Friday, June 30, 2006


Originally uploaded by BarrettJ.
Today I put up resistance against what I consider an injustice. I don't like confrontation, I prefer peace. But confrontation is as necessary as peace sometimes and now is one of those times. We're all pawns in somebody's game; it's just a question of figuring out the next move. And I figured it out and did it today. So in the REAL spirit of the fourth of July I salute all you fighting for your rights. Keep on fighting!

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Latvian Repose

Originally uploaded by tomcakuls.
Tom C is in Latvia right now. he posted some summer solstice snaps. funny, I was just thinking about him, wondering how his visit is going.

here in DC on the solstice we cooked the first veggies from our garden (zucchini, sage, radishes). I don't know if they taste better because they're so fresh or because we grew them.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Black Star

My friend Chet is from Ghana. His family lives near the capital, Accra. He's a member of the Ga tribe, one of many tribes in Ghana. Yesterday we sat together in the cafeteria at work and watched the World Cup match between the United States and Ghana. The World Cup is a big deal here at work. They have TVs set up everywhere, with broadcasts of all the games. It's funny to see clusters of normally staid economists whooping and cheering for their teams. And everyone is doing it; as I watched the game, Chet was seated to my right and to my left was my boss's boss's boss.

I don't really follow the World Cup but I wanted to watch the match with Chet because he was so excited about it. After the second goal by Ghana he was so nervous and excited he was almost shaking. When they won he jumped up and cheered at the top of his lungs. The rest of the crowd laughed and applauded; he was the only one from Ghana in the room and they were happy for him and for the underdog team that had pulled off such an upset. On our way back to our offices he kept running into fellow Ghanaians and hugging them. He gave me a high five slap so hard my hand stung for half an hour afterwards.

I read a New York Times article today about the troubles in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (once known as Zaire). The article said 1000 people are dying every day as a result of a four-year civil war. Four million have died so far. That's a lot of people. To us Westerners, Africa is a backwards place, kind of a nightmare continent. If we think about it at all it's usually with pity ("those poor starving people"). Or contempt ("why can't they get it together?"). Much of it is fucked up but its also home to millions of people who are proud of their lives. People like to be proud of their home. And they invest their emotions in a team (the Redskins, etc) because they feel the team represents their home and when that team wins, they can share the pride of being on the winning side. In that sense it's more than just a soccer match. It's fulfilling a basic human need: pride.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Living on the Mechanical Leash

Last month, my parent's computer died. So did the transmission on their car. So did their air conditioner. As for me, in the last 30 days my MOTU stopped working, a DVD I ordered arrived unplayable, and the key to the door of my apartment stopped working. And just as I type this post, the warning "Could not connect to Saving and publishing may fail" suddenly popped up.

Even when the gadgets are working, I find myself distracted with all the choices: create more iTunes playlists? or update my Flickr page? Yesterday out on the road (in another mechanized piece of my life!) I passed a guy who was typing on his Blackberry while driving 65 mph. I doubt he could compose a very coherent email right then. He certainly couldn't drive coherently.

I've come to realize that the more I automate my life, the more I lose control of my life. There are many things in my life I can't control anyway (death, the weather) but where I have the choice, I now try to run it through the metric "Do I really need this?" "Does this really matter?"

The more things we buy, the more beholden we are to the companies that make them.

I'd type more but I have to call support. I just got an email that my domain has expired...

Thursday, June 15, 2006

John Lennon Reads About Brian Jones

Hackmuth alerted me to this great photo, which appeared on The Wit of the Staircase. This is around 1969, when Lennon was looking like a pilgrim and Jones was looking like a Nazi. The SS uniform was his (German) girlfriend Anita Pallenberg's idea. They did a series of photos, some with Brian standing in jackboots on a toy doll. It was supposed to signify an anti-fascist stance but it came across as nothing more (or less) than a blonde rock star dressed as a Nazi. Not a good idea.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

The Office Culture of Process

A community is usually thought of as a group of individuals geographically near each other, united in a common pursuit of sustaining the community, which used to involve planting fields of crops and tending to livestock but these days is something a bit more abstract, like parent-teacher conferences and city council meetings.

An office is a community too. In an office there are people situated geographically near one another (on the floor of an office building, for example) and they are united in a common pursuit. You'd think the common pursuit in an office would be to contribute to the well-being of the company, but in my experience, the common pursuit of an office culture is to maintain the illusion of working towards a common pursuit. The illusion is what counts; the actual common pursuit (making money for the company, ending world poverty, etc) is secondary. People in offices have to work very hard to keep up the illusion of work. To be kind, let's substitute the word "illusion" for a more neutral term: "process". Here are some examples of process:

Reporting is a very important component of office culture. Here is my monthly reporting schedule: I meet an hour each week with my manager to report my work; I meet an hour each week with my manager and group to report my work; I meet an hour every other week with another manager to report my work; I write a biweekly report to report my work; I fill out two separate monthly reports to report my work; and I fill out an annual report to report my work. There is even a code in my time sheet for this reporting work ("General Administration of the Section").

Statistics are also a key component of office culture. According to my department's statistics, one of the teams answered 5000 requests in the month of January. Given that there are 3 people on the team and 25 days in the month that means that each team member is answering 66 requests a day. As each request takes roughly an hour to answer, they are each doing 66 hours of work in a 7 hour day (they get an hour off for lunch). Isn't that amazing?

If your work is the process of work (not work itself, remember, just the process) you will always have a lot to do because process is never-ending. For example, recently a group was formed to make recommendations on how to manage a certain resource in my office. The group met several times and came up with the recommendation to form another group to discuss managing the resource. Process triumphs! be continued

Monday, June 12, 2006


Originally uploaded by BarrettJ.
here's a kinda blue photo for a stormy monday

Tuesday, June 06, 2006


via sleep, eat food, have visions

The Hog Farm network

"In the 70's the Hog Farm had several different Downtown SJ addresses...I stayed for several days at a house on S 13th and another on S 16th, (wherethe bus was parked being fixed ,as always) , in the Fall of '71, one of astring of homes from Oregon to New Mexico, all the way East to NYC and up tonorthern...extreme northern...Canada was across the back fence...Vermont. A network of literally thousands of people, if a bus broke down or someone got popped or hurt, anywhere, the Hog Farm had a friend who would drive the 50 miles, put us up, help us fix it...if you had a phone you could always call Louie or someone who could call Louie and he would get out the "Book" and make some calls. Lawyers, doctors, mechanics, moms, ex-girlfriends as well as musicians, artists, publishers, promoters, loan sharks, famed chefs with fancy restaurants, actors and actresses, writers, filmmakers...everybody was in the "Book" and help was on the way. Of course you were in the "Book" also and would get your calls as well..." recounts an old timer in this blog post