Honestly, I bought this book at the tail end of our trip to the St. Charles Book Fair this year, when the box of books I was buying grew heavy and from some rows over the lad grew ill-tempered. So I saw a book I thought was by Lyn Lifshin and threw it in the box because my beautiful wife likes her. Heather later pointed out that Lifshin only edited it, but I had it anyway.

So I read it.

After reading a pile of McKuen and the Sonnets of Eve, an anthology was nice. You know that if you don’t like a poem, you won’t have to suffer through another fifty or so just like it.

And I have to say, you chicks have some odd relationships with your mothers/daughters. The early poems are fraught with envy of the youth of the daughters, some serious dwellings on the pending sexuality, discord, and eventual understanding in the eulogy. I’m glad we males have simpler competitive relationships with only the desire to supplant/prevent supplantation on the throne of Olympus.

A quick enough collection, with enough good pieces, to be worth the time. It’s got its share of fluff, though, and some outright poor pieces with too much “I” in them to be good poems.

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Hollywood Moviemakers Lack Business Sense; Instead, They Have "Conscience"

According to the Washington Post, numerous filmmakers are going ahead with anti-war films:

On Sept. 14, Warner Independent Pictures expects to release “In the Valley of Elah,” a drama inspired by the Davis murder, written and directed by Paul Haggis, whose “Crash” won the Academy Award for best picture in 2006. The film stars Tommy Lee Jones as a retired veteran who defies Army bureaucrats and local officials in a search for his son’s killers. In one of the movie’s defining images, the American flag is flown upside down in the heartland, the signal of extreme distress.

Other coming films also use the damaged Iraq veteran to raise questions about a continuing war. In “Grace Is Gone,” directed by James C. Strouse and due in October from the Weinstein Company, John Cusack and two daughters struggle with the loss of a wife and mother who is killed on duty. Kimberly Peirce’s “Stop-Loss,” set for release in March by Paramount, meanwhile, casts Ryan Phillippe as a veteran who defies an order that would send him back to Iraq.

So Hollywood is going to try to educate us how to think, again. I have a bit of advice, Hollywood: If you’re interested in how the heartland (read: your customers) thinks about their country and its military, perhaps some comparisons are in order.

Title Budget Box Office Difference
300 65,000,000 210,614,939 145,614,939
Jarhead 72,000,000 62,658,220 9,341,780
Rambo: First Blood Part II n/a 150,415,432 n/a
First Blood 15,000,000 47,212,904 32,212,904
Born on the Fourth of July n/a 70,001,698 n/a
Courage Under Fire n/a 59,031,057 n/a
Three Kings 75,000,000 60,652,036 14,347,964

I realize this is not a comprehensive survey of box office and really reflects my own taste as much as anything else, but the more, erm, message-driven reeducational sorts of films don’t seem to do so well as the patriotic or less nuance-principled films, at least domestically.

But maybe Hollywood isn’t making films for us any more; perhaps they’re focusing on the foreign markets or on impressing themselves and the Academy.

However, allow me to predict that this story will participate in next year’s “Box Office Revenue/Ticket Sales Continue to Decline” story. Followed, no doubt, with industry claims that piracy is causing it instead of disconnect between the moviemakers and movienotgoers.

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Complete Misunderstanding of Concept of Failure

Perhaps the complete misunderstanding of the concept of failure is a precursor to actual success. For example, Kelly Clarkson speaks about the new sound on her new album, and the potential consequences of changing her sound on her new album:

It’s my favorite thing I’ve done. It could sell two million or 12 million. I don’t care. I just want people to hear it, instead of 100-year-old executives making decisions on what’s good for pop radio.

Well, there are other possibilities. But if the floor of your expectations is 2,000,000 records sold, you’re more likely to cut an album than someone who realizes you could sell none.

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Mission: Accomplished

James Joyner looks at a Congressional Budget Office report requested by Congressman John Murtha, D-PA about the feasibility and impact of bringing back the draft, and Joyner wonders:

One wonders, then, what he hoped the CBO study would accomplish.

Well, here it is in Time magazine.

Reports indicate that the government is studying the feasibility of reinstituting the draft. Never mind that, once again, these initiatives/studies/legislative proposals come from Democrats who really only want the word “draft” in the news. The important thing is that the public, helped along by the message-managers in the media, will think this is a George W. Bush / Republican thing.

Behold the beauty of the rhetoric:

So then what about the third, most controversial option — is it time to reinstitute the draft? That option has a certain appeal as the Army fell short of its active-duty recruiting goal for June by about 15%. It is the second consecutive month the service’s enlistment effort has slipped as public discontent grows over the war in Iraq.

Bringing back mandatory service has been the refrain of many who want to put the brakes on the Iraq war; if every young man is suddenly a potential grunt on his way to Baghdad, the thinking goes, the war would end rather quickly. It’s also an argument made by those who are uneasy that the burden of this war is being unfairly shouldered by the 1.4-million-strong U.S. military and no one else.

The war unfairly shouldered by an all-volunteer military. An option put up by the journalist for a problem that he has inflated (military recruiting not meeting its goals).

I don’t think a draft is going to happen; however, what’s important to certain elements within our nation is that grandmothers, mothers, and the young fear it enough to elect the “protectors” of youth. Even those same “protectors” are the ones studying and trying to reinstitute the very bogeyman they slay.

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Book Report: The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas (1844, 1999?)

I got this book as a selection in the Readers’ Digest World’s Best Reading (remember them?) back when I thought having a number of books in handsome hardback editions was a good way to expend that gratuitous money I was making. As I got random books from old college syllabi, I eventually determined that book fairs would provide easier access to the great literature I wanted. Still, I’d seen the movies (The Three Musketeers and The Four Musketeers), so I thought I’d give the book a try.

It’s a pretty good book; I read it faster than Anna Karenina, and I liked it better. It’s a swashbuckler; instead of The Russian Question, we get court intrigue. Oddly, both books started out as serials, but The Three Musketeers strikes me as more engaging and entertaining.

I guess watching the films first helped me to get context, much like reading a Cliff Notes will give you an idea of how things will go so you’re engaged in getting there.

So I liked the book enough that I’m more impressed with the form, that is, serialized novels that have made their way into our literary canon. Which is a good thing since I have so many Charles Dickens books lying about.

In a stunning turn of events, this book marks the fourth and final book from this list that I had on my to-read shelf that I hadn’t yet read. I’ve read them all this year.

Maybe I need another hobby. Nah.

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Rock Lives On

The backlist sales of music from the 1980s and 1990s trend towards hard rock:

AC/DC’s “Back in Black” (1980) last year sold 440,000 copies and has thus far sold 156,000 this year, according to the Nielsen SoundScan catalog charts, which measure how well physical albums older than two years old are selling. (All figures for this article were provided by Nielsen SoundScan.)

Those “Back in Black” numbers would make most contemporary CDs a success. Metallica’s self-titled 1991 album is altogether the second-biggest selling album of the Nielsen SoundScan era, which began in 1991. “Metallica” sold 275,000 copies last year.

Bon Jovi’s greatest-hits collection “Cross Road” last year sold 324,000 copies, while Guns N’ Roses “Appetite for Destruction” (1987) sold 113,000.

Well, yeah.

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City of Milwaukee Moves to Dave & Busters Approach

Columnist Eugene Kane draws our attention to the fact that parking meters in the city of Milwaukee are moving to a credit card based approach:

Instead of a row of mechanical meters, there’s one automated machine on each side of the block. You have to note your parking space number – the old meters are replaced by numbered signs – and punch it into the machine.

It’s still the same $2 for two hours, but you can pay with either coins or a credit card. In the first few weeks, Floyd said, 40% of parkers have paid by credit card.

For those – like me – who worried that paying by credit card might be more expensive due to transaction fees, Floyd said the City of Milwaukee agreed to pay any additional credit card fees connected with the new meters to promote their use. Floyd said the limit on a two-hour spot remains the same.

Why would the city of Milwaukee go through all of that trouble and pay the credit card companies for the privilege of not having to deal with coins?

Because once you get used to just swiping your card, you’ll be less likely to notice or care that suddenly that $2 for 2 hours is $2.50, then $3.25 for two hours because you’re not counting physical coins for it.

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Outlook Good for US Tourism, Exports

Dollar Falls Against Major Currencies:

The dollar fell to new lows against the euro Wednesday, while the pound soared above $2.05 for the first time in more than a quarter of a century as housing and economic worries battered the U.S. currency.

Well, it’s good news for tourism and manufacturing, as US destinations and products are more affordable on the world stage.

Well, unless you’re as fickle as the media. In which case, it’s all bad, regardless. Dollar goes up, it’s bad; dollar goes down, it’s bad; dollar stays the same, it’s bad.

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