31 December 2006

Smiling Anew At The Storm

My favorite picture of Me was taken several years ago on a beach in Rincón, oft-called "The Surf Capital." In the picture, I'm sitting in the sand gazing skyward, wearing one of My many casual hats. Above Me is an immense mass of clouds, purple-gray and menacing as that of a powerful storm. As the picture was taken from a moderate distance, I appear somewhat small, almost engulfed under the mass of angry clouds. And yet, as I sit bathed in sunlight, I have a smile on My face, almost gleeful, as if the fun were just beginning.

The picture, now a calendar, is stuck on My refrigerator door. In an unguarded moment, the person who took the picture captured something about Me that I had sensed but never really knew: I like seeing chaos around Me. I thrive on the sense of risks and "Uh-oh, now what?" that (understandably) drives most people nuts. It's why I live taking on a wide range of projects, pursuing a variety of interests and essentially learning as much as I can.

And yet, there are a couple of points I must ponder. One is that I am not totally free-floating and adrenaline-addicted. There's a part of Me that seeks to create a Tranquility Base, even if it doesn't often see the light of day. And second, as I face the chaos and impending storm We face as a nation, My characteristic smile has vanished.

Don't take My word for it: Look at The Jenius back in early to mid-2005 and compare Him to the One appearing in late 2006. The cheery smile in the face of chaos, the smile that says "This will be fun!" because Life without challenges is for corpses (and sadly, most of Us want desperately to be corpses) seems to have devolved into first a tolerant smile, then a sardonic one and has now ended up a wolfish grimace.

That's not growth, nor is it fun. What I sense is that at a time when more of My best tools are needed to make Our Future a brighter reality, one of My finest--optimism--is blunted. And if you, fellow Puerto Rican, wonder how egotistical I am to think that Puerto Rico needs Me, know this: It needs you, too. I at least recognize and accept that fact.

Will this pessimistic feeling last? No. The picture I treasure captured a fundamental facet of Me, one I know will re-emerge soon. But the basic change from "C'mon, We can do it!" to "What the hell is wrong with you people?" is an ugly, unworthy and unneeded downward slide that benefits no one.

I could have written about ex-governors who claim a "right" to police escorts though their safety is best-insured by the sheer indifference We feel to their being alive or dead. I could have written about the worthless spectacle of a special legislative session that produced nothing except additional pocket money for Fools. I could have written about hundreds of things, all neatly-defined in My files, that attempt to shed another ray of light (or vat of scorn) on a topic that The Jenius is interested in. I could have, but I chose not to, for in the end, without the cheerful smile to face the dark clouds, The Jenius simply...doesn't exist.

This is My final post.

I wrote that before Christmas with the intention of posting it today, having decided to close this chapter of The Jenius and move on.

And yet...

As 2006 comes to a close and 2007 looms as a challenge, the feeling I had that The Jenius was no longer needed has faded as My response to a very sad year for Me and My Island has also faded. It isn't time to seek a new playground: It's time to crank up the energy level on this one.

Consider the cranking already begun...

The Jenius Has Spoken.

30 December 2006

Me As A Global Voice

If you click over to the this page in the Global Voices line-up, you will find The Jenius represented with 7 sidebar postings, of 20 all told.

That's right: At the moment, I am 35% of the Caribbean's voice in that corner of Global Voices blogosphere.

Impressive, huh? A Puerto Rican, from an island not really deemed to be "Caribbean" except in location, has emerged as a leading voice within that geographical region. Who'da thunk it?

Do I deserve credit for this? Of course I do. I write because I want to, feel a need to and do it well enough to attract attention. But not all the credit is mine. Part of it goes to Ms. Georgia Popplewell and Ms. Rebecca MacKinnon, who have chosen the posts. I'm sure they could have chosen many others, so I thank them for selecting Mine.

Is this really important? It is to Me, though it isn't one of My Life's greatest achievements. I am proud of this as I am proud of doing well in other endeavors, and I hope to continue doing well. But that doesn't mean I'll write to get selected: I've never done that. I'll write because I want to, and if My words are still deemed representative enough of the blogworld's emerging voice, then I'll continue to thank those who chose Me and bask in the warm glow feeling that My tiny pebbles are making ripples.

For that's what's important here: making a difference. In the larger scheme, My posts are the gravitational equivalent of a handful of sawdust...but they are doing something. It's more than what most of Us can say and yet still less than what many of Us do every day. In the end, I can point to that page and say: I'm doing My part.

And I look to do more.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

29 December 2006

Stupid Rosselló (Not) On Trial

Lady Justice is blind. In this case, We have a lady judge who's blind and incompetent to boot.

Stupid Rosselló--first name Pedro, second name Stupid--is facing charges of fraud for filing false claims in order to up his government pension to the maximum allowed by law. Despite the fact that key people involved in the case, such as the former director of the Mental Health agency, have already been found guilty in matters related to this pension malfeasance, judge Ada "Scarecrow" López didn't see reasonable cause for a trial.

Why "Scarecrow"? Think The Wizard of Oz...

Here are the facts so you can decide:

1) Within 60 days of becoming governor, Stupid Rosselló requested an analysis of his retirement benefits. Yeah, that's what leaders should do from the get-go: Strap that parachute to their asses!

2) Over the next several years, on eight separate occasions, Stupid Rosselló was told--in writing--that he did not qualify for a maximum pension because he would not have served for enough time in government work. Not one, not 2, not 3, not 4, not 5, not 6, not 7, but EIGHT times Stupid Rosselló was told "Uh-uh, dingbat." My conclusion: Stupid Pedro doesn't know how to read.

3) Shortly before leaving office in 2001, Stupid Rosselló filed papers claiming he had served summer terms between 1962 and 1964 at the Psychiatric Hospital, giving him enough time-in-service to qualify for a maximum pension. The former Mental Health agency director signed off on this--and was found guilty for it--because Stupid Rosselló was a Harvard student and a tennis player in Jamaica during those years' summer months. The proof was actually provided by Stupid Rosselló as far back as 1991, when he was a candidate and he offered his resumé to the press.

So let's add this up to give Ms. Judge(ment)--oh what a clever pun!!-- some MUCH needed help:

--Stupid Rosselló didn't serve enough time to qualify for a maxed-out pension. Proof: Stupid Rosselló himself stated this long before becoming governor.

--The government itself told Stupid Rosselló he didn't qualify EIGHT times, lady...eight FREAKING times. Do you think... he got the message? Do you think... the situation was still muddled in Stupid Rosselló's pointy head after all that? (You can believe that if you truly believe Stupid Rosselló IS stupid, instead of using that as his "defense.")

-- DESPITE the repeated "nyets" Stupid Rosselló filed papers that LIED--LIED you pathetic excuse for a judge--about his activities that were already--already, you pathetic excuse for a judge--a matter of public record.

Now the issue is clear: A person acts illegally to gain the unearned. Is that enough to go to trial with? I'm no judge--ranking as I do so much higher on the evolutionary scale--but money gained through lying is something the law frowns upon, don't it? Especially when it involves elected officials and public funds, right? And that means--correct Me if you can, lady no-judge--that said person should be put on trial because the evidence--in large part supplied by the alleged committer of fraud himself--is heavily weighed against him.

Unless, of course, maybe perhaps, that person has some sort of--say, tie--to you, oh lady judge of the vapid cranium. Does Stupid Rosselló have some link to you, some connection in which he may have, say, "elevated" you to some piece of furniture, like a...bench? But that doesn't mean a thing, don't it?

You know the answer to that one, don't you, lady no-judge? At least you know the answer to something.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

27 December 2006

Signs of Stupidity

Some 30 minutes from My house in Cabo Rojo, over on the north side of Mayagüez where State Road #2 makes a beeline to My birthplace of Aguadilla, there's a blue-faced official sign that reads "Tsunami Zone Limit."

For those of you not aware of Our geography, Puerto Rico is an island of roughly 100 east-west miles by 36 north-south miles, and the area I just mentioned lies along the western coast. The "Tsunami Zone" sign sits about 2.5 miles from the ocean. And why it's there is anybody's freaking guess.

For one, there doesn't seem to be any other sign like it anywhere else in Puerto Rico. It's not like We have only one coast, right?

For another, the sign is not some cheap knockoff: this is a government sign, with the requisite bolts and cement base and probably cost more than the average quarterly salary of a mid-level manager to make and install.

In third place, what pea-brained dipstick figured out that the sign actually marks any reasonable limit for a tsunami? My first thought was that now that I know where the freaking danger zone ends, when the warning is issued, I can drive like mad to that sign, park east of it and lay out a picnic lunch to watch Nature's Salty Revenge from a front-row seat. Might get My shoes wet, but--hey!--I'll be safe!

And lastly, just what the hell's the point of putting up a sign that means nothing? Unless it's some sort of continuing trend like putting up signs that proclaim "Your Tollbooth Monies At Work" where no such progress is evident, or taking out ads that state that "The sales tax is for everyone's benefit" or to see posters that display a candidate's smiling face and a variaton of "X will work/is working for you!"


Maybe the sign isn't so stupid after all, given how the average sign's smarts are so disgustingly low anyway...

The Jenius Has Spoken.

25 December 2006

Do You See What I See?

Do you?

Do you see a Puerto Rico that barrels headlong into inanity, rocketing like a diving missile towards becoming Ultimately Irrelevant in the 21st century?

Do you see Our People chasing the latest gewgaw, the instant percentage discount, the "No Payments Now" trap, as if the their very Lives depended on having "the best and newest" at the expense--pun intended--of "The Future and Freedom"?

Do you see We are anchored to failure by a generation of political slimebags who need to acquire brains and souls before they could even aspire to become mere hacks?

Do you see Our Children relegated en masse to becoming serfs, indentured peons to the well-prepared, because Our schools lack the vision, drive, intelligence and ethics needed to develop Leaders?

Do you see that half of Our adults--half--either live on welfare or choose not to work?

Do you see that on this over-regulated Island every new license bill, every new tax wrinkle, every new "fast-tracking permit law" does nothing but create more obstacles for business and economic growth?

Do you see that Our media has the brains of a chatty gonad, the attention span of a soap bubble in a cement mixer and the integrity of moldy Swiss cheese?

Do you see that many of Us--though far fewer than the self-proclaimed--literally bleed trying to make Puerto Rico not what it could be, but what it should be, what it always should have been?

Do you see what I see?

Maybe the more important question is: Do you care?

The Jenius Has Spoken.

22 December 2006


Note: Another Jenius thanks to Georgia Popplewell for picking up My posts titled "Critical Mass" and "Crave(n)"

Found this quote in a United Nations document on economic development:

There are two responses for a growing informal business that faces a costly regulatory environment, (1) to grow within the informal sector or (2) to formalize and comply with the costs of regulation. Growing within the informal sector can be inefficient, and lead to a range of problems from limited access to finance to lack of credibility in the market. Complying with the costs of regulation can be very expensive, particularly where there are hidden costs that have to be paid, and officials that make use of their position of authority for personal gain.

In other words, slap a sales tax on local businesses and watch them either "grow" within the informal sector (go even further underground) or gag on swallowing higher costs, including those "hidden costs of officials that make use of their position of authority for personal gain."

In a plain word: bribes.

That both "undergrounding" and bribing will occur is without a doubt. That they will reinforce each other and create a downward spiral that hides more money is again without a doubt. What is left in doubt is how much this is going to wreck Our already-wretched economy.

Does it have to be this way? Aren't there other alternatives, less morose? Of course there are. But are these other alternatives truly possible, truly viable as realities on Our Island?

Just barely. Many businesses will try to comply, many will succeed. It will be interesting to see how many businesses suddenly "disappear," how much money seems to "dissipate" and how much power shifts from traditional hotspots to the newer denizens of sales tax offices.

You think that the shift in power can't be measured? Here's a hint: Pulsing. If various regions in Our cities and towns begin growing in spurts (on a graph, they will look like the spikes of a heartbeat), then you'll know the power shift has occurred, because the "bunching" together of supposedly-different businesses isn't a group's statistical result, it is an individual's stastical result. It could be one person, one office or one department, but it will be there and it will be conclusive.

The only thing is that by the time that graph appears, it will be too late to salvage the economic mess flowing through Our arteries like leukemia. Deregulate or decay. Procedural simplicity or pea-brained suicide. The choices are clear...but We ain't.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

21 December 2006

The Name Tag Guy


That's how I met Scott Ginsberg, "The Name Tag Guy."

I guess I'd better explain.

In January, 2006, I was at the Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA) "Boot Camp" event, at the Coronado Resort, Disney-Orlando. Scott was one of the featured speakers of the first morning, and with the eagerness of getting a good start at a major event, I was intrigued to hear him.

From the moment Scott started, it was clear he was an excellent speaker. His easy style and engaging charm seemed effortless, which to a veteran speaker denotes hours of preparation and focus. Scott began speaking about creating awareness of who you are, of literally "owning" a word, so that if anyone googled that word, you'd appear on that first page of results.

He asked the audience what word they owned and walked forward to hear the answers. I raised My hand, but as I was seated near the middle of the 400+ member audience, it would take some time before he reached Me. Some 10 feet in front of Me was a dynamic lady, Yvonne DiVita, who when Scott asked her what word she owned, replied "Dickless."

My hand shot down. (No, not for that reason.)

Scott did a 3-second pause and with glorious wit said "Moving on!"

The room erupted in laughter. Sensitive to nuances, I was sure "jenius" would fall far short of "dickless" on the impact meter, so I let someone else offer their word (whatever it was) and Scott continued his presentation.

He concluded later to thunderous applause and for the rest of the 3-day event, he was deservedly on everyone's lips. I went up to talk to Scott after he finished and We met. (He noted I was the only person in the audience wearing a hat.) Since then, I've followed his ascent into the world of public speaking and bookwriting with joy and admiration. Scott was even kind enough to send Me an advance copy of his latest book "How To Be That Guy," so much as to even quote Me on how good the book is.

What makes Scott interesting is his clear focus on being approachable, a true advantage in the "distant" sociability typical of most of the U.S. What I'd like to have Scott do is come and speak in Puerto Rico where approachablility is a given and effectiveness--making the most of approachability--is not so automatic. I hope it happens soon.

Until then, go visit Scott's website. Subscribe to his e-zine, read his blog and listent to his podcasts (one of which replays the incident I mention here.) Life is too short to avoid making as many friends as possible and Scott can show you how to get the most out of being dickless.

Oops, I meant approachable. Funny how My hat fell in front of My eyes at that moment...

The Jenius Has Spoken.

20 December 2006


Let's rap about education...or what masquerades as such here on Our Island.

The current "leader" of the education department has decided to penalize directors and teachers who basically "wrapped up" early in December, thus gaining a few extra days of Christmas vacation, by docking those days from their alloted vacation time. My first choice would be to fire these slackers, but that's not allowed, you see. Something about protecting animals or some such nonsense...

As much as I agree with the intent, I can't leave almost-well-enough alone: Where was this same "tough" stance back in May when the government shut down for no reason except politics? Wouldn't--shouldn't--that month's semester-ending idiocy warrant as strong a stance as this month's semester's-ending idiocy?

What say you, you in the back with the slack-jawed look of a Fool? That the secretary couldn't do anything about that because his boss--the jellyfish governor--ordered the closing? Sit down, you gibbering ape. That's exactly why the secretary should have said to the jellyfish: No. Close what you want, but Our schools stay open.

By not opposing the move, despite the fact that only three weeks remained in the school schedule, despite the fact that the teachers would lose no money, despite the fact that the secretary described himself as "educator first, second and third" and vowed to "never be a politician", despite the fact that both Namby-Pamby secretary and Wishy-Washy governor had called education "the top priority of this administration," despite all this and the fact that shutting down the government was ABSOLUTELY unnecessary, despite all this, Namby-Pamby tucked his tongue beneath his clownish bow tie and slunk away.

Now he emerges to slap the wrists of the mentally-unfit who run some of Our schools. Tough on bad employees, a suck-up to the boss. Now that's leadership.

Tack onto this nauseating scenario the report released this week that We have an "excess" of some 1,000 teachers, apparently because We have 20,000 fewer students than We used to. However, (hold on, this is good) the teachers allege that this "excess" is nonexistent because "The students who don't attend class are not counted."

Once the top of My head whizzed back to Earth, I thought the following:

--Absent students do count...when it's convenient.

--We're "only" missing 20,000 students?

--No one really knows how many students We are missing, but the number is much, much higher than 20,000.

--Is this the best argument teachers can come up with?

--I called teachers lazy and stupid. I was complimentary.

The same group of slackers who run off and leave their students hanging now "run" back to these abandoned souls in order to justify their total number of employed. No, We don't have an excess of teachers: We have a shortage of about 40,000. That leaves about 1,500 that are worth retaining and the rest can grab an early vacation someplace far away from here.

And take "Namby-Pamby clowny bow tie" with you.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

18 December 2006

Critical Mass

You are almost certainly familiar with the concept of critical mass, one of those "coined by Science" terms that creep into everyday use. Critical mass refers to the moment where enough material is aggregated to initiate a spontaneous reaction, first used to describe what would happen prior to a nuclear explosion.

The concept is useful in sociological terms, for any number of human activities have a pattern of slow development until an adequately-sized group is formed. Think tipping point. Think hundredth monkey. Think quorum.

Now think about this: What do We call the moment in which an active mass becomes inert because its size is no longer enough to sustain action/reaction? In science it can be called the energy threshold, but what is it called in sociological terms?

Stagnation. Social decay. De-evolution. Ennui. Anhedonia. Chaos. Defeat. Collapse.

Pick one or define your own. It all amounts to the same thing: At some point, a group--even a society--can lose enough active members and fall into an inert or disrupted state. It can happen actively, as in revolution, or passively, as in stupid leadership combined with indifference.

We are obviously far from the first and smack damn dab in the middle of the second.

And I'm not talking about the people who leave Our Island of Enchantment for the Land of Sunshine or some other sappy motto. I'm talking about dropping out, opting out, giving up on Us no matter whether you choose to stay or go.

How many of Us are left to sustain the critical mass that can try to propel progress? How close are We to dropping below critical mass? And if--when?--We do, will anybody notice?

I assume, of course, that the sub-critical mass threshold has not been passed. I assume. That in and of itself is upsetting.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

15 December 2006

Slice of Li(f)e

Brief conversation overheard in the supermarket Express Checkout lane on December 13th, 2006, at roughly 5:23 P.M. between a middle-aged gentleman wearing baggy shorts, a stained Washington Wizards T-shirt, a sweaty Harris Paints cloth cap and sneakers with no socks and a middle-aged woman wearing a fuschia blouse missing the fourth button, white shorts that bulged, sandals and hair the color a carrot isn't.

He: "I don't like the sales tax."

She: "Neither do I!"

He: "Who's idea was it? How much more do they want to take from us?"

She: "You know what bothers me? That they live it up while we have to scratch for everything. They don't know what we go through!"

He: "They're all guilty of treating us like slaves. (It) makes me think of moving to Orlando.

She: "I want to move, too. My sister lives close to Disney (World.)"

The man watches as his groceries are scanned. He pays with a PAN card, the Food and Nutrition program run with Federal funds by the local Department of Family Services. He takes out the full 25% portion of the monthly allotment he's allowed to in cash.

The woman does the same thing.

The next I see them, they are buying local "Loto" tickets. He buys $30.00 in tickets; she buys $20.00.

"Someone has to win, right?" she says to him.

He nods and pushes his cart out the door.

It dawns on Me that gambling with Uncle Sam's money is a win-win situation...

Yeah, right.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

13 December 2006


Over at El Gringoqueño, James O'Malley posted an interesting thumbnail sketch of what We--as an economy--will face unless We wise up. Here it is:

Recent changes in the tax code of Puerto Rico have caused me to rethink a long held opinion about the nature of our politicians. The Genius, [sic] over at his blog, rightly predicts that the underground economy in Puerto Rico will perfect itself as taxation wriggles into all legitimate economic transactions. Small micro companies will just take what little business they have further underground away from the grabbing hands of government, and more of them will do it better.

Medium-sized brick and mortar shops will either shoulder the burden or pass the cost on to the customer. Either way with rising prices, already pinched consumers will be forced to buy from the lowest supplier, those 800 pound gorillas with their cheap global supply chains and volume discounts. If small business owners try to compete on price their already compromised position further erodes to the point of survival mode. They are then either pushed into gray areas of the underground economy or out of business entirely.

The big global players are already earning money hand over fist, and if their position is eroded only slightly by rising consumption taxes, they have a number of options. They can negotiate tax breaks for their local hiring, get government handouts to build new facilities, low interest loans, you name it. They have the clout and the cash to get what they want, whether it be cheap goods, cheaper labor, or cheap government.

So where does that leave us?

I always thought that bad government policies through incompetence or malice had an effect to drive out entrepreneurial spirit, to foment low level corruption, and give unfair advantage to large imported global players (pharmaceutical manufactures, retailers, fast food, national chains etc). But now I’m not so sure it’s incompetence or even malice.

What if their aim is to kill off the last of the local companies for us, as a favor to pacify us and give us jobs, to give us what we want, to work for the man, and play on the weekends, to be kept, taken care of, and have no responsibilities? Maybe these politicians know something we don’t want to admit or care to face:

We want to be kept and taken care of.

We would rather work for Wal-mart than try to start our own business, and the best to which we can hope to rise, the pinnacle, the ultimate, is to be a general manager in someone else’s plant, to be validated by the higher power the foreign national, the colonial overlord.

I hope it’s just incompetence… although at this point I’d even take malice.

Please tell me I’m wrong, please Puerto Rico? Tell me it’s not what we want.

First of all, I wish I could tell Jim--one of Us by heart's choice--that We are humongously incompetent and filled with malice. But the fact is, not even Our Fools fit that description. For sadly, what best explains Our current predicament is that We are craven.

Craven in the sense of "too afraid of fallout to maintain a principled stand." Craven in the sense of being timid, of avoiding duty and thus eschewing responsibility. Craven in the sense of preferring to remain weak rather than striving to be strong. Craven because by cowering in fear, We irrationally feel safe.

If you believe craven is too strong a word for Us, look for its antonyms and see if they apply better: bold, brave, courageous, heroic, strong... Somehow, even as I yearn for a different answer, the reality hits Me like a dagger in the heart.

James, it isn't incompetence and it isn't malice. It's worse. It's irrationality governed by fear or abject fear leading to irrationality. In either case, We are locked into a miniature dungeon of despair, defeat and depression. We are easy prey, thus We are victims because We choose to be.

I need to be by Myself for a while. I'll requote Jim: Please tell Me I’m wrong, please Puerto Rico?

The Jenius Has Spoken

11 December 2006

Dallas Calling Puerto Rico

Sometimes stuff just falls into your lap...(Actually, Mine, but you get the idea.)

I noted to a friend of Mine that the Dallas Independent School District is advertising for bilingual teachers. Here's My comment:

Over the past two weeks, the Dallas Independent School District has been advertising on local cable. It offers a base salary almost double that of starting teachers here, and the thing I noticed most about the ad is that it seems "crude," i.e., not a slick polished piece. Maybe it's a budgetary constraint (go for placement and repetitions rather than production values) or a deliberate choice to avoid "glossy" oversell. Find it interesting.

My friend, a Dallasite, (that is a word) of many years, had this to say:

DISD (Dallas Independent School District) should also be (re)-advertising for an "ethics oversight" person... Seems that the one they recently hired (stellar qualifications on paper) was missing those little initials "CPA" after his name... those little initials that were present on his resumé... Yep, it appears he let those little initials lapse about 10 years ago and just sort of forgot that little detail. DISD didn't uncover that in their "due diligence" process - but the Dallas Morning News took about 15 seconds to unearth it by perusing the Texas State Board of Public Accountancy's online registry... And that was a $125k/year position... apparently it's hard to hire "good ethics" these days... and the position is definitely needed - seems that the last few DMN series have (un)covered DISD credit cards run amok (a secretary running up $220k?? at places like Pier One and Target?? lots of Ipods and gift cards??), and employees who should never have passed even a rudimentary background check (felons? child molesters?? who's checking??).

The "technology" guy was fired not too long ago- seems he was taking a lot of really nice trips on some really big boats, courtesy of some really friendly vendors... So maybe there's not too much technology left to create slick ads... But good news for teachers - "bilingual" testing is minimal (I think five questions) - not much pesky testing in Spanish... PITIFUL. (This partially explains why my child is not in a DISD school....) I know they do have a dire shortage of bilingual teachers.

Okay, as much as I lambaste the local miseducation system, it seems the sheer incompetence of so-called educators is not limited to Our Island alone. But I wonder:

--Is fraud and corruption a universal "need" in governmental and pseudo-governmental systems?

--Is an offer based largely on salary (though the ad talks about "changing the world one student at a time") ever any good?

--If Our "too lazy and too stupid" teachers go to Dallas, will they be assets or just asses?

--Can Dallas, Puerto Rico or any other educational district in the U.S. systematically rise to world-class standards without resorting to creating "artificial" school districts that "keep out the riff-raff"?

--Does the DISD have any idea what they're getting into by seeking teachers here? Not that We lack talent, but We're certainly not "American" teachers, used to "American" resources and "American" ways. Maybe that's the point, but I don't see how that can be much of an advantage.

Maybe I'm looking at this all wrong. Maybe there's more in common between Dallas and Puerto Rico than I give credit for. Maybe there's a golden thread that both sides can weave into a shining tapestry of educational excellence.

Maybe both sides will learn even more ways to shaft the taxpayers by stealing, bribing and simply not seeing what is patently obvious. Who says a lousy educational system--or two--can't produce some "positive" result?

The Jenius Has Spoken.

08 December 2006

Direction, Discipline, Excellence, Success

This won't take long:

Aníbal "The Information Solider" sent Me this in an e-mail:

Subject: Simple motivation---Right up your alley

[You can click on it to get a better idea, but read on if you're in a hurry.]

Here's My response:

So cool to know you read Lifehacker, too! It's one of My daily "Start" pages and I often find useful info. In this case, I was suprised to see this item because since last year, My cell phone has a four word "mantra" (I thought it was just a screen item until I read the Lifehacker post): Direction, Discipline, Excellence, Success.

I wrote that on a whim, to keep Myself focused on what I often tend to slide on. Whenever I see Myself not succeeding as expected (like I have been recently), I can trace the path "down" to excellence (Am I doing excellent work, of high value, to My clients?), or discipline (Am I doing enough to make consistent progress?) or direction (Do I have a goal?)

At this point, I'm screwing up in the basic level of direction, so that's where I need to make changes. Until I fix that, the rest can wait. Once that is set, I go "up" to discipline (plan my work, work my plan), strive for excellence and success almost always follows.

Okay, that's it. Break up into discussion groups and discuss.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

06 December 2006


---Kudos to Georgia Popplewell on Caribbean Free Radio's nomination for a 2006 Weblog of the Year Award in the category of Best Latino, Caribbean or South American blog. Go vote for Georgia!

Thought experiment: Imagine that alien beings--Let's call them "Americans"--say that by 2018, Puerto Rico has to stand alone as its own government. Autonomous. Non-colonial. In essence, to take its place on the world stage as an independent nation.

How would We do it?

Forget any other question and focus solely on this one: How would We do it?

The simple answer is: We'd focus outward, to a global worldview. A deadline such as this one would give Us no other viable option for progress except to cast away Our overwhelming obsession with Our own belly-button and notice that there's a whole world out there waiting for Us.

Looking outward would radically and fundamentally change Our basic "structural" components: economy and education.

--Economy: We would have to discard Our idiotic "zero-sum game" mentality (everything viewed as win/lose with finite resources) for a new paradigm of "a bigger pie for all." Instead of scrabbling for what Juana or Manuel has next door, We can orient Ourselves to explore new and larger opportunity sets anywhere and everywhere in the world.

--Education: Our students are leaving high school as some of the worst-prepared in the industrialized world. They are much much closer to "You want fries with that?" than to "I have a dream." To put it bluntly, We are producing wretched cashiers and clerks instead of leaders. But We won't really see the chasm until We learn to look out there and only then will reality slap Us into consciousness. We'd have to change Our educational system because as it is, it openly, brazenly and irresponsibly holds Us back.

The answers are simplistic because I neither have the time nor expertise to write a high-quality book about this. But a book isn't necessary, for what the thought experiment does is simply establish a thought, one that can be adopted and adapted by all of Us.

Given that We can assume responsibility for Our Fate, how would We do it? Given that We have to, how are We going to do it now?

The thought experiment isn't new: It's been here all along.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

04 December 2006

Bridge to Reality

It is said that voters vote their with their wallets. A variation of this is "It's the economy, stupid." Our version would be: "It's the economy, Stupid Rosselló."

If this is true--as it generally seems to be--then the next elections in Puerto Rico should be a lollapalooza whoop-ass smackdown of The Fools.

As My little boy says: Yeah, right.

Our voters screech, whine, emote, discuss, argue about, obsess with and practically think with their wallets, but when the time comes to enter a voting booth, the complex realities of day-to-day life are reduced to a tricolor washrag of options: red, blue or faded green, the local parties' representative colors.

For all Our talk and pseudo-pontification surrounding "the national sport" of politics that leads Us to believe We are political sohpisticates, We are nothing more than Skinnerian pigeons when We enter the voting box. With bird-brain reflexes, We slash an X or two under a party standard, drop Our vote in the ballot box and walk away feeling smug.

Ignorance is bliss.

As another phrase goes: If you're not upset, you aren't paying attention.

Our voters have a disconnect with reality that rivals The Fools' disconnect with integrity. Those two yawning chasms are going to swallow Our Future unless We bridge one to force a bridging of the other. Since We can't ever expect The Fools to regain what they never had, We must connect with reality and change the way things are.

That has to happen before the voting box takes over, so that the long-honed reflexes of a lifetime are replaced by the newly-found wisdom of connecting to reality. Will it change the masses? Of course not: Rationality is hard work and the masses love only what's easy. But given how close Our elections have been--and will be--a few thousand votes may launch an impact wave that could sweep away the detritus and pave the way for the new and brighter Future We deserve.

It's not the economy: it's Us.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

01 December 2006

Top 10 Lessons of 2006

I hate Year-End Lists.

So here's one: The Top Ten Things We Learned About Puerto Rico in 2006:

(In the Letterman-brilliant fashion of a countdown...)

10) Our ballplayers are no longer Kings of the Diamond. With the exception of Iván Rodríguez, who is still the best catcher in the Bigs, Our baseballers are good, maybe great, but We don't have as many powerhouse players as We used to. Still, Carlos Delgado and Carlos Beltrán delivered big-time.

9) We can't even treat a pretty woman right. Miss Universe 2006 had to be escorted by security guards away from an event meant to honor her (in her hometown, no less) because the crowd got impatient, then violent. I'm all for mussing up royalty, but if We're going to act like winning a beauty title is some sort of impressive achievement, can't We at least have the sense and decency to honor it properly?

8) The status of Puerto Rico is null. Forget "The status is not an issue" as an elections slogan: Our status has the appeal and value of maggoty meat loaf. Congress pokes it because We poke them and We poke each other with it because it's easier than going out and actually doing something to change Our Island.

7) Our blogosphere is coming of age.
I have barely dipped into the local blog scene, but it certainly is gaining ground. I follow The Information Soldier and lament the loss of Portal al X-cito, but every once in a while I'll drop by other sites. As expected, most are in Spanish, but some excellent views appear in English. Check the growing community at Puerto Rico Blogalaxia. (And yes, The Jenius is still the best blog in Puerto Rico.)

6) Our teachers have a trashy sense of duty. They folded like a cheap house of bad report cards when--barely two weeks from finishing the school year--the government shut down. Instead of providing a shining example of duty and responsibility (risk-free because they were going to get paid anyway), the trash-talkers got an extra 2-3 weeks of paid vacation time. Mi escuelita, mi escuelita...

5) Stupid Rosselló. Not only did state-hood-er Pedro "STUPID!" Rosselló lead the most corrupt misAdministration in Our history, he is by self-admission the stupidest governor in Our history, for he continues his indefensible stance of "not knowing what was happening" while indefensibly claiming he was "a strong leader." The only way those two mutually-exclusive options can be reconciled is by annexing (Get it?! Get it?!! Annexing!! I'm shriekingly funny!!) STUPID to his name: Pedro Stupid Rosselló.

4) Speaking of corruption, We've now accepted it as natural.
Back in 2003, the local Government Ethics Office (a trash can behind a whorehouse in Old San Juan) estimated that corruption cost Puerto Rico 10% of its roughly $21 billion budget. That's over 2 billion dollars, people. Thanks to #5--Stupid Rosselló--who perfected what previous misAdministrations had amateurishly pulled off, We can now count on 10, 15, maybe as much as 25% of Our monies going to child molesters, rapists, nincompoops, drug panderers and outright thieves. We were never "zero tolerance" about corruption, but it's a far cry from Our current "two-zero" (20%) tolerance.

3) On the subject of money, the sales tax was/is grand scale thievery. If the sales tax rape of Our pocketbooks doesn't cause a massive upheaval for change in Our favor, We can expect more of the same and watch Our future dwindle to ashes.

2) Our government is out of control. The unneeded, profiteering shutdown of Our government for what proved to be NO reason at all bears the visual imagery of drunken monkeys waving loaded Uzis in an orphanage. Progressive countries cut taxes; We raise them. Progressive governments seek to relieve business burdens; We increase them. Progressive governments shift priorities for growth; Our government shafts Us and Our priorities to grow their own coffers. It is time to let the drunken monkeys know that "You live because We allow you to, not because you have a right to."

1) We learned that "We have met The Fools, and they is Us." Ah, Pogo.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

29 November 2006

Test(y) Me

She sat in a corner of Border's, her laptop mute and barely touched. Her expression was that of need and every time her phone buzzed, she jumped on it, only to hang up with soft disappointment.

I waited out her lonely half an hour then said to her: "That's what you get for misbehaving."

"Oh no," she said immediately, "I'm trying to do a test."

I had to ask.

Turns out it was a 50-question (40 multiple-choice, 10 True/False) History of Puerto Rico test, college-level. As I perused it, I noticed only 5 questions had been answered, the rest had checkmarks and blank spaces. "It's due tomorrow," she said. "We've had it for two weeks and nobody's been able to answer it."

Two weeks. History of Puerto Rico. A university student. Like I had a choice.

I asked her to copy the test to my USB drive. Without prompting, she included her e-mail and name.

Bottom line: I started at midnight and sent her a completed test around 2:58 a.m. I used Google and a 7th grade History of Puerto Rico text published in 1959. I expect to score at least 46 and maybe up to 49, depending on the teacher's bias in a couple of subjective questions concerning the Puerto Rico of the 19th and 20th centuries.

Was--am--I showing off? Damn straight. How could I not? Here's a supposedly well-prepared (came from private schools) college student who when a friend of Mine told her she could get plenty of information on Puerto Rican history at the Luis Muñoz Marín Foundation, she gave a weak smile and asked "Do they have a website?" I told her the library had plenty of books and no website.

Two weeks. And a two-day extension. Some thirty students in the course. And this young lady sat in a crowded bookstore cafeteria--a bookstore WITH books on Puerto Rican history--waiting for the answers to drop into her laptop.

They did.

Tying off some loose ends: Her name is Nathalie, she's a student at a San Juan university campus and the course title is History 212.

Let's hear it for higher education in Puerto Rico!!

The Jenius Has Spoken.

27 November 2006

Future Headlines

A couple of notes: To those who tuned in to the local 88.9 FM station owned by the Catholic University of Puerto Rico and expected to hear the dulcet tones of My voice, blame the station for not being organized enough to get Felipe Morales and Me on the air at the appointed time. Today's show will air next Monday, at 11:00 a.m. (The Pope is gonna hear about this.) And for those of you searching Google for "geniuses think metaphorically," notice Me as the #2 result. (I try harder.)

Some headlines I expect to see in the next few weeks:

Retail Sales Dropping More Than Expected.

Legislators Seek Amendments to Sales Tax Bills.

Governor Seeks Amendment to Sales Tax Bills.
(Notice, just one amendment.)

Retailers Fall Far Behind on Sales Tax Payments.

Entrepreneurs Stymied by Additional Obstacles.

Bankers Association Lobbies for Deregulation.

Internet Sales Attracting Attention.

Government Revenues Lagging: Rumors of Shutdown Increasing.

Teachers Will Walk Immediately if Shutdown is Announced.
(Hell, the moronic loafers will walk for any damn reason.)

Congress Shelves Bill for P.R. Self-Determination.

Stupid Rosselló.

Local Supreme Court Steps In Again on Sales Tax Issues.

Puerto Rico Slips Again in Regional Tourism.

Unicameral Bill Not on Legislative Agenda.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

24 November 2006

Jenie Wishes

--Maybe I shouldn't mention this, but someone arrived at Jenius Central from a Google search for "venereal diseases that cause lips to look misaligned."

I don't know what to think about that...

Let's say that a Magic Being--a Jenie--offers Me--The Jenius--three wishes. But said Jenie tells Me that I can only use those three wishes to make changes in Our government. Seems the Jenie is some sort of retired bureaucrat-cum-lobbyist with connections to 29th century science. (Arthur Clarke's Third Law spells this scenario out for you.)

Having gotten past My disappointment on so pointless an offer (in less than a fortnight, so I'm feeling chipper), here are My three wishes:

1) I wish government workers didn't "settle" for government work, but chose it as a result of vision. From ex-governors who couldn't cut it as lawyers or are egomaniacal semi-doctors or are pampered rich girls to the average Juan and Julia in a dead-end cubicle, far too many of Our government workers are there because they have to be somewhere, right? The only passion they feel is for 5:00 p.m. and their Christmas bonus. The "eight hours a day for 30 years" mentality is seen as a life plan, when it fact it's simply calling quits on Life and burdening the rest of Us with their indifferent incompetence. And for those who switch "careers" to "make a difference," they confuse ego with talent and burden Us with their overbearing incompetence.

2) I wish government understood its limits. When your government acts like a drunken sadist in search of victims on which to inflict more pain (see Washington D.C. for recent examples), a whiff of insight into what a democratic government truly is would go far into righting the reckless Ship of State. The same can be said when the captain is mealy-mouthed and spineless, for where the drunken sadist will crash the Ship, the wimp will simply run it aground. A government has only a few basic functions: protection (laws, defense); communication of said laws and implementing plans for stability and growth. But even these functions are curtailed by two additional factors: what the government is allowed to do and what the majority additionally decides. That Our government is acting like it owns Us is the result of watching Big Bully-Boob from up north and playing "stupid monkey see, stupid monkey do." A government that understands its limits is one that will be aimed at its true functions, not one that plays fast and loose to favor a few and endanger the majority.

3) I wish the people saw government as "Us" and not "Them." It ultimately comes down to this simple precept: We are The People, therefore We are The Government. And doesn't it seem funny to you that of all three wishes, only this one doesn't require a Jenie--or a Jenius--to make come true?

The Jenius Has Spoken.

22 November 2006

Kaleb, My Champion

For the past few weeks, Kaleb would talk about running, about racing during Phys. Ed. class, about coming in first or out of first, of girls versus boys (they outnumber his fellow little guys 3-to-1) and about pain in his left leg. He would run for hours on a court, a ball field or in the yard, but when it came time to talk about the Turkey Race, the leg's pain would come up.

He was uncomfortable, talking about the race. Last year, he didn't run, then talked about running this year. Last Friday he became openly angry at the idea that the race was longer, that the smaller kids would run a shorter race and they, the first graders, would run the same distance as the fourth graders. He vacillated between bragging and complaining, fast as wind or slow as turtle, confidence and fear.

He is My son, who watches My every move and absorbs My every action. He knows I am competitive, that I play to win and expect to win. He also knows I have bailed on My promise to run The World's Best 10K race...because My left knee hurts too much. He was leaning towards skipping his race, too. But both his mom and I assured him We would enjoy seeing him participate. So he ran.

Running with fierce concentration, Kaleb gained no ground lost at the start. He came in last, was downcast, but smiled and laughed with the other boys and climbed back into the grandstand, his green "Participant" ribbon pinned on his shirt. He walked towards Me and only when he buried his head into My body did he let the tears flow.

"I didn't run well," Kaleb said to Me. "I came in last."

I hugged him, holding back My tears. I know full well how painful a loss can be, for they all hurt Me deeply. Therein lies the problem: I only count victories, and they never mean as much to Me as a loss takes away from My heart. I did what I believe a good father does: I grew up enough to help My son. I assured him he ran well, that the most important thing was that he did run, for he could always point to that effort and say "I tried." Kaleb made no excuses, cried a little while longer, then composed himself. It took Me longer.

Later, in the car, he became angry at himself for running last. I pointed out to Kaleb that he had run well, for three boys had jumped the start and one boy got in front of him, breaking his early rhythm. Kaleb told Me that was Marcos. I said that most boys would have tripped or pushed, but that he had run well by avoiding the accidental intrusion, even though it cost him a stronger finish. He accepted the point, but made no excuses.

He later told My sister, My mom and his cousins that he'd come in last, his little body slumped with defeat. My sister encouraged him to prepare for next year, and judging by the way his face softened, that may have been the final salve on his injured pride.

For Kaleb is proud...just like his father. He wants to win, just like Me. But he is so much more than his father, for unlike Me, Kaleb has the courage to face failure as a true possibility and meet it head-on when it happens. Kaleb has learned some lessons from Me, but he has mastered one I haven't: Failure is not final.

For you see, My son, I don't see it that way. I seem to take risks, more so than the average person, but in fact, I really play it safe. Facing a race I cannot succeed in--to My standards--I bail, rather than accepting what I can do and doing it, with fierce concentration and accepting whatever the result might be. Unlike you, Kaleb, I am often so fearful of My failure that I don't even try.

It is now up to Me to ponder long and hard on the lessons I am knowingly and unknowingly teaching My son and on the lessons Kaleb can teach Me. I'm hoping that someday I can grow up to be more like him.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

20 November 2006

For The Record

A few things that should migrate from My Mind to the blogosphere:

Correction: The person who has selected My posts for Global Voices Online is not really Ethan Zuckerman, but Georgia Popplewell, of Trinidad & Tobago, whose Caribbean Free Radio features a lively, interesting podcast. My Thanks to Ms. Popplewell and here's to more sharing.

If you've seen the colorful Visa commercial with the CGI-enhanced whirling cavalcade of intricate actions in a fantasy breakfast cafe that grinds to a catastrophic halt when a guy pays in cash, here's My reponse: Screw you, Visa. I for one am happy to grind your debt-slavery treadmill to a freaking halt. And if any of you think I'm over-reacting, think about this: Mismanaged credit, as portrayed in "easy spending, instant debt and gratification" campaigns by the banking and credit industry, is the single largest cause of money problems in the U.S. And that goes for the government as well. So let Me repeat: Screw you, Visa.

A so-called man kills two people and gets away with it when the so-called legal system acts like a constipated cat and coughs up one of the ugliest hairballs in judicial history. Now that same so-called man, O.J. Simpson, gets paid to speculate "How I Did It." (Yes, the title says "If", but We know it really says "How".) O.J. is a murderer twice over: That is fact beyond doubt. For the first time in My life I'm tempted to call him a word I've never used, but though "murderer" fits him to a "T", the "n" word--barely--doesn't.

The sales tax cometh and taketh away: Early results indicate a larger-than-expected dropoff in retail sales. Hell, economists have said for decades that if you want to reduce something, tax it. Now tack on to this how Our slimy legislators are getting a cost-of-living adjustment to cover the 7% sales tax while simultaneously trying to exempt themselves from paying it (military stores) and you have the makings of some serious smackdown in the near future. Maybe We should ask O.J. to come here and "not" do The Fools any harm...

Stupid Rosselló. Bears repeating.

To Gabriel, who asked what radio station My upcoming show will be on, it's WUCP 88.9 FM, every Monday, from 11 a.m. to 12 noon. The show launches November 27th and you can hear it over the Web at www.catolicaradiopr.com. (Yes, the station belongs to the Catholic Church. Somebody has to spout sense from there, no?) The show's segments will be uploaded later this year on the show's website, so feel free to suggest topics, people and themes and We'll do Our best to make 'em happen.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

17 November 2006


Lagos is a city that most of its own residents acknowledge to be hell on Earth, but still struggle and scrape through each day with the grim determination to survive and, just maybe, buck all the odds and climb out of destitution. This is a city of staggering inequality and inequity, with a Gini index nearing a 'perfect' 1.0 -- almost all the wealth is held by a tiny minority of corrupt officials, criminals and mob leaders, and corruption and crime pervades all economic activity. This is a city of horrific and constant violence and the threat of violence -- dead and mutilated human bodies are ignored the way we ignore roadkill. This is a city of absolute hierarchy -- everyone is in thrall to those (ogas, -- literally 'masters') one step higher in the pyramid, from whom they get 'security' and a chance at the few pitiful jobs, and to whom they pay 90% of what they earn. This pyramid is entirely unofficial, but ironclad -- the cost of disregarding it is often your life. The struggle to survive is a 24/7 ordeal, so that, as one of the people in George Packer's New Yorker report puts it, in Lagos, "if you sit down, you die".

This is a city that doesn't have slums, it is a slum, all fifteen million people in every quarter of the city. It is a city where garbage and sewage and toxic waste is everywhere, where clean running water and flush toilets are virtually non-existent. Where disease is everywhere and ever-threatening. Where pollution is so bad that residents' faces are grey. Where police, authorities and gangs all extort money from anyone who wants anything or dares to enter their turf. Where fuel dumps and waste fuel spills lit afire constantly light up the night and choke the lungs with toxins. Where the only significant change from year to year are the endless streams of new immigrants and the building husks left behind from rampant arson. Where most of the population sleeps outdoors, often surrounded by mosquitos, garbage and sewage. Where gang wars between Moslems and Christians, often precipitated by trivial events, kill thousands.

Packer says "the human misery of Lagos not only overwhelms one's senses and sympathy but also seem irreversible". He quotes a city district senior administrator who describes the city as "an impending disaster...a powder keg...it's just going to boil over" as it grows to 23 million people by 2015, and by another million a year after that.

When Packer asked the editor of the city's largest newspaper what keeps the people of Lagos going, when they have no homes, no basic government services, no utilities, no jobs, and no order or security, he replies "They never believe there's no chance". Religion is big business in Lagos, and the people not only cling to the hope of salvation in the afterlife, they cling to the promise of capitalism and civilization that if they work hard enough they will succeed in pulling themselves out of their desperate situation. Both promises seem leaps of impossible faith, since there is no evidence anywhere to support either of them. This, it seems, is the nature of humanity -- no matter how far we fall from the grace of a joyful, easy, natural life, no matter how grim and brutal and full of pain and suffering our lives are, we plug on, never seeing how far we are from where we once were, never giving up, never becoming so full of grief for what we have lost, and forgotten, as to diminish our faith that, despite the fact that what we have been doing has got us into desperate straits, doing a little bit more of it will somehow get us out, lead us to salvation.

From How to Save the World, by Dave Pollard, discussing an article in The New Yorker, written by George Packer.

PeRspective indeed.

The Jenius Has Quoted.

13 November 2006


Welcome to PuRgatory. Please listen carefully as the options menu has been severely reduced. We are in the process of enhanced deconstruction, so please be patient. Like you have a choice.

If you want better utilities, please call 1-800-PIGS FLY. The pigs in charge don't fly by themselves, but you get the picture.

If you want better roads, schools and medical services, call 1-800-FAT CATS; 1-800-EAT SHIT was already taken.

If you want taxes lowered and handled for the better welfare--uh--well-being of all, call your representative or senator. If you don't know who he or she is, you deserve to keep paying their overinflated salaries. If you do know, call 1-800-PARASITE and punch in the person's full name, age, office extension number, e-mail address, spouse's name and weight (if spouse is female, her height), then press the "number" key. The looping hyena laugh track is scratchy, but serviceable.

If you moved away and are calling to find out how things really are in PuRgatory, please dial 1-800-I AM A RAT and hang up. We'll call you back when We give a damn.

Please note that all internal exits from PuRgatory are closed. Not really, but since you act like they are, it amounts to the same thing.

Note: All 800 numbers have been suspended until further notice. Please dial 1-787-SCREWED. There's a nominal charge of $7.77 a second for the call. The average waiting time is four years, at which point you will hang up and spend a day helping PIGS FLY, FAT CATS and PARASITES keep you SCREWED again for another four years.

Although maybe by then, 1-800-EAT SHIT will be available. (Currently in use by the Spineless Wonder of the governor's mansion.)

You may now wildly wave your pathetic party flag and thunderously belt out Our national anthem while continuing to whine with your hand held out, waiting for the handout you neither earn nor deserve.

Thank you for making PuRgatory possible.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

Many Words

My Thanks to Ethan Zuckerman, of Global Voices, for picking up another of My posts.

There's The Jenius. Then there's Tecno Sapiens, a when-I-get-to-it e-zine about the conjuncton of technology and a career. There's The Grant Planner Report, a weekly notice of Federal grant opportunities. Beginning November 27th, I'll be co-hosting a radio show called DESO Te Voy a Hablar, "DESO" being "Desarrollo Socioeconómico", so the show title is a pun. And in February, I'll be Editor-in-Chief of a newly-revamped Computers & Business World print magazine.

All them words, but what am I saying?

And the honest answer is: I'm not sure.

Now I mean that in the sense of "I'm not sure what the central message is, if any," not in the sense of "I'm not sure what I'm talking about." (Some of you may doubt that distinction. It's an almost free country, so you can disagree. For now.) For in Jenius, I go after whatever interests or irks Me in the realms of business, economy, politics and social mores. In Tecno Sapiens, I'm concerned with helping the reader improve his or her outlook on having a globally-oriented career, the idea that what you do is only limited by your skill set and access to information.

The Grant Planner Report is pretty straightforward: Here Be Opportunities For Money...and you can hire Me to pursue them. The radio show will discuss issues that My co-host, Industrial Engineer Felipe Morales, and I deem of interest in making a difference for Puerto Rico. And We will showcase Our abilities as consultants...for hire.

The new Computers & Business World will be--needs to be--a magazine aimed at truly reflecting the local business environment and its relationship with the global economy. This as opposed to the "pay to sway," "cash for trash" attitude of the useless Caribbean Business.

First of all, I'm surprised that this is where My career is headed. I've gone (will be going, actually) from hands-on consulting to education, a transition I feel reduces My overall effectiveness. As a consultant, I can see the results of My input and make things happen. Focusing on being a writer/communicator in a society that views reading as punishment and radio as a music box with maniacally-stupid barking thrown in for fun, seems like condemning My work to trash-heap obscurity.

But then again, I'm not interested in the masses. Not everyone can read or grasp The Jenius (the debate is whether anyone can.) Tecno Sapiens is for those who want to make their own way through Life and the Economy, not for those who want to be kept in a box and feed through a slot. The Grant Planner Report is aimed at those who can try to make a difference at the community, city or state level. The radio show will attract those who want to hear smart talk about problems and solutions, not finger-pointing and trash-talking. And C&BW will reach out to those many businesses and individuals who labor in unneeded and undeserved obscurity, those who are blazing a new and often difficult path to a brighter future for their clients and themselves.

Central message? Maybe it's "You can do it." Central theme? Maybe it's "Waves of change." Or maybe it's all "Hey! Look at Me!" But in any case, it's there--or will be there--trying to make a difference. For no matter how varied or abundant the words and efforts, the bottom line remains the same: positive change must be achieved.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

10 November 2006

Trusting Our Blogs

Over at The Information Soldier, Aníbal muses (in Spanish) on how he's come to rely on local bloggers for his "take" on Our realities, as opposed to the "foreignized" versions We seem to be getting from Our media.

Although I feel his point was well-made, The Soldier tossed the ball in My court for a more complete analysis. As they say, Soldier, your command is My wish.

The tendency to seek out alternative media or non-standard aspects of the traditonal news media has been well-observed in the States. Bloggers have directly influenced the political process by zeroing in on key issues (usually mistakes by politicians) and only later do the traditional media pick them up. And the phenomenon of a growing number of young adults eschewing the nightly news in favor of The Daily Show, The Colbert Report and (in My case) Countdown with Keith Olbermann is well-documented.

Less well-documented is a recent study that indicates that the amount of content in national news shows and "comedy news shows" is just about the same. In other words, you're just as likely to receive hard facts and weighed analysis with Jon or Stephen or Keith as with Katie and the hairpieces.

And therein lies the rub, as Billy (Shakespeare) used to say. For just as you can learn as much as with a serious teacher as with a funny one, We prefer the funny ones. Not just because they're funny, but because We get them. We feel We understand them, know them, can connect with them. Instead of ol' serious face, We get "Nice Guy," "Smart Aleck" or as a friend of Mine thinks of Olbermann, "Sexy Keith."

The problem for traditional media grows exponentially as We are increasingly deluged by data and information. As I wrote a while back (learning to learn and the Socratic Method) unless context is provided, information will not become knowledge. Most people rely on others for context, many can provide it themselves (self-teachers), but any method that can increase contextualization will (a) make learning easier, (b) provide an expanded perspective and (c) create trust.

Funny teacher: makes learning fun, you "see" more, you like him or her because you feel you get him or her, so you develop a bond of trust.

Who's considered the most trustworthy "anchor" in the States right now? Many have voted for Jon Stewart, of The Daily Show. (He does rate much higher in popularity than the murderous loser in the Oval Office.) That doesn't mean Jon is a better news "reporter," only that We think he is...because We feel better with him than with the others.

And that (finally) goes back to bloggers. Aníbal himself points out he trusts local bloggers (including Yours Truly) more than the media. He found voices that resonated with him, that viewed the same world he lives in and commented on it in a personal way he could identify with. That's context. Agree or disagree, The Soldier feels a resonance with what he reads and eventually develops a feeling of trust, so in the end, he moves away from traditional media and relies more and more on what he feels is a truer (more in tune with his own) vision.

All consistent bloggers have one thing in common: a strong need to share. In order to feed that need, the blogger must adhere to certain principles: Be clear, be interesting and above all, be passionate. In essence, be honest and forthcoming so that the sharing creates and builds trust.

What The Soldier and many others see in traditional media is the opposite: unclear, slanted views verging on hysteria that turn Us off and make Us leery. I'm not saying that bloggers don't lie, go ballistic over trivia and are all as interesting as gift-wrapped boxes on your birthday (November 12th, n'est-ce pas?)--what I'm saying is that bloggers are already closer to earning Our trust than the discounted media because blogging is personal and it is in that personal context that bloggers can make the greatest impact.

That Aníbal urges local bloggers to "Puerto Ricanize" their blogs is a good thing. I hope I succeed in doing that, but if I don't, I hope The Soldier or someone else I respect will tell me how to make the needed corrections. Because The Soldier is right: Given Our current situation, Our media dominated by an outlook that's best described as "Americanized modified by Mexican/Venezuelan hybridization" (it's worse than it sounds) and a seeming paucity of rational voices aimed at finding ways to achieve progress, Our best bet is blogging. On Our blogs We can blast away, illustrate, pontificate, evaluate, denigrate, compliment, solve, display and do so much more to Our heart's and mind's content. But We need to remember, too, that We have no better, no more powerful topic, than Ourselves.

[Note: This post turned out longer and more involved than I expected. But I'd hate to have The Soldier feel My effort was weak and have him bark: "Drop and give me 20!!" Because I know I'd answer: "Twenty what?...Sir."]

The Jenius Has Spoken.

08 November 2006

Jenius Gratitude

I have been called cynical, sarcastic, overbearing, hysterical, handsome (thanks, Yvonne!), savvy, insulting, perceptive, prescient, funny, obnoxious (in a misquote, but repeated a few times), bobo, absurd, crazy, heroic, annoying, prolific and most recently, "weird, but cute."

Sigh. And satisfaction. For not once has anyone questioned--at least to My face--that what I write is honest. It is taken as a given that positive or negative, would-be-witty or aiming-for-a-jugular, whether I'm right or whether I'm really right, My words are accurate reflections of what I think and feel.

I'm fortunate in that I have friends and colleagues who may not leave comments around here, but will ask Me about what I wrote or bring up a subject I touched upon and explore it with Me. In The Jenius' early days (The Prodigy Stage, I like to call it), a very dear friend would point out that I may have been "excessive" in My wordings. I almost always agreed with her, and kept doing it. Not in defiance of her, but in search of what I felt I needed to say. She may still consider My wordings excessive--probably more often than before--but she still reads Me and reinforces her support by becoming The Picky Grammar Lady, the World's Most Endearing Editor.

I have resisted writing about writing because it really isn't all that interesting. One sits at a keyboard, taps keys in a certain order and either reveals the result to the world or saves it for posterity. But one aspect of writing is very important and must be mentioned: it is lonely work. Hour after hour, I stare at a screen as it fills up with the product of My thoughts...which is just wonderful because I am a Jenius and only Jeniuses can know the feeling of being in perfect communion with a superior brain.

However, how does one spend over 400 hours writing for absolutely no pay? What force can compel an otherwise productive person to invest 10 full workweeks (so far) in writing His thoughts on whatever comes to Mind, hopefully in a clear, cogent and effective manner?

Support. Or Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. I have the first and may have the second. But without the first, the lonely task of writing would be lonelier still.

So in a moment long overdue, My thanks to you who read My words, who drop Me a line here or through e-mail, who approach Me and fire verbal darts or ask Me why I wrote what I did or simply tell Me I'm wasting My time or that I'm headed for trouble because I compare Fools to crap and crap wins every time. Thank you. My mistake was in never understanding that, as much as I want to say and take the time to say it, the task would become unbearable unless others shared it with Me.

But not the credit. That's all Mine. So there.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

06 November 2006

Stupid Roselló

Former governor, current senator-in-absentia, monkey-wrench of progress Pedro "I Be Stupid" Rosselló claims that during his 8 years in the governor's mansion, the events and people involved in more than 60 Federal and State investigations, with more than 35 convictions, were things and happenstances he wasn't aware of, had no knowledge of, just didn't know were going on.

Because he's stupid.

The latest two examples are the former secretary-general of the party Stupid Pedro was the president of AND Stupid Pedro's own campaign manager. Both were found guilty of multiple charges of fraud and bribery concerning the vaunted "Super Tube" project Super Stupid Pedro used as one of his many boondoggles. Some of the monies even found their way into the statehood party's coffers, a routine donation along the lines of "Businessmen for Stupid Pedro."

Now let's get this straight: When you are the president of the party, the secretary-general is your real #2, the guy or gal who does the daily work that lets the party prez act all visionary or psycho or whatever. As party prez, you deal directly and constantly with the secretary-general and his or her actions are a direct reflection of party stances and politics, for which the prez is ultimately responsible. Can anyone honestly claim that what this person was doing was "unknown to me"?

A campaign manager is closer to his or her candidate than their spouse. If not, then you need a new campaign manager, because the campaign manager literally holds the candidate's entire political career in his or her hands. When you have the same campaign manager for four campaigns you are indicating, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that this person works very closely with you, sharing time and space in large quantities. Can anyone honestly claim that what this person was doing was "unknown to me"?

Stupid Pedro adamantly refuses to acknowledge that he is lying about what he knew or didn't know. So let's say he isn't lying. (Pardon Me while I note the passing of a flock of pigs overhead...) Then there's no other choice--no other option--than to declare Stupid Pedro stupid to the nth degree. Stupid to the max. Stupid and a day. Stupid beyond stupid. Because as the convictions mount up, as the sentences pile on years and years of penal servitude on the now dozens of associates Stupid Pedro was too stupid to acknowledge and too stupid to lead, there will come a day when Stupid Pedro will sit in a stupid courtroom and claim he was too stupid to know the deal and some unstupid judge is going to say: That's stupid, Pedro.

And Stupid Pedro will spend some stupid years wondering just how really, really stupid he is.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

03 November 2006

System Beatdown

My Thanks to Rebecca MacKinnon and Ethan Zuckerman of Global Voices Online for picking up another one of My posts.

Haven't done My "Jenius on the Street" (or "Jenius in the Mall") bit for a while. Decided to do it again because (a) I get a kick out of asking people questions that make their eyes go blank for several seconds and (b) the sales tax issue looms large.

So I went to several different places over a two-week period and asked owners of small businesses what they thought would happen with the sales tax. Of course, the initial reaction was negative, but I waited that out to uncover some interesting points:

---Compliance with reporting and paying the tax is already a bugaboo and will simply grow into a monster. Most of the business folks I spoke with operate with 1-4 persons, maxed out as it is. Toss into the mix a potential $5,000 fine for missing a report/payment deadline and you have the makings of major stress.

---Accountants will either have to lower their rates or face fierce competition in the form of software. One CPA butted into a group conversation on the subject and said that he didn't see why people were avoiding the use of accountants. The idiot (hang on: you'll see why) told us he had more clients now than before (at $120 an hour) and revealed he'd raised his rates because...of the sales tax. To business people, that was spitting in their coffee. The guy slunk away as the group turned against him.

And the competition? Software and either a computer or a mid-line cash register, to keep track of the taxes and print out a daily, weekly or monthly report. Oh, with automatic on-site or online backup. Put a package together like that for under $500 and you have thousands of clients ready to buy. Internet, anyone?

---From a former government auditor and retired CPA: The claims for inventory losses will reach near-record or record proportions in 2007. Simple: Buy 50 units of some expensive item, like PCs. Claim 4 were damaged. Sell the four PCs through "the back door," for cash. Take the deduction, take the cash...pure profit. Works very well with electronic items, furniture and some appliances. Another hint this is happening? Insurance claims will rise for a limited range of businesses and drop for the others. Why? Insurance companies investigate almost every claim, unlike the local Treasury Department, so people would rather pretend to take a loss on insurance while gaining in gray-market activities. I keep telling you, the sales tax is going to perfect the underground economy of Puerto Rico.

---Internet, anyone? I buy books like I have incipient bibliomania. I get a 20% discount at Borders, so a $10 book comes out (will come out) to $8.56. That's a 14.4% discount rate. But if I buy the book over the Web, I pay $7.88, with shipping, for the same book. (Your mileage may vary.) That's a 22.2% discount. Internet purchases are not taxable and if I switched to buying as much as I could over the Web and simply use local businesses for service, I'd save about $347-$378 a month.

But note:

1) I am not an avid consumer. The estimate above is based only on books, non-perishable household goods and office supplies.

2) The average family could save closer to $1,000 if they factor in clothing, toys, bulk food purchases, music and entertainment (DVDs). Oh, wait, many already factor in DVDs...on the gray market.

3) If We don't find ways to beat the system, the system will certainly beat Us. That is not hyperbole: it is fact. It is tragic and repulsive, but it is fact. A 7% sales tax on a $12,750 income (local average) is like a 14.5% sales tax on a $26,300 income, a general average for the States. Do you see any State slamming its people at 14.5%? Of course not. We're Number One!

---Bottom line: When small businesses get hammered, have more obstacles thrown in their way and are threatened by local forces rather than "global" ones, you can bet dollars to doughnuts that they will make themselves heard. Whether they can be organized into an effective tool for change remains to be seen, because the local Retailers Union (Centro Unido de Detallistas) has the leadership ability of slimy moss.

And the rest of Us? We'd better start cracking on kicking The Fools out. If We don't, We can expect more hammering between 2008 and 2012.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

01 November 2006

Virtual Escape

How much freedom do you really have if you have to remain in an untenable, disagreeable, humiliating and/or damaging situation?

Forget extremes: let's head for common. How much freedom do you have if you have to keep putting up with your job because you can't afford to quit?

I touched on this long ago, twice. I have a brief update: Nina eventually suffered a nervous breakdown, quit her job, lost her home and now lives with her mother. She is still deeply in debt and is pondering bankruptcy.

If Nina were simply an odd statistic, We could bypass this whole angst deal and simply continue with Our lives. But Nina has passed beyond statistic to metaphor: she has become a canary in a suffocating coal mine.

Nina made more money than the average Puerto Rican worker. She spent about average or slightly more, for though she was loaded with debt, it was all linked in some way to her salary, credit rating and other commitments. In essence, there are thousands of Ninas out there and thousands of Ninos, too.

But where Nina fell off the financial trolley to Hell was in not having a cash-based second income.

Nina didn't do odd jobs, sell retail, provide a service or deal with folks on a cash-only basis. Those of you who live here know exactly what I mean. Nina didn't "hustle" for that extra money, so she was taxed on what she earned and gouged to pieces by interest rates as subtle as a chainsaw to the jugular.

Nina made two mistakes: she played by the rules...and she played by their rules. She played by the sociocultural rules that say you must buy your way to happiness through instant gratification via things you don't really need. And she adhered to their rules that say you must stay within the system in order to support their game.

Now imagine what thousands of Ninas and Ninos will do when that game of theirs makes staying within the game an obviously stupid strategy. Will they be able to cut the fiendish addiction to buybuybuy? Of course not; there's simply too much pressure from keeping up with the Jimenez's.

So if cutting back isn't really an option, what remains? More cash. More untraceable, untaxable, unimpeded cash.

And here's a borderline non sequitur worth its weight in cash: Internet, anyone?

And some of you think I'm joking...

The Jenius Has Spoken.

30 October 2006

Three Cards from Kaleb

They are pinned to the freezer door by a series of magnetic items. One is a bottle opener, very much past its prime. They flutter slightly when the wind takes an easterly heading, something that doesn't happen very often.

These three folded sheets of paper are hand-drawn cards from My son, Kaleb, to Me. One says De: Kaleb, Para: Papi over a gift with a twirly "bow." Inside there's a race track with four cars flashing along. It seems his favorite car, Number 48, is in first place.

In an interesting reversal, the next card opens to the left and has the inscription Para: Papi, De: Kaleb on the front, over a gift with an even bigger twirly bow. Inside there's a truck, an amazingly long truck with smoke coming up beneath small clouds and a bright sun.

The third simply says Para: Papi and between this and the gift with a less twirly bow are four hearts. On the back there are 25 hearts, with one huge heart enclosing a medium-sized heart and 11 small ones, all this flanked by 12 medium ones. He knows hearts mean love. He told Me so.

Inside there's a sun wearing sunglasses, a small cloud that seems to be raining, a large truck, a small one and a box with legs, all of them traveling across a narrow two-lane road. Above the box, a twirly bow. The box's side has a scrawl, drawn harshly. And above the large truck, like a shout, is a massive skein of whirls, a wiry chaos that is so dark where everything else has been so light.

It seems obvious that his whirls express what he cannot--or will not--say. Thinking back to when I was the child of a divorce, I vividly remember the conflicted feelings, the overwhelming need to say something, but keeping quiet for fear of the unknown. And I was 12 at the time; Kaleb is merely 6.

Maybe I work too much, occasionally doing work when he's with Me because that's what We are used to doing, and I sometimes need to use "his" time to complete My goals. But now, even though We're together, instead of spending more time together later, We're faced with being separated. I try very hard to not have to work when Kaleb is here with Me, but Our future needs My time, too.

Maybe it's My conflict that he feels, My lack of balance that he picks up and somehow tries to manage. It isn't his and he truly cannot hope to deal well with it, but he tries so very hard. I know, because I tried so very hard, too, back in those dark days. And I can't remember succeeding.

Then again, he's growing up and facing greater challenges in school. Yet he handles those with aplomb, with panache, even, a sort of "aw shucks" shrug after another perfect score, another "Excellent", another glowing note from his teacher. Like Me, he'd rather be known for a first place in the 50-yard dash or throwing the farthest in the softball toss. That's My boy...and I worry as much as I feel pride.

Kaleb is not the perfect child, nor do I want him to be. He will have problems, he will face disappointments and he will occasionally, maybe even frequently, fail. That's Life. I'll be there for him every step of the way. But what I don't want is for him to take on burdens that are rightfully Mine, to feel the pain of My own failings in coming to terms with My new life. He has enough to handle without adding Me and Mine. It's natural for Me to always feel his pains and sufferings, but not so, I believe, for him to feel Mine.

And yet, all I can do is try to resolve whatever conflicts I might have, aware that the twirly bow and the chaotic skein are both degrees of caring from the loving heart of My little boy.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

27 October 2006

Out With the Lepers

The calm before the storm...

Sure, there are corruption cases, economic woes, social disasters and political idiocies gallivanting across the Isle of Enchanment, but overall, We're in a lull. One of those cyclical downturns in Our media's over-reliance and obvious addiction to innuendo, confusion, anxiety and hysteria.

But unlike most other fallow periods, this one feels ominous. The sales tax debacle looms but two and a half weeks away. The impact of this single-digit number will hit with a delayed reaction and We, staggering already under incompetence and pessimism, will feel the punch some weeks later. And when We do, it'll rock Our little world.

Does it have to be that way? Of course not, but Our options are extremely limited:

1) Can We absorb the tax itself within Our finances? No. A 7% tax on most consumer goods (except food, medicines and most vehicles) will still hit Us in too many other areas to be easily absorbed. Take schoolbooks, already obscenely overpriced: add 7% to them and you have an average impact of around $25.00 more per child. Private school, of course. Those parents already pay twice for schooling, so let's squeeze them a little more, right?

2) Can Our businesses take this in stride and regulate prices? No. As noted before, costs for nearly every business in Puerto Rico will go up, because those who must handle the tax burden will pass on the cost of doing so to those who don't. So even if a business is exempt from collecting the tax (and thus dealing with its monthly hassle), that business will still have to raise prices or rates to cover their own payments to those who deal directly with the tax.

3) Will the government make good use of these monies? Hell no. Even if you ask a simpler question, one with a much lower standard, such as Can the government try to make good use of the tax monies?, the answer is still "Hell no." The tax monies are not collected for any other reason except to increase the power of the government to control the Island's plunge into a wrecked future. You want proof?

---The Electronic Lottery monies were to be directed to the department of education. Has the department improved at all, despite the 13-16 million "targeted for technology" dollars it has received for the past several years? No. In fact, We're losing Federal grants due to Our simian performance.

---The tollbooth fares are targeted for road repair and maintenance. Said tolls were raised almost 50% in the past few years, and yet, the overall condition of Our roads has been steadily downgraded by the Federal Department of Transportation, despite an influx of almost $30 million a year.

Now it is true that $45 million are not going to solve any or even major problems in education and roadways. But they are supposed to achieve some semblance of progress, because they were created and designed for a specific goal. In both cases, the stated goals are like the Moon and the programs are barely reaching higher than a latrine.

Given this level of incompetence and indifference, what makes anyone think that The Fools will take hundreds of millions of dollars and actually do something worthy with them? They might make a mistake once in a while and actually nail a good move, but overall, they are incapable--and unwilling--to do what's right.

Oh, sure, they might say they want to do what's right and, in fact, they are being honest. For in saying "I want to do what's right," The Fool is speaking a partial Truth, a half-lie, if you will. For the complete Fool phrase is "I want to do what's right for me."

"That's politics for you," I can hear some of you say. You're wrong. That's like having leprosy and saying "That's life." For like leprosy, this kind of politics is revolting, tortuous and...curable. In Our modern time, leprosy no longer casts a horrid shadow on Our lives, for it can be treated and eliminated. In the past, lepers were outcast, ostracized, sent away to live out their existence away from the sight of "Us decent folks."

If We aren't going to cure the leprosy in Our own politics, then I suggest We go back to what worked in the past and send away these lepers, these hell-bound plungers of Our Future, to keep them away from Us decent folks.

The Jenius Has Spoken.