Monday, August 31, 2009

Bad Mojo! Leave That Alone...

I had to do it. I went a-Googling, looking for a sleeping dog. That sleeping dog, yes. Did not find aforesaid creature. Glad I got it out of my system, though.

I'd let it sleep forever but forewarned is forearmed. The price of freedom is, indeed, eternal vigilance.

Technorati Tags:

Friday, August 28, 2009

Why I End Up Invariably Being The "Go-To" Geek

...because I learned long ago to follow this chart: xkcd - A Webcomic - Tech Support Cheat Sheet:

[and no, I was not the first in my immediate circle to post this; however, I did learn it of my own accord long ago...]

Tech Support Cheat Sheet

On The Death Of Repair Departments And Product Quality

The tiller (of which I have blogged before) suffered a near-catastrophic failure when Yours Truly pulled the starter cord clean off the flywheel several weeks ago. (HE-MAN!) As it was the hot part of the summer (no, the real hot part of the summer), I put off getting anything done to it for a while. But with fall gardening just around the corner, I figured it was about time to Get Things Done.

So I pulled off the outer housing cover and examined the interior. Threading the cord back onto the flywheel was an issue --they don't make it easy. But I knew something else was wrong when I finally got everything buttoned up and I pulled the cord and it did not zing! back into readiness. Uh oh. Off to the vendor I went. And that's when the first annoyance occurred: the location in question (part of a national chain) required me to bring in the entire machine for inspection. Nevermind that the man behind the counter (who knew what he was talking about, to be fair) diagnosed the problem with 95% certainty (worn-out or broken return spring in the inner flywheel housing). Store policy was that I bring in the entire unit.

I put this off for a while, as the store was somewhat of a distance from my place. I finally got around to it today. And that's when I made the second annoying discovery: they didn't actually do the repairs on-site. No, they would charge me $29.95 as an entry fee (a "diagnostic fee" but we'll call it what it is here...). And then, they would examine the machine NO! They would wait for the once-a-week truck to come collect it and take it to their central parts/repair depot, where they would repair it NO AGAIN! they would ship it off to the regional repair shop. In Dallas. So we're looking at two weeks of transportation just to get it to the place where it would be examined. "Or you could take it to the depot yourself and save a week, here are the directions...." Oh well, it was on my way back to my part of the world.

After a further half-hour of driving --the directions were essentially accurate, but the promises of "oh, it's just off thus-and-so street" were, shall we say, distorted-- I found the depot. Oh look, they actually do some on-site repairs here! And they stock parts! Well now!!! I went inside and talked with a parts guru, who was able to bring up the Briggs & Stratton parts diagram on the screen, and together we came up with a simple solution: buy a new housing unit (cord, flywheel and all) and have it shipped directly to Casa Mojo. Joy!!!

Would that this were an aberration in the customer service world. But it is not. Bean-counters and "efficiency experts" long ago decreed that repairs should at all costs be taken out of the hands of the end user to ensure profits higher up the food chain. Later this asinine reasoning was extended to take repairs out of the hands of local vendors. And that's just plain stupid. While there is a certain level of redundancy in having every retail outlet also having a repair shop, it's that level of customer service and dedication that builds brand loyalty --and brand loyalty means long-term profits! American auto makers never did learn that lesson, constantly making cars harder for drivers to work on or repair or even have routinely serviced --and American cars need lots of service because the folks making them quit giving a rat's hind end years ago. American manufacturers of appliances never learned that lesson, either, and so you simply do not see as many American-built products. People want to be able to get things fixed when they break, and fixed sooner rather than later. And we don't want to have to buy a $400 piece of equipment when a $3 part breaks.

And this becomes even more meaningful in an economic downturn. I came from a family in the tire business. We always did more sales of mid-high end tires in bad times because people traditionally kept cars longer and thus were more inclined to buy tires that would last longer. (The low-end tires, by contrast, actually sold better in good times because people would buy a new set to put on before they sold their old jalopies.) Repairs also went up in bad times because people would pay to have their clunkers kept running rather than stretching to buy a new one. But what good does it do now when you have to jump through multiple hoops (some of which are sometimes aflame) to do simple repairs? If the intent is to encourage consumption of new merchandise, it's ultimately self-defeating, since people will remember those things and buy (usually foreign-made) merchandise that lasts forever. There's a reason I remember so many people in the Eighties and early Nineties driving Hondas, Toyotas and Nissans --the damn things would last forever if kept up. And all this says nothing of the ecological impact of never reusing or recycling --how horribly "incorrect"!

At any rate my new part will be here next week and fall gardening prep can begin in earnest. (No, Roy, the Atikinsons died despite my best attempts, it was simply too hot.)

Technorati Tags: ,

Why History Gets Rewritten III --Another Lesson In Not Sticking With The 'Draft Narrative' "A Lost Fact in the 'Rathergate' Mess", wherein Goldberg discusses the overlooked part of the whole Rathergate brouhaha: not just if the documents were fake, but if CBS (or more specifically, the producer in charge of the story) knew in advance that there was evidence to support that point out. (Advance knowledge = knowledge aforethought, for those keeping score...) Money excerpt:

Until now, the controversy over the Rather/Mapes story has centered almost entirely on one issue: the legitimacy of the documents – a very important issue, indeed. But it turns out that there was another very important issue, one that goes to the very heart of what the story was about – and one that has gone virtually unnoticed. This is it: Mary Mapes knew before she put the story on the air that George W. Bush, the alleged slacker, had in fact volunteered to go to Vietnam.

Who says [that CBS knew something wasn't right ahead of time]? The outside panel CBS brought into to get to the bottom of the so-called “Rathergate” mess says. I recently re-examined the panel’s report after a source, Deep Throat style, told me to “Go to page 130.” When I did, here’s the startling piece of information I found:

Mapes had information prior to the airing of the September 8 [2004] Segment that President Bush, while in the TexANG [Texas Air National Guard] did volunteer for service in Vietnam but was turned down in favor of more experienced pilots. For example, a flight instructor who served in the TexANG with Lieutenant Bush advised Mapes in 1999 that Lieutenant Bush “did want to go to Vietnam but others went first.” Similarly, several others advised Mapes in 1999, and again in 2004 before September 8, that Lieutenant Bush had volunteered to go to Vietnam but did not have enough flight hours to qualify. [emphasis in original]

You still do not have to like Shrub or Bushitler if you don't wanna. Goodness knows there is much fault to be found. But that is no excuse for what CBS played at. And it's yet another reason why we can't let reporters and their enablers alone write the first drafts of history. They simply cannot be trusted.

Technorati Tags: , , , , , ,

Thursday, August 27, 2009

P.J. O'Rourke Channels Paul Simon (to a point) and Makes Me ROTFLMAO

Still 'Crazy' -- And Proud of It: "[T[he fourth estate has been alarmed once again by the Burkean proclivities of our nation's citizens." And to think that all this time I dreaded ever being called a burke...

P. J. O'Rourke, by the way, should be required reading for all college students. Period.

Take a Vet to Lunch

Take a Vet to Lunch: a new take on Veterans Day.

It’s a very simple thing.  It’s appreciative without being overly ceremonial, and simple enough that most Vets will accept it without too much fuss.  I have found most Vets to be humble in their acceptance of any fanfare for what they consider to be a dutiful task, while themselves being almost aggressively thankful to others who have made similar sacrifices.

Thumbs up.

Technorati Tags: ,

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Hurricane Preparedness: The Oddball Bits -REPOST

[NB I was going to post this a few weeks ago but it's been so quiet until recently that I forgot about it. ]

Today's discussion centers around evacuation procedures. We're not talking about which route to take or when to get --that's for another time. This is the oddball "dang I shoulda thought of that!" discussion.

  1. Gas in the vehicle really isn't about being ready to evacuate pre-storm, it's about being ready post-storm. Unless you live in N'awlins or Galveston or a similar low area, you generally don't consider evacuation unless 120+ winds are going to be coming to your immediate neighborhood. Well and good, you get to do triage to your property and get your pics for the adjuster (aside: wonder if you can pre-schedule one ahead of a storm...?), but if the power is out for a few days --or worse, the water pressure goes out and there's no drinking water --you're going to think about leaving, and then it hits you: you can't get gas because the stations are closed in your area. Or the refineries won't start deliveries for a few days. Whatever. Same problem: you don't have gas. Helpful hint: you have a boat that doesn't make you pre-mix the oil into the gas? Then you have a back-up gas source! Just make sure you have some kind of siphon hose and don't swallow!

  2. Obviously the preferable option is to evacuate well in advance of a coming storm, but if you choose to ride it out (and can do so safely), you need to have your game plan laid out for post-storm evacuation. I can guarantee that every hotel, motel, guest lodge and bed/breakfast within 300 miles is going to be booked up solid. Make nice-nice with in-laws, old college roomies or third cousins (this may mean reciprocity agreements and/or barbeque dinners) and have your options all laid out.

  3. Your animals are not going to evacuate themselves, nor do they know how to operate a can-opener if you are not present. Any evacuation plans should include dealing with family pets. I will point out (as a custodian of 30+ years experience) that cats with outdoors experience and access to an ant-free dry food dispenser and a large water supply may be left alone for a few days or even a week, but that's in extremis, and certainly you should never leave a cat behind to face a storm alone, even if they have indoor/outdoor capability (pet door). Dogs can't be trusted to conserve food, they will gorge on dry food until it runs out and then they will go hungry. The best option is to evacuate cats and dogs along with everyone else. Birds, too! Aquarium fish, alas, are generally out of luck.

  4. Before you leave, make sure you're not setting up nasty surprises for yourself upon return. Shut off the electricity, or leave only the breaker for the refrigerator and the freezer. Ditto the natural gas, and if you don't know where your cut-off valve is, shame on you. Secure your outside --there have been lawsuits involving wind-blown items crashing into someone else's house from someone else's property (think "reasonable expectations" and you have the basis of a tort). Board or tape windows, and secure doors. Locate ahead of time the neighborhood diehard who will not evacuate unless the storm surge is over 15' in the immediate vicinity, and bring him (or her) beer, hard liquor and/or ammunition and make nice-nice. This is the person who will be standing tall until you get back.

Technorati Tags: ,

Friday, August 21, 2009

How Charter Colleges Can Rekindle Innovation: NAS

How Charter Colleges Can Rekindle Innovation: taking the charter school concept to academia. Money excerpts:

Most public universities have tenure and promotion rules that reward faculty members for little more than publishing in academic journals. Most have swollen administrative budgets and employ legions of staff members who contribute virtually nothing to what goes on inside the classroom. Most have byzantine, often secretive decision-making processes. And most have special programs that cater to narrow constituencies and drain resources away from general education.

We should have revisited all of those practices long ago, but bureaucratic inertia and organizational rigidity stymied any such attempts. Without greater institutional flexibility, progress will be painfully slow at best. Innovation would be unshackled if we could organize charter colleges on the campuses of our public-university systems -- where they would have access to dormitories, gymnasiums, libraries, and laboratories -- or as free-standing institutions.

The typical response from long-time academics is that this would promote more anti-thetical (to academia) entities such as the Hoover Institute. My response is two-fold. Firstly, why should academics fear the marketplace of free ideas? Do they honestly believe that these will draw sufficient funds away from mainline schools to imperil their existence? And secondly, what's to say that a George Soros wouldn't want to fund something like this from the Left? It doesn't have to be a one-way ticket to Rushville.

Technorati Tags:

The Five Commandments of Anonymous Blogging

I am a semi-anonymous blogger. Which is to say, while I make an effort not to proclaim myself in big bold letters, it doesn't take a degree in cryptoanalysis to figure out who I am. Still, I was inspired by [t]he coming-out stories of anonymous bloggers [on] to come up with a list of commandments for anonymous blogging.

  1. Thou shalt not commit libel. Truth is an absolute defense against a charge of libel, but one had best be ready to document things just in case. Defamation of character is a bit trickier, but I don't want to go into that.

  2. Thou shalt not disparage thine own employer by name. Whistleblower laws may vary from state to state, but it's a given that most employers have some sort of employment codecil that allows for dismissal on the basis of the employee making harmful remarks about the company/organization in public. In other words, the hands-that-feed don't like being bitten and are within their prerogatives to put you outside.

  3. Thou shalt not hold thy fellow employees in contempt by name. This goes towards the "public image" argument. It also dovetails into the general area of "creating a hostile work environment." If your remarks single out a person or persons by name, you bring the organization into disrepute. You also may be tugging on Superman's cape while believing you are simply tweaking Clark Kent --you never know what sort of connections folks have. And this most especially includes gossip --which can leave you exposed to the lower standard of proof available to plaintiffs in a defamation lawsuit.

  4. Thou shalt know the laws by whence ye live. If your company expressly forbids discussing company business in any public forum, you are open to summary dismissal. Another example of interest to education bloggers is the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA). This is the one that (in)famously has led many entities to forbid posting of grades and even recognizing high-performing students in class without prior consent. You mention a student by name, you court disaster. It's this simple: breaking laws is simply not a good idea.

  5. Honor thy elders. Certain topics never get discussed by senior employees; this does not mean that they are cowards, toadies or part of The System. It means that they have Been Around and know the limits of public discourse. It is wise to pay them heed.

"So what's the point, then?" The point is you will still have a job at the end of the day. If you feel so strongly about Bad Things that you are willing to put your neck on the line to say something, then you should either go through proper channels or be prepared to find alternative employment. You probably aren't very happy where you are and on some level are looking to get out. I like where I work, so I don't have a lot to say about my institution. Many of my gripes concern academia in general, not my immediate colleagues or my students. And you can bet that the second I crossed that line, there would be repercussions. So I respect it.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Proof Positive: Once More, I'm CANDY!!!

It's true: all the taken men are best - life - 17 August 2009 - New Scientist: "A new study provides evidence for what many have long suspected: that single women are much keener on pursuing a man who's already taken than a singleton." No wonder Mrs. gets peevish when I forget to put my ring back on.

Technorati Tags:

Mojo On The Job!

Orientation is over for "new" faculty (I've been here five years, folks, how new am I? --of course, I say that and they had "new" full-timers who'd been adjuncting/part-timing it for fifteen years, so I guess I'm lucky...). I got up to campus today and found what every adjunct dreams of: an office cubicle and computer of my very own. Modified rapture!

I have no phone yet. Which is to say, I have a Cisco phone system that I can't operate beyond basic telephonic functions, and my number is still listed as that of the former occupant, who left in disgrace not terribly long ago. Put it this way: I'm not in any hurry to see what voicemails students may have left on this number.

I can see the sky from my spot, which I consider to be a Very Good Thing. I have long disliked the tendency to build educational buildings like warehouses or prisons to cut utility costs. Sunlight boosts everything --that's a good mantra. I am right next to my other history colleagues, so we can talk shop as the need takes us. I am also within striking distance of several of my favorite colleagues from other disciplines, so life is good.

But I must confess: today was terribly boring. I got my teaching schedule (ugh: 8AM at the across-town campus!), and the grand irony is now I'm going to make more money but my actual work load (considering driving) is actually going to be less. I got a few websites added and tweaked my office computer a little bit (note to self: get extra Ethernet cable for laptop Mac). I did a very little bit of paperwork. And now I'm going home. Turnips and peas, I can't wait to have students again! Weird, since I just got done with finals last week.

--It just hit me why "weird": I'm only getting one week off between the end of summer and the start of fall. That's because my system is still behind from weather disruptions last fall and this is when the Great Leap To Catch Up takes place. Oh well.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Housekeeping: New Blog Template

--ooh, I like this layout template much better.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

A 'New' American Revolution? Read and Discuss

Puttering around while students are taking their finals, I began rereading a section of Gordon Wood's Pulitzer Prize-winning book The Radicalism of the American Revolution. And the following passages struck me:

"Mob actions by cross sections or ordinary people, artisans and laborers, were nothing new in colonial America. In all the colonies mobs had erupted almost continually in the eighteenth century, aiming at particular targets in protest against problems that the regular processes of government seemed unable to solve. Far from being symptoms of democracy, these mob protest simply demonstrated the extend to which the society was still hierarchically and paternalistically organized. Although those eighteenth-century mobs were undoubtedly anti-authoritarian and could on occasion temporarily turn "the world upside-down," by their actions they always recognized "the world right side up" and seemed to pose no lasting threat to the political and social order; which is why they were so often tolerated by the gentry." (Woods, 244).

1) Evaluate this argument with regards to the anti-Bush protesters during the Second Iraq War.


"What alarmed the gentry of the 1760s and 1770s, however, were the growing ideologically backed claims by ordinary people to a share in the actual conduct of the government. It was one thing for ordinary people to take part in a mob or to vote; for them to participate in the deliberations and decisions of government was quite another. By classical republican standards such participation would imply the participation of private "interests" in government, with the participants becoming judges of their own interests. Yet this was precisely what democracy in America came to mean." (ibid.)

2) Discuss this argument in the context of the Tea Party movement and the anti-health-care-revision protests of 2009.

3) Attack or defend the following proposition: the anti-Bush protests, although successful in driving the Republicans from office, were ultimately less revolutionary than the anti-government protests of 2009.

Technorati Tags: , , , , , ,

Tuesday, August 11, 2009


It is with great pleasure that I announce that a full-time offer has been extended to me by my institution, and I have accepted. No more will I be Adjunct Professor Mojo.... that's MISTER Professor Mojo to you now, bub!

And Now For Something Completely Different: A Twit-opera

Line-by-line Update « Royal Opera House Blog: which is not, pace any comments about who goes to such things, what you might think. It is an opera whose libretto is being composed ad hoc via Twitter.

Technorati Tags: , ,

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Why History Gets Rewritten II --How You Can't Even Trust Historians!

Conservative History Journal: Historians in denial: read it. The guy is dead-on, some of those late-Eighties histories (written immediately before the fall of the Iron Curtain) read as badly as Sivachev and Yakovlev's Russia and the United States, which came out during the heydey of the Brezhnev Era and is about as in-house a Soviet history as you'll find. A useful corrective to such palaver is John Lewis Gaddis's We Now Know --or even better, his revised The Cold War: A New History.

Technorati Tags: , , , ,