Monday, December 30, 2013

Once is enough

Every legal document I read this year had at lest one (1) set of numbers in which the authoring attorneys deemed it necessary to give me all the numbers two (2) times.

It is an insulting practice.  Anyone expected to separate the subrogee from the legatee is certainly capable of understanding the word “three” or, more concisely, “3”.  They don’t duplicate everything else in legal documents.  At least, I don’t think so.  I can’t say as I fully digested every contract I had to review recently.  Ever.

Anyway, two times the word doesn’t make your document twice as official.  If your brief already contains at least one “whereas” or “whereof” you’ve puffed yourself up quite enough.  No need to push it.

It is a waste.  Let’s say there are 1,100 characters on a page of an average document.  The American legal industry generates about $209 billion annually.  If only 10-percent of that is issuing contracts and briefs, the industry could save about $57 million a year just for trying, in a very small way, to be more clear and more polite.  That is not counting the bottom line of all the poor shlubs wasting their time reading a word twice twice for no reason.

Join with me.  Please.  You only live once.  Don't spend your time reading something twice (x2).

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Gerbils, towels and things you learn at a con

One can learn a great deal from science fiction conventions.  Plotting, characterization, common pitfalls and basic craft – a well-run con can always teach you something.  The trick, as Spock tells you in The Wrath of Khan, is to remember.

I did not.  My first mistake stemmed from lingering too long after a reading, gabbing away as they moved the chairs in the room from stadium style to circle.  The alarms went off in my head.  Run when they circle chairs.  Run.  I did not do this, either.  Two minutes later I found myself in the far corner of an improv lesson.  Yes.  A comedy improvisation workshop designed to God knows what at a sci fi con.   

The session made me laugh.  Everyone in the room had a quick wit and, by nature of the convention itself, a general understanding of the audience.  I sat, trembling at the thought of doing something and having it flop, or doing nothing and being one of those guys who doesn’t participate, who thinks himself above all this.  As a ‘starship captain’ and ‘Klingon’ searched the ‘mall’ for a ‘rouge gerbil’ I realize this is my moment.  I scampered across the floor, chirping “Oh no not again,” until stunned by a ‘phaser.’

For whatever reason, everyone laughed, the workshop soon ended and I got on to the business of science fiction business.  Midway through the next day, I decide to go for a swim.  The hotel pool is gorgeous and I had a lot of toxins to work out of my system.  Because the pool is nine floors down and through the lobby, I wear my street clothes and change in the changing room.  I do laps for 20 minutes, get out and . . . drip.  No towels.  No lifeguard, no humans, no towels. 

I can’t dash through the lobby and up the elevator sopping wet.  Nor can I put my clothes back on.  I take the only other options I see available.  I get naked, smack the big silver button on the hand-dryer, crouch down and slowly rotate like gyro meat on a spit.  I turn and turn squeegeeing myself for what feels like 30 minutes.

Then another guy walks in.  I stand up.  He looks at me.  Confused.  Then he tilts his head a bit and asks, “Aren’t you that gerbil?”

The sad thing is that anyone attending a science fiction convention must have read Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.  And anyone who as read that book – even just the first few pages – knows that, and I paraphrase: A towel, the Guide says, is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have.

Never forget what you learn at your next con.  Never forget your towel.  Oh, and don't panic.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Put the NSA in charge of Obamacare

So the NSA hacked into Google and Yahoo, to gain access to data no one thought they could touch.  Wow.  Regardless of what you think about the ethics or legality, it’s quite an achievement.  The engineers at Google and Yahoo are, presumably, amongst the best in the world.

If the NSA can infiltrate them, well, their Kung Fu must be better.  I bet they could fix up a retail-database site like nothing.  The president should immediately re-direct the efforts of the NSA to repairing the Affordable Care Act’s Web site. 

It’s a win, win, win.  They can improve their image while helping 14 million uninsured American’s get healthcare.  Sure, there are all kinds of HIPAA regulations regarding security an such, but hey, that’s obviously not an issue for the agency.

And they can keep Al-Qaeda affiliates from getting health insurance.  Love it. 

Monday, October 7, 2013

Think outside the ballot box

The government is shut down because 30 Republican members of the House of Representatives – and the conservative groups that back them – have enough power not to defeat a budget bill by voting, as per the sacred Constitution – no, they have enough umph to keep John Boehner from bringing the bill up for a vote.  Which would probably pass.

I have no idea how the Speaker feels about shuttering the government.  I’m betting, after 22 years in the House, he wanted to keep things open.  His concern is that the Tea Party 30 can sway enough other congressmen to unseat him if he strays from their side.

The Speakership is an open selection.  The Democrats can vote for anyone they want.  The Speaker doesn’t even have to be a Congressman.  If the pretzel cart guy got the majority of votes, he could be Speaker.  If Democrats pledge their votes to Boehner, he’s immune from coup d’etat. 

And everyone could get back to work.  Even those that don’t want to, because they’re getting paid regardless. 

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Government fall

It’s not a shut down.  It’s falling and missing the ground.  That’s what this government shut down is like.  Our leaders couldn’t even mess up right.  If you’re going to use the supports of our society as pry bars, put your backs into it.  Shut it all down.

The military, FBI, FEMA – they are all at work today.  People aren’t going to hit the dash until a week after Congress hit the breaks.  And even then there’s a whole bunch of people in the back seat who won’t feel the impact for years.

So, if you really want to know if the American people think shutting down the government is worth it to fight health care – as opposed to, I don’t know, giving the law a chance and seeing if it really is terrible enough to warrant repeal – then really do it.  No meat inspectors.  No Coast Guard.  No Federal courts. 

No air traffic controllers.  That’s the big one.  If your Fed Ex packages don’t cross the country, if the Dallas Cowboys have to bus it to New York, if some little girl can’t get her kidney transplant – well, then we might see some movement on the issue.  Washington would become very grounded very fast.  They would learn how to fall.