Monday, May 31, 2004

 

Schuldige Schuletag

One can reasonably expect that the management and staff of most public education systems are a few flying buttresses short of a cathedral, however, one example I'm familiar with significantly exceeds that lofty standard. Apart from the classification of normal childhood behavior as something worthy of calling out the National Guard and the Securities and Exchange Commission, this particular system's operational head (hereinafter referred to as the superintendent), not particularly successful in his previous tenure with another district, is anxious to cement his reputation by building a high school worthy of Albert Speer. In and of itself, this is merely obnoxious and not worthy of note other than in local budget meetings where little things like debt service, property taxes and bond ratings may be discussed by the profanum vulgus. However, in this case, the superintendent is attempting to build said edifice through artifice (alliteration can be neat upon occasion).

The existing high school is about 30 years old, has some obsolete features, and has some lingering issues due to shoddy construction. Nothing insurmountable, save that the superintendent and his Greek chorus have deemed the school to be as crowded as the Tokyo subways, and about as safe as wearing tzitzit at a Hezbollah meeting. Rather than taking a proactive approach to a perceived problem, fixing problems as they arise (should they indeed exist), said superintendent and his support system took a rather different tack. They actually asked the accreditation agency to put the school on probation to force the town to build an entirely new school. Said accreditation agency obliged. Needless to say, the current students of the high school now have to worry about getting into college because of the doubts cast on the school (entirely for physical and not academic issues, making it doubly painful), the town now has to worry about depressing property values because the school has been marked lousy, and it doesn't take total clairvoyance to see tax rolls dropping, mil rates increasing, and other negative consequences for the town just because Dr. Junior Captain Of Industry wants his new toy.

The humorous aspect of this is of course that if the superintendent and his claque could not be trusted to take an even remotely proactive approach toward managing the existing infrastructure, how can they reasonably be expected to manage a mid-eight-figures construction project, much less on-time and on-budget, and at a high quality level? Isn't the management mantra of the last few years in any sector to do more with less? It's rather instructive to compare school construction with the way Robert Moses built things back in his day, or with the way a well-organized private sector project works (not that process, organization and planning are foolproof - I'm well acquainted with one large - high nine figures - private sector project that had mold issues within the curtain wall of the building, and the fiber cabling in a major revenue producing section was installed with improper bend radii, rendering it almost useless. But they did have a PMO and a Six Sigma program!)

I should mention that said superintendent is a well-spoken, arrticulate, impeccably dressed man. Mr. Moses summed up the type neatly when referring to John Lindsay, the gold standard for ineffective politicians, "When you have a matinee idol mayor, you have a musical comedy administration". And would it be redundant to mention that Dr. Junior Captain of Industry and his claque are Dems?

Sunday, May 30, 2004

 

Random Ephemera

In the "Sometimes its tough to be a Beatles fan" department:

Sir Paul McCartney decided to give his opinion about the Iraq war, and naturally, it falls into the cranio-rectal inversion category. To be sure it's a carefully crafted statement designed to minimize offense (geez, sounds like most of his post-Band On The Run output). I thought Paulie was one of the few musicians who actually got it - remember "Freedom"?. Perhaps he's been taking some heat from the peer group (ambiguous pun intentional)?

Don't worry Paul, I can separate the opinion from the art. Next time though, please just talk about why you would choose between the Rickenbacker and the Hofner. Revolver and Rubber Soul still haven't left the rotation in the CD player.

And then of course there was this action and commentary from the ever popular Yoko. Hate to point it out to you, old girl, but "Imagine" isn't exactly a big seller in the region, except strangely enough in Israel. I certainly doubt that "Walking On Thin Ice" will be played in quote unquote Palestine (double feh). If she would read more history, she might see just who and what she's sympathizing with.

Im andere beobachtung the Official Semi-Offical John Rowland Impeachment Countdown is on! 31 days until the Impeachment Committee makes its recommendation. Let's see, the guy's had some domestic violence concerns, there are heavy questions about ethics, he's no longer the chairman of GWB's reelection campaign in Connecticut, some form of criminal indictment is likely and his approval rating is somewhere in the vicinity of Nikita Khrushchev's. I gotta admire this guy's persistency and stamina.

Saturday, May 29, 2004

 

Pop Culture Fromage

OK, no ifs ands or buts about it, The Addams Family was far cooler than The Munsters. Morticia was smoking a hookah way before it was fashionable, and a "normal" family trying to be weird is lots funnier that a weird family trying to be normal (check out the credits on The Munsters - it's the Leave It To Beaver crew).

But that said, The Munsters did have one brush with cool that's become sort of a pop culture milestone. In the episode "Far Out Munster", The Standells - way before "Dirty Water" - appeared. They did two songs, the second being a cover of "I Want To Hold Your Hand". The first one was a song called, depending on various sources, "Come On And Ringo" or "Do The Ringo". A catchy, typical mid 60's pop effort obviously designed to cash in on rampant Beatlemania. But the interesting thing about this is that while it appears in the episode, the full recording of the song is nowhere to be found. The discographies out there indicate nothing that sounds close (although there's a 1964 single on Liberty called "Peppermint Beatles", but I'd bet that isn't it).

So, was this something the Standells would've done just for the show, or was it a canned track sitting in Liberty, MGM or Vee Jay's vault? And the money question is where the heck is it today? There was a Standells rarities disc out a few years ago, with no mention of "Do The Ringo". I checked the song databases offered by the various performing rights organizations, and no mention. The Library Of Congress's online records don't go back to the '64-'65 timeframe yet. Google produces a lot of references to the episode and song, but no specifics on the actual recording. Was it a throwaway? Was it even copyrighted? Tracking this one down will require the persistence of Kaspar Gutman.

 

Miscellaneous Borborygmic Observations

Some terminology may be in order before I begin skewering the geschaftwelt. Back in the pre-Sarbanes Oxley days we would tend to identify our clients in things like internal resumes and proposals as a "Large Investment Bank", "Large Asset Management Firm" all in the interests of client confidentiality. This was always a pretty transparent exercise, as you had to state your quals to whomever you were trying to sell the gig (or yourself) to. For example, you could say you recently worked on a trading floor project, but since there's usually only one or two of these going on at a time, it was usually obvious who your client was, and the old boy network would kick in to vet you.

We tend to give clients nicknames, for instance "Large Asset Management Firm" would be "Happyland", and "Large Investment Bank" became "Stalag 13". My current client has been cheerfully dubbed "Colditz". In some cases the nicknames might identify these firms so in the interest of protecting the innocent, said firms will be identified using the following naming convention {Large|Medium|Small} {Investment Bank|Asset Management Firm|Broker Dealer|Retail Brokerage|Information Provider|Exchange|Regulator}{Sequence Number}.

As much as these firms pay lip service to quality, process and all the other management-speak terms out there, they're really deer in the headlights. Got to work at the client last Tuesday, and there were signs all over the place about a fire drill. An Important Person came over and said "There's a fire drill today". I shot back "How can you tell the difference?"

My own firm is as guilty or guiltier than the rest in terms of cluelessness and deer-in-headlights syndrome. One memorable staff meeting a couple of years ago, my boss (who I actually respect and admire, no joke) asked me to cool the Groucho reflex, as some honcho "Jack So-And-So" was coming to speak to us. Jack So-And-So gets up to speak and wants to make a point about building leadership cadres. His lead-in was priceless - "Who knows what the German Army did after World War I?". This was without a doubt the biggest softball ever offered up to a frustrated comedian, and would've been physically painful to pass up. I shot back "They started World War II!" and the room dissolved into huge laughter. I probably could've given him a reasonably lucid discussion of the Freikorps, Stahlhelm and all of that sort of history, but jeez, what a lousy example to use for leadership. Jack So-And-So wins the Junior Captain of Industry award, with General Cluelessness Clusters.

To answer what is undoubtedly a burning question in your minds, just what the heck is a "Farbissiner Paskudnyak"? A translation can be found here. Why'd I use it to name my blog? There was a mediocre movie from the mid-80s called "Over The Brooklyn Bridge" where Shelley Winters called someone a "Farbissiner Paskudnyak" with such relish I knew it had to be useful somewhere along the line.

Priceless quote of the day (courtesy of a thread on American Idol on Voxtalks):
"There is only the remotest chance that, sometime in my life, I will be given a choice between prepping for a colonoscopy or listening to Macy Gray sing. I've already made my choice. Pour me another Nulytely."

Friday, May 28, 2004

 

Herzlich Wilkommen, and all that

So I decided to try blogging.

Credit, or blame should go to some of the good guys out in the blogosphere, such as Charles at Little Green Footballs, Kim DuToit, Emperor Misha, Steven Den Beste and a whole bunch of other bloggers whose incisive commentary has given me much pleasure and inspiration.

This is going to be an irregular day book, full of odd observations and commentary. My day gig has taught me one thing as a management consultant - Scott Adams is the most prescient person in the world. There will be some interesting observations on the foibles of consulting, information technology and financial services (suitably sanitized, of course - can't offend the junior captains of industry who like things like PMOs and absurd HR practices, after all).

As to politics, I lean conservative. Always have. Grew up in a solidly Democratic area of New York City (Department of Redundancy Department) where we had the same Congresscritter for 50 years, and the state reps for the district were a family dynasty. When there was a challenge to Mario Cuomo, the local posters said "Vote For The Democrat". Always wanted to scream out at the UFT members who largely infested the neighborhood that the New Deal was over, just to get their goats.

Hearing the Dems nowadays just ticks me off big time. Sorry guys, I happen to have been in the World Financial Center (diagonally across from the Twin Towers for the Lower Manhattan-impaired) on 9/11. Had a ringside seat for the show. Don't blather about the UN, international cooperation and all of that crap. We're fighting people who would cheerfully slit our throats because they don't like anything and everything about us. More on my 9/11 story on another day.

Taking a 180 to more positive turns of thought, I rediscovered my rock and roll roots a couple of years back and started playing with a band on weekends occasionally. When there's nothing to rant about on the corporate or political side, we can dissect the horrid state of music and discuss the merits of vintage and reissue guitars and amps (there's a couple of great boards that I frequent on the subject, but heck this is my blog).

Being from NYC originally, I have a command of every 4, 6, 7, 10 and 12-letter word in the book. They may be used here occasionally. That said, I'm reminded of something the late Raymond Loewy said about the importance of being a gentleman (the quote can be heard on a video about the legendary GG1 electric locomotive, which Loewy helped design). It's always stuck with me, and I value the thought. It's something sorely lacking in our world.

What's to come? Anecdotes, opinions and the like. All opinions are solely my own (gotta cover ye olde tochis).

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