You Got to Be Kidding Me!

Business / People

Posted in Miscellaneous by Stacy McMahon on April 29, 2007

My girlfriend and I were just discussing a senior PR position she interviewed for with a DC-area law firm. Long story short, she was asked to take several tests, plus being told in so many words that her portfolio was worthless because hey, she could easily have plagiarized it. To me, this highlights a serious deficiency I’ve been seeing in American business since the start of my working life: management fads that all center around the idea that human judgement should be completely removed from all major decisions.

I can see why that seems attractive — it’s the old “what if you were hit by a bus?” i.e. you have to be careful about letting your business get dependent on specific people, because if they leave you’re screwed. That only goes so far though. If you have senior people, presumably they’re senior because they have demonstrated skill and good judgement. Tests, psychological profiles etc may make good decision aids, but it doesn’t make sense to waste your people’s talent by relying exclusively on these limited tools. Just something to think about, if your management software will let you 🙂



Posted in Addison, Social Life by Stacy McMahon on April 29, 2007

For whatever reason, that word has gone out of popular usage, but when I was a kid people (or at least my people) referred to babies in backpacks as papooses all the time. Did the Native American lobby ban others from using their words and I didn’t get the memo? 🙂 Anyway, in spite of my unsustainable busy-ness I managed to get out to the Reston Zoo with my daughter last Sunday. Here’s the little papoose:

Like any good not-quite-2-month-old, she slept through the majority of the outing, and since I’m almost as ignorant about babies as a New York Times reporter is about guns, I spent much of that time worrying that with her face mashed into my chest she’d have trouble breathing. Her mother eventually managed to convince me she’d be ok, at which point I also remembered that billions of babies have survived being raised by people much dumber than us (and that’s saying something!)

Here are a couple other of my favorite pictures. I am glad my daughter is pretty (though as I was telling my girlfriend, not too pretty, please — I want to make it through her teenage years without too much more gray hair!)

Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my closeup!

Pretty in pink — She actually doesn’t need the pacifier very much, which I think is a good thing. Supposedly, excessive pacifier use eventually leads to thumbsucking, which then leads to expensive orthodontic work…

And finally, just so you all know I haven’t completely stopped doing things like attempting to take artistic photos, here’s one of “Captain Gizmore” enjoying the warm sunlight last Saturday. Or maybe I should call him Joe Friday…

A ’93 In The News

Posted in Books, Virginia Tech Massacre by Stacy McMahon on April 28, 2007

I posted awhile back about What Really Happened to The Class of ’93. I’ve finished reading it now and will have a review up at some point. In a nutshell though, I liked it. Chris, if you happen to read this, look me up next time you’re in town. If nothing else I owe you a beer for kindly leaving my name out of that one quote… 😀

Another of our classmates — someone I knew this time — was in the news recently and for a sadder reason (I thank Christina for the link, though it’s not on her blog) He was a friend of one of the Virginia Tech Massacre victims. I hate that name by the way, but much like “nine eleven” or the “war on terror”, that’s what the world has decided to call it. Anyway, The Boston Herald’s interview with my classmate Luke Sponholz is strangely reminiscent of Chris Colin’s interviews with some of my other high school classmates. It is [finally] the kind of tasteful remembrance that the media can give us on its better days; and very welcome after the great, garish display of instant analysis that inevitably follows this and other tragedies, becoming more widespread every year in spite of being universally hated. Anyway, go read it.

UPDATE: As Christina notes in the comments, she has now blogged the BH interview.

Like Clockwork…

Posted in Ungeheuer, Virginia Tech Massacre by Stacy McMahon on April 27, 2007

…you can count on public school administrators to come up with the most stunningly mindless and pedantic response to a violent incident that happened halfway across the country and has nothing to do with their particular school.

Police Thursday released portions of an essay used to charge a Cary-Grove High School student with disorderly conduct, leaving several experts puzzled at an arrest based on such schoolwork.

Asked to write about whatever he wanted in a creative writing class, would-be Marine and honors student Allen Lee, 18, described a violent dream in which he shot people and then “had sex with the dead bodies.”

Allen “Lee”? Yes, of course he’s asian.

After 4/16 everyone knows asian kids who write a violent scene must be future school shooters! I have actually attached electrical generators to harness the energy of my eyes rolling at this, and am currently selling electricity back to the power company. I am not, however, going to write a long-ass post about all that’s wrong with the quoted scenario. If it’s not obvious, then there’s no way I can make you understand. There is certainly no way I could ever make the administrators or police up there in IL understand. That much is clear…

* Side note: You may notice I’ve added a new category for this post. Ungeheuer is a German word that means, roughly, “jaw-dropping, un-effing-believable thing that no real human being should ever have come up with, but someone did anyway.”

Dumbing Down…

Posted in Environment, Snark, Urban Planning by Stacy McMahon on April 26, 2007

I know that the book says news should be written for consumption by 7th-graders, but come on:

The market share for timber frame construction has more than doubled since 1999 and now stands at 20.5% of all new housing in 2006, although that still only represents around one in five new builds.

Really? 20% = 1 in 5? Wow, who knew? In fairness though, it’s possible the poor reporter just couldn’t help himself after taking down what must have been dozens of quotes like this from his interview subject:

“We expect timber frame housing to expand at about twice the rate of the average for the market, leading to further increases in market share in each of the years to 2009. …

“The recent huge surge in interest from the private housebuilders in low risk, cost effective ways of building zero carbon homes is also likely to enhance the timber frame industry’s prospects in coming years.”

So if the market expands, then the market will expand! Got it, though I’m not sure I get the connection between low carbon homes and woodframe construction. The wood frame by itself has nothing to do with insulating a house — it’s all the other stuff layered over it that does that. Really though, if we want to have the lowest home energy consumption we should all follow Bilbo Baggins’ lifestyle.

In a hole in the ground, there lived a hobbit!” — J.R.R. Tolkien

The Longest Day

Posted in Miscellaneous by Stacy McMahon on April 25, 2007

I know, I haven’t posted in forever.

It’s not that my life is boring — far from it, there’s a lot going on. Today for example, I will work 7 hours at my job, then quickly stop at home to pick up my laptop, schoolbooks and other stuff I forgot, then go to school for a work session on our studio class. We have less than ten days left to finish our report there, and are quite a ways behind. I may be writing at the campground this weekend. After class I’ll have a quick dinner and share baby pictures with my study partner, after which we head to a meeting with the Alexandria Environmental Planning Committee. Assuming we’re done with that before too late, I’ll drop my study partner at the train station and head down to Burke to visit my daughter. Lucky for me, she doesn’t go down for the night until after 11pm. Then back home again where I’ll turn on the balcony light and try to get some impression of the work my girlfriend is doing in the planter boxes out there as I write this.

Besides that, my car is long overdue for an oil change, there’s a trip to Presque Isle, PA to plan, camping this weekend, finishing the environmental study, convincing my professors to take me on part-time to polish the final report (which means I have to actually think about how incomplete our final class product will probably be) and a bunch of details for getting set up with my new investment advisor. Tallyho!

Too Soon?

Posted in Guns, Virginia Tech Massacre by Stacy McMahon on April 17, 2007

It’s my fault. I’m watching the cable news shows and it’s their business to yammer on about the politics of current events, appropriateness be damned. Hell, they probably even think it’s time now. I almost think that myself — only because I’ve been thinking and talking about it near-constantly since it happened.

I know I don’t need to tell you what ‘it’ is.

Anyway let me try, if I can, to talk about something more concrete and without getting into politics per se. A commenter over at the Bitch Girls asks why nobody bum-rushed the gunman while he was reloading. That’s a fair question, and one some of us on a VT message board talked about this afternoon. My theory: guns have been so demonized in our society that the mere sight of one probably strikes mindless terror into a lot of people. I’ll stop here and say that while I’m not frightened by a gun, having someone shot dead right next to me would undoubtedly bring on that mindless terror.

But if it didn’t — let’s think about the unthinkable, that this could happen to you — then you have an opportunity. Reloading is like this:

1.) discard old clip : you’ve seen movies, this is a one-handed operation

2.) fetch new clip : takes a little longer, maybe a lot if the spares are in a pocket or backpack.

3.) insert new clip : fast but needs two hands.

Critically, through all three steps the gun is unloaded and the gunman is busy and distracted. My hail-mary play would be to throw some object — a book, backpack, shoe, anything with a bit of weight to it — at the shooter and rush him. What do you have to lose? Of course none of us truly know how we’ll react until we’re in the hotseat ourselves.

Take this for what it’s worth to you. I’m the type to try to draw any lesson I reasonably can, no matter how seemingly trivial, from an experience. And tragedy only makes it more necessary to do this, to do any small thing (and this is a small thing) you can to give meaning to senseless death.

Think of The Children!

Posted in Miscellaneous, Virginia Tech Massacre by Stacy McMahon on April 17, 2007

I couldn’t think of a much better title for this post. I am both an alum and a current grad student at Virginia Tech; I haven’t posted about the shootings because I simply have nothing to add. Someone has done us the favor, though, of providing a picture worth 1,000 words. It captures my mood perfectly, so here you go:

sad hokiebird

Some people always have a lot of word though, and so it goes. This guy from Leesburg, with no special qualification and whose daughter was on campus but apparently nowhere near the combat zone, has stood forth for an entire Fox News article to discuss his solemn conclusion that President Steger and Chief Flinchum should both be fired.

Shourds said he is second-guessing his decision to push his daughter towards Virginia Tech, where several of his nieces and nephews have attended. Many of those relatives have called to offer support to the family and Shourds said many are equally displeased with the university’s initial response.


However, John Shourds said he had doubts about the effectiveness of Virginia Tech’s campus police from the start. He called the force, “an Andy Griffith and Barney Fife” operation.

“They are really small police force for 20,000 students and they are not the best and the brightest,” said Shourds.

I’m sure the family and friends of the students who were actually injured and killed appreciate this jackass speaking for all of them before the bodies are even cold. What is it about tragedy and/or the news media that brings this out in people?

Top Ten Search Terms

Posted in Silly/Funny, The Intrawebs by Stacy McMahon on April 15, 2007

It’s always funny to see the search terms that bring people here. Some (like my name) are quite popular and appear day after day, others come and go, and some are just one of a kind. Here, Letterman-style, are a few of my recent favorites:

10.) push button light switches – Most people’s blogs are only interesting to their friends and family (and probably not even then) but I always hope strangers will be able to find at least some useful information here. A post linking to a company that makes 1920s-style lightswitches for older homes apparantly fills the bill.

9.) ned devines sterling – Again, my post about my evening at Ned Devine’s would probably be worthwhile reading for someone thinking of going there.

8.) allodial title – This one turns up almost every day. Glenn Reynolds may be trying to re-popularize privateering, but I get all the would-be modern-day noblemen (or women)

7.) star wars funny – I think Star Wars is pretty funny too, when I go back and watch it today. But my only post on the subject is really about the next — very popular — search term:

6.) busty – But not just any busty, we also need “busty cops” or “busty betty”, who I am betty-ing is some kind of p-0-r-n star, but you can google that and let me know. All I ever did to anyone was link a photo of the latest convention geekery…

5.) you got to be kidding – Are people searching for my blog by title? Is there a movie or book out there by that name that I’m not aware of? People look for that at least weekly, and I know I don’t have that many fans 🙂

4.) ptsd gun club – Now that’s a scary thought! I imagine it gets them to this post, but what would a “ptsd gun club” be like? Everyone unrolls their sleeping bag in front of their lane, and a couple hours later the range captain randomly plays helicopter noises over the PA?

3.) libertarian gun fetishists – Gee, tell us how you really feel about those kwazy libertarians!

2.) girls in handcuffs – I really had to go google this one myself, since I have no idea where I’ve ever talked about bondage. And sure enough, google claims not to find anything at this site with those words. Good old Excite, maybe? AOL? Yahoo!?

…and the number one recent search term:

1.) storm trooper in bathroom – Uhh, I take it back. The PTSD Gun Club is nowhere near as scary as this visual!

Kurt Vonnegut has Died

Posted in Miscellaneous by Stacy McMahon on April 12, 2007

I’m sure Vicky will have a post up pretty soon. I was a never a great Vonnegut fan — not that I don’t like his work, I just haven’t read much of it. One quote in the CNN obit caught my attention though.

Some years ago, I remember Vicky saying she’d heard Vonnegut give a commencement address in which he made a remark along the lines of ‘I hope none of you young women is forced to drop out of life early by having children.’ Having always seen rugrats in her future, she took some offense to that. Turns out though that it may just have been a too-subtle expression of his famous wit:

Vonnegut, who had homes in Manhattan and the Hamptons in New York, adopted his sister’s three young children after she died. He also had three children of his own with his first wife, Ann Cox, and later adopted a daughter, Lily, with his second wife, the noted photographer Krementz.


“My father, like Hemingway, was a gun nut and was very unhappy late in life. But he was proud of not committing suicide. And I’ll do the same, so as not to set a bad example for my children.”