28 April 2006

Education is Important--Not!

Might as well keep beating the dead horse that is the current state of affairs in Puerto Rico...

As The Fools play at being something other than mobile bags of guano, the pseudo-fiscal crisis they have launched to entertain their obscene excuse for brains has created a seriously harmful result: Public schools have closed for the year.

And I'm ABSOLUTELY sure, more so than the fact that I am a Jenius, that none--NONE--of these walking sacks of steaming road apples really cares a damn about this.

Why should The Fools care? Their kids are in private schools.

Why should The Fools care? Education is a budgetary sumphole more attuned to spreading the wealth than spreading knowledge. Fewer classes means more money to grub with.

Why should The Fools care? Come election time, some 40% of the campaign and precinct workers so vital to getting their sorry asses elected will be teachers, no matter what The Fools may or may not have done for them. Teachers have the political memories of goldfish: five seconds and everything's new again

Why the hell should The Fools care when the teachers themselves are content to call it quits and get an extra month of vacation time?

Think I'm being unfair? Here's proof: The only budgetary shortfall was in salaries that have to be paid anyway, so teachers COULD have continued teaching while waiting to get paid in late May or early June.

Instead, what was the overwhelming and immediate reaction: No pay, no teaching. Taking a page from the demagoguery of The Fools, they made the issue "no pay", when IN FACT, it's really an issue of LATE pay. And for a group notoriously slow to get the job done, the teachers really moved freaking fast to get everything done in time for the early closing, didn't they?

Now The Jenius knows that there are many, many teachers who would rather continue to teach than have the school year end like this. But sadly, they are neither numerous enough nor willful enough to make a difference. It might be a case of majority rules, or a silent majority being dominated by an aggressive minority, but the end result is the same: The Fools don't care about education, and neither do teachers.

Now there's a thought to carry through the longer summer and into the next school year...

The Jenius Has Spoken.

27 April 2006

Terrorism in Puerto Rico

I believe it was local (out)house of (non)representatives (vice)president José Aponte who accused the invertebrate governor Aníbal Acevedo of using "psychological terrorism" to achieve political aims.

Aside from the ease with which the accusation could have been hurled in the other direction, let's look at this statement.

First, a definition: terrorism n. a psychological strategy of war for gaining political ends by deliberately creating a well-founded climate of fear among the civilian popuation.

Yes, I selected a definition that gibes well with this post. It favors Aponte, so I went with it. After all, I am a Jenius and he is nothing but a Fool; I can easily afford to be kind to My utter inferiors.

First of all, is Aponte right in calling the governor's actions and non-actions "psychological terrorism"? Yes, he is. (Surprised you, huh?) Look at the definition again and notice the key points:

---gaining political ends by...
---deliberately creating...
---a well-founded climate of fear...
---among the civilian population.

Seems pretty clear-cut to me. So yes, the Jellyfish in La Fortaleza is engaging in psychological terrorism. But as I implied above, so is the outhouse's grand high poopyhead. In the pot-calling-the-kettle-fashion, Aponte lashes out at Acevedo with an accusation that sticks to him like stink on...you know.

It is no secret that Aponte has led the resistance to Acevedo's proposals, publicly proclaiming these as political actions almost daily since January of 2005. So he is definitely guilty of seeking to gain political ends. And his actions, much as he would like to now pretend otherwise, have been just as or even more deliberate than the jellyfish's. (Acevedo inherited a collapsing system; he's mainly the wrong guy in the wrong place and the wrong time.) (And no, there is no "right" guy or gal in Puerto Rico at this point. That's part of the problem.)

As pointed out before, the climate of fear is pretty much genetic in Us, so calling it a climate is like calling diabetes a windstorm. And notice, all ye civilians, how remarkably serene The Fools act, not because of image, but because they know full well this is nothing--nothing--but a noisy game.

Psychological terrorism only works when the populace falls for the sound and fury of The Fools prancing about in spastic monkey screechings. Let Me finally quote The Bard here: "...it is a tale, Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, Signifying nothing."

The Jenius Has Spoken.

26 April 2006


When The Jenius was a wee lad, He was introduced to the schoolyard game of "Chicken". Two boys, two bikes and they ride slam-bang towards each other until one veers off, thus becoming the "chicken". After two "chicken outs", The Jenius decided that ramming was better than getting rammed or sneered at, so He began riding through His opponents...who quickly learned not to play "chicken" with The Jenius anymore.

My bike lasted a couple of months before becoming scrap metal. In the few weeks "Chicken" dominated Our playtime, I wrecked the bikes of about 10-11 kids. Aside from minor scrapes and bruises, We didn't get hurt very much. But Our bikes...

The current political crisis in Puerto Rico--with threats of a government closure--are nothing, and I REPEAT, nothing but a game of "Chicken"...and We're the bikes.

Let's cover a few points here:

1) Except for the fanatically blind partisans (of which We have so many), the obstacle in this made-up "crisis" is clear: legislators. That the invertebrate governor We have (okay, Aníbal Acevedo is his name) is also to blame is not denied, but the bottom line is that the money issue is being held up by the legislators.

2) There is no real lack of money. What is lacking is a sense of decency and responsibility by The Fools in government. In order to pursue a solely political agenda, they have created a false economic "crisis" and continue to pursue it for solely political goals.

3) Recent history shows what the result will be: Back when Newt Gingrich and his Republican majority were riding high on President Bill Clinton, the politically-savvy Clinton threw down the gauntlet of closing the Federal government unless his budget proposal was approved. (Same situation here, folks, but with dumber Fools.) End result? Government shutdown, Newt's meteoric rise crashing to earth and Clinton's popularity--and thus influence--surging to new heights. Because in this politically-motivated "economic" crisis, the bad guys are always the ones who deny the money. And even a spineless nebbish like Our governor has figured that out. (Problem is, he lacks charisma, emotional intelligence and will. Other than that, he's okay.)

4) The legislators charged at the governor in a new game of "Chicken". Because he had no choice left, the governor decided to close his eyes, grab the handlebars and ride straight at whatever would happen. From Sun Tzu to The Jenius to Bill Clinton, the truism holds: full commitment is a powerful weapon. The legislators, too feeble-minded in their nature and political whirlwind to peer more than 11 minutes into the future, are going to have to veer off and let the governor ride through. If they clash, they lose, for as I said before, they are the one denying the money. The legislators have no choice but to give in. And when the solution to a crisis is obvious and must be implemented, there is no crisis, only rhetoric.

Close the goverment? Go ahead. Maybe that will wake up the masses who act more like bikes than thinking beings. But it won't come to that, for The Fools know their vampiric link to public monies could be taken from them if they so openly take the monies from the public's pockets. However, unlike My games of "Chicken", the bikes in this one seem to never run out.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

25 April 2006

The Wolf Fire is Falling!

At 1:04 P.M., I drove by an empty gas station and decided to pull into it later as I left My post-lunch meeting.

At 2:21 P.M., that same gas station and nine more along My route were jam-packed with cars lining up, even extending the lines out onto traffic. In two cases, police were stationed (pun intended) around the newly-created traffic jams to help increase the overall level of stress.

What happened in those 77 minutes? A rumor. A freaking rumor in this fucking carnival of empty-headed blather hyperamped to the max by Fools without the brains to fill a gnat's ass, media maggots who wished they were as smart as Fools and a population too lazy to think their way into the faintest shimmer of rationality.

The trigger, according to media maggots? An e-mail rumor that truckers would go on strike and stop delivering gas and--BAM!--sudden panic. People screeching U-turns to get into line just to buy a half-tank of gas because IT'S GOING TO RUN OUT!! A stampede as the highest expression of Our god-forsaken herd mentality.

Happens too when a hurricane scare heads Our way: people buying 72 four-packs of toilet paper because IT'S GOING TO RUN OUT!! As I told a woman in a supermarket last year (nowhere near My finest moment, I agree), unless you're buying for an old folks' home or you have the worst case of diarrhea known to medical science, buying 72 packages of toilet paper is idiocy. She cleaned out the supermarket and what happened? I WATCHED as several other people rushed to a store nearby and bought several DOZEN packages themselves. Stupidity as contagious as a virus.

What does this sudden need--yes, need--for panic say about Us? Simple: that We have no confidence in each other. None. If you scratch past the surface of Our society, you'll uncover a snarling mass of insecurities aimed specifically at each other.

We simply don't trust each other. We don't think We're really a community that can come together in times of need. When it comes to helping others, We'd much rather help someone We don't know than Our own neighbors. We live in a zero-sum world called the Island of Enchantment and We almost-proudly ignore anything anybody says that can help Us change. Now let any barely verbal shit-for-brains say anything like "Wolf!", "Fire!" or "The sky is falling!" and We're all over THAT like flies on...you know.

Now sometimes, there is a wolf or a fire. But all it takes is a little thoughtful action to determine whether there actually is a wolf or fire behind every call. The fables are right: frequent "alarms" must eventually be ignored, for the majority are invariably false. And as for the sky falling, that's never happened, never will and in any case, isn't that just so easy to check out?

If the problem is consistent and persistent, the solution is to stop calling out alarms and start doing something about the problem. Imagine that! The Fools can't.

And it would seem impossible to most of Us. Better to panic first, then wonder if the money spent was worth it. Maybe that's it: We just love the idea of having another reason to go shopping.

I'm going for a walk now. Maybe I'll see a wolf. Or set a fire.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

24 April 2006

One Long Drive

It's a 2-hour drive from Kaleb to where I'm living now. A four hour round trip. This time, the drive to see him also meant the divorce hearing was due.

The hearing happened Thursday morning, a mini-drama in a bubble of its own importance. No one else seemed to notice, or care, what was ending in that courtroom. A judge, a lawyer, a court recorder, my now ex-wife and Me, the only man in the mini-drama. I didn't notice then because it didn't matter.

It was civil, restrained, almost catatonic in its dull routine. Nothing like the worst of My behavior, but it felt nearly as bad.

When asked if she still wanted the divorce, My then-wife said "Yes" without hesitation. When I was asked the same question, I thought I'd hesitate, but didn't. The moment ended, We were called before the judge and she dissolved what was gone already.

I remember thinking the last time We were in front of a judge, We were under the bluest skies at the base of a lighthouse, surrounded by family and friends.

We walked out of the courtroom and stopped in the cafeteria for coffee. We made plans for the next few days: who'd pick up Kaleb at school, Saturday activities, a couple of things to fix at her new house...conversation instead of strained silence. The coffee was too hot and people kept staring at Us as they had a late breakfast or an early lunch. Maybe it was just My imagination.

We drove off in separate directions. The following days were muted, as if pastel were the brightest hue possible. Sunday night, I started My long drive back. I knew then I would move back close to Kaleb in about two weeks. He was happy about that, though still disconcerted about the "separate houses." I thought about that day 'neath the lighthouse's minimal shadow, the sun rising, the clouds drifting in, two quietly confident "I dos" to the lady judge's questions. They sounded very much like the two "Yesses" another judge heard almost seven years later.

I noticed the road lights sparkling, the details of the road becoming hazy, swimming colors that finally seemed bright. The car rolled on, time lingered around Me, the long drive drying a couple of small tears.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

21 April 2006

Survey Time Again

On a boring day in March, I asked some 20 people a short series of questions. On another boring Saturday in April, I figured I'd repeat the experiment.

This time, I chose a different shopping center and a different topic, without any "catch-point" question. I simply wanted to discuss a topic that occupies a lot of My thoughts.

Probably significant, a total of 34 persons answered and talked with Me. Only a handful seemed uncomfortable and most were philosophical, though in ways meant to excuse rather than illuminate.

My first question to random strangers was "What did you learn yesterday?" (I nixed saying "today" to avoid the fairly-obvious reply "Nothing yet.") Not surprisingly, 22 people immediately replied "Nothing." At first, I quickly asked "Are you sure?", but I figured silence would work better and it did. Prompted thusly, a list would emerge, usually of about 3 items, in halting fashion. Answers ranged from "how to wash clothes" to "what I will do when I retire" and from "that I love my sister" to "my church needs a better pastor."

Many of the answers were the result of hard thought, prompting some quips of "You're making me work!" If the person could come up with one answer and I kept quiet, (not exactly an automatic option), the person would continue thinking and come up with 2-3 more. About half the time, we'd discuss their first or second answer and I noticed these conversations flowed easily.

My second question elicited a different type and level of response: "What did you teach yesterday?" This one drew blank stares more often than not, some of them going on for almost a minute. Most people would repeat the word "teach" as if encountering it for the first time. Less than half of the 31 (see below) gave Me an answer and none gave Me more than one answer. The few conversations We had about these answers were tentative, as if We were walking through a heavily-furnished room in total darkness.

Three men I approached adamantly refused to answer My first question, the three acting in exactly the same fashion: they turned their back while simultaneously throwing their right hand up in the air and saying "I learned nothing!" Must be a dance step. (Some would call it "The Jenius Turndown".) Might be significant: these three men were by far the unhappiest-looking of My survey group.

A large number of these people seemed embarrassed by how little they'd learned or taught, more because they really hadn't thought about learning or teaching as a daily activity except for those in school. (The word "school" came up almost exclusively when the person was trying to explain why he or she wasn't learning.) As for being teachers, every time I used the word "example" (as in "Be an example") I got a Charles Barkley-like rejection of the idea that the person was or could be an example. As far as I know, everybody I spoke to about this was a parent. Makes one wonder...

Did I learn anything? Yes. Learning is like liberty: We pay lip-service to its importance, but We do little as a whole to keep it alive. As for teaching, that's more like Duty: We recognize it exists and encourage it in others, but not in Ourselves.

I noticed a couple of days later that no one asked Me why I was asking these questions. (I got that a couple of times in My first effort.) I'm still not sure what to make of that.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

20 April 2006

Make Mine a $Million Business

Despite advances in attitudes, laws, economics and societal mores, women are still marginalized in the business world. It isn't as bad as it used to be, but around the world, it may be getting worse.

But rather than click Our tongues about the rest of the world, We can focus right here, exactly what Make Mine a $Million Business is doing. Not lip service: lip-sticking. (Yvonne doesn't mind Me borrowing her term...I hope...)

There's three tiers of support here:

1) A campaign to pledge your business to achieving a million dollars in revenue by 2010. Nothing like public commitment to a shared goal to galvanize efforts.

2) A business community aimed at breaking new ground in providing support to its members by encouraging diversity, focusing on personal development and thus expanding support beyond business issues.

3) The acceptance that women will be--are!--the center of change.

Drop by the website and take a look around. The Jenius is betting that the future of business growth is right in front of you at that moment. If you'll allow Me an analogy: when cells are separate, they compete; when they unite into one entity, they cannot simply compete, but must cooperate. The global village increasingly frowns on competition, and who knows more about cooperating through difficult times: men or women?

Case closed.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

19 April 2006

What We Can Do

Just as The Jenius is struggling to put a framework on an entire series of related-but-apparently-random thoughts, the powerful eye and mind of Dave Pollard are already mapping the territory. In what is an amazing post, worthy of being reprinted in as many forums as possible, Dave gathers together what We can do to actually make a difference.

For simplicity, I have listed the actions, but the true value of Dave's post can only be experienced by directly reading it. The actions list makes you see a path: the essay will open your mind to a brighter, more personal, future.

Two years ago I put together a set of 15 actions that anyone can take to help create a new relater-sharer culture, a new, sustainable, collaborative and egalitarian economy and a new, responsible political system. I thought it would be useful to integrate this 'what you can do' list with actions that I have argued need to be done either as top-down political actions (institutional changes to public policies, programs and laws), or as peer-to-peer grassroots collective actions. To do so, I have regrouped the 15 actions into four categories:

* Personal learning and preparedness actions (things you do alone)
* Personal actions you do one-on-one (exemplary actions that show the way for others by example)
* Personal actions you do as part of community (collective actions)
* Personal actions you do to bring about high-level political and economic reform

The result is summarized in the above diagram. Here is an explanation of the 15 actions, sorted by category:

Personal Learning and Preparedness Actions:
. Learn and Practice Critical Thinking
. Re-Learn How to Imagine
. Reconnect With Your Senses and Instincts
. Be Good to Yourself

Personal Actions You Do One-on-One:
. Listen, Learn, and Teach Others
. Volunteer
. Stop at One and Encourage Others to Do Likewise
. Be a Role Model
. Infect Others With Your Spirit and Passion

Personal Actions You Do As Part of Community:
. Share Your Expertise & Knowledge
. Find and Do Meaningful Work
. Use Less Stuff
. Become Less Dependent
. Pioneer

Personal Actions You Do to Bring About High-Level Political and Economic Reform:
. Become an Activist

Dave is no cockeyed optimist, nor is he a doomsday herald. He is a rock-solid realist who wants to make a better world. For many reasons, that's the best description The Jenius could ever give...or hope to receive.

The Jenius Has Quoted.

18 April 2006

Four Themes

I've been talking to some young entrepreneurs lately, and I found Myself coming back to four themes. Here they are:

1) Don't go into business solely for the money. Yeah, yeah, yeah, if it doesn't make money it won't last long and yada yada yada. True. But to launch a business or to start a company is a huge undertaking. To make it through the hard times--which are often harder than you can ever imagine--takes passion. If you lack passion for the idea beyond the money, you are heading down the wrong path. If greed is your only motivator, when push comes to shove, it will be your only guide and you will fail.

2) Aim for great ideas and good execution. All too often, I encounter good ideas and the desire for great execution. What happens then is that the idea doesn't generate enough excitement and the ponderous weight of trying to be perfect stifles real progress. Better to work hard at polishing an idea until it's great and then executing well as quickly as possible.

3) Improvement is a constant. You'd think that in this global environment of competitiveness, the constant striving for a business advantage would be automatic. It isn't. Human nature being what it is, We get complacent. More than that, We seek complacency. Taking the opposite tack separates the big winners from the so-sos...and the losers.

4) Find the people than can make a positive difference. Many entrepreneurs have a "go it alone" mentality. Wrong. Business is about relationships, which obviously implies that "going it alone" is a formula for failure. On the other hand, not everyone is a positive influence for you or your business. It is eminently better to create a small group of top-notch people as your team (your team includes partners, employees, suppliers, customers and other allies) than a big group of nobodies. And yes, the idea of a small group of customers being better than a big group of nobodies is hard to fathom...until you realize that customers buy from you and nobodies don't.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

17 April 2006

The Gil Schmidt Index

If you Google “Gil C. Schmidt” (and you do, right?), every result that appears refers to Me. However, I often go by just “Gil Schmidt” and if you Google that, you get—well—a mixed bag of results. So in order to straighten out the mess Google makes of this very important topic, here’s The Official Gil Schmidt Index:

Page 1:
“Gil The Jenius” listed first and second. How entertaining for Me. Must be wonderful for you, too.

The “Gil Schmidt” site is not Me, but note that this Gil Schmidt has “0 friends.” I can hear some people saying: Must be genetic.

Oh. My. Aching. Head. There’s an elected official, a constable no less, in Louisiana named Gil Schmidt. Even worse: this Gil is a Republican. His picture is available, so you can confirm it isn’t—it can’t be—Me.

How the blue blazes does one go from “Charles” to “Gil”? That’s just plain wrong. Then again, “Charles” means “manly, strong” so the connection is damn obvious. (Then again, Google “meaning gil” and this is result #1 and this is NON-result #4. I’m going to moan softly now.)

Jim O’Malley mentions Me, as does Kevin Shockey. Smart men. Maybe even Jeniuses.

And that Short Story Contest winner? Yeah, that’s Me. Allow Me to point out that I won two years in a row…

An emergency surgeon? Could have been, for I was interested in trauma surgery back when I was GCSPrank. But no, this Gil Schmidt is one of My other-dimensional aspects.

Page 2:
That Constable again! Call him at 800-675-1368 and tell him something constably.

You can see a different picture, goofy and grainy, of Gil Schmidt…but thankfully, it ain’t Me either.

The professor? Not Me. (But I had the hots for Mary Ann…)

“Gil Schmidt Cruz”? That’s Me. Good article, though dated.

Something about a Hash tree in Wikipedia—not Me. Hash tree?! And apparently the same guy did IconHandler. Appropriate as The Jenius reaches iconic status…

Global Voices quote? Me.

Gil Schmidt as a Psy. D.? I’d rather be a Republican Constable in the Deep South.

GilBob.com? Puh-lease.

Page 3:
Gil Schmidt as Winnetka Golf Crew leader: they also serve who mow and rake. Tim Schmidt is the Tennis Manager. Stinks of nepotism.

Another Dr. Gil Schmidt, this one a V.P. of Academic Affairs. I’d rather be a Psy. D.

The Colerain Alumni Association has Schmidts coming out of their wazoo, none of whom are Me.

Manning’s Eclipse in Action? Me and I’m damn proud of that project.

Hmmm…seems Charles “Gil” Schmidt moves around a lot…

Gil Schmidt owns (owned?) a Cold Stone Creamery in Arizona. I wonder if I’d get free eats, what with sharing the owner’s name and all?

How the hell does one of My articles end up on something called life(over IP) merits a Congressional investigation. Maybe the constable can do something about this travesty. I may need that Psy. D. after all. Or someone's gonna need that emergency surgeon.

Okay, since most people don’t go past three pages of results, I’ll cut this Index short of its 11 fascinating pages. But you might want to check out Page 4 (Lip-sticking and Wallo World), how I’m not the Indians coach on Page 6, how I’m not the Napa wrestling coach on Page 7 and the Mount Kilimanjaro pics of the emergency surgeon on Page 8.

The Jenius is glad We had so much fun doing this!!

The Jenius Has Spoken.

14 April 2006

Haiku For Me

Haiku is a Japanese poetic form of 17 syllables, divided into three verses in 5-7-5 form. Traditionally, it was used to evoke a feeling, emotion or memory of Nature through the use of indirect imagery and is one of many short-poem forms popular since the 9th century.

Haiku as a writing form has proliferated in the past two decades and the Internet is filled with hundreds of sites about haiku. From the gloriously fragile (even when translated!) haiku of Basho to the modern output, the form has often contained deepest emotion.

The following 13 haiku are My own. I've written about 25 over the years, in a total of seven writing sessions. I initially used them as experiments, but these came from a deeper well, one burdened by the darkest days of My life. For reasons I still don't know--probably never will--I sat at My computer one night and wrote the first four haiku. I thought nothing of it, as I thought nothing of anything about Me at the time.

The next night, almost at the exact same hour, I wrote four more. There was a slight stirring in Me about this.

The third night, I sat down at the exact same time and to My surprise, five haiku emerged, not four. At the moment I wrote the last line, whatever spell I was under or in ended. Although My travail was to last many more months, over time I came to pinpoint that last line as the moment My eventual return to Me--to My feeling of Life--began.

Writing has always been My way, My path if I may continue to borrow zen-like terms. Maybe these haiku fade from memory; maybe they allow Me to share another's burden. I may never know that, and I'm pleased to realize I don't need to. I am content to know they mean much to Me and that they will always stand like glowing pebbles through My long dark night.

Say the softest words.
Hear the loudest silences.
There lies all wisdom.

-----18 Feb. 2002

My armor is strong,
Shards of hatred, set within,
My softness trembles.

-----18 Feb. 2002

My bowl stays empty;
Efforts melt in setting suns.
I scream emptiness.

-----18 Feb. 2002

Aimless, unguided…
The tide of hope swells and fades...
No answer is found.

-----18 Feb. 2002

No end to struggle,
No breaking of unknown chains,
Struggle to no end.

-----19 Feb. 2002

What’s past is present.
Wrapped in now’s fruitless worry.
What’s past never heals.

-----19 Feb. 2002

Is this love I feel?
Can it warm where I am cold?
Do I feel a lie?

-----19 Feb. 2002

Time flows; liquid pain,
Despair ghosts my every step,
Nearing agony.

-----19 Feb. 2002

Bereft of myself,
Empty cup of solid pain
Now overflowing.

-----20 Feb. 2002

Choose no destiny,
Abandon yourself to winds,
Regret is thy port.

-----20 Feb. 2002

You create yourself
In your very own image.
Is there a question?

-----20 Feb. 2002

Find one splendid strand
Amidst thy tangled raiment
Weave thy newest robe.

-----20 Feb. 2002

A lack of blessings:
Neither Nature nor a god,
Simply look within…

-----20 Feb. 2002

The Jenius Has Spoken.

13 April 2006

Goal: World's Best 10K

[Okay, another brief, but bitter, aside: Why is The Jenius the 6th MSN Search result for "fashions for large bellied women"? Curse you, Microsoft!]

I will run The World's Best 10K next year, set for February 25th, 2007, and in doing so, I will raise at least $10,000 for educational purposes.

Let Me point out, I have never run 10,000 meters at one time. I may have run more than that in My college summertime of 8 hours of sport a day, and I used to run 3.2 kilometers (2 miles) three times a week in Tae Kwon Do class, but to run 3 times that distance, a week's worth of class-based running in one day, is definitely a challenge.

Also let Me point out, I hate running just for running's sake. My angle on this is that 500 feet is enough to run out a home run or score a touchdown, so if for any other reason I have to run more than 500 feet, then I either give them My money or let it bite Me.

So why am I going to do this? The challenge. The chance to make a difference. The potential glory of success. The possibility of failure. The chance to run across a bridge twice, just because it's there.

I'm going for a record, a personal one, but also one that The Jenius hopes will be imitated by others who also wish to make a difference in their own way. As a starting point for My preparation, here's some sage advice I endeavor to follow:

1. Set your performance goal well in advance, and tell someone else. The goal should represent a realistic extension of your abilities. Putting the goal "on the record" early does two things. First, it gives you time to prepare thoroughly. Second, by telling someone else, you COMMIT yourself to the task ahead in a concrete way, not just as wishful thinking. This is important those days when NOT TRAINING would be a very easy alternative, or when the intervals [training runs] are really starting to hurt.

2. Choose a time and date for the record attempt. It might not happen that day, but by stamping a time on the goal, you create a point to work back from and design your training program around. Get it right and the peak in performance capacity will carry through several weeks and more than one attempt if something unforeseen happens, like a downpour on race day.

These suggestions come from an article about Haile Gabrselassie's goal to regain the 10,000 meter world record. The suggestions made sense to Me: Commit early and in public. Plan. Push hard. Prepare for your best, expect the unexpected and be flexible.

I hope Kaleb, My son, will see Me run that day. I expect to fulfill My time goal and raise the money (based on pledges of "X dollars per minute under the target time".) And if My amazing friend Don Muchow would run with Me that day, I'd be triply-blessed.

February 25th, 2007. I'll be ready.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

12 April 2006

10 Mistakes Of The Newly Self-Employed

From Steve Pavlina's increasingly-impressive blog, a post all of Us should read. Here it is in excerpted form, but the whole article has much more gold to be mined.

10 Stupid Mistakes Made by the Newly Self-Employed

1. Selling to the wrong people.

...Selling to the wrong people includes trying to sell to everyone...Feel free to say no to customers that are more trouble than they’re worth...Don’t network with random people just because you think you’re supposed to network...Learn to say no to the weak opportunities so you have the capacity to say yes to the golden opportunities.

2. Spending too much money.

Until you have a steady cashflow coming in, don’t spend your precious start-up cash unless it’s absolutely necessary...I soon learned that every dollar invested in the business was another dollar that eventually had to be recouped from sales...Your business should put cash into your pocket, so before you “invest” money into it, be clear on how you’re going to pull that cash back out again.

3. Spending too little money.

Don’t let frugality get in the way of efficiency. Take advantage of skilled contractors who can do certain tasks more efficiently than you can. Buy decent equipment when it’s clear you’ll get your money’s worth.

It takes time to develop the wisdom to know when you’re being too tight or too loose with your cash, so if you’re just starting out, get a second opinion...If you can’t justify the expenditure to someone you respect, it’s probably a mistake. On the other hand, there are situations where it’s hard to justify not spending the cash.

4. Putting on a fake front.

There’s nothing wrong with a one-person business, especially today...It’s perfectly OK to refer to your business as an "I" when you’re the only one working in it...Promoting yourself as an "I" may even be an advantage today, since people will know the buck stops with you, and if you make a promise, you’re the one who will carry it out...If you’re so desperate for business that you need to lie, you shouldn’t be starting your own business. If you can’t provide real value and charge fairly for it, don’t play the game of business. Develop your skills a bit more first.

5. Assuming a signed contract will be honored.

A signed contract is just a piece of paper. What’s behind a signed contract is a relationship. If the relationship goes sour, the contract won’t save you. The purpose of a contract is to clearly define everyone’s roles and commitments. But it’s the relationship, not the paper, that ultimately enforces those commitments. When I understood this, I focused more on relationships and worried less about what was on paper, and my business deals went much more smoothly. Once you start falling back on the paper, the deal is already in trouble...Keep your business relationships in good order, and you won’t have to worry so much about what’s on paper.

6. Going against your intuition.

While you might think that logic is the language of business, that’s far from reality. If you base all your business deals on hard logic and ignore your intuition, most likely you’ll be in for a world of hurt...Intuition is a critical part of the decision-making process in business. Since business deals depend on relationships, you need to get a read on the other people involved in any deal you consider. If you get a bad read, walk away. If you get a good read, proceed with caution.

7. Being too formal.

In some settings a certain degree of formality is appropriate, but in most business situations being too formal only gets in the way. Business relationships work best when there’s a decent human-to-human connection behind them...Treat your business relationships like friendships (or potential friendships). Formality puts up walls, and walls don’t foster good business relationships...Formality is boring and tedious. People want to enjoy their work. If someone addresses me like a computer, I’ll respond in kind — by hitting delete. But if someone demonstrates they have a real personality and a good sense of humor, a connection is far more likely.

8. Sacrificing your personality quirks.

It’s perfectly OK to be your own weird self and to inject your own unique spirit into your business, especially if you’re in your teens or 20s. Don’t be afraid to be more like Steve Jobs… and less like Steve Ballmer. Don’t pretend to be something you’re not. Ultimately you’ll enjoy your work much more if you attract the kinds of customers and partners that want to work with you for who you are — warts and all. Send the people who only want to work with androids to your corporate competitors. They deserve each other...If other people can’t handle your weirdness, too bad for them. Focus your energy on the people who can.

9. Failing to focus on value creation.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that the purpose of a business is to make money. But the real purpose of a business is to create value. While it’s possible to make money in the short run without creating much value, in the long run it’s unsustainable...Why does your business exist? It exists to provide some sort of value, both for you and your customers. The better you understand what value you’re trying to provide, the better you’ll be able to focus...The world doesn’t need more selling or more stuff. But it always needs and wants genuine value creation, and that’s where you should direct your efforts.

10. Failing to optimize.

Although value creation is essential to a sustainable business, it’s equally naive to assume you can simply focus on creating value, and the rest will take care of itself. You may build a business that provides good value but loses money...Just don’t let yours stay that way...Once you have a particular business process in place, pull it apart and re-optimize it from time to time. Look for ways to make it more efficient. Can you get it done in less time? At less cost? Can you do it less frequently? Can you outsource it? Can you dump the process altogether?...If you find yourself doing the same repetitive tasks month after month, make sure you put some effort into optimizing them. Not optimizing is like throwing time and money down the drain. It’s often much easier to save time and money than it is to create them...More money means more resources for ongoing value creation. So value creation and optimization go hand-in-hand.

The Jenius Has Quoted.

11 April 2006

Nobility Lost

nobility: n. 2) the quality of elevation of mind and exaltation of character or ideals or conduct.

I came to the word honestly: an elderly gentleman, prefacing his remark by saying he never made this kind of comment, said I was "an example of nobility that foretells a good future."

From his vantage point of nearly 80 years' experience, his words carry weight. (That they are complimentary to Me also carries weight. But I digress...) What was so moving about his comment was the simple fact that to him--to many of Us--nobility is no longer common.

Of course, the word itself has a meaning if exclusivity, usually granted by birth or inheritance. In these democratic days of political correcteness, infused by the spirit or malice of individualism, such thoughts are classified as harmful, prejudiced or obscenely biased. But nobility also evolved to mean a kind of behavior, a social standard, a code of ethics and conduct that exemplified the highest ideals.

Is that so bad? Is striving for and acting according to high ideals something We must eschew in order to "be Ourselves"? Or are We just settling for less simply because settling for less is so "liberating"?

You know the answer, even if you refuse to admit how much of it applies to you. Nobility is a bad word precisely because it reminds Us of what We should be, but have turned Our backs on. We expect less of Ourselves, expect less of others (or demand more of others in hypocritical fashion) and thus accept the world is going to hell around Us...but it ain't Our fault!

Yes it is. We shape the world around Us, whether We choose to acknowledge that fact or not. "Settling for less" is not and never has been the formula for success, but that's the formula that permeates the world We live in.

And lest you think The Jenius is riding a high horse, let Me point out that the gentleman's remark, on a strictly personal level, was based on a couple of hours in My presence; the real proof of his observation is largely yet to come. But his observation on a general level is accurate from even before he uttered it: "Nobility foretells a good future."

And you may have heard this one before: the choice is Yours.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

10 April 2006

Single Parents, Doubled Stress

Yes, the local Department of Transportation is trying to raise money by making up fines. James O'Malley, El Gringoqueño, brought this to My attention a month ago and now The Jenius' bogus fines--$270 worth--have appeared in the mailbox...

Yes, outhouse of representatives vice-president José Aponte is suggesting that employees in positions of trust (essentially hired at whim) be fired to save money so other goverment employees--such as teachers, police personnel and health workers--can get paid. Aponte is a Fool: no one will take that offer seriously and even if they did, there isn't enough money there to make any progress in the current fiscal debacle. He's basically making noise, like a hyena at dusk...

But no, the government doesn't give a hyena's butt who gets hurt in the so-called tax reform. Once again, single-parent households--usually headed by women--are going to feel an additional crunch in daily living.

For one, these households make up a hefty percentage of Our population, with estimates of between 28-32%. That nearly one-third of Our people are to be hammered by taxation is repulsive. (Future topic: Taxes are theft, pure and simple.) That no one seems to care is even worse.

A single parent who works outside the home must pay double for education and child care, for as the extended family has disappeared in Puerto Rico, the options for trustworthy child care have moved from "home" to "business". Since public schools often have shortened schedules and a blizzard of days off unrelated to any holidays, the single parent has to pay for private schools and extended in-school care. Either that or break up their work schedule to manage child care; essentially relegating themselves to part-time work which seldom pays as well as full-time work.

Toss in the bewildering array of government-imposed hoop-hops We encounter with increasing frequency and you have a parent giving up sick days and even holidays to deal with their children's basic issues. To add additional taxes for consumption (single-parent households dine out more often, for example) and reduced deductions for being single, for transportation and for educational expenses and you have an agonizingly unfair situation getting worse.

Don't give Me vapid "reasons", such as, "No one forced them to have children, or get a divorce." How the single-parent household comes about is not the issue: that a large percentage of Our families, of Our children, are being trapped by The Fools is. Taxes are inherently unfair; to lower that axe on a particularly vulnerable segment of Our People is criminal.

Short of fixing "everything", what can be done?

1) Increase the deduction per child for single-parent households.

2) Establish a serious and consistent After-School Program, from 2:30 to 6:00 P.M., in all public schools, so that single-parents can work full-time and feel that their children are safe. (Everyone benefits from this one if the Program is set-up and run as a non-profit business.)

3) Make flex-time a worker's right. Again, everybody benefits. (Hell, if the government can offer it, private industry should too.)

4) Grant tax breaks to companies that establish day-care or education-based centers for their employees, even if it's done by a group of companies. That way, more companies can help create a better work environment for all parents.

And let's not obscure a central issue here: The majority of single-parent households are run by women, with limited support by ex-husbands and society as a whole. Why The Fools of the distaff side haven't jumped upon this matter is simply evidence that they--despite their gender--are Fools twice over, for supporting legalized theft and tossing ashes on their betters.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

07 April 2006

8 Questions, 7 Definite Answers

Is governor Aníbal Acevedo Vilá growing a backbone?
In his recent budget presentation speech to the legislature, Acevedo openly criticized Pedro "I'm Ali Baba, Meet My 40 Thieves" Rosselló, causing a hissy-fit exit by his supporters and brazenly urged the (out)House vice-president to help him move towards progress. Gutsy move, with good tactical savvy behind it, as it places the incompetence of the legislature in a more exposed position than the governor's incompetence. Growing a backbone? Let's call it an embryonic notochord and keep it under observation.

Is Pedro Rosselló the "cancer" throttling Puerto Rico?
No, but he is the worst expression of it. This walking sack of road apples serves no positive purpose and the more he struggles with his own vapidity, the more obvious it becomes that he is simply trying to find a way to cover up his past. But as sorry a waste of DNA as he is, he merely symbolizes the festering decline of leadership in Puerto Rico, as well as a lack of moral fiber in those who pretend to act for the good of the nation. The real cause of Puerto Rico's near-comatose existence is indifference to Us, relegated to a back seat behind "Me first."

Is the 7% tax going to be approved?
Puh-lease, ask Me a hard one. Of course it will be, despite Rosselló's schizoid-autistic insistence in pushing a 4% tax (for reasons very much like the ones The Jenius described.) The mayors who don't have a municipal tax (76 of 78 at this point) lust after one, so they get the cash without the blame. We need a tax to balance seven decades of fiscal malfeasance (five of them during Roselló's two terms) and the lame-duck governor wants a coalition of mayors to help him pressure the legislature. Remember, The Jenius already knows Acevedo sees himself as a loser in 2008.

Will the government run out of money?
No. The economic and social disruption of 160,000 government employees not receiving their paycheck is a Katrina-like disaster. Add to that the curious number of people who would receive a paycheck and you have a tsunami added to the mix. Because you see, the government employs over 240,000 people: the ones who would not get paid include teachers, policemen, sanitation workers and the agency drones who punch a time-clock. The ones who would get paid would be legislators, department heads and other "higher ranking" Fools. Do you honestly think that The Fools would undermine their entire crapfest by alienating to the nth degree the very backbone of the local consumer economy? The money will appear: all that's left to determine is how big the fight will be over who gets the glory and who gets the blame. That should last until 2008.

Will Puerto Rico's bonds drop to junk status?
Yes, for perverted reasons. To the governor, who knows he's cooked for '08, the drop in rating would help propel his message of "Things have to change." To the opposition, it would add further embarrassment to a candidate already considered flabby, limp and lacking intestinal fortitude. It would also help statehooders "push" the idea of statehood under the guise of "fiscal crisis Uncle Sam could help Us fix," ignoring how Uncle Sam let New York City, New Jersey and other American cities and States take the dive anyway. And finally, 98% of Our People don't give a rat's nether regions about Our bond rating.

Will a third party "save" Puerto Rico?
From The Information Soldier, The Jenius learned of Benny Frankie Cerezo's idea of forming a third party that would present only candidates to the Legislature. I like the idea, for it emphasizes that throwing the fecal matter out of the outhouse is always a good way to clean the place up. However, no third party will be formed, so no "saving" will take place. And note I insist on calling it a "third" party, not a fourth: My intention is to severely irritate independentistas who can't qualify their party even after all the help they've gotten from the F.B.I.

Will the local Department of Education actually achieve total Internet access this summer?
There's a better chance of Satan appearing in the Vatican and selling Viagra to the cardinals.

Will the current labor strife lessen to normalcy or grow?
It will grow. Verizon's sale will lead to layoffs and cut-rate employee buyouts: more stress. The Power and Water Authorities will face greater scrutiny amidst even more charges of incompetence: more stress. Consumer debt is skyrocketing and oil price hikes and uncertainties are causing inflation: more stress. What passes for leadership in Puerto Rico cannot and will not be able to handle the day-to-day issues these and many other complaints create: they're too busy spitting and evil-eyeing each other. Unless a widespread movement for civic change emerges, labor strife--and thus general strife--will grow to historic proportions. Solutions are out there, but there aren't enough of Us putting them into action.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

06 April 2006

Local News Uncovered

I was all fired up to discuss Walter Cronkite, back in the news because of Katie Couric, when I ran across the following comment, written by Gabriel, about My previous post:

"I have to agree that Caribbean Business is a great example of advertorial newspaper and El Nuevo Día is a good tool for comparing prices of air conditioners and things like that (have to make an exception for the always good Mayra Montero Sunday column). Unfortunately, the alternatives, such as they are, are not much better. Trying to pierce our reality from most of our media output is like trying to figure out US's reality by reading only Michael Moore and Ann Coulter.

I get most of my news over the radio. How about you? Any blog/show/magazine worth reading for news?"

My first reaction was to answer in the Comments section, but that was immediately followed by a "Yikes!" For you see, I suddenly realized I couldn't answer the question: How DOES The Jenius get the news?

I'm assuming that Gabriel referred to local news, and that, as the British grumble, is the sticky wicket. Because...I don't really have a local news source.

Critics, take a number.

Let Me dispense with something: As I mentioned in another forum, I wanted to be Walter Cronkite. He was, and still is, the quintessential news anchor. (On The Larry King Show tonight, Larry asked Walter "What makes a great (news) anchor?" and he replied "Me." He was 100% on the mark.) My standard for what news should be--for what journalism should be--is based on Cronkite, Eric Sevareid, John Chancellor, David Brinkley, Sam Donaldson and several others for whom the search for truth was the guiding principle. Not the search for ratings--Truth.

So My utter disappointment at local news sources is easily explained. All of them know what ratings are and how to pursue them, but none of them could identify Truth if it bit them in the ass for an hour. Let me be even more specific:

--Caribbean Business: You got money? You are news, baby! Political bias? As the planet-builders in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy were happy to declaim: We cater to your every whim. We're not proud.

--El Nuevo Dia: Bloated with ads, bloated with ads and let Me add (pun intended), just bloated. The few shining lights (the student section, Mayra Montero, coverage of arts) are almost accidents. Local coverage is gossipy, shallow and indifferent to objectivity. International news stories are treated like kidnap letters: cut some from here, some from there and see what fits.

--The San Juan Star: Proudly proclaims it won a Pultizer Prize...in 1961. Also rejected Hunter S. Thompson for a job at the paper. If it's negative about Puerto Rico, front page news. If it's positive, hey, here's another negative! I'd say they are resting on their laurel, but that weed died back in the 1970s. Can't compete for ads because it's in English and additional versions just watered down an already weak product. Buckled under to government pressure by firing an Editor. No balls then, none now. (And lest ye feminists jump at Me: balls are not a requirement for journalistic success, but integrity definitely is. The San Juan Star lost its integrity and probably--tragically--doesn't even know it.)

--Television news: Reporters squirming to ask breathlessly inane questions while squirming to avoid being labeled as politially partisan. Hey, nitwits: your job doesn't require or reward the suspension of thought and judgement, okay? The bloodier, sadder, more violent or stupid the footage, the better. Sound bites don't even have to make sense, so long as somebody's message gets distorted. Without a teleprompter, 90% of local TV reporters would have no opinion about anything.

--Radio: The cesspool with outcroppings of solid rock. The cesspool is news radio and almost all of talk radio. Let's see how many times we can repeat the same drivel! Let's enrage! Let's befoul! Let's besmirch! Let's use crude language and then vapidly crow that the FCC can kiss my skanky ass! (A local "politologist" with the brain of a syphillitic lizard likes to do that, knowing full well the FCC will not move against any politically-oriented talk show.) What most of talk radio calls analysis is like calling an autopsy surgery: the intent is to kill the topic, not foster its exploration. The few shows that are good--with balanced viewpoints and serious intent--are maybe 2 or 3, but sadly, I don't listen to them.

So where do I get my local news? I seldom read CB, occasionally read END, only read the Comics in TSJS, ignore the other national papers (Primera Hora, aka "END for Even Bigger Dummies" and El Vocero, former blood rag now just a rag), don't watch TV news, don't listen to the radio, don't visit local websites except for The Information Soldier and Portal Al Exito. Yet I am fairly well-informed about local affairs, according to people who solicit My opinion and sit in judgment of it. How do I do it?

Like I said: the people around Me. My family, colleagues, neighbors and friends tell Me what they react to in the news and I pick up on that. I read the front page of every paper almost every day; takes about 30 seconds and I have a feel for what's being highlighted and what's being ignored. (I also save money.) And because My "ignore it" filter is set on "high", anything that jumps above it automatically merits My attention.

Fools fighting in their outhouse, other Fools trying to get into the outhouse, a jellyfish governor suddenly showing a notochord (during his recent budgetary speech), more spectacular failures in education...I pick up on them, but not in the spastic raw-nerved manner of My fellow Puerto Ricans in their junkie-news habit. Most of what goes on would piss Me off hourly. With this method, I simply get pissed off once or twice a week.

And for those of you who notice a parallel between local TV and radio news and U.S.-based media of the same type, kudos for you. I wish I could say "Monkey see, monkey do" without ostracizing monkeys far beyond the bounds of rationality...

The Jenius Has Spoken.

05 April 2006

Open Source for Governor

"Most people who know about "open source" (including Free/Libre software) understand it as a technological model. A smaller group says no, really it's an economic model (Yochai Benkler's 2002 Coase's Penguin, or Linux and the Nature of the Firm is perhaps the most visible manifestation of this perspective). But while both of these perspectives are narrowly correct, they are also both incomplete. Ultimately, open source is a political model."

The above quote is from WorldChanging, a remarkable blog filled with ideas and concepts aimed at a new, better world. If it sounds idealistic, banish the notion. WorldChanging is optimistic, but it keeps its intellectual feet firmly on the ground.

Their argument for open source supported and fostered at the government level is quite practical:

"...(W)e frequently build on the argument that the real value of Linux, and the free/libre/open source model in general, is that it enables previously technologically-dependent communities to build the tools that they need with their own skills, and become a global participant as a producer of ideas, not simply a consumer." (Emphasis Mine.)

Takes Me back to My earliest Jenius posts...

The United Nations University's International Institute for Software Technology (UNU-IIST) has even stated this principle as part of its core program for development. UNU-IIST Director Dr. Mike Reed is quoted in WorldChanging:

"Being a 'passive consumer' rather than an 'active participant' is not in the best interests of a developing nation's government or business sectors. Technological self-determination in developing countries is key to their future prosperity and is contingent on harnessing the power of this high-tech phenomenon.

...open source software is of great interest to governments in implementing their Electronic Governance initiatives. Apart from reducing costs, the benefits include: localization of solutions and content, government-wide standardization and sharing of development results, and transparency in the government's use of technology."

Hmm..."Active participants"..."Transparency in the government's use of technology"... Yeah, that should thrill The Fools here who almost openly yearn for the days when the average Puerto Rican had a 4th grade education.

Regardless of the fact that the average Fool has the technological acumen on the same level as that of a gerbil's ability to sing Il Pagliacci in Turkish, it isn't up to them to decide whether We use open source or not. It's Our decision, and if We expect the government to make the right one, then We are doomed.

Our actions must be aimed at making open source the standard. Not as an "anti-somebody" stance but as a "for citizenry" posture. As you may have noticed by reading the WorldChanging article, countries that are decades behind Us in technology are making huge strides, and if they pass Us, catching up will be almost impossible.

Imagine a future in which the top-producing countries are small, densely-populated with highly-educated people, loaded with communication infrastructure and supported by a government that seeks out opportunities and clears the way for its people to take advantage of them.

It doesn't take much imagination, for We're getting close. "We" as in "the world", not "We" as in Puerto Rico. For though We are almost the perfect candidates for that future scenario, We lack the two most vital components: technology infrastructure and a government that understands its new role.

They won't do it. That leaves Us.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

04 April 2006

Conspiracy or Greed?

Set-up: The first time The Information Soldier met The Jenius, one of the many topics tossed about that table was My theory that the three biggest obstacles in Puerto Rico are El Nuevo Día, Banco Popular and Puerto Rican Cement (also known by its original name, Ponce Cement.)

First, a punchline: El Nuevo Día and Puerto Rican Cement are owned by the Ferré-Rangel family, headed by Antonio Luis Ferré. Guess who’s the largest individual stockholder in Banco Popular? Hint: A. L. F.

Now back to the set-up: Aníbal Freytes bravely trolls the statehood sewer and uncovers a putative conspiracy theory (what do you expect from would-be apers of the American pseudo-intellectual quasi-religion?) involving the Ferré-Rangel family’s efforts to derail the statehood petition effort by hiring lobbyists in D.C. The post—using the cowardly motif of “anonymous internal source”—covers some of My earlier-presented points (see #8.) But I’ll expand upon them here without hiding who I am:

Puerto Rican Cement is the basis for the Ferré-Rangel family fortune. Former Governor Luis Ferré, father of Antonio, headed up the company and when Luis became governor in 1968, he created dozens of public work projects…built with cement. (Luis only had one term; with two he would have bankrupted the government.) For you see, in Puerto Rico, cement is ubiquitous. From roads to houses, no other true alternative exists. Try getting a stronger, lighter, cheaper alternative through the permit process and you will discover how slow cement really is. Yes, cement houses do better against hurricanes, but when a virtual monopoly exists, guess what happens to the retail cost? And what do you think of a company’s best customer being the government for over 35 years, the same government that decides who builds what with what?

El Nuevo Día was the “statehood alternative” newspaper launched in the mid-1970s by the Ferré-Rangel family. Using a combination of technology investments, government contacts and corporate raiding (noticeably managerial talent, because journalistic talent is non-essential to producing a newspaper in Puerto Rico; just check out Caribbean Business), END became the major paper by the late 1980s. Since then, buoyed by 8-figure government ad contracts, an ad/news ratio of 55-45, news reporting of profoundly superficial banality, news editing that rivals monkeys hacking at books with scissors, a Web presence aimed at producing distracting noise and fiscal losses (both aims achieved), an overinflated self-importance in editorial stances and an ongoing campaign to buy up as many regional papers as possible, END is a cancer that throttles true journalism and economic options. And for those who want Orwellian thinking defined, the badly misnamed Center for the New Economy is strongly backed by END…and Banco Popular. (The CNE is a fetid, acephalous joke. You can quote Me on that.)

Banco Popular is not owned by the Ferré-Rangel family, but the 400-pound gorilla on the bank’s Board has a familiar face. Because of Banco Popular, Puerto Rico’s economy resembles Third World autocratic financing more than First World capitalist markets. Bolstered by Section 936 funds (tax-free profits from locally-based U.S. companies), Banco Popular is the primary mover of loans and financial transactions in Puerto Rico: personal loans, commercial loans, mortgages, credit cards…you name it, BP is at or very near the top in every consumer-related category, often owning outright the subsidiaries that offer the service. Billions of government dollars are moved every year through Banco Popular, making it by far the single largest fiscal conduit in Puerto Rico. Bring so much private and public monies together in one institution's hands and you have the makings of a grotesquely bloated leech gnawing at a nation’s jugular. If anything, I may be too soft in that description.

That the Ferré-Rangel family is against statehood for Puerto Rico is not a political issue, but an economic one. They are feeding at the trough and would hate—hate—having the trough removed. So would several others, though they lack the prominence of the Ferré-Rangels.

Conspiracy theory? No. Just plain old greed.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

03 April 2006


[Brief aside: A few hours after Fools and Frauds was posted, the inauguration of a new roadway culminated in a strike by the Power Authority. Yee. Haw. Always Fools Days in sunny Puerto Rico.]

So the aide hands Henry Kissinger the requested report. Kissinger glances at it and asks the aide “Is this the best you can do?” The aide looks chagrined, takes the report and leaves. A few days later, he hands in his report, and again Kissinger asks him “Are you sure this is the best you can do?” The aide grabs the report and leaves. A couple of days later, the same scene, but when Dr. Kissinger asked the same question, the aide drew himself up and said confidently, “Yes, this is the best report I can write.” Kissinger nodded with a small smile and said “Now I’ll read it.”

If you expect—and demand—the best from people, you’d be amazed at how often you receive it. In a connection that may have no other direct path, Walt Disney handled his animators with the same “Is this your best?” attitude. He even had a word for it: plussing.

Your best plus a little more. In any field of work, whether it's creative or mechanical, seeking to make one’s best better is the strongest method to achieve breakthrough performance. Walt’s plussing, dating from the time when animation was painstakingly drawn one cel at a time, has been carried on as a tradition into the digital age, forming the cornerstone of Pixar’s drive for unmatched depth in their films.

There’s an anecdote about Roberto Clemente, swinging alone one night in Shea Stadium. When a reporter asked why the National League batting champ was taking extra swings after a long game, Clemente replied “Tomorrow Tom Seaver pitches and he won’t give me anything to hit except his best pitch.”

Or take Michael Jordan, who reinvented himself almost every year, adding facets to his game to give him additional ways of beating the same people he’d been beating before. Or Tiger Woods, deciding to reinvent his swing, going through a “slump” and emerging to become an even more dominant golfer. The best get to be the best by never settling for less, by seeking to expand upon the basics and making more happen from them.

Note that Kissinger didn’t ask for a new kind of report, nor did Walt want new technology. By the same token, Clemente, Jordan and Woods weren’t stretching the boundaries of the sport. In all these cases, the stretching happened within. It was—-it always is—-a personal issue…and yes, it is one of choice.

Plussing. Do you know anyone who’s doing it? Are you?

The Jenius Has Spoken.

01 April 2006

Fools and Frauds

Hang on: this one gets complicated...

The local (out)house of representatives--Den of Fools--decides to bestow an honor on a Cuban miscreant who literally got away with being an accessory to murder. Part of the local Cuban community, supported by a socialist group representing 0.001% of Us and independentistas (representing another 0.001%) head for the Capitol building to protest the event. For whatever reason, the protesters decide to (a) storm the building to protest more directly and (b) lower the U.S. flag. Guards and police try to stop both actions, the press covers every action and word and within minutes, police, journalists and protesters are fighting with each other, gas and fire extinguisher fluid is flying, doors are broken, windows are smashed and even the display case where the Constitution of Puerto Rico lies is badly cracked when somebody slams a decorative guidepost into it.

One particluarly amusing video shows a news photographer and a high-ranking police officer squaring off like drunken roosters, with the photog eventually pushing his camera (he wanted to use it as a club, but those damn cameras are expensive) into the policeman's face, then both falling as they tussle in the doorway of the Capitol building.

And no, this isn't an April Fool's Day prank. This is Always Fools Days in Puerto Rico.

Let's break this down:

--The Outhouse of representatives has no business--none--giving homage to anyone. First, you have to be worthy of honoring someone, which the Den of Fools and Subsidiary Branches are obviously not. Second, a self-confessed accessory to murder is never worthy of "national" honors. Forget that he's Cuban: he's a coward and a moral cesspool. But that still makes him a saint compared to the Denizens of the Outhouse.

--Protesting the supposed recognition is perfectly acceptable, but under what right does a socialist group and Our independentistas think they can protest to protect "Cuban honor"? Cubans do that well on their own. And for decades, these local movements have often turned to Cuba for political support; that it never comes to fruition is simply geopolitical reality. And what connection is there between this act of stupidity by the Outhousers and the still-birth independence movement?

--Along those lines, why try to bring down the U.S. flag? Question to the protesters: Were you bored? Upset that nothing really juicy was happening? Needed to prove you might remember what teenage acting out is all about? Storming the building is one thing: there's a clear right of admission, though decorum is certainly to be maintained. But bringing down a flag? How desperate are you people? How pathetic can you get? (That's a rhetorical question, so stop trying to answer it, okay?) Here's an idea: Circle the flagpole with your backs to the U.S. flag. No one--no one--can stop your protest and you make your point. See, making your point is where you folks fail: you don't know how because you can't articulate one with any degree of rational effectiveness. Shame on you for that.

--The police and Capitol guards were trying to do their job, but under a darkening cloud of heightened tension: the police and the press have clashed recently; the press and the statehood party have butted heads in the past few years; the press and the F.B.I. recently had an altercation during a "raid" against independentista "leaders" (Disclosure: one of whom is directly related to Me), leading to the local Justice Secretary issuing subpoenas against the F.B.I. because of the physical attacks and pepper-spraying of local journalists, legal writs that are probably being used as toilet paper right...about...now! Short version: there weren't enough watchmen. And the local press...

--...has got to start acting like professionals rather than parasitic ruffians. Yes, you invertebrates of the Fourth Estate have a job to do, an extremely important job. But you cannot go around slavering behind Fools and their gossip, eager for fetid crumbs of their inanity and expect them to respect you in the morning. If you let their stupidity pass unchallenged, you become an accessory, a partner in misdirection. The Fools know it and the police know it, so when you rise on your hind legs and bray (do invertebrates bray?) "I'm the Press and I have the right", you are technically correct, but morally bankrupt. Doing your job doesn't mean sucking mindlessly, nor does it mean mindlessly confronting. Yes, the F.B.I. overstepped itself badly; the level of incompetence showed in the local raid would have cost several people their jobs if it had happened in the States. But the Stateside press would have lasered the F.B.I. in the nuts and broiled them instead of settling for flapping boneless limbs and mewling. And one last thing: you're there to cover the event, not become it.

--And last, but not least: a decorative guidepost, one of those gaudy metallic things that holds up velvet ropes, was slammed atop the Puerto Rico Constitution's display case...and it cracked?! Now wait just a freakin' minute! That document spent five years--5 whole years!--up in Washington D.C. while some phlegm-brained twiddlers supposedly encased the document in an airtight, BULLETPROOF display that would protect it for at least a hundred years. How the HELL does a five-year, seven-figure investment turn out to be such a huge crock of flimsy glassware? Somebody took Our money and gave Us shoddy goods.

Fools, frauds and failures. Yee. Haw.

The Jenius Has Spoken.